Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good Pronunciation Symbol Chart With Audio and Animation For Teaching English Sounds

I started teaching a pronunciation and intonation workshop at the local public library and quickly discovered I needed some pronunciation symbols to help teach my students what each symbol sounded like. It is so difficult for ESL students to know how to say the different vowels and vowel combinations in our vast assortment of words.

It was hard to find what I really wanted since pronunciation symbol charts don't really cut it on their own.

A chart with symbols and sample words doesn't really help someone who has never heard, or cannot remember how to say the sample word in English. The symbols used in a lot of dictionaries (phonetic symbols, rather than phonemic symbols) often confuse my students since they don't know how to pronounce the vowels in the first place from one word to the next. And the American versus British variations on pronunciation, which are depicted using different vowel phonetic symbols ( sounds in speech)  is simply too much to add on top of this.

This is why I like to stick to the international symbols. These translate well to the sounds that occur in all languages in the world, functioning like a rosetta stone.

And so my hunt for pronunciation symbol charts with audio clips began. Below are my suggestions for the best ones I have found to date.


- the international sound symbols shown in a chart that was nicely laid out, and easy to read

- example words in English and possibly another language to help learners remember the sound
in a word context

- audio clips of how to say the sound

- instructions (preferably animated images) about how to make the sound- including descriptions of showing how to position your tongue and lips and mouth to make the sounds


 1. English Cafe / University of Iowa

Pronunciation tool embedded on this site ( University of Iowa webtool) 

English Cafe homepage

This chart on this page shows the consonant and vowel symbols- the international symbols and a sample word below.

Scroll down to see a tool that shows you - visually, with animation - how to say the sounds.
(animated model showing a cross section of a person’s mouth when making the sounds, so you can see the way to position the tongue and lips in real time).

Don't let the scary linguist terms on the menu bar scare you off. 

Just click on the pink menu tabs (any word),  and then click on a symbol in the main part of the page below and watch what happens; you will quickly figure it all out.

How To Use This Site/ Tool in Detail:

1. Scroll over a word (fricative, liquid, nasal, etc).
2. Click on a symbol ( the thing between the /slashes /) that shows up in the white space to the bottom left below.
3. Watch the animations of the mouth and the video clip of the woman saying the sound.
4. click on each example word to hear it pronounced

Since the tool uses the proper names of the phonemic sounds ( fricative, nasal, dipthongs, monothongs, etc) it would be intimidating, but since it the diagram and letters look like something you can click on, and they are , it is fairly easy to navigate. It would be best to use it 'live' in class to show people how to use it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Great Sites For Teaching How to Pronounce 'ed' Endings

A common problem adult learners of English often have is how to pronounce the 'ed' ending on words.

I always wind up spending time on this when teaching the past simple verb tense and decided to look for sites to help students learn and practice on their own. Here are a few recommendations.

Here are my top picks of sites with resources to help students learn and remember how to pronounce 'ed' at the end of words:

1. Elemental English

2. Perfect English Grammar 

 3. The English Club

 4. English Maven

1. Elemental English has a great 8 minute video on this topic so students can watch, see the spelling and hear the pronunciation for the different endings. It goes on to describe why the 'ed' pronunciation changes. The lesson is described with words of the lesson listed right below the video as well, for those who prefer to read rather than listen and watch:

2.  Perfect English Grammar gets to the heart of the lesson immediately, with a short written explanation of each rule followed by lots of examples (written and audio clips) of each way 'ed' can pronounced.

3. I liked this description from The English Club site because it had a 2:36 minute audio clip:
 English Club - ' ed' endings
English Club - 'ed' Endings page
Related to this, you can find a worksheet that uses a lot of the same examples as you find on English Club here: English for Everyone has a free, printable worksheet and answer key on this topic:


Answer key:

4.  English Maven  has 5 interactive multiple choice exercises and one final exam for students to practice what they have learned. (One page has the explanation and another a list of exercises and final exam.)
If the link above doesn't work, then go to the homepage and search for 'ed' endings.

Screenshot of Exercise 1

Screenshot of the lesson portion of the English Maven website: 

More Words -If you are having trouble thinking of examples of words that end with 'ed', look no further:

 I also considered (but can't really recommend):
5 Minute English
 I liked the clean layout and explanation of how to pronounce the different 'ed' endings ( voiced / unvoiced), and the fact that there was a quick quiz at the end to check your understanding, but without an audio clip or video clip it would be hard to make sense of the lesson unless you were a native speaker, or had one with you while reading through the lesson.

I hope this proves useful to you!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summary of the Best Grammar Sites for Teaching ESL / EFL

This is the last post  (4/4) in my 'Best Grammar Sites' series.

In previous posts I reviewed grammar sites that work well for teaching English for beginning, intermediate and advanced students.

This post is a summary of the best all 21 grammar sites I  considered. It includes a 'Best of the Best' list,  a full list of all the sites I looked at, and charts that show the breakdown of the rankings I gave each site.

Here are my favorites, in order of my preference:

 1. UCL's The Internet Grammar 

This site has it all: a comprehensive list of grammar points, an organized layout with a lot of white space that`s easy to navigate, comprehensive explanations that are easy to understand, many examples, and interactive quizzes at the end to test comprehension and mastery of a grammar point.

2. The Grammarly Handbook

I love the attractive and clean layout. it`s so easy to navigate, there is a comprehensive list of grammar points, and clear explanations and numerous examples. I especially like the inclusion of a lot of topics (grammar, punctuation, mechanics and sentence clarity) that help people learn how to write English well. Too bad it doesn`t include interactive exercises below each grammar point.

3. Edu Find 

As a teacher I really like this resource: its clean layout,  clear explanations, inclusion of usage and exceptions to the rule, and large number of examples make this a simple site to use for quick reference and to turn around and use with students in lessons. Too bad it doesn't include interactive quizzes at the end of each point.

4.Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online 

This is such a comprehensive grammar site, and has so many exercises and quizzes to help people learn each point, that I keep coming back to it despite it's cluttered interface.

Honorable Mention:

Study and Exam - I love the straightforward simplicity of the layout and explanations, and how relevant all the topics are to an ESL or EFL student. It is obvious that the site was not written by a native English speaker since sometimes the phrasing is not very natural, but sometimes the site writer manages to sum up complex grammar points in an impressively simple way. Too bad there aren't any interactive exercises at the end of each explanation.

University of Victoria ELC Study Zone -
I really like the clean and simple layout and organization of grammar points according to the level of language learner, the only site I stumbled across that organized the grammar points in this way.

Special Mention

For true beginners just learning their first words in English and the basic structure of the language ( a pre-grammar site, in a way):

For teens, Grammar Bytes was a clear winner. Too bad it has such a hidden index of grammar points and is  a bit hard to navigate in terms of looking up specific grammar points.


Below are all the sites I reviewed in alphabetical order and my overall rankings for each. -

BBC Grammar-

Englisch Hilfen Learning English Online -

English Club-

English Grammar 4U -


ESL in Canada-

Grammar Girl-

Grammar Monster

Grammar Bytes-

Grammarly Handbook -

Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch - 

CCC Guide to Grammar -

Internet Grammar of English-

Many Things -

Study and Exam -

Talking English -

The Blue Book of Grammar -

UCL Internet Grammar

University of Victoria ELC Study Zone -


Here is a breakdown of my rankings for the sites I thought best suited to Advanced Learners:
Here is a breakdown of my rankings for the sites I thought were best suited to intermediate learners:

Here is a breakdown of my rankings for the sites I felt were best suited to beginning students:

Have I missed a great grammar site? Let me know!

I hope you find this series of posts useful.