Text to speech on iPhone or iPad is part of the assistive settings. This is how it works, we can either select text to be read or we can instruct the device to read everything that displayed on the screen. On most devices this option is not automatically enabled. We can enable this feature in Settings.
To turn on the text speech, open Settings.
Tap on the General settings section and tap on the Accessibility option.
Tap on the Speech option in Accessibility.
In the Speech settings section, we have three options. We can enable the option to speak a selection, Speak Screen, or to speak out text as it is entered using the keyboard. This third option will automatically speak out the auto-corrections of words, and words that are automatically capitalized by the device.
In this example, none of the options are enabled. We will enable the first option to speak selection.
When we enable Speak Selection, three options become available. We have the options to select a voice, set the speaking rate and the option to highlight content as it is read. We’ll leave these options alone for now. Let’s try the text to speech with some text on a web page.
With some text selected, the actions menu includes the speak option in addition to the normal copy option. Tapping Speak will start the text to speech process.
The Speak action button will change to a pause action button when text is being read. When we tap the pause button, the Speak button will return. The pause button is misleading because the speech to text really isn’t paused. When we tap the Speak button again, the text to speech action will start from the beginning. Tap once outside the selection to deselect text and the speak option will go away.
Let’s return to the Speech options in settings and enable the Speak Screen option. To use this option we will need to swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers.
Back on our web page, we will swipe down from the top with two fingers. I recommend starting off the screen and then swiping down half way or more.
The text to speech process begins almost immediately. The information that is read back depends on the layout of the web page and the alt text information provided by the developers of the web page. This means that items like images, menu options, and other information might be read along with the body text of the page.
During the readback process, we have access to an actions menu with several options. In the center of the actions menu is a button we can use to pause the text to speech process. This time, the pause is really a pause because the text to speech resumes after the last word that was read.
The rewind button to the left of the pause button and the fast forward button to the right of the pause button will replay the last word read, or read the next word after the current word read, respectively.
To the left of the rewind button is a button to slow down the text to speech rate. To the right of the fast forward button is a button to increase the text to speech rate. Tap each of these buttons to reduce or increase the read back rate one step at a time.
The last button on the right will cancel the text to speech process and the last button on the left will collapse the actions menu so it’s out of the way. The actions menu automatically collapses after a few seconds and dims slightly.
Reading the entire screen is easy and offers more features than reading selected text. On web pages, this means that text is read in addition to the body of the page. The speak screen option works best with online text written with applications like Google Docs or Office 365.
Let’s go back to settings and enable the last option, Speak Auto-text. This option works when we are typing.
With the Notes app open, we’ll begin typing. We will hear text spoken when there is a word suggestion. In this example, the word “weve” is read aloud to indicate that the suggested word is the possessive “we’ve”.
The last word “begum” is spoken as “begun” for the recommended replacement word.
The text to speech options are very useful and can be helpful to anyone. Speaking selected text works best on small selections of text. Speaking the screen works best on longer text selections and works better when reading text from apps like Notes because the applications are not bogged down by reading links, alt text and other web page distractions. Speaking text corrections as we type on our device can be very useful and helpful when avoiding those typos we often get when typing on mobile devices.
In The Classroom
One of the most beneficial uses of text to speech is in the classroom. Students can use text to speech when reading. They can adjust the speech rate and have highlighting turned on so that each word is highlighted as it is read.
In this example, the story of the Velveteen Rabbit is copied onto a Google Doc. Using the Read Screen option, students can have the story read back to them at a rate that is comfortable and each word is highlighted as it is read. Using Google Docs eliminates the distractions of web pages when text is read back.