Matt Burgess of Wired reports on a new project called Localingual:

Its premise is simple: a world map shows each country and breaks it down to regions as you zoom in. When you click on a region, if sound has been uploaded the dialect and voice from that location will play.

The website launched on January 8 and has already had around 500,000 visitors recording 18,000 different voices. Anyone, on Android or desktop, can click on their region to record their voice if it’s missing. The iOS APIs don’t allow it to work on Apple devices.

“I was wandering around Ukraine when the idea came to me to put all the different languages and dialects I was hearing on the web,” Ding told WIRED. “One of the more difficult aspects of the project was acquiring the flag and emblem image for every region and city in the world. I had to write a primitive data-mining bot that scoured search engines and Wikipedia for these images.” […]

Eventually, Ding wants Localingual to become a “Wikipedia of languages and dialects spoken around the world”.

It’s a great premise, no question, but at the moment (and I realize it’s still in the earliest stages), the execution is… well, I went to Russia and so far have been unable to find an actual example of a dialect being spoken; I have found several sound files of names of cities, and when I clicked on “Leningrad” got the following list of cities:

suka blyat Сука блядь
Volkhov Волхов
Slantsy Сланцы
Vyborg Выборг
Gatchina Гатчина

The first one, Сука блядь, is actually a phrase meaning more or less ‘fucking whore.’ So yeah, kind of like Wikipedia except that vandalism doesn’t get swooped down on and removed by vigilant editors. On the plus side, if you click on “Сука блядь” the pronunciation is impeccable. (Thanks, Trevor!)


  1. “Сука блядь”, usually in mixed spelling as “cyka blyat”, has entered general netspeak in recent years through the effort of Russian online gamers.

  2. David Marjanović says

    So, when we’ll be familiar with all Internet traditions, we’ll all speak Olbanian, too?

  3. Yeah, right.

    And the only recording posted at Darhan, Mongolia, is someone speaking Thai:

    Darhan-Uul รัฐดาร์ฮันอุล

    For Govi-Altai province the language listed is Turkish (no recording).

    For Ulaanbaatar there was a recording of what sounded like some drunken Westerners shouting out “Ulan Bator”, but it’s been removed within the last 5 minutes. Turkish is also listed as a language at Ulaanbaatar.

  4. Leningrad?

  5. They never changed the name of the oblast.

  6. I added a couple recordings for my hometown Rochester, NY — I think I have a pretty fair Northern Cities accent. This map is bound to be much stronger for the US than elsewhere.

  7. This map is bound to be much stronger for the US than elsewhere.

    Sure, but that also makes it less interesting, since there’s a plethora of US dialect material already available.

  8. I can’t imagine this working very well for New Guinea, Cameroon, Amazonia, and similar locales full of small and obscure languages.

  9. That’s the basic problem with it: the kind of thing you want it for is the kind of thing it’s least likely to include.

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