ICAO 6 Pronunciation – How Can the IPA Help You Become a Proficient Speaker?

What is the IPA and why is it helpful?

The IPA stands for the International Phonetic Alphabet, which according to Wikipedia “is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet.” In other and easier words, every letter of the Latin alphabet has its own symbol. The phonemic transcription is placed between slashes, so here is the phonetic transcription for ‘red’ – /red/.

The aim of the IPA is to disambiguate learners and provide them with a clear and unified document that would be the best point of reference in terms of pronunciation. The best pronunciation, the less misunderstandings – click here to read my article about “Top 23 Aviation English Mispronounced Words”.

Not all the symbols from the IPA are used in English. Here’s the chart of English vowels and consonants:

English Consonants Phonetic Symbols

IPA Consonants

English Vowels Phonetic Symbols

IPA vowels

Source of these two graphics: Cambridge University Press

How to Start Learning With the IPA? How to Read in the IPA?

Learning to read in the IPA can be done through a very simple exercise. You can find a chart below with the English phonetic symbols and a group of easy English words. Read all the words loud and pay special attention to letters in bold because they indicate where each sound is placed. Take your time and stay focused on this task.

How Can I Practice the IPA on a Daily Basis?

One of the best and highly-respected places online, where you can find the phonetic transcription, is Cambridge Online Dictionary. Each word has both British and American versions. What is more, you can listen to the role-model accents that will help you acquire the best pronunciation.

Let’s take a look at a small tutorial.

Step 1) Enter the Cambridge Online Dictionary – click here. There is a search box at the top of a website. Type in a chosen word. Click the ‘search’ button.

Cambridge Online Dictionary

Step 2) In a few seconds you’ll get a definition. Your word is written in bold and below you can find American and British pronunciation. Red circles with a loudspeaker indicate where you should tap/ click in order to hear pronunciation in one of two accents. Below there is a full explanation, of course.

Cambridge Online Dictionary - a definition


I’m very interested if you are experienced with the IPA. Does this article inspired you to find out more about this non-obvious but extremely valuable tool? Let me know in a comment below or via e-mail. Have fun with learning the IPA, side effects included!, it’ll only make you more advanced English learner 😉