Product Review: Phonetics Focus
Phonetics Focus from Cambridge English Online is an app for the iPhone (there is also an iPad version) that is designed to teach ESL students the basics of English phonetics. It is divided into three parts:
- Phonetics/Pronunciation Tools
- Phonetics/Pronunciation Activities
- Phonetics Flashcards.
- The Phonetics/Pronunciation Tools include a nice phonemic chart which has reasonably good quality audio and is clearly and sensibly structured. The Tools also include a Listen & Record function that allows a student to hear a phoneme, record himself/herself saying the phoneme, then play back the recording. Again, the recording is reasonably good, although it might be a bit too sensitive and catch a little too much ambient sound. Still, both of these are useful and worthwhile Tools.
- The Phonetics/Pronunciation Activities are well thought out and offer some good practice. The Minimal Pairs practice is good, but needs to be a harder to really provide educational value. The Name that Phoneme practice module is especially good and easy to use.
- The Phonetics Flashcards are, in our opinion, only so useful for teaching Phonetics, but they do include a handy feature that allows you to take pictures of the cards so you can practice them outside of the application.
There was one serious complaint that I had with the application. It doesn’t offer very much information on the production of phonemes. If a student didn’t think that he/she was doing something right, there wouldn’t be any really good way, in that application, for him/her to get the guidance or information to self-correct.
The app retails for US$2.99, which is pretty good value for the quality of the resources, portability, and ease of use. I can recommend it with confidence (that being said, everything in it can be found elsewhere for free, so purchase wisely).