Of course your Mac can talk. But did you know that it can do so with an Indian, Australian, British, Irish, or Scottish accent? Or that it can speak French, Japanese, and Chinese, among other languages? Here’s how to implement Lion’s new text-to-speech capabilities:

Launch System Preferences and go to the Speech pane’s Text To Speech tab. Click on the System Voice drop-down menu and select Customize. You’ll see a long list of voices, broken down by language and nationality. Click on one and press the play button to hear a preview. Click on the checkbox to add the voice to your System Voice options.

Many of these voices aren’t installed on your Mac. When you select one that isn’t, a yellow triangle appears next to it, indicating that it needs to be downloaded. (Warning: some of the downloads are huge; in testing, adding eight voices took up 4GB of hard drive space.)

Once you’ve selected a voice in System Preferences, your Mac can read text in some apps – in TextEdit, for example, highlight some text and select Edit > Speech > Start Speaking. Or in Terminal (/Applications/Utilities), you can use the say command, plus the -v switch, to run a script issuing a reminder each day at 5 pm: say -v Sangeeta “Hey, it’s time to go pick up the kids.”

OS X has long had built-in text-to-speech capabilities. But with Lion, its list of voices gets a whole lot longer. Some are built in; others need to be downloaded