Day 5 – Voices – Assistive Technology #28daysofwriting

I’m not quite as famous as Ethel Cain (first speaking clock voice) but I was the voice of Falkland Islands telephone exchange in 2000 – Ethel and I had our voice recorded with a finite amount of things to say however, but a synthetic voice is different because a computer generates the sounds of words – the more accurate and naturally sounding the voice, the more expensive it is.

Because I use various Assistive Technologies with my students, I have become very familiar with free computer voices. I would prefer to listen to Jeremy Irons reading Pride and Prejudice obvs but these are prepared audio books.

If you want electronic text read to you unprepared by a human it will be a computerised voice.

And I’m a computer voice nerd. “That’s Daniel” I yell when I hear a satnav or “ah Microsoft Hazel is not as good as Sangeeta” I say to the bewilderment of other less voice spotting staff.

There are many free computer voices and ones which come with certain software – they’re all fine – Tyler from New Zealand is really rather lovely.

The paid for ones however are better but because I work in state education I rarely get to hear these. Ivona sell and create voices as do Cereproc. There are even children’s voices. I would not hesitate to purchase one of these for a student if nothing else worked but so far I haven’t needed to.

Two, high quality voices (Jack and Jess) created by Cereproc for 16+ students are impressive. I use Jack, he’s Northern. Obviously I have never typed ‘Jules I love you will you marry me?’ and got Jack to say it – that would be weird (awkward pause).

When you introduce voice choice in schools you do need to expect expletives to be typed then read out by the voices to immature chuckles, it’s par for the course. Once staff have got over the novelty however the students take over, choose a voice and usually stick with it.

Jack and Jess are free from JiscTechDis and work really well with Balabolka (Day 2 blog) for a totally free, high quality text-to-speech package. The voices will also work with paid for text-to-speech applications. Don’t forget you could download Jack and Jess if you’re studying (aren’t all teachers these days?), you just need to register with the post 16 provider’s name.

So, trial some voices and let me know who you like.


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