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Concourse 2

Transcription: a teach-yourself guide

phonemes

This guide also forms Strand 6 of the Teacher Development section.

This guide concerns transcription, not a description of the sounds of English.  For a description of how the sounds of English are made and what mouth parts do, see the in-service guides to pronunciation.
This mini-course is:

british

Dialect

The sounds transcribed here are those of an educated southern British-English speaker.  That is not intended to imply that the dialect is somehow better than others.  It is one of the conventional ways to do these things.
American English pronunciation and any of the other multiple standard forms of the language would be different, especially but not solely, concerning the vowel sounds.


why

Why should you learn to transcribe?

There are teachers of English language who can lead successful careers in the classroom without ever using more than a minimal amount of phonemic transcription.  Some use none at all.  There are, however, five good reasons why knowing how to transcribe sounds is a useful skill for a teacher and knowing how to read transcriptions is a useful skill for learners.  Here they are:

  1. Independence
    1. For the teacher, the ability to transcribe what is heard allows rapid identification of troublesome sounds and other issues that need to be brought to the attention of learners.  One can, of course, rely on a pronouncing or other form of dictionary to do the work but that is time consuming and not always possible.  Freeing yourself from the need to consult a website or a dictionary for the pronunciation of words allows you to focus on what's important.
    2. For the learner, the ability to read the transcriptions of pronunciation in a dictionary, mono- or bi-lingual, gives autonomous access to how the word should sound without reference to the spelling or to a model.  Many people, dazzled by the spelling, are unaware that, for example, no and know are identically pronounced or that the words right, rite and write also share a single pronunciation.
      By the same token, it may not at first be obvious that in the words troupe, bought, should, cough and tourist the combination of the letter o and u is differently pronounced in each case.
      It is, of course, possible to model the pronunciations in the classroom but the ability to note them down in phonemic script is a valuable learning tool.
  2. Systematicity
    Phonemic transcription is independent of the language insofar as it is systematic.  Many attempts have been made to spell English words phonetically but without some unambiguous system of symbols such attempts fail.  Unless we can rely on a generally accepted system, there is, for example, no easy way to show the pronunciation of diphthongs and the difference between long and short vowels without resorting to a range of odd and obscure marks over letters such as ç, â, œ and so on.  Having a single system works.
  3. Reliability
    As you may know, spelling in English is not a reliable guide to how a word is pronounced so, even if a learner can correctly recognise and produce the different pronunciations of the o in love and move that is not a guide to knowing how shove or hove are pronounced at all.  Access to the phonemic script allows learners instantly to relate the pronunciation of words to one another and not to pronounce hove as if it rhymed with love or shave as if it rhymed with have.
    Teachers who can transcribe have the ability to make this clear and learners who can read transcription are able to make a note of the difference.
  4. Ambiguity
    Even when words are spelled the same, they may be differently pronounced (a phenomenon known as homography) so we get, for example, entrance meaning a way in and a verb meaning bewitch or hold someone's complete attention.  The words are very differently pronounced.  Other examples will include row, minute, live and hundreds more.  Being able instantly to spot the difference is a skill learners need to develop if they are sensibly to use a dictionary and teachers need instantly to point out when teaching.  The best way to do that is via phonemic transcription.
  5. Professionalism
    The ability to use a simple, if technical, area of linguistics is an indicator of professional competence.  An inability to read or write a transcription of how something is pronounced is a handicap when it comes to teaching pronunciation and most learners expect formal pronunciation work to be part of what happens in the classroom.

If even some of that sounds convincing, read on.


2

The sounds of English: phonemes, allophones and minimal pairs

We are talking about English sounds here.  The study of language sounds (phonemic analysis) is language specific.  This mini-course is concerned with the transcription of English sounds.
You will not, therefore, find mention of the vowel /ɯ/ (which occurs in Turkish, Korean, Irish and many other languages or /ɾ/ which is the Spanish trilled /r/ sound that does not appear in English but is common in, e.g., Japanese and other languages.  The chart below does not, therefore, describe all the sounds of language, just the ones that are used in English (and not all of them as we shall shortly see).

Phonemes:
In English the sounds /p/ and /b/ are phonemes because changing one to the other affects the meaning of a word (bat or pat).  This is called the Minimal Pair Test:
If you change a single sound in a word and make a new word, the sound you have changed is a phoneme in that language.
In other languages, most varieties of Arabic, for example, these two sounds are not phonemes and changing one to the other will not change the meaning of a word (but it might sound odd).
Here are some examples of minimal pairs formed with other consonant sounds.  Don't worry about the transcriptions at this stage; they are just for reference.  Focus on the left-hand column in each of these lists.
words transcriptions
hut
but
shut
mutt
jut
let
set
met
bet
jet
/hʌt/
/bʌt/
/ʃʌt/
/mʌt/
/dʒʌt/
/let/
/set/
/met/
/ˈbet/
/ˈdʒet/
You can readily see that in each case there is only one change to the transcription so any two of these words form a minimal pair.  In this case, we have changed the first sounds to make things simpler but, of course, we can change any sound in a pair to make a minimal pair.  For example:
words transcriptions
mother
mutter
liver
litter
spend
spent
roof
root
/ˈmʌð.ə/
/ˈmʌ.tə/
/ˈlɪ.və/
/ˈlɪ.tə/
/spend/
/spent/
/ruːf/
/ruːt/
are also examples of minimal pairs.
Vowel sounds can also form minimal pairs, so we get, for example:
words transcriptions
boat
boot
bought
bite
bit
bait
Baht
but
/bəʊt/
/buːt/
/ˈbɔːt/
/baɪt/
/bɪt/
/beɪt/
/ˈbɑːt/
/bʌt/
which are examples of vowel-sound minimal pairs and any two of the words form a pairing with only one change to the vowel.
You can see that there are, in fact, two vowel sounds in the words boat, bite and bait but the vowel in these cases is called a diphthong and for the purposes of identifying a minimal pair, that counts as a single vowel.  You may also have seen that the letter 'j' in jut and jet in the first set is formed from two symbols (/dʒ/) and that, too, counts as a single sound.
Allophones:
Allophones are slightly different pronunciations of certain phonemes which do not affect the meaning of what is said (although it may sound odd).  We saw above that /p/ and /b/ are allophones in most varieties of Arabic as are, incidentally, /f/ and /v/ in some varieties.  Changing one for the other does not affect the meaning of what you say.
All languages have a number of allophones.  For example, in English the sound /t/ can be pronounced with and without a following /h/ sound.  Compare the sounds in track and tack.  In English, these sounds are not phonemes because you can change /t/ to /th/ without changing the meaning of a word.  In some languages, Mandarin, for example, /t/ and /th/ are separate phonemes and swapping them around will change the meaning of what you say.  The same applies to /k/ vs. /kh/ (ski vs. cat) and /p/ vs. /ph/ (spin vs. pot).
The /l/ sound in English also has two allophones, the light [l] as in lap and the dark version (which has the symbol [ɫ]) and occurs at the end of words like moveable.  The word lull has one of each, the light 'l' at the beginning and the dark 'l' at the end.  It is transcribed fully as [lʌɫ] but, if we dealing only with English, because the sounds do not form minimal pairs and are, therefore, not counted as phonemes in this language, the transcription can be left as /lʌl/.
Allophones of vowels are also quite common.  For example, in Standard English, the word nurse is transcribed with a long vowel (as /nɜːs/) but in rapid speech the vowel may be shortened to give /nɜs/.  No-one listening will mistake the word or assume that the word with a shorter vowel carries a different meaning so the transcription need not distinguish too carefully.  The sounds are allophones.
In Standard American English the word is transcribed as /ˈnɝːs/ with the tiny /r/ denoting that the sound is pronounced by most American-English speakers but, again, that is an allophonic, not phonemic, difference because the word remains the same with the same meaning.  In some varieties of British English, too, the /r/ will be pronounced so we will have /nɜːrs/ as the transcription.  In similar varieties, the words beauty and booty may be pronounced identically as /ˈbuː.ti/ although the standard form for beauty is /ˈbjuː.ti/ and for booty, it is /ˈbuː.ti/.  It makes no difference to meaning if your dialect does not distinguish.
Minimal pairs:
Pairs of words which are distinguished only by a change in one phoneme are called minimal pairs.  For example, hit-hat, kick-sick, fit-bit, sheep-ship, jerk-dirk, hot-cot, love-live etc. are all distinguished in meaning by a single change to a vowel or a consonant.  That's in English, of course.  It bears repeating that what is an allophone in English may be a phoneme in other languages and vice versa.
Minimal pairs can also be distinguished by where the stress falls.  For example:
If you stress the word export on the first syllable, you are referring to the noun.  Stress the second syllable and you refer to the verb.
Stress the word convict on the first syllable and you refer to a resident of a prison.  Stress the second syllable and you refer to act of finding someone guilty of an offence.

Click here to take a short test to see if you can match minimal pairs.  There are no transcriptions in this test so you will have to say the words aloud or to yourself to find the pairs.
You can click on the other answers to see what feedback you get.


sounds

English phonemes

Here's the list you'll learn.  If you want to download this chart as a PDF document to keep by you as reference, click here.

phonemes


consonats

Consonants

The consonants are the easiest so we can start there.  Most of them are actually the same as the written form but remember that spelling in English is not a reliable guide to pronunciation.

voice

Voicing

Voicing describes how phonemes may be different depending on whether the vocal cords vibrate or not at the time of pronunciation.  (There are those who will aver that the technically correct term is vocal folds not vocal cords.)
For example, the /k/ sound is made without voicing but the /ɡ/ sound is made with the mouth parts in the same place but with voice added.  Here are some examples of words containing voiced and unvoiced consonants.  The consonant in question is underlined and in bold:

Unvoiced Voiced
pie buy
useful usual
fine vine
sip zip
cape gape
hat had
wreath wreathe
mesh leisure

In all the words above, the place of articulation (i.e., where in the mouth the sound is made) is identical for both pairs of consonants.  All that changes is whether or not the vocal cords vibrate.
If you put your hand on your throat and say the words sue and zoo, you will see what is meant and feel a slight vibration on the second word (/s/ is unvoiced but /z/ is voiced).
Try saying the words in the table above out loud and you will see that you need to pronounce the voiced consonants with a vibration of the vocal cords and a little more energy than the sounds in the unvoiced cases.

Of the consonants, 16 form pairs of voiced-unvoiced sounds:

Unvoiced Voiced
/p/ /b/
/tʃ/ /dʒ/
/f/ /v/
/s/ /z/
/k/ /ɡ/
/t/ /d/
/θ/ /ð/
/ʃ/ /ʒ/

You have to listen out for voicing when you are transcribing because voiced and unvoiced consonants are full phonemes in English.  The words pit and bit, char and jar, fine and vine, sing and zing, Kate and gate, tuck and duck, teeth (plural noun) and teeth (verb), ruche and rouge are all minimal pairs in English (i.e., words distinguished by a single phoneme only).

Click here for a little test to see if you can match voiced and unvoiced sounds by saying some words aloud.


To get us started with transcribing consonants, take a piece of paper and transcribe the consonants in these words, using the right-hand side of the chart.  Look at the example words and check to see if the pronunciation is the same as the words in this test.
Click on the table when you have done that.

guide 2

All the other sounds are transcribed using ordinary English alphabetic letters taking on their usual pronunciation.


vowels

Vowels

Here's a list of the vowels in English (authorities may differ slightly about how many there are, incidentally).

/iː/ sleep
sheep
free
/æ/ sat
hat
flab
/ɪə/ here
beer
mere
/ɪ/ kid
slid
blip
/ʌ/ blood
cup
shut
/ʊə/ sure
pour
poor
/ʊ/ put
foot
suit
/ɑː/ part
large
heart
/ɔɪ/ boy
deploy
toy
/uː/ goose
loose
Bruce
/ɒ/ hot
cot
shod
/eə/ lair
share
prayer
/e/ Fred
dead
said
/i/ happy
navvy
sally
/eɪ/ lace
day
betray
/ə/ about
father
a
cross
  /aɪ/ price
wine
shine
/ɜː/ verse
hearse
curse
/əʊ/ boat
coat
note
/ɔː/ fought
caught
brought
/aʊ/ south
house
louse

What do you notice about the difference between the first two columns and the third column?
Click to reveal: eye

pure vowels

If you haven't already done so, to do this exercise, you may want to download the chart as a PDF document so you can have it at your elbow.  Click here to do that.

Using the chart, transcribe the following words and then click on the table to check your answers.

pure vowels 

If you didn't get the final vowel of ago, or the first one of happy, that doesn't matter (yet).  In the first case the initial vowel was the schwa, transcribed as /ə/, and in the second case, the final vowel is transcribed as /i/ and lies between the short vowel in sit and the longer one in seat.
Try another short test by clicking here.

diphthongs

There are 8 of these and they are combinations of pure vowels which merge together.  We have, e.g., /ɪ/ + /ə/ (the sounds we know from bid and ago) following one another to produce /ɪə/ as in merely (mee-err-ly).  You can usually work out what the diphthong is by saying the word it contains very slowly and distinctly.

Using the chart, transcribe the following words and then click on the table to check your answers.

test 2

There is another test of your ability to recognise all the diphthongs here.


You have now transcribed words using all the vowels and consonant sounds of English.

As a check of your knowledge, try the following.

Using the chart, transcribe the following words and then click on the table to check your answers.

test 3
 

Did you get it right?  One thing to notice is that in rapid connected speech, the transcription of come with me would probably be /kʌm wɪ miː/ without the /ð/ because we usually leave it out.  You may also, depending on how you say things, have had /iɡ's/ or even /ik's/ at the beginning of exactly.  That doesn't matter too much but note the convention for marking the stress on multisyllabic words: it's a ' inserted before the stressed syllable.
There is also the convention of putting a stop (.) between syllables (as in, e.g., sentence ('sen.təns).  Your students may not need that but many find it helpful.

stress

Marking stress

As we saw, the main stressed syllable is conventionally indicated by ' before the syllable (e.g., /'sɪl.əb.l̩/).
It is sometimes helpful to mark secondary stress in longer words like incontrovertible by a lowered symbol like this: /ɪnˌk.ɒn.trə.'vɜː.təb.l̩/ in which you can see a small ˌ before the /k/ sound indicating that the second syllable carries secondary stress and the main stress falls on the fourth syllable and is shown by the 'vɜː in the transcription.  Most learners find just one stressed syllable enough to cope with.

Now mark the main and secondary stresses on these transcriptions.
Click eye to reveal the answer when you have done that.
    impossibility /ɪm.pɒ.sə.bɪ.lɪ.ti/
    internationalization /ɪnt.ə.næʃ.n̩.əl.aɪ.zeɪʃ.n̩/


schwa

the schwa

The most common vowel in the spoken language has no letter to represent it.
It is, of course, the humble schwa.  If you teach no other phoneme symbol, teach this one.  Including it in your transcriptions is simply a matter of listening out for it and making sure that you aren't being influenced by the spelling of words.  You should also note that the schwa only occurs in unstressed syllables.  You can't stress the schwa.
The schwa may be how any of the traditionally spelled vowels are pronounced:

vowel a schwa in transcribed
a asleep /ə.'sliːp/
e different /'dɪ.frənt/
i definite /'de.fɪ.nət/
o prosody /'prɒ.sə.di/
u tedium /'tiː.dɪəm/
ou tedious /'tiː.dɪəs/
io nation /'neɪʃ.ən/

The schwa also occurs routinely in function words like and, of, for, to etc. which can be transcribed as /ənd/, /əv/, /fə/, /tə/ etc. as that is how they are produced in connected speech.  This is called weakening.

How many schwa sounds can you detect when you say and transcribe this sentence?  Click on the bar when you have an answer.

schwa test

chain

connected speech

Transcribing connected speech spoken at normal speed rather than someone reading from a list of words, requires the inclusion of a variety of new factors.  Four are considered here.

intrude

Intrusive and linking sounds

There are three sounds which speakers insert between vowels in connected speech.  They need to be included in your transcriptions.  They are:

intrusive /r/
Try saying law and order.  You will hear a /r/ sound like this: /lɔːr ənd 'ɔː.də/.
Now transcribe:
    The media are
and
    I saw uncle Fred
and you'll get the same phenomenon.  Click eye to reveal the answer when you have done that.
intrusive /w/
Try saying I went to evening classes and note what happens between to and evening.  The transcription is: /'aɪ 'went tuw 'iːv.n.ɪŋ 'klɑː.sɪz/.
Now transcribe
    do it
and
    do or die
and you'll see the same effect.  Click eye to reveal the answer when you have done that.
intrusive /j/
Try saying I agree.  You will hear a /j/ sound between the words.  The transcription is: /'aɪj ə.'ɡriː/.  This effect is common with words ending in 'y'.  Standing alone, the transcriptions of fly, lay and they are /flaɪ/, /leɪ/ and /ðeɪ/ but in combination with following vowels we get the intrusion.
Now transcribe
    fly over
    lay it down
and
    they aren't
and you will get a similar effect.  Click eye to reveal the answer when you have done that.

You may see an intrusive sound put in superscript (r w j) and that's a good way to draw your learners' attention to the sounds.  There is, however, a case to be made that you don't have to teach these at all because they are the inevitable effects of vowel-vowel combinations in speech.  They aren't, of course, only applicable to English.

Try this next mini-test.  Click on the table to get the answer.

intrusion test

There are times when you have to listen extremely carefully to hear whether a speaker is actually producing the intrusive sound or inserting /ʔ/, a glottal stop (see next section).
For example, many will pronounce
    Go out
as /gəʊʔaʊt/ rather than /ɡəʊ.ˈwaʊt/,
    The gorilla and me
as /ðə.ɡə.ˈrɪ.ləʔənd.miː/ rather than /ðə.ɡə.ˈrɪ.lə.rənd.miː/
and
    I am here
as /aɪʔæm.hɪə/ rather than /ˈaɪ.jæm.hɪə/.

A further issue to listen for is the linking /r/ sound.
In British English, the final 'r' on many words is unsounded so, for example, harbour is pronounced as /ˈhɑː.bə/, whereas in AmE, the standard pronunciation includes the /r/ sound and the pronunciation is /ˈhɑːr.bər/.
However, when a word ending in 'r' immediately precedes a word with an initial vowel, we get the linking /r/ and the sound is produced so, for example:
    My father asked
will be pronounced as
/maɪ.ˈfɑːð.ər.ˈɑːskt/ in BrE and as
/maɪ.ˈfɑːð.r̩.ˈæskt/ in AmE.

assimilation

Assimilation

The guide to connected speech contains more detail on the different forms of assimilation.  For the purposes of transcribing sounds in connected speech, the various types are not as important as the ability to step away from the written word and transcribe only what you hear.
Assimilation describes the alteration of sounds under the influence of other sounds in the vicinity.  The guide to the area has this table:

Before these sounds this sound assimilates to for example transcription
/m/, /b/, /p/ /n/ /m/ then bake it /ðem.beɪk.ɪt/
then put it /ðemˈpʊt.ɪt/
then mix it /ðe.mɪks.ɪt/
/t/ /p/ or /ʔ/ that mixture /ðəʔ.ˈmɪks.tʃə/
that bread /ðəp.bred/
that paper /ðəʔ.ˈpeɪ.pə/
/d/ /b/ or /ʔ/ mad man /mæʔ.mæn/
mad boy /mæʔ.ˌbɔɪ/
mad policy /mæb.ˈpɒ.lə.si/
/k/, /ɡ/ /n/ /ŋ/ bean cakes /biːŋ.keɪks/
bean good /biːŋ.ɡʊd/
/t/ /k/ or /ʔ/ that cake /ðəʔ.keɪk/
but go /bək.ɡəʊ/
/d/ /ɡ/ bed clothes /beɡ.kləʊðz/
/j/ /t/ /tʃ/ might you /maɪtʃu/
/d/ /dʒ/ had you /hədʒu/
/ʃ/ /s/ /ʃ/ glass shop /ˈɡlɑː.ʃɒp/
/z/ /ʃ/ has shut /hæ.ʃʌt/

gap

Elision

It is important, too, to listen carefully for what is not pronounced and this also involves releasing oneself from the spell of the written word and hearing only what is being said, not what one expects to be said.
Again, the guide to connected speech has more detail in this area but here it will be enough to present some examples:

Again, speakers vary in this with some being more careful and correct and others less so (or sloppy as writers to newspapers often describe them).  You have to listen hard to hear what is really being said.

throat

The glottal stop

At the back of your mouth there is a part of your larynx called the glottis and this is where the glottal stop is produced, hence its name.
A glottal stop is formed by briefly blocking the airflow at the back of the mouth and then releasing it.
The symbol for this sound is /ʔ/.

In rapid speech a glottal stop is sometimes inserted instead of a consonant.  For example, the usual transcriptions for football and Batman are /'fʊt.bɔːl/ and /'bæt.mən/ but many people will pronounce them /'fʊʔ.bɔːl/ and /ˈbæʔ.mən/, inserting the stop, /ʔ/, instead of the /t/.
Try transcribing put on, pick up, hit him as they might sound in casual rapid speech and you'll get: /'pʊʔ ɒn/, /pɪʔ ʌp/ and /hɪʔ ɪm / instead of the more careful forms of /'pʊt ɒn/, /pɪk ʌp/ and /hɪt ɪm/.
We can even have butter as /'bʌʔ.ə/ not /'bʌt.ə/ or hit him as /ɪʔ ɪm/ not /hɪt ɪm/ in some common dialects (London and Scots, for example).

See also the use of the glottal stop to avoid a linking /r/, /w/ or /j/ sound, above.

drop

/h/ dropping and /ŋ/ to /n/ conversion

Dropping the /h/ on him is not always sloppy speech; it is very commonly acceptable.  And it is very common (but not in all dialects).
The /h/ in I have, when not contracted, is often replaced by an intrusive /j/ as in /'aɪj æv/ and this happens frequently elsewhere, too (they have, we have, e.g., rendered as /'ðeɪjəv/, /'wijæv/).  Notice, too, the tendency to pronounce have as /həv/ in they have but as /hæv/ in we have.
Hello is often pronounced /hə.'ləʊ/ sometimes /hæ.ˈləʊ/ but often /ə.'ləʊ/ or /æ.ˈləʊ/.  It may be safer to stick with /haɪ/.

Similarly, in many dialects the final /ŋ/ in words ending with -ing is often rendered as /n/ but this is generally considered low status.  We get, e.g., /'ɡəʊɪn 'aʊt/ instead of /'ɡəʊɪŋ 'aʊt/.  Oddly, some high-status British accents also make this conversion, exemplified by the so-called huntin', fishin' and shootin' set (the /'hʌnt.ɪn 'fɪʃ.ɪn ən 'ʃuːt.ɪn set/).

crush

Crushing the schwa: syllabic consonants

If you listen very carefully to how someone pronounces a word like stable, you may hear two or three possible pronunciations:

The first is more likely to appear in quite rapid speech and the second sounds rather formal and slow.  The third is an intermediate stage in which some people will hear a schwa but aver that it is simply shortened.  That would be transcribed with the symbol for the schwa raised to signify its comparative shortness.
What is happening is that the schwa between /b/ and /l/ is being crushed in normal rapid speech so that the final /l/ sound constitutes a syllable on its own.  Usually, syllables are defined by vowels but, in this case, a consonant alone is the syllable because the schwa is all but impossible to hear.
To transcribe this phenomenon, you need to place a dot before the syllable and insert a small mark below it to signify that it is a syllabic consonant (see above).

There are, in English, three types of syllabic consonant and they affect /l/ (the example above), /n/ and /r/.  Here are some examples.

syllabic /l/
The example of stable above is a case but this type of schwa crushing occurs very frequently with the suffix -able meaning with the ability so, for example, we get:
capable /ˈkeɪ.pəb.l̩/
definable /dɪ.ˈfaɪ.nəb.l̩/
computable /kəm.ˈpjuː.təbl̩/
uncle /'ʌŋk.l/̩
and so on.
syllabic /n/
This is not such an obvious phenomenon so two transcriptions of many words are possible.  It all depends on how rapidly and clearly the words are pronounced.  The faster the production, the more likely it is that the final /n/ will constitute a syllable on its own.  Like this:
darken /ˈdɑːkən/ or /ˈdɑːk.n̩/
open /ˈəʊ.pən/ /ˈəʊp.n̩/
dragon /ˈdræ.ɡən/ /ˈdræɡ.n̩/
This is frequent in many varieties of English with the noun-forming suffix -tion.  So we have, e.g.:
meditation /ˌme.dɪ.ˈteɪʃ.n̩/ or /ˌme.dɪ.ˈteɪʃ.ən/
definition /ˌde.fɪ.ˈnɪʃ.n̩/ /ˌde.fɪ.ˈnɪʃ.ən/
exception /ɪk.ˈsep.ʃn̩/ /ɪk.ˈsep.ʃən/
This does not occur with the nasalised sound /ŋ/.  But if the sound is converted to /n/ it may so hunting could be transcribed as /'hʌnt.n̩/ in some varieties of English.
syllabic /r/
Again, this is not always obvious and does not occur in most varieties of British English.  However, in some American and other standard varieties in which a final /r/ is pronounced even when not followed by a vowel sound, it may be syllabic.  So, in rapid speech we may encounter, for example:
indifference /ɪn.ˈdɪ.fərəns/ or /ɪn.ˈdɪf.r̩əns/ or /ɪn.ˈdɪ.frəns/
brother /ˈbrʌð.ə/ /ˈbrʌð.r̩/ /ˈbrʌð.ər/
reverence /ˈre.və.rəns/ /ˈrev.r̩əns/ /ˈre.vrəns/


practice

/niːd mɔː 'præk.tɪs/?

You can easily get as much practice as you like by opening a book at random, selecting some words and transcribing them.
You can then go online or to a dictionary and check your answers.  A good source for that is PhoTransEdit.

If you would like to get some practice transcribing spoken language, follow the link at the end of this guide to Audio transcription practice.

Lastly, try transcribing this sentence and then check your answer here: eye

The pronunciation section of the in-service index on this site has separate guides to consonants, vowels, connected speech and intonation as well as a guide to syllables and phonotactics which discusses syllabic consonants and much else.



Audio transcription practice
The pronunciation section of the in-service guides


For a list of the commonest weak forms in English, click here.


If you are feeling strong enough, there are three more tests here.