Dictionaries, pronunciation guides and texts

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In 36 Languages
Listed below is a supplement to Chapter 15, “Singing in a Foreign Language: Tools to Use,” of Simply Singing. These reference materials for various languages will help you translate, pronounce and understand what you are singing. See Simply Singing: Part II Bibliography for additional sources.

Some books containing more than one language are:

Cox, Richard G. Singer’s Manual of French and German Diction, Belmont, CA, Wadsworth, 1996. (ISBN: 0-0287-0650-1)

May, William V., Craig Tolin. Pronunciation Guide for Choral Literature: French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, Website of Music Educators National Convention, posted 2002.

Moriarty, John. Diction: Italian, Latin, French, German . . . The Sounds and 81 Exercises for Singing Them, Boston, E. C. Schirmer Music Co., 1975. (ISBN: 0-9113-1809-7)

Sheil, Richard F. A Manual of Foreign Language Dictions for Singers (IPA for Church Latin, Italian, German and French), Fredonia, NY, Palladian Co., 1975.

Wall, Joan et al. Diction for Singers, A concise reference for English, Italian, Latin, German, French and Spanish pronunciation, Dallas, Pst . . . Inc., 1990. (ISBN: 1-8777-6151-6)


Afrikaans: Kromhout, Jan. Afrikaans-English/English-Afrikaans Dictionary, 2nd ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0846-4)

Albanian: Stefanllari, Ilo. English Albanian Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1996. (ISBN: 0-7818-0419-1)

Arabic: Editors of Hippocrene Books. English-Arabic/Arabic-English Romanized Dictionary, 6th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7818-0383-7)

Ziadeh, Farhat J., R. Bayly Winder. An Introduction to Modern Arabic, New York, Dover Publications, Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-486-42870-2)

Armenian: Andonian, Hagop. Beginner’s Armenian, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1999. (ISBN: 0-7818-0723-9)

Aroutunian, Diana and Susanna Aroutunian. Armenian-English/English-Armenian Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1993. (ISBN: 0-7818-0150-8)

Samuelian. Armenian Dictionary in Transliteration: Western Pronunciation: Armenian-English/English-Armenian, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1993.

Stefanllari, Ilo. Armenian-English /English Armenian Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1996.

Bulgarian: Pásov, P., and Hr. Párvev. Pravogoren recnik na balgarskija ezik., Sofia, 1975.

Chinese: Chen, Janey, collaboration with Ena G. Simms. A Practical English-Chinese Pronouncing Dictionary, Romanized Mandarin and Cantonese, 7th ed., Boston, Tuttle Language Library, 2001. (ISBN: 0-8048-1877-0)

de Mente, Boye Lafayette. Chinese in Plain English, Chicago, Ill., NTC/Contemporary Publishing Co., 1995. (ISBN: 0-8442-8481-5)

Editors at Periplus. Pocket Mandarin Chinese Dictionary, Singapore, Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7946-0043-3)

Gao, Mobo C.F. Mandarin Chinese: An Introduction, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Jones, Daniel. An English-Chinese phonetic dictionary, using the alphabet of the International Phonetic Association. Shanghai, Chung Hwa Book Co, 1933.

Manser, Martin H. Concise English-Chinese/Chinese-English Dictionary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001. (ISBN: 0-19-591151-2)

Croatian: Ante Susnjar, edited by Eva Susnjar-Hendricks. Croatian-English/English-Croatian, 2nd ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0810-3)

Czech: Cheek, Timothy. Singing in Czech, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Md., 2001.

Chloupek, Jan, ed. Výslovnost spisovné cestiny: Výslovnost slov prejatých – Výslovnostni slovnik, Praha Academia, 1978.

Trnka, Nina. Czech-English/English-Czech Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-87052-981-1)

Danish: Brink, Lars, Harry Andersen, Ebbe Nielsen and Suzanne Strange. Den Store danske udtaleordbog, (Munksgaards ordbøger), København, Munksgaard, 1991.

Holmen, Marianne. Danish-English/English-Danish Dictionary, 7th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-87052-823-8)

Dutch: Coninck, R.H.B. de. Groot uitspraak-woordenboek van de nederlandse taal, Antwerpen, De Nederlandsche Boekhandel, 1970.
Rijckaert, Arseen. Dutch-English/English-Dutch Dictionary, 2nd ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2001. (ISBN: 0-7818-0541-4)

English: Jones, Daniel. Everyman’s pronouncing dictionary: Containing over 58,000 words in international phonetic transcription (ed. A.C. Gimson), 15th ed., Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

Marshall, Madeleine. The Singer’s Manual of English Diction, New York, Schirmer Books, 1953. (ISBN: 0-0287-1100-9)

Random House Webster’s Easy English Dictionary, New York, Random House, 2001. (ISBN: 0-3757-0484-1)

Uris, Dorothy. To Sing in English, A Guide to Improved Diction, New York, Boosey & Hawkes, 1971.

Farsi: Miandji, A.M. Farsi-English/English-Farsi (Persian), 2nd ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7818-0860-X)

Finnish: Wuolle, Aino. Finish-English/English-Finish Dictionary, 7th ed. New York, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-87052-813-0)

French: Breagger, Janette D., Donald B. Rice. Allons-y, Le Francais par étapes (with Audio CD), 6th ed., Boston, Heinle, 2004. (ISBN: 1-4130-0190-4)

Cousin, Pierre-Henri et al. French-English/English-French, New York, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-06-093751-3)

Editors of Langenscheidt. French-English/English-French Dictionary, Germany, Langenscheidt Publishing Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7607-4843-8)

Girard, Denis et. al. Cassells French Dictionary, 16th ed., New York, Wiley Publishing Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-02-013680-3)

Grubb, Thomas. Singing in French, A Manual of French Diction and French Vocal Repertoire, Belmont, CA, Wadsworth, 1979. (ISBN: 0-0287-0790-7)

Larousse French-English/English-French Dictionary, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co, 2002. (ISBN: 2-03-542010-5)

Lerond, Alain. Dictionnaire de la prononciation (Librairie Larousse), Paris, Larousse, 1980.

German: Davis, Cliff. Easy to Pronounce German: Phrase Book and Dictionary,

Irvine, CA, Griffin Publishing Group, 1995. (ISBN: 1-8821-8028-3)

Duden Assprachewörterbuch: Wörterbuch der deutschen Standardaussprache (=Der Duden, Bd. 6), 3rd ed., Mannheim/Wien/Zürich, Dudenverlag (ed. Max Mangold), 1990.

Harper-Collins German Concise Dictionary, 2nd ed., New York, Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 1999. (ISBN: 0-0627-3684-1)

Odom, William. German for Singers, A Textbook of Diction and Phonetics, New York, Schirmer Books, 1981. (ISBN: 0-0028-7750-3)

Sevin, Dieter, Ingrid Sevin. Wie gelits? An Introductory German Course (with Audio CD), 7th ed., Boston, Heinle, 2003. (ISBN: 0-03-035253-3)

Greek: Nathanail, Paul. Greek and English, 1st ed., Chicago Ill., NTC Publishing Group, Inc., 1990. (ISBN: 0-8442-8482-3)

Vassiliou, M. Greek-English/English-Greek Standard Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1997. (ISBN: 0-7818-0660-3)

Hebrew: Doniach, N.S., A. Kahane. Oxford English-Hebrew Dictionary, New York, Oxford University Press, 1998. (ISBN: 0-19-860172-7)

Zilberman, Shimon. English-Hebrew/Hebrew-English Compact Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc. (ISBN: 0-7818-0875-8)

Hindi: Tiwari, R.C., R.S. Sharma, K. Vikal. Hindi-English/English-Hindi Dictionary, 3rd ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0084-6)

Hungarian: Magay, Tamás. English-Hungarian Standard Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1995. (ISBN: 0-7818-0391-8)

Takáes, Géza. Hungarian-English/English-Hungarian Dictionary, 5th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0317-9)

Italian: Ceccato, Afra. Dizionario ortografico ortofonico della lingua italiana (I piccoli inseparabili muzzio 1), Padova, Franco Muzzio, 1985.

Coloroni, Evelina. Singer’s Italian – A Manual of Diction and Phonetics, Belmont, CA, Wadsworth, 1996. (ISBN: 0-0287-0620-X)

Davis, Cliff. Griffin’s Easy to Pronounce Italian: Phrase Book and Dictionary, Irvine, CA, Griffin Publishing Group, 1995. (ISBN: 1-8821-8034-8)

Federici, Carla, Carla Larese Riga. Ciao! Text/Audio CD pkg., 5th ed., Boston, Heinle, 2003. (ISBN: 0-8384-5175-6)

Love, Catharine E. Webster’s New World Italian Dictionary, New York, Wiley Publishing, Inc., 1992. (ISBN: 0-1395-3639-6)

Japanese: Davis, Cliff. Easy to Pronounce Japanese, Griffin Publishing Group, Irvine, CA, 1996. (ISBN: 1-8821-8030-5)

Goris, Richard C., Yakimi Okubo. Harper Collins Shubun Pocket English-Japanese Dictionary, Glasgow, Harper Collins Publishers, 2003. (ISBN: 0-00-433405-1)

Seward, Jack. A Guide to Spoken and written Japanese, NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, Inc., 1992. (ISBN: 0-8442-8495-5)

Tokyodo Shuppan Henshubu. Ateji no jiten: Nichijo kanji no kunyomi jiten – Ateji, ateji, ateji . Tokyo, Tokyodo Shuppan, Heisei 3, 1991.

Korean: Jones, B.J., Gene S. Rhie. Korean and English Dictionary, Chicago Ill., NTC Publishing Group, 1995. (ISBN: 08442-8361-4)

Si-Sa-Yong-O-Sa. English-Korean/Korean-English Dictionary, 5th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-87052-092-X)

Sohn, Ho-Min. The Korean Language, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001. (ISBN: 0-5213-6943-6)

Latin: Simpson, D.P. Casswell’s Latin-English/English-Latin Dictionary, New York, Simon & Schuster Macmillan Co., 1977. (ISBN: 0-02-522570-7)

Lithuanian: Dambriunas, Leonardas, A. Klimas, W. R. Schmalstieg. Beginner’s Lithuanian, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1999. (ISBN: 0-7818-0678-X)

Norwegian: Berulfsen, Bjarne. Norsk uttaleordbok: Utgitt av bymålslaget, Oslo, H. Ashehoug, 1969.

Bratveit, Kari. English-Norwegian/Norwegian-English Dictionary, New York, Routledge, 2002. (ISBN: 0-415-10801-2)

Gabrielsen, Egill Daae. English-Norwegian/Norwegian-English Concise Dictionary, 3rd ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0199-0)

Holland, J. Gill. Norwegian-English/English Norwegian Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7818-0199-0)

Janus, Louis. Norwegian, Chicago, Ill., NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, 1999. (ISBN: 0-8442-8596-X)

Persian: Haim, S. English-Persian Dictionary, 4th ed. New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0056-0)

Polish: Grzebieniowski, Tadeusz, edited by A. Kazuowski. English-Polish/Polish-English Dictionary, New York, Langenscheidt, 2001. (ISBN: 1-5857-3052-1)

Jáslan, Janina, Jan Stanislawski. Wiedza Powszechna Compact Polish and English Dictionary, Chicago, Ill., NTC Publishing Group Inc., 1998. (ISBN: 0-8442-8367-3)

Pogonowski, Iwo Cyprian. Polish English/English Polish Dictionary, 4th ed., NY, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1993. (ISBN: 0-7818-0133-8)

Polanski, Edward, ed. Nowy slownik ortograficzny PWN: wraz z zasadami pisowni I interpunkci, Warszawa, Pa’nstwowe wydawnictwo naukowe PWN, 1996.

Portuguese: Coelho, Claudina Marques, English-Portuguese/Portuguese-English Dictionary, New York, Langenscheidt Publishers, Inc., 1989. (ISBN: 0-8872-9164-3)

Romanian: Miroiu, Mihai. Romanian-English/English-Romanian, 6th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0444-2)

Tataru, [Livia] Ana. Dictionar de pronuntare a limbii române, Heidelberg, Esprint (2 vols.), 1984.

Russian: Benukh, Oleg, Ksana Benukh. Russian-English/English-Russian Dictionary with Complete Phonetics, 6th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7818-0506-6)

Piatak, Jean, Regina Avrashov. Russian Songs and Arias, Dallas, Pst… Inc., 1991. (ISBN: 1-8777-6152-4)

Skvortsov, Lev Ivanovic. Kultura russkoi rechi: Slovar-spravocnik, Moskva, Izd-va “Znanie”, 1995.

Serbo-Croatian: Awde, Nicolas. Serbo-Croatian-English Dictionary, 8th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7818-0445-0)

Slovak: Král, Ábel. Pravidlá slovenskej výslovnosti, Bratislava, Slovenské pedagogické nakladatel’stvo, 1979.

Trnka, Nina. Slovak-English/English-Slovak Dictionary, 6th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2001. (ISBN: 0-8705-2115-2)

Spanish: Castel, Nico. A Singer’s Manual of Spanish Lyric Diction, New York, Excalibur Publishing, 1994.

How to Pronounce Spanish Correctly, Chicago, Ill., NTC Publishing Group, 1994. (ISBN: 0-8442-7408-9)

Jarman, Beatriz Galimberti ed. The Oxford Spanish Dictionary, Spanish-English/English-Spanish (plus Pronunciation CD-ROM), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003. (ISBN: 0-1986-0475-0)

Levy-Konesky, Nancy, Karen Daggett. Así es, (with Audio CD), 4th ed., Boston, Thomson/Heinle, 2004. (ISBN: 0-8384-5815-7)

Swedish: Petti, Vincent, Kristin Petti, English-Swedish/Swedish-English Standard Dictionary, 5th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0379-9)

Sahlgren Jöran, and Gösta Bergman. Svenska ortnamm med uttalsuppgifter (Skrifter utgivina av nämnden för svensk språkvård 14), Stockholm, Laromedelsförlaget, 1960.

Viberg, Åke, Kerstin Ballardini, Sune Stjärnlöf. Swedish, Chicago, Ill., NTC Contemporary Publishing Group, 1991. (ISBN: 0-8442-8539-0)

Tagalog: Aspillera, Paraluman S. Basic Tagalog for Foreigners and Non-Tagalog’s, Boston, Charles E. Tuttle Publishing. Co., Inc., 1993. (ISBN: 0-8048-1910-6)

Barrager, Raymond, Jesusa Salvador. Pilipino-English/English Pilipino Dictionary (Tagalog), 4th ed., Hippocrene Books Inc., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7818-0451-5)

Galvez Rubino, Carl R. Tagalog-English/English-Tagalog, Pilipino Dictionary,

New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0960-6)

Panganiban, Jose V. Concise English Tagalog Dictionary, 8th ed., Boston, Charles E.Tuttle Publishing Co. Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-8048-1962-9)

Thai: Allison, Gordon H. Easy Thai, Boston, Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Co., Inc., 1969. (ISBN: 0-8048-0159-2)

Thai Dictionary Phrasebook, New York, Penguin Books, 1999. (ISBN: 1-85828-608-5)

Turkish: Akdikem, Resuhi. English-Turkish/Turkish-English Dictionary, Berlin, Langenscheidt KG, 1992.

Gates, Charles. Turkish-English/English-Turkish Dictionary, New York, Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0904-5)

Langenscheidt Universal Turkish Dictionary: English-Turkish/Turkish-English, Berlin, Langenscheidt KG, 1994. (ISBN: 3-4689-7167-2)

Ukrainian: Benyukh, Olesj P., Raisa I. Galushko. Ukrainian Phrasebook and Dictionary, 4th ed., Hippocrene Books Inc., 2002. (ISBN: 0-7818-0188-5)

Pohribnyi, Mykola Ivanovych. Orfoepichnyi slovnik, Kiev, Radianska Shkola, 1984.

Vietnamese: Le-Ba-Khahn, Le-Ba-Kong. Vietnamese-English/English-Vietnamese Dictionary, 10th ed., New York, Hippocrene Books Inc. (ISBN: 0-8705-2924-2)

Van Phan, Giuong, Benjamin Wilkinson. Pocket Vietnamese Dictionary (with pronunciations), Singapore, Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd., 2003. (ISBN: 0-7946-0044-1)

(ISBN numbers have been provided where available.)

More Ideas

A comprehensive treatment of the International Phonetic Alphabet used in 29 languages is provided by:

International Phonetic Association. Handbook of the International Phonetic Alphabet: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999. (ISBN: 0-5216-3751-1)

Russian has seven vowels and one semi-vowel. The eminent British music critic Martin Cooper says it has “the consonantal strength of German with the smooth, vocalic liquidity of Italian and it is very much easier than French for the English speaker.” (Falkner) The Cyrillic alphabet, used in the Eastern Orthodox countries and based on the ancient Greek alphabet, was significantly changed in 1918 after the Russian Revolution. Superfluous letters were thrown out. So you need to know if your song is in the Old or New Alphabet, as they are different. Generally, phonetic readings will be easier to sing than using either alphabet.

Swedish is the easiest Scandinavian language in which to sing because of the clear-cut consonants and bright vowels placed “high in the mask.” It is also the closest Scandinavian language to other Western European speech. Danish is the hardest. Finnish, on the other hand, sounds like Spanish but is actually related to Hungarian. It is not a Scandinavian language at all. It is, however, very culturally influenced by its neighbors. (Hungary is not a neighbor.) It also writes out well phonetically.

Hungarian consonants are sung in the same manner as Italian. They are clear and distinct, unaspirated, and double consonants get double value. You would find it helpful to study Hungarian consonants and their English equivalents. The vowels should be open and clear. They are reminiscent of German vowels. They are pure. Avoid making them into diphthongs. The language, like all others, has its own stresses and subtle variations which give it its rhythm. (Hardy)

You may want to consider hiring a diction coach. The best would be a native speaker. This is true in all languages but especially in Scandinavian ones: Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Danish – in that order, easiest first. Idiomatic pronunciation in all languages is difficult. Each one would require a separate teacher.

Eastern European songs and arias should be coached with a native speaking tutor. A tutor helps to pick up the diction and also the sounds and sense of the languages. Hungarian especially requires tutoring by a native speaker.

The “Exercise and Foreign Diction” CD that came with your text, Simply Singing, has 11 songs in seven different foreign languages on it. Listen carefully to the sounds. Match them as closely as you can to the examples paying attention to the sensations in your articulators. Your objective is to sound like a native speaker. When a foreign audience member attempts to engage you in conversation in their language after your performance, you have just been paid the ultimate compliment. Have a ready answer. Appendix B of the text has the entire International Phonetic Alphabet applicable to the five major West European languages.

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