If you’ve ever looked in a dictionary, or at a Wikipedia entry, you’ll have seen IPA text, although you may not be familiar with what it is.
IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet. It’s a set of phonemes, which are all the different sounds the mouth makes in language. It’s needed because our 26 letters (in English) don’t cut the whole range of sounds that we make. For example, the a in cat is pronounced differently from the a in bake, which is pronounced different still from the a in far.
So when you see a word being defined (as in a dictionary or on Wikipedia), it will often have these characters (such as /kəˈlʌmbɪdiː/), demonstrating how the word should be pronounced, which is really useful, assuming you know how to decode it.
As someone who does not understand all of the characters in the IPA, it’s difficult to actually make use of it. That’s where this beautiful IPA to speech tool comes in handy.
IPA Reader allows you to paste IPA text into the website, and then play it back as speech. Better still, you can choose from a whole bunch of language engines, so you can hear it how a Brit would pronounce it, a Welshman, an American, or even a Turk.
It’s the only such tool that I’m aware of, but I go to it routinely to help me decode IPA text.