Speech Technology Magazine

 

Presenting the Bible, in MP3 or .Wav

While conducting missionary work in South Africa, Pieter Schutte encountered a problem common among English-speakers wishing to communicate with those whose primary language is not English: how to effectively get a message across in English, without confusion.
By Lauren Shopp - Posted Nov 21, 2007
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While conducting missionary work in South Africa, Pieter Schutte encountered a problem common among English-speakers wishing to communicate with those whose primary language is not English: how to effectively get a message across in English, without confusion.

Schutte, who has been a missionary since the 1980s, struggled with getting Biblical passages and lessons across to Africans with poor English-language reading skills. After conducting an Internet search for a text to voice program, Schutte found the Web site for TextAloud, a division of NextUp Technologies, that provides both TTS and STT software. Schutte purchased the software for $29.95 and began using it to convert Biblical passages, Bible studies, and sermons for non-native English speakers into audio formats.

According to Rick Ellis, president of NextUp, the software provides further text comprehension when converted into audio format. "A light bulb will go off (in the user's head) if you’re (reading and listening) simultaneously," he states. "To hear it as they’re looking at it; it unlocks the reading."

Used predominantly as an assistive tool for people with various disabilities and English language learners, Ellis says the company has kept track of unique uses of TextAloud by customers like Schutte. Throughout the company's eight years of operation, Ellis states that the software is being used by a wider array of users since its release; including lawyers, court reporters, firefighters, and police officers.

The program is touted primarily as an educational or consumer product, and has the ability to convert text to speech on a PC or laptop, and supports files in text, HTML, and PDF formats. Schutte adds that he has found himself using the software to complete activities related to his personal life, but that his primary use of TextAloud is still for missionary work.

In a statement released today, Schutte said the program was useful because, "It’s invaluable that these formats can be converted to sound files for the poorly sighted or for those who cannot read well, as is the case with many prisons."

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