An introduction to the IPA

What’s up, guys? How is it going in the morning? My name’s Canh. You can call me Lee as an English name. I’ve been teaching English as a second language for years. Learning English isn’t fast and it’s not going change overnight, but don’t worry, I’m going to help you get started. Just stay tuned, relax and be patient.

Today, we’re going to talk about IPA which is the very first thing you should learn about the English language.

A few words about IPA


–    First of all, I suggest you just shake your hands a little bit. And then I suggest you do a little bit exercise with your mouth, your tongue, your lips.

A few words about the approach before then we’re gonna work through the lesson: The idea is to take pronunciation out of your head and into the body. It’s the first thing. To make pronunciation a physical activity, not just a mental activity. It means, we’re using the muscles, making it a physical activity like your mouth, your lips, your tongue, your teeth, even your hands and your body.  And my aim is to make the connection between the head and the muscles in order to help you guys improve your pronunciation.


What’s IPA? IPA is the acronym for INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET. IPA is a system of symbols that represent all sounds of English.

why should you learn IPA? By knowing IPA, you know how to say all the sounds of English correctly and of course it surely helps you speak English a lot better and understand native English speakers easily.


If you know IPA, and now I’m gonna show you the phonetic transcription of this word “birthday”. How can you say it? That’s one of the most important benefits of mastering IPA.

How is it divided?

+ Consonants

+ Vowels

+ Diphthongs

Phonetic Chart

Generally speaking, there are 44 sounds in English, including 24 consonants and 20 vowels.



Let’s take a look at the consonants. These sounds are pretty familiar to you, so they’ll be so easy to learn because you know most of them already.

Let take a look at the first line. How many pairs do we have here? There are 4 pairs. What do they have in common. In the pair, one sound is voiced and the other is unvoiced. What’s the difference between the unvoiced sound and the voiced sound? The key is your throat. When you’re making the voiced sound, your throat is vibrating, but with the unvoiced sound, your throat is not.  That’s the huge difference.

And remember : When you make the voiced sound and the unvoiced sound in pair, the position of your mouth is exactly the same.

Let’s take a look at the second line. It’s the same as the first line. In the pair, one is voiceless and the other is voiced and the key difference is your vocal cords.

Check the video below and learn to say each consonant more accurately and correctly



Tips for English teachers or even learners of English.

For teachers:

You’re going to make the long i sound silently. You’re not going to say anything, but gesture. Your students will say the the sound and then they’ll hear you saying the sound. Finally, ask them which sound you were trying to make.

Here’s another sound,the long u sound and you’ll do the same as the i long sound.

Ask them to move slowly from the song i to the long u sound and they’ll feel the difference in their tongue, lips and mouth. When they make the long i sound, their lips are spread. It’s kind of like a smile on your face. When you make the long u sound, your lips are rounded, on the other hand. It’s kind of like you’re going to kiss someone.

Finally, you’re going to go through each sound

One more thing,the symbol : represent the long vowel sounds.

Check the video below to learn to pronounce the vowels



Learning diphthongs is quite easy. You can find it in your mouth. You just have to combine to vowels and join them together. This is supposed to be how to make a diphthong sound.

Check the video below to learn to say diphthongs more correctly


The letters of a word don’t help us in knowing how to pronounce it because the same letter can have lots of different sounds in different words. For example, the letter “c” has a very different sound in the word “car” compared to the letter “c” in the word “dice”. Also the same phonetic sound can be produced by lots of different combinations of letters.

The IPA is a system for representing each phonetic sound with a symbol and we use these symbols to transcribe the correct pronunciation of a word. In the English language, there are 44 phonetic symbols and sounds made up of vowels (short and long), diphthongs and consonant sounds.

Among the consonant sounds, there is a set of 8 pairs of consonants – In each pair, there is a voiceless consonant (example “p”) and its equivalent voiced consonant (example “b”). Each pair’s sound (example both the “p” and “b” sound) is produced by exactly the same mouth and tongue position. The only difference is that the voiceless consonant sound (example “p”) is produced only by the mouth whereas the voiced consonant sound (example “b”) is produced by the vibrations of the vocal cords in the throat.

Try to practice consonants, diphthongs and vowels in words and sentences by following the links below

(The most amazing website for IPA practice)

IPA is the key to leading you to English fluency, so study hard and have fun!

That’s it. That’s pretty much of a long post about the IPA. Hope you liked it and had tons of fun learning English.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s