Diction Help – Deciphering IPA

To support our ever-expanding IPA Source community, we provide the standard vowel and consonant charts below, with extra tips and resources for executing translations. These phonetic alphabets make it easy to transcribe songs, arias or texts and improve pronunciation and clarity in vocal performances.

Machine translations: For quick, full-text translations, Google Translate does it best and it’s free. With all machine translations, you must be careful. Google continues to translate Si mes vers avaient des ailes (If my verses had wings) as If my worms had wings! While general machine translations have improved over the years, poetic translations are still very uneven. An added benefit of Google translate is the computer generated voice output.

Italian: The best resource for Italian pronunciation is Lo Zingarelli published by Zanichelli. This is an Italian only physical dictionary but the CD-Rom version has an easy search engine that will find all word forms including verb conjugations. Online you can find an authoritative Italian only dictionary with pronunciation of the the open and closed -e and -o at Il Grande Italiano by Aldo Gabrielli. For IT/EN try the Collins dictionary.

French: The source for the French language is the Robert – either the petit or grand. The smaller, Le Petit Robert, comes in CD-Rom and contains IPA, although not for all word forms.  The French dictionaries at Larousse and Collins are great for English translations and IPA. For old FR check out Ancien français and Dictionnaire du Moyen Français.

German:  Although nothing will replace Das Aussprachewörterbuch published by Duden with its 180,000 GR words in IPA, Langenscheidt publishes several computer-based dictionaries, some with IPA and others without. IPA Source uses the Langenscheidts Euro-Set with English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German. All have IPA but the translations from FR, IT, and SP are to GR only. Dict.cc is a user-created, digital dictionary but the GR/EN is quite good. For an “authoritative” translation dictionary check out Reverso. For old GR try the Deutsches Wörterbuch by the Grimm brothers.

Latin: For a free Ecclesiastical Latin dictionary download William Whitaker’s Words. In book form, the Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin by Leo Stelten is recommended.



There are thousands of pages offering pronunciation help on the web. The problem is finding resources with accurate information from a reliable authority with just the information you need. Here are a few helpful sites we recommend.

iLoveLanguages: Go no further, this site brings it all together. Skip the Google search and check out the collections of links for over 200 languages.

Thoughtco.com: the language section can give you basic tips and exercises that can be useful as a low impact introduction to the five major singing languages. FR GR IT SP ENG

Finnish: Here is a good place to start on this difficult language; with IPA.


Bard Suverkrop