The VOA Pronunciation Guide was designed for its ease of use. It does not use diacritical marks or symbols. While it is far simpler to use than the International Phonetic Alphabet system, it is not as sophisticated in the number and types of sounds it describes. Since there are fewer rules to follow, a large dose of common sense is necessary when using this site.
…But there are a few rules …
The syllable(s) to be stressed is in capital letters and bold type.
The letter "h" is used after vowels to indicate the short vowel sound.
ah …as in "arm"
eh …as in "get"
ih …as in "it"
uh …as in "up"
The short "o" sound does not follow this rule. Its sound is often spelled out, such as the "muh" sound in "mother."
Long vowel sounds may be indicated by two or more of the vowel letters. "Decent," for example, would be " DEE-seh -nt. "
The double "o", however, takes the sound of "tooth."
Diphthongs are often indicated by the addition of a "y" following the vowel.
Long "o" sounds are usually incorporated within a short, easily recognized word. Since it often includes an innate diphthong, the long "o" in Mohammed, for example, would be shown as …mow-HAH-mehd; "mow" as in "mow the lawn."
"K" is often substituted for "C" when the hard sound is needed.
"ss" or "sss" means to use a hissing sound, rather than the "z" sound many Americans use on the end of words.
Where there is still the possibility of confusion, a brief note will follow the pronunciation.
Since we are essentially imitating sounds, the Pronunciation Guide puts little emphasis on separating words at their most logical syllabic breaks. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you use both the printed phonetic and the audio file.