Computer-Assisted Pronunciation Training and Assessment (CAPTA) Programs: Requirements, the Current State of Affairs, and Challenges for the Future

Computer-Assisted Pronunciation Training and Assessment (CAPTA) Programs: Requirements, the Current State of Affairs, and Challenges for the Future

Chiharu Tsurutani (Griffith University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2821-2.ch016

Abstract

Pedagogical support for pronunciation tends to fall behind other areas of applied linguistics and CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) due to technological difficulty in speech recognition and the lack of knowledge in phonetics of both language teachers and learners. This chapter discusses the gap between the need for pronunciation training and the capacity of CAPTA programs in terms of phonetic and phonological development of second-language (L2) learners. Pronunciation difficulties experienced by L2 learners will be explained cross-linguistically, and the most recent developments in the production of CAPTA programs will be discussed in relation to the type of pronunciation errors dealt with by these programs. Considering that native-like pronunciation is no longer required in the current multi-lingual society, the author proposes achievable and pedagogically sound goals for the development of CAPTA programs as well as for L2 learners.
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Types Of L2 Pronunciation Errors

Before discussing the factors that are crucial in the improvement of pronunciation, we need to know the mechanism behind L2 errors. What kind of hurdles do L2 learners have to overcome? Pronunciation errors are not simply incorrect production of vowels or consonants. Spoken language consists of three components: segmental features, suprasegmental features and prosodic organization.

Spoken language:

  • Segmental features (consonants, vowels).

  • Suprasegmental features (pitch, duration, loudness).

  • Prosodic organization (accent, intonation).

Segmental errors are the incorrect production of consonants and vowels, and what most people associate with pronunciation errors. Suprasegmental errors refer to errors in pitch, duration, and loudness of sounds, which are larger units than segmentals. Prosodic organization is phonological organization of language, such as accent, tone, and intonation. While segmental features are expressed by orthography and easy to point out, incorrect suprasegmental features and prosodic organization are difficult to capture and explain. Nevertheless, prosodic features (suprasegmental and prosodic organization) are known to have more impact on learners’ intelligibility, as judged by native speakers, than do segmental features (Anderson-Hsieh, Johnson, & Koehler, 1992; Hahn, 2004; Tsurutani, 2009; Warren, Elgort, & Crabbe, 2009). This leads to the question of how prosodic differences between languages affect L2 production.

Figure 1 outlines Archibald’s (1998) accent (prosodic) typology.

Figure 1.

Accent typology

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