The word of the day is “diacritical”.
“Diacritical markings” are the accent marks attached to letters within a word that tell you how that letter should be pronounced. As an easy example, the dash above the “e” in the café tells you that the “e” should be read like “ay”, rather than being silent. Purée, flambé, pièce de resistance, déjà vu, these are all examples of diacritical marks and how they impact the pronunciation of a word. Also, a super-fun list of words to read aloud whilst doing an only somewhat offensive French accent. But now that we have a working understanding of what diacritical marks are, let’s talk about why professional voice talents love them and how to use them.
It should go without saying that in the industry of professional voice recordings, it’s generally important to pronounce things correctly. It is in fact, arguably, the most important part of any professional voice recording.
We’ve spoken in the past about the various strategies we deploy to capture or represent difficult names that customers need to read in their voice prompts. While effective, these strategies can be time-consuming and do usually require a great deal of back and forth with the client to make sure that every syllable is written out exactly as it needs to be said. This process becomes exponentially more complicated when dealing with larger multi-language orders, as different languages have different relationships to letters and grammar.
Something that makes perfect sense to an English speaker may be completely baffling to a non-English speaker, and vice versa. Try as we might, there is no one all-purpose perfect way to guarantee that a voiceover talent will say every single word and name exactly right on the first try every time. But there are some simple tricks that can be a great deal of help.
This is where the word of the day comes in handy.
Professional Voice Talents Love Diacriticals
In episode three of our Voices Carry podcast, excellent voice artist Liz explains that diacritical markings are a huge help to her when she is looking at a pronouncer for a name or word she doesn’t immediately know.
This is especially true for bilingual voice talents who might be called in to complete a recording in French or a recording in Spanish along with their standard English work. While diacritical markings are not very common in English, they are regular features of Spanish and French and as such go a long way towards clarifying how a name should be read.
In Liz’s experience, using diacritical markings is a good, simple trick to ascertain the correct pronunciation of a particular name, and with her years voicing for both English and French across numerous industries, she’s certainly something of an expert.
The Easiest Way
But in Liz’s expert opinion (and in our own experience as well) the easiest, fastest, and most foolproof way to get across the correct pronunciation isn’t diacritical markings or exhaustive breakdowns of written-out syllables or any of our other tricks and processes.
Nope, the best and easiest way to go about it is for a customer to take out their phone, record themselves saying the name or word in question, and then simply email that short audio file to us so we can then provide it to the voice talent. With a direct, primary source to replicate, the professional voice talents now know exactly what is required of them and can get right to work recording.
Getting It Right
Whether you are putting together longer projects like onhold messages or voice narration, or shorter items like IVR prompts, your recordings are a major part of the identity that your company shows to the world, and it’s important to get them right. We take any number of approaches and strategies to verify the pronunciation of unfamiliar names and words, but ultimately there’s no substitute for simply taking ten seconds to record yourself and sending that audio down the line to the professionals.
If you’ve got a recording that you need to be crafted, contact us today!