»» Language E-Learning with Speech Technology 2010-2012

The Learning Partnership is made up of six European partner organizations expert in teaching foreigner languages: ILM – Instituto Linguistico Mediterraneo – Pisa (Italy) – is experienced in the integration of e-learning in social networks used by adult learners; Institut für angewandte Sprachintegration Ottakring – Wien (Austria) – is experienced in software development and coordinates the project; Linguatec GmbH – Muenchen (Germany) – is expert in speech technology and in IT in general; Language Link Ltd.London (United Kingdom) – is experienced in executing EU projects; Regina Foundation –  Hungary – works for equal opportunities for women; The Learning Center of Tuscany – Italy – is experienced in educating language teachers.
The goal of this Learning Partnership is to make foreign language learning on the computer more efficient by using speech technology. Furthermore we want to analyse what the barriers are, which keep learners away from using e-learning software for language learning. One part of this analysis will be the question how learners can be motivated to use e-learning systems. In this context we will focus on women, older learners, and language teachers as well. In order to exemplify the possibilities of speech technology for language learning, we will create very simple prototypes (by creating
them newly or adapting existing applications). These protypes will be presented to the learners on the project workshops, who then can tell their opinions about them and suggest new ideas.

One example for such an easy prototype is a program, which reads out sentences loudly, while the learner has to try to understand them and type them correctly afterwards. It is possible to find such example in http://www.5mls.com/5home.cgi from IASIO: this is an E-learning pronunciation training course.
• The course consists of a series of increasingly complex utterances which are dictated using synthetic speech technology.
• The learner attempts to input the utterance in a box provided on the computer screen.
• The computer then marks the student’s input as correct or incorrect.
For grammar the  course consists of a series of multiple choice cloze exercises. At present, this system is for native German speakers learning Italian and Spanish.

During the last years vast improvements took place in the field of speech technology: Today speech technology can be used to create solutions, which seemed to be unrealizable just a few years ago. However, most modern language elearning systems don’t use this powerful technology yet, and the ones which use it, do it in a very superficial manner only.
By implementing the recent speech technology into e-learning applications for language learning it should be possible to create learning systems which are much more efficient and motivating for the learners. Natural interaction between the learner and the system can be established: Especially in language learning the natural approach consists of speaking and understanding (and not only reading and writing). If speech technology is implemented in an intelligent manner, it can motivate learners to use e-learning regularly as well as train their speaking abilities specifically. Therefore we expect our project to produce results which will increase the efficiency of this learning style enormously.

The partners set up a project website on which each partner organization could publish articles as well as the mandatory project documentation: http://speech.iasio.org . The project website contains presentations of all partner organizations, agendas and reports of all meetings and workshops which took place within the Learning Partnership, as well as additional articles published by the partners. One special feature of the website was to evaluate meetings and workshops online. All the results of these evaluations are accessible on this website.

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