The Bottom Line
- Well crafted apps that take advantage of the iOS touch interface
- Narrow focus that delivers what it promises: an understanding of phonetics
- Wide variety of printable flash cards and posters to use in class
- Gaming aspects of the apps quite involving and effective
- ABC Aliens allows users to choose between British or US accent
- Recording feature does not play model pronunciation followed by user's voice
- Narrow focus on phonetics might discourage users looking for something broader in scope
- PhonFocus and PhoneticsTT focus on improving pronunciation skills through fun engagement with phonetic symbols in a variety of settings.
- PhonFocus uses a wide variety of activities to teach phonetics including flash cards, listen and record exercises, phonetic spelling tests and more.
- PhonFocus is also an extremely useful app for teachers as a phonemic chart and a number of flashcards, including minimal pairs, can be printed for use in class.
- Cambridge English Online are the creators of the British Council ELTon Award nominated 'Phonetics Focus'
- PhonFocus can be used with adults or young adult learners and classes.
- PhoneticsTT differs from PhonFocus in that it provides an innovative phonetic keyboard that allows users to practice phonetic spellings.
- PhoneticsTT also allows users to practice phonetics through a 'phonetics mixer', as well as providing printable flash cards presenting words grouped by number of phonemes.
- ABC Aliens is for children and is more game-like in nature. The app teaches ABCs and the sounds those letters represent.
- ABC Aliens has the unique feature of presenting contents with both British and US accents which will be a plus for schools wishing to include this app in a digital library.
Guide Review - Cambridge English Online iPhone and iPad Apps
Cambridge English Online Ltd. are the creators of a wide range of apps for the iPhone and iPad. The company's long history of developing interactive assets really shine in these apps as they take full advantage of numerous capabilities in iOS, especially the tactile aspect of these devices.
I was provided with a number of apps to review that focused specifically on pronunciation skills through building an understanding of the sounds of English. In the case of PhonFocus and PhoneticsTT, the apps teach by thoroughly familiarizing the user with the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). ABC Aliens, which is intended for children, teaches both the ABCs and the sounds the letters of the alphabet represent. The apps work on both iPhone and iPad, with PhonFocus and ABC Aliens in a special version for the iPad.
Besides the extremely well-thought out user interface, one the most innovative features of these apps is their focus on a single aspect of English language learning: Pronunciation. Whereas other apps try to tackle much larger swaths of learning territory, CEO apps stick to doing one thing right. Another outstanding feature of PhonFocus and PhoneticsTT is the ability to print out phonetic symbol charts and a wide variety of flash cards. PhoneticsTT even allows users to print out their own phonetically typed scripts.
The strict focus on one production area might put users looking for a general English instruction app off, and that makes sense. These apps are strictly for doing one thing well, so don't expect anything beyond improving your understanding of phonetics and English pronunciation in general. However, if you're looking for something to help you with pronunciation that will also teach you how to interpret and actually take advantage of those crazy IPA symbols in dictionaries, these are must-have apps.