Text-to-speech: a useful tool for the foreign language self-studier

By | November 3, 2015

Thanks to the Internet, a person studying a foreign language without a formal study program can look up answers to the many questions they will surely have along the way. One place where your typical internet searching doesn’t work too well is matters of pronunciation, since it’s hard to convey sounds using just text. There are of course many YouTube videos out there, but it can be difficult to find someone speaking the exact word or phrase you are looking for. One option is to buy a digital dictionary which contains recordings of many common words, but this doesn’t work for phrases.

I recently discovered this site, which allows you experiment with Oddcast’s text-to-speech logic. I checked a few words in Japanese, and it sounded surprisingly realistic. For the samples I tried, even the pitch intonation was roughly correct. It accepts single words or entire phrases, and for Japanese has three different voices you can use (some of the other languages English have many more).

I am not claiming the spoken Japanese generated is indistinguishable from a human, since it clear is not. It’s always best to spend as much time as possible around those who are natives of the language you are studying.

But for times when you can’t ask someone, I think this is a great tool to add to your arsenal, especially since it’s completely free. The only ad on the site is an unobstrusive one for that company’s technology itself.

The tool will even read Kanji, so you can just cut and paste whole sentences into this site from somewhere else.


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