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Text-To-Speech (TTS) Tools for the Translator/Interpreter

February 10th, 2008 | by Naomi de Moraes

Most translators work solely with the printed word, and some are beginning to use Speech-to-Text tools like Dragon Naturally Speaking, but few know about Text-To-Speech (TTS) Tools. In short, they convert text into audio, either on-the-go or in an audio file (mp3 or wav).

How can translators and interpreters use this kind of tool?

  • To proofread their work, by having the computer read the original or the translation. This is particularly useful for verifying numbers.
  • To record lists of terminology when preparing for an interpretation assignment.
  • To read aloud a text for interpretation, to practice simultaneous interpretation.
  • To read an original while translating (this might work if the original is read slowly and the translator uses a speech-to-text tool to capture a first draft of the translation).

How can anyone use this kind of tool?

  • To record newspaper or magazine articles for listening while away from the computer, washing dishes, jogging, etc.
  • To record study/reading material while taking courses on most subjects.
  • To avoid excessive eye strain by having program read emails or other text while listener does other tasks.

In my experience, the Microsoft voices, which are always free, are very painful to listen to for any length of time. If your objective is to simply proof a list of numbers or similar, you may be able to use a free product. Note that Dragon Naturally Speaking has a basic text-to-speech function that may be all you need, if you already have Dragon installed on your PC. The AT&T Natural Voices used by many TTS programs seem to me to be the best overall, but some of the Nuance RealSpeak voices are very good too.

The Text-to-Speech page on this site summarizes the features of the four main programs I was able to find on the Internet: NaturalReader, ReadPlease, Text2go and TextAloud.

I would be interested in hearing from readers (in the comments):

  1. Which tool you like best, and why.
  2. What you use TTS for, both when translating and otherwise.

Naomi de Moraes

No Responses to “Text-To-Speech (TTS) Tools for the Translator/Interpreter”

  1. Corinne McKay Says:

    Naomi, thanks for this article! I don’t use any of these tools yet, but it’s always really useful to find ways to ease the strain of staring at the computer screen for long periods of time. My daughter’s XO laptop has a very basic TTS tool that we’ve been playing with, and I can already see the possibilities (both fun and useful) of these types of tools. Thanks for your excellent posts!


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