Pronunciation Guides in College

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Aaron's Rod
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Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by Aaron's Rod »

So, it looks like nobody has complained about this long-form in about a year and a half, and not in a way that is specific to college.

When you are editing a tournament, for the love of God, please include pronunciation guides. I have noticed that their absence has been particularly egregious in housewrite-esque sets like Penn Bowl, WAO, and Crime (i.e., not ACF and not NAQT).

I can think of maybe one (non-MUTgers 2015) incident in my short and recent collegiate career when I've had a moderator who presented serious issues with an accent or lack of speed. This is good! In several parts of the country, competent collegiate moderators are readily available. This is important--your moderators are generally not stupid, so you don't have to add phonetic pronunciation for every single foreign word, but a few prudently chosen guides can make everything much smoother for them. As someone who moderates fairly frequently but isn't that good at quizbowl itself--and therefore doesn't know how to say some things--there are some reoccurring situations I keep encountering that really grind my gears.

Particular examples and suggestions:

Problem: One of the biggest issues that seems to often get overlooked are acronyms/initialisms in science, especially things that could plausibly be pronounced as words. To take a low-level example, it may not be obvious to people reading your science tossup that "GABA" should be pronounced as a word and not spelled out as "G-A-B-A." This is the most frequent example of things that can leave a moderator clueless, and IMO is so easily fixed.
Suggestion: Put quotation marks around words that should be read as words, and/or put dots or dashes in between letters of things that should be spelled out.

Problem: Really long science words that are just little phonetic science prefixes and suffixes daisy-chained together (e.g., "diastereoselective," and "divinylcyclopropane," which I just pulled from Wikipedia because I don't know science).
Suggestion: As I will tell anyone willing to listen to my kvetching, I am a huge fan of adding in little dots or dashes in between syllables or parts of words. Again, you can often assume your collegiate moderator knows how to pronounce things like "-diene," but when it shows up in an incredibly long word it can be difficult to parse.

Problem: It is difficult to inflect/pause correctly when reading off very long expressions of constants.
Suggestion: Bracket phrases that are supposed to be read together, or put them in quotes.
Additional suggestion: Whenever possible, write fewer questions that are basically "read this long expression"-bowl.

Problem: A word's proper pronunciation is completely counterintuitive to someone speaking standard American English (e.g., "Greenwich"). Or a word has literally no consonants.
Suggestion: Include a pronunciation guide.

Problem: Your Mesoamerican mythology tossup has a lot of words that you think people won't be say correctly, and it's very visually cluttered.
Suggestion: Make your pronunciation guide in a smaller type, in a different font, and/or in a lighter color. This also makes it much easier for people who already know the word in question to skip over the pronunciation guide.

Problem: You, the writer/editor, also don't know how to pronounce this word.
Suggestion: Look up a video of an expert on the topic (e.g., a professor's lecture on YouTube) and see how they pronounce it. Avoid those YouTube channels of 5,000 10-second videos of people pronouncing things, which are often wrong.

I have informally read a couple of rounds of ACF Regionals and was super pleased with how well this was done (this is unsurprising as I am a Noted Rob Carson Partisan). Editors, if you're looking for a guide on how to do the above things well, that is a great place to look.
Last edited by Aaron's Rod on Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

If you're bragging on Facebook that your tournament is finished 3 weeks ahead of time, adding this kind of stuff to the set might be a fantastic use of that remaining time.
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Everything in the Whole Wide World
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by Everything in the Whole Wide World »

This is a good post. This often applies to non-NAQT high school sets just as much as college, although the longer length of tossups makes this a bigger problem there as an inexperienced moderator might struggle through scientific monstrosity after monstrosity. A good rule of thumb for what needs a pronunciation guides is "would I have known how to sight-read this thing if I had never encountered quizbowl?" Try not to let familiarity to you color your perception of what people might need help on- the game always is adding moderators, most of whom are not used to sight reading and then annunciating the name of Aztec gods or complex organic molecules.
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

I really want to second the idea of breaking up syllables of long science words. One of the greatest moments of my quizbowl career was when I realized that long names for chemicals are generally just the same few suffixes, prefixes, and short names strung together in different patterns, and that my memorizing just a few small words I could pronounce most of the chemical names out there. Breaking them down into syllables would help people realize this because it's not immediately obvious to the non-scientist.

Also I'll single out Chinese and French as very common languages where the pronunciation of consonants is not obvious to somebody who has never studied the language. For example, don't assume people know that x's and q's in Chinese are actually very different from x's and q's in English, and don't assume that people know when (and when not) to pronounce the last few letters of a French word.
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eliza.grames
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by eliza.grames »

Tangentially related to pronunciation since it's about making things readable and writing them out:

1) People should stop using the abbreviated form of units in science questions because it trips people up (or at least it does for me). At CO last year I had to double check with teams that Hz meant hertz because I wasn't 100% sure and didn't want to accidentally say something completely false or nonsensical. Yes, I know that I should probably know what Hz means, but it's a bad assumption to make. I'm also fairly sure at some point during TTIAC I said "C-M" instead of centimeters.

2) Stop abbreviating things in general. Since I just read FRENCH Open yesterday, I'm going to pick on it and say that abbreviating "century" as "cent." was a bad idea because it means I called someone a 10-cent explorer and I kept thinking that sentences were ending in weird places.

3) Finally, and once again picking on FRENCH Open due to recency, do not include non-standard characters in tossups. Assuming your readers know how to pronounce Cyrillic characters is a mistake; I decided whatever letter was in a word would be pronounced as a "D" but that could be entirely wrong. Because quiz bowl is all auditory, it does not matter that it's correct to look at if it makes it so that readers pause or don't read something correctly.
Eliza Grames
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by CPiGuy »

eliza.grames wrote:3) Finally, and once again picking on FRENCH Open due to recency, do not include non-standard characters in tossups. Assuming your readers know how to pronounce Cyrillic characters is a mistake; I decided whatever letter was in a word would be pronounced as a "D" but that could be entirely wrong. Because quiz bowl is all auditory, it does not matter that it's correct to look at if it makes it so that readers pause or don't read something correctly.
I also read FRENCH Open, and I don't remember any non-standard characters -- where was this (obviously, if you can't answer this without spoiling question content, PM me)?
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by Auroni »

I'm pro detailed pronunciation guides, but people should realize that including them requires sets to either be done ahead of time or to have extra personnel on hand. Many sets do not have them because neither of those conditions are met, not because the editors want to derive sadistic pleasure from moderators having a tough time.
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Cody
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by Cody »

Auroni wrote:I'm pro detailed pronunciation guides, but people should realize that including them requires sets to either be done ahead of time or to have extra personnel on hand. Many sets do not have them because neither of those conditions are met, not because the editors want to derive sadistic pleasure from moderators having a tough time.
The level of pronunciation guide finetuning put in to ACF Regionals would be infeasible without extra personnel and extra time, it's true. However, writers and editors can very easily include a bare minimum of pronunciation guides during the writing process, which would be sufficient (not great, but acceptable) for most sets.
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I wrote lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by Cheynem »

I'll note that even acronyms in non science contexts should probably include a note if they should be spelled out or read out. Obviously we all know to say "FBI" as F-B-I and we can probably figure out that the organization "CORE" should be read as the word "core," but even as someone who wrote an UG thesis on the women's group NAWSA, I have no idea if you say "naw-suh" or say "N-A-W-S-A."
Mike Cheyne
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Re: Pronunciation Guides in College

Post by theMoMA »

Auroni wrote:I'm pro detailed pronunciation guides, but people should realize that including them requires sets to either be done ahead of time or to have extra personnel on hand. Many sets do not have them because neither of those conditions are met, not because the editors want to derive sadistic pleasure from moderators having a tough time.
This seems like an argument for finishing tournaments earlier. Not the easiest thing in the world, I grant you, but certainly doable with the right schedule and commitment from the principal editors.

For Regionals, I asked Rob if he'd work on packetizing and pronunciation guides in parallel to the final edits and comments on the packets (and offered money for the tasks). He was kind enough to accept. There's time to fit these tasks in if you keep a good schedule and are willing to bring someone else on board to do them. It's just a matter of making them a priority.
Andrew Hart
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