TeachingEnglish
Phonemic chart

This is the new British Council phonemic chart. Help your students hear the sounds of English by clicking on the symbols below. Click on the top right hand corner of each symbol to hear sample words including the sounds.

About the chart

  • Pure vowels are arranged the same way as in the IPA chart: according to mouth shape (left to right, lips wide / round - top to bottom, jaw closed / open).
  • Diphthongs are grouped in rows according to their second sound.

Try some pronunciation activities

Sounds Right iPad app
If you have an iPad, you can download and install a free copy of the British Council phonemic chart on it. Find out more on LearnEnglish.

Download the chart
You can download this chart to use on your PC - you'll need Adobe Flash Player to use it.


Copyright information: © British Council. This pronunciation chart is free for you to use and share for educational purposes. The chart should in no way be used or circulated for financial gain.

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Comments

Rob Lewis's picture
Rob Lewis

Interactive phonemic chart
Submitted on 13 February, 2009 - 01:34

While I think this chart would be a good item for students to be able to access, I was surprised, when trying it out, that voiceless consonants (p, t, f) are here voiced.  When combining the sounds with diphthongs, for example, 'y' with 'ear' to make 'year', (sorry - can't do the phonemic symbols) there is little if any variation of sound between the consonant and the diphthong.  What we get sounds like 'year' x 2.

Margaret Osborne

Interactive Pronunciation Chart
Submitted on 13 February, 2009 - 17:49

I agree with the previous comment (p, t, k) here are voiced.  Very confusing!

Please could there be a clarification in meaning and use between the two words: phonetic and phonemic.  They are used here as if they mean the same thing. 

C.Collingridge

Phonetic chart errors
Submitted on 17 February, 2009 - 11:58

I love the idea of this chart and want to get my students using it in a self-learning mode, but unfortunately in it's current form it's fatally flawed. Many of the consonants (not all) include a vowel sound, which has led to the previous comments noting that some unvoiced consonants are voiced on this chart. The sound sample provided for /p/, for example is actually /pə/. Many other consonants are incorrectly folloed by schwa including /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /f/, /v/, /ð/, /h/, /l/. I hope the British Council will correct these errors because they are misleading learners when actually the tool ought to be a great boon to us all!

Tavis

Phonemic chart
Submitted on 3 March, 2009 - 19:54

Hi everyone

Thanks for your comments.

Firstly, you're absolutely right about phonemic/phonetic mix up: this is a phonemic chart.

As far as the sounds are concerned, I agree with Tavis that the problem is that there is a schwa added after the consonants in many cases. I would also say though that without the schwa sound it would be almost impossible to detect, for example, /p/.

We are looking to find a better, more accurate solution, and I will come back to this page to let you know about our progress.

All the best

Rob
Teaching English

Phonemic Chart...
Submitted on 5 May, 2009 - 15:40

I figure this is because computers can reproduce exact sounds (phonetic), but don't understand or reproduce meaning (phonemic) using features.  

In short: the phonemic chart is phonemic. The sounds plugged in are phonetic.

To get the sense of a phoneme,  it needs friends, the acid test of separate phonemes being minimal pairs. Anyway can the chart store up minimal pairs? (Rob.. we have big plans for you... seriously, take care of yourself, my project just about cost me my girlfriend...)

Matt...

English teacher, circus artist in Madrid, Spain doing "teatro en ingles", www.fifthbiz.com

Eduardo Valdes's picture
Eduardo Valdes

Phonetic or Phonemic ?   C. Collingridge's question is a very frequent one in ELT ... and one that deserves the clearest answer possible.Phonetics is concerned with the study of human beings' capacity to produce, transmit and interpret speech sounds.   As such, it attempts to represent all speech sounds that human beings have the capacity to produce with their speech organs and so does not focus on the sounds of any particular language.Phonetics attempts to describe how we use our speech organs (i.e. articulators) in order to articulate sounds in terms of: a) the points in the vocal tract where they are articulated (e.g. bilabial sounds v. alveolar sounds), and b) the manners in which sounds are produced (e.g. plosives v. nasals).Phoneticians use various different symbols in order to represent speech sounds visually (i.e. transcribe).   Since they aim to make the most accurate and faithful transcriptions possible, they work with phonetic symbols.   Professionally speaking, in Anglo-American traditions, phonetic transcriptions are made using square brackets to signal that the most accurate representation of what was actually articulated is being attempted.For instance, if we made a phonetic transcription of the word 'water' as it tends to be pronounced in many regions of North America, the phonetic symbol corresponding to this English phoneme: /t/ would actually be: [ɾ]. Phonology, on the other hand, is concerned with the study of the sound system of specific languages.   This is, the restricted set of sounds (i.e. phonemes) which a sociocultural group of people in contact with one another sanction and consider as meaningful when they engage in communication with each another in the spoken medium in order to create, negotiate, interpret and achieve their intended meanings.   And so, we have specific areas of study such as Spanish Phonology, English Phonology, Russian Phonology and such like.Phonology deals, broadly, with two major areas of analysis and study in reference to specific languages:

  • Segmental Phonology (i.e. the analysis and study of individual sounds: their articulation, parsing, etc.) ... and
  • Suprasegmental Phonology (i.e. the analysis and study of the communicative features which characterise natural uses of language in the spoken medium: a notion referred to as 'connected speech').

 In phonological analyses, we only use a restricted number of the many various different symbols available in Phonetics in order to represent visually the sound system of a specific language.   A phonological transcription aims to present a careful, idealised version of how a sound would be rendered, and so we'd work with phonemic symbols.   Professionally speaking, in Anglo-American traditions, phonemic transcriptions are made using slanted brackets to signal that an ideal and careful version is being attempted (e.g. /w/ /ɔ:/ /t/ /ə/ /r/, etc.).The chart shown on this site is thus: phonemic (as it only represents the 44 individual sounds of the British variety known as a: 'BBC accent' or 'RP accent'). Finally, why are phonetic and phonemic symbols necessary in the first place ?     Well, it all stems from the lack of perfect, one-to-one correspendences between the spoken and written varieties of a given language.From a theoretical perspective, the discrepancies which exist between the spoken and written varieties of a given language and the degree of cognitive and sociolinguistic effort required for their users to process these discrepancies, we may regard languages as falling within one of two narrow groups: shallow v. deep languages.Shallow languages (e.g. Spanish) are characterised by having convergent spoken and written varieties which match each other very closely, and so the depth of the cognitive or sociolinguistic processing required to match and relate written with spoken versions of such languages is not excessively demanding on their users and their communicative resources.Deep languages (e.g. English), by contrast, have divergent spoken and written varieties which require much deeper cognitive and sociolinguistic types of processing on the part of their users in order to relate written with spoken versions of such languages.   In other words, written forms of words in a deep language cannot be taken at face value for their spellings are not indicative of their pronunciations in the spoken medium.When native users of a shallow language start learning French or English, for instance, they inevitably suffer from two associated conditions known as: 'language shock' and 'language stress'; especially when they first realise that it is not possible to pronounce words as they see them written and they pretty much have to learn the pronunciation of each individual word they encounter by heart ---at least until they go well beyond the threshold of intelligibility and begin to accept (and continue to discover more stable) phonological features and patterns of correspondence between written and spoken varieties of these deep languages.The above is of pedagogical significance for Teachers of English in as much as carefully guided, explicit and systematic explorations of segmental phonology in English (and their associated phonemic symbols) will be instrumental in gradually enabling learners to become more and more confident, autonomous and independent users of the English language, for they will know how to pronounce words when they encounter their phonemic transcriptions as they finally come to terms with the fact that English is a deep language.Cheers !Eduardo Valdes Garcia Torres, L7 LTCL DipTESOLDirectorHigher Education Institute for Applied LinguisticsMexico

matbury's picture
matbury

Hi, I've just joined and this is my first post here. It's great to have a place to share ideas with like minded people! :)I agree with the comments above, some of the unvoiced consonants are voiced here. I also think that the dipthong pronunciation is a little over-emphatic and unrealistic. These are things that are easy to remedy and the layout's attractive. I'm not sure what the "try", "think", "talk" and "transform" icons are meant to represent or what they do. I was redirected to an unrelated web page.I've written a phonetic/phonemic chart of my own that runs in Moodle, the leading open source learning management system used by the UK's OU and other universities, colleges and schools around the world. I'd be interested in hearing your feedback. I wrote a blog article about it here: http://matbury.com/wordpress/2010/05/12/dynamic-phonetic-chart-application/ There's a link to the demo from there.All the best,Matt

Ghada Hassan Ali's picture
Ghada Hassan Ali

I think I 've found a simple way to teach my studenst the phonemes through the chart as it 's interactive and reliable.They can also use it on their own.

Merien's picture
Merien

Good evening,I would like to apologize for disturbing you with this kind of a question but I have a problem to find a phonetic transcription program for American English. I have already found one for British English, but I do have a problem to find the American one.I would like to ask you for help; if you know some kind of a program or maybe some helpful website...Please do not hesitate to contact me, here or by email: meri.galova@gmail.comThank you in advance.

habibamaddouri's picture
habibamaddouri

Hi, everybody!I have been teaching pronunciation for three years and I know the confusion that students come acrosss when they start dealing with voicing (voiced/voiceless). we know, as it has already been said, that without the support of vowels, we almost find it impossible to pronounce consonants. But you have to bear in mind that all vowels are voiced ,and therefore pay attention to the confusion that is likely to face you. Still, this is not a solution. also, you can't keep in mind whether a consonant is voiced or voiceless through theoretical claims. The idea of vibration at the level of the vocal cords does not really work. Your vocal cords will vibrate when you produce the vowel that facilitates the pronunciation of the consonant. So, what's th solution? I have one solution that gives you 100% correct answers. But I have never come across this in books. So, let me check whether this has been said before, then I will tell you about it. Another point is that students who are learning English as a second language shoul be Taught RP, one variety of British English. We know that the best seller dictionaries are British. Therefore, it will better for us to learn RP. It is the only way for understanding phonetic transcriptions in these dictionaries.     

Prof G S Rathore's picture
Prof G S Rathore

It is true that without the support of vowels, consonants are difficult to produce.  However, in thousands of words the last single consonant is pronounced without any vowel after it.  The difference between a voiced and voiceless will be clearer then.  Even the voiceless and voiced fricative consonants articulated continuously, like sssssssssssssss and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz can clearly give the difference when we try to feel the vibration on the throat or by shutting the ears.

abida jan's picture
abida jan

will u please tell me what does it mean by RP as english is a second language for me and i am very fond to learn more and more about english.

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