Thanks to Smashing Magazine for the pointer to Forvo, an online dictionary of pronunciation. The Web site at http://www.forvo.com/ says “We want to have all the words that exist in the world pronounced and recorded, including names.” A site like this is useful for someone like me, who learned all her vocabulary through reading and therefore can’t pronounce anything…
There are currently has over 557,000 words with over 479,000 pronunciations in 240 languages. The front page of the site shows you the language of the day; if it doesn’t happen to be the language you want, visit the languages page which will list all the languages available, from Afar to Zulu; some languages only have a few words of pronunciation available.
English, at the moment, has just over 56,000 words. The page for English lists the top words and words that need to be pronounced; you can also search for words. Words can have multiple pronunciations; Barack Obama, for example, has eight pronunciations on Forvo. (Sadly, one of them is not a proper pronunciation but an opinion.)
Each word has its own page; for example, epitome. The page includes the available pronunciations — in this case six — along with a map of where the speakers live (they’re from all over the world.) The pronunciation plays in the browser, after which, if you’re registered, you can vote it as a good or bad pronunciation. (Registration is free and has other benefits, such as the ability to download MP3 pronunciation files.) In this case two of the pronunciations were voted down; one sounded like a recording error and another was a pronunciation many would consider incorrect.
If you don’t find a pronunciation you consider appropriate or you just want to add your own, you can do that. (This also requires registration.) All recording is done in-browser; you cannot upload recordings to the site. Recordings are limited to 2.5 seconds.
The site does not censor what kind of words are available, so there are some things here you probably don’t want your kids listening to. And while I was going through the words I did find some shenanigans. But on the other hand there was a tremendous amount of useful content, and the community voting seems to make sure that the good stuff rises to the top. Recommended for people who need some help with their pronunciation and language nuts.