Learning to Speak from Text: Zero-Shot Multilingual Text-to-Speech with Unsupervised Text Pretraining

While neural text-to-speech (TTS) has achieved human-like natural synthetic speech, multilingual TTS systems are limited to resource-rich languages due to the need for paired text and studio-quality audio data. This paper proposes a method for zero-shot multilingual TTS using text-only data for the target language. The use of text-only data allows the development of TTS systems for low-resource languages for which only textual resources are available, making TTS accessible to thousands of languages. Inspired by the strong cross-lingual transferability of multilingual language models, our framework first performs masked language model pretraining with multilingual text-only data. Then we train this model with a paired data in a supervised manner, while freezing a language-aware embedding layer. This allows inference even for languages not included in the paired data but present in the text-only data. Evaluation results demonstrate highly intelligible zero-shot TTS with a character error rate of less than 12% for an unseen language.

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