What is a text to speech and how to use it?
Speech synthesis: from text to speech
A voice synthesiser is an important accessibility tool designed for learning and inclusion. It uses text to speech (TTS) technology to interpret any given text and read it out loud. In this article we will explain what text to speech is, why is it so important and how to choose the software that best suits your needs.
What’s the technology behind text to speech?
Text to speech is a technology that allows any text to be heard in a digital format through the automatic reading of an artificial voice. Also called speech synthesis, voice synthesisers are powered by AI technology and can read, interpret, and understand the phonemes and graphemes of one or more languages. Speech synthesis automates text reading by converting written text into an audio track. There are several types of voice synthesisers available on the market, and they can work on different devices such as PCs, tablets or smartphones:
Apps: on the App Store and Play Store you can find many voice synthesisers. Speak4Me is one of them, and it’s available on iPhone and iPad.
Built-in TTS: some devices have integrated TTS tools.
Softwares: several literacy programs for desktop support TTS technology.
Online tools: some websites offer voice synthesisers directly on-site. As much as apps, they can be accessed anywhere from any device with an Internet connection.
How voice synthesisers work
Most speech synthesisers allow you to input, paste or upload the text you want to hear (from a couple of words to an entire book) and in a few clicks automatically read it aloud with a digital voice, which can be male or female, in different languages and speeds depending on the options offered by the tool. The most advanced voice synthesisers also offer automatic word highlighting, which dynamically highlights the background of the text being read so that the listener can follow word by word what is being read automatically by the synthesiser. This technology makes it easier to focus while voice reading occurs. In addition, engaging sight and hearing at the same time can improve text comprehension.
The benefits of speech synthesisers
Speech synthesis is a tool that can be useful both for business and education purposes. Companies can take advantage of TTS technology to create voice-overs for content such as videos, podcasts, presentations, ads, and more. Additionally, voice synthesisers can replace customer service’s chatbots, leading to an improvement in user interaction. In the Education sector, on the other hand, speech synthesisers have been widely adopted by schools, universities and other institutions to assist their students. Students of any age can benefit from TTS in their day-to-day learning activities. Using text readers can at the same time improve their comprehension and boost their productivity. However, who text to speech is renowned to be most useful to are students diagnosed with Specific Learning Disorder (SLD). Let’s see why.
Speech synthesis for students with DSA
Speech synthesisers can assist children and students with DSA in their learning activities. They prove particularly useful for those suffering from dyslexia. Dyslexia makes reading and understanding long texts slow and complex. The difficulty in deciphering words often discourages students and jeopardises their studying independence. Research has shown that using voice synthesisers has positive effects on text comprehension for dyslexic students. Text readers can help them to overcome any reading difficulties.
How to choose the best TTS tool
In order to use voice synthesisers you will need a device (PC, tablet or smartphone), a text in digital format (such as a PDF or other documents), and a text to speech software to convert the text to audio and read it aloud. In case you want to use an app or a web-based speech synthesiser, you will also need a stable internet connection. Nevertheless, the main factors to consider when choosing a text to speech tool suitable for your needs are:
Compatibility and ease of use;
The quality and variety of voices (male and female voices, different languages);
The ability to regulate the speed of the playback;
The option to enable the dyslexia font;
The automatic highlighting of the text being read aloud.
Speak4Me offers them all. Still not sure?
Try the app for free now!