International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

English Pronunciation, Lesson 01

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The International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA in short, will help you learn how to pronounce correctly each and every word in English! But first, you need to learn what it is, and how to use it. Read the following explanation, and watch the videos. Answer the questions in the end to test your understanding.
The first letter

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

The English language may have only 26 letters, but it has over 40 different sounds! You need to be familiar with each sound, and its proper pronunciation in order for you to speak natural English.

So, how can you learn the sounds of English?

There is a special system that uses a group of symbols to represent each sound.

Follow our tutorial to learn what sound each symbol indicates, and how to pronounce that sound correctly.

That way, you will learn and practice the actual sounds of English!

Here is the place to mention that this tutorial covers American pronunciation only.

Some Definitions

The system of symbols is called International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA in short.

Phonetic means "using special signs to represent the sounds of speech".
It comes from the Greek word phone which means "sound".

Vowel is a sound we make when the breath flows out through the mouth freely, without being blocked. The English letters a, e, i, o, u are called vowels, because they represent such sounds.
It comes from the Latin word vox which means "voice".

Diphthong is a vowel sound made by pronouncing two vowels quickly one after the other. For example, the vowel sound in "loud" is a diphthong.
It comes from the Latin word diphthongus which means "two sounds".

Consonant is a sound we make that is not a vowel. The breath is somehow blocked on its way out of the mouth. For example, the sound B is made when breath flow is stopped with the lips. All the English letters which are not vowels are called consonants. These are: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z.

Watch the following video to learn how to use the International Phonetic Alphabet. It also gives a quick review of the sounds we will learn later.

Have you read the explanations and watched the videos? Great!

You are almost ready to move on to the next lesson, but before that, make sure you know the answers to the following questions:

  1. How many sounds (more or less) are there in the English language?

  2. What is the IPA?

  3. How can the IPA help YOU?

  4. What is a vowel?

  5. What is a diphthong?

  6. What is a consonant?
Have you answered the questions? Awesome!

Well done! You have completed the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) lesson.

Let's move on...

Your next lesson: Lesson 02, Word Stress and Syllables

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