Tag Archives: pronunciation

Six Wonderful Sites to Help you Write, Speak and Sound Better

I’m not a native speaker. Even though I read, write, work and I would almost dare say live  and dream in  English, I haven’t learned the language from birth and sometimes have moments of self-doubt. These websites I am going to share in this post have been an invaluable help.

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Howjsay  and Forvo: The world’s largest dictionaries of English Pronunciation

How often have you come across a proper name you had no clue how to pronounce and you desperately needed to know the  correct standard  pronunciation of or perhaps  a variant pronunciation of this word?  Let’s say you want to know the pronunciation of the word “selion”. You go to the most important online dictionaries offering pronunciation, but the word you’re looking up is not there and you suddenly begin to panic. At this stage you can do three things: panic, pretend you know how to pronounce it ( you just know how to sound British, no problem there) or look up the word in any of these two amazing sites that have saved my skin countless times.


We all know how difficult it is to write, even more in a foreign language. More often than not we look up words in dictionaries only to find that it offers so many possibilities for the translation of the word that  we don’t know which one to choose for the context we need. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t help us at all but makes things more complicated as we don’t know which word to use to mean what we want to express and we end up completely frustrated. Here, Linguee can help us as it is a bilingual dictionary but  in context


Sometimes we know what we want to write, the sentence is phrased in our mind, but we can’t figure out some of the words we need. This is where phraseup*comes in. It assists you with writing, by suggesting possible combinations to fill-in the words you can’t remember. Each suggestion is accompanied by definitions, synonyms and translations to other languages.
Imagine you know there is an expression containing the words ” take” and “granted” but you have forgotten what goes in the middle, PhraseUp can help you here, too. Just type the words that you remember and put an asterisk * where you want the application to insert something. Very useful, isn’t it?

Or maybe  you want to use the verb+preposition combination “cope with” but you are just not sure which words it collocates with, just type it in PhraseUp and options will be provided.


I have been using ozdic.com for years and this is a dictionary I cannot live without. It is not any dictionary, it also help you to sound more natural when speaking or writing in English. Let’s  say you don’t know the preposition that collocates with the verb “insist”, or which adverbs sound  more natural with this verb; let’s imagine you need to use the word “idea” but you have no clue what adjective to use  apart from the overused “good “. Go to the dictionary now, this is just a sample of what you’ll find : bright, brilliant, clever, excellent,, marvellous | valuable, worthwhile | exciting, inspirational, interesting, stimulating | constructive, positive | absurd, bad, mistaken, ridiculous | , crazy, mad, outlandish, wild | half-baked | ambitious, big, grand.

The dictionary contains over 150,000 collocations for nearly 9,000 headwords and it is based on the 100 million word British National Corpus.


It is a wonderful tool that can save a lot of time if you need to transcribe something. I have tried it with small texts (two or three lines) and it’s incredible! You will be able to  pronounce a whole text perfectly .
Just paste the text you want to transcribe and click the Transcribe Button to get the transcription.

Teaching Diphthongs

It’s never easy to teach phonetics and even though I love teaching this skill, I don’t think my students share my feelings on this subject. Anyway, in case you find it interesting or useful this is how I’m planning  to teach diphthongs.

diphthong is a sound made up of two vowels, or in other words, a vowel sound that starts near the articulatory position for one vowel and moves toward the position for another. In RP (the approved pronunciation of British English), there are eight diphthongs.

An easy way for them to remember the diphthongs is by drawing a face such as this one and then eliciting the diphthongs in the head.

You’ll get seven out of the eight diphthongs as you can see from the picture. To get the last sound you can always ask students:” Which Diphthong is missing ?” and set this task as homework.

face |eɪ| |  boy /ɔɪ/  ear / ɪə/ eye /aɪ/ nose /əʊ/  mouth /aʊ/  hair  /eə /

What diphthong is missing ?  /ʊə/ as in tourist | ˈtʊərɪst |

Click here if you want to listen to the pronunciation of these diphthongs.


♥ Ask students to work in pairs and give each pair a different diphthong. Tell students they have two minutes to write down words containing this diphthong. Encourage students to write different parts of speech: nouns,adjectives, verbs…etc. Divide the board into 8 columns, label each of them with a different  diphthong and list students’ words  correcting  any mistakes.

Tell students, still working in pairs,  to choose any  column from the ones on the board. Give students 3 minutes to write a sentence using as many words in their chosen column as possible. Ask students to read their sentences and tick off the ones they have used. The winner will be the pair who has used more words from their column.

Get ready for some funny sentences! 🙂

Improving your Pronunciation by Reading Along

I am one of those teachers who thinks pronunciation can be easily improved if you are
really determined to work on it. Contrary to what most people think, improving your pronunciation takes little  time and little effort although  it needs some  motivation. If you really want to improve, there are some sites that can help you if you just dedicate a little time and effort to this task. And the good news is that you can do it at home, without a teacher guiding you.

Reading along is an exercise I frequently practise with my students.
I normally choose texts from Listen a Minute .com because they are short ( 1 minute) and not too difficult. I like to do this practice at the beginning of the lesson because I think it is a good exercise to get them into English  quickly and without much effort.

We always follow the same steps.

♥Students listen to the text three times. The first time they  silently follow the text. The second time students read along  but in a low voice because at this stage they still need to hear the audio. Before playing the audio a third time  I point out some difficult words and make sure they pronounce them in the correct way.

♥ I split the text into two and ask students in pairs to read their part to their partner. I encourage them to correct their partner’s mistakes.

♥ Finally, I ask students to read aloud  one sentence each.

All in all it shouldn’t take more than 10  minutes.

Today, looking for something completely different on youtube I came accross this channel  which is also very good practice for the students to do at home to improve their pronunciation, though I would suggest it is for more intermediate or advanced students

The channel on youtube is called WaysandHow and it also has its own website where you can see and read  hundreds of  tutorials and tips on various aspects of life, including education. What is good about this site is that it is  beautifully subtitled and read at a good pace, so students can follow and read along. A nice way to improve pronunciation and also your vocabulary.

Have a look at this video -there are plenty to choose from and on a variety of issues- and see if it works for you! Hope it does!!

Lesson Plan : Money

Level: Intermediate

Step 1.  Warm up

A: Students watch the video. Unless they beg for more, I would just play the first  15 seconds, enough for students to focus on the pronunciation of the word “money” which they tend to mispronounce, and on the chorus Money makes the World Go Round, which students will later need to discuss.

B: This second warm-up is a great one. I got it straight from George Chilton‘s blog Designer Lessons  I copy/paste from him–, which I highly recommend.

Ask your students how they would spend a day in their city/town/village without spending any money. What activities could they do? They’re not allowed to stay at home, they have to be out of the house for the whole day.

Put them in small groups and get them to come up with a plan of the day – from 10 am until 8 pm. Conditions – They are allowed to drink water from city water fountains and any food that they find. They should present their plans at the end of this activity.

Step 2. A Bit of Fun with Translation.

Previous to this exercise students have studied Vocabulary related to money, so now it’s their time to show what they have learned.

Students work in pairs or in threes. To make things easier for me, I’ll provide them with slips of paper so that when the time’s up they can raise it up and I can have a quick check. Sentences with mistakes will be automatically discarded and the correct translations will get one point. Time limit: 90 seconds.

Step 3. Speaking. Speed Dating Technique.

♥Photo and explanation of the technique here 

♥Money Questions here


Pronunciation of some adjectives ending in -ed

If you were one of my students, you would know that one of my favourite words to use in class in EASY- sometimes I say easy peasy, but I guess it sounds the same to them. In fact, I only realized I said it so often when I saw my students  looking at each other with  half a  smile on their faces  and it got me thinking. I put two and two together and realized  that, carried away by my enthusiasm, I might have been overusing the word a bit. Well, nobody is perfect! The truth is that English grammar is easy to teach and easy to understand, but pronunciation is quite another matter.

Pronunciation!!! You can only sympathise with students when after years of teaching them how to pronounce the -ed ending of regular verbs, they suddenly find words such as naked,  which  they   automatically  pronounce /neikt/. You might not believe me, but  almost feel like I need to apologize and this is one of the few times when I need to say … Ok, this  is not that easy!!

The thing is that some adjectives ending in -ed have a special pronunciation and the -ed is not pronounced /t/ or /d/  but /id/. Let’s have a look at them

To make matters worse, aged is pronounced | eɪdʒd | when it means years old ( my grandmother, aged 93, is a very smart person) or when it is a verb but, when it is an adejctive it is pronounced  | eɪdʒid |

♥ All the young men went to fight in the war; and only the aged | eɪdʒid | and infirm remained behind.

Other adjectives ending in -ed   follow the rule for the pronunciation of the -ed ending, ie, pronounced /id/ only after /d/ ot /t/.

Keep posted!