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Pronunciation | IPA Symbols | Speaking | Listenings


No matter how good your English grammar and vocabulary may be, if your pronunciation is so bad that nobody can understand a word you say, then your English won't be much good as a means of communication. You might be good at grammar, have a broad vocabulary, and be able to explain all the aspects and tenses of English, but it's not much good if you can't be understood when you speak. I have designed these Activities to help you to improve your pronunciation, as well as other areas of your English.

IPA Symbols

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation that was devised in the 19th century as a standardised way of representing the sounds of speech in written form. The British English IPA chart consists of 44 symbols representing the pure vowels (monophthongs), the gliding vowels (diphthongs), and the consonant sounds of spoken British English. The Britlish Library contains a wealth of Activities to help you to learn, remember, and use the British English IPA symbols efficiently whether you are a student or a teacher.


It's not easy to teaching speaking skills remotely through a website, however good the site is. To really practice your speaking skills, you need someone to speak to who can correct your mistakes as you go. The Activities here will go some way to helping you to improve your speaking skills by helping you to mirror the speech you hear in the lesson. In this way, you can notice how your speech differs from that in the Activities and, by recording your own speech, you can adjust your pronunciation to more accurately match that in the Activities.


Reading is the easiest way to take in English. Listening is a much harder skill and one that has to be developed as you study the language. There are lots of speech features that arise when native English speakers speak English. These speech features, such as elision, simplification, intonation, stress, and rhythm, and the way in which speakers may miss out sounds or whole words, are important to understand if you are to be able to listen to and fully understand spoken English. These Britlish Library Activities will help you to develop you listening skills.  

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Many students see the letter O and feel that it should be pronounced like the O in on /ɒn/ or clock /ˈklɒk/. This lesson will show you that many common words are not pronounced as you might think. The words in this lesson include: clock, funny, god, honey, London, money, monkey, moth, son, sun, waffle, wag, wallet, wand, wander, want, warrant, warrior, wash, wasp, watch, wax, won, and wonder. 

From the OED:

London (ˈlʌndən) 

the name of the capital of England, used attrib. in various special collocations: †London black, †London blue, names for some particular colours of cloth; London-bottled a., (of a wine) bottled in London; London bridge, a children's singing game; London broil U.S. (see quot. 1969); †London bushel, perhaps the same as the Winchester bushel (according to Fitzherbert it was smaller than that used in the north); †London button(s, the foxglove; London clay, an important geological formation, belonging to the lower division of the Eocene tertiary, in the south-east of England and esp. at and near London; London fog, a dense fog once peculiar to London and large industrial towns; London gin, a dry gin; London ivy, a fanciful name for: (a) the smoke of London, which ‘clings’ to buildings and blackens them; (b) a thick London fog; London lady, a kind of potato; †London measure, a former practice of London drapers of allowing something above the standard yard in their measurements; London particular colloq., a London fog; London paste, a caustic composed of equal parts of quicklime and caustic soda mixed with alcohol (Syd. Soc. Lex. 1889); London plane, Platanus × hispanica (P. × acerifolia), a hybrid of P. occidentalis and P. orientalis, often planted as a street tree; London purple, a by-product in the manufacture of aniline dyes, consisting mainly of calcium arsenite, used as an insecticide; †London red, name for a particular colour of cloth; London rocket, the plant Sisymbrium Irio, which (according to Ray) sprang up abundantly on the ruins of the great fire of 1666; †London russet, †London scarlet, names for particular colours of cloth; London shrinking, a finishing process applied to fabric to prevent shrinkage; also London-shrunk a.; London smoke, a fancy name for a dull shade of grey; London sugar, a variety of pear; †London tuft, Sweet William = London pride (a). 

   c 1530 So well ys me be-gone in Laneham's Let. Pref. (1871) 130 His hoysse of *london black.

   1625 Massinger New Way iv. i, One part skarlet, And the other *London⁓blew.

   1959 Times 21 Sept. 13/2 *London-bottled, it costs about 10s.    1972 Guardian 24 Feb. 11/2 The difference between London-bottled and château or domaine-bottled wine of the same vineyard‥cannot be stated in hard terms.    1972 House & Garden Feb. 111/1 With London-bottled clarets starting at £1.50 and château-bottled at £2.50, the prices were not excessive.

   [1827 R. Thomson Chronicles of London Bridge 152 ‘Here follows the ancient Music to the Song and Dance of London Bridge is broken down.’…‘A choice piece of simple melody, indeed,’ said Mr. Postern,‥‘but you called it also a dance, Mr. Barbican; pray was it ever adapted to the feet, as well as to the tongue?’]    1894 A. B. Gomme Traditional Games I. 199 It is singular that the verses of this game [sc. ‘Hark the robbers’], also enter into the composition of ‘London Bridge is broken down’. It is probable, therefore, that it may be an altered form of the game of ‘*London Bridge’.    1909 Encycl. Relig. & Ethics II. 852/1 The singing game known as ‘London Bridge’ has many variants in the different localities where it is played, but fundamentally the theme is the same.    1939 F. Thompson Lark Rise ix. 159 Well-known games still met with at children's parties, such as ‘Oranges and Lemons’, ‘London Bridge’.    1969 I. & P. Opie Children's Games viii. 235 A singing game such as ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’.

   1969 R. & D. De Sola Dict. Cooking 143/1 *London broil, large flank steak broiled, then cut in thin slices diagonally across the grain for serving.    1973 E.-J. Bahr Nice Neighbourhood ii. 24 We cooked a London broil out on the grill and ate on the patio.    1974 Columbia (S. Carolina) Record 24 Apr. 14-B/1 Most steak buffs have their favorite cut, and this brings up something I haven't been able to figure out: the names they give steaks. I'm told that Britons had never heard of London broil until some Yank informed them what it was.

   c 1450 Bk. Curtasye 626 in Babees Bk., Of a *lunden buschelle he shalle bake xx louys.    1523 [see bushel n.1 1].

   1552 Elyot Dict., Baccharis apud Ruellium, is supposed to be the flower called *London button.    1611 Cotgr., Gantelée, the hearbe called Fox-gloues‥and London buttons.

   1830 Lyell Princ. Geol. I. 152 From the *London clay we have procured three or four hundred species of testacea.

   1830 M. Edgeworth Let. 8 Dec. (1971) 445 It is so very dark in a thick *London fog that I can scarcely see what I write.    1887 [see fog n.2 2].    1906 W. Marriott Hints to Meteorol. Observers (ed. 6) 67/1 London fog, the dry, gloomy, irritating fog peculiar to London and other large towns, aggravated by smoke.    1931 E. E. Cummings Let. 7 Jan. (1969) 120 A London fog struck the ville at the very moment of departure.    1972 E. Routley Puritan Pleasures of Detective Story iii. 36 Holmes‥has moral status, and that makes one feel safer when one sets out with him into another London fog.

   1920 G. Saintsbury Notes on Cellar-Bk. vii. 104 Gin, whether ‘squareface’ or *London or Plymouth, [costs] not much more than half a crown.    1954 M. Sharp Gipsy in Parlour xxiv. 230 ‘Devon cider be a powerful brew,’ said my Aunt Charlotte.‥ ‘London gin's a sight worse,’ retorted Clara.    1963 A. L. Simon Guide Good Food & Wines 721/1 London Gins, which differ according to the Distilleries responsible for them.    1970 House & Garden Nov. 126/2 The type of gin in most general use is London Dry.‥ Though a few countries‥deem ‘London’ to indicate a geographical origin,‥the term London Dry Gin is mainly accepted as indicating a type of gin.

   1852 Dickens Bleak Ho. x, Smoke, which is the *London ivy, had so wreathed itself round Peffer's name,‥that the affectionate parasite quite overpowered the parent-tree.    1889 Sporting Life 4 Jan. (Farmer), A very severe cold caught by nine hours' contact with London ivy.

   1780 A. Young Tour Irel. (1892) I. 306 Of other sorts of potatoes, he finds the *London lady and the apple to be the best sorts.

   1647 Ward Simp. Cobler 25 Whatever Christianity or Civility will allow, I can afford with *London measure.    a 1652 Brome Covent Gard. Prol., 'Tis not in Book, as Cloth; we never say Make London-measure, when we buy a play.

   1852 Dickens Bleak Ho. iii, ‘This is a *London particular’. I had never heard of such a thing. ‘A fog, miss’, said the young gentleman.

   1860 T. Rivers in Gardeners' Chronicle 21 Jan. 47/1 (heading) The *London Plane trees.    1885 G. S. Boulger Familiar Trees 1st Ser. 23 Most of our London Plane-trees belong to an intermediate form.    1930 A. D. Webster London Trees 92 The Maple-leaved or London Plane stands first in the list of select trees for planting in towns.    1970 Nature 21 Mar. 1159/2 The London plane has proved extremely valuable as a tree that will endure the difficult environments of modern cities.

   1889 Science 24 May 394/2 The supply of powder can be regulated to such a nicety, that Mr. Leggett claims he can make half a pound of *London purple cover an acre.    1894 Times 16 Aug. 6/2 Paris green or London purple.

   1566 A. Edwards in Hakluyt's Voy. (1599) I. 357 Your *London reds are not to be sent hither.

   1837 MacGillivray Withering's Brit. Plants (ed. 4) 269 S[isymbrium] Irio, *London Rocket.

   1566 A. Edwards in Hakluyt's Voy. (1599) I. 358, I wore a garment of *London russet, being much esteemed.

   1501 Ld. Treas. Acc. Scotl. (1900) II. 30, v quarteris *Londone scarlat to lyne the samyn [doublat].

   1957 Textile Terms & Definitions (Textile Inst.) (ed. 3) 61 *London shrinking, a finishing process.

   1940 Chambers's Techn. Dict. 509/2 *London-shrunk (Textiles), a term used in the woollen and worsted trades to indicate that a fabric has been specially treated in order to prevent shrinkage during make-up and when worn.    1950 ‘Mercury’ Dict. Textile Terms 323/2 London shrunk. The dry cloth to be shrunk is folded between an upper and lower layer of wet cloth. The cloth is then dried naturally, and afterwards pressed.    1968 J. Ironside Fashion Alphabet 239 London-shrunk, a process for shrinking wool fabric before tailoring.

   1883 Daily News 16 Oct. 3/1 Blue black, dark grey, and the new ‘*London smoke’ are chosen.

   1884 Hogg Fruit Man. (ed. 5) 605 *London Sugar,‥A small, very early pear; ripe in the end of July and beginning of August.

   1597 Gerarde Herbal ii. clxxiv. 480 Sweete Williams, Tolmeiners, and *London Tuftes.    1629 Parkinson Parad. in Sole (1656) 320 We do‥call the‥narrower leafed kindes, Sweet Johns, and all the rest Sweet Williams; yet in some places they call the broader leafed kindes that are not spotted‥London tufts.

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