English for Wizards
Read me a bedtime story
By John Moore
If you want to build your English vocabulary skills, the best way is to read a lot. Maybe reading is not as popular as video games because it takes more effort, but it's worth it.
Today, thanks to the Internet, you'll never have trouble finding good books to read. Just go to Project Gutenberg (http://promo.net/pg/). This is a long-term effort to make English literature available for free. Recently the Project Gutenberg team published its 10,000th volume online.
Try using the Project Gutenberg search function. Enter an author's name, like "Twain," or a book title, like "Tom Sawyer," in the blank. Or, if you don't know exactly what you want to read yet, you can also click on the "Browse by author or title" link, below the search blank.
Unfortunately, you can only find old works on Project Gutenberg. That's because of copyright laws, which can extend back some 80 years or so. Therefore, you will not see George Orwell, for example, in the Project Gutenberg lists.
OK, but maybe I want some whiz-bang computer technology after all! It's too hard to read whole books on a flickering monitor, so why can't the computer read to me? It can, of course. All you need is a special free text-to-speech software, such as ReadPlease (www.readplease.com). All you do is copy and paste your whole text into the main ReadPlease window, and then press the "Play" button. You'll hear a robot voice read you a story.
After a while, you might get tired of this robot voice, but there are other voices that sound much more pleasant. The boring robot woman's voice is called "Mary," but at ATT Labs (www.research.att.com/projects/tts/demo.html), you can try out lots of others, such as "Charles," with his wonderful British accent, or "Claire," a mature-sounding mother's voice.
Another good text-to-speech software title is TextAloud (See www.nextup.com.) This package lets you use those fancy ATT voices, although you have to pay $25 (¥2,750). Imagine downloading "Charles" and having him read you Dickens every night. Sweet dreams!
Shukan ST: Oct. 31, 2003
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