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What Is a Talking Dictionary?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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A talking dictionary is a device or program that provides spoken pronunciations of words in addition to the normal information provided by dictionaries. In some cases, such dictionaries also speak the definitions, synonyms, and other information. Language learners often find talking dictionaries useful because different languages have different pronunciation rules. It may be difficult, therefore, to determine the proper pronunciation of a world based on the spelling alone. A talking dictionary may also benefit an individual with impaired vision who cannot read the text in a written dictionary.

There are many different types of talking dictionaries. Some such dictionaries are portable electronic devices. The user of this form of talking dictionary usually types out the word of interest and the dictionary plays a recording or electronically generated pronunciation of the word. Other portable electronic talking dictionaries may allow the user to speak the word of interest instead of typing it. This type of talking dictionary generally only works when the user pronounces words correctly, so it may not be useful for language learners.

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Many types of talking dictionaries are programs that can be used on computers or on mobile devices such as smartphones. Programs of this type often connect to a database on the Internet so the contents of the dictionary do not need to be installed on the device. Others actually store the entire contents of the dictionary, including audio files or a speech synthesis program, on the device itself, though this can take up a substantial amount of hard drive space. Some online talking dictionaries are community-run, and users, often native speakers of the dictionary's language, provide the pronunciations.

The most common use for a talking dictionary is language education. People seldom have trouble determining how to pronounce words in their native languages, but each language has different pronunciation rules that may seem subjective if not completely arbitrary to a language learner. A talking dictionary, particularly one that provides recorded rather than synthesized pronunciations, can greatly help a learner to learn a new language's pronunciation. Many talking dictionary programs actually come with pronunciation exercises specifically crafted to help language learners.

Those with vision impairments also often find talking dictionaries to be quite useful. Reading the text in a physical dictionary or on a computer screen can be quite difficult, particularly when the print is small. Though large-print dictionaries do exist, they tend to be rather bulky. Talking dictionaries, especially those allowing spoken rather than typed input, can greatly aid those who cannot see well enough to use traditional dictionaries.

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julies
Post 4

When I was a foreign exchange student in France, using a talking dictionary was a life saver for me. I had three years of French before I went over there, but there were many situations that came up where I had no idea how to say the right word.

This was before the age of smartphones, so I relied on this portable electronic device to give me the information I needed. It also saved me from some frustrating and embarrassing situations from time to time.

Once I got back home, I haven't used this talking dictionary, but keep it around because I never know when I might need it again.

John57
Post 3

I have an uncle who is considered legally blind, and he has a portable talking dictionary that he can take with him if he thinks he might need to use it.

For him, this works best when he can speak the word into the device and hear how it is pronounced and what the definition is. He can see shapes and distinguish between light and dark, but it would be much harder for him if he had to type each word in.

Before he lost most of his eyesight, he liked to work on puzzles. Using a talking dictionary like this, along with other electronic equipment, has given him the ability to still complete some puzzles and keep his mind sharp.

golf07
Post 2

@sunshined-- I have also used a talking dictionary like that and have found them to be helpful most of the time. Even though they are helpful sometimes they are not entirely correct because of all the different dialects that are spoken.

Still, they are much better than just relying on the printed word and definition to know how to pronounce a certain word.

Now you can find several apps to use on your smartphone that will also give you this same information. If you are traveling in a foreign country and want to know how to ask a question, this is a great tool to be able to have access to.

sunshined
Post 1

I use an online talking dictionary to help me with the pronunciation of different words in different languages. I work with junior high kids in an after school program, and we have kids there that speak several different languages.

Some of them really struggle learning the English language, but they have made great strides in that area. The better they speak English, the better off they are in school.

I thought by using a talking dictionary like this I could learn a few words in their native language and communicate with them better. You should see their eyes light up when I say something in their language.

Many of these words would be difficult to know how to pronounce if I hadn't heard the correct way to say them. Sometimes I still get it wrong and we get a pretty good laugh out of it.

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