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YouGlish: A YouTube-based pronunciation dictionary

What do you do when you’re not sure how to pronounce an English word? You look it up in a dictionary. But what if you can’t find it in a dictionary because it’s a rare word like azure, a derived form like walked, a proper name like San Rafael, or a technical term like JSON? Until now, there were two options:

  1. Pronunciation dictionary. This works for 90% of words.
  2. Forvo. This has the advantage of giving you authentic pronunciations free from possible biases.

I was recently made aware of a third option – a website called YouGlish.com, designed by Dan Barhen. How does it work? There’s a huge mass of content available on YouTube. Some YouTube videos include transcripts. YouGlish lets you search those transcripts. Type a word, press Enter, and you get a video where someone is saying that word. The video will automatically start from the relevant sentence, so there’s no need to look for the right place. If you want more examples of your word being pronounced, simply click the big arrow button to go the next video result. You can also easily replay your sentence. It’s a very nice interface for browsing examples or real-life speech and congratulations are due to Dan for making it work so smoothly.

Forvo and YouGlish are great tools for the linguistically inclined who don’t trust their dictionaries. Dictionaries can be biased, outdated, or mistaken; no dictionary will beat direct access to real-world usage, which is the “source data” dictionaries are (or at least should be) based on.

Unlike dictionaries, these sites often enable you to hear the same word pronounced by dozens of speakers, which allows you to get rough answers to statistical questions like “What percentage of Americans pronounce a syllabic L in words like idly and peddling (making them sound like idally, pedaling)?”, “What percentage of Americans pronounce quarter as though it was spelled corter?”, etc.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Ruan

    That’s one of the most useful websites for English learners I’ve come across in a long time. It has subtitled videos which were recorded in informal contexts, like football player talks, so there were times where I was learning a new expression every two minutes or so. This is definitely a must for someone who has learnt English mainly from reading on the Internet and listening to videos recorded in formal situations where people tend to be more careful over what they say and choose words as if they were writing an essay.

  • Fred

    I’ve just tried it out and am already starry-eyed. This is so helpful! I’m always making sure I pronounce things correctly and naturally, meaning I always look thinks up in several dictionaries and on Forvo, compare the American pronunciation with the British one, or even compare (slightly) different pronunciations for the same word in American English alone. I guess you could say I’m a little obsessed. Anyhow, this YouTube-based website comes in really handy and I love it.
    A huge thank you for sharing!

  • srinidhi

    Youglish is the brainchild of Dan Barhen,which he designed, keeping language learners in mind.I was introduced to youglish through Rachel’s English YouTube channel ,for which I am forever grateful.All these years I have been longing for an app that would not just give the pronunciation but also the context in which the word is used in real world situations.As Iam usually linguistically inclined ,youglish has come as a blessing to me and to top it all its all for free.The quality of the indexed vedio results after typing in a word is just incredible.Furthurmore,the vedios come with subtitles and transcripts,which have helped in several different ways.It’s so generous of Dan Barhen who is giving it away for free.

  • Fernando

    This is a good web site. I come across another web site called http://www.watchmeenglish.com that has the same functionality with some more advantages. It is built on an English word category system that suggests users some wordsets to study.
    Also, users can save or bookmark the words they study on the site to review them in the future.
    It is really helpful for monitoring the user improvements on their English learning journey.

  • syed

    I made a website for English grammar and my inspiration was this site. to learn English grammar Englishcraze.com

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