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Study British English pronunciation
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Note that the word pronunciation is not spelt 'pronounciation', although the verb is 'to pronounce'. The word is therefore pronounced 'pro-nun-sea-ay-shun', not 'pro-noun-sea-ay-shun'.

Recommended books on pronunciation (the Cambridge books concentrate on British English pronunciation; the New Headway books include both British English and American English):

(1) Elementary level

Tree or Three?
Author: Ann Baker
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: January 1982
Cassette Tapes

New Headway Elementary Pronunciation Book
Author: John Soars, Liz Soars
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: February 2002
Cassette Tapes / CD

(2) Intermediate level

Ship or Sheep?
Author: Ann Baker
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: July 1981
Cassette Tapes
New Headway Intermediate Pronunciation Book
Author: John Soars, Liz Soars
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: February 2002
English Pronunciation Illustrated
Author: John Trim, Peter Kneebone
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: September 1975
Cassette Tapes

(3) Advanced level

Pronunciation for Advanced Learners of English
Author: David Brazil
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: October 1994
Cassette Tapes
New Headway Upper Intermediate Pronunciation Book
Author: John Soars, Liz Soars
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: February 2002

Dictionaries may show the pronunciation of a word using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which tries to express every sound in all languages. English phonemic script covers the 44 sounds used in English (20 vowel sounds and 24 consonant sounds): the symbols are shown below. Learn how to read these pronunciation guides, so you know how to say new words. Alternatively, use an online dictionary or electronic dictionary which allows you to hear the words or example sentences.

Phonemic symbols for British English

You may want to attend a pronunciation course (for example, see: or elocution classes (you can sometimes find classes offered by British actors or accent coaches in "The Stage": Some English teachers offer one-to-one lessons, which can be an effective way to improve pronunciation quickly.

Listen to recorded voices (tapes, CDs or videos). Use the pause control and try to repeat what has just been said; rewind and listen to the original again. Record your own voice and listen to it. Ask native speakers to help you - for example, read out loud (say) a line from a newspaper, and then ask a native speaker to read out the same line.

Study how sounds are made, and practice in front of a mirror. The way of using the tongue, lips, teeth and throat may be different from your language. You may want to exaggerate the movements while you are practicising making the sounds. For example, the l sound is often made by pressing the tongue against the upper teeth, but while you are practising making the sound it may be better to stick out your tongue until it touches the upper lip. Similarly, the r sound is usually made by pressing the upper teeth against the inside of the lower lip. While you are practising, use the upper teeth to bite the outside of the lower lip.

List words that you find difficult to pronounce, or which native English speakers find difficult to understand when they listen to you. Some of the common pronunciation errors for non-British speakers (listed by language) are shown at Try saying tongue-twisters (for some examples, see: Ideas/Fun). Ask English people if they can tell which word you are saying

Below are some examples of words which are often pronounced differently in Britain and in the US. The usual British pronunciation is shown first, followed by the usual American pronunciation in brackets (there are of course many regional variations, so these differences may not apply in all areas):

Ballet: ball-ay (ba-llay): stress is on the first part in Britain, but on the second part in America
Clerk: clark (clurk): rhymes with 'park' in Britain, but rhymes with 'work' in America
Lever: leever (levver): rhymes with 'fever' in Britain, but it is often pronounced to rhyme with 'never' in America
Privacy: pri-va-see (pry-va-see): the 'i' is short in Britain (like the 'i' of 'image'), but long in America (like the 'i' of 'idea')
Schedule: shed-yool (sked-yool): 'sch' is pronounced like 'sh' in 'ship' in Britain, but like 'sk' in 'skip' in America
Tomato: to-maa-tow (to-may-tow): 'ma' is like the 'ma' of 'mark' in Britain, but like the 'ma' of 'make' in America; rhymes with potato in America, but not in Britain
Vase: vaaz (vayz): rhymes with Mars in Britain, but with maze in America

The vowel sounds in American English are often quite different from those in British English, especially the "o" and "a" sounds, and the "r" at the end of a word. There are of course many regional variations. When compared with the sounds of Oxford English, the most obvious pronunciation differences are with people who come from the west and south of the US (for example: California or Texas), and are less obvious for people from the east or north (for example: New York or Washington). Ask a British and American person to say "bottle of water", and compare the "o" sound of "bottle" and the "a" and "r" sounds of "water".

To hear different ways of pronouncing English within different regions of the UK and across different countries in the world, listen to the sound files on these sites:
International Dialects of English Archive: Audio Archive:
The speech accent archive (George Mason University):

English Pronouncing Dictionary with CD-ROM
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: July 2003
Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English
(guide to British and American English, using IPA)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: September 2003
Gimson's Pronunciation of English
Authors: A.C. Gimson, Alan Cruttenden (Editor)
Publisher: Hodder Arnold
Date: March 2001
Longman Pronunciation Dictionary
Author: J.C. Wells
Publisher: Longman
Date: March 2000

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English/English dictionary: Dictionary
Automatic (machine) translations: Translate
Tests of English: English/Exams
Wordplay: Ideas/Fun

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