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Phonetic transcription websites

Computerized Language resource centers are supposed to work wonders improving SLA students’ pronunciation: Can’t computers analyze and visualize sound for us?

However, it turned out there seems to be a considerable “impedance mismatch” not only between computers analyzing and understanding the signal, but also between a computer voice graph and the capability of a language learner to process and improve pronunciation on the basis of it.

Voice graphs may have some use for tonal languages. But can you even tell from a voice graph of a letter  which sound is being produced?

Enter the traditional phonetic transcription that pre-computerized language learners remember from their paper dictionaries (provided you can teach your language learners phonetic symbol sets like the IPA). Not only are good online dictionaries perfectible capable of displaying phonetic symbol sets on the web (it’s all in Unicode nowadays). 

There are now experimental  programs that can automate the transcription of text into phonetic symbol sets for e.g. English, Portuguese or Spanish. The more advanced ones also come with text-to-speech.

You can provide your students with audio (or, text-to-speech capability provided) or text models and have them study the phonetic transcription, listen to the audio, and record their model imitation in the LRC. Maybe you will find that practice with recording and a phonetic transcription of the recorded text is more useful for your students’ pronunciation practice than a fancy voice graph.

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