June 2013

What is a Sound Dictionary and Why is it so Important?

The Sound dictionary groups words by major vowel sound. For the first time in history people can look up crazy English spelling from words they hear.

vowel chart 5 columns gold title

Did you follow all that? The pronunciation of every word in English is one of the colors somewhere on this simple chart!

Pay Attention Alert! There are two things you need to know about English in order to use the sound dictionary:

1) Word stress is all that is important in speaking English – English is a stress-based language, this means one and only one syllable in every word is more important than all the other syllables. Who knew? The imPORtant SYllable in ENGlish is LOUder, LONger and HIGHer than all the Others.

2) There are 16 vowel sounds in English. To make speaking English easy, there is one more amazing thing you need to understand. You probably know there are five vowels in English – A, E, I, O, U – but did you know they represent 16 vowel sounds. The miraculous coincidence in English is that each of the 16 vowel sounds can be found in the names of 16 ordinary colors.  Long ‘a’ is in the word Gray, short ‘a’ is in the word Black, long ‘e’ is in the word Green, short ‘e’ is in the word Red and so on. (The complete Thompson Vowel/Color Chart is a Free Download from the Home Page www.thompsonlanguagecenter.com)

It follows: All syllables have one vowel sound. All words have one important syllable. Vowel sounds are associated 1:1 with colors, therefore all words are one color.  I’ll say it again.

No Exceptions:

The Sound Dictionary is based on 4 rules that are always true about pronouncing English

  1. There is one vowel sound in every syllable
  2. There is one most important syllable in every word
  3. Every vowel sound in English is a color
  4. Every word in English is a color


Every word in English is one of 16 colors. Learners remember the pronunciation of every word in English from the ‘color’ of the main vowel sound. ‘every’ is Red, ‘word’ is Purple, ‘in’, ‘English’ and ‘is’ are Pink,

‘teacher’ is Green,Judy’ is Blue

What color is your name?

Until next time,

Teacher Judy




You say Tomato and I say Tamayda.

If you are into linguistics there are hours of fun in this Accent Map of North America http://aschmann.net/AmEng/  In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language” David Crystal included a fascinating piece on why Americans in the South have a different accent than Americans in the North. It had to do with where the original settlers came from in England.  Makes sense.Dialect map of USA

Non-native speakers are shocked to learn everyone has an accent in English. Their untrained ears can’t hear the difference between British and American English any more than I can hear the difference between Chinese and Japanese. It seems ridiculous but I can’t tell the difference between a South African and New Zealander either. I am from Canada. I can tell the difference between Irish and Scots and I can discern some accents from different parts of the United States.

Since regional and individual English accents vary so much around the world, how can we understand each other at all?

It’s simple. Individual sounds have no importance or carry no meaning in English. What?! That’s right. As a stressed-based language native English speakers can tolerate a tremendous variety of accents AS LONG AS WORD STRESS IS NOT VIOLATED. ‘Tomato’ and ‘Tomayda’ have the stress on the second syllable and that is what really matters.

American broadcasters, TV and movie performers tend to use a General American accent. This neutral NA accent is sometimes called a Hollywood accent because it is the accent foreigners study to be cast in American productions. Young English language students all over the world prefer to study the popular neutral NA accent.

ESL/EFL students should understand accents are normal in English. If I had a magic wand I would make everyone stop worrying about their accents. Everyone can understand any form of English as long as the word stress is clear.

Until next time,

Teacher Judy