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Jul 29, 2014 12:11 PM

I hate it when I don't know how to pronounce a food's name in a restaurant

So I'm trying to get crowdfunding for an app that'll help with that. Maybe nobody else wants something like this, we'll see, but I had to try it.

Feedback is appreciated, and if you like it, please consider contributing or sharing.

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  1. If you're planning on having people pronounce "gnocchi" as "nyawk-kee" then I see the app opening up a new set of problems.

    12 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      I'm planning on researching everything thoroughly for the finished version. These are preliminary screen designs.

      1. re: ferret

        And just out of curiosity, how would you pronounce "gnocchi"?

            1. re: kagemusha49

              If nyockey is meant to rhyme with hockey, then nyawk-kee is actually somewhat closer to the Italian, as long as nyawk doesn't rhyme with Noo Yawk. The vowel is more like the a in law.

                1. re: ferret

                  I guess with this kind of thing, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. But whatever the case, it'll give you a general idea. And if you're still totally clueless, there's the audio for you.

                  1. re: ferret

                    That looks closer to me. I took one Italian class a couple of years ago, and the Italian "o" seems to be pronounced somewhere in between a short "o" and a long "o" - an uncomfortable place for English-speakers. Doing the long "o" might work best when in doubt.

              1. re: vilaghalo

                I would go for the (improbable) nywki. Looks strange, but by doing it that way I'm trying to force English speakers to avoid the excessively long o and excessively long, heavy "key". It's not perfect, but possibly closer. Phonetics is hard, though; English is not good with romance-language words that use the light vowel sounds; english tends to be either short and flat (as in the o in "hot") or long and heavy (as in the o in "vote"). Sandylc is right that it's really in the middle.

                1. re: AlexRast

                  I think the correct version is to take a good slug of wine, raise your fist, raise your voice, and say nyochee-hey! here's a few pronunciations in 7 seconds:

                  I once ordered something "oh-ox-okken" in a mex restaurant, and was corrected and slightly embarrassed. Ten years later, I went to Oaxaca City.

                  vilaghalo - this could be applied when the entire description is displayed in the foreign language in an American Restaurant. Like "gnocchi con funghi e salsiccia." Some people simply avoid what they cannot ascertain and just order something familiar (Pad Thai syndrome). Some people will not be afraid to ask or will point (like cresyd). Some people will want to know, but are afraid to ask - I guess those are your target.

                  One thing I've noticed, and this is an aside, that servers in Viet restaurants seem very happy when you try to say it in their language. I don't often experience that. Maybe it is Buddhism.

                  1. re: rudeboy

                    I hope I can convert the "Pad Thai syndrome" people with the app.

                    And yeah, sometimes I just don't order something that I can't confidently pronounce. And thinking about it, it's not that I'm afraid. Just not confident enough, and that bothers me. Of course if there's something I really want to try I will just point, but why not avoid that.

              2. Honestly - I think that such an app would lead to more confusion. If I'm trying to pronounce a word that's new to me, it takes way more than just seeing a phonetic pronunciation. I need to practice saying it, hear others say it, etc.

                When I've had meetings with individuals with Irish names that I'm not sure how to pronounce based on spellings, I will check online for a phonetic guide but I never have faith that I've gotten it right. It's more a way to mumble the name quickly until I've heard it said.

                8 Replies
                1. re: cresyd

                  Please take another look at the app description. You'll see that the main feature is not the phonetic transcription, but the audio file that plays when you tap a button.

                  1. re: vilaghalo

                    Tap on the appropriate button on a food item's info page - the app will then ask you to move your phone to your ear and once it senses that you did, it'll discreetly play an audio recording of the correct pronunciation.

                    The phonetic thing is just a quick and easy solution when you have very little time to check out the audio. It's better than saying "nawchee" or something, no?

                    1. re: vilaghalo

                      Yeah...I guess my main point was that the times I'm truly concerned about not being able to pronounce something correctly is not in a restaurant situation where I'd feel necessary to play an audio file.

                      Personally, I am not bothered by pointing on a menu to what I'd like if I'm uncertain about pronouncing a word. Maybe it's due to living abroad where servers couldn't always understand my accent - but that level of concern to want to practice saying a word with an audio file in a restaurant is not an urge I would have.

                      1. re: cresyd

                        I totally understand your point. To each his own. But as a person who, at times, didn't order something because of uncertainty regarding pronunciation, I sure would love something like this. This issue always kept popping up, and after a few of my friends told me that sometimes they feel the same, I figured I can at least try to make this thing a reality.

                        1. re: vilaghalo

                          Aside from my disinterest - I think another thing to take into serious consideration is how much you want "accent" to play a role. For a food item like gyro - there are folks who pronounce it like 'euro' and those who pronounce 'yeero'. While it's very rare for people to agree on saying 'ji-ro', the euro/yeero debate (to me) is largely about how much of a Greek accent a speaker chooses. Another case is pho - while I think it's moderately well understood to be pronounced 'fuh', I know a lot of people who know that but still refer to it as 'foh'.

                          Basically, a high percentage of uncertain food words are due to be foreign items. So how 'accented' you want to say something may vary. Think of words like mozzarella and risotto - there's an American accent way of saying those words and then people like Giada that drop into an Italian accent when they say the word. In the US, neither is objectively 'wrong' - but it is a choice of whether you want to include all native accents on how to pronounce words or American accented versions.

                          1. re: cresyd

                            Thanks, these are very good points. With these kind of problematic pronunciations, I'm torn between using the original, "native" pronunciation or using the most popular (decided upon after serious research) pronunciation for the given market - for the first version of the app, the American market.

                            1. re: vilaghalo

                              One could just hand the server the phone and test his or her understanding of the proper pronunciation. J/K, though I would agree that the first version would be for the American Market. If you are in the ballpark with a single pronunciation, that would be fine (not like a debate will occur at the table about the proper pronunciation of gnocchi). I can see needing to build a fairly complicated database to account for regional differences, with the user having to select.

                              1. re: rudeboy

                                If the app ever gets made, and enough people will use it, I'm totally planning on adding different database options (also for the phonetic transcriptions), and a more informative (but unobtrusive) page for the food items. But for version 1, I'm keeping it simple.

                  2. It is no sin or shame to just ask your server. Jeez.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: sparrowgrass

                      You're absolutely right. But If I can avoid that somehow, it's even better.

                      1. re: vilaghalo

                        Even if you can pronounce a word, will you always know what it means?

                        If one would use his/her phone to try your app, simply doing an internet search for that word would bring up phonetic pronunciations and definitions.

                        I'm not ashamed though, so there's no problem in asking a server on this end.

                        1. re: BuildingMyBento

                          "If one would use his/her phone to try your app, simply doing an internet search for that word would bring up phonetic pronunciations and definitions."

                          I've answered this before, so I'm just going to qoute myself.

                          "When designing the app, I wanted to create an experience that's tailor-made for the restaurant. The dark design was made with a dimly-lit setting in mind, so it's easy on your eyes. Offline audio and phonetic transcription is for when you're vacationing in a place with unstable or nonexistent internet connection. Playing audio files discreetly via the call speaker, so you don't accidentally play it too loud. A gallery with high-quality images for times when you're not sure what that exotic-sounding dish is. I believe these are all great features that'll make your experience go smoother than it would with a general purpose app with too much unnecessary information or doing a search on Google which will sometimes give you unreadable phonetic transcription, a Flash audio player that won't work on your phone, and so on."

                          I guess this app idea is just one of those things that either makes you go "why would I need this" or "oh yeah, this happens to me all the time, I feel this is a minor annoyance, and if this app can provide a solution for that, that's great".

                      2. re: sparrowgrass

                        Personally, I just go this route. I have no shame in asking (what is the big deal). I often dine with friends as well, and will just ask them. I don't like pulling out my phone during a meal, period (unless an emergency of course).

                        1. re: sparrowgrass

                          Ahh, the old "horse pill" of pride . . . .

                          1. re: MGZ

                            Sorry I don't understand that analogy. Pride in what? Not being afraid to ask the server how to say something or asking my friends how something should be said??

                              1. re: linguafood

                                Indeed - As well as anyone who is afraid to ask or be wrong.

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  Oh goodness, thanks for clarifying :) I was very confused for a minute. Silly me, I am sorry!

                        2. I don't understand why you couldn't just Google the information instead of using an app. Google is free. Or use a free online dictionary - many of those have audio available for pronunciation.

                          Also you may try posting this under "Chowhounds Wanted" if you're truly looking for feedback.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                            You could use Google, but it would take a helluva lot more time. What if it's too slow, or it directs you to a page that has incorrect information. With a dedicated app, you know the info is good.

                            Also, what if you don't have internet? The app can work offline.

                            1. re: vilaghalo

                              I find opening safari and typing a word into the search bar tends to be quicker than opening an app. I understand you're into this idea, but I just don't see it being a thing I would use. Best of luck though - my husband wrote his own app and it's a lot of work, then a lot of work to update and maintain it, but we probably only cleared around $19 off of it over three years.

                              1. re: NonnieMuss

                                That's personal preference, I guess. I tend to avoid using safari if I can. And it's useless when, for example, you're vacationing in a small Italian village, and there's no internet connection at all.

                                Yeah, I understand that it's hard work, I make a living in the industry as a designer. But once the major features are done, it's no biggie to update the app with new content once in a while.

                                The money thing is not really an issue, I don't plan to become rich off this app. :) It's just something that I would really like to use, and also a good addition to my portfolio. So basically it'll have networking and self-marketing value.

                          2. I'd rather have it tell me what the dish is. Can you include a brief description?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: junescook

                              That's actually a feature planned for a later version - if the app ever becomes a reality, of course. I want to have the option to "flip" the info page to reveal more information about the given food item. But done in a way that the focus of the app will still be food name pronunciation.

                              1. re: vilaghalo

                                I had a book from the 60's that gave dating pointers and listed some unusual foods that a date may encounter. For "Chicken Parmesan" it described it (and I'm only paraphrasing a bit) as "chicken prepared in the style of Parma, Italy."