There have been some strange sounds coming out of the mouths of second semester Emanate students recently.  Our brows are furrowed as we contort our “speech apparatus” to perform in ways it never has before.  Occasionally, laughter erupts when a sound just doesn’t come out right.  We’ve begun “Sounds and Symbols“, a class on articulatory phonetics.

There are hundreds of distinct sounds that the human voice can make, and probably an infinite number of combinations.  Many of these sounds don’t occur in the English language, and most people don’t even have the ability to distinguish (let alone reproduce) the unfamiliar sounds without training.

That’s where this class comes in – training our mouths and our ears so we can grasp the nuances of different sounds faster and with greater accuracy.  At the same time, we are learning the IPA symbols to represent each of these sounds.

This is all pretty technical, and for some of us it’s a real challenge!  It’s worth the hard work, though, because of the significance of the gospel message that we bring.

“This message that we have is so important that we don’t want to short-change it. … One of the ways that we can show value to the message is to show value to the sounds with which we communicate it.”

-Matt Gunther, Emanate instructor

Language is one of the many barriers that can stand in the way of communicating the gospel message with clarity.  As we equip ourselves to plant churches cross-culturally, we will need a “learner’s attitude”.  We will need to be willing to practice customs, habits, and even sounds that don’t come naturally to us.

Could it be that we can adopt the apostle Paul’s mindset even when it comes to learning phonetics?

“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

-1 Corinthians 9:22, NKJV

If you happen to pass by the Emanate classroom in the near future and hear pops, clicks, trills, voiceless nasals, or glottal stops, just remember: it’s all part of becoming effective messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ!