A talking dictionary is a device or program that provides spoken pronunciations of words in addition to the normal information provided by dictionaries. In some cases, such dictionaries also speak the definitions, synonyms, and other information. Language learners often find talking dictionaries useful because different languages have different pronunciation rules. It may be difficult, therefore, to determine the proper pronunciation of a world based on the spelling alone. A talking dictionary may also benefit an individual with impaired vision who cannot read the text in a written dictionary.
There are many different types of talking dictionaries. Some such dictionaries are portable electronic devices. The user of this form of talking dictionary usually types out the word of interest and the dictionary plays a recording or electronically generated pronunciation of the word. Other portable electronic talking dictionaries may allow the user to speak the word of interest instead of typing it. This type of talking dictionary generally only works when the user pronounces words correctly, so it may not be useful for language learners.
Many types of talking dictionaries are programs that can be used on computers or on mobile devices such as smartphones. Programs of this type often connect to a database on the Internet so the contents of the dictionary do not need to be installed on the device. Others actually store the entire contents of the dictionary, including audio files or a speech synthesis program, on the device itself, though this can take up a substantial amount of hard drive space. Some online talking dictionaries are community-run, and users, often native speakers of the dictionary's language, provide the pronunciations.
The most common use for a talking dictionary is language education. People seldom have trouble determining how to pronounce words in their native languages, but each language has different pronunciation rules that may seem subjective if not completely arbitrary to a language learner. A talking dictionary, particularly one that provides recorded rather than synthesized pronunciations, can greatly help a learner to learn a new language's pronunciation. Many talking dictionary programs actually come with pronunciation exercises specifically crafted to help language learners.
Those with vision impairments also often find talking dictionaries to be quite useful. Reading the text in a physical dictionary or on a computer screen can be quite difficult, particularly when the print is small. Though large-print dictionaries do exist, they tend to be rather bulky. Talking dictionaries, especially those allowing spoken rather than typed input, can greatly aid those who cannot see well enough to use traditional dictionaries.