The online language laboratory

How to use fonetiks 

Additional Teachers' notes are here


First, choose the language that you want to study. To study its pronunciation, click on the pages to the right of a flag. We suggest you start with "Single Vowel Sounds". Mouse over each symbol to hear the first example of each sound. Practise it yourself and then try the other examples to the right.

You can use Microsoft Sound Recorder to record your own voice and compare it with the original. To open Sound Recorder, click on "Start" and go to Programs, Accessories, Entertainment, and click on Sound Recorder. You'll need a microphone.

Understanding the symbols: "back" means the tongue is towards the back of the mouth. For example, the tongue is towards the front of the mouth when you say "cat", but towards the back when a British English speaker says "cart". "long" means the sound is roughly double length. "round" means the lips are rounded when the sound is made. For example, you can change "cot" to "caught" in British English by rounding your lips as you say "cot". A symbol in italics means the mouth is more closed than with non-italics. Please note: the symbols are only a guide, not a bible.

You can compare different languages or accents by opening two or more pages at the same time, and arranging them side by side on your computer screen. Now you can mouse over similar words and hear them spoken differently in, for example, American English and British English.

A good way of learning with fonetiks is to study with a friend. Try some of the exercises that are suggested on our Suggestions for Teachers page.

Here's a simplified vowel chart showing roughly where the various vowel sounds are made in the mouth - front or back, open or closed - mouse over to hear:

Front of the
Back of the
Mouth is more closed
Mouth is more open


If you can't hear any sounds, check to see if your computer is equipped for sound; does it have loudspeakers or headphones? Does it have a sound card? If sound is working on your computer, you will hear the Microsoft start-up sound when you open Windows.

If you have sound on your computer but you can't hear sounds on this site, you probably need to either update your browser or download the Flash player. The site is best viewed with IE4+; there are some minor formatting problems with Netscape and with Mozilla Firefox.

If you can hear the sounds but they are distorted, and/or there is a clicking sound as though the sounds are "buffering out", then you probably have a sound card that is not liked by Flash. The only way to fix that is to change your sound card, or wait until a later edition of Flash fixes the problem.

If your computer is very slow or freezes up, it's probably one of these: you need more RAM (16 megs is only enough for one page at a time), and/or a faster clock speed - a Pentium 75 works, but faster is better. A 56k modem works, but it's faster with ISDN or ADSL.

If you are using Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, you will probably experience problems in playing the sounds correctly - the only way to fix this at the time of writing is to change back to Internet Explorer.

If all else fails, e-mail us and we'll either fix it or commiserate with you!

Finally, here's a more accurate chart of vowel sounds:

Bye for now! - Tim Bowyer


The contents of this site are © Copyright 2000-2005 Timothy Bowyer - All rights reserved