Top Five English Phonetic (Phonemic) Charts

Phonetic transcription that is included in quality dictionaries is great, but what use of the transcription if you do not know phonetic alphabet? We have selected for you five places with free interactive content, perfect for quick reference. The list is based on several evaluation points, including free use, interactivity, outlay and offline content. Our aim was to show phonemic charts as a reference only, and not to discuss lessons about IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).

1. Macmillan Phonetic Chart

This tool is provided to us by Macmillan Publishers and we have selected it as one of the best phonetic charts online. The outlay is very simple and straightforward. After clicking on a symbol, the phoneme is articulated, followed by a full word in which the phoneme occurs.  Macmillan Phonetic Chart is available as offline content, in form of a simple program that comes in two flavors. The first version displays the phonemes in small window. The second, however, uses full screen, which is simply perfect for presentation (realia) in a class. One of the things we would like to see is written form of spoken example word. The software is free for use.

2. Phonemic Chart by British Council

The forerunner on our list is Phonemic Chart by British Council. This simple software uses clear outlay with nicely grouped and uncluttered vowels, consonants and diphthongs. After clicking on a phonetic symbol, the sound of the phoneme is played.

Phonetic Chart by Macmillan
Phonetic Chart by Macmillan

We think that written word in which the phoneme is used or word read after the phoneme (like in Macmilan’s Chart)  would be more natural than isolated symbol. We place this tool on the second place because of its simplicity and the fact that download versions are available both for MS Windows and Mackintosh.

Chart by British Council
Chart by British Council

3. Sounds of English by BBC Learn English

The third place is reserved for BBC English. The most basic of all in the list, this tool is opened in a browser window and it is not available offline as a separate application. The chart itself is simple with clearly articulated phonemes. We have decided to select it because of quality content that is available on the same place if you decide to hang around – pages named Pronunciation tips. BBC is in the top of the game, with great lessons on English pronunciation. Each of the sounds is explained in a separate lesson, accompanied by video content. Another great site from BBC.

Chart by BBC Learn English
Chart by BBC Learn English

4. The Phonetic Chart by EFL Productions

On this site the phonemes are presented within the words, and isolated phonemes cannot be heard. It is great companion to previously mentioned charts, because it is possible to hear the phoneme in the context. However, the content is available online only. If you wish to use it on your computer offline, you will have to buy it. It would be good to mention that the software offers simple pronunciation quiz and phonetic diagram (both available online). The downside is somewhat strange voice recordings and not-so-friendly design for your eyes.

Phonemes by EFL Productions

5. The Sounds of English by Antimoon.com

This page is the least interactive of all listed here. When a user clicks on a word, the pronunciations are played as mp3 recording (whole words are read, and not the phonemes). We decided to include the site here because it offers American and British versions of the pronunciation. To more advanced students, extra explanations in plain English will be of use and great introduction to International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The content is available online only, unless you are ready to save each file individually.

This closes our list for time being. Do you know of any great online phonetic charts? Feel free to share in the comments.

MSDict Pocket Oxford Italian Dictionary (PC) – reviewed

In this post we review e-dictionary MSDict Pocket Oxford Italian Dictionary by Mobile Systems. We will talk about use, content and technical overview, followed by conclusion. The version of the reviewed software is 3.10.

Use

MSDict Pocket Oxford Italian Dictionary is compact software contained in 11 MB installation file. After the setup, small window will await you, divided into three sections. On the left pane headwords are listed, while right one contains the details. Above are navigation and filtering buttons that list previous or next entry or filter the content. Unfortunately, in order to print the content you will have to use copy/paste and a text editor, since printing is not implemented. Browsing the menus reveals options we have already seen in similar products, like “always on top” or “load on startup”.

Automatic word search when new content is discovered on the clipboard is included and functional – to some extent. This “Automatic Clipboard Translate” is likely to cause the frustration, because of the way it works. Upon copying an Italian word, the software looks it up and marks it in the list, but in order to see the definitions and explanation, you have to click on the headword. We expect that the program automatically lists the definitions. Needless to say that this is poorly done and it will prove to be of little use: one might as well paste the word directly in the software, which makes clipboard monitoring needless, and a whole process waste of time.

Content

MSDict Pocket Oxford Italian Dictionary is an Oxford dictionary. Users seeking, above all, quality reference will be pleased that the acclaimed publisher has yet another software edition. Even more, Mobile Systems offers Oxford dictionaries and reference software for several portable platforms (PalmOS, Pocket PC, Symbian etc.).

All headwords have stress notation within the word itself (for example: dizio’nario). While there is no pronunciation or IPA translation, there is a humble English and Italian pronunciation guide. It is minimal and thus good as a reference only. The explanations and meanings are formatted for legibility: part of speech is marked with bigger font and different color, Italian headwords and phrases are in bold, while abbreviations and notes are in gray italic.

The content covers “over 80,000 words and phrases, and over 100,000 translations” (quotation from the publisher’s site) which is great for this dictionary class, with the observation that more examples of usage would be welcome.

Technical overview

Surprisingly, technical realization of this dictionary is not very good. For a simple software like this, installation and settings should be flawless. Unfortunately, we have encountered issues on Windows XP SP2, where installation procedure fails to set up the program correctly for the users. During our testing, only the administrator could start the MSDict and load the Italian dictionary. We were also disappointed to see that the program does not offer basic learning aids, like bookmarks, wordlist or simple flashcards tool.

Good side of the thing is that MSDict is lightweight program that will not infest your computer with unwanted software.

Conclusion

Is this dictionary worth the money? It depends. If you are a beginner or an intermediate level learner of Italian language this type of dictionary is for you, but will you like the product? No doubt, Oxford stands as an authoritative reference, but is that enough for the software? We think that in terms of use and technical quality users deserve better products. The glitch with clipboard makes automatic search unusable, which slows down the work. This would be the biggest flaw of the MSDict Pocket Oxford Italian Dictionary. We could also mention the inability of the program to look up correctly a word copied with surrounding space characters.

If you need good low-weight Italian e-dictionary by an established publisher because you are unable to use the Internet language resources, and in the same time you find looking up in printed editions too time consuming – buy this product. Our opinion is that you will be satisfied, especially if you do not deal with Italian language frequently.

Other uses might wish to try other products, especially until all bugs are resolved in this program and more functionality is added. If you consider the price and compare it with the program’s doubtful usability, you could try the original Oxford Pocket Dictionary which has richer extra content. We hope that Mobile Systems will continue to deliver good software, both for mobile devices and, of course, personal computers.

Links

MSDict Pocket Oxford Italian Dictionary homepage (opens in new page).

Sceenshot of the main window
Sceenshot of the main window

It’s about enthusiasm, language and programming – pyLatinam

pyLatinam is a module (program) written in Python programming language. A natural language (Latin) is described by a formal language (Python) to make a software that creates inflections.

As its name says, pyLatinam is about Latin language. Word latinam is in accusative, a case that often functions as an object of a sentence, thus describing program’s concept. The idea is that users provide basic form of the word whilst the program returns cases of nouns, various tenses of verbs, etc. In the development stages of the pyLatinam there are many bugs, but that will improve as the new versions arrive.

This young project is free, open source (BSD License) and OS independent. It can be used on Windows, Linux or any other system that supports Python language (and most systems do). The program is being written as the enthusiastic result of interest in language and programming, and by no means attempts to rewrite whole Latin Grammar into one program. At least not yet.

This project is no longer maintained.

If you are interested to see how all this works visit http://latin.languagebits.com That is where the code and instructions are located. For those more technically inclined here is: API documentation for pyLatinam.

A noun declined in pyLatinam
Declined noun in a console (click the picture to enlarge)

See more articles about Automated Latin Grammar.