This is the phonemic chart. Each symbol corresponds to a particular sound in spoken language and is very helpful when it comes to pronunciation. If you’ve ever used a dictionary, then you have been exposed to these symbols, or something similar to them, to inform you how to pronounce a word correctly. I’ve been using a dictionary since I was really young–we had a pretty massive dictionary at home when I was growing up, probably around a foot tall and half a foot thick, normally found not too far away from the encyclopedias. Unfortunately, I never paid attention to any of the silly symbols, because I probably never knew what they were for, so I was basically pronouncing words like anxiety wrong for a very long time and even fought my English teacher about it in the sixth grade. Embarrassing. Now that I’m an English teacher myself, I need to be intimately familiar with this chart because pronunciation is a pivotal part of speaking English successfully, and these symbols are used in lessons to help learners with their pronunciation.
Going into CELTA, I was completely clueless when it came to this chart. Most of the learners that I was teaching during my practice sessions knew more about this chart than I did, and that’s most likely because they spent a lot of time studying it in school–even their grammar knowledge was better than mine, if I’m being honest. Thankfully, CELTA gave a sort of foundation for using the chart and becoming familiar with the symbols, and it was a really big part of language analysis for lesson preparation, especially for lexis. It was a struggle, so when the course was done, I told myself that I would study this chart and become fluent in phonemic script–something that is currently still a work in progress, but I am determined, and one day, I will be able to write any word using these symbols correctly. I’ll even write an entire blog post using phonemic script (Just kidding–no, I won’t).
If you have any plans of becoming an English language teacher or doing the CELTA, I suggest that you become friends with this chart the soonest chance you get.