So That’s How You Say It: Find Foreign Words and Names Pronounced Online

2788433360_9dc6cc602aIt all started when I asked one of my sons what he wanted for Christmas. He said a Moleskine journal. (By the way, this story would be better if I could tell it, rather than write it out.) I’d heard about them before, but come on. Moleskin?!! Do I look like I’m made out of money? I can’t afford a book with a cover made out of mole skins!

I looked it up on Amazon anyway, and I saw that it wasn’t as expensive as I’d expected, nor was it spelled the way I’d thought. Come to find out, it’s not mole skin, the fur. It’s Moleskine, the Italian company in Milan.

So, what’s the right way to say Moleskine? “The answer,” say the folks at the Moleskine website,”is: there is no predetermined answer.”

Moleskine® is a brand name with undefined national identity. And that’s the way we like it. As a literary name, it was used by British travel writer Bruce Chatwin in his book “The Songlines”, referred to the little black notebooks he usually bought from a stationery store in Paris.

Everyone should feel free to pronounce it as he/she prefers. Enjoy.

Well, that’s settled. (Or not.)

But what about all those other foreign words and names that escape obvious pronunciation? You can’t always just look them up. And even if you find them, how can you hope to decipher all the hieroglyphics of phonetic spelling? What do they really sound like? If only we could hear someone say them.

Fear not. There is help—and it’s only a couple clicks away.

Here, for your listening and learning pleasure, are 8 sites that will have you sounding like a native in no time—or at least you’ll sound like an intelligent non-native to your friends.

As the Moleskine people say, “Enjoy.”


“The largest pronunciation guide in the world.” Boasts over 2 million pronunciations in more than 300 languages. Gives you the ability to add words, pronunciations, and ratings. From their blog, “Pronuncionary,” here are the top pronunciations of 2013:
1. denigrated
2. Chag Sameach
3. 把手拿回
4. djävligt
5. Karadayı
6. مهذبة
7. præstekonen
8. ムーン香奈
9. Geschke
10. Guillaume

Pronounce Names

Started by Pinky Thakkar, a San Jose State graduate student from Mumbai. Includes people and place names. You can submit names for inclusion. Has its own YouTube channel, as well.

The Name Engine

Good for names of celebrities, sports figures, politicians, and the like. Created for radio and TV professionals. Gives “Americanized” version of foreign names.

Hear Names

Surnames and given names from over 50 languages. Started by Elizabeth Bojang, an American who served in the Peace Corps in West Africa, to “help executives and customer service representatives compete in the global marketplace.”

Pronounce It Right

Celebrity names and commonly used foreign words, with pronunciations that are “irreproachable replicas as produced by non-native speakers.” Run by Italians Patrizia Serra, a well-traveled journalist, and Laura Mazzoni, a translator and editor of linguistic dictionaries.


Voice of America’s guide to pronouncing names and places in the news. “The first of its kind on the Internet.”

Audio Eloquence

Maintained by Judith West and Heather Henderson to provide resources for their colleagues in audiobook narration. An index of links to a slew of sites on pronouncing words in multiple languages, people and place names, food names, biblical names, and more.

World Food Pronunciations—Foreign Cuisine Language Dictionary

A collection of sites from Includes entries for German, Italian, Japanese, and French cuisine.

[photo: “Mouthing Off,” by Caitlin Regan, used under a Creative Commons license]


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