Date of Graduation


Document Type

Problem/Project Report

Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

Hope Koehler

Committee Co-Chair

William Koehler

Committee Member

William Koehler

Committee Member

Evan MacCarthy

Committee Member

Lynn Hileman

Committee Member

Jack Hammersmith


The classical style of singing is taught at music institutions around the world as a mainstream artform. The main languages of classical vocal repertoires are Italian, German, French and English, which means most classical singers need to sing in non-native languages. When people learn a new sound from a foreign language, they often search for reference points within their native language(s), which usually is the reason behind singers performing with incorrect accents or diction.

This research focuses on beginning singers whose native language is either Mandarin Chinese or American English. This research introduces the romanization system and basic pronunciation rule of Mandarin Chinese, and explains the reasons for common diction issues exemplified by Mandarin Chinese singers, singing in any of the four Western languages. On the other hand, American English, as one of the four Western singing languages, is widely used in twentieth- and twenty-first-century vocal repertoires. North American English accents contain sounds that make non-native singing difficult. Meanwhile, certain allophones confuse beginning singers, whose primary language is American English, when they sing in the other three Western languages. A brief recapitulation of American English pronunciation is presented in this research, through which discussions are focused on problematic vowels and consonants, and all nonexistent vowels and consonants, that beginning American singers have to deal with when they sing in the other three Western languages.

This research explores how Mandarin Chinese and American English beginning singers sing in their own languages in order to investigate the impact of native language pronunciation on foreign-language singing, and to identify the common vocal faults and issues of incorrect diction that frequently coincide with cross linguistic singing.