Synthetic Speech in Computer-Enhanced Foreign Language Learning

Synthetic Speech in Computer-Enhanced Foreign Language Learning

Min Kang (Kobe University, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-166-7.ch014
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Abstract

The goal of this chapter is to explain several experiments carried out by our research group to explore whether synthetic speech can be currently used to replace natural speech in listening materials for foreign language learning or not. For CALL purposes, synthetic speech in English was evaluated from the viewpoints of both foreign language learners and teachers. We conducted several surveys: (a) to find out if the synthetic speech generated by current TTS engines is as efficient as natural speech in training listening skills, (b) to identify the specific ways in which the evaluated synthetic speech is as good as natural speech, (c) to determine the relationship between changes in individual listening comprehension ability and the results of the quality evaluations of synthetic speech, and (d) to discuss the possible approaches for using synthetic speeches.
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Introduction

The approach of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) has been widely recognized in foreign language education and is gradually being adopted in classroom learning. It has been indicated that computer-based training can be effective in improving a learner’s perception and production in target languages and that a CALL system can be designed to support collaborative learning (Chapelle, 1998; Hoven, 1999; Wang & Munro, 2004). CALL is a powerful means for teachers to provide students with a variety of learning styles. CALL systems make it possible not only to present materials that can cater to individual needs in classrooms and carry out formative assessment, but also to increase opportunities for learners to receive listening input outside the classroom. It has been pointed out that exposure to the target language is very important in order to enhance listening comprehension ability (Hudson, 2000; Klein, 1986; Krashen, 1982). Unlike second language learners, foreign language learners have few opportunities for exposure outside the classroom. On the other hand, the CALL style has not necessarily achieved wide practical use. Although there are lots of CALL applications and e-learning tools to support this learning style, few of them have been utilized in classrooms as a regular tool. Developed CALL materials are costly and tend to be similar in content, which makes it difficult for teachers to adjust the materials according to students’ needs. Although there are numerous authoring tools, in addition to the learning content management systems (LCMS), which is designed to help teachers to create their own materials, an unavoidable aspect is the fact that managing listening materials costs teachers time and effort. The utilization of some tools may require advanced computer skills. The recording and editing of sound files continue to be the responsibility of teachers. In addition, the lack of a native speaker environment strongly affects the creation of listening materials. Therefore, for the wide use of CALL, it is crucial to develop applications with functions that efficiently help teachers to easily create their own listening material for the students’ need for exposure to the target language in training listening skills.

Speech synthesis technology may be helpful for improving the situation mentioned above and supporting the function. The speech synthesizer has significantly evolved since the release of MITalk-79 (Furui, 2002). The voice quality and intelligibility of current text-to-speech (TTS) systems have been improved significantly to the point that they are adequate for wide use in services and applications like voice response systems (Murray & Rohwer, 1996; Schroeter, 2006). Admittedly, TTS systems are not completely natural-sounding, but many voices are highly intelligible and natural–sounding, making it difficult to distinguish them from recordings of human voices. A great deal of research has focused on how to generate more natural sound output so that it is possible for machine-generated speech to approximate natural speech in intelligibility and naturalness in the near future. If a CALL system integrates a TTS engine, it will be possible for teachers to produce listening materials like reading materials. In fact, there are some CALL systems that have integrated TTS (ATRC, University of Toronto, 2008) and many electronic dictionaries have the integrated TTS systems.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Foreword
Chao-Han Liu
Chapter 1
Lorna Uden, Nian-Shing Chen, Chun-Wang Wei, Jui-Chu Fan
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Chapter 2
Eva Lindgren, Kirk P.H. Sullivan, Mats Deutschmann, Anders Steinvall
In a case study a University class undertook a translation from Swedish to English in a keystroke logging environment and then replayed their... Sample PDF
Supporting Learner Reflection in the Language Translation Class
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Chapter 3
Katsunori Kotani, Takehiko Yoshimi, Takeshi Kutsumi, Ichiko Sata, Hitoshi Isahara
In this chapter, the authors examined reading evaluation methods for foreign language learners based on learners’ reading processes. The goal of... Sample PDF
A Reading Evaluation Method for English as a Foreign Language Learners Based on Reading Performances
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Chapter 4
Robert Ariew, Jeremy Palmer
Enrollments in Arabic language programs are rapidly growing throughout the United States. Until recently, Arabic has received minimal attention in... Sample PDF
Developing Hypertext Reading Materials for the Teaching of Arabic
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Chapter 5
Bolanle A. Olaniran
This chapter explores computer-mediated communication (CMC) and information communication technology (ICT) use in language learning. More... Sample PDF
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Chapter 6
Indi Marie Williams, Heather N. Warren, Bolanle A. Olaniran
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Achieving Cultural Acquiescence Through Foreign Language E-Learning
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Chapter 7
Eleonora Pantano, Assunta Tavernise
This chapter aims at illustrating how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) could be used to exploit and disseminate Cultural Heritage... Sample PDF
Learning Cultural Heritage Through Information and Communication Technologies: A Case Study
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Chapter 8
Wei-Peng Lien, Rita Kuo, Maiga Chang
This project aimed to construct a Blended Learning model with a lecture-review Web site, which would support students’ self-learning at home or in... Sample PDF
Using Blended Learning to Teach Foreign Brides Chinese
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Chapter 9
Terence Murphy
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Exploring the Concept of Emergent Coherence in a Corpus of Korean EFL Texts
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Chapter 10
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Chapter 11
Yue Ming, Zhenjiang Miao
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Chapter 12
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Computer Simulation in Educational Communication (CSIEC), is not only an intelligent Web-based human-computer dialogue system with natural language... Sample PDF
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Chapter 13
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Chapter 14
Min Kang
The goal of this chapter is to explain several experiments carried out by our research group to explore whether synthetic speech can be currently... Sample PDF
Synthetic Speech in Computer-Enhanced Foreign Language Learning
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Chapter 15
Niki Lambropoulos, Martha Christopoulou, Kosmas Vlachos
This chapter presents culture-based language-learning objects (CLLOs) in computer-assisted language learning (CALL), supported by user-centered... Sample PDF
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Chapter 16
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Chapter 17
Karen L. Murphy, Yakut Gazi, Lauren Cifuentes
This chapter addresses the question, “How can we overcome potential cultural discontinuities in online collaborative project-based learning... Sample PDF
Intercultural Collaborative Project-Based Learning in Online Environments
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Chapter 18
Diane Boehm, Lilianna Aniola-Jedrzejek
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Chapter 19
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About the Contributors