Use of computer-based technologies in teaching English pronunciation and intonation
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №7 - 2015
Author: Melnikova Tatyana, Kazakh American Free University, Kazakhstan
development of modern world requires fast development of new technologies. A
great number of different modern appliances have already been invented and are
constantly used by humans. Every day there appear quite a good number of
computer-based programs, telephone-based programs which can easily be used by
everyone at any place and any time they want. This modern tendency has a great
impact on all spheres of life including education.
teaching cannot be imagined without modern technologies. Students are given
lectures and shown slides at the same time, they watch videos about the topics
they study, prepare presentations as a part of their homework. Those students
whose major is “Translation studies” use different computer-based programs to
improve their translation, to do it in a shorter period of time, to make it
about teaching foreign languages we must emphasize that no teacher or professor
can do it today without modern technologies. They facilitate the process of
teaching. There are various approaches to teaching languages, but none of them
can be imagined without computer-based technologies nowadays.
read books via computer-programs, type their compositions and essays (almost no
one writes them today), learn new words with the help of programs or sites, watch
videos or films to improve their language skills, etc.
all the written above, we can say that computers have changed teaching and
learning process almost 100%. The advantages of using computer-based
technologies in the classroom or at home when learning or teaching a foreign
language are numerous.
all, we must mention its convenience. There is no need to buy any books; there
can be found everything on the Internet. When writing an essay there is no need
to rewrite it several times when a mistake is found, or learners have come up
with more ideas about a paragraph. Learners can change the sentences as many
times as they need and want. If students need some information to use or to
cite it can be easily found within some minutes or even seconds. They do not
have to go to the library, take a lot of books, read them, etc. If there is
access to the Internet, it can be done much faster. So, a computer is a
there are much more opportunities for language learners now. They can learn a
language not only using text-books, but also through communicating with native
and non-native speakers of that language thereby improving their pronunciation
and speaking skills. Such technologies as cassette-recorders, video-recorders
are out of date today, learners use computer-based programs and different
websites that can offer such an opportunity. Computer technology is used
nowadays to encourage communication and provide more opportunities for speaking
for learners to improve their language skills .
computers make finding and translating new words and phrases easier and faster.
There exist many different programs which can be used when translating words,
phrases or even sentences and texts. Different dictionaries can supply a
learner with transcription or even pronunciation of a word. To press a special
button is enough to hear and learn the pronunciation of a word. This can help
the learner to hear and to practice saying the words in the target language.
the most important reason why to use computers in the classroom we must say
that today any person (a learner, a teacher, a professor, etc.) is quite
interested in working with modern gadgets that without any doubt influences our
work, studies and life itself. That is why it of utmost importance to use
computer-based programs and the Internet when teaching a foreign language.
shows students of any university prefer using online dictionary to the paper
dictionary. 97% of them consider it more comfortable and faster. Moreover,
almost 50% point out the opportunity to hear the pronunciation of any word they
are looking for in the dictionary rather than trying to read it with the help
of the transcription suggested by a paper dictionary. A great number of modern
students believe that online dictionaries provide us with up-to-date
vocabulary, as it is updated regularly, whereas a paper dictionary is published
every some years and sometimes the words are not as up-to-date as they wish.
teaching a foreign language it is necessary to pay a great attention to
phonetics and intonation. As recent research shows, pronunciation is the basics
of any language. Learners of a foreign language can understand the speech only
in case they have acquired the pronunciation skills of that target language. If
they have not improved their pronunciation it is quite difficult to understand
the speech flow in the language which is completely different from their mother
tongue. When listening to a foreign speech every learner compares it with the
knowledge they have already got. That is why we must train and improve
pronunciation and intonation. It is becoming more and more important to follow
modern technologies, therefore researchers recommend using computer-assisted language
Assisted Language Learning (CALL) applications are a useful tools for both
language teachers and learners. CALL applications offer individualized
environments where learners learn at their own pace making independent
decisions on the order of study topics, lesson reviews, lesson repeats, etc. In
fact, CALL applications both promote language learning objectives and overcome
traditional language classroom constraints. Some of these applications are for
the enhancement and practice of oral skills such as pronunciation teaching.
Assisted Pronunciation Training (CAPT) systems, as an example, are designed to
provide learners with private, stress-free practice with individualized and
instantaneous feedback on pronunciation. The introduction of CAPT applications
has initiated a debate on the relationship between pedagogy and technology, and
the role of the language teacher in the classroom .
components of any pronunciation training course should cover several important
elements: intonation, stress (word stress and sentence stress), rhythm,
consonants, and vowels. Most of the advanced pronunciation training aids, which
are computer-based audiovisual language systems, deal with these elements.
Among these systems are "Pronunciation Power", "American
Sounds", "Phonics Tutor", and "Eye speak" that include
the following components :
analyzing windows or frames,
Internet-based features like email answering, online help and chat sessions
with human tutors,
views of the articulator mechanics, video clips showing jaw, lip and tongue
movement and waveform patterns of sound samples.
able to record sound files and to acoustically compare a graphical
representation of their sound utterances with the instructor’s one. A few
systems, such as Fonix, iSpeak and Pro-Nunciation, include synthesized speech
or other solutions. During the last decade, speech recognition technology was
implemented into innovative interactive systems like ISTRA and PRONTO .
benefits of CALL are much agreed upon in terms of its potential to strengthen
learning motivation  and provide immediate feedback that encourages
subsequent learning . It is therefore claimed that CALL is able to renovate
traditional language classroom practice and provide more efficient instruction
in pronunciation training . An extensive review of the literature, however,
reveals that only a limited amount of research investigates the effect of
perceptual training for English vowels via computer-based instruction [8, 9].
Research where acoustic data were used to provide visual aid for Japanese
learners in order to improve their perception and production of English
consonants was proved to be effective . Similarly, when audio vs. audiovisual
media were employed for perceptual training of English consonants, it was found
that the audiovisual presentation was superior, and additionally the
improvement of pronunciation corresponded to perceptual enhancement . More
research relevant to the present study was conducted by Wang and Munro (2004).
By drawing language learners’ attention to vowel quality, rather than to vowel
length, they selected three sets of vowel contrast for perceptual training.
Synthetic word pairs were generated as experimental stimuli and learners of
Mandarin and Cantonese speakers chosen as participants. The results of
identification test showed that significant difference was obtained between
pre- and post-testing for the experimental group, but not for the control
group, and that a retention test three months later also presented a similar
difference between the pre-test and retention test for the same group .
aim of teaching pronunciation and intonation is to form learners’ skills in
pronouncing foreign words and sentences. In this case it is really useful to
use the Internet and computer-based programs. There are different sites that
can provide a learner with exercises aimed at training pronunciation and
intonation. The exercises train pronunciation skills via repeating sounds,
words, sentences after the speaker; in this case a microphone is necessary.
When doing such exercises the learner’s pronunciation and intonation is
compared with the speaker’s intonation and pronunciation. If you need higher motivation
you may assess the learners’ work.
many different kinds of exercises which train learners’ ability to hear sounds:
- Listen to
a number of sounds / words and press the button when you hear an exact sound;
- Listen to
a number of sentences and press the button when you hear an interrogative
the words after the speaker and compare your pronunciation with the original;
one correct answer (e.g. which of the words given below has the stress on the
first syllable? Which word sounds different? Which word doesn’t rhyme with the
and repeat the words and answer some questions about the pronunciation of these
and make a note of the words you hear. Then listen and repeat;
- Listen to
the words and write down the odd one, etc.
pronunciation training has emerged thanks to developments in automatic speech
recognition (ASR) technology .
ASR is a
cutting edge technology that allows a computer or any other gadget to identify
words that are pronounced by the learners aloud or spoken into any
sound-recording device. The main purpose of ASR technology is to allow exact
accuracy with all words and phrases that are spoken by any learner regardless
of vocabulary size, background noise, or speaker variables . However, most
ASR engineers admit that the current accuracy level for a large vocabulary unit
of speech (e.g., the sentence) remains less than 90%. Dragon's Naturally
Speaking or IBM's Via Voice, for example, show a baseline
recognition accuracy of only 60% to 80%, depending upon accent, background
noise, type of utterance, etc. . More expensive systems that are reported
to outperform these two are Subarashii, Edu Speak, Phonepass, ISLE Project and RAD . ASR
accuracy is expected to improve.
Among several types of speech recognizers used in ASR products, both
implemented and proposed, the Hidden Markov Model (HMM) is one of the most
dominant algorithms and has proven to be an effective method of dealing with
large units of speech. Detailed descriptions of how the HHM model works go
beyond the scope of this article and can be found in any text concerned with
language processing; among the best are Jurafsky& Martin (2000) and Hosom,
Cole, and Fanty (2003). Put simply, HMM computes the probable match between the
input it receives and phonemes contained in a database of hundreds of native
speaker recordings. That is, a speech recognizer based on HMM computes how close
the phonemes of a spoken input are to a corresponding model, based on
probability theory. High likelihood represents good pronunciation; low
likelihood represents poor pronunciation. While ASR has been commonly used for
such purposes as business dictation and special needs accessibility, its market
presence for language learning has increased dramatically in recent years .
More recent ASR programs that have adopted HMM include Subarashii (Entropic
HTK recognizer used), VILTS (SRI recognizer), FLUENCY (Carnegie
Mellon University SPHINX recognizer), Naturally Speaking (Dragon
Systems), and Flu Speak (IBM Via Voice recognizer). Those interested in
more detailed technological descriptions of each ASR program may refer to
Holland (1999) and other articles in the Calico Journal, Special Issue,
Vol. 16 (1999). Flu Speak (MT Comm, 2002a), which was used in this
study, will be described in more detail in an attempt to show how HMM based
programs are built and how they score learners' pronunciation. Flu Speak is
divided into four types of practice: English Pronunciation Practice with
consonants, consonant clusters, vowels, and diphthongs; Intonation Practice;
Dialogue Expressions Practice; and a Pronunciation Test that covers the
Pronunciation and Dialogue activities .
The goal of
Computer Assisted Pronunciation Training (CAPT) systems is to provide learners
with private, stress-free practice with individualized and instantaneous
feedback of information’. And one of the greatest advantages of the application
of CALL is that it offers a private environment for working on pronunciation
without fear of the number of repetitions needed for full comprehension or
accuracy of production. This way of practice enables students to get rid of
their fear which is often present. The most interesting thing is that there are
many electronic tools for speech analysis. Students can record their voices.
Then, they can listen to it and if it is necessary to make some corrections
they can do it by recording their pronunciation again .
1. Chi-Fen Emily Chen Using Technology to Teach Speaking and
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12. Teaching English through the interactive web http://rade-petricevic. blogspot. co. il
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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №7 - 2015