How to Use the International Phonetic Alphabet

How to Use the International Phonetic Alphabet

What’s the International Phonetic Alphabet?

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association in the late 19th century as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language.

What Should I do When Taking a Pronunciation Class?

As you may see in the previous video, phonetic symbols might be unfamiliar to you if you have never taken a pronunciation course so you must understand that this is a processand it will take some time for you to get the benefits of knowing the international phonetic alphabet.

You also have to identify the phonetic alphabet that your  professor is using because not all dictionaries use the same set of symbols, For example when you are using the cambridge online dictionary, you will find the phonetic transcription of the word rash is like this :

rash cambridge online dictionary

But if you are using the phonetic transcription will be this:


So you have to make sure that you are on the same page with your teacher  because using dictionaries that have different set of symbols create a lot of problems for examinations  and  other  school  assignments.

What Set of Symbols is the Best?

How to Use the International Phonetic Alphabet

As you can see in the  video or in other publications about pronunciation, the set of symbols that I use are the ones taugth in the English Pronunciation in Use series because you can easily find a dictionary, apps and videos to make the process of learning the phonetic alphabet easier.

Why Should I Choose a Good Dictionary?

Well, Teachers are not around 24/ 7 to answer your questions so an online dictionary can help you when you are doing homework since learning the phonetic alphabet requires you to be an independent learning, you will have to do some work out of the classroom.

How should I prepare for Exams?

When  it  comes  to preparation  for  exams,  you  should   practice   words  provided by  your professor  while he or she  IS teaching  or the ones  found  in the textbook  that he or  she is  using. Practice  as  many  words  as you  know  and you will get  the desired  results and Try to identify patterns in words that you already know. For example:

  1. taste, lake, ate, mate and fate have the same vowel sounds
  2. now, cow, loud, doubt  and found habe the same vowel sound.

Start with one-syllable words until you can move on to more complicated words.

Will I be able to write the phonetic transcription of all words someday?

I wouldn’t like to set a limit to what you are capable to do but as a non-native speaker, I have to say that we never stop learning, sometimes I am reading a piece of writng and I see a word that I don’t use a lot so I go to the cambridge online dictionary to confirm if I am pronouncing the word correctly and most of the time those moments are a confirmation and sometimes those moment are  moments of personal growth.

How can I learn more?

If you want to know more about the International Phonetic Alphabet and how to pronounce some sounds correctly, you gotta visit this page

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