In a Pickle over Pronunciation

Words you don’t know. Words you haven’t the foggiest how to say, and don’t even vaguely recognise. Or maybe you think you know, but have a tiny, niggling doubt that you are saying it incorrectly. Or perhaps you are putting the stress on a word in a colloquial way that you aren’t even aware of.How do you check? How do you ensure that you are fulfilling your role as a Voice Talent, and getting the lingo right?

My first port of call is always Howjsay.com. I love that website. I can have a window open with it ready to go, and having already checked it out when I did the prep work, quickly click on the word for a memory refresh of the correct pronunciation. An American version is sometimes given alongside the British version, and that can be a real asset if working for a client across the Big Pond. Every time I visit that site, my heart goes out to the male Voiceover Artist, who must have spent weeks and weeks working on that online audio dictionary. To you, whoever you are, I give our thanks!

I also check out my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, and the online version too which sometimes has an accompanying audio file. Plus for US projects it is great to check in with the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

But what about place names and locations that you just don’t know?  Well, there is a real gem of a site at Audio Eloquence.  Bible pronunciations, Mythological, Law lingo, and Medical terminology. This is a great place to start. Maintained by Judith West and Heather Henderson to aide their fellow Audiobook Narrators around the world, it can be added to by contacting them, as and when fantastic resources are uncovered.

There’s nothing quite like picking up the phone to a local tourist board though to get to grips with a place name. Or on a corporate style job, calling the company’s switchboard and ask the receptionist for some help with company and brand lingo.  People are often very amused by our profession and eager to help. I have even had people send me mp3 versions of their own voice, so that I can practice the cadence and intonation pattern by copying them exactly.

So there’s no need to sit there in a pickle over it. Getting searching online, or pick up the phone. Don’t be afraid to ask. There are some really helpful Facebook groups out there for VO’s and Audiobook Narrators, and we’ve all been there! So shout.

Have I missed anything? Where do you search for the correct pronunciation?

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Author: Anna Parker-Naples is a voice actor and mother of three based in the UK. Her clients include NHS, Credit Suisse, The Coca Cola Company,and O2. Her official website describes her voice as appealing “to the ‘yummy mummy’ demographic.”

  • Memo Sauceda

    Thank you! It’s great to have these tools.

  • Greg Tremblay

    Great notes, I’ve made a note of Audio Eloquence! There really is nothing that robs professional voice work like flubbing a basic word… it’s such important research. I’m working on a book right now with a fair number of supporting characters who are Korean American… which is posing a good challenge. I’ve found that often for non English language, YouTube can be a great resource. I’ve used it for acting research, and it helps me with some accents… especially those that are easy to overdo! (For my Korean research, KWOW – the Korean Word of the Week has been AMAZING. That woman is phenomenal! If life is just, I’ll have the chance to buy her lunch some day)