The Beginner's Guide to English Phonetics
English phonetics is the scientific study of the sounds used in spoken English and therefore of its pronunciation.
NOPE! Do not go! It doesn’t scare and it doesn’t hurt. 😁
On the contrary, phonetics allows you to improve our oral English level instantly and finally understand how English is actually pronounced by English speakers. After years of learning stupidly from text, it’s a relief!
What do English speakers really say? How do they articulate? What difference does it make to pronounce this rather than that? Phonetics is the key!
Phonetic transcriptions allow us to represent spoken English much more accurately than English spelling. Example :
The word iron is AHY-ern and not AHY-ron. With a phonetic transcription
When you know the English phonetic symbols (which are learned quickly), it is much clearer because each symbol represents a single sound.
Look at these difficult words in English for more examples.
Simple phonetics exercise
A very simple exercise in English phonetics:
- Take a written word: how do you think it is said… and how is it actually pronounced?
- Take a word orally: what do you think you hear?… What is it really? And how do you think it is written? (Pronunciation and spelling often have nothing to do).
Get into the habit of checking your English pronunciation and you will pronounce and understand better and better.
The International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA will help you compare sound by sound what you think you hear to what is actually said.
How to learn English phonetics?
Start by learning the English phonetic alphabet with this multimedia English phonetic alphabet , to understand the symbols of IPA . In this infographic: just click on an English sound to listen to it, try to memorize the associated example word, and you will already start to remember.
These symbols are sometimes scary but it’s just a matter of habit: by dint of seeing them everywhere, you will learn to read English phonetics. This is done naturally, provided you check the pronunciation by comparing transcription and audio.
Once you are used to reading these sounds and symbols, improve your English pronunciation by learning to articulate each of the English sounds (each of the vowels and consonants). This English phonetics course teaches you how to articulate every English sound that does not exist in Hindi. On the menu: pronunciation, audio, transcriptions and summary tables.
Keep in mind that spoken English is not just about pronunciation-articulation: having a clear accent is also about intonation, stress (and sentence stress), and rhythm .
Keep improving your phonetics
The rules of English pronunciation are fuzzy. The correspondence between the English spelling and its actual pronunciation does not always make sense since the 39 sounds of English are written in more than 1,100 different ways. The only way to be sure of its pronunciation in English is to always check .
An English phonetics dictionary will give you the transcription of each word. Learn how to check the English phonetic transcription of a word and you will easily improve your speaking level.
If you want to write phonetically , you will need the right typeface and typing tools.
Finally, I hope that the many articles on this blog for learning English will help you, starting with our well-stocked section on English phonetics and pronunciation – start with the “bestof” at the top of the page.
To complete, see also the specialized sections on English spelling and on English accents and dialects.
Finally, three essentials of English phonetics and pronunciation:
- The English International Phonetic Alphabet in an interactive infographic
- English pronunciation lessons: the 14 English sounds that do not exist in Hindi
- A very funny article on English pronunciation errors made by Indian speakers