By Paula Fallas Sanchez - Education Career student

Confucius, an esteemed Chinese philosopher, once said, “Knowledge without practice is useless. Practice without knowledge is dangerous” (Confucius, n.d.). In the United States about 9% of children show some sort of speech sound disorder, and, by first grade, about 5% of children still have significant speech problems (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2020). When it comes to issues such as someone needing speech therapy, it is essential for professionals to use their phonetic training to help their patient. By having experience with phonetics, speech therapists are able to pinpoint where the patient’s problem is, and can focus on how to differentiate between the problematic sounds.

While there are many different types of speech disabilities, it all comes down to the production of the correct sound. It is here where phonetics, which is the study of making and identifying sounds, comes in. As early as the diagnosis stage, a speech therapist will use phonetic transcriptions of the patient’s speech (Knight, 2010). This is used so that the patient’s phonetic transcription can be compared to how the transcription should have looked like. Through this, the root problem, which can be a specific sound, can be addressed. In fact, studies made from phonetic transcriptions of patients’ speech are often used to add to what is already known about speech sound development (Munson, Johnson & Edwards, 2012). These have laid the foundation for the categorization of different speech related disabilities Munson, Johnson & Edwards, 2012). Phonetics is so fundamental to a speech therapist’s career that students must take several in depth courses on the matter so that they can manage the topic easily (Knight, 2010). It has become increasingly clear that phonetics is an integral part of a speech therapist’s job in order for it to be done efficiently.

Many may doubt the need for a phonetic background when dealing with speech therapy. After all, isn’t being a native speaker with good pronunciation good enough? The answer to this question is a well-researched no. Speech therapist must receive intensive courses on phonetics in order to be able to diagnose and help their patients successfully. As a matter of fact, one of the most common approaches used as a way to single out groups of sounds with error patterns that are alike is called the Phonological Language Based Approaches (Munson, Johnson & Edwards, 2012). Trying to help a patient without having this knowledge could actually be dangerous for the patient. Research shows that cases like these often lead to a misdiagnosis, leaving the patient worse than they were before (Knight, 2010). The truth is that the average person knows little to nothing of phonetics. Attempting to help a patient with no basis or use of a strong phonetic foundation is absolutely useless as well as threatening to the patient’s process.

When it comes to helping a person with their disability, no one should take any luxuries or short cuts. Phonetics is, undoubtedly, an integral part of a speech therapist's career whether it is from the early stages of diagnosis to the later stages of sharing and describing a specific case with experts. Through the use of their phonetic knowledge, speech therapists have an easier time finding the problem and helping the patient overcome said problem. Let us remember what Confucius said about knowledge. Let us understand that without this valuable aspect of speech therapy, a patient’s outcome could be disastrous.


MOXIE es el Canal de ULACIT (, producido por y para los estudiantes universitarios, en alianza con el medio periodístico independiente, con el propósito de brindarles un espacio para generar y difundir sus ideas.  Se llama Moxie - que en inglés urbano significa tener la capacidad de enfrentar las dificultades con inteligencia, audacia y valentía - en honor a nuestros alumnos, cuyo “moxie” los caracteriza.

  • Confucius. (n.d.). Knowledge without practice is useless. Practice without knowledge is dangerous.
  • Knight, A. R. (2010). Sounds for Study: Speech and Language Therapy Students’ Use and Perception of Exercise Podcasts for Phonetics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 22(3). 269-276.
  • Munson, B., Johnson, J. M., & Edwards, J. (2012). The role of experience in the perception of phonetic detail in children's speech: a comparison between speech-language pathologists and clinically untrained listeners.
  • American journal of speech-language pathology, 21(2), 124–139.
  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (2020). Statistics on Voice, Speech, and Language.