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Pronunciation - Problem Sounds

There can be many difficulties, but here are a few of the common problems that learners encounter. This page features IPA characters and flash applications that allow students to listen and test themselves on these common sounds. (When you click on 'Listen Here' a popup window should appear and this can be resized for easy classroom use)

The great Th
[θ] e.g. thirsty & [�] e.g. that

Tongue Twister:
King Thistle stuck a thousand thistles in the thistle of his thumb.
A thousand thistles King Thistle stuck in the thistle of his thumb.
If King Thistle stuck a thousand thistles in the thistle of his thumb,
How many thistles did King Thistle stick in the thistle of his thumb?

Y and J
[dʒ] e.g. Jew and [j] e.g. you

Tongue Twister:
Our Joe wants to know if your Joe will lend
our Joe your Joe's banjo. If your Joe won't
lend our Joe your Joe's banjo our Joe won't
lend your Joe our Joe's banjo when our Joe
has a banjo!

If you are wondering why, j is sounds like a y it is because IPA takes it from the Spanish j sound!

Sh and Ch
[ʃ] e.g. sugar and [tʃ] e.g. cheap

Tongue Twister:
1. Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
2. Cheap sheep soup
3. She sells sea shells on the sea shore.

L and R
Japanese can rarely hear the difference between [L] & [R]
Most Koreans can hear a difference, but may have difficulties pronouncing it and for Chinese speakers it depends on the dialect that they use.

Listen Here! (Requires Flash)

Tongue Twister:
1. Laughing Laurie Lies to Laurance
2. Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better.
3. A lusty laboratory lady loved a lawyer and longed to lure him to her laboratory.

L and N
Southern Chinese speakers often have difficulties with L and N.

Listen Here! (Requires Flash)

Tongue Twisters:
1. There was just one light in the night!
2. That low to say no to Lauren and Natalie

Arabic & Persian speakers
Arabic and Persian speakers have a lot of problems with [B] & [P]

Listen Here! (Requires Flash)

Tongue Twister:
1. Rubber baby buggy bumpers
2. Brad's big black bath brush broke.
3. Give papa a cup of proper coffee in a proper coffee cup.

Resources on this Website

  • International Phonetic Alphabet
    Our page on International Phonetics.

  • Phoneme Mania (1.23MB PC executable)
    If you want to use the Phoneme tests away from the Internet, then download this application. (Also allows teachers to run full screen or in seperate windows for presentation purposes)

  • Pronouncing regular verbs (96KB PDF)
    Handout explaining the rules of pronouncing past participles/past simple verbs, cut-out cards and lesson idea.

  • Pronouncing plurals (50KB PDF)
    Simple sheet explaining the rules of pronouncing plurals, which are coincidentally the same as the third person regular verbs.

This page requires either Firefox 1.5+ or IE6+ to see special IPA characters and the appropriate fonts. This page also requires Flash 6+ to listen to the phonemes.



Learning Chocolate
Very nice beginners vocabulary site with voiced words.

Teaching English
Very nice pronunciation chart and lesson ideas. (Requires Flash)

Cambridge Dictionary
A little bit slow sometimes, but its free and uses IPA.

BBC China
Lots of great pronunciation tips and a mini-course to listen to.

Great for pronunciation with podcasts. (only recommended for teachers with high-bandwidth connection)

See more useful Websites