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Text To Speech – zkanji might talk?

February 6, 2011 6 comments

Not yet! (I admit the title might be a bit misleading.) But I could make zkanji talk with a great open-source project, called Open JTalk. You can test the output it creates at its demo page. Just enter Japanese text in the field next to 合成テキスト (Only enter short sentences because it can’t handle long ones.) and press the button below it. You don’t have to install add-ons (I don’t have what it asks for), the generated sound can be saved in wav format as well.

I think the speech it generates is great. It’s much better than other TTS engines I have heard before. (Google’s translator can speak too, and its sound quality is amazing but somehow it can’t put together words that well.) It is free to use, it has an open-source license. So why don’t I want use it in zkanji? Actually I’m not yet sure about this, but at the moment I think that it is not appropriate for use by students. While it can say short sentences really well, it doesn’t work as great with single words or longer text. When it says single words, the sound is a bit shaky, and even if we find a long sentence that it can say without problems, it doesn’t sound as natural as a human would speak.

I have found another problem with its integration into zkanji. You probably know that some words in Japanese, though written with the same kanji, might sound very differently in different context. The simplest example is 何 that can be said as なに(nani) and also as なん(nan). There is no way at the moment to tell Open JTalk to say one or the other. This little problem would prevent zkanji to say the selected word in the dictionary when its reading differs from the most used one, and can also cause problems when the engine doesn’t recognize the correct form of the word in sentences, when it reads example sentences.

If you have listened to the speech that Open JTalk generated, you will probably agree that it is doing a great job. In the future it might become almost as good as a human speaker, or at least good enough to be used for studying. I’m sure the authors would appreciate any help they can get, so if you’re a genius, head over there and make it even better!

Categories: Other projects Tags: ,