Sciences and engineering have become international disciplines;
about fifty percent of graduate students in engineering
speak English as a second language, and many have third
or fourth language knowledge as well. Few had an opportunity
to take conversation courses that featured technical
vocabulary. As a result, graduate students are often
knowledgeable about the meaning of English words for
thermodynamics, genetics, or similar terms but have had
little instruction in pronouncing terms.
Sometimes the difference in pronunciation cannot be detected from reading.
For example, French, Russian, and English all use the word “valence” to
describe the combinatory power of an atom but French applies a rule of equal
stress on syllables, whereas Russian emphasizes the second syllable and North
American pronunciation accents the first syllable. The word is so common that
the differences in pronunciation can provide a distracting dissonance when
graduate students lead laboratories or talk with colleagues.
summer two Rice alumni, Woods and Patsy Martin (’49),
sponsored a special 8-week course to help graduate students
deal with pronunciation differences in their own technical
here to review the clips of student readings.
course is sponsored by The