Text-to-Speech technologies allow us to create audio files from written words. This conversion provides several advantages, among them:
- Allows us to review the content of a reading by listening to it while jogging, walking, cycling at the stationary bike, or other activities where our attention is available to focus on the content
- Promotes learning, specifically for learners with an aural learning style
- Can take advantage of multimodal learning if visually reading text while also listening to audio
- Can help avoid eye strain from reading directly from the monitor
- Facilitates content assimilation, specially for learners with any visual impairment
- Saves trees, since there might not be necessary to print some readings
There are some potential disadvantages too:
- Even though they have improved a lot in the past years, current text-to-speech technologies still keep a “robotic” accent (listen to the sample at the end of this posting).
- “Natural” voices are created by third-party companies (like AT&T). Adding a new “natural” voice to the text-to-speech software might even be more expensive than the software itself.
- The voices lack of any emotion and feeling tending to become monotonous and boring.
- An audio file might not be useful for all type of content, for instance if it refers constantly to images, pictures, or statistical equations.
Most text-to-speech software allows you to select voices from different accents (American, British) and languages (Spanish, German, etc.). You can also change the voice speed and pitch.
If you are interested in exploring the benefits of these technologies a little bit further, you might want to try DSpeech which is one of the best text-to-speech applications available for free. Here is a demo of an mp3 file created by this software using American accent and here is another example using a British accent.
Below is a list of commercial text-to-speech software available. The average price is around $45 dollars. We recommend you to install the trial versions first to make sure the software will provide the functionality that you expect.