Welcome to the world of phonetics where you can study the sounds of language.

|How to pronounce any English word ||

Global Phonetics course with examples


Before starting, you may have questions like:

— How does my body produce speech?

— I have seen these symbols: /ʒ/, //, /ə/, /θ/, /ɚ/, /ӕ/, /ŋ/, /ʌ/, and /ʊ/. What are they?

— What happens in my throat when I speak, whisper, or sing?

— How are speech sounds classified?

— What exactly are phonetics and phonology?

— How can I use tools to analyze speech?

— How do I transcribe sounds?

Well, welcome to the world of phonetics. You’re about to embark on a journey that will enable you to make sounds you never thought possible and to scribble characters in a secret language so that only fellow phoneticians can understand what you’re doing. This code, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), is a standard among phoneticians, linguists, teachers, and clinicians worldwide.

Phonetics is the scientific study of the sounds of language. Phonetics includes how speech sounds are produced, the physical nature of the sounds themselves, and how speech is heard by listeners.

Phonetics is centrally concerned with speech, a uniquely human behavior. Animals may bark, squeak, or meow to communicate. Parrots can imitate speech and even follow limited sets of human commands.

However, only people naturally use speech to communicate. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell put it, “No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor, but honest.”

Before starting, if you are an Arabic student/learner, there is a similar course: How to pronounce English letters and words (Arabic lesson)

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

1. Meeting the IPA: Your New Secret Code

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a comprehensive symbol set that lets you transcribe the sounds of any language in the world. Many IPA symbols come from Latin characters and resemble English (such as, /b/), so you’ll probably feel fairly comfortable with them. However, other symbols may seem foreign to you, such as /ʃ/ or /ŋ/.
Below, I show you how to write, understand, and pronounce these IPA characters.

2. Vowels

1. i: as in see /si:/

2. ɪ as in sit /sɪt/

3. e as in ten /ten/

4. æ as in hat /hæt/

5. ɑ: as in arm /ɑ:m/

6. ɒ as in got /gɒt/

7. ɔ: as in saw /sɔ:/

8. ʊ as in put /pʊt/

9. u: as in too /tu:/

10. ʌ as in cup /kʌp/

11. 3: as in bird /b3:(r)d/

12. ə as in ago /ə’gəʊ/

13. as in page /peɪdʒ/

14. əʊ as in home /həʊm/

15. as in five /faɪv/

16. as in now /naʊ/

17. ɔɪ as in join /dʒɔɪn/

18. ɪə as in near /nɪə(r)/

19. as in hair /heə(r)/

20. ʊə as in pure /pjʊə(r)/

3. Consonants

1. p as in pen /pen/

2. b as in bad /bæd/

3. t as in tea /ti:/

4. d as in did /did/

5. k as in cat /kæt/

6. g as in got /gɒt/

7. as in chin /tʃin/

8. as in June /dʒu:n/

9. f as in fall /fɔ:l/

10. v as in voice /vɔɪs/

11. θ as in thin /θin/

12. ð as in then /ðen/

13. s as in so /səʊ/

14. z as in zoo /zu:/

15. ʃ as in she /ʃi:/

16. ʒ as in vision /‘vɪʒn/

17. h as in how /haʊ/

18. m as in man /mæn/

19. n as in no /nəʊ/

20. ŋ as in sing /siŋ/

21. l as in leg /leg/

22. r as in red /red/

23. j as in yes /jes/

24. w as in wet /wet/

[h], [m], [aʊ] etc. are called phonemes

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that contributes to a meaning in a language.

Voicing, Place and Manner of Articulation

1. Focusing on the Source: The Vocal Folds

To have a better understanding of the source of the buzz for voiced sounds, you need to take a closer look at the vocal folds and the larynx. The vocal folds (also known as vocal cords) are small, muscular flaps located in your throat that allow you to speak, while the larynx (also known as the voice box) is the structure that houses the vocal folds. For this discussion, the Figure below gives you some details about the vocal folds and larynx.

The following sections explain some characteristics of vocal folds and how they work, including what they do during regular speech, whispering, loud speech, and singing.

How to pronounce any English word - global phonetics course with examples

A diagram of the vocal folds in the larynx: fully closed (adducted) (a), vibrating for speech (b), and fully opened (abducted) (c).

2. Classifying Speech Sounds

a. Voicing

This term refers to whether or not the vocal folds are buzzing during speech. If there is voicing, buzzing occurs and speech is heard as voiced, such as the consonants in “bee” (/bi/) and “zoo” (/zu/). If there is no buzzing, a sound is voiceless, such as the consonants in “pit” (/pɪt/) or “shy” (/ʃaɪ/).
All vowels and about half of the consonants are normally produced voiced, unless you’re whispering.

b. Places of articulation

This term relates to the location of consonant production. They’re the regions of the vocal tract where consonant constriction takes place.

Where English Consonants Are Produced

Bilabial: At the two lips – /p/, /b/, /m/

Labiodental: Lower lip to teeth – /f/, /v/

Dental: Teeth – /θ/, /ð/

Alveolar: Ridge on palate behind teeth – /s/, /z/, /t/, /d/, /ɹ/, /l/, /n/

Post-alveolar (also known as palato-alveolar): Behind the alveolar ridge – /tʃ/, /ʤ/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/

Palatal: At the hard palate – /j/

Velar: At the soft palate – /k/, /ɡ/, /ŋ/

Labio-velar: With lips and soft palate – /w/

Glottal: Space between vocal folds – /Ɂ/, /h/

How English Consonants Are Produced

Stop: Complete blockage – by default, oral – /p/, /t/, /k/, /b/, /d/, /ɡ/

Nasal: Nasal stop – oral cavity stopped, air flows out nasal cavity – /m/, /n/, /ŋ/

Fricative: Groove or narrow slit to produce hissing – /θ/, /ð/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /s/, /z/, /h/, /f/, /v/

Affricate: Combo of stop and fricative – /tʃ/, /ʤ/

Approximant: Articulators approximate each other, come together for a “wa-wa” effect – /w/, /ɹ/, /l/, /j/

Tap: Brief complete blockage – /ɾ/

Glottal stop: Complete blockage at the glottal source – /Ɂ/

Every time you encounter a consonant, think of VPM and be prepared to determine its voicing, place, and manner features.

Making flashcards is a great way to master consonants and vowels, with a word or sound on one side, and the features on the other.

This is a video by the Pr. Evan Ashworth that explain phonetics with a simple way. Enjoy it!

You can read a similar post in Arabic from here : Learn how to pronounce English words and letters | Arabic lesson