Having trouble with the aspirated ''p'', ''k'' and ''t''

Tsum   Friday, November 05, 2004, 01:50 GMT
I'm a Non-native speaker and I'm having trouble distinguishing the aspirated ''k'', ''p'', ''t'' in ''kit'', ''pit'' and ''table'' and the non-aspirated ''k'', ''p'' and ''t'' in ''skin'', ''spit'' and ''star''.

I always mispronounce ''kit'', ''pit'' and ''table'' with the non-aspirated stops.

Can anyone give me advice on how I can produce the aspirated ''k'', ''p'' and ''t''? I'm having trouble with those aspirated stops.

I've always been mispronouncing ''kite'' with the non-aspirated ''k''.

Once time I said it was ''cold'' outside with a non-aspirated ''k'' and someone thought I said ''gold'' and so responded ''What's gold''?

There was also once time when I said the word ''pitch'' with a non-aspirated ''p'' and I had a hard time convincing someone that I didn't say the word ''bitch''.
Mxsmanic   Friday, November 05, 2004, 06:31 GMT
Allow air to accumulate behind the stop before pronouncing it—that's aspiration.

Aspirated consonants are allophones of unaspirated consonants in English and thus need not be distinguished, but in some positions in connected speech if people are unable to hear you clearly they may incorrectly guess that one unaspirated stop is a different phoneme from the one you intended.

Technically voicing is the key discriminator between phonemes like /p/ and /b/, but when communicating under less than ideal conditions, it's best to include every phonetic feature you can to sharply distinguish one phoneme from another; that way if the listener doesn't hear one of the features he'll probably (hopefully) still hear one of the others.

Of course, if you are voicing an unaspirated /p/, or devoicing and aspirating a /b/, you have a real problem, as you are then using completely different phonemes.