Sorry, everyone, at the risk of repeating myself, I just have to go back and pick up one point.
Stravinsky #16>>Huckleberry Hound would pronounce
hand as “hey-and”. (What region is he from?)
CM2DD #30>>teachers are not taught what to do when you are telling 28 children to say "hayand", but the 29th says it differently
I beg your pardon?!
If those are meant to suggest typical American English, I can only say that I resent the condescension. Nobody, but nobody, thinks that that parody of Appalachia or Brooklyn or wherever is standard AE, so that two-syllable (!) straw man is completely irrelevant. (Speaking of what we all value in the atmosphere of the forum, I find caricatures like that disappointing and hurtful. I understand that at least on Stravinsky's part, it was probably only a lighthearted passing question, but still. Just for the record, no, we Americans do not all speak like Huckleberry Hound.)
Again, I would like to refer everyone to the decades of past discussions on the admittedly vexed topic of the /æ/ vowel (as in cat, hand, happy, nap, apple
), of which I cited only one in #4. Consult any dictionary -- or the Wikipedia page on English phonology --https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_phonology
and you will see that /æ/ exists in both BE and AE. (Wiki uses the abbreviations RP, Received Pronunciation, and GA, General American; see the vowel chart under 'trap,' which is of course the same vowel as 'hand.') There may of course be regional differences in accent, length, intonation, etc., and differences in coloring caused by neighboring consonants, that fall below the level of a phoneme. But the question for teachers and students is surely not whether they all produce exactly the same vowel, but whether each speaker can learn to make enough difference between each vowel and the next to distinguish minimal pairs.
The point I'm still not sure everyone here has remembered is that that particular English vowel, /æ/, doesn't exist
in German. Surely that's why German teachers make an effort to teach it early, and why many German speakers may nevertheless understandably lean in one of two directions in approximating it. One direction is Hand. The other direction is Händ or Hend. Neither one
is exactly like English. 'Hand' as in German may be somewhat like some
BE accents, though in previous discussions, IIRC, the consensus seemed to be that those were more northern than southern. (It may be that in the 21st century, that particular vowel has now become more widespread across more of the UK, and more sociolects within it. I certainly believe those of you who say you use /a/ instead of /æ/, though I wish we could still ask escoville, who might have had something to add about the larger picture.)
In any case, I think he would agree that all vowel sounds fall along a spectrum, in any accent. If you move the /æ/ of 'hand' (en) farther toward the /a/ of Hand (de), it may mitigate the problem of distinguishing 'bat' from 'bet' or 'land' from 'lend.' But it may then increase the problem of how to distinguish, indeed, 'cat' from 'cut,' or 'pan' from 'pun.' In northern BE accents, if I understand correctly, the solution is often to move the /ʌ/ vowel (as in 'strut' in the Wiki chart) farther toward /ʊ/ (as in 'foot'). I don't think that's what you all were advocating, but I have to wonder.
It just seemed discouraging that among this whole long discussion, only dirk and Mausling seemed to make a real attempt to understand the points that might be underlying the phonetic confusion. I know the rest of you were probably not intending to dismiss AE speakers, or the /æ/ vowel, or the point of view of the teacher, but it just came across like that sometimes.
We can certainly sympathize with Robertdbuckley's frustration as a parent, and give him credit for believing that his son has no particular accent and for wanting to speak up for his son. However, if neither of them distinguishes between /æ/ and /a/,
it seems at least theoretically possible that both their ears have now been at least somewhat conditioned by German -- perhaps like many of you who live in Germany.
In practical terms, of course I agree with everyone who recommended simply sitting down for a talk with the teacher, and perhaps a supervisor as well, before coming to any conclusions or making any outright complaints. Simply mentioning the issue, and asking nicely to give your son a little more leeway, might make a noticeable difference. I hope so. (-: