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Forvo is a free website aimed at helping with pronunciation.
The site’s slogan is “All the words in the world. Pronounced.” It describes itself at being the largest pronunciation guide in the world, and the concept is really quite simple; you can ask for a word or name and another user will pronounce it for you, you can search for a word and listen to pronunciations already provided, and you can help put others by providing pronunciations for requested words from your own native language.
The home page shows tabs for Home, Languages, Categories, Pronounce and Users. Every day there is a featured language of the day. For example, one day that I looked at the site the featured language was Haitian. The top pronunciations are listed for the featured language, along with the option to expand the list and see all pronunciations. You have the option to look at words and hear pronunciations sorted into different categories of people, music, medicine, holidays, sports and food.
If you click on the Languages tab you can see all languages on the site that have pronunciations, along with how many different words have been pronounced. Visitors are able to sort languages by popularity or alphabetically. When selecting a language, users will see some basic statistics about that language, including the number of speakers, the number of speakers registered with Forvo, the number of pronounced words and the number of pending pronunciation words. Out of curiosity, I looked at English. The number of speakers is listed as 509,000,000, the number of speakers in Forvo is 125,505, the number of pronounced words at the time of looking was 101,191, and there were 49 pending words for pronunciation. There is a list of the top pronunciation words, with the option to expand the list to show all pronounced words. This list can be sorted into date, popularity and alphabetical order. To listen to any word, there is a play icon next to the word, and clicking the icon will play a short audio clip of somebody saying the word.
The Categories section is not language specific, rather words are grouped into the different sections, and the language is indicated in parenthesis. The Pronounce section shows all words, in all languages, which are waiting for someone to record the pronunciation. Users are invited to assist by pronouncing words, and there is the ability to search for words by language that need recording. Under the Users tab you can see which site users have requested the most words and provided the most pronunciations.
To request and record words, you must be a registered member. Registration is free. To browse the words already listed for the various languages, and listen to the recordings, is accessible to everyone; there is no registration needed. Registered members can set their own language, rate and discuss pronunciations provided by others, keep a track of pronounced and added words, create favourites lists, and download MP3 pronunciation files.
When viewing every page, you can see a search box where you can type any word, using any alphabet or character system, and if the word is on the site it will take you to the recording as well as other suggested recordings.
Free to Use
Although registration is required for full site access, registration is free.
Useful to Learners of Most Languages
With many words pronounced in many different languages, this is a great website for learners of all different languages, not only ESL learners.
Users Can Hear Real Pronunciations by Native Speakers
Rather than being a computer generated programme, recordings of individual words have been made by real, everyday people.
Users Can Request Words
If a word is not already contained on the site, users can request someone record it.
Help with Pronunciation
Students can access the site at any time and listen to problematic words. Hearing words spoken correctly, along with the ability to repeat words and listen to them multiple times, can really help students to improve their own pronunciation. Listening and mimicking is a great way to learn how to pronounce words correctly, and being able to do this in the privacy of their own home, or other private place, can help shyer students to also benefit from being able to listen, speak, listen again, and speak again repetition.
Easy to Use
It is easy to find, or request, a word. To listen to a word is quick and easy, with a handy play button located next to the required word.
Excellent Site for Teachers to Use for Signposting
Whilst not directly useful for ESL teachers, it is a great site for teachers to be able to direct students to for help and improvement relating to pronunciation.
Although free, a registration requirement is necessary to access the full site content. This is a little inconvenient, but once you are registered you can login any time.
There is some advertising on the site, although this is minimal and usual with many free to use websites.
Only Relevant for Pronunciation
Whilst a good site for assisting with pronunciation, this is all the site offers. It would perhaps be nice to see links to other pages for ESL teachers and learners somewhere on the Forvo website so that users could easily access other great resources to help with their teaching and learning respectively.
Although limited in its scope, this website is great at what it does. It says it is a pronunciation website, and it delivers exactly what it says it will; excellent pronunciation assistance. It is not an all round resource for ESL teachers or learners, indeed, it is not directed specifically at people using the English language, but it is useful for the area of pronunciation in any language. This is a great site that teachers can recommend to students, whether they are struggling with a particular word, if pronunciation in general is problematic, or if students just want to improve their pronunciation in general.
Have you ever recommended this website to your students, and if so, how do you feel it helped with their pronunciation?
Could you see an improvement after students had used this site?
This is a guest review by an independent author. This review reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of BusyTeacher.org as a publication.