Monday, February 16, 2015

Read Japanese for LibriVox

Do you read and speak Japanese? Do you like to read? Are you eager to learn new things? Do you like the sound of your voice? Or maybe you grimace at hearing the sound of your recorded voice, as I used to, and still do from time to time. Either way, read on because you just might enjoy reading Japanese texts for LibriVox.


The page for the LibriVox audiobook of Natsume Soseki's Kokoro on the
Internet Archive.

LibriVox is a group of volunteers on the internet who produce audiobook adaptations of written works which are in the public domain in the USA. This group of generous international volunteers gently and loosely march, mostly undetected in the cackle of online social media, along a rather wide but well-defined path toward their unmoving mark, which is "To make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet." They are seemingly unstoppable, and will continue to quietly march on toward the completion of their ambitious mission.

In this quiet—and, yes, they do like quiet lest their microphones pick up background noise—, this silent army of noise slayers produces a gathering of voices and accents so diverse as to comprise a symphony of audible works. Check them out and take your pick of audible entertainment or knowledge.

LibriVox audiobooks can be accessed mainly from two website addresses: The LibriVox audiobook collection is hosted by the Internet Archive, and the complete catalogued works can be found there, among the archive's top collections. The works can also be accessed through the LibriVox website.

As my dear reader could tell from the title of this post, I am directing this appeal to Japanese language speakers. I will tell you why.

As a Japanese language learner, I have scoured the internet for Japanese language resources that could aid or enrich my learning process. Among the skills that a language learner hopes to develop is, of course, one's listening skills. And what more pleasant way to do this than to listen to audibooks of Japanese literary works. LibriVox volunteers make this possible. And what's really nice is, since LibriVox audiobooks and their source texts are both in the public domain (in the USA) and are therefore accessible, one can read the text while listening to the audiobook, thus harnessing the benefits of the listening-reading (LR) method of learning a language.

All of what I've said is true for many languages. LibriVox is a potential goldmine of audio resources for language learners. All at no cost to the language learner.

Most of the audibooks produced by LibriVox are in English, simply because most of the volunteers speak English, and many public domain works are in English. As such, the LibriVox catalog is already a wealth of resources for English language learners. But LibriVox also welcomes volunteers who speak any language, and they produce audiobooks in several other languages, Japanese among them.

But there are currently only a few Japanese-speaking volunteers who are active at LibriVox. Thanks to the impressive efforts of these generous few, a decent selection of Japanese language audiobooks can be found in the LibriVox catalog. Imagine how much more varied and richer this selection could be if there were more volunteers. Thus my appeal for Japanese language speakers to volunteer.

LibriVox has a policy of welcoming any voice, any accent, and of not rejecting submitted recordings based on these. Besides specifications which ensure the baseline technical quality of the recorded sound (minimal background noise, appropriate volume, sampling rate, and audio encoding), the only other requirement for a recording is that the speech be intelligible. In fact, LibriVox celebrates the variety of voices and accents which power its catalog. Duplicate recordings of the same book are also welcome. The greater the variety of voices and accents, the more choices the listener has. Some LibriVoxers cleverly refer to this as "Choice of voice."

Many Japanese works which are in the public domain can be found at Aozora Bunko (青空文庫). As you can see, there is no shortage of public domain material which can be adapted into audiobooks.

For example, here is the first chapter of an audiobook adaptation of the Japanese classic, Natsume Soseki's Kokoro, read by a LibriVox volunteer who goes by the user name ekzemplaro, a volunteer who has produced many of the current Japanese language works in the catalog.


Chapter 1 of Natsume Soseki's Kokoro, read by LibriVox volunteer ekzemplaro.

If you find yourself hesitating at the moment at the thought of recording your voice for others to listen to, there are other ways to volunteer at LibriVox. For example, you could volunteer as a prooflistener. This involves listening to submitted recordings to ensure that they meet baseline quality requirements. Besides being an important contribution to the audiobook production effort, volunteering to be a prooflistener is also a nice way to rack up some personal audiobook listening time. And you get the first listen to the audiobooks you volunteer to prooflisten, before they are released to the public. Moreover, I personally think that this prooflistening work is an excellent—and largely unknown—opportunity for language learners not only to hone their skills, but also to put them to practical use.

I have found volunteering at LibriVox to be fun and fulfilling, and I guarantee that you will learn something, be it from the recording process, reading, listening, or the other ways you might want to get involved.

For more information about volunteering for LibriVox, head on over to the LibriVox volunteer page. Give it a good read and visit the links provided therein, which contain further information.

When you're ready to jump in to be a volunteer, then you're ready to register for an account on the LibriVox forums, which is where all the audiobook production work are coordinated, all by volunteers. After your registration has been approved, you might want to just leisurely acquaint yourself with the different forums, read some threads and observe the interactions, and get a feel for how things are done. You will find that the volunteers are helpful folk, and the more experienced volunteers will be there to assist the newcomers with their questions and to offer guidance and encouragement.

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