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The English language has always been a sponge among languages. The Oxford English Dictionary added 1400 new words this year alone. Including the likes of “Jedi mind trick” and “abugida”. With their meanings come their talking pronunciations. Hopefully, pronouncing “Jedi” isn’t a problem. But what about “Padawan” from the same galaxy?
Pronunciations carry nuances. The way you say it can be the difference between seduction and sarcasm. But chillax because these online pronunciation dictionaries will help you listen to the right pronunciations of difficult words. And help you become fluent in English.
Google Search has a new feature. It lets you learn pronunciation with visuals. There’s no name for it yet, but Google’s idea that it’s “images in the dictionary” sounds apt.
The pronunciation tool in the search box combines machine learning and speech recognition technology. Search a word and it will give you a visual that helps you better understand the term you are searching for.
This feature is rolling out to American English today, with Spanish to follow soon in its wake.
Google isn’t stopping there with its help for pronunciations. It has also rolled out a new tool in Google Maps that lets you hear the correct pronunciation of towns and cities as you can’t speak the language. This can be an invaluable tool for asking better directions in foreign lands.
The Howjsay pronunciation dictionary is an ad-supported website that has helped us improve our spoken English for more than a decade. Type in any English word (or saying) and listen to how it should be pronounced.
Each word from their database is individually pre-recorded and no form of synthetic speech is used.
Howjsay supports both American and British pronunciations. If you mistype a word, Howjsay offers other existing words with similar letters. For every word, it lists similar words.
Just click on any of them to listen to how they are pronounced. You can type in one or several entries separated by semi-colons (e.g. cat; cut; cart), which is handy if you want to compare the pronunciation of multiple similar words.
Want to carry Howjsay with you? There is an app for iPhone and Android devices too.
Dictionary.com is a word lover’s paradise and one of the leading online dictionaries. The homepage greets you with a ticker tape of word trends across the world. Right there, you can spot colloquial words and slangs you may not be aware of.
You will get everything from pop culture to idioms and grammar advice to word games. Every unfamiliar word comes with pronunciation help.
Browse the site and search for any pronunciation you need. The dictionary leans towards American English while its sister site Lexico is for UK English and World English. Logophiles should bookmark Everything After Z right now.
The apps for Android and iOS are well-recommended downloads.
Forvo says it is the largest pronunciation dictionary in the world. It may be true because the pronunciation guide is crowdsourced. Register once and you can add your own spoken words.
Enter your word. Check the British and American pronunciations. You can then move on to hear how their translations are spoken in different languages around the world.
A database of nearly 6 million words pronounced in over 390 languages is all thanks to native speakers around the world. The complete language list includes Esperanto and Klingon!
Forvo allows every kind of word including expletives. But they must be politely pronounced and be genuine dictionary words. Forvo also includes the pronunciation of common phrases that is a plus for any language learner.
Forvo is also available as an iPhone app you can carry around in your travels.
Download: Forvo for iOS ($2.99)
PronounceItRight does things differently. Rather than diving into the English language, it takes on difficult to pronounce words from the world of news and global communications.
For instance, you might be searching for a way to get “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” right. Or, learn how not to embarrass yourself with a mispronounced “bruschetta”.
PronounceItRight is a simple website started by a journalist and a professional translator. It’s worth a bookmark just for the collection of its pronunciations across categories like brands, cartoons, fashion, celebrity names, and more.
Names like Jim, John, and Jane are still common. But what about “Dylan” or “Genevieve”? Which syllable or vowel do you stress on? Names.org is not a pronunciation site, but a database of names.
Each name leads to amazing information and statistics on it. You can find out how popular your name is or what it means.
You can use it as a name generator for the newest member in your family or use it to pronounce a name you had doubts about. Like Dylan or Genevieve. And while you are learning, why not submit your own pronunciation with the microphone in your computer.
YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google. You may not think of it as a “search engine” in the usual sense or even a pronunciation dictionary, but there’s no denying the nuggets it can tap into.
Search for pronunciations with something like “How do you say [word]” or “How do you pronounce [word]“.
You are sure to get a few video hits that narrate the right way to say that word. This method is also great for understanding the word with the related videos you might find on YouTube.
Vocabulary is just one of the interesting things you can learn on YouTube in just five minutes a day.
Pronunciations Create the First Impression
English can be a difficult language to master because the same words can be spoken with two different pronunciations. This can be critical in global communications. But you can master it with some practice and familiarity.
These pronunciation guides go a long way to make it easier with a click on the audio icon. Old standards like OED (Oxford English Dictionary), Cambridge Dictionary, and Macmillan all carry audio pronunciations.
Do refer to them for the latest words too. For better fluency, pair them with any one of the English grammar apps we have talked about before.