Typing by voice recognition

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E-mail message from my son, Thomas Krishna:

I'm using the voice recognizer to write you this message. When you do take your truck in for service at Toyota place, ask them if an exterior cleaning is included. Having visited you over the years I know that where you park a lot of tree debris falls onto your vehicles! This is no big deal, except for one thing, you don't want stuff to fall on top of your vents right in front of where the windshield is. I had this problem with my truck under the crepe myrtles at Lacey's house. For a while I tried using cardboard cutouts to cover them up but they did not last very well in the Sun and rain. I know that at your place things dropping off the trees is almost a continuous problem whereas for me it was only in the fall. So just thinking maybe you should try to find something that can cover those vents for when your truck is parked there.

I was amazed that voice recognition software could produce such a literate text.

I asked my son the following questions:

Shouldn't that be "Google Speech to Text"?

Did you have to revise the output very much?

Do you mind if I include what you wrote in a LL post?

Tom's reply:

I don't mind at all if you use it.

Oddly, it is called "Google Text-to-speech Engine".
I had to use the backspace once or twice, but didn't have to edit at all basically. 
If it had a "carriage return" ability, to me it would be OK to use even to write complicated books…. that missing ability is the only drawback I can find.
I have a feeling it is a renamed and updated version of something older that Google acquired.

He added:

I use it infrequently.

It is a standard feature of most Andoid phones. I'm sure Apple has a comparable system.
I had to look it up in my system settings and it's called "Google Text to Speech."
It does work remarkably well!

I never cease to marvel at such technological creations and human beings' masterful utilization of them.


Selected reading


  1. Ferdinand Cesarano said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 10:11 pm

    The "carriage return" is accomplished by saying "new paragraph".

  2. K said,

    August 22, 2020 @ 11:18 pm

    The system component called Google Text-to-Speech Engine is indeed a text-to-speech engine. It is used for features like the screen readers for vision impairment, like TalkBack.

    The speech-to-text feature is called Google Voice Typing and can be accessed through most Android keyboards including Google's Gboard.

  3. Bob Ladd said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 6:43 am

    Is it worth being fussy about maintaining the distinction between "voice recognition" (identifying a speaker) and "speech recognition" (understanding spoken language)? I know lots of people use the first for both, but this is Language Log, and the technical challenges and practical applications of the two are quite distinct.

  4. mg said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 12:55 pm

    I use the speech recognition feature on my Android phone some of the time. It's great for vocabulary, not good for some specific things, and for some reason no one's yet adjusted it so it doesn't keep producing "Corona virus" despite it having been months that "coronavirus" has likely been the much more frequent usage.

  5. cliff arroyo said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 1:01 pm

    Since no one else wants to discuss the elephant in the room…… what are you going to do about the vents on your truck???? Don't bring this up and just leave us hanging!

  6. Victor Mair said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 1:05 pm

    Next time I take my Tacoma for a washing, I'll use the vacuum machine to remove all the pine needles and leaves that have accumulated over the vents.

  7. DaveK said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 1:27 pm

    This is much better than the the transcriptions on my iPhone voice mail, which has numerous mistakes in meaning and lots of gaps where the app just throws up its hands and goes _______.
    It might be that these engines get trained to recognize one user’s speech style?
    It’s also odd that it capitalizes “Sun”

  8. djw said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 2:16 pm

    Yes, do clean those "gutters" regularly. If they're allowed to hold water, they can rust/ rot out, and you may have water leaking into your cab. Been there, done that.

  9. Kenny Easwaran said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 2:17 pm

    On the capitalization of "Sun", I've noticed that my phone tends to auto-capitalize "May" and "Line" when I type them. My guess is that it started auto-capitalizing "May" when Theresa May became Prime Minister of the UK. And I am guessing it auto-capitalizes "Line" because my phone contact history may still have an entry for a linguistics professor of mine from graduate school, Line Mikkelson. But I do find it odd that it prefers the capitalization for both of those, since I don't believe I have ever once intended to mention either name on my phone in the past few years, and the corresponding words are quite common. ("Sun" would be another common word that might also be spelled the same as someone's last name in the relevant person's contact book.)

  10. Arthur Baker said,

    August 23, 2020 @ 10:20 pm

    "and human beings' masterful utilization of them"

    Masterly, perhaps?

  11. A. said,

    August 24, 2020 @ 2:00 am

    @Kenny Easwaran:

    "Line" is indeed baffling, but "May" is also capitalized when it's a month.

  12. JorgeHoracio said,

    August 24, 2020 @ 3:20 am

    Does this engine work well in other languages?

  13. Coby Lubliner said,

    August 24, 2020 @ 8:48 am

    It's interesting that the program wrote "crape" (in "crape myrtle") as "crepe", which some of us pronounce "krep" when the pancake is meant.

  14. R said,

    August 24, 2020 @ 9:50 pm

    I'm disabled and write slowly, so I've used this technology for a long time. It has gotten a lot better, but my speech patterns (also affected by my disability) are still very difficult for the computer to interpret. The human brain can understand my speech perfectly, but it is slightly too irregular for those programs. I need to edit all the text I produce with it.

  15. Jonur said,

    August 25, 2020 @ 1:19 am

    I've often heard Americans refer to those French pancakes as "crapes" (rhyming with "scrapes").
    Has Language Log ever discussed this, or the "POSSta" (pasta) phenomenon, immortalised in the Simpsons, where Edna Krabappel is called "Ms. Krobopple"?

  16. John Rohsenow said,

    August 25, 2020 @ 2:59 am

    Again, is this available for other languages, most specifically for Chinese and Japanese? Does anyone know?

  17. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    August 25, 2020 @ 5:44 pm

    Could sun be capitalized both because it is a part of the solar system (Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth…) and because Sunday, when abbreviated, is capitalized?

    My iPad seems capitalize based on frequency, not context. I wrote a bunch of notes and emails with the names of quilting guilds, so quilt was often capitalized. It took a few more months, repeated corrections, and other notes and emails before it reverted to lower-case “quilt.”

  18. Philip Taylor said,

    August 27, 2020 @ 2:57 pm

    /kreɪp/ (rhymes with "scrape") would be normal in British English for something spelled "crepe(s)", whether or not the latter bore a circumflex on the first "e", and often ('though not universally) regardless of whether or not the final letter were "s".

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