I'd like to ask an advice question on linguistics SE about tutoring a classmate in the IPA, which is something we both need to learn for our TESOL course. The classmate has (I strongly suspect) dyslexia and (I moderately suspect) is on the autism spectrum. I want to be able to help him in particular to understand the difference between sounds and letters, something my DELTA-trained teachers have struggled to teach him/something he has struggled to learn.

Is there any scope at all for this sort of question on linguistics SE? The next closest site I can think of is academia SE, but I'm hoping to draw on LSE's particular expertise.

  • 3
    Language Learning would probably be a better site, depending on what exactly the question is.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Feb 21, 2019 at 12:10
  • @curiousdannii Is it not already clear from the OP what the question is?
    – Lou
    Feb 22, 2019 at 18:12
  • 1
    Not really. Do you have to learn real IPA, or only the part of it that represents English sounds? How about English phonemes and allophones? Do you have to distinguish them? American or British pronunciation? Does this help? How about this?
    – jlawler
    Mar 3, 2019 at 17:22
  • I don't see why something as systematic as a language particular transcription should be problematic for someone with aspergers. Dyslexia might be a problem, though, although I'm not sure. May 3, 2019 at 23:34
  • @Araucaria - I did not specify that he had Asperger's specifically, I conjectured that he might have autism. Which, as you will recall, is a spectrum encompassing an extremely wide variety of characteristics and abilities. You can't pigeonhole people with ASD.
    – Lou
    May 10, 2019 at 18:59
  • @curious questions on how to teach or tutor language are on-topic at Language Learning SE. Oct 11, 2019 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you plan to ask "How do I effectively teach about the linguistics difference between sounds and letters" (and then there is a complication about your student). The problem I see with such a question is that there is no right or wrong answer, and SE is premised on there being right answers – instead, you'll get a bunch of person opinions (which is a reason to close). It doesn't matter where you ask the question, it's going to have that problem. So the question reduces to this: will people object to you asking an opinion-type question?

One thing that could improve the chances of such a question would be if you include sufficient information on the particular circumstances. If the student just says "I don't understand!" no matter what you say, there's no non-magical solution. If the student can grasp the fact that the pronunciation of letters depends on the language (examples from French, Spanish, Italian, English, for example -- using words in English taken from each of these languages), that would be useful information regarding the circumstance and you could focus on the question "how do I get the student to generalize this?"

  • 2
    That's a bigger problem with English Language and Usage SE (though it's big enough here). True, there is often no good answer. But there are almost always strategies that can work, and a commented list of them is not a bad answer to a question like this.
    – jlawler
    Mar 3, 2019 at 17:19

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