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I am an ESL teacher in China, I would like to seek your opinions regarding the proper pronunciation of the words starting with st like stand, student, stupid etc as the teachers in the school where I work insist that st should be pronounced as sd like sdand, sdudent, sdupid and all other words starting with st. their bases are the discs (Playwright English Textbook) they used pronounced these words as sd.

Thanks.
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Hi,
I assume that none of your colleagues are native English speakers. Of course they're completely wrong.
It's too bad you have no other audio sources. It must be very difficult going up against the whole school.
AnonymousI am an ESL teacher in China, I would like to seek your opinions regarding the proper pronunciation of the words starting with st like stand, student, stupid etc as the teachers in the school where I work insist that st should be pronounced as sd like sdand, sdudent, sdupid and all other words starting with st. their bases are the discs (Playwright English Textbook) they used pronounced these words as sd.
Thanks.
That advice is uniquely Chinese, and it derives from the way Chinese differs from English in making distinctions between certain consonant pairs. This distinction is based on aspiration in Chinese, but based on voicing in English. The chart below shows how this works.

Consonant Judged by Chinese Judged by English

description speaker to be speaker to be

Voiced, unaspirated bilabial. b b

Unvoiced, unaspirated bilabial. b p

Unvoiced, aspirated bilablial. p p

Therefore, since the consonant spelled as "p" after an "s" in English (as in "spin") is unaspirated, the Chinese speaker will say it's a b and the English speaker will say it's a p. So advising a Chinese speaker to pronounce "sbin" for "spin" may produce the correct pronunciation.

The same situation exists for "st" and "sk" (or "sc").

See pronunciation of spin, stick
See Pronunciation of the unvoiced sound.

CJ
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CalifJimSo advising a Chinese speaker to pronounce "sbin" for "spin" may produce the correct pronunciation.
Hi, Jim,
I suppose by way of answering Anon, you'd say that advising a Chinese speaker to pronounce "sdop" for "stop" may produce the correct pronounciation.

Anon makes the following statement: "the discs (Playwright English Textbook) they used pronounced these words as sd."

Anon seems to be talking about actual sound here rather than letter designations. Is it your opinion that the discs give the correct English pronounciation and Anon hears as "sdop" what we would hear as "stop"?

I wonder, if we asked Anon to say "stop" (in writing), what he/she would actually say.

This seems like an international situation that needs fixing. The Chinese ESL community surely must be aware of this.

Best wishes, - A.

Edit. I'm trying to imagine an unaspirated unvoiced sound.
When you say it's a B to the Chinese speaker and a P to the English speaker, do you mean that's what it sounds like to them, or that's what they believe they are forming/creating?
(It seems to me like the sound fish make.)
As Jim said, it's often somewhere between a /t/ (aspirated) and a /d/ (voiced).
It's not very aspirated, but it's not voiced either. So technically, whether you call that sound a /t/ or a /d/ is kind of arbitrary! I see it as a /t/ sound, because of the way I tend to pronounce it, because of the spelling and common phonemic transcriptions, and probably also because my native language is Italian.
AvangiI suppose by way of answering Anon, you'd say that advising a Chinese speaker to pronounce "sdop" for "stop" may produce the correct pronounciation.
Yes, because when they see, in English text, a d, they often, unknowingly, say an unaspirated, unvoiced consonant, which is "close enough" for an English listener to think they've said an unaspirated voiced consonant, especially if said in the context of flowing speech. In the combination st, the English t really is unaspirated, so, using that "unknowing substitution", they are pronouncing the st correctly when they think they are producing an English sd combination.
AvangiIs it your opinion that the discs give the correct English pronounciation and Anon hears as "sdop" what we would hear as "stop"?
Yes. Of course, I haven't heard the recordings, so I can only make an educated guess.
AvangiI wonder, if we asked Anon to say "stop" (in writing), what he/she would actually say.
It would be "this top" without the "thi". The difference may be subtle or obvious to your ear, depending how much you've worked through this topic.
AvangiThe Chinese ESL community surely must be aware of this.
Some are; some are not.
AvangiI'm trying to imagine an unaspirated unvoiced sound.
You don't have to imagine these. You can say them yourself. The p, t, and k in "spin", "stop", and "skin" are all unaspirated, unvoiced sounds. For the aspirated versions, use "pin", "top" and "kin". The difference is less noticeable for the k, in my opinion. Place your hand in front of your lips and you should be able to feel the air puff against it in the aspirated versions, but not in the unaspirated forms. Again, the difference may be subtle or obvious. It may take some number of tries before you even get the hang of what it is you're listening for or feeling against your hand. Or the light bulb may go on immediately.
AvangiWhen you say it's a B to the Chinese speaker and a P to the English speaker, do you mean that's what it sounds like to them, or that's what they believe they are forming/creating?
Both. In the case of "sdop", for example, unless they have a very sophisticated approach involving phonetics training, they see "sdop", pronounce it "correctly" -- as they understand (on a more or less intuitive level) the correspondence of English letters to English sounds -- and say what to us English speakers is a perfect "stop".

CJ
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Thanks for your comprehensive reply. There are things which I find troubling, but it will take me a bit of work to pull them together.
I'm not insensitive to matters of the mouth, palate, and diaphragm, but have always found the pedegogical approaches to singing and wind instrument playing laughable at best - beginning with "filling the stomach with air." It amounts to a psuedoscientific analysis of human awareness. What does it seem like to this person or that person. Well - - - - that's not what you're really doing!

- A.
AvangiIt amounts to a psuedoscientific analysis of human awareness.
I understand your point. This thread is thus devoted to what we may call "folk phonetics". The curious thing is that some of the unscientific metaphors actually produce good results.
Avangihave always found the pedegogical approaches to singing and wind instrument playing laughable at best
Indeed. "To produce this tone correctly, you must think of a single perfect pearl wet with spring rain." Emotion: smile
AvangiWhat does it seem like to this person or that person.
Have you been reading Nagel's What is it like to be a Bat? Or Akins's response What is it like to be Boring and Myopic?Emotion: smile

CJ
CalifJimsome of the unscientific metaphors actually produce good results.
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