How to use English Charts

Spell and Sound Charts are an educational tool, so every time you use it you are reinforcing your knowledge of how English is pronounced and spelled. You’ll find that after a while you won’t need it any more. This “how to use” information is based on the Spell and Sound English Chart with examples that you can download for free.

Spell and Sound English Charts are simple tables with English letter combinations and sounds. Each English sound is represented by an International Phonetic Alphabet symbol in brackets[ ].

There is a consonants page and a vowels page to your double-sided chart.

The picture below describes the different elements contained within a sound box on your Spell and Sound English Chart. This particular sound box is from the Vowels section of the chart. Notice the large yellow box on the left, this helps you find the vowel letter you are looking for.

extract of English spelling chart

The consonants page is slightly different in that the sound boxes are arranged so that the letter you are looking for is at the top of each box with a yellow background. The International Phonetic Alphabet symbol is followed by examples or spelling choices depending on the chart you are using.

You will find all 44 English sounds or phonemes in your English Chart and their English spellings.

If you’re familiar with other Spell and Sound Charts like those for French, you will notice that the sounds are based purely on IPA symbols. There are no equivalent sounds from any other language for Spell and Sound English Charts but if you are French you can use many of the English words representing French sounds in reverse!

Not sure which sound goes with each IPA symbol?

Listen to our full range of English sounds spoken by an English native speaker. Take your time to listen and listen again to every sound.

Use your bilingual dictionary to find sounds within the words of your own language that match English sounds and add them to your Chart.

If you’re learning English in a country that does not speak English, then these three steps are for you.

Many English students read more English than they hear and speak so if you follow these short steps you will be able to confidently pronounce written English words, even those you haven’t seen before.

I read an English word but don’t know how to pronounce it

step 1 for documentsBreak down your written English word into sections. There might be consonants and vowels in a section or consonants alone or vowels alone. Here is an example;

Teacher

This word can be broken down into various letters and letter combinations like this;

t-e-a-c-h-e-r
t-ea-ch-er

We’ve only highlighted two ways of breaking up the word “teacher”, there are many others. In fact there could be a number of letter combinations you could use, so a little trial and error might be needed in the beginning.

step 2 for documentsSelect the letter combinations you are going to use and find the starting letter of each group in your chart. It has a yellow background.

For example, if you are looking for the letter group “ea” I would start on the vowels page of my chart because “e” is a vowel. Each vowel letter has it’s own large box with a yellow background on the left hand side of the chart. From here I can scan along this E line and find the letter combination in a yellow box containing “ea”. When I have found this combination I look up to the top of this sound box where there is an IPA symbol. If your not familiar with the sound, our English sounds information has each sound in an audio file for you to listen to or check your bilingual dictionary for a possible equivalent sound in your language.

But, you may have noticed that some letter combinations have two or more sound choices.

Two or more sound choices for letters

The “ea” letter combination can make 2 different sounds so which one do you choose?

Have a go with both. How do they sound? One might sound better than the other, or you might not have a clue. If you have gone this far with your Spell and Sound English Chart you would have already learned that the letters “ea” in English can make 2 sounds – so even if you have to then use your dictionary with IPA to figure out the particular sound you need, you’re already ahead!

Sure, you could use your dictionary to look up every word and say each sound according to IPA but it will take longer to learn the spellings! By focusing on the word as a whole, you are not concentrating on the particular letters that make each sound.

step 3 for documentsPut all the sounds together! Say each sound in it’s correct order and pronounce your English word. Try this with the word “teacher”. Does it sound how you expected? Here is the answer key so you can try it out for yourself. (IPA symbols are in square brackets [ ])

[t] = T

[iː] = ea

[tʃ] = ch

[ə] = er

It’s clear to see how Spell and Sound can help with your English spelling.

Rather than learning all 7 letters in their correct sequence to spell the word “teacher”, you only need to know one graph (one letter is used to make one sound) and 3 digraphs (2 letters used together to make one sound).

So that’s 4 letters/letter combinations in correct sequence rather than 7.

I heard an English word but don’t know how to spell it

English spelling is one of the hardest to learn. If you’ve taken a look at your Spell and Sound English Chart you’ll soon realise just how many different ways the sounds of English can be written. So here are our easy step-by-step process to improve your spelling of English words.

step 1 for documentsBreak the word into individual sounds. How many sounds can you hear? Don’t forget to include consonant sounds, counting syllables will not reveal all the sounds.

step 2 for documentsLook up the IPA sound in your English Chart (check with our own English sounds if you need to) and look down the sound box to reveal all the English letters (spellings) that make those sounds.

There might be a number of options, so a little trial and error needs to be applied. As your familiarity with English grows, you’ll know which letter combinations are most commonly used.

step 3 for documentsPut the letters together. Does it look right? Try different letter groups for your sounds. You can always look it up in a bilingual dictionary. Some on-line varieties have a pronunciation tool and you can always use the English sounds on this website as a reference.

Anything you have figure out yourself is learned more effectively than if you just looked it up!

chinese proverb

It won’t be long before you’re sounding like a natural!

Remember to enjoy yourself. English is the universal language, learning English and opening new doors is easier than you think.

You might also be interested in…

American and British Spelling
Audio Lounge
English IPA with audio

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