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Text-To-Speech (Speech Synthesis)

With the proper hardware and software, the computer can create speech from text on the screen. The process is called speech synthesis or text-to-speech.

Macintosh
SimpleText (OS 9) and TextEdit (OS X) are free programs that come with Macintosh computers. They can read all or part of any "text" file in several voices. SimpleText and TextEdit are not exactly like a word processing program, because they do not have many of the features (no spell check, no bulleted lists, no columns, etc). They will allow students to type stories, and will bring in other text files (such are those from the Gutenberg Project described below). 

To try out the speech ("text-to-speech") features of SimpleText...
  • Start SimpleText or TextEdit. If you cannot find it, use Command F to search for it. Notice that the name contains no spaces.
  • Type one or two sentences.
  • Highlight all or part of the text you have just typed.
  • From the Sound menu, choose Speak Selection. NOTE: You can also highlight nothing and choose Speak All from the Sound menu. Choose a different voice (Sound-->Voices) and speak all or a selection again. NOTE: The voices "Carlos" and "Catalina" are written to correctly pronounce Spanish.
  • < style="font-family: helvetica,arial,sans-serif;">
  • When you find a voice you like, ask your students to type a story and have the computer read it to them.
TextEdit (newer Mac systems) is slightly different. The program should be in the Applications-->Utilities folder. You should still begin by typing something. Then choose Speech-->Start Speaking from the Edit menu. You may be able change voices in System Preferences-->Speech-->Default Voice.

Windows
You can download (copy form the Internet) free copies of text-to-speech programs for Windows. Look for Microsoft Reader (http://www.microsoft.com/reader/downloads/default.asp) or Natural Voice Text to Speech Reader (available from http://www.tucows.com/ - use the search feature to find it).

Copies of Books and Other Publications (to have the computer read to your students)
Project Gutenberg has collected text file versions of many books, stories, poems, etc. that are in the public domain (i.e., they are not currently published commercial texts). You can download text files (copy them to your computer) for free. You may need to divide them up to into sections to be read (some text editors cannot hold many pages at once). If so, you can open the Gutenberg files in a word processing program, copy a section, and paste it into a new SimpleText (or other text-to-speech program) document. You can find these files at http://promo.net/pg/ (there are several other sites as well - see Teachers-->Online Books). Remember, if you are looking for current literature (like the Harry Potter series), you will not find it there.

Making a Talking Book with PowerPoint
If you have access to the PowerPoint program (part of Microsoft Office), you can make a "talking book." You can use PowerPoint to make slides shows. Think of each slide as a page (or part of a page) from a book. You can put text and graphics (pictures) on each "page" (slide). It is easy to record your voice reading the text to the student (technically this is not text-to-speech). For more details see http://www.csudh.edu/fisher/PPTBook.htm






Created by F. Fisher (ffisher@csudh.edu) for students at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Last updated 4/05. Disclaimer: The statements found on pages in this web site are for informational and instructional purposes only. While every effort is made to ensure that this information is up to date and accurate, official information can be found in the University publications. Links to commercial sites are for information purposes only; no promotion of particular commercial sites is intended.