A simple idea, well executed:

Forvo is the place where you´ll find words pronounced in their original languages. Ever wondered how a word is pronounced? Ask for that word or name, and another user will pronounce it for you. You can also help others recording your pronunciations in your own language.

When I visited, the “Language of the day” was Slovenian, and one of the “Top pronunciations” was Ljubljana; I clicked on the little triangular symbol and heard “ingridzb (Female from Slovenia)” say it. Addictive and educational. (They’re coy about what “forvo” means, but apparently it’s something close to “FOR-VOcalization.”) Thanks, Kári!


  1. On the list of most popular English pronunciations, some are more surprising than others.

  2. I pronounced ASCII /eɪ aɪ es si aɪ aɪ/ for the first six months, before I heard it spoken; I still find the spoken /k/ in that context odd. As I do the initial /i/ of emacs.

  3. Whoops, /eɪ es si aɪ aɪ/, even!

  4. I can understand being surprised by the pronunciation of “c” as /k/ before “i” — how did Carcetti on “The Wire” manage to get a pronunciation that is neither the Italian one nor the one an American ignorant of Italian pronunciation would use? — but what’s strange about pronouncing “emacs” to parallel “emu” or “emo”?

  5. Dunno if Aidan’s first comment was influenced by mine, but I will clarify that what I found surprising was some word’s presence on the list, not their pronunciation.
    I’m worried about the site’s ability to reflect free variation in pronunciation. The MySQL page suggests one of the two standard pronunciations is US-English and the other is France-English [stet]. If you have Javascript enabled, three other recordings are suppressed by default for low ratings.

  6. It’s a pity that all the Farsi is not transliterated. It would have been nice to hear a native speaker pronouncing Ahmadinejad.
    On the plus side, listening to the Māori made me realise just how distinctive the Maori accent is. Any native-born NZ English speaker would identify that voice as belonging to a Māori person, rather than just to a speaker of the language. My own pronunciation of Māori is consistently lauded by native speakers, but I know that despite being technically correct, my accent is very different to that of the speaker at Forvo. His pronunciation of Aotearoa was especially clear evidence that his English idiolect is Māori English.

  7. Ahmandinejad in Farsi (copy/paste to search bar from wikipedia spelling):

  8. Thanks, Nijma for prividing a link so helpful and so ugly. It was nice to hear the name as it should be said.

  9. This version of the URL is perhaps more readable and should be just as usable, given a modern browser:محمود_احمدي_نژاد/

  10. A.J.P. Smith says

    That’s great, Stuart and Nidge. Now, how come they can’t produce a n more accurate English spelling of his name? That is one of the points of writing, despite all the anomalies.

  11. A.J.P. Smith says

    I’ve got a bit of a quibble with Farvo, when I click on ‘faen’, the Norwegian word I wanted to hear (what else), I get an arrow pointing towards Bordeaux and:
    Pronunciation by deacon (Male from Spain)
    Could you do it better?
    …Well, not that much better, but then I am English. Actually the pronunciation was fine, it’s just the graphics that need some work.
    It’s nice to see they’ve got Occitan, it sounds different from what I was expecting. Where is Marie-Lucie?

  12. KCinDC, that it’s not parallel to the majority of words starting with written <em>. (I hope that sample is representative enough from you—it’s from a substantial English-German dictionary.) I suppose I hadn’t appreciated that it was so much an oral word, as opposed to a literate one. I read it long before I heard it spoken, something which would have been very odd in its initial user community.

  13. Sheesh, can’t anybody around here make a direct link? Here‘s the Ahmedinejad entry. And I’m not sure why AJP (who is apparently ashamed of his røøts all of a sudden) thinks the English spelling isn’t accurate; it represents the pronunciation quite well, except that j represents /zh/, and we’re used to that from French. (By the way, nezhād means ‘race, descent,’ so his name means ‘of Ahmed’s line.’) Oh, and note that in Farsi last names are treated as adjectives and take the -e connector (the ezāfe), so that “Mahmud-e Ahmedinejad” (which is what you hear the voice saying) is parallel to mard-e pir ‘the old (pir) man (mard).’

  14. Great to be here. Any ideas or suggestions for the project are welcome.
    BTW, hope to hear you there 🙂

  15. A.J.P. Crown says

    Wow, that’s interesting, Language. So you’d be Language of the Hattish line? And I’d be AJP of the Chronic something.

  16. A.J.P. Crown says

    The popularity of words to look up is quite interesting. Here’s numbers two through ten in German:
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Michael Schumacher
    Ich liebe dich!
    And number one is… Arnold Schwarzenegger!
    You can just imagine the Christmas dinner table arguments that were involved in some of those searches. I’d never heard of Ehrensenf — some kind of mustard? — but apparently it’s an anagram of Fernsehen. Who were the people looking that one up?

  17. From that Emacs Wikipedia entry to which Aidan Kehoe links, you can see that there were also TECMAC, as in TECO and so pronounced; and TMACS, which would have required an acronymic pronunciation. And that it was invoked by E↑H, which probably helped to reinforce too. (The page is a bit of a mess, but at least they spelled our names right.)

  18. A.J.P. Crown says

    Hello… what is this blog where they’re copying your posts, Language?

  19. Thanks for alerting me to that; I’ll ask the guy to cease and desist. There are a number of places that reprint my posts, but as long as they have the courtesy to link to LH, I don’t mind that much. This guy doesn’t.

  20. OK, that bozo doesn’t provide an e-mail address, and you can’t leave a comment unless you’re logged into WordPress. Anyone have any idea how I can contact him to complain?

  21. Seems more like a hodge-podge to me. Merely a cursory look at the top of a few pages reveals a misspelling, a mispronunciation and a pointlessness.
    Misspelling: sommellier
    Mispronunciation: Poiseuille (médicin francais, 1800+). There is no accent on the final e, but the speaker, Tareq of Jordan, says pwa-zui-ye. It should probably be pwa-zœj, as in the entry for Poiseuille.
    Pointless: Somone wants to know how to pronounce the gibberish string of words “es friert Kälte ein”.
    A pity, that. Yet another popular endeavor, i.e. sensu stricto vulgar and unreliable. I was hoping to find reliable pronunciations of the names of French writers, particularly the philosophers and sociologists I encounter in my reading. I find French proper names a nightmare – almost as bad as English words in general!

  22. This is a splogger and it’s called blog-scraping. There’s something from the wordpress forum, sorry, no time today to make it look pretty:
    I’ve had several but they went away on their own; probably someone else was more conscientious and reported it. I’m not all that worried that someone else might take my technorati ranking though.

  23. Here’s the bozo that Nijma pointed you to:

  24. Off topic, seen this?

  25. moyshe kapoyer says

    One of the “native” speaker of yiddish is clearly not native ; his pronounciation sounds south-german (bayern).

  26. Back to Forvo
    I didn’t even notice there was more than one speaker of each word until mollymooly pointed it out and I went poking around for it. In Arabic it makes a huge difference where the speaker is from, as there are significant differences just between Syrian/Jordanian/Palestinian/Saudi speakers not to mention larger differences with Egyptian and Gulf Arabic.
    It would be nice to be able to follow other pronunciations by the same speaker once you find someone whose accent you want to copy.

  27. Wow — it is oddly addictive — thanks for highlighting the site! The voting is useful. One of the Hawaiian pronouncers has beautiful pronunciation but the one who gave Kamakawiwo`ole did less well…

  28. @A.J.P. Crown Ehrensenf is a “popular” videoblog where Forvo got reviewed.
    So many users of the site look for that word.
    @nijma BTW you can. Just click on a username to see all the words he has pronounce. You can even suscribe to his pronunciations (RSS feed)

  29. Thanks again Hat for the link. I decided to take the plunge and add one myself, as part of my campaign to promote the use of the Māori names for the islands of Aotearoa.
    I also note that the word “maori” is still pending. I’m guessing it’s meant to be māori, rather than maori, but the pronunciations will be interesting because of the variations in pronunciation even among fluent and (the very few) FL speakers. So many people pronounce “māori” as though it were “maori” that I remember thinking that the correct pronunciation sounded weird the first time I heard it.

  30. Nijma: Thanks very much. I just sent the bozo (and host) a DMCA notice. We shall see.

  31. Incidentally, the bozo turns out to be not “John” but Leonid Ivanenko of Kiev.

  32. @Forvo, yes, I see it now. The number of Arabic speakers shown in the U.S. is frustrating though, since you don’t get any idea of where they grew up or what dialect they speak. I’m partial to Palestinian/Jordanian Arabic. For what it’s worth, I’ve added my own blog to the buzz (in my URL); maybe it will help attract more Arabic speakers.

  33. Not at all, Hat, I spent some time googling it a while back and knew what to look for. BTW since I starting visiting here, I seem to have picked up several bits of Russian language spam in my spam filter. Pharmaceuticals, I think.

  34. Who doesn’t get Russian spam? or Turkish, Hebrew, Ukrainian, Chinese, and Portuguese? I wouldn’t assume it means LH’s database has somehow been breached.

  35. A.J.P. Crown says

    I hardly ever get any spam and I’ve only ever got it in English, but as bul-bul pointed out, that’s because I have a mac and nobody cares.

  36. This version of the URL is perhaps more readable and should be just as usable, given a modern browser:محمود_احمدي_نژاد/
    That’s exactly how it appears in my address bar, but when I copy and paste the link, it turns into the odd string you see. My Vista/Firefox system, which is sick right now, didn’t act like that. The WindowsXP/Firefox system, the one that produces the odd character string, also won’t display the Japanese characters–maybe I’ve got something set wrong.

  37. Holy catfish, now what did it do? When I pasted it, it looked like proper Arabic characters.

  38. I have a Mac too, but the spammers have no way of knowing that. If you don’t get spam, it’s because your address isn’t out there on a web page or somewhere (or because you do get spam but it’s all being hidden from you). Granted, if you have a Mac it is less likely that your computer has been zombified and is secretly sending out spam or hosting a website for a spammer.

  39. Ah, thank you, it must all be hidden. I would hate for my lovely computer to be a zombie, poor thing.

  40. David Marjanović says

    I haven’t got Ukrainian spam yet… but all the rest of the list, plus Japanese and Korean. Even the publishers of my papers put my e-mail address online without the slightest attempt at disguise!

  41. Notborn Yesterday says


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