IPA: A Roadmap for Accent Reduction

February 16, 2012
February 16, 2012 Rochel deOliveira

The International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA: a universal roadmap of the speech sounds of all languages.

Unlike alphabet letters, the symbols (or phonemes) of IPA are unique representations of speech sounds used in all languages. It takes the guesswork out of pronouncing irregularly spelled words, a notorious feature of American English.

For example, the word “been” is often pronounced by foreigners as “bean”.

And why not? Based on its spelling, shouldn’t “been” rhyme with “seen”? The correct American English pronunciation of “been” is actually identical to that of “bin”.

The mispronunciation of “been” is a frequent error made by non-native American English speakers. But once you see it in IPA as /ʙɪɴ/, you will never forget that it rhymes with / sɪɴ / (sin), / ʟɪɴ / (Lynn), or / ʈʃɪɴ / (chin).

Learning the IPA is not necessarily required to improve your use of American English pronunciation.

But it can be a helpful and interesting reference in understanding how speech sounds are organized. Below are two charts displaying the basic consonant and vowel sounds (broad transcription) of American English as represented by the symbols of IPA.

IPA: A Roadmap for Accent Reduction

IPA: A Roadmap for Accent Reduction


It’s the small nuances that help you speak with an American accent. When you speak more clearly, people understand you much better. That leads to having more confidence, which can affect your career and your social life. The IPA: a roadmap for accent reduction is a handy guide to decoding pronunciation and helping you speak with clarity.

If you are interested in learning more about American English pronunciation, accent reduction and IPA, consider enrolling in one of our 1:1 accent reduction trainings at AccentsOff. You won’t lose your accent or your identity, you will just speak more clearly.

Call 212-729-1304 or contact us today to set up your in-person complimentary speech evaluation.


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