Speaking of speech

Here are two handy tools that can be used to support study, or tasks in the workplace.  If you have difficulties with Working Memory, reading accuracy or reading speed, it helps to hear text read aloud, and more than once.  There are free and commercial apps available for use with smart technology, but you can also use functions that are built-in to word-processing programmes.

Adobe  Acrobat [pdf] documents can be set to ‘read aloud’ from the document toolbar.  Go to View / and scroll down to Read Out Loud.  You can select what and how much text is read aloud, or you can set this function to read the whole document.  If you are a student in school and have digital textbooks, you can listen to a passage or a chapter; if you are in college this is useful for reading journal articles.

Read outloud


Choosing a voice that you are comfortable with is important. To do this, from the toolbar at the top of the document select Edit / and scroll down to Preferences. You should see the menu below.  Scroll down to ‘Reading’ and ‘uncheck’ the box marked ‘Use default voice.’  You can then select a voice that suits you.

voice custom


You can also hear any text that you have typed using a function in Microsoft Word.  This is useful if you have typed a letter, an essay, notes, anything really, and you would like to hear it read aloud to get a sense of…well…whether it makes sense.  This is going to sound complicated but it really isn’t, so bear with.

At the very top of your Word document, above File, Home, Insert etc., is a Quick Access toolbar.  You can see the floppy disk icon on the left, and to the right I have added the ‘Speak’ command, which is a speech bubble icon.  Highlight the text that you want to hear, and click on the speech icon to read aloud.

word toolbar


access toolbar


This is how to add the ‘Speak’ command. Click on the little downward pointing arrow and which will open the Customize Quick Access box, scroll down and click on ‘More Commands….’




At the top of the screen change ‘Popular Commands’ to ‘All Commands.’

speak option

Scroll down the menu of choices until you see ‘Speak’, select this and click on ‘Add’ to see it appear in the right hand box, then click ‘OK’.

You can also convert entire documents to a sound file (mp3) using a free service from Robobraille


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