David Appleyard's English Language User Guides and References
Page Contents
Introduction The 20 Vocalic and Diphthongal Sounds
Saving the Audio Files to Your PC The 24 Consonantal Sounds
  Problem Sounds for Japanese Learners



Speaking clearlyIn an attempt to take some of the pain out of learning the kind of clear English pronunciation that prevents communication problems, I have here devised a set of memorable sentences as practice drills. The full range of English sounds is gone through systematically and spoon-fed in a form overseas students will want to repeat to themselves and then to the world. They might think it's just a form of entertainment, but before they know it they'll be speaking like a native!

David V. Appleyard


Saving the Audio Files to Your PC

  1. Start by creating a new folder with a simple name like "Pronunciation" or "Drills".
  2. Right-click any MP3 you wish to keep, select "Save target as..." or "Save link as..." from the drop-down menu and direct the download to your designated folder.
  3. Once you're done, go back to your new folder to confirm the downloaded files are all there.
  4. Go up one level and right-click the folder itself.
  5. Select the "Play with Windows Media Player" option from the drop-down menu, just as you might do with a music album. (If this option is missing, you have skipped step 3 and the PC hasn't detected any MP3s!)
  6. With the Windows Music Player open in full-screen format, left-click the "Now Playing" tab followed by the small arrow underneath it to access a new drop-down menu.  

Windows Media Player in XP

  1. Under "Visualizations" select "Album Art" to display the phonetic symbol of each sound being practised.
  2. On your keyboard you can press Ctrl+Shift+C to activate (or deactivate) the hidden captions feature. When selected, the full text of each pronunciation drill will display during playback like a movie subtitle.

The 20 Vocalic and Diphthongal Sounds

ɑ:  æ         e         ɪ   i:   ɪə   ɒ   əʊ   ɔ:   ɔɪ   ʊ   u:   ʊə   ɜ:   ʌ  ə


Sound Mnemonic Listen
/ ɑ: / Famous stars smoke cigars in cars and bars. Play MP3!
/ æ / That fat cat sat on a rat. Now it's flat as a mat! Play MP3!
/ aɪ / Mike likes bikes with spikes to ride on ice. Play MP3!
/ aʊ I doubt he'll clout the lout who stole his trout. He'll shout out loud! Play MP3!
/ e / The clever never ever say "Never ever!". Play MP3!
/ eɪ / If there's a delay, they pay to stay another day. Play MP3!
/ eə / They dare to stare at fair hair because it's rare there. Play MP3!
/ ɪ / If the stick isn't thick, you'll split it when you hit it. Play MP3!
/ i: / Don't freeze the cheese, please, Louise. Play MP3!
/ ɪə / It's clear the beer is dear here. Play MP3!
/ ɒ / Doctor Oscar often operates on opposition politicians. Play MP3!
/ əʊ / Joan won't go home to Rome by boat alone.   Play MP3!
/ ɔ: / She caught her daughter in the water with a naughty boy. Play MP3!
/ ɔɪ / The noise from Roy's toys annoys other boys. Play MP3!
/ ʊ / The cook shook when he took a look at the cook book. Play MP3!
/ u: / Whose two new blue shoes did Sue lose? Play MP3!
/ ʊə / If the water on the tour isn't pure, you can't be sure there'll be a cure. Play MP3!
/ ɜ: / Bert wasn't hurt but got dirt on his shirt.   Play MP3!
/ ʌ  / If Mother had another brother, I'd have another uncle.   Play MP3!
/ ə / A moment ago he announced a new address. Play MP3!


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The 24 Consonantal Sounds

b  p   d   t      tʃ   ð   θ   v   f   g   k   z   s   ʒ   ʃ   h   j   l   m   n   ŋ   r  w


Sound Mnemonic Listen
/ b / Barry's barrel of beer was a better buy than Bob's bargain bottles.   Play MP3!
/ p / Pete persuaded Pam to pick up Paula's parcel at the post office. Play MP3!
/ d / Dad does detest dealing with dogs' droppings in the driveway.   Play MP3!
/ t / Toddlers' toilet training takes time. Play MP3!
/ dʒ / Jolting gelignite is generally jolly dangerous! Play MP3!
/ tʃ  / Charles said cherries, cheese and chocolate are cheap in China. Play MP3!
/ ð / It's the weather there that bothers them.   Play MP3!
/ θ / A thirsty thief thanked Theo for his thermos. Play MP3!
/ v / Vera values the variety of vitamins in vegetables. Play MP3!
/ f / Inefficient farmers fear future foreign food imports.   Play MP3!
/ g / The giggling girls gradually got a grip on themselves.   Play MP3!
/ k / Cairo kids quickly catch colds in Canada. Play MP3!
/ z / The zippy Zaire zebra zigzagged through the Zurich zoo. Play MP3!
/ s / Super salesmen soon succeed in selling something. Play MP3!
/ ʒ / We should treasure leisure for its immeasurable pleasure! Play MP3!
/ ʃ  / She showed the shy shogun a Shinto shrine.   Play MP3!
/ h / When Helen had Harry, her husband hurried her to hospital.   Play MP3!
/ j / You used your yellow uniform yesterday.   Play MP3!
/ l / Larry lured lots of lovely ladies to his lair. Play MP3!
/ m / Most managers make much more money than me.   Play MP3!
/ n / I'll naturally never know Naples like my Neapolitan neighbour.   Play MP3!
/ ŋ / Karaoke king Bing sang a long song in Hong Kong. Play MP3!
/ r / Ronald Reagan wrecked his red Rolls Royce. Play MP3!
/ w / We await snowy winter weather without warm winds.   Play MP3!

Problem Sounds for Japanese Learners

The Japanese language has roughly half as many sounds as English, but this doesn't prevent it from eagerly soaking up vast quantities of Western words and expressions. This process is uniquely facilitated by the existence of the katakana phonetic script, which basically compresses foreign words into the same limited range of sounds available for native ones. The Japanese themselves think that this system is very smart. The downside is that school children face an almost impossible task unlearning it when approaching real English in the classroom. They fail to distinguish between the separate English sounds in, for example, birth, bus and bath — all of which for local convenience are similarly transcribed in the katakana syllabary. 

After more than a decade of teaching English in Japan, I have come up with the following series of contrastive sounds that Japanese speakers really need to learn to tell apart if they are to avoid comprehension difficulties with English speakers who are unfamiliar with Japanese.


Sound Mnemonic Listen
/ ɑ: / Be fast to be first! The firm farmer ran his farm like a firm. Play MP3!
/ ɜ: /
/ eɪ / That lazy lady is never ready! Play MP3!
/ e /
/ əʊ / Polish polish is popular in Poland. We won't want it!  Play MP3!
/ ɒ /
/ i: / He's his own boss. The wheel will come off. Play MP3!
/ ɪ /
/ ɒ / He plays golf by the gulf but he's not a nut. Play MP3!
/ ʌ  /
/ ɔ: / Grandma was born at home. Bowling isn't boring! Play MP3!
/ əʊ /
/ ɔ: / All over Turkey I talked to Turks who walked to work. Play MP3!
/ ɜ: /
/ ʌ  / My uncle's ankles give him trouble when he travels. Play MP3!
/ æ /
/ b / This berry's very sweet. Rival rebel gangs. Travel troubles. Play MP3!
/ v /
/ r / Jerry really likes cherry jelly. A pleasant present. Arrive alive!  Play MP3!
/ l /
/ s / Sue's shoes. It isn't selfish to sell fish or shellfish. Play MP3!
/ ʃ  /