How can I learn the phonemic symbols?

How can I learn the English phoneme symbols?

Tim asks, 'How can a newly trained CELTA teacher learn to use phonemes?'

There's such a lot to learn on the CELTA course and, on top of everything else, it may be the first time you are presented with the mysterious-looking phonemic chart of sound symbols used in English.

A lot of teachers avoid teaching pron for as long as possible, because it looks complicated and a lot of students don't understand the symbols either, but pronunciation is undeniably important and it really pays to familiarise yourself with phonemes as soon as you can.

So, have a look at Adrian Underhill's interactive phonemic chart which is set out in such as way that you feel the small physical changes in mouth and tongue position as you move through the sounds. Also, have a look at this Memrise course on English phonemes, this is really for native speakers as it links the sounds to words rather than plays the sounds along with the symbols.

As well as mastering the phonemes yourself, you will want to know how to teach pronunciation in class. Have a look at Adrian Underhill's Pron Chart blog, get hold of his excellent book and watch the man himself in action.

I've talked to a couple of CELTA trainers and they agree that the phonemic symbols are initially very off-putting. They suggest starting out in pron by concentrating on word stress and intonation. As English is a stress-timed language word stress is of utmost importance for students in being understood. They recommend 'English File' for good activities for students. They also emphasise the importance of practice in reading and writing in phonemic script when you do turn to phonemes.

Hope that helps. Good luck!