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Pronouncing words in a foreign language

12.05.08 | admin | In software

Another language learning resource that was featured on Mashable recently is a site called Forvo that, according to the CEO:

We have created a database for word pronunciations. We have +45000 pronunciations in 75 languages in only 6 months. We hope Forvo becomes a useful tool to learn languages. All words in all languages is our goal. The recordings are 100% real, not text-to-voice applications.

English, for example, has almost no consistent pronunciation rules. Original English words are pretty weird when you think about it and then a huge portion of the words used in English now come from French, but so many other languages have contributed words to the English language. But when a word from another language enters the English lexicon it usually does so under a convention of transcribing words in that language so that you need to know the rules of that convention. Chinese, for example, has a number of conventions for writing its words in English. Being able to spell most of the words used in the English language today means being able to pronounce words in many languages. This makes spelling English notoriously difficult and of course is why we have spelling bees.

That problem aside, when learning a foreign language it also takes a while to learn all the rules for pronouncing regular words in that language. So how do you do that without having a native speaker pronounced the word for you? This is where Forvo comes in.

Right now the number of Vietnamese words that have been pronounced on the site is tiny. But perhaps in the future this site can be a resource to be mashed with other sites to create a more useful resource with pronunciation available for those times it’s needed.

One suggestion I have is to be able to say which dialect you’re speaking. This is especially useful in Vietnamese where words are pronounced quite differently depending on if you speak the North, Central, or Southern dialect. And of course there are plenty of differences between British English and American English.

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