Listening and speaking skills can be difficult to gain for beginning language students, especially if their textbooks provide very little audio-visual resources and they are too intimidated to use authentic resources online which tend to be completely in the target language. Most of the time my students want to work on pronunciation of isolated words and phrases so I advise them to use Larousse or Forvo if they want to hear a word pronounced. For longer texts, submitting a request to Rhinospike is also an option but there’s no guarantee that someone will record it.
Computer-generated voices can also be of help, especially in the cases of new or informal words, or even brand names and proper nouns, that are not found in dictionaries. Google Translate offers a text to speech function for some languages – just choose the language, type your text, and a speaker icon will appear if it’s available for that language.
However, if you want the option to slow down the speech, switch between a male or female voice, or hear a different accent, there are other text to speech demo websites that you can try:
Acapela Group even has From Afar, Up Close, Happy and Sad voices in European French, which are quite fun to test out.
Since my students are required to do a recording in French every week, and there’s not enough time for me to help each student individually with their pronunciation before they push record, I let them use these websites to practice. It may not be actual human beings saying the words, but it is better than nothing and it helps them remember to not pronounce final consonants which always seems to be their biggest problem in the first semester class.
Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.