PIE: A Chrome Extension That Can Help With Reading and Pronunciation

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English isn't the easiest language to learn. It has lots of words that are spelled nothing like the way they’re pronounced--take “colonel” or “neighbor” for example. This can make it difficult to learn English, and even if you speak English well already, it can make it hard to learn to read and spell unfamiliar words.

Phonetically Intuitive English (PIE), an extension for Chrome, hopes to make it easier to learn to pronounce words you see online.

Basically what it does is replace the text on the page with identical words, but with diacritic glyphs. It has a corresponding chart that explains what the glyphs mean; for example, a small dot above a letter or a line though it indicates that the letter should be silent (letters like “i” would have a small line through them since they already have a dot above them).

You can customize the amount of glyphs it displays in the settings, so if you don’t want them appearing on every word, you don’t have to.

It was a bit tricky getting PIE to work on my Mac since it has only one font that PIE supports--Lucida Grande. I don't mind the font, but I had to change all the font settings in Chrome as well as in PIE to make it use Lucida Grande or my tab would crash. On my PC, however, it was a lot more stable as it supports a wide range of fonts. I opened the same Wikipedia page I was testing with on my Mac, and it worked without me having to change any settings.

This seems like a great way to learn better pronunciation, but you have to know the meanings of all the little glyphs. This is a little more work than I’d personally like to put in, but I already know English. Somebody just learning would no doubt have a lot more motivation to learn what the glyphs mean. Also, children learning the diacritic glyphs at a young age could help with spelling and pronunciation as they grow up.

At any rate, give it a try and leave a comment to let us know if it helps.


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