Second Review: Forvo, the Pronunciation guide

Last week, while I was attending my Language Resources course, I was having a look at Delicious’s bookmarks when I found this pronunciation guide on the Internet. At the beginning, I did not pay much attention to it, but when our teacher mentioned it a couple of times, I said to myself: Let’s have a try!

Although it might sound rather surprising, Forvo has become the largest pronunciation guide in the world just in a year’s time. It was born as an idea in 2007, and is online since January 2008. Moreover, and I am sure many of you would be proud to know, the owner of this site is Forvo Media SL, from San Sebastián (The Basque Country).

Forvo.com is a website that allows access to pronunciation sound clips in many different languages in an attempt to make easier the learning of languages. Likewise, what it is amazing about this website is that all sound clips are created by its users, who also have the chance to vote on each clip, positively or negatively, so that it ensures that those sound clips which have a better quality have priority over lesser sound clips when being listened to.

Moreover, it must be pointed out that it offers a huge variety of languages, not only English. For instance, laguages such as Amharic, Assamese, Kotava, Babarian and so forth are presented, which are rarely heard.

EXAMPLE OF THE RESEARCH

I would like to give an example of how this website works.

  • The first step would be to type in a word. Let’s put as an example the word Umbrella.

  • Then, with a slight click in the tiny square that says “Go”, the website leads the user to the next page where the results of the search are presented:

  • At the bottom of the page, it can be read “Umbrella 2 pronunciation”. Therefore, if we click on it, what we find is the next thing:

The pronuntiation guide offers us the different pronunciations of the word, provided by the users. Finally, we only need to choose one of the two and listen to it. (In this case, the second pronunciation does not work or, at least, nothing can be heard).

COMPARISON BETWEEN FORVO AND OTHER PRONUNCIATION GUIDES FOUND ON THE INTERNET

  • Howjsay.com

Very similar to Forvo is the website howjsay.com. Although it does not contain as much data as Forvo, it is very easy when trying to look up a word. However, another important difference that might make it slightly restrictive, is the fact that words are not uoloaded to the page by the users and it is precisely this property that I like from Forvo. Nonetheless, users can add comments and suggest new uploads to the page, as it can be appreciated on the picture below.

EXAMPLE OF A RESEARCH

Its functionality is very similar to Forvo’s as I have already mentioned. First, you just need to type in the word you are interested in and, then, click were it says “sumit”.

After that, you do not need to do anything else, the word just comes out pronounced automatically. Yet, it does have an innovation that Forvo does not include on his web page. There is the possibility to translate that word -by Google Translate- into a large number of languages, such as Korean, Persian, Hindi and many others. For example:

  • Fonetiks.org

Fonetiks.orgis rather different from Forvo and howjsay.com. It is mainly based on isolated sounds of consonants and vowels; that is, it is not focused on the pronunciation of words, but of sounds. In fact, it provides online pronunciation guides to 9 varieties of the English language and 9 other languages, instant sound and pronunciation samples by over 40 native speakers.

In the presentation page, there is some sort of a comparison made between different dialects of English regarding mainly the differences in the pronounciation of sounds from one language into another. Users can listen to the pronunciation of sounds in American English, British English, Irish English, Scottish English, Welsh English, Australian English, Canadian English, Indian English and South African English which are divided into categories such as single vowel sounds, two vowel sounds and so forth.

Apart from all these, it is also interesting the fact that it has more activities in order to practice pronunciation. For instance, it offers a variety of English dialogues, an interactive reading course and many other activities which are available on the web page. In the picture below, there is an example of a dialogue which emphasises the use of the relative pronoun “whose”.

PERSONAL OPINION

From the three pronunciation guides that I have been checking so that I could write my second review, I would say that Forvo has been the most attractive one, since the involvement of the users is wider than in the other two. Yet, it is interesting the translation service that howjsay.com provides for the users and, at the same time, the diversity of activities offered by fonetiks.org is quite helpful for the development and improvement of the pronunciation for those who do not have the chance to go to other countries in order to practice the language.

Information sources:

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2 thoughts on “Second Review: Forvo, the Pronunciation guide

  1. Pashmak Sweet January 6, 2012 / 10:01 pm

    The problem with Forvo is that they do not have a consistent standard about the entries. They say “no phrases and sentences” are allowed. And They deleted some of my entries as they considered them “phrase” or “sentence” while I have seen many sentences much longer than my entries.

    I raised the issue with their management team. The excuse they gave me was that they delete the ones they find, but they did not delete the ones that I brought to their attention. An inconsistent policy about entries results in a double standard in the way they review, modify or delete users’ entries. As the database gets more entries, it also becomes more inconsistent with less integrity in the data. A contaminated database cannot really be trusted!

    If you want to have the pronunciation of all the words in a sentence, you would have to enter them one by one. Then each may be pronounced by different people and a user would have to go through all one by one to hear them all. Often words are pronounced differently when used in a phrase or sentence than when they are alone and isolated from other words. I think it is more important to know how words are pronounced in a sentence as in real situations they are usually used in combination with and accompanied by other words.

    I am not saying that users should enter a whole text, but small sentences of about 10 words should be permitted, otherwise it defies the purpose of having correct pronunciations only single words are permitted as the pronunciation could be different than when the word is accompanied by other words.

  2. Whydah May 19, 2012 / 9:11 pm

    I just discovered Forvo. I think it is a very worthwhile project. But I see few issue straight off: 1) Adding words seems to be based on a minimalist pattern. 2) No FAQ explaining what elements to consider when adding words and tag elements. (I could not find an FAQ at all!) 2) No facility for adding definitions. (I noticed that some people have added google translate definitions in English for their entries and it shows on the right panel along with “Add categories”, etc. But I could not find a way to link my entries to goole,translate, nor could I find any other means of entering definitions in English. Am I overlooking something?)

    I very much agree with the comment above about facility to enter short sentences. It is especially useful to hear a word pronounced in a sentence or a phrase in addition to on its own.

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