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).
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.
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.
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.
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.