Friday, February 18, 2011

Top Four English Phonetic (Phonemic) Charts

Phonetic transcription included in quality dictionaries is very helpful for people with reading difficulties, but what if you do not know the phonetic alphabet?

Shown below are four free interactive tools to use as a quick reference. The list is based on several evaluation points, including free use, interactivity, outlay and offline content.

The aim was to show phonemic charts as a reference only, and not to discuss lessons about IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).

1. Macmillan Phonetic Chart

This tool is provided by Macmillan Publishers and has been selected as one of the best phonetic charts online. The outlay is very simple and straightforward. After clicking on a symbol, the phoneme is articulated, followed by a full word in which the phoneme occurs.

The Macmillan Phonetic Chart is available as offline content, as a simple program that comes in two flavours. The first version displays the phonemes in a small window. The second, uses a full screen, which is ideal for presentation (realia) in a class.

Phonetic Chart by Macmillan
Phonetic Chart by Macmillan

2. Phonemic Chart by British Council

The second option on our list is the Phonemic Chart by British Council. This simple software uses a clear outlay with nicely grouped and uncluttered vowels, consonants and diphthongs.

After clicking on a phonetic symbol, the sound of the phoneme is played. The written word used or word read after the phoneme (like in Macmilan’s Chart) are more natural than an isolated symbol.

This tool is well rated because of its simplicity and the fact that downloadable versions are available both for MS Windows and Mackintosh.

Chart by British Council

3. Sounds of English by BBC learn English

The third place is reserved for BBC English. The most basic of all in the list, this tool is can only be opened in a browser window and it is not available offline as a separate application.

The chart itself is simple with clearly articulated phonemes. There is good quality content available in the Pronunciation tips.

BBC is a very good provider, with great lessons on English pronunciation. Each of the sounds is explained in a separate lesson, accompanied by video content.

Chart by BBC Learn English

4. The Phonetic Chart by EFL Productions

Here the phonemes are presented within the words, and isolated phonemes cannot be heard. It is a good companion or supplement to previously mentioned charts, because it is possible to hear the phoneme in the context.

However, the content is only available online. You need to buy the full product if you wish to use it on your offline.

It would be good to mention that the software offers a simple pronunciation quiz and phonetic diagram (both available online). The downsides arethe somewhat strange voice recordings and the not-so-friendly design, which is uncomfortable to the eye.

Phonemes by EFL Productions


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