Thursday, September 6, 2012

Speech Feedback and Word Prediction featuring WordQ

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency
I have great difficulty reading and recognizing words and I only see them as little pictures. I can recognize words in context, but often out of context I may not always know which word I’m seeing since many words look nearly identical to me and I don't recognize the individual letters. And please don’t ask me to spell a word; I may know how to spell it from memory, but I couldn’t tell you just by looking at it. I might be able to decipher the first letter and maybe the last letter, but everything in between is often just a mash of curved and straight lines. People often ask me which letters look the same to me and I reply- “all of them.”
WordQ has been my favorite reading and writing support program for many years. Simplicity is the key to WordQ. The interface features a floating toolbar with just 4 buttons: Options, Words, Speech, and Read. Users can access any of last 3 functions either by direct selection or by hotkeys; the latter make it easy to turn features on and off, allowing one to minimize the program menu bar while working.
As I discussed in the previous blogs, speech feedback, commonly called text-to-speech or TTS, and word prediction are important tools for aiding students in reading and writing and these are the cornerstone features of WordQ.
WordQ comes with several high quality and natural sounding voices in 4 languages: English, Spanish, French and German. It works seamlessly with many office suites, including Microsoft Office, and most internet browsers and mail handling programs. I can easily highlight a block of text and press the F11 key (Read) and provided Speech is turned on (easily done with the F10 key), I will hear the text spoken out loud in the voice and speed I have selected in the speech feedback options. Using the Read feature for proofreading is very important for catching missing or incorrect words and to detect run on sentences.
The longer you use WordQ’s word prediction, the more useful the suggested words become and those you use frequently, including word combinations, turn up higher in your prediction list. It will suggest synonyms as you type, helping you think outside of your usual vocabulary. WordQ will even suggest words taking into consideration possible spelling and typing mistakes, including words spelled incorrectly but phonetically (WordQ calls this “creative spelling”). Homophone support is robust- the word prediction box displays usage examples which when combined with speech feedback can help students distinguish between commonly confused words, such as "there,” "their," and “they’re.” And the latest WordQ version makes abbreviation/ expansion easy to setup and your abbreviations can be added to your user dictionary so they will appear in the prediction box. And like the Speech and Read features, if you don’t need word prediction all the time, you can turn it on and off easily using the F9 key.
WordQ is not the only AT software available with strong word prediction and TTS capabilities and options.  Contact our AT Specialists for a demonstration of the available options.

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