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.