Text-to-Podcast Service Listen Later Sponsoring TidBITS

Originally published at: Text-to-Podcast Service Listen Later Sponsoring TidBITS - TidBITS

Please welcome our latest long-term TidBITS sponsor, Listen Later. Email an article URL to this innovative Internet service, and it cleanly converts the article text into a custom podcast episode in your favorite podcast app.

I use Apple’s built in Spoken Content Accessibility feature. I can get it to read any web article by swiping down with two fingers. I can use the Show Reader option to help skip ads or just use the controls to skip over parts I don’t want. I can also adjust the speed of the reading too

It’s a great option if you find an article and want to listen to it while you walk.

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I actually want the opposite - something that transcribes a podcast as text. I don’t like listening to podcasts and would prefer to read it.

That’s what the new version of the Apple Podcast app, released last week on all systems, does. Unfortunately, it only works for pocasts that are available without restrictions. If the podcast is affiliated with pay service, then no transcript will be availalbe.

I signed up and tried it. Quite nice actually!
I tried giving it a tough one: converting Hebrew text to spoken Hebrew. To see if it will be a possible solution for a friend with severe eyesight issues.
Well… The good news is that it was able to read Hebrew and speak it. The bad news is that it still has a long way to go before being useful for Hebrew speakers. The written language uses punctuation marks (no AEIOU vowels in the Hebrew alphabet), but it is mostly printed without such marks and Hebrew readers can understand the vowels from the context, so that two words that are written the same (without punctuation) but use different vowels (thus sound different) can be properly understood by the reader. Alas - ListenLater, or rather the AI engine behind it, does a poor job of capturing that context and thus the spoken version is a mish-mash that’s difficult to comprehend. Add to that a very American accent that pronounces the “R” and “L” differently than spoken Hebrew. It would not be a big issue if the pronunciation of the vowels followed the context…
So… I still have $1.46 credit on my free test account. Not sure I’ll use it as I’m not a big fan of podcasts, but let’s see.

Not too long after sending the above comment, I was pleasantly surprised to find a message from Yalim Gerger in my mailbox where he asked if I could recommend another AI engine and even suggested one that does a significantly better job of handling Hebrew text-to-speech. Based on my feedback Yalim now intends to use that engine instead.
Hats off to Yalim for responsiveness and attention to users’ feedback!


I assume you mean it is pronounced differently from an Israeli accent.

Hebrew, like many languages, has lots of regional variations in pronunciation. In addition to the big Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi differences, there are lots of smaller regional dialects, including those spoken by Jews from Yemen, from New York and from Eastern Europe.

Although academics may believe there is one true pronunciation, the reality is that there really isn’t. Just like there’s no one true pronunciation for English (e.g. American vs. British vs. Australian, and regional dialects within each).

But that having been said, I would agree that a Hebrew text-to-speech engine should include support for Israeli pronunciation, in addition to a few other mainstream dialects.

I have been trying this since the latest TidBits and it’s been great! It is reasonable for it to have a 30-day storage limit, however I would like to keep the files (for personal use; not to share).

I’ve been messing around with Shortcuts to get that to happen, but I can only get it to pull the text from the RSS feed.

Any ideas on how to automate a download of the files into my iCloud Drive (or Google Drive)?


Founder of Listen Later here. Thank you for using the service. The podcast app you are using may have an export audio feature. I use Overcast and it has a button to export audio files. It is on top of the episode information page and shows up when clicking the share icon. Hope this helps.

Warm regards,

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Thank you for your kind words. I’ll be traveling this week but this feature is at the top of my todo list for next week.

While English is spoken in many countries as a main language (primary or second) Hebrew is a spoken language in one place only: Israel. It is one of the two official languages of the land (together with Arabic) and there is no other country where Hebrew is defined as an official language. The Ashkenazi and Sephardic dialects (that were used for prayers) have merged into one spoken dialect long ago and the exceptions are… well… exceptions.
Thus I’d expect a text-to-speech tool to speak the Israeli spoken dialect as a must. Other, esoteric, accents are nice to have.
When I say the tool pronounces the “R” and “L” differently than spoken Hebrew that means it sounds like a native English speaker breaking their teeth trying to speak a foreign language. Pretty much like I sound when I speak English. Some recognize my accent as Israeli right away. Others assume it to be Central or East European. Not much I can do about it. An accent is acquired during childhood. If you started acquiring a foreign language later you’d have to work very hard to acquire other accents.
I’m used to hearing different accents and am usually even able to pick up where it comes from. It wouldn’t bother me if the accent was the only thing off with the speech previously used by this tool. The bigger issue was not the accent, it was picking up the wrong word based on context. For example, the word ברוך without punctuation can be pronounced both “Baruch” (blessed) and “Beroch” (softly). And there’s also the Yiddish “Broch” (a major mishap). The Ashkenazi prayer pronunciation of “blessed” would be “Boruch”.

I should have been a bit more patient, but when I saw the leader for ListenLater, I immediately went to find it. I ended up on listenlater.fm, which appears to be similar. Since I haven’t, yet, used either, I’m curious to know how the two — https://www.listenlater.net/ and https://www.listenlater.fm — differ.