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)
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)
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.)
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.