Flax-Golden Tales / Sounds of English

Listen & Read:  A Free, Online, Instructional Program


Publisher & Distributor: Ekta Books, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Editors, writers, compilers: 1. Dr. Shreedhar P. Lohani, Former Chair, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. 2. Dr. Moti Nissani, Retired Faculty (and former Fulbright professor in Nepal), Department of Biology, Wayne State University, USA.

Readers: 1. Dr. Philip Chase, County College of Morris, Randolph, New Jersey (photo) . 2. Donna Nissani, Michigan (photo). 


This webpage is based on the text Flax-Golden Tales: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning English, which is widely used in higher education settings in the country of Nepal. This text is characterized by an interdisciplinary and international approach to the teaching of English, the development of holistic and critical thinking, affordable price, and a willingness to broach some of the most important moral and political questions of our age. The text might be welcomed by students and teachers who seek alternatives to the standard Western-style textbook industry.


This webpage is comprised of three sections: An extensive spoken guide (sounds & full texts) to the pronunciation of American English / Stories & Poems (sounds & full texts) / Two of the fourteen instructional units that comprise Flax-Golden Tales (texts only).

Clickable Contents:  

    Pronunciation Guide (audio & text):  Introduction  /   Dictionary Skills  /  Introduction to Pronunciation Guide  / Unit A (see & she sounds)  /  Unit B (mate & met sounds)  /  Unit C (Y sound)  /  Unit  D (seen & sin sounds )  / Unit  E (H & S sounds )   /  Unit  F (th sounds )  /  Unit  G (z & j sounds )  /  Unit H  (hot & cold sounds )  / Unit I (pool & pull sounds )  /   Unit J (cot & cut sounds )  /  Unit K (Sam & palm sounds) / Unit L (regular past tense sounds) / Unit M (final s sounds) / Unit N (off & of sounds) / Unit O (w sound) / Unit P (b & v sounds) / Unit Q (f & p sounds)  


    Stories & Poems (audio & text):  Yudhishthira’s Wisdom (from The Mahabharata)  /  If Not Higher (Peretz)  /  Gaia (Lohani)  /  King John and the Abbot of Canterbury (anonymous)  /  Third Thoughts (Lucas)  /  Mr. Know-All (Maugham)  /  To His Coy Mistress (Marvell)  /  Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Frost)

    Two Complete Units (Flax-Golden Tales, text only):  UNIT TEN:  (PDF) Humor and Satire: King John and the Abbot of Canterbury, Anonymous; Third Thoughts, Lucas;  Science and the “Spirits, Tyndall;  Interactions:  Lessons 17-19.    /    UNIT ELEVEN:  Critical and Creative Thinking: The Stub Book, de Alarcón; Mr. Know-All; Maugham Keeping Errors at Bay, Russell;  Nine Puzzles;  What is Intelligence, anyway?,Asimov; Spotlight:  Conversations with a Critical Thinker; Interactions: Lessons 20-22.


Note: You can listen to the correct pronunciation of most English words online by consulting The Free Dictionary (American Pronunciation) .

Introduction to Pronunciation Guide (audio & text):(CLICK HERE TO LISTEN--about 10 seconds to download on DSL):  This Guide will help you acquire some of the sounds and rhythms of spoken English. To achieve this goal, you need to actively listen, over and over again, to the tape-recorded version of this Guide. Read the written version of this Guide only when you cannot follow the recorded message.

To begin with, we need to mention that there are two major types of educated English speech, British (R.P.) and General American. Both are acceptable, and speakers of either type can usually understand speakers of the other. This Guide models only General American speech.

Part 1: Dictionary Skills (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN)

A good dictionary tells us what words mean, how they sound, where they came from, and how they are used. To make this clear, let’s examine the dictionary entry Viking (all entries have been copied from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary).

vic·to·ry \ªvik-t(¶-)r¯e\ n [ME, fr. MF victorie, fr. L. victoria, fr. fem. of (assumed) L victorius of winning or conquest, fr. L victus, pp. of vincere] 1 : the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist 2 : achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties

syn Victory, conquest, Triumph mean a successful outcome in a contest or struggle. Victory stresses the fact of winning against an opponent or against odds; Conquest implies the subjugation of a defeated opponent or enemy; Triumph suggests a brilliant or decisive victory or an overwhelming conquest

1vid·eo \'vi-d-\ adj [L vidre to see + -o (as in audio) ] : relating to or used in the transmission or reception of the television image <~ channel> <~ frequency> —compare Audio

vig·i·lance \ªvi-j¶-l¶n(t)s\ n : the quality or state of being vigilant

vig·or·ous \ªvi-g(¶-)r¶s\ adj [ME, fr. MF, fr. OF, fr. vigor] 1 : possessing vigor: full of physical or mental strength or active force : Strong <a ~ youth> <a ~ plant> 2 : done with vigor : carried out forcefully and energetically <~ enforcement of laws> —vig·or·ous·ly advvig·or·ous·ness n

syn Vigorous, energetic, strenuous, lusty, Nervous mean having great vitality and force. Vigorous further implies showing no signs of depletion or diminishing of freshness or robustness; Energetic suggests a capacity for intense activity; Strenuous suggests a preference for coping with the arduous or the challenging; Lusty implies exuberant energy and capacity for enjoyment; Nervous suggests esp. the forcibleness and sustained effectiveness resulting from mental vigor

Vi·king \'v¯i-kiÔ\ n [ON v¯ikingr] 1 a : one of the pirate Norsemen plundering the coasts of Europe in the 8th to 10th centuries b not cap : Sea Rover 2 : Scandinavian

1vile \'v¯i(¶)l\ adj [ME, fr. OF vil, fr. L vilis] 1 : of small worth or account : Common; also : Mean 2 a : morally base : Wicked b : physically repulsive : Foul 3 : Degraded, low 4 : Disgusting, contemptible syn see basevile·ly \ªv¯i(¶)l-l¯e\ adv – vile·ness n

ə-‘bət abut; kitten; ¶r further; a back; bake; ä cot, cart; aout; ch chin; e less; easy; g gift; i trip; ¯i life; j joke; Ô sing; flow; flaw; i coin; th thin; th this; ü loot; foot; y yet; few; yfürious; zh vision


Note first that the v in the word Viking is capitalized.

The next item, taken along with the abridged pronunciation guide at the bottom of every other page in that dictionary, tells us a great deal about how this word sounds. Let us first briefly review the pronunciation marks at the bottom of the page:

abut, kitten, furthe; back; bake; cot, cart; out; chin; less; easy; gift; trip; life; joke; sing; flow; flaw; coin; thin; this; loot; foot; yet; few; furious; vision . .

Please repeat each word at the pause provided:

abut, kitten, further . . .

Let’s return to Viking. The little apostrophe at the beginning tells us that the accent is on the first syllable: VI-king, not Vi-KING. It also tells us that the first i in Viking is the same kind of i as in life and that the second i is like the i in gift. Finally it tells us that the v and k are pronounced like ordinary v and k, but that the ng at the end is pronounced as the single consonant ng in sing (or like ng in bang). So, even if we’ve never heard or seen this word, we know that it is pronounced Viking.

By the same logic, we say victory, video, vigilance, vignette, vile (please confirm these pronunciations by consulting appropriate entries in your book)1.

Next, the n means that Viking is a noun (and not, for instance, a verb). In the brackets we learn the origins of this word: ON means, in this dictionary, Old Norse. That is, this word has been taken into English from an old Scandinavian language. Next come the various meanings of this word. 1 a is clear enough: one of the pirate Northmen plundering the coast of Europe in the 8th to 10th centuries. 1 b tells us first in italics that when the sea rover meaning is implied, the first letter is not capitalized: viking. Looking up sea rover elsewhere in this dictionary, we find that it means: one who roves the sea, and, specifically, a pirate. 2 b is again clear: Viking is simply another word for Scandinavian.

For advanced writers and speakers, perhaps the most useful feature of a good, comprehensive dictionary is usage. The dictionary from which we copied the above entries rarely illustrates the way words are used in actual speech, and that is the main reason why many people prefer larger dictionaries (such as the Webster’s International or the Complete Oxford). Anyway, let's examine the entry vigorous. As before, we see that it is pronounced vigorous, that it is an adjective, that it came into contemporary English from Middle English (ME); to Middle English from Middle French (MF); and to Middle French from the Old French (OF) word vigor. Following definition 1, examples of usage are given: a vigorous youth; a vigorous plant. Definition 2 is also followed by an example of usage: vigorous enforcement of laws. The adverb (vigorously) and noun (vigorousness) are also given.

The entry for vigorous is followed by another useful feature: syn (synonyms). A few words have similar meanings1 to vigorous, but they are not identical. After telling us what these words have in common, the dictionary explains their differences.

The entry below (moratorium) is reproduced from Webster’s Third International Dictionary. Note that this entry differs from entries of the smaller dictionary we consulted earlier in only one respect—examples of usage. One of the definitions given for moratorium is "waiting period set by some authority: a delay officially required or granted." Now, this is a bit too abstract, and doesn’t tell me how the word may be used in real speech or writing. To remedy that deficiency, in a comprehensive dictionary such a definition is normally followed by a living example of how someone used this word in that particular sense. Here, we are told, somebody by the name of Douglass Cater said or wrote: "usually there was at least one day’s moratorium on news coming out of such background briefings."

mor·a·to·ri·um \ºmör-¶-ªt¯or-ë-¶m, ìmär-, -tr-\ n, pl moratoriums \-mz\ or moratoria \-¯e¶\ [NL, fr. LL, neut. of moratorius dilatory, retarding] 1 a : a legally authorized period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation or the payment of a debt <asked the legislature for a ~ of one year on farm mortgage payments> b : waiting period set by some authority : a delay officially required or granted <usually there was at least one day’s ˜ on news coming out of such background briefings — Douglass Cater> — compare Indulgence 3c 2 : a suspension of activity : a temporary ban on the use or production of something <so thorough was the ~ on brains that nobody in power dared do any primary thinking — J. R. Chamberlain> <a ~ on new systems — C. W. Thornthwaite>

Part 2: Pronunciation Guide

Whenever you encounter an unfamiliar written English word you can readily find out what it means and how it sounds by consulting an online dictionary, e.g., dictionary.com / Cambridge Dictionary.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: We’ll begin Units A through Q of this Guide by reading one entry from Chris Van Allsburg’s The Wretched Stone. We’ll then read this entry one phrase at a time and ask you to repeat that phrase in the pause provided. The unit will conclude by focusing on one special feature of spoken English.

When the cassette asks you to say something again, don’t be shy. Try to say it exactly as it sounds on the cassette. At first your own voice will sound strange to you, but that’s OK. If you really try, your English pronunciation will gradually improve.


The Wretched Stone

Chris van Allsburg

Excerpts from the log of the Rita Anne

Randall Ethan Hope, Captain

May 8

We finished bringing supplies aboard early this morning. At midday we left on the tide and found a fresh breeze just outside the harbor. It is a good omen that our voyage has begun with fair winds and a clear sky.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The s and sh Sounds: See and She. Repeat the following words in the pause provided:

see, same, sew, Russ, gas, cents, city, sky, sinister

she, shame, show, rush, cash, fresh, shy, finished

Repeat the following sentences in the pause provided:

1. Sean came to see me.

2. We finished bringing fresh supplies.

3. She sells sea shells on the sea shore.


May 9

The first mate, Mr. Howard, has brought together a fine crew. These men are not only good sailors, they are accomplished in other ways. Many read and have borrowed books from my small library. Some play musical instruments, and there are a few good storytellers among them.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The a and e Sounds: Mate and Met. Repeat the following words:

•mate, gate, same, donate, plate, paid, shame, slave

•met, get, sell, said, let, red, shepherd, sled

Repeat the following sentences:

1. The first mate is Mr. Howard.

2. These fellows are good sailors.

3. Is he a self-made man?


May 17

Our passage is going well. The usual boredom that comes with many days at sea is not present on this ship. When the members of this clever crew are not on duty, I find them singing and dancing or amusing each other with tales of past adventure.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The Y Sound: Yanks, Yetis, and Mayors. Repeat the following words:

yellow, yesterday, you, yes, New York, beyond, yoga

Repeat the following sentences:

1. Our voyage has begun with fair winds.

2. Yellow is my favorite color.

3. Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play.

4. I detest, hate, and despise yams.


June 5

Land ho! Slightly before sunset we spotted an island. I have consulted my charts, but do not see it recorded. This is odd, since ships have sailed through these waters for years. Apparently they have all missed this small place. We are low on water and would be happy to find fresh fruit growing here. Tomorrow I will take some men ashore and look about.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The ee and i Sounds: Seen and Sin. Repeat the following words:

seen, lead, team, teen, sheet, clean, cream

•sin, rid, Tim, tin, finish, sit, musical

Repeat the following sentences:

1. I have just finished reading Gone with the Wind.

2. Last night I had the strangest dream.

3. Ships have sailed through these waters for years.

4. They have all missed this narrow street.


June 6, Part I

I have just returned from the island. It is strange indeed. The vegetation is lush, but not a single plant bears fruit. The air has an odor that at first seems sweet and pleasant, then becomes an overpowering stink. I saw no sign of animal life, not even an insect. We found a spring that had water too bitter to drink. We also discovered something quite extraordinary, which I have brought aboard.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

Initial H: Heart. Repeat the following words:

•hungry, hot, him, who, San Jose, La Jolla, Honda

Initial S Followed by a Consonant: School. Repeat the following words:

•school, slingshot, smoke, snake, special, square, stay

Repeat the following sentences:

1. Whose life is it anyway?

2. I told Mr. Howard to throw this rock overboard.

3. The whole crew has turned into hairy beasts.

4. Scott loves skating.

5. Dr. Sloan smells skunks.

6. "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."


June 6, Part II

It is a rock, approximately two feet across. It is roughly textured, gray in color, but a portion of it is as flat and smooth as glass. From this surface comes a glowing light that is quite beautiful and pleasing to look at. The thing is unbelievably heavy, requiring six strong men to lift it. With great effort we were able to get it aboard and into the forward hold. We have set sail and are under way again.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The th and th Sounds: This and Thin. Repeat the following words:

this, they, that, breathe, though, thou, smooth

•thin, thanks, nothing, breath, thought, math, faith

Repeat the following sentences:

1. This is nothing.

2. That thing is smooth on one side.

3. Ships have sailed through these waters for years.



June 10

The crew is fascinated by the rock. When not needed on deck, they are down below, gazing in silence at the peculiar light it gives off. I miss the music and storytelling that had become part of our ship’s life. The last few days have passed quite slowly. The men, however, seem perfectly content. I am sure their interest in the stone will fade away soon.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The z and j Sounds: Zeus and Juice. Repeat the following words:

•Zeus, zone, zoo, zilch, sees, tease, praise, please, exactly

•juice, Joan, Jew, cage, John, pledge, geology, procedure

Repeat the following sentences:

1. The crew gazes at its strane glow.

2. I love that ubilant music.

3. We found a fresh breeze beyond the etty.

4. Our voyae has begun with fair winds.


June 13

Something is wrong with the crew. They rarely speak, and though they swing through the rigging more quickly than ever, they walk the decks in a clumsy, stooped-over fashion. Last night I heard shrieks coming from the forward hold. I believe they have contracted some kind of fever that came on board with the stone. I told Mr. Howard that tomorrow I will have the thing thrown overboard.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The o and o Sounds: Hot and Cold. Repeat the following words:

hot, shot, cot, dog, God, nod, not, stock, plot

•cold, coat, dough, know, show, stolen, goal

Repeat the following sentences:

1. He blows hot and cold.

2. These men are accomplished sailors.

3. There are a few good storytellers among them.

4. I told him to lock up the rock.


June 14

This morning I awoke to find the deck deserted. The wheel was tied steady with a rope. I believe Mr. Howard, who spent some time around the rock, told the men about my plan to get rid of it. They have now locked themselves in the forward hold. They apparently believe, in their feverish state, that I can sail this boat alone while they sit around that wretched stone.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The oo and u Sounds: Pool and Pull. Repeat the following words:

pool, cool, whose, tool, crew, rule, smooth, July

•pull, full, bull, wood, book, cook, foot

Repeat the following sentences:

1. Mr. Howard has brought together a good crew.

2. Will the rules be changed tomorrow?



June 15, Part I

We are in grave danger. A powerful storm is headed this way. All morning long the wind has grown steadily stronger; the sky is filled with dark clouds. I am unable to shorten the sails by myself. With this much canvas up, we will surely be blown over and sink when the full force of the storm arrives. I am going forward again to try to get the crew to work. All our lives depend on it.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The o and u Sounds: Cot and Cut. Repeat the following words:cot, shot, not, God, Wanda, Donald

•cut, shut, nut, sunny, funny, thumb, come

Repeat the following sentences:

1. The grumpy child complained about the barking dog.

2. Ronald loves peanuts.


June 15, Part II

This is, I am sure, my last entry. What I have just seen is so horrifying I barely have the strength to write it down. After I pounded at the door to the forward hatch, it finally swung open. But it was not a man who opened the door, it was an ape. The whole crew has turned into hairy beasts. They just sat there, grinning at that terrible rock. They don’t understand a word I say. We are doomed.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The a and aw Sounds: Sam and palm. Repeat the following words:

•Sam, map, snap, patch, land, yam, Tammy, apple

•saw, paw, all, gnaw, lawn, awesome, awful, Audrey

Repeat the following sentences:

1. Call me later and we’ll patch up our differences.

2. Dan is Dawn’s husband.

3. Is Martha Maude’s closest friend?

4. Pam will visit Nepal in 2003.



June 16

The storm has passed. The Rita Anne is still afloat, but both masts and rudder are lost. The stone has gone dark. We were struck by lightning twice during the storm. I believe that was the cause. Unfortunately, the crew is unchanged. They are still beasts, but seem sad and lost without the glowing rock. I have moved them back to their quarters. We have food for two weeks. I am hopeful of a rescue.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

Regular Past Tense Sounds: Needed, Looked, and Sobbed. There are three ways of sounding "ed" additions:

I. Adding a syllable ("id"): At the pause provided, please repeat the following words: needed, added, defended, loaded, waited, rested, counted, halted.

II. Adding a "t" sound: At the pause provided, please repeat the following words: looked, asked, helped, laughed, pushed, watched, dressed, stopped.

III. Adding a "d" sound: At the pause provided, please repeat the following words: sobbed, filled, believed, judged, enjoyed, cried.

Please repeat the following sentences:

1. Alice pushed, rested, and pulled.

2. He waited and barked, but received no food.


June 19

I have made an encouraging discovery. I am playing the violin and reading to the crew. It is having a positive effect. They are walking upright and have an alert look in their eyes.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

Final S Sounds: Needs, Looks, and Houses. There are three ways of sounding "s" additions:

I. Adding a "z" sound: At the pause provided, please repeat the following words: lamas, lambs, needs, legs, pulls, yams, fins, goes, purrs, gives, cows, toys.

II. Adding a "s" sound: At the pause provided, please repeat the following words: looks, riffs, laughs, helps, bits.

III. Adding a syllable ("iz"): At the pause provided, please repeat the following words: judges, pushes, watches, dresses.

Please repeat the following sentences:

1. Alice pushes, rests, and pulls.

2. She turns, looks, and punches.

3. Kisses are sweeter than dollars and cents.



June 24

I was in the forward hold today. A dull glow was coming from the stone. I have covered it and will keep the compartment locked.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

Of and Off. Please repeat the following sentences:

1. The sailors amused each other with tales of adventure.

2. Does the rock give off a peculiar light?

3. Off you go, sailors, get rid of this rock.

4. His career took off after publication of his last book.


June 28

I am happy to report that the men have returned to normal. It seems that those who knew how to read recovered most quickly.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The W Sound: Wood, Whale, Queen. Please repeat the following words in the pause provided:

wool, woman, week, wombat, Kurta Salwar, Newar,  quick, quote, Irwin, suite, between, twin, Swahili

Please repeat the following sentences in the pause provided:

1. The women amused each other with wonderful tales.

2. In both Wales and West Virginia, people work five days a week.

3. Our vegetable garden has been overtaken by weeds.

4. We have a queen and a king, the British have a queen and a crown prince, and the Swiss have neither.

5. Whose woods these are I think I know.


June 30

We are saved! A ship has been spotted off our starboard side. I have decided to scuttle the Rita Anne. There is only one place for the wretched stone. Before we abandon ship, I will set a fire that will send this vessel and her cargo to the bottom of the sea.

Please repeat each phrase in the pause provided:

The b and v Sounds: Best and Vest. Please repeat the following words in the pause provided:

•best, bail, berry, robe, mob, Brenda, Betty

•vest, vale, very, rove, of, cave

Repeat the following sentences in the pause provided:

1. Victor Barnes loves volleyball.

2. From this valley they say you’re going; we shall miss your bright eyes and your smile.


July 12

Our rescuers have left us in the harbor town of Santa Pango. One by one the crew should be able to sign on to ships passing through and work their way home. We have made an agreement not to talk about the strange events that took place aboard the Rita Anne. The men appear to have recovered completely, though some show an unnatural appetite for the fruit that is available here.

The f and p Sounds: Fine and Pine. Please repeat the following words in the pause provided:

•fine, felt, far, fox, fun, forts, tough, phone

•pine, pelt, par, pox, pun, port, apple, ape

Please repeat the following sentences in the pause provided:

1. Calligraphers use quills, pens, or pencils.

2. The plane flew from Frankfurt to Portland.


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