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Pronunciation Guides for Audiobook Narrators

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

April 10, 2013

Comments (8)

Man reading over a piece of paper, sitting by his lap top computerWhat do you do when you don't know how to pronounce the name of a person, place or thing?

Voice actors routinely run into words that they may not be familiar with.

This is why it is important for you to have immediate access to tools that are designed to help with pronunciation.

Do you need to speak with confidence on topics outside of your expertise?

This article has links to a few resources you may find helpful in your quest.

Audiobook Narration: People, Places and Things

Audio Eloquence provides pronunciation, dialect, and speech resources for audiobook narrators. The Audio Eloquence site is maintained by Judith West and Heather Henderson for their colleagues in audiobook production.

Audio Eloquence has a cool reference key to let you know if there are audio samples (including some video) available and phonetic rendering. Something that was really neat about this site is that it touches on a variety of industries and disciplines, providing links to outside resources that teach you how to pronounce words in their particular areas of expertise.

The site, updated on April 3, 2013, now has 30+ new pronunciation sites, annotations, and a new section, "Dialects and Accents," with sites that may help narrators with character and dialect work.

Medical Terminology

If you're ever in a spot where you don't know how to say something in a medical narration project, the pronunciations section of The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook for patients and caregivers is a great resource. Similarly, you can use this site to learn how to say words found in the medical lexicon.

You can find a pronunciation for nearly every medical term from A to Z. There are also anatomical drawings in a separate section of the site to help you understand what you are talking about. The website itself is a great place to explore when preparing to voice a medical narration.

Merck is committed to bringing out the best in medicine. As part of that effort, Merck provides all of The Merck Manuals as a service to the community.

Enter Keywords To Hear Pronunciations

HowJSay.com is a free online Talking Dictionary of English Pronunciation. You can type in the word you want to hear pronounced and a voice will read that word aloud for you. I had success typing in names as well as words.

Many voice actors use this resource because you can quickly type in the word you are seeking without having to go through a list or searching through categories.

A Resource For English Dialects

Not sure how to pronounce something in a dialect different from your own? You'll want to explore the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA for short), a site that features audio samples of dialects for theatre and film artists.

IDEA's founder, director, and principal contributor is Professor Paul Meier. He established the archive in 1997 to enable actors to hear real-life models for their characters' accents and dialects. But IDEA has since proved invaluable in many other research fields too. For example, it has become a principal tool of international business, enabling customer-service personnel to become familiar with the many accents and dialects of English spoken by their customers.

Recently, IDEA went through a number of renovations. The new site is now fully searchable, not just by country, state, and province, but also by characteristics of each speaker, such as ethnicity, age, and occupation. Even single phrases from transcriptions and phonetics can be searched online. The text and audio files for each sample have been standardized and combined on a single page, allowing users to easily listen to the streaming audio while they read the accompanying transcription and commentary.

Where Do You Source Pronunciations?

If you use a site that isn't listed here to help you pronounce uncommon words, names of people and or places, please add the site's name and URL in the comments.

Looking forward to your reply!

Best wishes,
Stephanie

ŠiStockphoto.com/Ivan Solis

Related Topics: Accent, dictionary, how to, reading


Comments


    Because of the school she was lucky to attend, my wife is pretty infallible with English English and fortunately we don't disagree on controvversy/connntroversy. But when it comes to St Looey / St Lewis we are both at sea because these things can depend on history and fierce local loyalties you only learn about too late.
    A Brit example is Shrewsbury / Shroesbury - instantly revealing of this wretched class thing we have - and there are many more. Following up that wonderful Audio Eloquence guide, the BBC recorded archives are useful, though again pronunciation changes with time. Of course the comedy value of launching unwittingly into 1940s rustic shouldn't be underestimated, but the producer may not see the joke.

    Posted by:

      You Tube is a good resource for the occasional weird proper name. For example, I narrated a piece recently that had the name of a professor that I could not pronounce and was not provided to me. I did a You Tube search and sure enough there was a video of the professor speaking at a conference and the opening narration intro mentioned his name.

      Posted by:
      • Keith Michaels
      • April 11, 2013 8:58 AM

        Thank you for the reference to these useful sites.

        I reside in South Africa where I do a lot of work at horse shows, horses names and riders names can at times be entertaining, to say the least. Particularly with the 11 languages that we have in SA! Then there are the imported horses with French, German and Arabic prefixes, it requires a great amount of awareness and some mumbling to get round the problem.

        The best one can generally hope for is that the owners will come to help out with the pronounciation, and then that I can understand the phonetic notes that I have scribbled on the running orders.

        Regards,
        Jonathan Harrison.

        Posted by:
        • Jonathan Harrison
        • April 11, 2013 9:10 AM

          Hi Stephanie - These are great resources.

          I have found HowJSay to be incredibly valuable. In the case of my medical/pharma VO work, there is generally a client subject matter expert online or in studio to coach me on medical terminology as needed.

          Best,
          David Cook

          Posted by:
          • David Cook
          • April 11, 2013 9:11 AM

            Great article! I've bookmarked all the pages. Forvo is another great resource that I use frequently.

            Posted by:

              I use a dictionary app simply called Dictionary. I love it because it pronounces the word for you, has great definitions and sentence examples, and a favorites list, so you can go back easily to listen again if need be.

              I use it during the pre-read, and make notes, but it's nice to know my words are saved in case I want a refresher when recording.

              Posted by:
              • Aria
              • April 11, 2013 12:10 PM

                Great info. Especially the pronouncing info. I have googled some odd words in the past but will be checking all these suggestions. Jolly well done Voices.com

                Posted by:
                • Christine Stevens
                • April 28, 2013 12:18 PM

                  This is such a great article, thanks for the info. Previously Ive used YouTube for difficult names, can be a pain in the bum sometimes though. On a recent job involving lots of foreign names, the project director and I came up with a different idea: most people have smartphones these days, on both android and app store you can get voice recorders and email the voice memo to someone, so thats what we did. The project manager would record all the complicated names into his phone then email it over to me, I can then listen back in the studio whilst recording, worked a treat.

                  Posted by:

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