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 Rob Lewis (not verified) on Fri, 05/08/2009 - 14:54

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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

Submitted by Eduardo Valdes on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 22:07

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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 DipTESOL

Director

Higher Education Institute for Applied Linguistics

Mexico

Submitted by matbury on Wed, 05/12/2010 - 00:27

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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

Submitted by Merien on Tue, 10/26/2010 - 16:38

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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...

Thank you in advance.

Submitted by habibamaddouri on Sat, 10/30/2010 - 22:44

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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. 

 

 

Submitted by Prof G S Rathore on Wed, 02/02/2011 - 03:54

In reply to by habibamaddouri

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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.

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.

Submitted by lady in black on Tue, 04/12/2011 - 07:33

In reply to by abida jan

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Hello everyone.

I am at first year of Teaching college, department for English language and literature, and recently I 've learned something about RP, so I hope I can explain you what is that.

Received Pronunciation (RP) is one of the types of British English pronunciation, it is used by conservative (old people),  people in general ( people with different social status) and with advanced learners ( students and professors). I've also read that RP pronunciation was related to Queens English ( the native English).

 

greetings from Bosnia and Herzegovina :)

Submitted by besherry on Wed, 12/15/2010 - 17:40

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One of the biggest huddles once someone understands the meaning of words is getting the pronounciation right, especially for words that sound the same. This will be a helpful tool for students to play around with! 

Thanks for sharing the typewriter Evridiki!

Yes, the missing diphthong you mention was the subject of much debate in our team - to include it or not to include it. Although its use is in decline, you can still hear it in the UK (and elsewhere?). We may well revise this chart next year to include it.

I wonder what everybody thinks - would you include the /ʊə/ sound?

Rob

To learn phonetic symbols in English is one of the most important parts of English  language.Albanians are so interested to learn how to pronounce good English and I think we like learning English because it is a beautiful language.

Upon going through comments and ideas I have learned a lot.  Here in Bhutan  It has just begun and it's great challenge to the teachers. Thanks to one and all

Sonam

Well! I found the chart so useful because it provides us with examples not just symbols. Many thanks

As a native British speaker who speaks RP, I would like to see the missing diphtong /ʊə/ added to the table. It is the phoneme that represents the vowel in the word 'pure' as I say it.

The current National Literary Strategy in the UK is also extremely confused by this phoneme. They represent it as /ure/ but are half-hearted about teaching it. A comment in the Notes and Guidance for DfES Letters and Sounds p11 states -
"This phoneme does not occur in all accents. It occurs only if people pronounce words such as sure and poor with an /ooer/ vowel sound, not if they pronounce them as shaw and paw. It, too, can be omitted in Phase Three, and perhaps even permanently."

The phoneme /ʊə/ does occur in British Received Pronunciation and it is this accent that has been chosen as the standard one to teach. The comment about sure and poor is not correct. Neither uses the phoneme /ʊə/ in RP. Sure does sound like shaw. Pure does not sound like poor/paw.

This web site does not give accurate information about the diphtong /ʊə/. It is thus not surprising that it has been left off the chart.

In the list of words that use this this phoneme are tour and pure.

British English RP does not pronounce tour in the same way that standard American English does. The American tour is the one that is used to define /ʊə/. The British tour sounds more like pour than pure. In British English pure is the best example to define /ʊə/.

On this chart the speaker reads the word sure as one of the examples of words beginning with sh. The pronunciation is not one I have ever heard before. It does seem to match the DfES NLS phoneme /ooer/ however. Using this pronunciation pattern 'pure' ceases to be pure and becomes pooer.

We, in India, do include the diphthong: /ʊə/. This is because the English that is followed here is BBC English. And this sound is included in the list of diphthongs in BBC English.

Hi. I'm a teacher and teacher trainer and , having  just joined this very impressive site, I also noticed the missing /ʊə/ sound. I'm a native speaker from the North of England and this sound is definitely still there in MY sounds range - in words like sure , poor and tour.

I workd with Adrian Underhill at International House, Hastings  for many years and am  wondering why the team chose not to use his well tried and tested Sound Foundations phonemic chart. The issues discussed in various postings of the missing  /ʊə/ dipthong and the voiced / unvoiced consonants would not arise then.  Maybe it was a simple issue of copyright. I know the McMillan site onestopEnglish has a similar electronic version of the Sound Foundations chart but not sure if it is available as an app.

It's a great use of technology as a teaching and learning tool anyway so keep up the good work!

I feel you need that missing dipthong. After all, this is the BRITISH council and when you're in Britain you're going to be hearing an awful lot of Scottish (and Irish?) people using it. (Infact, how do we even say "You're" without it? Seriously, who says "/jɔː(r)/" except members of the royal family?) You're: Scottish: /jʊə/ Irish (Northern: /jʌr/ ) Cockney (east london): /jɑː/ West Country: /jɪr/

Submitted by Guest Krisijoel on Tue, 12/21/2010 - 17:29

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Hi everyone!

I agree with the two previous comments. I think that including that sound would be very helpfull for non native speaker 'cause learning phonetic symbols in English is one of the mos important parts of this language,,,,so next year do not heasitate to revise the chart and include it.

Submitted by abrar_tahir on Fri, 12/24/2010 - 04:31

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Hello,

I must say this chart would be very supportive to my language classes but i need to know how to download it so that i may avail myself of this phonemic chart with audio aid.

Thanks,

M. Abrar Tahir

Submitted by shalangi on Tue, 12/28/2010 - 03:41

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I will try this application on the iPad of my nephew, he's almost 4 years old but still having problems on speech and pronunciation. I think this will be helpful for him.


Cheers!

Submitted by acLiLtocLiMB on Wed, 01/05/2011 - 19:54

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I'm afraid the chart doesn't work very well on Google Chrome. I refer to the sounds. It's hard to elaborate because it isn't something constant. Due to Murphy's Law, right now, when I wanted to determine the exact problem, it works fine. Sometimes, it works once, then stops working altogether. Sounds like I'm rambling on, don't I?

I used to use the phonemic chart much more, before dictionaries with spoken pronunciation (CDroms and internet) were invented. It was the only way to learn the pronunciation of words if you didn't have a native speaker to teach you (or cassettes). Personally, I've always preferred to 'see' the pronunciation rather than 'hear' it. For me, it's easier to memorise, it's more accurate, and you learn standard English.

And as for the diphthong /ua/, I must say I was shocked when I didn't see it there. One of my favourite sounds.

Please, bring it back!

Submitted by jenuwefa on Thu, 01/06/2011 - 15:02

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It doesn't work for me in Chrome either - I can click on one phoneme to hear it, then none of the others work.  But as the previous poster writes, it's not consistent.  Now it's working for example....very frustrating!

Submitted by Kevin551 on Wed, 01/12/2011 - 02:21

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As of Dec 1st 2010 the Oxford English Dictionary has a new website. Initial work on the 3rd Edition of the OED is now online. The Oxford English Dictionary is the standard reference for the pronunciation of British English. The production of the 3rd Edition of the OED began ten years ago and is ongoing. The new edition is completely revised and has the modern (21st Century) pronunciation for all words written in IPA format. The accuracy of sites can now be checked against an authoritative source. The web site is here http://www.oed.com/

Also of interest will be the key to the pronunciation
http://public.oed.com/how-to-use-the-oed/key-to-pronunciation/

Submitted by Rob Lewis (not verified) on Thu, 01/13/2011 - 15:39

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Sorry to those of you who have had problems on Chrome - I've also found it frustrating as it works sometimes and not others. It's bewildering but we'll do what we can to improve it.

Thanks for further comments on the diphthong, and interesting to read the OED's key to pronunciation. As much as anything it made me think of a question which comes back time and again: which English (and which sounds) should we teach?

The OED has kept the /ua/ and so have other important dictionaries. Which English should we teach? If we're talking about EFL, I think we should teach standard English and also other types of pronunciation (secondary ones). For instance: the word 'often'. It's important that sts learn that it can be pronounced /ofn/ and /oftn/, so that they can understand both. We're living the era of global English, which is great, but I believe that standard English should be the main (though not the only one) source in an EFL classroom.

 

Submitted by ivanruiz on Fri, 01/21/2011 - 03:59

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these activities are really useful whenever I want to teach my students how words are pronouced.

Submitted by emda74 on Sat, 02/05/2011 - 11:30

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I found this phonemic chart was very good for me, I tried to repeat all the letters`s sound many times it`s easy to use

emad

Submitted by cricardo21 on Fri, 02/18/2011 - 01:21

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Good evening everybody. I am a teacher from Venezuela, and I'd like to know how to download this phonetic chart to use it with my students in class

Submitted by darwin1800 on Fri, 02/25/2011 - 15:44

In reply to by cricardo21

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Hi,

 

Here's a link to the Macmillan downloadable chart, for use off-line.

 

http://www.macmillanenglish.com/methodology/phonetic-chart.htm

 

Cheers

 

Phil

Hi,

Yes, Photransedit is great.... but I've found a discrepancy:

Example: noise

It's /ˌnɔɪz / in American translation, but /noiz/ in RP/British.

It's the same for all uses of ˌ/ɔɪ/, offline and online.

I've emailed them about it.

Phil

Hi Darwin,

No doubt a typo - happens to the best of us. After all, we don't use /oi/, do we? I won't be surprised if there are other errors, too, but if we help them improve their database, it'll be good for all of us.

Regards,

Chiew

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