The International Phonetic Alphabet is used to transliterate words into a group of sounds that can be pronounced without necessarily knowing the language. It is Latin-based, and European language friendly, but can be used for many languages outside of those parameters.
Learning IPA is an important skill for any serious singer. Here are some resources to get you started.
International Phonetic Alphabet – This is the wikipedia page, and it is pretty helpful.
IPASource.com is a site that sells accurate word-for-word translations of songs and arias, as well as IPA transcriptions. It is a pretty thorough collection of standard repertoire, so if you prefer not to do your own transliterations, this is a great place to start.
IPA Fonts – Many computers do not have the special characters needed for IPA installed on them. This link has a free font set for both PCs and Macs. I used the Mac version and it installed without a problem and worked beautifully.
IPA Palette – This software is specifically for Macs, and is designed to make the use of special characters easier. I have not tried it yet myself.
The Diction Domain – This is a fantastic site that is easy to navigate and contains links to many, many resources, including phonetic transcriptions, more Mp3 files, online dictionaries and more.
Coffin, Berton. Phonetic Readings of Songs and Arias. Authentic pronunciation of 413 Italian, German and French lyrics in International Phonetic Alphabet transcriptions.
Challis, N. The Singer’s Rachmaninoff. Collection of songs with International Phonetic Alphabet for Russian in the introductory pages.
Colorni, Evelina. Singers’ Italian: Manual of Diction and Phonetics.
Cox, Richard. Singer’s Manual of German and French Diction.
Hines, Robert S. Singer’s Manual of Latin: Diction and Phonetics.
Grubb, Thomas. Singing in French. Manual of dicton and catalogue of vocal repertoire. Help on how to phoneticize the text and apply diction techniques to recitative.
Kenyon, John S. and Thomas A. Knott. A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English. A guide to pronunciation using the International Phonetic Alphabet.
Marshall, Madeleine. The Singer’s Manual of English Diction.
Moriarty, John. Diction: Italian, Latin, French, German. Comprehensive guide to the diction of four languages with 81 practical exercises for vocalization. A comparative approach based on the International Phonetic Alphabet and especially designed for American singers.
Uris, Dorothy. To Sing in English. How to sing the sounds of English, its structure, sense and stress. Liberal use of musical examples and exercises for perfecting diction.
Wall, Joan. Diction for Singers. A concise reference for English, Italian, Latin, German, French and Spanish pronunciation.
Wall, Joan. IPA for Singers. A reference for learning how to use the International Phonetic Alphabet.