You love the International Phonetic Alphabet, do you? I mean, everybody loves the International Phonetic Alphabet. You know, these funny weird letters that tell you that the pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull is [ˈɛɪjaˌfjatl̥aˌjœkʏtl̥].
But seriously, if you didn’t study Linguistics or didn’t at least study in a school in Russia, where English pronunciation is taught using the IPA, then you probably hate the International Phonetic Alphabet. In fact, chances are that you hate the International Phonetic Alphabet even more if you did. It’s weird, it’s hard to read unless you practiced for many months, it’s impossible to type and common computer fonts don’t support it well.
But people in the world of Free Software don’t like to reinvent the wheel. That’s why the developers of Mozilla Firefox, for example, strive to support defined standards, unlike the developers of Microsoft Internet Explorer who (officially) try to play nicely with existing websites and “not to break the web”. And that’s why Wikipedia chose to write all pronunciations in the International Phonetic Alphabet – because it’s an accepted standard, which is in principle common to all languages. Prof. Asher Laufer of the Hebrew University, a member of the International Phonetic Association, praises Wikipedia for deciding to stick to the IPA in all articles in his textbook “Chapters in Phonetics and Phonetic Transcription”.
But there’s still the problem with the fonts. There are Free fonts that support the IPA well, most notably Charis SIL, but unfortunately it is not included with Windows, even though it is Free and beautiful. So if you use Windows to browse Wikipedia, you may see IPA pronunciations not as they should look. The fonts support in Windows XP is quite broken; it’s better in Vista and Windows 7, but still imperfect. So you should download and install Charis SIL. Until today, however, even if you would install it, correct display of IPA wouldn’t be guaranteed, because different browsers made weird and inconsistent decisions about the font selection.
So here’s the WIN: I opened a bug asking to make Wikipedia display IPA consistently in different browsers on Windows, and Derk-Jan Hartman, a.k.a TheDJ, very quickly fixed it! Thank you, Derk-Jan Hartman.