Free vs paid service – a story behind IPA phonetic translators

This post is a bit different. It is not an announcement about an update on our website.

Recently I received an email from someone I don’t know. In the email I was accused of exploiting people during the French Phonetic Dictionary project.

The person obviously didn’t have all the information, so I would like to comment on what happened with this project several years ago.

When I first announced it I was very excited about the project. The idea was wonderful – people would join their efforts to create a database with pronunciations of French words. The announcement about the project was hanging on the page with the French phonetic phonetic translator for several years and was seen by thousands and thousands of people.

If I remember correctly, three or four people offered help. Not all of them were as enthusiastic about the project as me. Two of them spent about 2 hours working. Basically, there was only one person consitently helping me proofread the transcriptions. Still I was doing approximately 90% of the work myself.

Eventually even this last volunteer stopped answering my emails.
By the time I decided to close the project I was working on the project alone for several months. Everyone who participated had a chance to download the latest version.

At the time I still had a day job and was working on only part time. At that point I had a choice – continue to volunteer my time without any support or close the project. The decision was an easy one.

This event along with several others convinced me that in the domain of learning pronunciation people don’t really appreciate the “free stuff”.

I love what I do and I am happy that the project went commercial. In the recent post I shared some of our achievements – how we digitize the dictionaries. I doubt such quality and speed can be achieved with volunteer work.

In any case I am grateful that there are people who help me, be it for free or for money.