English Phonetics With Audio Examples

This portion of the site is intended for advanced English learners and our international visitors.

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Do you ever feel like breaking down because of English spelling? Don't worry, English spelling and pronunciation system is very confusing and often puzzles even the native speaker. Dr. Edward Rondthaler the noted typographist, the chairman of the American Literary Council and master of the English language says that "nothing seems to be spelled, or said, quite the way you expect it to be!" In fact there are two English languages — the Written English and the Spoken or Phonetic English. But if you really want to communicate, which means speak, understand, read and write English, you have to deal with both of them.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet but they stand for at least 44 sounds of real English. The table below contains phonetic symbols used in various English dictionaries and their audio pronunciation (MP3 format). However it doesn't list all possible sounds of American or British English considering that some researchers count up to 49 (or even more) distinct sounds in English language. The number of sounds and sounds themselves depend of course on dialect i.e. country, area and … evaluation procedure.

There are quite a few phonetic transcription systems in the world. In my opinion some of phonetic alphabets are too sophisticated to learn, the others are too simple to feature all sounds of English. The two most popular among them are the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the Merriam Webster system. IPA used mainly in European and British dictionaries while Merriam Webster — in American ones, including of course the Merriam Webster Dictionary itself. There are some similarities but also many differences between the two systems. The main table represents the IPA alphabet and at the bottom of the page you will find a link (printscreen of original page) to Merriam Webster Pronunciation guide. Compare and choose...

Phonetic transcription is usually written in [square brackets] or between two \backslash symbols\.
Stress: main stress is a short vertical or slant line placed at the top before the stressed syllable in the phonetic transcription of the word; secondary stress is a short vertical or slant line placed at the bottom before the stressed syllable. E.g.:

And now all you have to do is read, listen and repeat as much as possible!

Compare IPA Phonetic Alphabet with Merriam Webster Pronunciation Symbols.
Although some similarities are present there are also many differences between these two phonetic Alphabets.

Merriam Webster Pronunciation Symbols
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