The Chocolate Box: thoughts on the use and abuse of the phonemic chart

(Article first published on Cambridge UPELT website)

Caution: May contain nuts

My argument in a nutshell is this: that the point of the phonemic chart is to help you to teach and your learners to learn. It is not there to police your accent. The widespread idea that the chart represents only RP (‘received pronunciation’) speech, or any other such ‘standard’ form, is profoundly unhelpful. I think we need to embrace a more flexible attitude to the chart, one that takes account of the idea that the symbols are phonemic rather than phonetic. We should recognise that each symbol represents not a single, precise sound but rather a range of sounds which listeners may interpret as that phoneme. In other words, the chart allows different accents.

PronPack for Brazilians!

A new book has just joined the PronPack family. We welcome PronPack 6: Pronunciation of English for Brazilian Learners. This volume is packed with motivating puzzles, games and raps, and it’s designed to focus on pronunciation issues which are specific to Brazilian learners of English – the kinds of problems which make it hard to distinguish pairs of words like: rat / hat; teas / cheese; piece / peas; cough / coffee; live / leave; Brad / bread, some / sung; thin / fin or Hal / how. If you teach learners from Brazil, this book is for you, and it’s available in print from is external), and as an ebook from Kobo (link is external) and Apple iBooks(link is external).