Best Online Dictionaries for Pronunciation
Have you ever mispronounced a word and thought to yourself, why didn’t anyone correct me? Or, do you ever feel frustrated that words spelled similarly in English are not always pronounced similarly? If yes, then first off, you are not alone. Secondly, this may be the perfect opportunity to utilize online dictionaries to help get you closer to your English pronunciation goals! Listed below are four of the highest consumer-rated online dictionaries that offer several useful features to English language learners. Also, consider downloading a practical, accessible mobile app for everyday use.
Top-Rated Online Dictionaries
1. The Free Dictionary
The Free Dictionary offers all the basics you need as a pronunciation resource. Search by words, characters, or text to find definitions and voice pronunciations. This online dictionary also offers a detailed breakdown of phonetic spelling, which can be very helpful when perfecting specific sounds. Compare pronunciation differences between American English and UK English. This online resource also has an app for iPhone and Android, check it out!
2. Merriam-Webster Online
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is one the most reputable and respected dictionaries and is now conveniently offered online. Merriam-Webster offers phonetic translations, a thesaurus, Spanish to English translation, and a medical dictionary. Another great offered feature is descriptions of the history and etymology of words. This dictionary is also available as a mobile app.
3. Cambridge Dictionary Online
The Cambridge Dictionary online is a combo of four highly reputable dictionaries: the Cambridge Dictionary of American English, the Learner’s Dictionary, the International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs, and the International Dictionary of Idioms. If you’re looking for a highly-detailed, historical resource, this is the one for you. To illustrate regional accent differences, phonetic translations and spoken pronunciations are offered in American English as well as European English. Cambridge is also offered as an iPhone/ Android app with options for in-app purchases.
Visuwords offers a unique, one-of-a-kind experience for anyone who learns well visually. Disclaimer: this dictionary does not offer pronunciation of words. However, Visuwords can be an excellent supplementary resource for boosting your English language lexicon. This dictionary is graphical, so it creates diagrams of words and concepts to illustrate how words are associated. Visuwords is designed particularly for writers, students, teachers, and artists.
There’s an App for That!
Looking for more pronunciation resources exclusively for your phone? Here are a few:
Sounds: Pronunciation App
Based on Adrian Underhill’s book “Sound Foundations”, this app helps you study and practice pronunciation anywhere you’d like. Sounds offers three key features: a practice feature, a vocabulary feature, and an interactive phonemic chart. During practice, you can work on reading, writing and listening. The vocabulary feature has audio recordings of 650 frequently-used words. Thirdly, the IPA chart divides all the sounds in English into separate sections and allows you to tap each sound to hear the pronunciation and an example of its use. Both American English and British English pronunciation options are available.
ELSA Speak: English Accent Coach
Another excellent resource offered for both iPhone and Android phones is the ELSA Speak app. This award-winning speech app utilizes speech recognition technology to show where pronunciation mistakes are taking place and how to improve. First, you practice common phrases used in everyday life. Next, the app offers you feedback on specific sounds spoken and shows you how to move your tongue and lips to pronounce words correctly. According to the app’s statistics, 800,000 people have used ELSA to improve their pronunciation score by 40% in less than 4 weeks.
Another highly-rated app is the Pronuncian-English app. This app offers video and picture guides to illustrate the pronunciation and spelling of the 43 sounds of American English. Practice by listening to each sound in different words and contexts, then by repeating yourself to specifically target each sound. Pronuncian also offers visual diagrams of speech articulators to show where in the vocal tract sounds are made.
Tips for Using Apps
Before heading out to explore the amazing resources out there, here are a few key pointers to remember for enhancing your success:
- Record yourself while you speak. Conveniently enough, many of these resources will do this for you! We often miss pronunciation errors in the moment, and listening back on spoken language can be a useful tool.
- Utilize repetition. Replay videos and audio recordings over and over to memorize pronunciation. Listening to correct pronunciation of a word or phoneme only once will likely not create lasting change.
- Learn IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). In the IPA chart, each sound produced in spoken language is represented by a symbol. Once you have learned the symbols and can decode phonetic transcriptions of words, this is a fast-track to identifying correct pronunciation from word to word. Several of the apps and online dictionaries described above have detailed, interactive IPA charts to make learning this alphabet easy.
- Make learning social and fun. Research shows we are more likely to learn when we engage in learning material in a way that is relevant, interesting, and directly useful to our lives. Use this opportunity to share these online or mobile resources with a friend. Compare your scores and share learning styles to keep things fresh!
All in all, these free, easy-access resources are difficult to pass up! We hope you find them useful and pass them along to fellow colleagues, professionals, and students.
For quick access to an online IPA chart with pronunciations, click here.
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Mittra, A. (2019, November 25). 7 English pronunciation apps to speak clear, confident English. Retrieved from https://www.fluentu.com/blog/english/english-pronunciation-app/
OKeefe, M. (n.d.) The 10 best online dictionaries. Retrieved from https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/the-best-10-online-dictionaries.html