A phonetics translator is a device or tool for changing one set of written characters into another. Generally speaking, the phonetics translator works on the principle of creating accurate phonetic renderings in a certain language, or displaying “auditory phonetics” that help someone who is unfamiliar with the language to see how a word or phrase is pronounced. Different kinds of phonetics translator items produce various results for an intended audience.
The definition of phonetics is the study of speech sounds and their transcription into letters. One of the most common uses of phonetics translators is to show how speech sounds are transcribe in a specific language. Even when languages share the same alphabet, as in the case of the many languages that use the “Roman” alphabet, phonetic transcription can be dramatically different from one language to another.
An additional type of phonetics translator could be something that translates languages written in “non-Roman” characters or symbols into a “Roman” format that is getting increasingly popular as a linguistic standard for shared language venues on the Internet. A phonetics translator could, for example, take Arabic script, Asian language characters from Korean or Chinese, or other scripts and translate them into “phonetic” characters familiar to a Western audience.
In some cases, a translating device for phonetics will seek to change a variety of already written letters into other letters that clearly identify specific speech sounds. In this kind of phonetic transliteration the goal is to help speakers pronounce a written word when they are unfamiliar with its pronunciation, much as one might find in a standard dictionary. These sorts of translators are also popular for cross-cultural use.
Some phonetics translators have a much more basic use and function. For example, a variety of these tools available on the Internet actually take a spelled word and spell out its contributing letters one by one. This has the intent of confirming a spelling, but in fact, seems only marginally useful in translation of a word.
It’s important to note that in the use of phonetic symbols, which may be common in almost any type of phonetic translator, these symbols can change according to the provider. A lack of consistency in the phonetics used to describe speech sounds in languages can cause problems for a language learner. Thus, translators that use a standard transliteration format, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet, will be helpful in avoiding confusion.