iPhone Apps for learning Sound Discrimination

Smooth English has a series of iPhone and iPad Apps for teaching American English pronunciation and aural discrimination skills. Check our App Store for releases. Each App is targeted toward a specific language background because learners from different language backgrounds make different errors when speaking English. Not only do they struggle with producing different sounds, but they make different types of errors for the same target sounds. For instance, while a Vietnamese speaker may say -t- instead of the voiceless -th-, a French speaker would say -s- instead of the voiceless -th-, That's why we are releasing so many versions of our App. This way, learners do not have to waste time learning sounds they already know.


Our first App was released May 8, 2013: American English Pronunciation for Vietnamese. You can watch my demo video. I started with Vietnamese because from my teaching experiences, it seems that Vietnamese speakers have one of the highest levels of sound swapping stemming from their lack of exposure to the sounds of English. Those growing up with the Vietnamese language never heard many of the sounds that exist in English. If you didn't hear those sounds before puberty, it makes it much harder to recognize them and distinguish them from other sounds when you're older. That's why Vietnamese adults who want to learn English need extra practice listening to the sounds of English.


But just listening to the radio or TV can be frustrating, and it doesn't give you feedback on whether you heard correctly. With our App, you can listen to minimal pairs. These are two words that are exactly the same except for the target sound you are working on. For example, in one of my games: you will hear "lap lab lab." The user must determine which word was different. It can be hard for Vietnamese speakers to hear the final voiced consonants. If they choose the wrong answer, they can press replay over and over again until they hear it. Plus, they will see the correct answer on the screen. This is very focused listening practice with instant feedback that you can do anywhere, any time. Even if you just have a minute, that's a minute of practice you can squeeze into your day while sitting on the train or between meetings. Sound discrimination practice is best done for short sessions several times a day.


Other activities on our App include listening to phrases that contain the target sounds. Each sentence was recorded by native speakers of American English, using the proper rhythm and intonation of English. App users can listen to the phrases repeatedly and pause to imitate the speaker.


Party Room is a unique game where many words with the target sound are being said at the same time. This simulates that feeling that the user is at a party with many distractions and multiple conversations. Which words do you overhear? Click on them to see if you're right! This is a more advanced activity and requires very sharp listening skills.


Another release is American English pronunciation for Chinese. It includes sounds not in the Vietnamese App, including -n- at the end of a word. Did you near sleigh? or slain? How about -ng- vs. -nk-? Did you hear thing or think?


We also have American English pronunciation for German. Focus on D vs TH or V vs W, for instance.


In designing these Apps, great care was taken in selecting the words to be recorded. Words with target sounds at the beginning, middle and end of the word were all chosen. Words with target sounds after and before a variety of other sounds were chosen. This way learners can hear the sounds in as many environments as possible. Sometimes, a learner can say -sh- after one vowel but not another. This App will catch all possible situations and not leave the learner stranded.


Let us know if you have any feedback on our Apps. Please review us on the Apple Apps store, so others can find and use our Apps too. Let us know how our App compares to others for honing your English sound discrimination skills. Let us know if your confidence in hearing and producing all the sounds of English is improving. We'd love to hear from you.




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