By the end of studying  the notes on Lesson One, you will be able to:

  • Distinguish between the spoken and the written forms of language. 
  • Agree that the spoken form is primary.
  • Say why it is important to study Oral English.
  • Mention the prominent organs of speech.

The two main forms of language

There are two main forms of language.  These are the spoken form and the written form. The spoken form, which is commonly called speech or oral, is the basic form of language.  It is the basic form of language because,  naturally,  people generally acquire speech first before learning to write.

Also,  in learning a new language,  it is natural to learn a dose of the spoken form first before learning to write in that language.  Besides, there are languages in the world today, and in fact in Ghana,  that have not yet been reduced to writing.  So,  you will agree that the written form of every language is secondary and represents the spoken form. 

You will study the written form of English in your   Grammar,   Comprehension, Summary,  Writing,  and Composition lessons.  And you will study the spoken form of English in your Oral English lessons.

Why we study Oral English

Sometimes, when people speak   English, their listeners have difficulty understanding instantly what they mean.  One of the main causes of such misunderstanding is wrong pronunciation.  For example, when you say  ‘ seat down’ instead of ‘sit down’  your listener may,  initially, not understand exactly what you mean.  The slight difficulty to understand instantly what people say is called disturbance and may arise from our failure to pronounce certain words appropriately.

Disturbances may also arise from the failure of our listeners to recognize, by ear, certain words that we use perhaps because of the way others pronounce these words is different from how we pronounce them.  This is why it becomes necessary that,  as learners of English, we address ourselves to the speech features or phonological category of that language and learn to pronounce or articulate words appropriately.

 So,  studying  Oral English will help us to eliminate the disturbances we create or experience when we speak or when we listen to others speak. There are other important reasons why we study Oral English but these will be discussed in another lesson. Let us turn our attention to the nature of Oral English.

The nature of Oral English

 Oral English, like all forms of speech, is made up of successions or sequences of sounds produced by the organs of speech. For example, the sentence ‘Oral English is fun’ consists of sequences of sounds as illustrated below. 

Written:           Oral     English    is     fun.

Spoken:           [ɔrəl    ɪŋglɪʃ       ɪz    fᴧn]

Sequence:           1         2           3       4

In the illustration above, there are four sequences of sounds in the sentence. Each of the four sequences consists of a number of sounds. For example, the first sequence [ɔrəl], is made up of four sounds /ɔ/, /r/, /ə/, and /l/. Also, the last sequence [fᴧn], is made up of three sounds /f/, /ᴧ/, and /n/.

Speech sounds are made voluntarily; they require that we place the speech organs in certain definite positions or move them in certain definite ways.  Let us talk briefly about the speech organs.

The organs of speech

 It is important that you have a fairly clear idea of the organs involved in producing speech.  Human beings produce sound when air leaves the lungs and enters the voice box.  There are two horizontal tiny muscles that are found at the entrance of the voice box.  These tiny muscles are called vocal chords.  They are called vocal because they help in producing sounds.  Other organs involved in the production of sounds are listed below.

  1. the mouth
  2. the roof of the mouth
  3. the upper teeth
  4. the lower teeth
  5. the upper lip
  6. the lower lip
  7. the ridge of the upper teeth
  8. the ridge of the lower teeth
  9. the tongue
  10. the space inside the nose

 The organs of speech are sometimes called articulators.  In this context,  an articulator is an organ used in the production or articulation of speech sounds. Some of the organs of speech listed above are found in the upper jaw and others are found in the lower jaw. The organs in the upper jaw are said to be passive articulators because they do not move during the production of sounds.  However,  those in the lower jaw move, so they are said to be active articulators.

The tongue is one of the organs located in the lower jaw. It is extremely mobile. It can touch any part of the roof of the mouth. The tongue can be spread laterally and can be made to contract.  Have you noticed that the tongue place a vital role in producing speech? So we say the tongue is the most active of all the organs of speech.


 We have learnt that:

  1. there are the two main forms of language: the spoken form and the written form.
  2. the spoken form, commonly called speech or oral, is the basic form of language.
  3. studying  Oral English will help you to eliminate the disturbances you create or experience when you speak or listen to others.
  4. Some of the organs of speech are passive while others are active. v.    the tongue is the most active of all the organs of speech.


John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.

Peer Reviewers

Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.

Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.

 William  Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil