Vol. 6. No. 1 M-2 June 2002
Return to Table of Contents Return to Main Page


Site owner: Timothy Bowyer
Email: director@fonetiks.org


Fonetiks is an online language laboratory offering a phonologically complete guide to the pronunciation of seven varieties of English--American, British, Australian, Canadian, Irish, Scottish and Welsh--and other languages including Spanish, French, French Canadian, German, Swiss German and Italian. A spoken English grammar is added in stages. One can move the mouse over icons to hear the words spoken. More languages are being added progressively. The site creator is Timothy Bowyer, a former British Council lecturer, writer and polyglot whose goal is to build the site into a library of human speech sounds.

The site is intended to serve millions of people who could not otherwise easily access original native-speaker speech sounds or who are learning languages through the Internet.

Domain-related aspects

The site covers mainly the pronunciations the English and other languages. All the sounds of the languages on the site are divided into six groups (single-vowel sounds, two-vowel sounds, three-vowel sounds, voiced/voiceless, other sounds, stress and tone). The hypertext of each group demonstrates the sounds with accurate examples. When you click the mouse over the sounds you can hear them clearly spoken. These features are especially useful when the classroom is equipped with an online computer with loudspeakers and a projector. By opening more pages or clicking more sounds, different classroom activities such as identifying variety of sounds, dictations and dialogues can be conveniently performed. [-1-]

The author selects both the speech sounds and the speaker to represent the language varieties on the site based on:

  1. Majority comprehensibility: The sounds should be readily comprehensible to the majority of speakers of the same language.
  2. Class: The speaker represents the literate middle class, avoiding sounds associated with aristocracy, the very rich, the very poor or the illiterate.
  3. Living language: The sounds are actively in use at the time of their publication.
  4. Authenticity: Speakers represent their natural accent in everyday speech.

There is a spoken English grammar that covers from morphology to syntax. All the hypertext links under this category are well organized and lead the user to a separate page where the item is detailed with definitions and examples. When you move the mouse over them you can hear examples spoken.

The online dictionaries for all the languages can be easily accessed from the homepage, represented by the national flags. A separate page lists, in a well-organized way, the English-learning resources on the web. These external links are very useful and appropriate and enhancement for the language learner and the site.

The educational value is quite good. I especially like the approaches adopted. The site allows the learner to go through any kinds of the languages and topics of grammar or skip whatever he/she is not interested in. It is also pedagogically sound, allowing learners to proceed at their own pace, and help the users both practice and correct aspects of the languages. The author even offers a detailed chart of vowel sounds for accurate pronunciation in addition to explanation and sound play. The site also provides teacher tips and suggestions that can be very useful when performing classroom activities. These approaches reinforce the learneršs role as an active learner engaged in the process of learning, regardless of his/her learning background or distance. From domain and pedagogy points of view, the site is a good companion for language learners.


The design of the site is excellent. The small size of national-flag graphics and the few logos on the site increase download speed. I found it loaded very quickly. There are no special browser requirements nor need of special software to use the page elements. Of course, a sound card should be equipped on the useršs computer. The author thoughtfully embeds a trouble-shooting link on navigation bar for solutions of sound quality or other related technical problems.

Interface-related aspects

The site is user friendly and highly intuitive in its design and methodology. The layout is good, making excellent use of space. Elements are concise and clear. The graphics are well suited to the overall presentation and appearance. The text and graphics are well balanced. The information display seems well laid out. There are navigation bars on both sides and so it is easy to use. The information flows logically. Links back to the homepage are included on each succeeding page. Links work well, and there are no dead links found. There is an efficient search engine, which comes up with the proper information when executed. The site does not employ animation or other audio or video or Javascript effects except for language pronunciation audio. [-2-]

The background color is a little too white. The color of topic fonts for each language may be a bit confusing with the background color, and thus the hypertext is not as readable as it might be.


The site welcomes sound files sent, which are either not included in its archives or better than their files in quality. The sound files can be e-mailed as an attachment. However, the site is still lacking on the interactivity side. As an online language laboratory offering learning of these important languages, the site should have a forum, message board, mailing list or chat room to facilitate discussion and exchange so that the learner and teacher will make the best of the resources to interact with each other and enhance their mutual interest in learning and sharing teaching/learning tips/experience all over the world.


The site is owned by Timothy Bowyer, a former British Council lecturer, writer and polyglot, and operated by the World English School in Australia. It clearly states the contact details and does not include any advertising banners or sponsoršs windows. As regards currency the site is regularly updated to add more languages. The overall design and interface are quite good and it is certainly of high educational value. I especially like the distinguishing feature of providing perfect pronunciations of seven varieties of English and a spoken English grammar. I rate this site as excellent in its pedagogy and ease of implementation into the curriculum, or as a learning supplement and it certainly meets the needs and objectives as stated in the sitešs rationale.

Guo Shesen
English Department
Luoyang University
Henan, China

Table of Contents Top TESL-EJ Main Page
© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation.