Here’s an easy one. What does the following symbol represent?
(a) Voiceless bilabial fricative
(b) Voiced bilabial stop
(c) Voiceless dental fricative
(d) Voiceless velar fricative
ANSWER: (a) Voiceless bilabial fricative.
Symbols for consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet are used primarily to mark three things; voice (are the vocal cords moving?), place (what is the position of the articulators being used?), and manner (to what extent is the airflow being obstructed?) The symbols above represents a sound where the vocal cords are not vibrating (voiceless), the lips are touching (bi-labial), and the air is passing through them (fricative) rather than being blocked. Once you get the hang of describing things in this three-way pattern, the sounds and symbols begin to make sense.
Typing IPA Symbols, an online resource for creating IPA strings in English.