You’ve probably met someone before who over-enunciates. Many people do this in order to make themselves better understood, which makes sense when you consider how often we as people ask each other to repeat ourselves. Try talking with anybody for more than a few minutes without one of you saying “What? Sorry? Pardon?” at least once. But there comes a point where enunciation starts to seem unnatural and robotic. If you obsessively try to /prəˈnouns/ /ˈevrē/ /wərd/ /iɡˈzak(t)lē/ /kəˈrekt/, it sounds like you care more about the formality of your speech than what you’re actually talking about.
One might think that eLearning voice-overs would be the place to take your enunciation skills to the max, but that’s not quite true. Granted, you definitely want to speak up and do your best not to mumble, fumble, and stumble over your words, but it’s not necessary that you try to sound like Mr. Spock.
This is also big reason why a human voice is usually a wiser choice than a machine voice. Richard E. Mayer’s Voice Principle states that, “People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice.” The problem with computerized voices is that, at this point in time, they are not very customizable. They have a certain bank of sounds they know how to make when presented with certain letters and words, and they can alter their pitch and tempo according to punctuation, but that’s about it.
With that in mind, robotic voices are not the warm, friendly human voices we know and love. Therefore it is harder for us to empathize with them. A good deal of trust comes from the ability to relate to one another. While they are quickly advancing, computers just can’t do that right now.
Until that day comes, think of Text-to-Speech software as a rough draft placeholder for the narration. It’s a handy tool for giving you some idea of what the finished product will look and sound like, even without having all the polished pieces on the table quite yet.
Though computer voices may not be suited to the final published course, they will always have a place in the course development process.
12 Principles of Multimedia Series, #11
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Next: #12– The Amazing Invisible Narrator