Donating Voices to the Voiceless

For an activity this year the Linguistics and English Language Society decided to donate their voices to VocaliD. 

PROVO, Utah (Nov. 9, 2017)—There are millions of people around the world who suffer from speech disorders, many so severe that they cannot communicate without the aid of technology. VocaliD seeks to give these people the opportunity to communicate by using synthetic voices; possibly the most famous example being Stephen Hawking. Until recently, the adult male voice used by Hawking was the only one available no matter if the user was an old man or a young girl. Rupal Patel, a specialist in speech pathology, wanted to give speech-impaired individuals more options by founding VocaliD. This company collects the unique speech patterns of people across ages and countries, creating synthetic voices that are personalized to the speech impaired.  Anyone approved by the company can become a speech donor, including members of BYU’s own Linguistic and English Language Society. As a service project, this year’s members of the club signed up and completed the primary evaluation to become voice donors. 

“We wanted to do something different than just watching a movie,” commented Dallin Oaks, an associate professor of linguistics. “The club approached me about VocaliD and we thought it would be a great way to help students learn how linguistics can be applied in the job field as well as provide a much-needed service.”

From just a small snippet of sound from speech-impaired individuals, VocaliD can identify their unique voice. Then, from various donors, they can select a voice with speech patterns and personality similar to the recipient. It is not a long or difficult process to become a donor; in just 3–6 hours of recorded audio are found all the sounds made by speakers of the English language. It does, however, take the initiative of good people looking for how they can use their talents and resources to serve.