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Getting Espeak to Speak Faster

If you use Espeak with Orca, you may be wondering if it can speak faster. The answer is yes, it can, but it will require a little modification. On Ubuntu 8.10 and earlier, you will need to upgrade to the latest release. You can get the latest version from espeak.sourceforge.net. Click on the download link and on the downloads page, and download the source code and dictionary data.
My files automatically save to my desktop. But to make things easier I am going to move it to my home folder. Right click the espeak source file on the desktop and select cut. Open the places menu and select your home folder. Once in your home folder, right click or open the edit menu and select paste. This will move the Espeak source file from your desktop to your home folder. Once the file has been moved, right click it and select extract here.
After the extraction process, open the applications menu, under accessories, click terminal. When terminal opens you should be in your home folder. If you aren’t sure, you can type:
cd
and it will take you to your home folder. Once there, type:
cd espeak-1.40.02-source/src
Note that in this example the espeak version I am installing is 1.40.02 this is the latest version at the time of this writing, but it is likely that the numbers will change, so just make sure of the version number when you are installing.
Now that you are in the correct folder, we will begin the installation process.
The first thing we need to do is make sure espeak can find lportaudio. To do this, type the following command:
sudo ln /usr/lib/libportaudio.so.0 /usr/lib/libportaudio.so
This creates a link to lportaudio that espeak can use. After that is done, type:
make
This will take a couple of minutes. When it is done, the final command is:
sudo make install
This will install the new version of espeak. If you are using Orca, it will cause your language setting to be switched. It is kind of tricky navigating Orca preferences to get the correct language back, so you may need some help doing this. It may be possible to close and restart Orca to correct this problem, but I am not sure because I haven’t tried it.
Now, for the speed boost. type:
cd
to get back to your home folder. In this example, I am going to speed up the US English voice. If you are using a different language, substitute your language info in the command below. To speed up the English voice, type:
sudo vi /usr/share/espeak-data/voices/en/en-us
When the file opens in vi, press escape to make sure you are in command mode. Use down arrow to move to the bottom of the file. Press shift A to append at the end of the line. Press enter to get on a blank line.
You can then type in the new setting to speed up espeak. the command is fast_test. This is followed by 3 numbers. The first number controls pauses for punctuation, etc. The other 2 numbers change different aspects of the speech like how long vowels are sustained. The fastest speed I am comfortable with is 2 40 40. This comes out to about 510 words per minute. So, to get this speed, type:
fast_test 2 40 40
Press escape, then type
:wq
this will save your changes and exit vi. Espeak should be speaking a lot faster now. If it isn’t, make sure you have your speech rate set to 99 in Orca preferences. Enjoy the new, faster Espeak. If you are not an Orca user, remember that you can use espeak to read long text files and save some of the strain on your eyes.

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