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November 20, 2013

Speech Recognition Apps for ELT: SpeakingPal

In a new series over on eltjam, Tim Gifford looks at apps that use speech recognition technology to help students improve their English speaking. First up is SpeakingPal.

It often seems like a curious by-product of ELT ‘in action’; speaking out loud in English. Given that spoken interactions are scintillating moments of language in its most alive state, it’s remarkable how speaking (as a facet of the language learning process) is often subservient to the learning of grammar and vocabulary. As Scott Thornbury observed in his excellent 2005 article on speaking/learning; in many traditional coursebooks:

speaking activities are often simply exercises in vocalising grammar, as if this were all that were needed.

All of those ‘Speaking sections’ of lesson spreads were (traditionally) opportunities for the learners to practise putting the grammatical components together in substitution drills and exchanges. Sure, that’s saying out loud what the lesson has been designed to ‘teach’, but it’s not speaking. By ‘speaking’ I’m referring to a spontaneous, need-driven utterance that invites an interaction.

As EdTech continues to develop and impact on how and where learners are able to make contact with learning opportunities the importance of speaking in the learning process takes on a new dimension; how do you a) create opportunities for learners to speak to/at/with the tech, and b) how can you give the learner feedback on what they have just said? We’ve mentioned the potential use of SIRI as a learning tool, but there are a few applications on the EdTech market that are making some serious efforts to address this most vital conundrum. Over the course of the next few weeks I’d like to take a look at them to see how they fare and compare … starting with:

SpeakingPal English Tutor

Read the full article on eltjam.

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