Question: What do you do when you come across words you can’t pronounce?

Posted February 6, 2013 by Carmel in Question / 10 Comments

Question hosted by Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks

For the most part I’ll just sound it out like my teachers taught me to do in grade school. Granted, the result isn’t always correct but if I took the time to figure out/look-up every single unfamiliar word it would take me FOREVER to finish one novel and that wouldn’t make me a very good book blogger now would it? Posting only 1-2 reviews a month as opposed to my current 8+ wouldn’t be an acceptable tradeoff in my opinion. Being bilingual can also sometimes work against me where word pronunciation is concerned because when I come across a combination of letters that I’m not familiar with in English I’ll usually revert to French out of instinct and I’ll end up inventing my own word in what I like to call Franglais (Frenglish?).

Having done the bulk of my schooling in French also doesn’t help because I never really took a REAL English class. My language entrance exam in college looked a little something like this:

The blind man can’t______.

  1. Hear
  2. Taste
  3. See
  4. Smell

What colour are oranges?

  1. Blue
  2. Green
  3. Purple
  4. Orange

If you think I’m exaggerating you’re mistaken; even though I took this test over a decade ago I’ll never forget how incredibly stupid the questions were. LOL

That being said, if the foreign word is the name of a character or a city I’ll make more of an effort to figure out the correct pronunciation. Either by referring to the author’s term guide if there is one or even asking them directly on Twitter. Audiobooks are a great resource as well. There’s nothing I hate more than talking about books with fellow readers and butchering a name to the extent that it becomes unrecognizable.

What do YOU do?

Carmel Signature

Owner, designer and main blogger behind Rabid Reads. Avid book reader, snowboard bunny, video gamer and Supernatural fan. I love all things paranormal, werewolves especially. Oh, and I’m Canadian, eh!

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10 responses to “Question: What do you do when you come across words you can’t pronounce?

  1. Character names is where I have troubles. If it’s a book I’m not really liking or one I know I’ll never reread, I’ll rename the characters to ‘Bob’ or something simple. If it’s a book I love, I’ll take the time to try and figure it out. Odds are I still get it wrong 🙂

    Paranormal Haven

  2. The dictionary (or app on my iPhone) is helpful as each entry should include a phonetic spelling. Of course, you have to learn to read the phonetic alphabet to be 100% sure. Sometimes I google “pronounce” with the word I’m unfamiliar with and that yields good reasults.

    As for names, I learned with the name “Aisling” to never trust to sound it out. is a great resource for name pronunciations.

  3. Meh, in my head I turn that word to something like asjfqeyqlwukfhbiiiiw, not kidding. I don’t even try to sound it out, if I know what it means there’s no reason to get the pronunciation right in my head. With names I try to sound it out, if that doesn’t work I shorten it, give him/her a name that’s similar to the original, or use the first letter of the name.

  4. If it’s a real word, I use the feature on my kindle that highlights and brings up the dictionary for that word. If it is a place or a name that the author created, I have had much more trouble. I sometimes will resort to calling someone Mr. ‘M’ if I cannot pronounce the whole thing just to read quickly without stumbling over the world. Jaclyn @ JC’s Book Haven

  5. Depends on if I know the meaning of word. If I know the meaning I mentally change the word to a word I know how to say.

    If I don’t I usually can figure it out from context, but if it’s not important and I just skip it.

  6. Well, my reader has a dictionary incorporated, complete with those pronunciation symbols. That helps (sometimes it confuses me even more though LOL) If I’m reading a paperback, I just read it my own way. As long as I understand the meaning of it, it’s all ok because I’ll just use a synonym. If I don’t know what the word means then I’ll search for it.

    As for names…I don’t usually remember all names. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t change the way I read the book. Like you said, it would take forever to finish a book if I started searching each and every word I don’t know how it sounds…