VOA English language broadcasters should try to pronounce a person's name as that person pronounces it. The goal is to sound intelligent, informed, and natural. Therefore, we should not overly stress certain sounds which are peculiar to specific foreign languages. In other words, don't try to sound as if you are fluent in a language if you are not. 

The sources for these pronunciations (persons) are as follows: 

  1. The person himself or herself
  2. The person's office or colleagues
  3. The appropriate VOA language service
  4. Embassies
  5. The United Nations
  6. Outside experts

The sources for place name pronunciations are as follows: 

  1. Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary
  2. The Columbia Gazetteer of the World
  3. VOA language services
  4. Embassies
  5. The United Nations
  6. Outside experts

The Merriam Webster Geographic Dictionary is our first and main source for researching place names. If you need further clarification, you may proceed to the other sources listed. But for most purposes, you need go no further. 

However, be aware that Merriam Webster's Geographic Dictionary often gives more than one acceptable pronunciation for a place. If a comma separates these choices, it means their editors place equal value on the "correctness" of these entries. 

Just because a pronunciation is listed first does not mean it is preferred. 

When multiple place pronunciations are given, VOA broadcasters should consult with their editors to see if a specific pronunciation is required. As of this writing (July 2003), VOA English does not have a firm policy on which pronunciation to choose if multiple choices are given in the M-W Geographic Dictionary. 

Any place listings in the VOA Pronunciation Guide are for clarification purposes only, and do not carry the weight of preferred methodology. In other words, any place pronunciations given may be considered "correct," but are not necessarily required by VOA editors. 

Occasionally, a place pronunciation will be listed in the VOA Pronunciation Guide because it could not be found in any of our printed reference sources. In these cases, research was done with language experts or outside sources. 

For the pronunciation of other words, VOA uses: 

  1. Merriam Webster's Third New International Dictionary or
  2. Merriam Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary