Wednesday 23 April 2008

Pronunciation goes 2.0

I've been looking this week at Forvo, which is a kind of web 2.0 pronunciation site. The site allows users to request, and add audio clips of the pronunciation of different words from a huge range of languages, so if you want to know how a word is pronounced you can either do a quick easy search for the word and then listen to it, or if the word isn't already within the database, you can add it and request a pronunciation.

The site also categorises words into lexical areas such as brands, acronyms, sports etc which is very handy

You can also be helpful and add the pronunciation to words which have been requested in your language.

The site offer free registration, but you can find words, request words and pronounce words without registering. The benefit of registration is that you'll be notified when someone pronounces your word for you.

What I like about it
  • It's a great idea and it's free
  • Very easy to use interface
  • Lots of different languages
  • Sound clips load quickly and a reasonably good quality
  • Registration isn't required
  • Potentially a huge and growing resource

What I'm not so sure about
  • Like most things on the web, especially Web 2.0, you can't be sure of the quality or authenticity of what you are getting, so if you are using this with students check out the words they are after and make sure the quality of the pronunciation is good (My litmus test was 'aluminium' and it feel somewhere between the UK and US versions)
  • Watch out for students who want to pronounce the (four letter) words that they shouldn't be using (though probably better for them to pronounce them well than badly)
  • It would be really nice to have regional variations of the pronunciation, but I guess that's broadening out the amount of work a bit far.

How to use this with students
  • This is a nice self access resource for students to check their pronunciation
  • You could give students a list of words and get them to find out how they are pronounced
  • Get students to add some words that they want to be able to pronounce
  • Use the site to dictate words while students listen, then get them to go to the site and check that they have got the right words
This is a really nice application of the Web 2.0 concept to pronunciation and it will be really interesting to see how this site grows and develops.

Hope you enjoy it and can get your students involved.




Anonymous said...

Wow! it´s amazing how people use forvo! We love it. Hope to hear you soon. :)

BTW, maybe you can vote for us here:

Lesley said...

I discovered Forvo last week too. I wasn't sure about how to pronounce the German word unheimlich so added a request for it. The very next morning someone had recorded it.
This inspired me to record some of the pending words in English, especially any that called for a Scottish accent eg. Edinburgh!

Anonymous said...

Sounds good, I'll recommend it to my students.

Stephan Hughes said...

Forvo sounds at first a real find and a useful tool with our students.

My only fear is how to discern standard and non-standard pronunciation. Very soon, with sites like these, there may be no difference between the two and many non-native renditions might become the norm.

What do you think?

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Dablog / Stephan

The clever thing about Forvo is that if you dig down to the information about each pronunciation you can find detail like Google map showing the location of the speaker, gender, age, ethnic background etc, so you can see and decide what pronunciation example you want to select.

There is also a system of rating, so users can rate pronunciations that they feel are good otr not so good.

I'm anyway tempted to think that we are moving towards non native pronunciations becoming the norm anyway (see David Graddol's work on the future of English) and don't really see it as such a bad thing.



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