What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Forvo is an online, crowd-sourced pronunciation guide that kids can use to learn -– or confirm -– word pronunciations. Just like the dictionary, there are swear words and terms for body parts that can provoke giggles. On the whole, however, it's an excellent tool for double-checking pronunciation when away from the classroom. The site is fairly easy to use, but some younger kids might have a hard time getting around on the site to find just what they're looking for.
What kids can learn
Language & Reading
- cultural understanding
Thinking & Reasoning
- asking questions
- using and applying technology
Engagement, Approach, Support
For a word-pronunciation site, it's about as fun as it can be. Kids can get a kick out of recording their own words and hearing them. For those with more serious language questions, the site's design is clean and fairly simple to view.
There isn't a lot of depth with Forvo. Basically, you click a word, hear the word, and that's it. But kids will feel empowered by recording their own voices and learning new pronunciations.
There's an FAQ explaining the rules and regulations of Forvo, and adding words is pretty intuitive. A separate help section describes how to use a microphone to record words, which can then be sent directly to the site.
What's it about?
FORVO is an online pronunciation dictionary. Its content is crowd-sourced, meaning that anyone registered with the site can add their own voice and pronunciation of chosen words. With a searchable database of over 1 million words in 300 languages, kids can review words they think they know in English, or find out how a native speaker pronounces a word in a different language. Forvo's audio clips are 2.5 seconds long, tops, which is apparently long enough for any word to be spoken. Some words also include phonetic spellings to help as you listen.
Is it any good?
Forvo's catchphrase is "All the words in the world. Pronounced." With well over a million words and counting they're getting there; it can be fascinating to see a crowd-sourced project like this develop. While the site works well as a pronunciation tool, it isn't a translator. For example, when you look up the word "cat," you'll see many examples of how to pronounce the word "cat" in English. However, there aren't links to the pronunciation of cat's translation in French, Spanish, or any other language. You can hear how "cat" sounds in a handful of different accents, though, which can be interesting and amusing. One of the site's best features is that you can hear different voices saying the same word -– this really helps to give you a sense of the "best" way to say it yourself. It's worth noting that the sound quality varies from recording to recording; some are very clear while others are muted, distorted, or totally unintelligible.
Families can talk about...
Ask your kids: What's your favorite word, and why do you like it? Is it the sound? Does it make you feel a certain way?
Talk to your kids about how people from different places pronounce the same words. Do they sound the same or different? Why is this? Should everyone try to sound the same, or is there a value to regional differences in pronunciation?