Last Wednesday Apple released a new version of OS X (10.8, Mountain Lion) for the Mac, which includes several new and improved features for Chinese users. I say “for Chinese users,” rather than “for China” (the way Apple puts it), since these features benefit all users of Chinese, not just those who are Chinese. Our first topic is text-to-speech.
Chinese text-to-speech was introduced in Mac OS 10.7 just about a year ago (see this post, where I predicted that this feature would get better). Now in 10.8, the two Mandarin voices Ting-Ting (China) and Ya-Ling (Taiwan) have been improved (there is also a Cantonese voice, Sin-Ji, that I have not tried). If you already downloaded the voices in 10.7, the improvements will come in a software update after you upgrade to 10.8.
Note that if you did not install the Chinese voices under 10.7, you can get them by opening the System Preferences and selecting the Dictation and Speech pane. Once there, make sure the “Text to Speech” tab is selected and pull down the “System Voice” menu. Choose “Customize” and then check the voices that you want. They will download and become available in the “System Voice” menu. Then you can customize the speaking rate, if you wish.
So how do the new voices sound? The following audio files are Ting-Ting and Ya-Ling reading the same text as before in their Lion voices and then their Mountain Lion voices.
Ting-Ting, Mountain Lion:
Ya-Ling, Mountain Lion:
Xué Zhōngwén nán bu nán? Nán, yě bù nán. Wèishénme zhèyàng shuō ne? Yīnwèi xué rènhé yī zhǒng yǔyán dōu nán, dōu yào xué tīng, shuō, dú, xiě, dōu yào xué fāyīn, xué yǔfǎ, dōu yào jì dāncí.
I wish I had kept some longer recordings of the Lion voices for comparison. Even in this short sample, I think Ya-Ling is noticeably better, but Ting-Ting still sounds abrupt to me when she says 写 and 词 in 单词.
Stay tuned for continued coverage of the new and improved features for Chinese users of OS X.
OS X (10.8) Mountain Lion is available from the Mac App Store.