As a visual learner, I have struggled and am still struggling with the pronunciation of English words, because I can't most of the time rely on their spelling. I would even say that their spelling, which I memorise easily, misleads me when trying to pronounce them correctly. Letters pop up into my head and prevent me from pronouncing correctly. Thus, I am looking for a learning method that helps me to memorize visually the pronunciation, for example by allocating a certain colour to a sound. Does anyone know such a method or other methods?

I would also like to know whether anyone has the same issue as me.


There are no doubt many methods out there to help you and I would advise you to seek some assistance from a specialist teacher or speech pathologist. My suggestions are only based upon my own experiences and I will mention a few things that I have found useful in the past.

You mentioned associating specific sounds with colours. This is a good idea. For example, you can colour the hard and soft sounds of some consonants differently. You can also do this for the short and long sounds of vowels. silent letters may also be coloured in a light colour.

it might be an idea to find an International Phonetic Alphabet Chart (IPA) which contains many of the sounds of English using symbols to represent the sounds. Instead of using the chart symbols you could use a colour. For example, the short I sound in the word sit could be represented by blue and the long I sound in site could be red and so on. Using an IPA chart is great to use as a reference point and can be referred back to by yourself or a teacher. For example, if you read the word site and pronounce the I as a short vowel (blue) then your teacher may correct you and say :> no, use a red I

You can download these charts from most websites and then use colours instead of the provided symbols.

Just google IPA

You can also use shapes to represent different sounds. For example, use squares to surround long vowels and circles to surround the short vowel sounds. You can cut out letters and shapes to use them together. You could, for example use triangles to surround consonant blends e.g. For ch as in church you could surround the c and h with a triangle each to show that they work together to make one sound .

Sometimes I have emphasized long and short sounds by drawing long letters on the page verses short letters for short vowels.

To show which parts of a word are louder and longer (=stressed) people sometimes bold the stressed part or use a colour or even draw circles above the stressed syllable.

Above all, try to use all of your senses to spell and pronounce words.

For example I once taught a student the difference between the hard and soft sounds of the letter c by using cut out letters made of foam for soft and wood for hard.

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I am a visual learner (not a native English speaker) and IPA worked well for me.

Example: for the above "sit - site" https://tophonetics.com/ gives IPA transcription /sɪt - saɪt/. It worked better for me than colors proposed in the other answer.

Warning: there are multiple ways way to transcribe English phonetics. Some dictionaries use their own, non-standard transcription, and even IPA seems to not be 100% standardized, as I learned when I asked my question about pronunciation of i.

Then, there is difference between /i/ (short, "lax") and /i:/ (longer, "tense"), see link above, which might, or might not, be present in your L1.

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  • 1) I recommend only using dictionaries with IPA, eg Cambridge and Word Reference. 2) IPA is standardized, but each symbol covers a continuous range of similar sounds and thus distinct languages may produce the sound expressed by a single IPA symbol slightly different. Also, phonemic transcriptions express the pronunciation in phonemes, which are the sounds perceived by native speakers. A phonetic transcription is a more accurate representation of the pronunciation and IMHO are more useful to foreigners. Unfortunately, often they are not available in dictionaries. – Alan Evangelista Oct 18 '19 at 17:56
  • @AlanEvangelista - Sorry, I am not a linguist, so the difference between "phonemic transcriptions" and "phonetic transcription" is too subtle for me to understand. Is the IPA as provided by tophonetics.com website phonetic or phonemic? Is it good/authoritative enough? (in footnote it says: "American transcriptions are based on the open Carnegie Mellon University Pronouncing Dictionary" ) What the difference between "phonemic transcriptions" and "phonetic transcription" means to a learner of English? – Peter M. - stands for Monica Oct 18 '19 at 18:04
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    @PeteM I think an example can make it clearer. The phonemic transcription of the pronunciation of "Saturday" in US is /ˈsætɚdeɪ/ (or sometimes /ˈsætɚdi/ , especially when spoken faster) , the phonetic one is [ˈsæɾɚdeɪ]. The latter one clearly indicates the usual US T-flapping explicitly, the former one does not. tophonetics.com uses phonemic transcriptions, as most dictionaries and IPA converters do. – Alan Evangelista Oct 18 '19 at 18:30

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