Our Audio Pronunciations... And the Voices Behind Them
We're extremely proud to announce that the Visual Thesaurus now offers accurate, high-quality audio pronunciations for every single word in our database — all 150,000 of them! This was a mammoth undertaking, and the results are unequaled by any online resource, both in terms of quality and quantity. Want to know how to pronounce the names of delicacies like zabaglione or blancmange? How about head-scratchers like phthisis or caoutchouc? In the Visual Thesaurus application, just click on the speaker icon next to the word or phrase you've selected. Or you can right-click on any word shown in the map and select "Pronounce Word" from the pull-down menu. The default setting is for American English, but if you prefer to hear British English pronunciations, you can easily change your audio preference in the application's Advanced Settings.
Let's take a step behind the curtain to see who was responsible for creating these pronunciations. The ensemble cast may surprise you.
As you might imagine, achieving our goal of recording 150,000 American English pronunciations was no easy task. To give you a sense of the sheer scope of the project, it would take 55 hours — almost two and a half days — just to listen to all of the audio pronunciations back to back. And that doesn't begin to account for the amount of time needed to prepare and review each word's pronunciation. Since this was such a team effort, we wanted to recognize the hard work of our intrepid pronouncers. In the biographies below, you'll notice that the members of our recording team all have backgrounds in theatrical performance, particularly opera. This is not a coincidence: opera singers make perfect candidates for recording audio pronunciations. First of all, they have the vocal training and the stamina to handle hour upon hour of recording time. But what also makes them cut out for this grueling work is that they're old hands at reading the International Phonetic Alphabet. Opera singers learn to read IPA transcriptions so that they can sing arias and other songs in many different foreign languages. Using IPA, the gold standard of phonetic representation, means we can ensure a high level of accuracy and consistency for the pronunciations we provide with the Visual Thesaurus.
So, to all of our word pronouncers: bravo — or brava, as the case may be!
Alison is the recipient of many grants and awards, including from the Liederkranz International Competition, the American Wagner Association, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, and the Wagner Society of New York. Her background includes a degree in Theatre/Film and several years work as both a Shakespearean actress and musical theatre performer. She studies voice with Metropolitan Opera artist Barbara Conrad and coaches with Thomas Lausmann of NY City Opera. She resides with her family in Montclair, New Jersey.
Marc made his debut as Tristan in Sofia, Bulgaria, with the Bulgarian Festival Orchestra in 2005. These performances have been issued as a complete recording of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde by Titanic Records. The hour-long documentary Being Tristan: A Tenor's Journey, which has aired on PBS, portrays the many facets of Marc's career during the period leading up to and during his performances of Tristan in Bulgaria.
Susan made her debut as Christine in Mourning becomes Electra for Seattle Opera, and as Isolde in Tristan und Isolde with the complete opera performed in concert and recorded by Titanic Records. Career highlights include the role of Amelia in a National PBS Telecast of Un Ballo in Maschera with Luciano Pavarotti and being the only opera singer to date nominated for the prestigious Dora Mava Moore Award (Canadian Tony Award) for her portrayal of Elektra. She has performed with the Innsbruck Symphony, Orchestre National de Paris, Phoenix Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, Springfield Symphony and Canton Symphony.
Susan is a native of Oregon, received degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Boston University School for the Arts, and lives in New York.
Special contribution by George Spelvin.