If you would like some theory first, start here… if you would like some advice, start at “rule #1”. IF you just want to get to the practical things, start below rule #4 (a pity, because I think my advice is quite good hehehe).
A long time ago, when students asked me about pronunciation I would go automatically on a rant about many things, that boggled their minds and probably discouraged them from trying to do anything about it. I hope I have changed. In today’s post I will try to offer a foothold for those who feel lost and don’t know where to start.
This is an excellent app by the British Council that consists of an interactive chart of the phonemic symbols that represent the sounds pronounced in English. You can click as many times as you want on each symbol to hear the sound it represents.
Why do you want to do this? Because if you go to your dictionary (paper or online) you can find these symbols after the word you are looking up. That means you can figure out how a word is pronounced, without actually hearing it. At least its standard pronunciation.
This is a good tool to get you started. My advice here: build on those examples and make your own list of words that include each of the sounds that you find problematic.
This is very similar to what Macmillan, the book publishers, have on their website:
However the Macmillan app is more complete, as you will be able to see. First of all, there are two version: a limited version for free (the one I am using for this demonstration) and the full version.
Once you start the app you will find a menu with several options. We wil go through the first three of them. The “more option” is only interesting because it includes the instructions!
The chart os the part which reminds us of the British council app. You have the buttons, you can hear the sounds if you tap on the symbols. If you tap and hold you can hear one example.
Let’s go now to the practice section. This section is limited in the free version of the app. You can judge for yourself once you download it. The full version is worth the money though. Here you have three options: read, write and listen. In the read section you will be given a phonetic transcription (oh those funny symbols!) and you have to figure out which word it is. In the write section, you are given a word and you have to write it with phonetic symbols. Finally in the listen section, you will hear a word and you will have to write it! Here you have some screenshots for you to get an idea.
Good I did it!
Will I get this one right? Let’s check!
Oh this one was pretty easy!
The listening part is probably the most difficult… and sometimes you get surprised. Listen well! There is actually no “b” in “lamb”!
Well, I hope you can all benefit from these tools. I believe they will empower you, whatever your level, to improve your listening and speaking skills. And provided you have a tablet or smartphone, you can use in anywhere (yes, even there). Enjoy!