Pronunciation Key

The VOA Pronunciation Guide was designed for its ease of use. It does not use diacritical marks or symbols. While it is far simpler to use than the International Phonetic Alphabet system, it is not as sophisticated in the number and types of sounds it describes. Since there are fewer rules to follow, a large dose of common sense is necessary when using this site.

Pronunciation Rules

  1. The syllable(s) to be stressed is in capital letters and bold type.

  2. The letter "h" is used after vowels to indicate the short vowel sound.
  3. ah …as in "arm"
    eh …as in "get"
    ih …as in "it"
    uh …as in "up"

    The short "o" sound does not follow this rule. Its sound is often spelled out, such as the "muh" sound in "mother."

  4. Most long vowel sounds are indicated by the following:
  5. A = a or A
    E = EE or EEE
    I = eye
    O = oh, as in the exclamation, "Oh, how nice!"
    U = yoo

    The "a" sound as in "flat", "cat", "bat", etc., is often difficult to describe using our simplified phonetics. When it cannot be expressed otherwise, the "flat" "a" is indicated by "aa" or "aah". 

  6. The double "o", however, takes the sound of "tooth."

  7. Diphthongs are often indicated by the addition of a "y" following the vowel.

  8. "K" is often substituted for "C" when the hard sound is needed.

  9. "ss" or "sss" means to use a hissing sound, rather than the "z" sound many Americans use on the end of words.

  10. Where there is still the possibility of confusion, a brief note will follow the pronunciation.

  11. Since we are essentially imitating sounds, the Pronunciation Guide puts little emphasis on separating words at their most logical syllabic breaks. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you use both the printed phonetic and the audio file.