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.
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.
Activate the Vowel in Pure / ʊə / with this English Pronunciation Activation Pack. In this Pronunciation Activation Pack we will be looking at the one sound on the British IPA chart that is in danger of disappearing in many words. The sound is the / ʊə / sound which used to be heard in words like pure and poor. I say used to be heard, because since the middle of the 20th Century, the / ʊə / sound has been replaced by the / ɔː / sound, so pure / pjʊə / is now / pjɔː /. Though the / ʊə / sound has been replaced by the / ɔː / sound among the young, middle aged RP English speakers may still use the old / ʊə / sound. For anyone who was born after the 1950s, myself included, these pronunciations sound rather old-fashioned and are difficult to produce. This gliding vowel sound has, or rather had, these letter combinations: OOR, OUR, URE, UR, UE, and UA. The biggest problem for students is that the / ʊə / sound is one of the least frequent vowel sounds in British English. It is also becoming less frequent as time goes on, so students ought to follow the modern pronunciation and use the / ɔː / sound in place of the older / ʊə / sound. Purists, particularly older ones, might disagree, but I would argue that the proof of the pudding is in the hearing.IPA Chart Course
This is our British English phonetic chart. It is the chart that we use in the Sounds British Interactive British IPA Chart eBook. It is also called the IPA chart and contains forty-four symbols. Each symbol represents a sound in English. It is important that you can distinguish each of the different sounds on the chart.
Some of these symbols in the IPA chart match the letters of the alphabet and have their usual English sound values. That is, the letter of the alphabet and the sound represented by the IPA symbol are always the same. This is only true of the following consonants: p, b, t, d, k, m, n, l, r, f, v, z, h, w. The rest of the consonant letters of the alphabet have no set sound value: c, g, j, q, s, x, y. Neither do the five vowel letters, which are: a, e, i, o, u.
Take the words cat and key for instance. Both begin with a different consonant letter. K is always pronounced as /k/ while C has no set sound value and its sound can change depending on the word in which it is found. In the case of the word cat, C is also pronounced as /k/, but it is not pronounced the same in the word chair. The IPA allows us to write down the actual sound of the word. cat becomes /kæt/ while key becomes /ki:/ and chair becomes /ʧeə/. Phonetic symbols representing sounds not letters will be written between forward slashes //. Anything you see written between forward slashes represents sounds not letters of the alphabet.
On our chart, the vowels are in the top half of the chart in the red and green sections. The red section contains the pure vowels (monophtongs) and the green section contains the gliding vowels (diphthongs). A vowel is a sound which is produced with the whole vocal tract open so that there is no obstruction to the passage of air from the lungs and out of the nose and mouth. Vowels form the peak of syllables in words. For example, in the word vowel we have two syllables, vo and wel. You can see that both syllables contain a vowel sound supported by the consonants.
On our chart, the consonants are in the three rows in bottom blue section. A consonant is a basic speech sound in which the breath is at least partially obstructed, and which can be combined with a vowel to form a syllable. Consonants can only be produced with a vowel. There are twenty-one letters in the English alphabet which represent consonants. These are, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Z, and usually W and Y. The letter Y can be both a consonant, as in the word yolk, and a vowel, as in the word myth and the word funny. The letter W can also be a vowel sound in very rare words such as those borrowed from the Welsh, as in cwm.
A complete course to help you learn, remember, and use the 44 sounds and symbols of the British English IPA chart. Whether you are a student or a teacher, you will find this course invaluable. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) provides us with a means of identifying the 44 sounds of British English and thus overcoming the problems of English pronunciation in which the same letters or combinations of letters can have different pronunciations in different words.
Activate the consonant sound / k / in Key. In this Pronunciation Activation Pack we will be looking at the consonant sound / k /. We will look at the letter combinations that give the / k / sound. We will look at lots of words which have the / k / sound in them. Finally, we will activate your ability to hear and produce the / k / sound correctly. The / k / sound is an unvoiced velar plosive made by blocking the air flow with the back of the tongue pressed up against the soft, back part of the roof of the mouth and then releasing it explosively. The / k / sound on the chart is shown in blue, which means that it is unvoiced. Letter Combinations for / k / - This unvoiced velar plosive has these combinations: K, C, CC, CH, CK, Q, QU, and X.
Activate the consonant approximant sounds / l / in Lamb and / r / in Ram. In this Pronunciation Activation Pack we will be looking at the consonant sounds / l / and / r /. We will look at the letter combinations that give the / l / and / r / sounds. We will look at lots of words which have the / l / and / r / sounds in them. Finally, we will activate your ability to hear and produce the / l / and / r / sounds correctly. The / l / and / r / sounds are approximants which come somewhere between the vowels and fricatives in the amount of turbulence they cause to the airflow. The / l / and the / r / sounds on the chart are shown in green, which means that they are voiced. They do not have unvoiced counterparts. Letter Combinations for / l / - This lateral approximant has these letter combinations: L and LL.
Activate the consonant sound / p / in Pepper. In this Pronunciation Activation Pack we will be looking at the first of the consonant sounds / p /. We will look at the letter combinations that give the / p / sound. We will look at lots of words which have the / p / sound in them. Finally, we will activate your ability to hear and produce the / p / sound correctly. The / p / sound is a plosive made by completely blocking the air flow and then releasing it explosively. The / p / sound on the chart is shown in blue, which means that it is unvoiced. Each of the unvoiced sounds on the first two rows of consonants make up a voiced and an unvoiced pair. The only difference between the unvoiced and voiced pairs is the use of the vocal cords while saying them. / p / / b / There is normally no problem with spelling, as both / p / and / b / are always P, PP, and B, BB, though the silent letter P can cause confusion. The main problem for students is between minimal pairs which contain / p / or / b /. In this Pronunciation Activation Pack we will be looking at a set of minimal pairs which differ only in the sounds / p / or / b /. In some words, the letter P appears but is not heard. We call this the silent letter P. The Silent Letter P comes before certain letters, the most common of which are N, S, T, and B.
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