Friday, 25 February 2011

Transcribe text to IPA Phonetic Symbols and More: Free Software!

English Phonetics and Phonology Paperback with Audio CDs (2): A Practical Course Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology: From Concepts to Transcription    Introducing Phonetics and Phonology
acLiLtocLiMB EFL ESL CLIL ELL ESOL TEFL Games Activities Resources

Check this out, people! What do you do when you need to write down a phonetic transcription? Perhaps you need it in a handout, or a document, or you're creating a game like one of mine. Some of you may copy the transcription from an online dictionary or, like me, you might have already discovered a phonetic keyboard such as Phonetics Builder (quite hard to find now), or use an online version.

Sometimes, though, you may be unsure of the transcription and would like to double-check. Dictionaries, however, don't normally show transcriptions of proper names, past tenses or plurals, for example.

So, it was with delight that I discovered the PhoTransEdit website. It not only provides a phonetic keyboard, but provides an automatic phonemic transcription service. For free. If you'd rather work offline, it allows you to download the program, which has more features than the online version, such as finding rhyming words and sound wildcards.

Here are a few tests I did with the online version:

sneezing bunnies | ˈsniːzɪŋ ˈbʌnɪz |
The Chrysler Building | ðə ˈkraɪslə ˈbɪldɪŋ |

Could I have a cup of tea?
| kəd ˈaɪ həv ə kʌp əv tiː |

The program, quite understandably, transcribes by word, as the above example illustrates. Someone might have transcribed a cup of tea as |ə kʌp ə tiː |
Furthermore, it can only transcribe those words that are found in its database. If they aren't there, you can help by adding them to it.

PhoTransEdit allows you to transcribe in RP (Received Pronunciation) or GA (General American):

I can't go out tonight
RP: | ˈaɪ kɑːnt ɡəʊ aʊt təˈnaɪt |
GA: | ˈaɪ ˈkænt ˈɡoʊ ˈaʊt təˈnaɪt |

Here are more interesting examples:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
| ˈpiːtə ˈpaɪpə pɪkt ə pek əv ˈpɪkl̩d ˈpepəz |

The sheep were ushered into the ship
| ðə ʃiːp wər ˈʌʃəd ˈɪntə ðə ʃɪp |

Betty Botter had some butter,
"But," she said, "this butter's bitter."

| beti həd səm ˈbʌtə |
| bʌt ʃi ˈsed ðɪs ˈbʌtəɪz ˈbɪtə |

I tested the offline version, too. Again, it allows you the option of BrE or AmE. Looking for words which rhymes with 'can't', the BrE displays "aren't" as the first find, while AmE displays "ant". The phonetics are also shown. The complaint I have here is that they can't be copied.

It gives you a choice of three types of rhyme: perfect, assonance and alliteration.

Other features, such as transcribing into html or Braille, are also available. All in all, a great piece of software, and certainly deserves to be in my useful resources page.


  1. Thank you so very much for the software you indicated above. As a teacher of English, I really need it as it will save me both effort & time.

    1. Glad to hear that it's useful for you, D. Messaoudi!


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