I think you’ll agree with me when I say that phonetics and pronunciation are two of the most frustrating aspects of learning English. Unlike languages such as Spanish and Italian, with English, what you see is not what you get. Pronunciation of certain words can be tricky and hard to guess. From my experience, English students struggle the most with remembering the correct pronunciation even after they’ve been corrected a few times.
Yes, making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process—and nothing is learned without repetition—but most students can only take lessons with a teacher once or twice a week, so practicing regularly can be a challenge.
So, what could help our students practice their pronunciation on a daily basis?
The answer to this question came from a student some time ago. She was excited about an app she had found that not only helped her with learning phonetics, but also gave her feedback on her pronunciation. I was intrigued, and I decided to do some research to uncover the best apps to recommend to my students who were struggling with being understood when speaking in English.
In this article, I'm going to share with you five apps that can help ESL students learn English phonetics, improve their listening skills, and practice English pronunciation any day, any time, and anywhere! Let’s begin.
1. Say It: English Pronunciation
Developed by Oxford University Press, Say It: English Pronunciation was designed to help English students improve the clarity of their pronunciation by learning how to pronounce words they already know.
We recognize, of course, that there are many varieties of native and non‑native speaker accents in English. Say It gives you a point of reference, using a standard British English or North American accent, which you can copy—helping you improve the clarity of your pronunciation and in turn, your confidence and fluency speaking English.
Students can sign up for a limited free version, but to access all the features, they’ll need to upgrade to the premium version.
The app is packed with neat features, and here are some of my favorites:
- Students can record the pronunciation of a word. The app then translates the word into a graph that can be used to compare the students' pronunciation to the model. This helps them see if the shapes and phases of the words are similar, and if the stress markers are shown in the same areas.
- Students can play their pronunciation audio slowly to notice variations between their recording and the model.
- Students can create a list of words they’d like to practice regularly.
- Students can send the pronunciation audio to their teacher or friends using the Share button.
- Included in the app is a guide with teaching tips, demonstrating how the app can be used in class or in private lessons.
2. Pronuncian–English Pronounce
Pronuncian is an American English pronunciation app that aims to teach students how to speak with an American accent. It’s free to use, and it includes lessons and videos to help students refine their pronunciation and improve their listening skills.
Here are some of its features:
- Students can choose their favorite topics.
- The app includes a list of vowels and consonants as well as a detailed description of mouth and tongue positions when pronouncing sounds.
- Students can click on words to hear how they're pronounced, practice the pronunciation, and read a definition of the word.
- Students can also click on a tab to find a list of videos related to the word they’re learning and common pronunciation problems.
3. ELSA Speak: English Accent Coach
ELSA is an English Language Speech Assistant that was created to help students improve their American English pronunciation.
Students can sign up for a free plan with limited access. They can also try their premium plan free for seven days and gain access to 1,200 lessons and a speaking assessment test.
Powered by our proprietary and state-of-the-art voice recognition technology, ELSA is the first and the world's smartest artificial intelligence pronunciation coach.
Impressed yet? I was—especially after uncovering these cool features:
- Included as part of the trial is an assessment test to help students assess their level and get a detailed analysis of top pronunciation challenges.
- Students can listen to ELSA speak, repeat after ELSA, and get feedback on every word.
- The app grades their pronunciation, and if the pronunciation isn’t correct, feedback is provided on how to improve it.
- Students can choose a time for the app to send reminders to practice.
4. English Pronunciation Tutor
Developed by Language Arts Press, English Pronunciation Tutor focuses on American English pronunciation and provides instructions and four types of interactive exercises to help students master important aspects of English pronunciation.
With their free version, students can access the first unit of their training program. After that, they would need to pay to access subsequent units.
We are committed to creating the most enjoyable, interactive, and effective pronunciation app on the market.
Here are some of the app's features:
- It includes ten units with a series of fun and interactive exercises.
- Each unit has a Practice section where the student can listen to a series of words and sentences, and then record themselves as they repeat them. They can then compare the pronunciation with the model.
- In the Contrasts exercise, students can listen to and repeat pairs of words with similar sounds that are often problematic, such as sit and seat.
- Students can then practice what they've learned by completing a Listening Quiz where they’ll be tested on the contrasts from the previous exercise.
- In the Speech Recognition exercise, they can test their progress by choosing and saying a word or a sentence, and receiving feedback on the clarity of their pronunciation.
5. Speak–Practice Your English
Speak—Practice Your English is an app designed by SpeakEasy Labs to help learners improve their English speaking by having spoken conversations every day. It’s free to use and it includes pronunciation practice.
Some of its awesome features include:
- Dozens of conversations with virtual characters where learners can get instant feedback on how clearly they’re speaking.
- Students can learn real-world English such as slang and idioms.
- It's updated weekly with more conversations.
- Topics include job interview practice, TOEFL prep, travel, ordering food, business English, and much more.
This app has rave reviews on the iPhone App Store, and it would work well as a companion to one of the apps mentioned above.
So, those are the five apps we recommend to help your students improve their pronunciation. What are your favorite apps, tools, or resources? We’d love to hear them! Let us know in the comments.