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Phonetic Transcription

For students who have mastered the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) phonetic transcriptions can help improve their understanding of the importance of connected speech when speaking English. Dictionaries give single word phonetic transcriptions which can greatly improve students pronunciation skills. However, when speaking to native speakers, students are often surprised at how the phonetic transcriptions seem to not always match pronunciation used in connected speech. This is in great part due to the fact that English is a time stressed language, as opposed to a syllabic language (See "Stress and Intonation: Key to Understanding"). This manner of speaking greatly influences, and sometimes even changes, the pronunciation of single words. The following lesson provides students with an opportunity to examine how connected speech can change pronunciation.

Aim: Greater understanding of influence of connected speech on pronunciation through the use of phonetic transcription. Gaining experience in the use of the IPA to transcribe speech.

Activity: Comparison of written text with example of IPA transcription of text as it would be spoken

Level: Advanced


  • If necessary quickly review the IPA, ask students to transcribe various words written on the board.
  • Lead a short discussion about the difference in pronunciation between various words spoken by themselves and in phrases.
  • Examine worksheet of text transcribed in IPA
  • Ask students to note differences between what the single word pronunciation should be and the manner in which it has been transcribed.
  • Discuss the various changes, by giving aural examples as well as written descriptions on the board.
  • Have students break up into small groups of 3-4.
  • Give groups text to be transcribed into the IPA - stress that they should practice speaking each phrase before they begin the transcription process.
  • Have groups compare their work with the transcribed text handout.
  • Discuss differences and problematic areas as a class.
IPA Phonetic Transcription

Example Text

Transcribed text Frustration is a burst hot-water bottle, or loathing every moment of a holiday you're paying a fortune for. It's using the wrong side of the Sellotape, forgetting what you were going to say, or locking yourself out. Frustration is other people parking in front of your garage, or a stranger reading a riveting letter on the bus and turning over before you get to the bottom of the page.

Text To Transcribe

The weather today will be warm for the time of year and fine on the whole. There will be showers here and there though some places will miss out completely. The good spell should hold over the next two days but there may be fog over low ground in the early mornings. That is the end of the general forecast.

Solution to the above text

IPA Transcription Worksheet Printout

Solution Printout

Discussion of English as a time stressed language - "Stress and Intonation: Key to Understanding"

Back to lessons resource page

Further Information on the IPA

IPA Symbol Card Game
Lesson intended to help students learn the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

Phonetics: Introduction
An introduction and reference guide to the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).

International Phonetic Association
The association responsible for the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) which is the standard alphabet for help with English and other language pronunciation. Information concerning the association.

IPA Font
Free downloadable IPA font for creating pronunciation documents on your computer. Provided by the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

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