One of the the many challenges that stuck-at-home language learners (people who for whatever reason can’t travel) face is that they miss out on necessary, vital error-correction from native speakers and exposure to correct forms – something that comes often when learning through speaking in an immersion context.
In my time abroad, I’ve always had native speaker friends to correct me when I say something wrong, or help me fix up sloppy pronunciation in conversation.
I remember a friend mocking me years ago over my use of the Arabic word, ghabi (غبي) (stupid in English). For some reason I picked it up incorrectly and had been pronouncing it as ghobi which resulted in me sounding very ghabi to everybody who heard it. Through my friend’s well-intentioned ridicule, I started speaking it correctly. Error-correction like this is a natural and vital part of the language learning process.
People at home unfortunately miss out on this kind of input.
When we’re stuck at home, perhaps working a 9-5 job or attending college, we aren’t always able to readily consult native speakers.
And it’s not just about consulting either – it’s about being around them long enough that they’re exposed to your language level in many different conversational contexts, and therefore have opportunities to correct your errors (and of course for you also to be exposed and to correct yourself).
Now, obviously Skype and various other voice chat options are extremely useful but let’s face it, finding native speakers who are willing to spend enough time with you over chat software can also be difficult. Unless these people are real friends or have some other reason for investing time with you (i.e. money or language exchange) it’s not easy.
This is where Rhinospike and Forvo are indispensable tools
These tools both have essentially the same goal in mind: you, the learner, submit a piece of writing and native speakers will say it for you. It gives you a chance to hear exactly how it should be said, and they can correct you at the same time (Lang-8 has a similar goal but for writing rather than speaking).
- It allows you to request anything from a word to a block of text to be read out by a native speaker. You could, theoretically, ask for a letter, conversation or short story to be read.
- By helping others in your native language, you “bump” yourself up the queue for having your own requests responded to.
- It has an excellent feature to request a transcription of an audio file or YouTube video. If you’ve ever watched a foreign language video or listened to a radio segment and haven’t been able to ‘catch’ what’s being said, this is a really useful option to have.
- At the time of this writing, it boasts 10462 recordings in 51 languages, with very few recordings in less common, more exotic languages.
- Forvo is for word pronunciation specifically, so the option to submit large blocks of text isn’t there. It does however allow you to submit multi-word terms and phrases.
- It has a nifty search function so you can search for a word you’re unsure about and quickly find a native-spoken submission.
- It also lists words in categories which makes it easier to find what you’re looking for.
- At the time of this writing, Forvo boasts 1,172,633 words, 1,222,657 pronunciations and 281 languages.
- Its list of languages contains a lot more less-common ones than Rhinospike does.
Combine them both for maximum advantage
I use both of these excellent tools together where I’m able to.
Forvo is good for a quick reference, as it has such an enormous database of words available. Using the search box, you can usually find what you’re looking for (sometimes you have to play around with different word forms to get the right results).
If you have time to wait, Rhinospike is good to hear exactly what you need (though most of us don’t like waiting). You can browse through previous submissions however and sometimes you’ll get lucky and find exactly, or close enough to what you need.
These are both fantastic, completely free tools and especially useful to the stuck-at-home language learner.
What are your thoughts? Any similar sites out there that you’d suggest?
This was written by Donovan Nagel.
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