The International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA, is a system of symbols used to represent verbal language sounds. IPA is used by lexicographers, foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech-language pathologists, singers, actors, constructed language creators and translators.
The chart to the left shows the most commonly-used IPA symbols. Some of them are the same as our English (Latin) letters, but you'll see a lot of unfamiliar symbols. Each different sound has it's own distinct symbol, as opposed to our English alphabet, in which the letter "a" can be pronounced many different ways, for example.
We singers use this alphabet as a way to sing songs in languages we may not have studied. For example, if a song originally composed in Russian is transcribed into IPA, then you will be able to sing it accurately, even if you have not learned Russian.
You can find all kinds of YouTube videos to help with language pronunciation, such as this
French language pronunciation
video. French is notoriously one of the most challenging languages for native English speakers to pronounce correctly, particularly because of the mixed vowels and nasal vowels that we do not have in English.
College level voice majors study lyric diction, which includes all of the major languages that classical songs are written in, and they become very well acquainted with the International Phonetic Alphabet.
Have fun with this
online phonetic transcriber
! Type in the English words and see what it would be in IPA. Send secret messages only another singer can read!