Those Easy Modern Times...

By Gerd Waloszek

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The Story

I am a heavy user of LEO, an online translation tool that most German Web users will probably know. Yesterday, I thought I'd use a cool feature, which LEO offers for quite a while: the ability to vocalize a word, helping you to pronounce it correctly. "Cool!" I thought, "and easy – all I have to do is click the loudspeaker icon."

LEO Website

Well, that was at least what I thought – reality was a little bit different from my vision, as this story reveals.

Clicking, Clicking, Clicking, ...

When I clicked the icon, a kind of pulldown menu appeared, asking me to click another link or loudspeaker icon:

LEO after clicking the loudspeaker icon

Clicking the icon or link next to it, however, did not start the pronuncation of the requested word. Instead, a new window opened that stayed blank for fairly long and finally showed the word's definition on the Merriam Webster Website:

Merriam Webster Website

At least, the page showed a nice looking woman (even twice) who invited me to a game of golf... Taking a closer look at the page, I found (a) the pronunciation in phonetic transscription and (b) another loudspeaker icon (in some cases, also an advertisement popup, which I had to close):

Detail of Merriam Webster Website

Starting to get annoyed, I clicked the loudspeaker icon for a THIRD time. Again, no pronunciation of the word – this time, a popup window opened:

Ponuncation popup

Ah, the nice woman inviting me again! And ANOTHER, the FOURTH, loudspeaker icon to click! And indeed, after clicking it I heard a woman speaking the word – regrettably her pronunciation differed somewhat from the phonetic transscription on the previous page...


The moral of this story is that nothing comes without a price. If you want a service for free, you also get a couple of clicks, windows, popups, nice looking women, and much more for free as well... And the signal-to-noise ratio of such Web pages is also far from perfect – as a look at the complete LEO page demonstrates:

Leo Website


Originally Published: 03/11/2008 - Last Revision: 01/31/2009

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Gerd Waloszek
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