With the increase in online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, learners have been using various platforms to make up for the physical chalk-board learning. One such tool is the text-to-speech (TTS) software which is a synthetic speech program converting texts into human speech. A number of software companies provide this service which helps the learners to understand the concept better through hearing, making it an important tool for people with vision impairment or dyslexia.
The information that the human brain is able to retain through hearing, is higher than the rest of the senses. Thus, from a very young age, during the initial stages of learning, listening the content and saying it out loud is given higher importance. With the sudden shutting down of schools and colleges, many people are resorting to online learning tools. They might not be as good as the physical classes but companies are trying their best to provide the essence of quality learning through online means. One such technology is text-to-speech. It enables the learner to listen the written text in a speech form, thereby, making it less difficult to pay attention to the eye-burning laptop/mobile screens. For learners with visual impairment or dyslexia, TTS becomes an indispensable tool. Learning shouldn’t be restricted to certain class of population and TTS provides inclusion of the slow learners and specially abled learners.
How to start your TTS learning journey?
There are a number of softwares which provide good quality speech synthesis. Many such companies provide more human like speech instead of the robotic ones to make it easier for the users to understand. The voice, language, accent, etc. can be customized according to the user’s needs. Ivona is one such software which provides 22 languages and 51 voices ( including two children’s voices !) to choose from. Recently, they have added an Australian accent to the list. Natural Reader is a learning disability-oriented website with amazing TTS tools. For each page of the website, there is an option for TTS, explaining the content of that page. Other major websites like Next Up, Text Help, Lumenvox, etc. also provide customised text-to-speech tools to learn from. These websites are very user-friendly, available for android, ios or windows. A number of them are free, whereas some of them require a premium subscription to start.
TTS and COVID
Even with the global pandemic raging, one positive thing is that people have not stopped learning. With the help of technology, the environmental barriers created by the Covid-19 have been reduced to a bare minimum. This has increased the demand for text-to-speech learning, as it provides the essence of listening the study material instead of just reading it. For people who face difficulties with spelling and pronunciation, TTS is the perfect tool. New concepts which are harder to grasp are better understood and easily memorized through this synthetic speech technology. Not just slow learners or people with visual and speech impairment, but people with a busy schedule or multilingual learners who want to understand a language better can also get the best out of TTS. There has been a rise in the number of audio book listeners in the pandemic.
TTS is not restricted to students, it has become an important tool in the corporate world in the past few months. Large document files, PDFs, etc. are converted from text-to-speech or vice versa for business work. TTS websites usually have a separate section for such corporate uses. With technology becoming a tool impossible to work without in pandemic, TTS has been proved to speed up work process and save time while also providing quality service. A number of companies have resorted to TTS softwares to speed up their work processes.
Is TTS really efficient?
Though TTS can be considered as an efficient tool, there are some limitations which make us think twice to switch to this type of learning. Words with same the spelling but different pronunciations or numbers which are to be read together or individually, can be missed out or errored by this high-tech tool. It might also not always be able to provide smooth, perfectly timed sentences with appropriate pauses which can make it difficult to understand the context or meaning of the written content. If more and more people get heavily dependent on text-to-speech, especially the children, the reading, comprehending and spelling skills of the students can be compromised. If the TTS software fails to provide the correct speech format of the text, misinformation can prevail and compromise important data.
Whatever its pros or cons might be, it is an unavoidable fact that TTS is a commendable invention in the field of technology. With changing times, its importance seems to be increasing. Especially in times like the Covid, TTS has been an excellent tool to aid people coming from various fields to ease their online challenges and to smoothly continue on with their usual duties. Software companies providing TTS services like Ivona, Natural Reader, TextHelp, Lumenvox, etc. have bagged amazing profits during the pandemic. Ivona, now recently bought by Amazon for its Kindle edition is going to bring major changes in the reading community.