This study explores the effect of two training paradigms for learning Mandarin tones in pedagogical contexts. Eighteen beginning learners of Chinese with different first language background received three weeks of training as extra curriculum CALL activities. Based on learners’ choices, one group (the A Group, n=10) received perceptual training only with auditory input involving four-way forced choice identification tasks with immediate feedback. A second group (the AV Group, n=8) received perceptual and production training with auditory and visual input. At post test, both groups improved significantly in perceptual accuracy of Mandarin tones as compared with a control group (the C Group, n=10) and perceptual learning also generalized to new stimuli by a new speaker. Both training groups’ production accuracy of Mandarin tones also improved significantly at post test. The findings show that both training paradigms are effective and laboratory based training techniques can be implemented in CALL contexts.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Computer-Based Perceptual Training: Using speech software on a computer to either discriminate or identify the differences between the target speech sounds, usually with immediate feedback.
Inter Stimulus Intervals (ISI): The time interval between the two stimuli played back
Computer-Based Perceptual with Production Training: Using speech software such as Kay Elemetrics’ Sona Speech to playback (auditory input) and display the pitch contour in real time on a computer screen (visual input) to learn L2 tone or intonation. Learners can also record, playback, and compare the pitch contours of their own production with those of the target stimuli.
Suprasegmental Difficulties in L2 Perception and Production: The difficulties L2 learners have in perceiving and producing the proper pitch or intonation patterns, stress or rhythm patterns, and tempo features of the target language.
Discrimination Tasks with or without Feedback: Listeners distinguish two stimuli such as “right” and “light” and tell whether the two sounds are the same or different. Such discrimination tasks can be performed without feedback when it is used for perceptual test. It is performed with immediate feedback when it is used for perceptual training.
Lexical Tone: The change of pitch at word level results in the change of the meaning of a word.
Pitch Contour: The movement (the rising or falling) of pitch can be visually displayed on a computer screen.
Segmental Difficulties in L2 Perception and Production: The difficulties L2 learners have in perceiving and producing the contrasts between individual speech sounds (vowels and consonants) such as the English /l/ and /r/ distinction for native Japanese speakers.
Forced Choice Identification Tasks with or without Feedback: When a target L2 sound such as /r/ is presented as a single stimulus (often in a syllable or word such as “right”), the learner is asked to choose between /l/ and /r/ and label the sound accordingly. Such identification tasks can be performed without feedback when it is used for perceptual test. It is performed with immediate feedback when it is used for perceptual training.
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