Speech is a largely unconscious process. We might think about what we want to say, but we intuitively know how to say certain words, acceptable volumes, and where to place pauses. Depending on where you live and what dialect of a language you speak, there might be differences in pronunciation. In English, “stresses” are important indicators of words and their meaning, but there is no definite pattern that outlines which syllables are to be accented.
Pronunciation is important because it helps define meaning. For example, what does this word mean?
If you said, “vegetables,” you’re correct. If you said, “making an object or idea,” you’re also correct. How is this possible? The word produce is pronounced two different ways: PROE-duce and pro-DUCE. The first means vegetables, the second is the verb.
You are writing for a voice talent who has to read your script clearly and correctly. You do not want your voice talent stumbling over words if he or she cannot read or understand your sound cues. How can you ensure voice talent read your script correctly? Here are 5 tips:
Don’t be afraid to write out the pronunciation for any words, regardless of the accepted spelling. Focus on phonemes, the smallest units of sound that differentiate words. (Learn about phonemes and how to represent them in writing here) For example, you could include “pronounce ‘rouge’ like ‘luge’.”
- Every so often, a client will have a pronunciation that requires a bit of foreign flair. For example, certain Spanish-related words require Rs to be trilled. You should indicate such instructions in the phonetics and call your client to verify.
- Online dictionaries are a reliable resource, but be careful to identify the dialect. Sometimes, the "official" pronunciation differs from what your customers are comfortable hearing. Think about how they speak and write your script accordingly. If you want to hear pronunciations instead of reading them, check out our favorite source: www.forvo.com
- Verify pronunciations of people, places, and company names. Some common ambiguous pronunciations: Caribbean, Oregon, Colorado, Roosevelt, and Alzheimer’s. For international spoken dialects of English, compile a list of altered pronunciations
Why is pronunciation so important? If someone speaks differently than you, it’s likely that you notice. Accents and regional differences in pronunciation can distract your audience. If you know your customer, you’ll be able to create audio that is appealing to your audience’s ears and sensibilities.