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How to do model imitation recording exercises to improve language learner pronunciation in the LRC and beyond

  1. Sometimes teachers ask about support for voice recognition in the LRC. The term voice recognition or speech recognition (the former appears to be analogous to face recognition in authentication and other security contexts?) is usually reserved for software that can transcribe your voice into text – still no free option for this, AFAIK. Dragon naturally speaking is the oft recommended market leader outside of education (and within, Auralog Tell me more, see below). Update summer 2012: We are working on enabling the Speech recognition built into Windows 7 Enterprise for English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), French, Spanish, German, and Japanese.
  2. Often times, what is actually desired is a digital audio recorder with voice graph, ideally a dual track recorder.
    1. In the LRC student computers, we have for exactly this purpose a digital audio recorder as part of the SANAKO Study 1200language learning system
      1. It features a dual track recorder (allows to listen to teacher track which can be a prerecorded model to imitate on the left channel while recording the student track on the right channel of a stereo track) with a voice graph: sanako_student_exe_pane_player_audio_voicegraph_highlighted. See this dual-track-voice-graph screencast demo from the vendor and also our student cheat sheet from the vendor documentation.
      2. The Sanako is available in the LRC, as well as in many other educational institutions around the world, but neither free nor web-based (although a web-based version seems to be in the works). It currently requires MS-Windows to run.
    2. A popular and free audio editor (but not an SLA – specific application, let alone geared towards model imitation; also, for all practical ends and purposes,  requires an extra download and installations of an MP3 encoder to be able to save recordings as compressed MP3) is Audacity. To use for model imitation exercises,
      1. the student can open a model track (mp3 recommended)
      2. and manage within the program the imitation portion, using the voice graph: elti-lynn-question-response-result-audacity-names1
      3. then export  back out as mp3,
        1. either her responses individually (see my demo screencast, requires Windows Media Player on Windows, which actually shows a question/response rather than a model imitation, but same principle),
        2. or, by deleting the model track, the response parts mixed down to one track,
        3. or also, if, like in my demo screencast, the timeline sequence of model (with pauses) and responses is carefully managed (so that model and imitation do not overlap), mixed down to one track.
    3. In one language program, I have worked extensively with Auralog Tell me more
      1. which was (not exclusively, but arguably too much) based on this pedagogic concept of having students compare the voice graph of their imitation with the model voice graph (while it do did not allow for teachers to upload their own content, and was certainly not free). auralog-tellmemore-voicegraph
      2. To my knowledge, Auralog Tell me more does not allow for adding teacher-produced content as models.
      3. I did like the self-reflective and repetitive practice element. However, I found  that students – apart from intonation and (not useful for not pitch based languages) pitch -, did not benefit as much as one might have expected from viewing the voice graph, indeed tended to get overwhelmed, even confused by the raw voice information in  such a voice graph.
      4. And automated scoring of pronunciation (or speech recognition” – not free form, but on a level that has been commoditized in operating systems like Windows 7, the level of voice-directed selection between a limited set of different options, like menu options, and in the case of Auralog, choosing between different response options) seemed iffy and less than transparent in Auralog Tell me more, even though this is  their primary selling point. E.g. when I made deliberate gross mistakes, the program seemed to change its standards and wave me through ( English pronunciation example; also observed by me when testing Auralog with East Asian speakers of English).
  3. A voice graph  is not the same as a more abstract phonetic transcription (although I do not know whether language learners can be trained in phonetic symbol sets like the IPA).  There are now experimental  programs that can automate the transcription of text into phonetic symbol sets for e.g. Portuguese or Spanish. Maybe you will find that practice with recording and a phonetic transcription of the recorded text is more useful for your students’ pronunciation practice than a fancy voice graph.
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