S R Questions

The terms Speech Recognition, Speech Recognition Software, Voice Recognition, Voice Activated Software or Voice Activated Technology are often used interchangeably, but Voice does not necessarily mean Speech.


Recent question added. Which Speech Recognition for a 9 year old?
1. Can anyone use SRS?
2. Does SRS work for regional accents?
3. Does SRS work for children?
4. Should you wait until a boy’s voice has broken?
5. I’ve heard it takes a long time to train SRS. Is this true?
6. Is SRS only available on computers?
7. Is it possible to use SRS in the classroom?
8. Can SRS be used for GCSE and A-level examinations?
9. Can I use the “read back” feature during GCSE and A-level examinations?
10. Can you hear the suggestions for corrections?
11. Typing or Speech Recognition?
12. Speech Recognition or something else?
13. Further information?

I have a 9 year old son who is dyslexic and I am trying to find a recommendation for a child friendly voice recognition system. I have looked at a few websites but cannot get any indication which ones suit children the best, can you help?

There is really only one version of speech recognition software I would recommend using with a dyslexic and that is Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

I have used it with people as young as 9 with success so I would feel confident that it will work for your son.

Things to bear in mind:
Get the Premium version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking v.13 rather than the Home version. This is because it records you as you speak and so you can hear what you said afterwards if you cannot quite remember exactly what it was. I have found this important with many users. The full price is usually around £150 but it is also usually possible to find it on offer for a price nearer £100.

It is vital your son is properly trained to use the software. You need to find someone experienced in using Dragon and training others. This will of course cost, but it really is likely to be the difference between success and frustration.

Check that your computer has the right specifications. You will need a 2.2 GHz Intel® Pentium® or equivalent AMD processor (or better) and a minimum of 2 Gb of RAM if you are using 32-bit Windows 7 or 8.  If you are using 64-bit Windows 7 or 8 you should have 4 MB of RAM.

While I am confident the software will work for your son, no-one can guarantee that your son will find it suits him. If you can get a chance for him to try it out before buying, it would be a good idea.

My best wishes for success with this. I know from experience it is a really valuable tool for those who it suits.

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1. Can anyone use SRS?

Even modern voice recognition software has limitations for some people. If a person cannot talk fluently and clearly, there will be problems, the most common being “um” and “er”, stutters and coughs. Dyslexics with slow processing may also find fluency a problem. The software “translates” what it hears and, if people are unable to phrase what they want to say, it will not work. A parallel is just because someone has a pencil and paper, it doesn’t mean to say what is written will be good. Dictating fluently is a skill. It requires people to order their thoughts first, then dictate. The plus side is that as the person is using a computer, the output can be re-ordered and edited.


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2. Does SRS work for regional accents?

Yes, because it is the consistency, fluency and clarity of speech that matters. You don’t have to deliver “BBC English”.  The software will adapt to individual speech patterns so it is important to complete the training properly and correct any mistakes orally, not by over-typing.  This way, the software will remember an individual’s pronunciation.


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3. Does SRS work for children?

Yes, children as young as ten have become successful users. What matters most is their motivation and ability to work through the initial frustrations while getting used to the system. Success is much more likely if the child is helped by an adult (parent or teacher) who has learnt to use the software. Dyslexic units in schools really do need to have their own staff proficient in using this if they are to provide proper support to their students.


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4. Should you wait until a boy’s voice has broken before allowing them to use SRS?

Definitely not! They will miss out for most of their schooling! Experienced users have reported little problem going through the “voice barrier” if they use the recommended practice of correcting errors as they go along. In addition, retraining is so much quicker now than it used to be. It is good practice to spend a few minutes re-training if the accuracy is declining and this particularly applies to boys of a certain age!


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5. I’ve heard it takes a long time to train SRS. Is this true?

Not any more. Early versions of the software did take a long time to train. In those days, persistence was vital and many people gave up as a result. Nowadays, through a combination of better software and increased computing power, training times are minimal. It is essential, however to follow the recommended good practice to achieve full fluency.


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6. Is SRS only available on computers?

Voice recognition software is only commonly available on computers. However it is starting to be used by major companies for telephone call centres and in luxury cars (e.g. for turning on the radio or music centre). For ordinary people, iPhone now provides a free voice recognition “App”, based on Dragon Naturally Speaking, which provides excellent recognition. We should expect to see growth in these new products as more non-dyslexic people start to use the technology.


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7. Is it possible to use SRS in the classroom?

Yes, it is possible to use SRS in the classroom, without unduly disturbing others and providing you are not too self-conscious.  You do not need to speak loudly for the microphone to pick up your speech and convert it into text accurately. A “loud whisper” will work as it is the clarity of speech, not the volume that matters. If possible, sit in a corner of the room, slightly away from others, not to disturb them and to avoid picking up background noise. If the latter does happen, it could be because the quality of the microphone is inadequate or it has not been set up correctly. The one provided with the software is adequate for normal working conditions, but if you are going to use it frequently in the classroom, a better quality “proximity” microphone is a good idea.


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8. Can VRT be used for GCSE and A-level examinations?

Yes, if VRT is your normal way of working and this fact is properly documented.  The access arrangements allow VRT (ref. search on-line for the latest Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration. Note these are changed every year).  The use of SRS is regulated in a similar way to using a scribe.  Schools have to apply on behalf of the pupil.  Many schools are reluctant to allow students to use SRS for examinations and persistence may be needed.


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9. Can I use the “read back” feature during GCSE and A-level examinations?

Yes. Good voice recognition software includes a feature which reads back the dictated text.   The JCQ access arrangements treat voice recognition like a scribe. A human scribe is allowed to read back what has been dictated to the examinee. Similarly, when using voice recognition software, the read back feature can be used to check the accuracy of the dictated text.


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10. Can you hear the suggestions for corrections?

Only with ClaroRead Plus as far as we know, and when you hover over each option. This is only available in the Correct mode, not the Select mode.


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11. Typing or Speech Recognition?

An enquirer asked about touch typing programs for firemen, who need to type messages between control operators quickly. Speech Recognition was suggested as a possible solution. See More Questions.


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12. Speech Recognition or something else?

For some, the change from handwriting to typing can create a much more positive writing experience. Some, particularly younger individuals, need the encouragement, support and guidance of a scribe.

Speech recognition software can be brilliant with training, the right equipment and support but it can be equally frustrating. It depends on the pupils, their ability to spot any errors if working unsupported, confidence in using I.C.T., memory for commands and ability to plan and dictate.

Some pupils are using Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 very successfully but it can take a while to get them following the routines they need correctly.

The Apple equivalent is called Dragon Dictate. There are Educational versions for students which are simply a bit cheaper. Evidence of eligibility will be required.


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13. Further information?

See videos showing Speech Recognition in action.

See main page on Speech Recognition, dyslexic experiences Using Speech and S R Parental advice.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. December 2014.
Copies of this page may be made providing it is unchanged and the source is acknowledged.

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