Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2013

Forvo

Basic site with vast array of pronunciations from around the world

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6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: It's fairly easy to navigate, and there's little extraneous information to distract from the goal: hearing examples of word pronunciations.

Cons: The sound quality of recordings varies a lot, and isn't always great; regional accents and pronunciations may confuse some kids.

Bottom Line: The site's aim is basic, but the vast and growing database can be a helpful tool for language learners of all levels.

You can use Forvo in the classroom just like any other pronunciation dictionary. Kids can use it on an as-needed basis, or you could build it into a learning unit. As a vocabulary extension, you could ask students to upload pronunciations of their assigned words into the site. Students who find variations of a word could report out to the class. While it can be great for any student acquiring new language, ELL and language-learning teachers may find Forvo to be especially useful. In these cases you won't want to have students upload their pronunciations; rather, they can use the site just to listen and compare.

As with the dictionary, there are swear words and terms for body parts that can provoke chuckles, so keep an eye on what students are searching. On the whole, however, it's an excellent tool for double-checking pronunciation when away from the classroom.

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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. Using the searchable database of more than 1 million words in 300 languages, students 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.

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With well over a million words and counting, Forvo can be fun way for kids to learn word pronunciations. The site's function is basic; while it works well as a pronunciation tool, it isn't a translator. For example, if a student looks up the word cat, they'll hear many examples of how to say the word in English. However, there aren't links to the pronunciation of the word's translation in French, Spanish, or any other language; students would have to look those up separately.

One of the site's best features, however, is that students can hear how words sound in a handful of different accents. This makes the site educational, but also interesting and amusing. Hearing the word being spoken in different ways helps kids learn the "best" way to say a word. Plus, sometimes it's just fun to listen. 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.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

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.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

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.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

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.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Elizabeth E. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Isidore Newman School
New Orleans, LA
2
Interesting resource for pronunciation, but limited educational value.

This site is probably best used in a foreign language classroom, and the best thing it has going for it is that it is free. From an anthropological perspective, listening to various pronunciations of the same word is interesting, but what would be even more intriguing is if the region of the speaker's home country was included. As it stands currently, only the speaker's sex and nationality are included. The large ads on the site are distracting to students, and the quality of the recordings varies dramatically as well. Generally, students find this website interesting, but from a teacher's perspective, there is limited educational value.

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