Your mother was right when she told you that you should spend more time reading. The problem with reading is that it requires a lot of mental resources and demands your full attention. When you’re driving to work, lifting heavy weights at the gym, preparing a full course dinner for a party of six, or running errands and doing chores, those resources aren’t available, and your attention is required elsewhere.
One convenient way how to overcome this hurdle (and make your mother unhappy) is to use a Text to Speech (TTS) app. As the name suggest, a TTS app converts written text into natural-sounding audio and plays it back to you. Best of all, there’s already a fantastic TTS app preinstalled on your Android device.
The Google Text-to-Speech app has been an integral part of Android since 2013. It’s used for reading translations and pronunciation of words, reading books, giving turn-by-turn navigation, and improving accessibility across the system. After one of the most recent updates, Google Text-to-speech can also be invoked by any third-party app that supports both text selection and sharing.
For example, you can select an entire web article and have Google Text-to-speech read it to you in a voice that strongly resembles natural English or any other supported language. As of now, the list of supported languages includes Bengali, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, several varieties of the English language, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Google is adding new languages on a regular basis as well as improving those that are already supported.
Most users should be able to use Google Text-to-speech right out of the box, but some may need to activate it or install it. The app is available on the Play Store, where you can also check if you have the latest version. To enable it
- go to Settings
- Language & Input
- Text-to-speech output
- select Google Text-to-speech as your preferred TTS engine.
Despite Google’s apparent technological superiority, there are other TTS apps out there that are worth your consideration. Some of the best of these apps leverage the power of Google Text-to-speech and apply it in their unique way. @Voice Aloud Reader uses third-party TTS engines, such as the one from Google, to read everything from web pages to emails to documents and even to eBooks.
Just like with Google Text-to-speech you can have it read selected text from any app, but you can also directly open TXT, PDF, DOC, DOCX, RTF, ODT, EPUB, MOBI, PRC, AZW, FB2, and many other popular file formats. The app correctly handles Chinese and Japanese vertical text, making it useful for students of Asian languages and native speakers of Chinese and Japanese alike. Other useful features include the ability to add saved articles from Pocket, sync reading progress using Dropbox, record spoken articles to sound files, or, for example, look up words and phrases on Wikipedia or Google.
It’s important to keep in mind that @Voice Aloud Reader is designed to be an all-encompassing reading companion with every option and feature you might ever need. Try not to be discouraged if you don’t know what every option means. The developer has prepared a comprehensive online manual and several instructional videos, which explain how everything works in great detail.
Talk is a simple app that can help you convert any piece of text to a WAV file for later use. You can either import text directly from other apps on your phone or create a new document and type in whatever you want the app to say.
Just like @Voice Aloud Reader, Talk doesn’t come with its own TTS engine. Instead, you must have Google’s TTS engine installed for it to work. The free version of Talk is supported by ads, but there’s also a paid version, called Talk Pro, which is completely ad-free. Both versions allow you to change both pitch and speed, enabling you to customize the audio to your preferences.