Apple’s packed so many features into its iPhone and iPad operating system that, at first glance, its difficult to recognize the potential in all of them. One stellar feature that’s buried away is the built-in Speak Selection function. By turning it on, Speak selection will do just want it says, audibly speak any text that you select.
Now you might be wondering why this is important. I can see a few different use cases. The more obvious one being that you have a long article to read and don’t want to stare at your screen for a long period of time. Maybe you’re working or driving and simply want to listen to the text read to you. Just select the entire article and tap Speak to have it read for you.
The other use case will come in handy for any of us learning a new language. Would you like to hear text in that language spoken for you with proper pronunciation and at a rate that you set? Speak Selection is able to do it with ease. It even knows when to switch between text in multiple languages.
In order to take advantage of this feature, you first need to enable the desired language’s keyboard in your Settings app. Go to Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Keyboards -> Add New Keyboard. Then pick the language you would like to enable. For typing purposes, you will now see a globe icon to the left of the spacebar on your system-wide keyboard. Next we need to enable Speak Selection.
Now that everything is enabled in the Settings app, let’s test out the feature. Browse for a webpage in Safari that shows text in English or your other enabled languages. Long press and drag to highlight the text you want. In the floating menu that pops In the Settings app go to General -> Accessibility -> Speak Selection. Here you can drill down and set language speed, quality, and whether you want words highlighted as they’re spoken. Individual language options can also be set.up, tap on Speak (you might have to tap the right arrow to scroll to the Speak option). That’s it, the selected text will now be audibly read aloud for you.
The greatest thing about Speak Selection being a built-in feature of iOS is that it works system wide. That means that you can use it in Safari, iBooks, or any other app you want. I found that it is especially helpful in learning Chinese, which uses characters that can’t be visually sounded out unless you already know them. Give Speak Selection a try and let us know how you use it in the comments below.