Which words sound very different phonetically

What is phonetic transcription?

At the very back of your English book, there are special characters behind each word. It almost looks like secret writing!

These signs are called phonetic transcription. It consists of normal letters and a few characters that do not appear in our alphabet. For example this:
/ ð /, / θ /, / æ / and / ŋ /.

They will help you pronounce the English words correctly. The characters are between slashes so that they can be recognized as phonetic transcription. They are valid worldwide.

Why phonetic transcription?

English words are often pronounced very differently than they are written. That's why phonetic transcription is very useful: It helps you if you've never heard a word - or if you've forgotten how to pronounce it.


Take a look at the German word “Boot” and listen to the pronunciation.


Now listen to the English word "boot":

At the German word "Boot" do you hear a "b" at the front, a "t" at the back and in the middle: "Ooo". The phonetic spelling for boat is

/ bo: t /.

At the English word "boot" do you also hear a "b" at the front and a "t" at the back, but in the middle: "Uuu". The phonetic spelling for "boot" is therefore

/ bu: t /,

even if the spelling is the same.

Always read the phonetic transcription out loud to you - sound for sound. This will help you join the sounds together to form the word.

Letters can sound different

Notation You hear Phonetic spelling
boat ooo / bo: t /

Notation You hear Phonetic spelling
boat uuuuu / bu: t /

The phonetic transcription only shows you like a word pronounced becomes. It does not show the correct spelling!

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The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Here you can find a list of all vowel sounds in English. There is an example behind every sound.

Many vowels look like our alphabet - or at least something like that. However, these look quite different: / ə /, / ɜː /, / æ /, / ɒ / and / ɔː /. In the list you can see in which words they appear.

On the next few pages there is still Double lute and Consonants.


/ ɑː / arm

/ ʌ / but

/ e / desk

/ ə / a, an

/ ɜː / girl, biapprox

/ æ / apple

/ ɪ / in, it

/ i / every

/ iː / easy, eat

/ ɒ / orange

/ ɔː / all, stOry

/ ʊ / look

/ u / February

/ uː / food

The colon shows you that the vowel is pronounced laaaaang:
/ ɑː / arm, / iː / easy

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

In double sounds you hear two vowels. Take the English word for example eye (Eye). If you pronounce it correctly, you will hear an a and an i. The phonetic spelling for eye is therefore: / aɪ /.

Double lute

/ aɪ / eye, buy

/ aʊ / our

/ eə / there

/ eɪ / take, they

/ ɪə / here

/ ɔɪ / boy

/ əʊ / gO, Old

/ ʊə / you're

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Many of the consonants look exactly the same in phonetic transcription as they do in the normal alphabet. There are a few exceptions: / ŋ /, / ʒ /, / ʃ /, / ð / and / θ /. Take a look at them and read them out loud to you!


/ b / bag, club

/ d / duck, card

/ f / fish, lukewarmgh

/ g / Get, doG

/ H / Hot

/ y / you

/ k / con youck

/ l / lot, small

/ m / more, mum

/ n / now, see belown

/ ŋ / song, long

/ p / present, top

/ r / red, right

/ s / sister, class (sharp S)

/ z / nose, dogs (soft s)

/ t / time, approxt

/ ʒ / television

/ dʒ / oranGe

/ ʃ / sure, English

/ tʃ / child, cheese

/ ð / these, mothhe (soft sound)

/ θ / think, mouth (hard sound)

/ v / very, have

/ w / what, world

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