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Audiobooks: Pronunciation Research -
How It's Done & A 'Ghostly' Example
 
By Alan Sklar
Voice Actor / Audiobook Narrator
 
Ah! The joys of audiobook narration.
 
Do folks out there in ListenerLand appreciate the homework that goes into an audiobook narration?
 
Some books require hours of homework checking the correct pronunciation of foreign words - and even some hi-falutin’ English ones.
 
WHERE I LEARN ...
 
My pronunciation resources include Merriam-Webster’s Biographical, Geographical and Medical dictionaries ... plus several websites that offer pronunciation coaching.
 
I sometimes visit foreign airline offices in Manhattan as well as foreign consulates. For one book, which was set in South Africa, I spent a good hour at the South African Tourist Office on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
 
Two charming young staffers there coached me on the various "click” languages spoken by Bushmen, Zulus and others.
 
COACHING FOR 'GHOSTS'
 
And I just finished narrating a wonderful book, The Ghosts Of Cannae, about Hannibal and how he hammered the Romans until they finally nailed him.
 
Both the author and a skilled Latin scholar coached me on the Roman names and places, as well as many Greek and Carthiginian people and places.
 
RE Latin: There are apparently four different approaches to Latin pronunciation, among them classical, Church, and modern.
 
For an American audiobook listenership in 2010, both the author, my scholar friend, as well as myself, much prefer the last approach.
 
PREPARING TO NARRATE
 
As I read through the text sent me by a publisher, I circle all words, phrases, etc. which will require coaching.
 
Then I add them to a file in my computer in a folder entitled Audiobook Vocabulary. I arrange the words alphabetically, so that when I’m in the studio working I have the list handy for reference.
 
For example, what follows is a vocabulary list for The Ghosts of Cannae, over 13 pages long ...
 
Audiobook Vocabulary
for The Ghosts of Cannae
 
Adherbal... AD’-her-baal
Astapa (a battle)…. AH’-sta-pa
Achaean League.... a-KEE’-un
Arpi (town).... AR’-pee
Aufidus River.... o-FEE’-duss
(Rimini) Ariminum.... ahri-MIN’-um
Abilyx (Spanish chief).... AH’-bi-lix
Archilochus (poet).... ar-KILL’-ih-kuss
Amtorgis (a battle).... am-TOR’-giss
aristeia (Greek heroism).... A-riss-TAY’-uh
M. Atilius Regulus (gen).... REG’-yoo-lus
Arretium…. A-reh-TEE’-um
ager Falernus.... AH’-jerr fah-LAIR’-nuss
two alae forming wings.…ah-LIE’ (singular) ala
Antigonus One-eye.... an-TIH’-gonuss
Aecae (southern Italy).... AY’-sigh
King Attalus.... AH’-ta-loos
Aegates Islands.... ee-GAY’-teez
River Allia.... AH’-leeya
Achradina (the harbor).... ahk-rah-DEE’-na
The Aemilii.... ay-MIL’-ee-ee
The Atilii.... a-TILL’-ee-ee
a triplex acies.... AY’-seez
Anabasis.... a-NA’-ba-sis
Aecae (town).... ay-KY’
artisanal.... AR’-tiz-anal
antipode.... AN’-tih-powd
Alalia in Sardinia.... a-LA’-leeya
aediles.... EE’-dyles (Merr-Webster)
Agathocles of Syracuse.... a-GATH’-o-kleez
Antiochus, the Seleucid.... An-tee-AH’-kuss sel-YOO’-sid
Achea.... a-KEE-uh
Annales (by Ennius).... ah-NAH’-les (by a-NEE’-uss)
ambuscade.... AM’-buss-kayd
Adys.... AH’-diss
Aulus Postumius Albinus.... OWL’-us  pahs-TOO’-meeus  al-BEE’-nuss
the Allobroges.... allo-BRO’-jess
Consul L. Aemilius Papus.... ee-MEE’-lius PAH’-puss
C. Atilius Regulus.... ah-TIL’-eeus  REG’-yooluss
Allia.... AH’-leeya
Appian (an historian).... A’-pee-un
Appius Claudius Caecus.... SEE’-kuss
 
Berytus (Beirut).... beh-REE’-tuss
Baecula (town).... BEK’-yoo-lah
Barcid.... BAR’-sid
Bastati.... ba-STA’-tee
Braneus.... BRA’-neeus
The Boii.... BO’-ee-ee 
bipedal.... by-PED-el
Gaul Britomarus.... brit-o-MAH’-russ
basileus.... BAH’-sil-yoos
The Baetis River.... BEE’-tis
Brundisium (town).... brun-DEE’-zee-oom
Ba’al Shamin.... baal SHA’-min
Busa (a woman).... BYOO’-sa
Bellona (war goddess).... bell-OWE’-nah
bravura.... bra-VYOO’-ra
 
Cumae.... KOO’-mai
chimera.... ky-MEER’-uh
cuirass... kweer-ASS’
centurion.... sen-CHOO’-ree-on
curile aedile.... KYOOR’-ee-lay EE’-dyles
Caius Albius (White).... AHL’-bee-us
Caius Atrius (Black)…. AY’-tree-us
Cales (latin town)…. KAH’-less
(Carthage) Kart-Hadasht.... Kart-HA’-dasht
Cirta (Numidian capital)…. SEER’-ta
Clastidium (town)…. klas-TIH’-dee-oom
Cannae.... KAN’-ay
Consul Cnaeus.... K’NEE’-us
Cnaeus Fulvius Centumalus (proconsul)…. Sen-too-MAH’-luss
M. Caecilius Metellus (young noble).... Sa-SILL’-ee-us
Gen. Carthalo.... kar-THALO’
City of Capua.... KAH’-pooah
M. Centenius Paenula…. .pie-NOO’--la
Cornelius Scipio.... POOB’-lee-us C. SKIP’-ee-o
Fabius L. Cincius Alimentus…. SIN’-seeus alee-MEN’-tuss
Cunctator (the Delayer).... kunk-TAH’-tor
L. Coelius Antipater.... ko-EL’-eeyuss an-TIP’-iter
Chin Shih-Huang Ti.... chi she hwang tee
Comitia Centuriata…. ko-MIH’-teeya sen-too-ree-AH’-ta
The Comitia Tributa…. tri-BYOO’-tah
Concilium Plebis…. kon-SIHL’-eeum PLEH’-biss
Caius Terentius Varro.… te-REN’-tee-us  VAH’-ro
Clastidium.... kla-STIH’-dee-um
Cornelius Nepos…. NEH’-pos
Ceres (goddess).... SIH’-reez
Cynoscephalae (Greek town).... sin-o-SEF’-a-lye
the Cenomani…. SENO’-manee
Contubernium…. kon-too-BAIR’-neeum
campus martius…. MAR’-tee-us
Canusium (town)…. ka-NOO’-see-um legiones
Cannenses.... lay-jee-O’-ness ka-NEN’-siss
Cafonbaal (Punic girl)…. Ka-fon-BAAL’
caetra (a shield)…. SEE’-tra
Cornelii…. kor-NEL’-ee-ee
Casilinum (town)…. Kassih-LIN’-um
 
Dio Cassius.... dio KASS’-eeus
"delenda est Carthago” (Cato).... kar-THA’-go
Ducarius…. doo-KAR’-eeus
Diodorus…. dee-uh--DOOR’-us
Dasius (a general).... DAH’-see-us
 
Elissa…. eh-LISS’-a
Mt. Eryx…. ER’-iks
entrepôt …. AWN’-tra-po
Cape Economus …. ee-KON’-o-muss
elephant: loxodonta Africana cyclotis
Gen. Epirote.... ee-PYE’-rote
Epirote League…. ee-PYE’-rote
Eannatum, ruler of Lagash…. ee-a-NAH’-toom LAH’-gash
Eutropius…. yoo-TRO’-peeus
Epirus…. ih-PIE’-russ
Epicydes…. eh-pih-SY’-deez
Eumenes (of Pergamum)…. YOO’-men-eez
Ennius (poet)…. Eh-NEE’-uss
extraordinarii…. extraordin-AIR’-ee ee
 
Fabius Pictor…. FAH’-beeus  PIK’-tor
The Fabii …. FAH’-bee-ee
fetial law…. FEE’-chial
Faesulae (Fiesole)…. FEE’-so-lye
Fabius Maximus…. FAH-beeus
P. Furius Philus (a noble)…. FEE’-luss
Frontinus…. Fron-TEE’-nuss
L. Furius Bibaculus…. bih-BAHK’-yoo-luss
Fasces…. FASS’-kess
 
Gaius Laelius…. GY’us ly-EL’-ee-us
greave…. greeve
Gelon (Hiero’s son)…. GEH’-lon (geese)
Geminus (Consul)…. GEH’-mi-nuss (hard G)
Gesgo…. GESS’-go
Sword gladius hispaniensis.... GLA’-deeus hispan-ee-EN’-sis
The Gaesatae.... geh-STA’-tee
gladius …. GLA’-deeus (pl…GLA’-dee-ee)
Gerunium (town)…. jeh-RUN’-ee-oom
 
Heraclea…. her-a-CLAY’-a
hegira…. hih-JEYE’-ra
Hercte…. HERK’-tee
Hadrumetum (a town)…. hah-droo-MEH’-tum
Himilco (a Carthaginian)…. hih-MILL’-ko
Hannabalic….  hana-BAL’-ik
hipparch…. HIP’-ark
Hiero of Syracuse…. hee-AIR’-o
Hasdrubal…. HAZ’-droo-baal
River Hydapses…. hih-DAP’-seez
Battle of Himera…. hi-MAIR’-uh
 
Battle of Ipsus…. IP’-soos
wife Imilce…. ih-MILL’-see
Indibilis (Spanish chief)…. in-DIH’-bih-luss
incubus…. IN’-kyoo-buss
Idaean Mother.... ee-DAY’-an
Ilipa (Spanish town)…. ill-IH’-puh
M. Iunius Silanus…. ee-YOO’-nee-uss sih-LAY’-nuss
Consul L. Iunius Pullus... ee-YOO’-nee-us PULL’-us
Insubres (a tribe).… in-SOO’-brays
 
River Jhelum…. JEL’-oom
M. Junius Pera (consul)…. ee-YOO-nee-us PEH’-rah
two jugera (1.3 acres)…. yoo-GAIR’-a
 
King Luli…. LOO’-lee
Leontini (the city)…. Lee-ON’-ti-nee
Luceria (a town)…. loo-SAIR’-ee-ah
Lucius Aemilius Paullus…. ee-MEE’-leeus PAOL’-lus
C. Lutatius Catulus.... loo-TAY’-shus ka-TULL’-us
Mr.J.F.Lazenby…. LA’-zen-bee
Lilybaeum…. lily-BAY’-yum
legiones urbanae…. lay-jee-O’-ness oor-BAHN’- eye
Legiones Cannenses… lay-jee-O’-ness  ka-NEN’-siss
 
Masinissa (African)…. mah-sih-NISS’-a
Marcus Minucius Rufus…. mih-NOO’-shuss
Massaesylia (Numidian Kingdom)…. massa-SILL’-ee-ya
Massylia (smaller Numidian kingdom)…. Mah-SILL’-eeya
Metapontum (town)…. meta-PON’-toom
Marcus Livius Salinator…. LIH’-veeus sah-lin-AH’-tor
Marcus Valerius Laevinus…. la-VEE’-nuss
maniples…. MAN’-ih-pulz
Minucius…. min-OO’-shuss
L. Manlius Vulso (general)…. MAN’-leeus VOOL’-so
Magna Graecia…. magna GRAY’-kee-ya
Mago…. MAH’-go
The Massiliotes (Marseilles)…. ma-sil-ee-O’-taze
Myle…. MY’-lay
City of Messana…. mess-AH’-na
Magnesia (battle)…. mahg-NEE’-zee-ya
Metilius (tribune)….  Mah-TILL’-ee-uss
Mutina (Modena)…. moo-TEE’-na
T. Manlius Torquatus …. tor-KWA’-tuss
Chief Magilus…. MA’-gih-loos (hard G)
Metaurus river campaign…. me-TOR’-uss
Mantinea (battle)….  Man-tih-NAY’-ya
Marcus Cornelius Cethegus (proconsul)…. SETH’-a-guss
Hannibal Monomachus…. mono-MAH’-kuss
Muttines (a Libyan)…. moo-TEE’-nuss
Mamertines…. MA’-mer-teenz
Maharbal…. MAH’-har-baal
 
Nieuwpoort (Battle)…. NYOO’-poort (Dutch)
the nobiles…. NO’-bee-less
 
Ovicula (lambykins)…. O-VIK’-yoola
Ophthalmia…. of-THAHL’-meeya
 
Polybius…. pa-LIH’-bee-us
Pleminius…. pleh-MIN’-ee-uss
Prince Pompeius Trogus…. Pom-PAY’-us  TRO’-guss
Preceptor…. prih-SEP’-tor
protean….  PRO’-tee-an
paladin…. PAL’-a-din
phalangites…. fa-LAN’-jytes
Praetors…. PREE’-tors (Merr-Webster)
patriciate…. puh-TRISH’-ee-at
Poenulus (a Plautus play)…. po-EN’-yoo-luss
Pectorale armor …. pektor-AHL’-ay
"Praecepta militaria” of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas….  "preeSEPta” neekay-FOROS 2nd FO’-kahss
Picenum (town)…. pih-SEE’-num
Spear Pilum (pl)pila…. peelum
Principes…. prin-SEE’-payz
Phoinike (the Peace of)… FOY’-nee-kay
Phalangite…. fa-LAN’-jytes
Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica.... SKIP’-pee-o nah-SEE’-kah
Primus pilus…. PREE’-muss PEE’-luss
Poeni…. po-EN’-ee
King Pygmalion…. as in the Shaw play 
pontifex maximus (chief priest)…. as is
Publius Claudius Pulcher…. POOL’-kair
Pachynus (a cape)…. pa-KY’-nuss
Cape Pachynon…. PAK’-ee-non
The Phocaeans…. FO’-shuns
Pisae (Pisa)…. PEE’-sigh
L. Porcius Licinus (praetor)…. POR’-see-us lih-SEE’-nuss
paedagogus.... peh-da-GO’-guss
Publius Furious.... POO’-blius FYOOR’-eeus
 
Quaestor…. KWESS’-tor
Quintus Naevius (centurion)…. NAI’-vee-uss
Quintus Fabius Maximus…. FAH’-beeuss
Quincunx…. KWIN’-kunks
T. Quinctius Crispinus... KWINK’-teeuss kriss-PEE’-nuss
Quinquereme ship.... KWIN’-kwer-eems
 
Gen. Regulus …. REH’-gyoo-luss
Rhegium (town)…. RAY’-jeeum
 
Town Salapia…. sa-LA’-peeya
Spolia opima…. SPO’-leeya o-PEE’-ma
Saguntum…. sa-GUHN’-tum
Sophonisba (Hasdrubal daughter)…. so-fo-NISS’-ba
suffetes…. soo-FAY’-teez
Siga (a Numidian harbor)…. SY’-guh
Sulci…. SOOL’-see
sobriquet…. SO’-brih-kay
scutum…. SKOO’-tum
Seplasia (a market)…. se-PLAY’-zee-uh
C. Servilius Geminus…. geh-MEE’-nuss (hard G)
Strategos autokrator…. stra-TAY’-gos (hard G) auto-KRAH’-tor
Strategikon (a book)…. stra-TEE’-jih-kon
Scipio Aemilianus…. ee-mee-lee-AH’-nus
City of Samnium…. SAHM’-nee-oom
Sousse (modern Tunisian town)…. (French) soosse
Sibylline books…. SIH’-bih-lyne  
Sucro (town)…. SOO’-krow
Socii navales…. SO’-see-ee nah-VAH’-less
Sosylus.... so-SEE’-luss (Allies)
socii…. SO’-see-ee
Silenos of Kaleakte…. sih-LAY’-nos kal-ee-AHK’-tay
Stele of Vultures…. STEE’-lee
Skein…. skane
senatus consultum…. sen-AH’-tus con-SOOL’-toom
the spolia opima…. SPO’-leeya o-PEE’-ma
Silius Italicus.... SIL’-eeyuss ih-TAHL’-ikuss
Spartiates.... spar-TEE-ah’-TAZE
P. Sempronius Tuditanus (tribune)…. too-dih-TAh’-nuss
Sambucae (harps).... sam-BOO’-k-eye
Sempronius Blaesus…. BLEE-suss
Seleucids…. sel-YOO’-sids
Scipio Africanus…. SKIP’-eeyo afri-KAH’-nuss
The Syrtic coast…. SIR’-tik
Syphax (Numidian)…. SY’-fax
 
Tarentum…. .tar-EN’-tum
Tarraco (city)…. tuh-RAH’-ko
Titus Livius…. TY’-tuss LIH’-veeus
Titus Quinctius Flaminius…. KWINK’-teeus
Timagenes…. tim-AH’-jen-eez
Tyndaris…. tin-DAR’-iss
Tychaeus (a Numidian)…. ty-KEE’-uss
Turma…. TOOR’-mah
triplex acies…. AH’-see-ez
"Taktika’ of Nikephoros Ouranos….  neeko-FOR’-us oo-RAH’-nos
Tiberius Sempronius Longus (consul)…. LON’-guss
Ticinus (river)…. tih-SEE’-nuss
Tannetum…. ta-NEH’-toom
triarii…. tree-AR’-ee-ee
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus…. GRAH’-koos
 
Uruk.... oo-ROOK’
 
Via Dolmitia…. dol-MEE’-tee-ya
P. Villius Tappulus…. VILL’-ee-us TAP’-yoo-luss
vox populi…. vahks POP’-yoo-lye
L. Veturius Philo…. veh-TOOR’-eeus FEE-‘low
virtus and disciplina…. VEER’-toos dis-ih-PLEE’-na
Verrucosus (wart)….  verroo-KO’-suss
Venusia…. veh-NOO’-see-ya
Vermina (Syphax son)…. ver-MEE’-na
velites…. vay-LEE’-taze
volones (volunteers)…. vo-LO’-ness
The Volcae…. VOL’-kye
Wind Vulturnus…. vul-TOOR-nuss
Vegetius historian….ve-JEH’-tee-us
 
Count William Lodewijk…. Dutch
 
Xanthippus (Greek) …. zan-TIH’-puss
 
Zonaras (Monk) …. za-NAHR’-us
Zama.... ZA'-mah
 
ABOUT ALAN ...
 
Alan Sklar is a former Shakespearean actor, veteran voice actor and the narrator of more than 120 audiobooks - many of them AudioFile Earphone Award winners and Audie Award nominees. Working for all major audiobook publishers, he has been called the "go-to voice for complex works of non-fiction and business" who commands equal attention with dramatic reads. "Feeling well aligned with the author is a joyous feeling," he says. "Dancing with him or her through text is a delight."
 

 

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Comments (10)
Kymberly Dakin-Neal
8/10/2010 at 9:07 PM
Hey Alan - You are always a terrific resource - and very much missed this year at the AudioFile picnic!

I am fond of calling up libraries in a specific locale - and there might be a public library in the vicinity of reservations in the Dakotas for your recording, Linda. Librarians are very happy to be asked questions about their localities these days as most people go to the web.

I am working on a recording about Dolphin communication and have gone straight to the source: the author - for scientific pronunciations. This has the added benefit of finding out about eco-tourism possibilities for my dolphin-loving daughter!
Alan Sklar
7/19/2010 at 10:06 AM
Linda…
I haven’t the slightest idea where I’d go to get pronunciation coaching for the Sioux language. It’s not what I do for a living. I read more mainstream books … books on the NY Times best seller list, etc.

You might contact a Berlitz office. They might be able to point you in a right direction. You might contact the US Army. I know that during WW2 the Army used Navajo speakers to transmit messages in the Pacific Theatre so the Japanese would not be able to understand the transmissions.

You have learned to not reveal the book you are working on to a Sioux language coach.

How about googling “Sioux language coaching?” How about exploring the Voice Of America (VOA) website? They offer pronunciations of hundreds of world figures in the news. Email Robin Whitten, the founder/owner of AudioFile magazine and ask her if she can point you to a teacher (www.audiofilemagazine.com).

There must be a museum or National Monument or park dedicated to the Sioux up in South Dakota. Custer’s last stand and all that. Perhaps the museum director could help. I’m otherwise baffled.

Best Wishes and Much Good Luck. If I think of anything else, I’ll email you.
Most Cordially, Alan
Linda Naylor
7/18/2010 at 12:56 AM
Alan, You and I have the same routine. I feel validated, just because I now know that other audiobook recorders work as hard as me.

I have 50 thousand college students in my town, and have always been lucky enough to find a "native" speaker, for my recordings. It has always been the "joy" of my life, to work with my tutors. My Russian tutor told me that I would not make a good spy. I loved her.

I have recorded in 19 different languages. However, I have run into a brick wall with the Lakota Sioux language. I had Jim Greene all lined up to help me. Jim is the Chief of the Sioux Tribe. He and his wife were more than happy to help me with the language, until they found out the title of the book that I needed to record. The Sioux people do not like the book. They think that it is too Hollywood, and not a good "real life" depiction of life, as a Sioux Indian, during the time of American's birth.

Although I understand their negative feelings towards this book, I also have an obligation to record this book for the public schools.

I am telling you all of this information, hoping that you can help me connect with a Lakota Sioux speaker who would help me with a "total" of 40 words OR phrases. 40 is such a small number, to me, and yet that 40 is a brick wall. I cannot record the book until I can get a native speaker to help me.

Can you, with all of your connections, help me??? Please respond to my request, even if it is bad news.

On the side, I have found the website, FORVO. They do the Lakota language, but so far, they have only been able to pronounce ONE word for me. Urdu, Ibo, and Korean were easier to find than the Sioux language. Can you help me???? I hope so.

In friendship,
Linda Naylor
lsnaylor@gmail.com
Vanessa
7/16/2010 at 3:27 PM
really great resources! some I had but some I did not - thanks so much for sharing!Love your work Alan:)
Heather Henderson
7/16/2010 at 2:22 PM
Alan, this is really a wonderful article. I'm sharing it around the narrator circles! You turned me on to some new pronunciation sites. I'll return the favor by offering a couple of sites I use: forvo.com (words from many foreign languages, with audio pronunciations) and inogolo.com (English pronunciations).
Elizabeth Holmes
7/16/2010 at 12:34 PM
Alan - Your description of your preparation for performing the complex words and phrases in "The Ghosts of Cannae" is extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing it!
Kristina Coggins
7/16/2010 at 11:30 AM
Alan - Really helpful to narrators and listeners! Thanks for that.
Looking forward to listening to that book. Your work ... always great. Well done.
Mur Brown
7/16/2010 at 11:19 AM
I'm impressed, Alan. Really impressed, as I don't know whether I would have had the patience for that. It takes a "New Yorker Go N Get Em" attitude to survive that one. And that's you. Nice work.
BP Smyth, Narrator
7/16/2010 at 10:35 AM
Great article, Alan - quite informative. My hat is tipped to you and others who take on such work. It's overly painstaking. That's the reason why I have no desire to narrate books. Short scripts are challenging enough with pronunciation issues.
Steve Webb
7/16/2010 at 1:03 AM
I doubt if listeners have any idea how much homework goes into narrating a book with unusual names. I am in the process of recording a very old version of the Bible that predates even the King James Version. My vocabulary list is at twenty-eight pages and growing!
Great article, Alan.
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