Pronunciator – CHOICE Magazine Review


Pronunciator LLC.
Annual academic subscription begins at $1,425.00, based on 1,500 FTE. Substantial discounts via LYRASIS


[Visited May’14] Launched in 2011, Pronunciator is a relative newcomer in online language learning tutorials, but already has become a strong competitor. It was founded by librarian Robert Savage, who alongside numerous linguists, programmers, designers, and native speakers developed it for use in libraries. The subscription model is library-friendly. All languages in Pronunciator are included in the basic package (which provides unlimited concurrent-user access); DRM-free audio lessons can be streamed or downloaded, and users can access the material via native apps for Apple and Android devices. The content is similarly robust. Users can learn 80 languages, from Afrikaans through Xhosa, with narrative instruction provided in 50 of them. Flash and JavaScript are required; Voice Comparison and Pronunciation Analysis also require a microphone. The logically structured tutorials incorporate written and spoken examples. Beginning students and travelers will appreciate Postcards, a flashcard system in which native speakers repeat key conversational phrases. Here, words and translations are presented against backgrounds of attractive photos of the relevant country or region. For many languages, helpful pronunciation tips are listed.

The Drills section brings students more deeply into a language and its grammar by leading them through progressively more complex constructions, starting with practical core vocabulary for various situations (eating, geography, religion, etc.) and continuing through verb conjugations, sentence development, and full conversations. Moving between levels and units via drop-down menus is easy. The audio quality is clear, and students can replay each sound bite slowly if needed. Among the most valuable features is the context-sensitive feedback given for users’ pronunciation. Regular repetition and quizzes offer numerous opportunities for testing users’ skills, and a statistical report lets users track their overall performance. The PDF phrasebooks are a convenient reference; some popular languages have online films, music, and poetry.

Each course follows a standard format, but some are more comprehensive than others. There are no Postcards for Malayalam, for example, and no transliterations for its written language (in contrast, Japanese and Korean have this feature). Also, users without special keyboards cannot test their writing in many languages with non-Roman scripts. Despite these omissions, Pronunciator offers sufficient content for a solid grounding in speaking each language, and often significantly more. Students will find it useful for refreshing their knowledge of a language or learning a new one. Mango Languages (CH, Jul’10, 47-6080) has a slicker presentation and more smoothly integrated cultural details, but fewer languages and instructional interfaces. Compared to Transparent Language Online (CH, Jul’12, 49-6012), Pronunciator is more flexible and has a more visually appealing look. Each product offers different languages, so librarians should carefully evaluate them according to their needs.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through professionals; general audience.

–S. L. Johnson, Eastern Illinois University

Copyright 2014 American Library Association