Natural Phonetics

Mary reading her PhraseCard Here is Mary, an American tourist, lying on the beach at Monaco looking over her French PhraseCard™  Sure, she has a French phrasebook and dictionary in the straw bag. (You never know when you might have to say useful phrases like "My aunt broke her left arm falling off a horse after she divorced my uncle.")
Even Mary, who happens to have an IQ of 130, was glad she didn't have to work too much at learning a little French. After all, this was supposed to be a vacation after giving that paper on Quantum Mechanics at the International Physics Conference.  Ah, sometimes life has pleasant little surprises in store.  She didn't have to study a lot of phonetic pronunciation rules. She just had to read some English words that came out sounding like French. What magic! 

Why is learning a few words and phrases of another language so painful?  It should be, well, almost fun!  So what is unique about Natural Phonetics™? Let's find out!

The little PhraseCard™ was a
pleasant surprise.

Here are some phonetic examples that you might find in phrasebooks to show an English-speaking person how to say "Please" (S'il vous plaît ) in French.
Somewhere in there is our Natural Phonetics™

                   1 Seel voo plei
                   2 sil voo pleh
                   3 seel voo play
                   4 seel-voo-pleh

                   5 SEEL-VOO-PLAY        [Rhymes with. TOO ]

Angel Fish Looking at Phonetics

Which ones look pretty easy to pronounce? We'd pick 3 and 5.   But 5 leaves no doubt as to how "VOO" should sound as they say it rhymes with "TOO". (Yes, that's our Natural Phonetics™.) Sometimes people who see phonetics will forget the rules, like "oo" should sound like the "oo" in "TOO" and not like "OH". (I'm not sure Martha. Maybe they have two "o's" because they want us to stretch out the sound like "Ohhhhhh" ) Did you forget the rule? How many pronunciation rules do you remember from your school days? 

Our concept is to make sure you are understood the first time you look at a phonetic and say it without having to study the phonetic and learn phonetic pronunciation rules. If we can't express the sound exactly using English words or made up words that are easy-to-pronounce, we will at least make you understood.  Phonetics like the example "pleh" above are hard for most Americans to pronounce because we do not have any common English words that  have the "leh" letter combination.  Sure, you can explain, from a linguist's point of view, how it should be pronounced and show examples, but this doesn't always work.

You will feel like soaring after learning a few phrases The bottom line is not to make sweat break out on your forehead!  You really do want to be understood the very first time. Maybe not perfectly, but nevertheless understood. Most people can improve their pronunciation when they hear it said by a native speaker.   There is nothing to fear here except fear itself!  People you are speaking to will never laugh at you for trying, and 999 out of 1,000 native speakers will be glad to help you.

Phonetics should reduce doubt!  Reduce anxiety!  Reduce fear!  If it is a made up word that might be mispronounced, give them some hints. Like "Rhymes with" or "As in" or "say bet without the 't'.   And if a foreign sound happens to sound like a single letter of the English alphabet (as an American would pronounce it) by all means use a single letter like "A' or "E". But remind them that "A" is said "A" and not "ah" and don't use a single letter if there is a common English word. Use "GEE" and not "G" or "BEE" and not "B".  OK, even we have a special symbol -- the dot · that we use to show when two phonetic syllables (NEW ·WE) need to be said very fast so it sounds like one syllable.  Sometimes that's the best way to capture the sound!

Finally, there are dialects. You may not be understood everywhere, in every city and village. OK, show them the phrase you are trying to say, then write down the way it sounds using ordinary English words. The next time you read your phonetics, you will be understood.  Life is simple. Learning languages can be simple, too.  Especially if you are a traveler learning just a few words and phrases. Butterflies don't have to worry about dialects!

What makes a great PhraseCard™? Sprinkle in some phrases that will come in handy like "Can I take pictures here?" and "How much?", list the words and phrases in alpha-logical* order, include the written text of the foreign language as a fallback position.  Then put everything on a pocket-sized card that fits easily into a shirt pocket or wallet. Wow! No batteries, no hassle, no learning curve. Just a wonderful little PhraseCard™. I knew I could. I knew I could. I knew I could.

*alpha-logical order is a term we invented. Things are listed in alphabetical order except where it is more logical to group them in another order. Like - "Good morning, good afternoon, good evening" instead of "Good afternoon, good evening, good morning."

I'm waiting for your feedback. No publisher of phonetics is perfect. And we're not perfect either. Some of our phonetics won't work well and should be changed. We have periodic reviews and an on-going test program to improve our phonetics. But ultimately it comes down to what works for average travelers. Tell us the ones that need to be improved. Or maybe we need to add another phrase we overlooked. There's a feedback button on every page of this website. We listen to users because we want these to be the best phonetics and selection of basic words and phrases in the world! We can only do it with your help!
And what ever happened to Mary? She got her tan and a man! We can't say learning a few French phrases was what attracted Pierre to her. Maybe it was the way she smiled when she said "good-day" in French. And he said "Let me teach you some more French phrases." (He spoke English with a wonderful French accent!) She replied, "MAIR-SEE -BOH-COO". [Rhymes with AIR and TOO ]. And so they went out to his small yacht and she had her first French language lesson that very afternoon.
Later, after dinner, the moon came up and there was a gentle breeze and she learned many other wonderful French words before returning to her hotel at 2200 European Time (10 PM for Americans).  Here is a video of them skiing at St. Moritz on their honeymoon taken by Claude, the best man.  We can imagine other stories. If you have a true story involving languages, please send it to us by selecting Story on the Feedback Form.
Watch out for the tree!
It's not clear which
is Mary and which is
Pierre as they decided
it would be fun to
wear matching outfits!