Since many students with visual impairments are not braille readers, they use sound recordings to access their print materials. Audio versions may also be a good supplement for braille readers who cannot access braille in the foreign language either due to lack of understanding of the braille code or because of unavailability of braille materials or software that works with the language. Many foreign language teachers may also already be using audio files for some of their lessons.
Availability of Audio Texts and Players in Foreign Languages
Since many students who are blind or visually impaired utilize national libraries to obtain audio textbooks for school, they also can turn to these places for books recorded in the foreign language. Some cassette and digital audio formats require a special machine for listening. For example, sound recordings may use the DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) format.
Books produced with DAISY are different from typical CD books. DAISY allows the listener to locate the chapter, line and page that one wants to read with one button click. DAISY books are produced and distributed in over 40 nations and in many languages around the world including, Chinese, Hindi, and Japanese. The DAISY website’s “Members and Friends” page lists the countries in which the member organizations and companies are based.
Information about DAISY production and playback tools that support languages other than English include: EasePublisher and Dolphin Publisher by Dolphin and LpStudio Pro and Sigtuna DAR 3 from the DAISY Consortium. The DAISY Consortium developed Obi, an open source DAISY authoring/production tool that is available to everyone at no cost on the DAISY website.
To create DAISY formats, the new “Save as DAISY XML” add-in, designed for Microsoft Office Word 2007, Word 2003 and Word XP, allows users to save Open XML-based text files into DAISY XML navigable books. It can be download by Office Word users for free. This XML output can then be processed through the DAISY Pipeline, a free downloadable transformation suite that supports the seamless conversion of DAISY XML into DAISY Digital Talking Book (DTB) format. Together these technologies provide a comprehensive solution for converting text documents into accessible formats for people with print disabilities. Users can download the DAISY Pipeline from the DAISY Project page.
For playback/DAISY players, AMIS, (Adaptive Multimedia Information System), is a free software DAISY player which can be downloaded from the Internet. AMIS has a full internationalization component and can thus be customized to any language.
The Korea Braille Library has developed the KBLL Reader 1.0 with the Sims Line, a software developing company in Korea. KBLL Reader supports only Korean audio and NCC DAISY books. The software is able to set book marking, control speed and volume, and allow the reader to move to chapter, page, or sentence. KBLL Reader can also search by word and number (e.g. page number). This is provided to users, libraries and schools or by download free of charge. They are considering supporting other languages, but it does not handle a text with both Korean and English in its current version.
The IFLA provides information about libraries or centers overseas that loan or exchange accessible formats of print materials. Sound recordings from the sources in other countries are recorded for native speakers and may include a dialect that is different from the one used in the foreign language course. Some students may find it difficult to use these recordings for these reasons. The audio books from abroad are offered in various formats and languages depending on the country.
- India’s talking book library has 4200 holdings in Hindi, primarily in standard compact cassettes, but about 16% are in DAISY format. A larger Indian talking book library with 35,000 holdings loans standard compact cassettes, 2 track cassettes and open reel tapes in Hindi and other languages of India. Electronic text is also available for those with screen-reading software (see more in the next section).
- Pakistan offers minimal audio books in Urdu and Arabic on standard compact and 2-track cassettes.
- Lebanon holds and produces a small collection of audio books on 2-track or standard compact cassettes in Arabic, but will only loan to people within the country; people in the United States have to buy the books.
- Saudi Arabia has a couple of talking book libraries with about 20,000 holdings in Arabic, which are loaned out on standard compact cassettes.
- Turkey provides several hundred audio recordings in Turkish also on standard compact cassettes.
- In Iran, a blind center listed in the directory loans out 2,775 sound recordings of Persian/Farsi and Arabic books on records, 2-track cassettes, and open reel tapes or in electronic text.
- China loans 4-track cassettes from its national library collection of 1,200 audio books.
- Japan’s 20 libraries provide thousands of recordings on primarily standard compact cassettes, although two libraries have significant portions of their holdings available in DAISY format.
- Korea provides all the formats mentioned above totaling 25,000 holdings at their talking book/magazine and braille libraries.
- Russia has over a half million talking books/magazines available through its libraries in all the formats mentioned above except DAISY formats.
Requests for interlibrary loans of sound recordings or electronic text from abroad, must be handled by the libraries/institutions that are registered in the directory. If a student’s local library/institution is not listed, then a registration form is available on the directory web page in order to join. Further questions can be emailed to the IFLA member organization in Japan that maintains the directory: email@example.com.
The NLS provides audio versions of their materials in many of the critical need languages. All foreign-language titles in the NLS collections and in the collections of cooperating libraries and institutions appear in the NLS International Union Catalog. The specific instructions for accessing this catalog are on their foreign language web page.
NLS produces the majority of its titles on cassettes, although it will begin offering digital books by the end of 2008. Hundreds of audio books from the NLS are recorded in the foreign language, but only one or two relate to learning the foreign language. Between sound recordings and electronic text, the NLS has the following amount of holdings available in critical need languages: Arabic (88), Chinese (175), Hindi/Urdu (58), Japanese (200), Korean (30), Persian/Farsi (2), Russian (630), and Turkish (30).
Students who study abroad can register with the overseas librarian at the NLS to receive books while overseas. A two-pronged adapter to use with a 220-volt current can also be supplied by NLS for the audio player if needed. Read more at: http://www.loc.gov/nls/overseas/hb4borrow.html.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542
One of the leading libraries of audio textbooks in the United States is RfB&D. Its database catalogs many Russian language textbooks, and a couple of Arabic language books. Another leading talking book supplier, Benetech/Bookshare, which is expanding its collection of educational materials, currently does not have any audio books in languages other than English and Spanish, nor do they offer foreign language textbooks.
In the RfB&D database, the novels brought up from the keywords search of “Russian” and “Language” are about the Russian language, but spoken in English. To get books spoken in the Russian language or about learning Russian, it is better to put “Russian language” in the Subject field rather than the two keywords fields. The database also shows a few language textbooks recorded for Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese using this Subject field.
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540