Meeting Forvo Editors: Zababa

January 22, 2010

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 N|uu language. I speak Czech (my mother tongue), but I also German, English, Afrikaans and N|uu.

Q: How did you find out 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 Čapek'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 Dvořák, 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!