Archive for December, 2010

Text-to-English-as-a-Second-Language

I don't speak English - But I promise not to laugh at your Spanish.

I’ve been experimenting recently with the hosted Asterisk at Tropo.com, and I have to say, it’s the best API I’ve ever played with, especially after spending months wrangling an Asterisk server. They’ve abstracted away all the eccentricities of Asterisk and created wrappers for Ruby, JavaScript, PHP, and a couple of other languages.

And speaking of other languages, they’ve also included and easy-wrapped a bunch of cool text-to-speech and voice recognition modules for a number of languages. When I saw “Jorge” the Castillian, I had an idea: can a computer voice have an accent? I read a piece in the Times or on some feed that I can’t track down recently that argued that English-language learners have an easier time learning from teachers who share their accent. It makes sense.

I remember an American friend of mine’s mother in Madrid who could not understand why Spaniards kept on thinking she was saying seis (six) when she was saying tres (three). The reason, I explained, was that she was pronouncing tres (which is pronounced like “press” in English) as “trays” which is exactly how seis sounds.

I tell this story as a way of explaining how I arrived at my ESL answering machine. You can interact with it by calling:

+1 617-466-6212


Getting this to work required some reverse phonetic hacking. Here are a couple of examples, see if you can guess the language:

“Jelo. Mai nem is Inigo Montoya. Llu kild mai fáder, pripeer tu dai.”

“Chateau Haut-Brion 1959, magnifisainte waillene, Aille love Frinch waillene, layke aille love ze Frinch leinguaje. aille ave simpelte everi leinguaje. Frinch ise maille favorite. Fantastic leinguaje, especially tu coeurse wits. Nom de Dieu de putain bordel de merde de saloperies de connards d’enculis de ta meire. Yu si? itte ise layke waille pine yoeur asse wits silk. Aille love itte!”

I’ll be posting a bunch more little phone experiments soon, so check back, you hear!