Category Archives: Interviews

The Editors Behind Forvo


Even though us at Forvo like to think of the site as a helpful reference in a time of need, we know that Forvo would be no help at all without its over 500 editors that generously volunteer their time to help share their native language with others. That said, we wanted to share an anecdote on one of our editors brought to us by a long-time Forvo user.

Alison came across Forvo four years ago while working as an audio book researcher in San Francisco — a place where “You can hear almost as many languages as you can find on Forvo”. Says Alison, “I can’t remember the first words I looked up on Forvo, but the first pronunciation I requested was ”˜Ballechinğ in Scots.“

Since 2010, Alison has logged an incredible 11,264 visits on Forvo. “In the course of my work on hundreds of projects Forvo has been my constant companion. Every one of those pronunciations has helped an audio book narrator make sense and beauty out of the author’s text and the language being spoken,” explains Alison. “I provide links to Forvo pronunciations in my research sheets so audio book narrators can hear audio examples of the non-English words they will be speaking during recording. Phonetic pronunciation instructions only go so far; with examples from Forvo, narrators can hear the sound of a word, its rhythms and tones. There’s no replacement for sound”

But one editor went above and beyond in helping Alison. While researching Japanese for James Clavell’s “Shogun”, Alison struck up a correspondence with editor usako_usagiclub, who had pronounced many of the words she requested. Even after Alison insisted she compensate her for her many contributions, usako_usagiclub refused. Instead, she suggested that Alison make a donation to Forvo, which Alison then did.

“Forvo’s editors are a tremendous fount of language expertise; many talented and interesting people contribute to the site; it’s been my great pleasure to meet some of them. Some of the wonderful editors who’ve provided me with assistance, education and interesting conversation over the years are Lilianuccia (Italian), silviaparisini (Italian), Pat91(French), spl0uf (French), Thonatas (German), Bartleby (German), Frankie (Hungarian), findelka (Hungarian), tasc (Russian), gorniak (Polish), mmieszko (Polish), BridEilis (Irish)….along with some dedicated users, as well — too numerous to mention!”

Meeting Forvo editors: Rooibos

Q: A little bit about you.

A: My name is Stefanie “Rooibos” and I’m one of the voices of the German language.

Q: When did you know about Forvo?

A: I discovered Forvo when I was searching for the correct pronunciation of rooibos tea. At that time, waited more than 10,000 unspoken words in the German language! The project immediately intrigued me, especially the idea of being connected linguistically with many people of the earth. I began to speak in my beloved mother tongue, and reported incorrect entries. Many words later, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming an editor… :)

Q: What did you like most?

My personal goal was to work out the sum of the accumulated words. At this time there seemed to be an impossible task… Without time-setting, but with support from experienced users (thanks to fruehsachs) and editors (thanks to wolfganghofmeier!) of the German language we actually succeeded!

A lot of night meetings and many, many hours were needed to cope with the amount of words. I am very grateful for a lot of positive feedback on my pronunciation and it is still important and very exciting to communicate with other users. The idea that my voice can reach all corners of the earth is incredibly exciting!

I am glad that I can be a part of this family in Forvo. <3

Meeting Forvo Editors: Zababa

Zababa, czech editor.

Q: A little bit about you.

A: My name is Sven and I come from Liberec, Czech Republic. I currently live in Germany where I studied linguistics and now work on the moribund NÇ€uu language. I speak Czech (my mother tongue), but I also German, English, Afrikaans and NÇ€uu.

Q: When did you know about Forvo?

A: A colleague of mine, an enthusiastic German pronouncer introduced me to Forvo on January 26th 2009 and I immediately got excited about it. I saw almost nothing in Czech on Forvo so I began building it up.

Q: What did you like most?

A: I like when people add Czech words they are familiar with but never heard them pronounced the native way. Think of ÄŒapek‘s word robot or the etymologically Czech pistol known all over the world. Often people add names of Czech celebrities or politicians they hear in the news – or the names of favourite musicians and their works. Think of DvoÅ™ák, Smetana or Janáček, composers who have their admirers all over the world. At Forvo you can hear the native sound of all of them. I remember how happy I was when Forvo notified me that there are pronunciations for the names of Scotch of Irish whiskeys I added because I never knew how to pronounce them correctly. That is a very nice service and I love to contribute to it.

I wonder if Forvo’s recordings could be used some day to shape the sound and pronunciation of computer programs designed to read texts or for speech recognition. Smart people got quite far with that in English already, but for other languages there are almost no resources to start with. Forvo would then be a good source for phoneticians and automatic speech analysis. I hope one day it’ll become really valuable. Not to think about it’s documentary character when decades have passed. We know our grandfathers did speak differently, but how did it actually sound like? With forvo we (actually our descendants) will see how a language has changed. That’s fascinating. Let’s hope Forvo will stay here for generations.

BTW: Zababa, Roll4Net and Skypi have just finished translating Forvo into Czech. Fantastic work!

Meeting Forvo editors: pleitecas

Pleitecas, spanish editor.

Q: A little bit about you.

A: My name is Pedro. I’m an almost retired spaniard looking for developin my hobby, my comunication skills. I love nature and peace. I studied Geography. I’m sure we can be happy together if we are able to understand each other. We need a tool in order to traslate our feelings! I’m able to understand Spanish and written English, France and Italian, and a little bit of Romanian, Portuguese, Russian and Bulgarian.

Q: When did you know about Forvo?

A: I knew Forvo a year ago when a was looking for Bulgarian pronunciations.

Q: What did you like most?

A: What I like most is the possibility to record the MP3 pronunciations and listen to them wherever you are, until you are able to remember it. I like to put words together and build up phrases. That is the best!

I remember a book  I read when a was only a boy. The author is Ramon J. Sender and the title La tesis de Nancy (Nancy’s thesis). The story is about a study trip to Spain of a North American teenager trying to learn Spanish in Sevilla and a young gipsy with his own dialect-language different to regular Spanish as a teacher. Funny. I would like to recommend it all of you.

Meeting Forvo editors: snowcrocus

One of things we most like about Forvo is the oportunity to meet some incredible valuable people. That’s why we are starting a new section in this blog to introduce you to some of the editors that collaborate at Forvo. Snowcrocus, an english editor it’s the first one.

Q: A little bit about you.

A: I currently live in Florida, though hopefully I’ll be moving to Europe once I finish my doctorate. I grew up in Wisconsin, mostly in a tiny village with one business – a blacksmith. I’ve also briefly worked and/or gone to school in Germany, Peru, and France.

My background is anthropology/archaeology, and I currently do research in heritage conservation policy. Languages are kind of a hobby for me; I’ve studied Latin, German, French, Low German (Plattdeutsch), Russian, Swedish, and Spanish (in that order).

I even made up a language when I was 12 and taught it to a friend, so we could get in trouble with our teachers for speaking it in front of them. Unfortunately the only languages I can still speak are German and French, and I’m still working very hard to become fluent in French (which I find way more confusing than German!).

Q: When did you know about Forvo?

A: The French is what brought me to Forvo in the first place – looking for pronunciations of French words, especially things I couldn’t find in the dictionary or that have sounds I’m bad at distinguishing.

I’ve enjoyed doing pronunciations in English (often cringing when I hear my own voice afterward, though). Hopefully they’ll prove useful to someone along the way, as I’ve found the pronunciations by the French-speaking members so helpful, myself. After careful consideration, I’ve been forced to admit that English pronunciation is even more convoluted than French pronunciation…

Q: What did you like most?

A: Forvo has also been a great place to interact with other members, sharing information about dialects and discussing odd linguistic tid-bits. I enjoy learning about variations within English as much as I enjoy fiddling around with foreign languages, and Forvo is certainly a great forum for that.

In the following weeks we expect to bring you more Forvo “interviews”.