How to Use Google's Text-to-Speech Feature on Android

Use Google TTS to read out text messages and more

Sometimes listening is easier than reading

 Sneksy / Getty Images

The current world of 24/7 connectedness can be a real headache. It requires you to be able to see a small screen and read small text constantly, but with Google's text-to-speech (TTS), your Android phone can read what’s on the screen aloud to you. Best of all, this is a feature already on your phone. You have only to turn it on and use it.

Even if you have no trouble seeing the small print, this feature can be handy for anyone learning to read, learning a new language, or those who have trouble processing written information.

Android Accessibility Features Similar to Google TTS

There are several accessibility features built into Android. If you want to hear text read aloud to you, use Select to Speak. However, if you need a complete accessibility solution that helps you operate a phone without asking you to read or see well, use Talkback, which turns your phone into a device you operate by listening. It takes over the phone’s operations and will completely change the way you interact with it.

  1. Swipe down from the top of the phone, then tap the gear icon to open the Device Settings.

    Screenshot showing the location of the Android Settings icon.
  2. In the Settings menu, tap Accessibility.

  3. You should see a new set of selections. These vary somewhat depending on what version of Android your phone is running. Look for Select to Speak. You may have to tap Installed services to find it.

  4. Tap Select to Speak, then tap the Select to Speak toggle to turn it on.

    Screenshots showing how to get to the Select to Speak option on Android.
  5. Android will ask you to confirm the permissions it needs to turn this feature on. Read those and if you accept these terms, tap OK.

  6. Android will explain how it works in a few words on screen. Read that, then go to any app on your phone to try it. Tap the Select to Speak icon (the person-shaped icon) in the bottom right of the screen and your phone will read aloud from this app.

    The Select to Speak option on Android.
  7. A tiny recorder tool opens up at the bottom of the screen. Tap the Play icon and your phone will start at the top of the screen and read everything you see. If you only want some text read aloud, highlight that text, then tap the Select to Speak icon.

    You can control the speed, fast forward, reverse, and pause as it reads.

Managing Android Text to Speech Voices & Options

Android gives you some control over the language and voice used to read text aloud when you use Select to Speak. It's easy to change the language, accent, pitch, or speed of the synthesized text voice.

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen, then tap the gear icon.

  2. Tap General Management > Language and Input.

    The placement of features can vary in different flavors of Android. If you don't find it here, use the search icon.

  3. To change the language engine, speed of the synthesized voice, or alter the pitch, tap Text-to-Speech.

  4. In the menu that appears, adjust the Speech rate and Pitch until it sounds the way you want it.

  5. To change the language, tap Language, then choose the language you want to hear when text is read aloud.

    Screenshots showing how to adjust options for Android Text-to-Speech.

Use Select-to-Speak With Google Lens to Translate Written Words

You can use Select-to-Speak to read simple text—such as signs—you find in the real world, which is great if you don't speak the local language or for anyone learning to read. Simply open the Google Lens app and point at the text. Google Lens will read the text it sees aloud in the language you've selected, acting as an on-the-fly translator.