Friday, 3 September 2010

Learning Method: Revising Your IPA

Image from

Had lesson 1 yesterday. It was the entire IPA all in one lesson. Of course, I had no problem doing the class exercises, but I was reminded that I am not perfect at it. Staying very modest is the right attitude, and realising the room for improvement at all time is crucial to success.

Why wasn't I perfect? It was the common words which I thought I could always pronounce correctly that eventually surprised me.

Say, the word "sewer", "salad", "calendar", "element', "lollipop" and "chicken".

I thought "sewer" was /suːə/, but actually it is /sʊə/. I never knew I have always been using the American version.

I thought "salad" was /ˈsɑːl.əd/, but it is actually /ˈsæl.əd/.

I thought "calendar" was /ˈkæl.ən.də/, but in fact it is /ˈkæl.ɪn.də/.

I thought "element" was /ˈel.ə.mənt/, but it should be /ˈel.ɪ.mənt/.

I thought "lollipop" was /ˈlɔː.li.pɒp/, but it ought to be /ˈlɒl.i.pɒp/.

I thought "chicken" was /ˈtʃɪ.kən/, but no, it is /ˈtʃɪ.kɪn/.

So, you see, even I cannot guarantee 100% correct!

But, the most important thing is never give up. I have never stopped reading the IPA while looking up for the meaning of a word, no matter how simple the word is. I understand that here are a lot of words in the English language and it is impossible to cover all of them and thus memorise the pronunciations of all these words, but I never tell myself this, because it will lower my will power.

What I do is, I just keep going and not to think about that. When I read the IPA and finally memorise it, I tell myself that I have defeated one more word and that there is one word less that I do not understand / know how to pronounce.

I look at the cup as half-filled rather than half-empty, in fact, I look at it as 0.001% filled rather than 99.999% empty.

How would you approach the same situation?

Also, the IPA representation of any words from any dictionaries are just for reference. Each dictionary has its own data and the version of pronunciation. There is no reason to be the same, otherwise, who needs to buy more than 1 dictionary? So just take it as a reference, don't get too serious with the accuracy.

Happy Learning!


Type IPA online: