(PLEASE UPVOTE IF YOU BELIEVE THE FEATURE REQUEST WOULD BENEFIT ELL)
Do you know what would be really cool? The possibility of recording our speech and posting it online, without leaving the ELL site. Why isn't this a thing?
The recording would be an optional supplement to the written answer. It needn't repeat word for word the written answer, it could be as simple as the pronunciation of a single word, or a short sentence in order to hear the difference pronunciation between an American and a British speaker. Questions about rhoticity and RP could be quickly and easily answered if we could upload an audio file, users could listen to the snippet without leaving the site, similar to the video clips posted on Movies&TV.SE.
But instead of visiting off-site (e.g. YouTube) and pasting a link, we could (by the powers of the Internet) use our own hand-held devices, laptops, tablets etc. to record ourselves and upload the audio clip, in a way similar to how we can now upload and an image.
Currently on ELL there 172 questions that have "How do I pronounce" in their titles, uploading an audio file in an answer would facilitate things enormously. However, no one should be obligated to record an audio file, it should be seen as a complementary asset, and in no way should it substitute a thoughtfully composed and well-supported answer.
Where is this technology?
- Hearing word stress and sentence intonation in different accents (British, American, Australian, Indian English etc.)
- Hearing a correct (or several correct) pronunciations of difficult-to-pronounce English words.
- Users wouldn't have to decipher IPA transcriptions, which to the uninitiated must appear to be gobbledegook (e.g. /ˈɡɒb(ə)ldɪˌɡuːk/)
- Where there is no American, Australian, or British pronunciation of a particular word available on Forvo, or in an online dictionary, we could easily upload our own audio files and let people hear them without leaving the site.
If we are worried about new users abusing this capability, we could make this an earned privilege, users with a certain amount of rep would be trusted to use this feature sensibly. This feature request might even motivate users to continue posting high-quality posts in order to earn the privilege.
I have noted in some comments posted on ELL that some native users do not consider Indian English to be a valid variant of English. Some of these comments are derisive of its idiolect and argue that it is not real English.
Indian English is recognised world-wide as an English variant. A competent IndEn speaker should feel proud, never embarrassed, to record snippets of their speech. On Stack Exchange, inclusivity is encouraged, not dismissed.
With this sample recording, you can "see" it is not necessary to read aloud every word, just the most relevant section. And perfection is not an absolute, e.g. I stumbled over the pronunciation of “uninitiated”. However, it would have been easy enough to record a new piece. All in all, it took me about 20 minutes from start to finish before I could upload the link. There is another drawback to this method, by clicking on the link the reader is forced to leave the site and can no longer read the answer while they are listening, to do so two tabs need to stay open if you are using a browser. I'm not sure how that would work on a smartphone as I'm not an expert on smartphones or devices.
Here is the updated version: https://soundcloud.com/marilou-stu/my-voice-2
One of the disadvantages mentioned says that it might be difficult to create high-quality recordings if one didn't have access to a quiet room and a decent microphone. Remember, an audio clip is not obligatory, and you wouldn't need specialized equipment to let everyone know how you pronounce a word like sixth or lunch. My audio snippet was recorded during the daytime on my smartphone, Samsung Galaxy 6, (so not the latest model) and I used a free app and no special microphone. The sound quality is good.
Tip: If recording, speak a little further away from the smartphone microphone than I did, that way users won't hear you breathing!