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Monday fun with eSpeak on Linux

By   |  April 14, 2008

Looking for a way to perk up your Monday morning? Tombuntu has a good introduction to using eSpeak on Ubuntu. eSpeak is a voice synthesizer included by default in Ubuntu and available from here for other distributions that don’t include it. The most basic way to use eSpeak is to tell it what to say in inverted commas at the command line:

espeak "Hello world. I am espeak, a voice synthesizer."

eSpeak can also be used interactively using the stdin switch:

espeak -stdin

Then simply type in the words you want said. To make eSpeak read a file to you use the -f flag:

espeak -f filename.txt

eSpeak includes a great array of options that can be added at the command line. So, for example, you can speed up the reading with -s, increase the gaps between words with -g and, even more fun, use different accents for the playback. espeak -vaf is apparently meant to sound like an Afrikaans speaker. Give it a shot and see what you think. Details of more eSpeak options can be found in the documentation



9 Responses to “Monday fun with eSpeak on Linux”

  1. Ian
    April 14th, 2008 @ 10:44 am

    As I understand it, the Afrikaans voice is better suited to speaking Afrikaans, rather than speaking Afrikaans with an English accent. It actually works quite well if you enter an Afrikaans sentence.

  2. Alastair Otter
    April 14th, 2008 @ 11:31 am


    Yep. I assumed that as well. If you try some other languages they clearly have to be for their native language because many tend to mangle English sentences. My French is a little rusty so I haven’t had a chance to test it.

    Apparently eSpeak also works over SSH which would make for a fun way of presenting a ‘big brother’ voice to a colleague. Pity I work alone.

  3. j0nn0
    April 14th, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

    Fun… how would get it to speak fortune every time I boot up? I’m not a shell-script guru, but something like “fortune | espeak” would do it?

  4. Alastair Otter
    April 14th, 2008 @ 5:11 pm


    You may need to add -stdin to that to get eSpeak to read a fortune. Something like:

    fortune | espeak -stdin

    will probably work.

  5. bob
    May 2nd, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

    How I can make it speak in others languages, where I write that stuff like -stdin, -g, for example how step by step can make it speaks in czech?

  6. Ian
    May 2nd, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

    espeak -vcs “hello” would work (replace “hello” with some czech. cs is the Czech language code, so using -vaf (Afrikaans) gets it to work in Afrikaans, etc.

  7. Alastair
    May 2nd, 2008 @ 6:46 pm


    To make espeak use a czech accent use the -vcs switch. An example:

    espeak -stdin -vcs

    This will speak the input with a czech accent. For a list of available accents use: espeak –voices

  8. roshan
    August 5th, 2008 @ 7:48 am

    Is there any Natural Voices available in linux/ubuntu. if so where can i get it and how to install ???

  9. Casper Labuschage
    November 20th, 2008 @ 9:36 am


    This may be a Monday-morning fun article, but espeak has turned out to be a productivity tool for me.

    I have dozens of books manuals and other stuff that I have to find time to read. Now I use espeak to read back text files as background noise while I am working.

    It may not be ideal, I might not concentrate either 100% on the spoken text, or on my actual work, but I am getting through stuff I need to know that I am simply not getting to. Yes, the voice sounds really 1960’s science fiction like, but I can follow it and it is 99% understandable.

    I have now listened my way throught an entire how-to, a spoken chapter at a time. No, it is not as good as reading the book, I will have to return and dip into the book again, but I certainly have a 20% to 50% comprehension of the subject as a result of espeak. And this without using an additional minute of my time.

    Espeak has now become one of my must-have productivity tools on Linux!

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