Books I Couldn't Leave Behind
My top 10 pronunciation resources
I have been packing my things in preparation of moving. I filled a storage container with most of my stuff and that included a lot of books, binders, notebooks, and files about English pronunciation. However, when it came time to pack the books, I realized that there were a few that I just couldn’t pack up and live without for the next few months. I thought you might be curious to know what I refer to most often for speech info. Some might be more appealing to teachers, but I think a lot of learners want to have the same resources for their own use.
Some of these are old and some are out of print but I’m still sharing them because there are probably newer versions with similar content. I hope by sharing what I find useful, it will be a guide to help you notice something similar.
Here’s my top 10:
Accent Modification Manual - This is what I learned to teach with and co-teach with my advisors and mentors, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Strattman. This is what I based my dissertation research on by modifying the approach in this book just a bit to include more self-assessment and aspects of constructivist psychology.
Edwards, H. T., & Strattman, K. H. (1996). Accent modification manual: Materials and activities. Singular Pub. Group.
Applied Phonetics - There are a lot of books about basic phonetics, but this is the book I used in grad school and it has my notes written in it so I still refer to it. Seeing my own notes brings me right back to what I was thinking at that time.
Edwards, H. T. (1997). Applied phonetics: The sounds of American English. Singular Pub. Group.
Learner English - If you’re a teacher, this is an amazing reference to learn what kinds of differences to anticipate from non-native English speakers. However, it’s written as differences from UK English, not US English. There are nice IPA charts with the differences noted but I added US English /r/ sounds where they were needed. It covers more than pronunciation, it also has notes about word stress, intonation, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary.
Swan, M. (2001). Learner English: A teacher's guide to interference and other problems (Vol. 1). Cambridge University Press.
Book of Words: 17,000 Words Selected by Vowels and Diphthongs - When you’re looking for words with specific vowels this book is organized in a way that makes it easy to find words with a vowel sound in one and two syllable words and in initial, medial, and final position. It also lists them by combination with consonant sounds, not just by consonant letters. For example, if I’m looking for the sound combination of /f/ + /o/ I’ll find “folder” and “photo.”
Blockcolsky, V. D. (1990). Book of words: 17,000 words selected by vowels and diphthongs. Communication Skill Builders.
40,000 Selected Words: Organized by Letter, Sound, and Syllable - This is all about consonant sounds. They are organized by how many syllables in a word, the position of the sound in initial, medial, and final position, and the combination of the consonant with other consonants. If I’m looking for a three-syllable word that contains /br/ in the middle, I can quickly find a list that contains the word, “library.” Most people aren’t searching for such specific patterns of spellings of words, but as a teacher I am. As a learner, this can be very helpful to find specific examples that you want to practice.
Blockcolsky, V. D., Frazer, J. M., Frazer, D. H., (1987). 40,000 Selected Words: Organized by Letter, Sound and Syllable. Communication Skill Builders.
English Words from Latin and Greek Elements - This is another book I used in grad school that has my notes written in it. I still use it to look up meanings of words and their parts because when I’m on a page that has what I was looking for, I tend to stay a while and look at the other words in that group. That helps me remember them better. The book is divided into two parts, one for Latin and one for Greek. There’s no better way to improve your English vocabulary than learning the meanings of prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
Worthen, Thomas D., et al. (2021). English Words from Latin and Greek Elements. United States, University of Arizona Press.
Practical English Usage - When anyone asks me questions about grammar or which is the best way to use a word, I go to this book. It’s great for teachers and learners. If you have any questions like, “what’s the difference between since and for?” this book will give you exact answers and examples and also show differences between UK and US preferences.
Swan, M. (2005). Practical english usage (Vol. 688). Oxford: Oxford university press.
Speaking Clearly - Teachers always need examples of words and specifics sounds and this book has a lot of good lists. Unlike other books about speech, it also includes information about dealing with stage fright, and the speech processes such as breathing and resonance. It’s a simplified version of the more in-depth information found in most phonetic textbooks.
Hahner, J. C., Sokoloff, M. A., Salisch, S. L. (2013). Speaking Clearly: Improving Voice and Diction, Sixth Edition. (n.p.): Waveland Press.
Pronunciation Contrasts in English - This is a good source of lists of minimal pairs (words that are different by just one sound, such as “sheep” and “ship). On the pages of each sound, there is also a list of languages that usually have difficulty with that particular sound.
Nilsen, D., Nilsen, A. P. (2010). Pronunciation Contrasts in English. Second Edition. (n.p.): Waveland Press.
Communicating in Business English - I found this book in the university bookstore when I was teaching in South Korea. I have bought more copies on Amazon since then because I kept giving them away. It’s not about pronunciation, and it may seem basic, but the feature I like the most is the way it provides multiple ways of saying or asking the same thing. For example, in the chapter about presentations, there are options for how to express “Analyzing”: 1) Let’s look at this more closely. 2) What does this mean exactly? 3) In other words. The chapters each focus on a different speaking situation: telephone, presentations, meetings, socializing, negotiations, and writing for international business (emails, letters, reports).
Dignen, B. (2003). Communicating in business English. Compass Publishing.
What are books that you couldn’t leave behind if you had to? Let me know what you like to refer to most often for teaching or learning English speaking skills.