International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) Symbols

In the nineteenth century, a group of linguists created the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In IPA, each pronounced sound is represented as one phonetic symbol. The official IPA chart contains:

  • 107 phonetic symbols for consonants and vowels
  • 31 symbols for diacritics which are used to modify consonants and vowels sounds
  • 19 additional symbols that indicate the length, tone, stress and intonation

Some sites, such as ipachart.com or yorku.ca, offer interactive online IPA charts where you can listen to each and every IPA sound. You probably won't want to learn them all though - it is easier to learn phonetic symbols as part of the words of the language you learn. If you learn English, for example, listen to English words while looking at their phonetic transcription and pronounce them at the same time to learn correct pronunciation. Your brain will link English phonetic symbols with English sounds. Eventually, you will be able to read English words correctly when you see their phonetic transcription. Having this skill works as a free pronunciation guide.

IPA phonetic charts with word examples are available for the following languages: