The interactive version of the British Council phonemic chart is currently being updated on this website. 

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

Downloads

You can download a non-interactive image version of the British Council's phonemic chart below.

Sounds Right app

The interactive phonemic chart is available for you to download from the Google Play store for Android devices or the App store for Apple devices. Find out more about the interactive mobile app version of the phonemic chart

 

Downloads

Comments

Submitted by djconnolly on Thu, 11/22/2012 - 22:36

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Hi, great debate here.

Yes, the sample sounds need to be greatly improved. It would also be useful to have a video of someone pronouncing the sounds. (There used to be one, but it wasn't very good. The pronunciation of the schwa, particularly, was incorrect.)

Also, this chart doesn't include the sound of the intervocalic 't' that in standard US English occurs before an unstressed vowel (as in 'waiting'). I know that this is a British chart, but the vast majority of students in the world have more exposure to standard US English than standard British English. What harm could it do to mention this very common variation?

However, phonemic charts in general aren't very useful, partly because most dictionaries publish different versions anyway, but mainly because the majority of the symbols are based on English sound-symbol correlations - which are, of course, different to the sound-symbol correlations in other languages. (For example, when my Spanish speakers see the symbol /d/ in a phonemic chart, they don't pronounce the sound of the English 'd', they pronounce the sound of the Spanish 'd', which is much closer to the 'th' in 'then' than the 'd' in 'den'.) In other words, the IPA is great for native English speakers trying to learn the pronunciation of foreign languages; not so great for people trying to learn the English language. But I guess we're stuck with it.

BTW: Can anyone explain to me why the schwa is classified as a vowel sound? Unlike consonant sounds (which are produced through contact or friction between parts of the mouth), vowel sounds are produced through movement of parts of the mouth (jaw, lips, tongue). But the schwa is pronounced without any movement at all, so can we really consider it a vowel sound? 

Because it's such an important sound (the key to authentic pronunciation and successful listening comprehension), and doesn't even exist in many languages, I'd put it in a separate category of its own (together with the 'long' schwa), with a note explaining that although all languages have vowels and consonants, in English we have a third type of sound called a 'schwa'. (Speaking of which, why do you use the /3:/ symbol for the 'long' schwa? Surely it's simpler to just put a colon after the schwa symbol, as many dictionaries do.)

I'd also reclassify /j/ and /w/ as vowel sounds, but that's a whole other debate!

Cheers,

David

Submitted by mijimoos on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 21:03

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Hello, I hope this is not too obvious a question but why is the "ue" in Tuesday not a phoneme yet the "ai" in pain, for example, is?

 

Thanks!

Submitted by djconnolly on Mon, 12/03/2012 - 20:06

In reply to by mijimoos

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Hi Mijimoos,

I'd say that the 'ue' in 'Tuesday' IS a phoneme (in this case, pronounced /u:/).

Explanation:

In relaxed 'British' English, the 't' before a 'u' is often pronounced with the phoneme 'ch' (sorry, can't put the symbol here), as in 'future' and 'natural'. So 'Tuesday' is actually pronounced 'choose-day', which means that the 'ue' combination is pronounced 'oo' (/u:/).

The 'ai' combination in 'pain' is the diphthong sound /ei/.

Hope that's useful,

David

Submitted by mijimoos on Wed, 12/05/2012 - 13:07

In reply to by djconnolly

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Hi, thank you - that is useful to understand perhaps received pronounciation! I'm Welsh and we do tend to acccentuate dipthongs, particularly in words like "screw", "chew", "future" etc. I'm a literacy teacher and have been using the THRASS resources with my classes - the phoneme machine from THRASS says that there are two sounds in the "ue" in Tuesday, which is what got me thinking.

What about the first "u" in "future", though? surely that is a dipthong and a phoneme?

Mij

Submitted by Radha Soami Ji on Thu, 12/27/2012 - 16:13

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I m happy for being the member of BC. Now i m very much sure that i'll learn English Phonetics. Please help me regarding this.

Submitted by Dev raj A on Mon, 01/21/2013 - 05:09

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an awesome idea ... i like it.really helpful to beginners like me.expecting much more efforts of this kind BBC

Submitted by ytram on Wed, 01/30/2013 - 21:10

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I need some help on how to type phonetic symbols. There appear to be a few different ways of typing them. Some sources use unique symbols like Greek letters but some (usually dictionaries) simply use the nearest equivalent letter with a colon for longer stress eg. a: Is there a standard system for keyboard English phonetic symbols? If so, is there a particular font that has them all?. At the moment I find I can locate all the symbols but it is over a number of different fonts and it is a very cumbersome process locating them and sizing them up or down, not to mention actually typing them as they have to be inserted manually one-by-one each time. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Submitted by valerie yule on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 04:20

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The new British Council phonemic chart is for teaching the sounds of English. It could be extended to help teach the written symbols of English, which could be used in a Dictionary Pronunciation Guide too, as well as in Parallel Texts as a 'crib' to help read passages in normal spelling. Here is a spelling guide for the phonemic chart. The only new symbols are uu buuk, à è ì, ò, ù, for the ‘long vowels’, thh for θ as in thhing, and zh as in television. It can be used as a guide to reading. pure vowels i:= ee, sheep ɪ = i,ship ʊ = uu, buuk, u: = oo, shoot e = e, left ə = er, teacher ɜ:= ur, fur ɔ:= or, for æ = a, hat ʌ= u, cup ɑ:= ar, far ɒ= o, on dipthongs ɪə = here èr eɪ = wait à ʊə = tourist oo ɔɪ coin oi əʊ = show ò eə = hair air aɪ = like ì aʊ = mouth ou Consonants ʧ = cheese ch ʤ = joke j k = coin k θ = thing thh ð this th ʃ sheep sh ʒ = television zh ŋ = thing ng j = you y

A download option for Mac users is something that we might be able to offer in the future. Thanks for your suggestion Chrislann!
Sally

Hi Christine,
At the moment the download options are those listed above. We may have other options available in the future so keep watching this space!
Sally

Submitted by Omnick on Thu, 09/12/2013 - 15:33

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Hello there, I would like to create something quite similar in my language(Greek); does anyone knows how to build this?

Submitted by zulema.ramirez on Wed, 10/02/2013 - 23:13

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It is very useful, I personally like to practice my pronunciation with this type of charts, learning the little differences between the same letter on different words is very useful. This chart let me improve my knowledge and practice my pronunciation as a teacher and also as a student.

Submitted by subramanyasullia on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 11:52

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it is very much usefull to me thank you so much

Submitted by Maureen Venter on Thu, 11/21/2013 - 03:41

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On the phonemic chart, I notice that there is one diphthong short. Is there a reason for that?

Submitted by Bunnie1812 on Fri, 02/07/2014 - 17:33

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I've just joined and I note that the chart is available for download to PC but I'm not seeing one for the MAC operating system? Is there one or plans for its development in the near future? I've already download the app. Great going!! Many thanks!

Submitted by stephen jeyaraj k on Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:40

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It is really very helpful to teach the children especially to practice the beginners ot learning the language English! superb!

Submitted by toelw on Tue, 03/04/2014 - 07:14

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i have been using the chart for a long time but i always wonder why the round closing diphthong, the one in British 'pure' is missing in the diphthongs chart. the same vowel is used in OALD8 too.

I wonder why the Diphthong is missing from the phonemic chart.I hope the site administrators will restore the diphthong for the benefit of teachers and students and resource persons and teacher trainers like me

Submitted by muxtar on Thu, 04/24/2014 - 18:01

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Thank you for this chart. I've downloaded it. I want to use it in my teaching.

Submitted by vitaliybaran on Thu, 05/29/2014 - 21:14

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Hi there. One more drawback not mentioned in the other comments: it seems that one diphthong is missing (tour). BBC gives 8 and you give 7.

Submitted by sam7702000 on Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:29

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hi my query when we use the script for i sound the shot one, we have two symbols the 'i' and ' ɪ ' both sound the same, but in application on the word,committee /kəˈmɪt.i/ , both the symbols are used, ie after m and t., is there any rule to use specific symbols, other examples why in the word kit- we use /kɪt/, and for pony we use /ˈpəʊ.ni/

Submitted by sam7702000 on Mon, 04/06/2015 - 09:50

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hi i have a doubt on the word TREATY- /ˈtriː.ti/, we have a short vowel sound i in the end, but in the chart it is a long vowel i:, why in the symbols ɪ is not used and the script is not /ˈtriː.t ɪ/, please help, thanks

Submitted by ezkiko on Sat, 04/11/2015 - 15:09

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Is there such an animal? I found a Phonetic transcription tool but it does not give me the characters that I am looking for. Anyone know of an online tool? Thanks, Enrique

Submitted by Baajuun on Tue, 06/09/2015 - 20:29

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This is most difficult part for me, I understand little of this but hoping to improve it using this resources and the information on this website of teaching English.

Submitted by Sk.Ismail on Sun, 12/13/2015 - 17:11

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Hello everyone, My sincere wishes to you all. This phonetic transcription chart is very helpful for me not only for teaching children but also teaching pronunciation to adults. Thank you very much

Hi Derek... a found one reference to the missing dipthong which said that the chart would be relaunched. But that was some time ago. Are you able to tell me if the missing symbol is a mistake, or if it has been cancelled officially. Thank you!

Submitted by Pete S on Mon, 04/11/2016 - 18:33

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Interesting. I have used the sounds app and I think it's good for students to play with to get used to the sounds. If anyone is interested (or not interested) could I ask you for some help by doing my survey. It’s for my Trinity Diploma in TESOL. If you leave your email address in the final question, I’ll happily share the results. The address is as follows below: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/N3XQSN9 Thanks Pete

Submitted by Juan Carlos He… on Sat, 05/21/2016 - 01:46

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This is a quite useful tool to increase our speak and pronunciation abilities and to reinforce the knowledge that we acquired in the classroom, I think that is a good idea the use of new technologies as a resource in the teaching process.

Submitted by Versi on Sat, 06/25/2016 - 11:08

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I am afraid one sound is missing. In English there are 44 sounds and you have included 43. The diphthong /ʊə/ as in tour is missing.

Hi Versi, Thanks for your comment - we are working on updating the chart (to include the /ʊə/ sound that you mention) - we had hoped to have this done by now, but it is taking longer than anticipated. We hope to have a brand new chart up in the near future. In the meantime, you are correct that the /ʊə/ sound should be there! Sorry for the confusion and thanks for your patience! Cath

Hi Jeanette, Thanks for the comment - there has been lots of discussion about the 'missing diphthong' on this page - our development team is working on updating the chart, but it is taking longer than expected - we hope to have it updated as some time in the near future. Thanks, Cath

Submitted by emmanuelle.lac… on Tue, 01/24/2017 - 21:49

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It used to be that I could use the chart directly in the classroom (live from the Internet, that is), and click on it to hear the sounds etc... It now seems to be unavailable (I wonder why that is, it's really a shame), and I tried to download some of the stuff, but to avail although I use a MacBookPro and even went onto I-Tunes. Can you adise on the procedures ? Fix this so the chart is back online as it used to be ? Thanks in advance. E.L.

Hi Emmanuelle Click on the link above to download the chart onto your PC which I am sure you've done already. Please note you'll need Adobe Flash Player to use it so make sure you have this available and updated. Best wishes Del

The downloadable version here only runs on a Windows machine. Here is a link that will let you and your students download the free app to your i-Phone, i-Pad or Android device. http://www.macmillaneducationapps.com/soundspron/

Submitted by AnthonyESL on Mon, 08/21/2017 - 01:16

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I'm curious why this chart doesn't have a diphthong for /ʊə/ The one Adrian Underhill uses on the seminar videos does. I became aware of his videos through the British Council, so I am wondering why there is a difference there. Is it not really regarded as a true diphthong? For example, in "pure" /'pjʊə/ is this seen as two separate syllables? Anyway, many other phonemic charts do have /ʊə/ so I was a but confused by the difference.

Hi AnthonyESL Thanks for your comment - you are right, that although there has been some disagreement about diphthongs, the /ʊə/ sound is missing here - we have been working on updating the chart here for some time - apologies for the inconvenience. Our LearnEnglish App (which you can download for free - https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/apps/sounds-right ) does include the sound, and is a great resource for students to use. Hope that helps, Cath TE Team

Submitted by Amylinks on Thu, 12/07/2017 - 21:49

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Thank you very much British Council Am so happy after a very long search I finally found a site like this where I can learn phonemes. Sorry to bore you with this...I have a passion for phonemes I want to learn it and be able to pronounce ever single English word correctly like the first English speakers so please my able British Council I want to ask if there is a way I can download this phenomic chart on my Android phone so that I can be able to learn phonemes on the go anywhere I am. Pleeeeeeeeeeease help me I really need it on my phone. the one here in this page: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/TEphonemic.zip is only compatible with PC. Thank you in anticipation of your favourable response

Submitted by Cath McLellan on Tue, 12/12/2017 - 15:44

In reply to by Amylinks

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Thanks for your comment, and we are glad you find the chart useful. Unfortunately, as you say, the zipfile is only compatible with PC, but you could download the British Council Sounds Right app, which you can find here https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/apps/sounds-right I hope that helps, Cheers, Cath TE Team

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