I took a French linguistics class a couple of years ago where we had to memorize* the International Phonetic Alphabet.
You might not think it is interesting, but I am completely fascinated. It's a great resource for linguists because it allows you to understand how a word should be pronounced in another language, even if you have no experience with the language outside of the IPA.
Singers also use it according to Wikipedia (which I had never thought of before, but it totally makes sense). (Hello, Josh Groban??)
We also used this a little bit in an English Language class, in which we also learned about different regional dialects and pronunciation patterns in the US.
This NPR clip highlights some examples of these differences, focusing on the Northern states in the US.
Maybe when I'm back from Paris I'll do a masters in linguistics and travel around the world gathering "research" on the way words are pronounced in different places.
*I don't remember it anymore. I wish I did.