The International Phonetic Alphabet

No, the image above is not made of complete gibberish. It is a series of words written in the International Phonetic Alphabet. The symbols represent sounds that spell out “the International Phonetic Alphabet.”

The way it works is that if you know how to write and read in IPA, you can speak correctly in another language even if you have no idea what you are saying. The sounds are given so specifically that, with much practice, following them can help you sound like a native. It is used for many different purposes one of which would be helping singers learn an opera that sounds the way it was intended in the original language.

I originally learned the IPA when I was in college as a part of my voice and diction class followed by additional use in my dialects class. We used IPA first to remove incorrect sounds in our regular speech and then in the dialects class we learned what would need to be changed in order to speak in English but with an authentic sounding foreign accent.

These days I use IPA when I am coaching and I need to help someone reduce their accent to be better understood when giving a talk or lecture. I will often have the person I am coaching pick an article of interest that they would most likely read anyway, pass it through the IPA translator on at Lingorado, and then read it out loud.

The most astounding part of speaking English as a second language for me is that, if you don’t have a particular sound in your native tongue, you are not going to be able to hear it easily when listening to someone speaking English. However, once you learn a particular sound and how it is made, apply it to a set of words, and then go back out into the world listening to others speak English, the sounds pop right out at you.

It is a little bit like buying a red car and then suddenly noticing all of the other red cars around you as you drive. Were all those red cars really there this whole time and I wasn’t seeing it? Amazing.

Let’s look at the title of this blog post again word by word with the English above the IPA.


Pretty interesting right? Now here is the reason I wrote this blog post in the first place. While I was looking for tools to help someone learn IPA, I found a treasure. Someone went to the trouble of creating a version of Scrabble aka Words With Friends that you can play on your ios device that is played entirely in IPA. How incredibly geeky and niche is that? I have no idea how many people out there in the universe would want to play this game, but I can tell you now that I have five games going at the same time with different people around the globe, these guys are serious about their IPA.

I finally won a game. I can only assume it was to someone that has not been playing very long but it was a win nonetheless.


Want to learn more? Check out the Soundable app at

Oh, and have a video. It’s on me.