Speech sounds and letters

Many linguists use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to transcribe speech sounds. Although this writing system has its advantages, it can be confusing for English speakers, since the letter /e/ represents the long “a” sound, as it does in Spanish, rather than the “ee” we might expect (while /i/ represents “ee”).

For this reason, I’ve tried to use my own descriptions, using characters that are as available and accessible as possible.

Vowels (the hardest part)

Here you’ll find “my symbol” = /IPA/ description as in “example” for each sound.



Again, since I’ve used my own speech sounds (west-coast-United-States English), yours may be different. That’s one of the things that makes English such an exciting language.

Consonants (simple in comparison!)



Give it a go!

When reading words from Trinka’s world, remember that each symbol represents a speech sound, not a letter of the English/Latin alphabet. So where’s the letter “c”? There isn’t one. Use the “k” or “s” or “ch” symbol, depending on which sound you want. Where’s the “q”? Use the “k” and “w” sounds together. Where’s the “x”? Use the “k” and “s” sounds together. (Or the “z,” depending…)


Of course, if you want to modify any of these writing systems for your own speech sounds or alphabet, go for it. Enjoy writing (and reading) secret messages, and unlock the joy of words!

More about speech sounds…

If you’d like to find out more about speech sounds from all sorts of languages, and the symbols linguists use to describe them, check out this page from the University of Victoria with the International Phonetic Alphabet, with audio clips of each sound.