In this course (foundation course in phonetics) ...

... we shall study general articulatory phonetics.

General phonetics means that we shall study all the possible speech abilities that a speaker of any language might use in their speech. In other words, we shall not just study "the sounds" of individual languages. However, we shall consider various aspects of the phonetics of English and examples from many other languages where relevant during the course. You shall learn all of the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which is designed to be used in writing down the pronunciation of any language. We shall study various kinds of phonetic transcription, in various degrees of detail, for different purposes.

Articulatory phonetics means that we shall study the names and nature of the speaking organs and their role in speech. The symbols of the IPA are defined mostly in articulatory terms, and partly in acoustic terms.

After each lecture, you must practise the new sounds you have learned, by saying them aloud to yourself (in a private place, I suggest). By practising, you will become more sensitive to the position and motions of the organs of speech, including those which you are not normally used to using, and their auditory effects. If you do not practise, you will probably not get the hang of the IPA properly, which will only make the exam seem harder.

To help you practise, there are some audio-visual resources. There is a web-based guide to the sounds of the IPA at http://web.uvic.ca/ling/resources/ipa/charts/IPAlab/IPAlab.htm. The sound clips on that site are taken from a tape recording/CD made at UCL and available from that department by mail order (details at http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/cassette.htm). A number of recordings of words in various languages are presented in my webpages/handouts for this course.

You cannot learn much about speech just from books: the practical training you will receive is essential in order to really understand the phonetics books.