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Technology Tip of the Month

June 1998: Pronunciation Software

Software listing updated October 2009

by Deborah Healey

The Tech Tip for May 1998 dealt with setting the stage for pronunciation work--some vocabulary and ways to get started. This month we'll look at some of the pronunciation products currently available. The comments here come from our experience at the ELI and what others have said at conferences. Special thanks to Janet Anderson-Hsieh for information presented at the TCIS Colloquium on the Uses and Limitations of Pronunciation Technology at TESOL '98.

Keep in mind some of my basic premises about pronunciation: that it is a state of mind, that having fun helps, and that multiple media can enhance learning when used effectively.

Vocabulary

formant  grid

Formant grid: This sample formant grid comes from TEAM, but the formant displays in SonaSpeech and Visipitch are quite similar. Click on the image to view it in a larger size (17K).

Pron. Power screen

Waveform: This sample waveform comes from Pronunciation Power. It's representative of all of them. The target is on top and my pronunciation of the target sound is represented on the bottom. The waveform tends not to match well, even when a native speaker is pronouncing the words, as was the case here. The programs do not control for intensity when showing the waveform. Click the image to view it in a larger size (11K).

Pictoral cues: These are pictures with some sort of animation. The types of images tend to appeal to children, but adults can benefit as well from having a real-time interaction that helps the learner approximate the correct phoneme. These images are typically dynamic. The one shown here is from Speech Viewer III. Click the image to view it in a larger size (110K).

SpeechViewer - farm

Overview

These are programs designed for pronunciation. There are many other programs that incorporate record and playback features; those are not listed here. All of the programs below give students the ability to record their voices and play back what they've said to compare with a model. All offer some kind of minimal pair and word-level practice, as well as at least limited sentence-level practice. The information below points out elements that we've found to distinguish among the programs.

Accent Master from AccentMaster.com (Windows); www.accentmaster.com
Comment: This software is designed for speakers of 21 different home languages, each sold separately. It uses animated graphics and video to demonstrate how to pronounce discrete sounds. Learners record and compare their waveforms to a model in words and phrases. The wavforms are resized to match each other. Games offer practice in using the different sounds in words and sentences. Thousands of audio recordings are included.
Approx. cost: $130
American Accent Program from Ford Language Institute (Macintosh or Windows CD-ROM); http://www.fordinstitute.com
Comment: This has an easy-to-use, consistent interface, and offers substantial intonation practice as well as consonant and vowel drills. There are no graphical displays to help students visualize what they should be doing with their mouths.
Approx. cost: $60
American SpeechSounds from Speech Communication (Windows CD-ROM); www.speechcom.com
Comment: This has an attractive opening screen and easy navigation, but no graphical displays to help students visualize what they should be doing with their mouths. Additional sounds, words, and phrases can be added.
Approx. cost: $75 individual, $150 Professional Edition
Better Accent Tutor from BetterAccent; www.betteraccent.com
Comment: This analyzes intonation, stress and rhythm patterns of a user-recorded utterance and visualizes these patterns in an easy- to-understand manner. Users can visually compare their and a and native speaker's intonation, intensity and rhythm patterns. Exercises and explanations are included for each exercise.
Contact publisher for cost: BetterAccent
Clear Speech Works from DynEd (Windows CD-ROM); http://www.dyned.com/products/csw/
Comment: The program suggests practice areas based on the student's native language. Like Speech Works, this includes workplace practice language. Videos demonstrate the sounds.
Contact publisher for cost: DynEd
Connected Speech from Protea Textware (Windows); www.proteatextware.com.au
Comment: This program focuses on suprasegmentals, the most current approach to pronunciation teaching. It uses 27 video clips with 9 different speakers with a range of accents. A wide range of activities includes oral and visual feedback and some speech recognition. Three levels: lower intermediate, intermediate, and advanced are provided. This is helpful, since many pronunciation products use vocabulary that is far too difficult and uncommon for any but advanced students. North American, Australian, and British versions sold separately.
Approx. cost: $185
Ellis from CALI (Windows CD-ROM); www.ellis.com
Comment: Special features include both video and cutaway views of a person speaking a sound, tongue twisters, and conversational phrases ("Social Interactions," "Dealing with Language Problems," "Getting Things Done," "Conversing"). The "Master Tutor" provides native-language explanations in a wide range of languages. The record-keeping system requires teachers either to add each student with a unique ID number or to have several students using the same ID number, reducing the utility of record-keeping.
Contact publisher for cost: PearsonSchool
ESL Pro from ESL Pro Systems (Windows); www.esl-pro.com
Comment: This CD-ROM-based program uses graphics, sound, animation, and text to improve pronunciation skills. Learners can record and compare their speech. Customized versions are available for speakers of French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, German, Chinese, Hindi, Portuguese, and Russian. Included as part of the English Tutor package.
Approx. cost: $30
EyeSpeak English from Visual Pronunciation Software (Windows); www.eyespeakenglish.com
Comment: Practice with sounds, words, sentences, and role-plays. This offers visual mouth diagrams, wave form diagrams and audio recordings. Options include conversational English, business English, and travel English versions.
Approx. cost: $50
Greenwood: Vowels and Consonants from Greenwood Multimedia Corp. (Windows); www.Greenwood.ca
Comment: Series of CDs with web activation designed for Canadian English. Each unit includes listening and spelling exercises; example words are explained using full-coloured graphics and animations. Abstract words have additional multilingual explanations in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese.
Contact publisher for cost: Greenwood Multimedia
No More Accent from No More Accent (Windows); www.no-more-accent.com
Comment: CD-ROM based multimedia pronunciation program. 22 lessons, covering vowels, consonants, intonation. Lessons include workplace vocabulary and common mistakes and misconceptions. Beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. A breathing technique is at the heart of the program.
Approx. cost: $20
PerfectPronunciation from Antimoon (Windows); www.antimoon.com
Comment: 500 word-based pronunciation exercises designed for self-study/supplement to classroom work. The learner self-assesses for each word practiced. The program uses SuperMemo technology to stage reviewing, so that each lesson includes some previously-viewed words along with new words. The program chooses words to review based on the learner's self-assessment, so that words assessed at a lower level are reviewed more frequently.
Approx. cost: $50
Pronunciation in English from AmEnglish.com (Windows); www.amenglish.com
Comment: Designed for intermediate level and above. This uses video presentations, audio explanations, and exercises. Help is available in 10 languages. The new Expanded Version includes exercises on stress, intonation, and rhythm as well as specific sounds.
Approx. cost: $30
SonaSpeech from Kay Elemetrics (Windows CD-ROM); http://kayelemetrics.com
Comment: Designed for speech clinicians, this has sound spectrogram, pitch, and energy displays. This is a smaller version of the VisiPitch and does not require additional hardware. Sounds are not included, but a database of sounds is available as an add-on. Students will need help in interpreting the sound spectrogram display in particular.
Contact publisher for cost: Kay Elemetrics
Pronunciation Power from English Computerized Learning (Macintosh/Windows CD-ROM/online delivery); www.englishlearning.com
Comment: This has an attractive, easy to use interface and waveforms. The waveforms may be difficult for students to interpret on their own.
Approx. cost: $205 for both CD-ROMs.
Speech Works from Sunburst (Windows CD-ROM); http://www.sunburstmedia.com/spwk.html

Comment: In addition to a series of lessons related to individual sounds, this includes academic discipline-specific vocabulary and workplace vocabulary, with suggestions for practice outside of the lab. The student must click on a numbered square to bring up the topic of each unit rather than seeing the topics together on the screen; this is inconvenient. There are no graphical displays to help learners visualize what to do with their mouths.
Approx. cost: $95

Speechworks menu

Sky Pronunciation Suite from Sky Software House (Windows); www.skysoftwarehouse.com
Comment: Includes Phonemic Alphabet in English, Similar Sounds, Words & Phrasal Stress, Stress & Rhythm, and Rhythms from Rainland. Phonemic Alphabet and Similar Sounds focus on individual sounds (segmentals). Words & Phrasal Stress and Stress & Rhythm focus on stress and rhythm, with tutorials and examples. Rhythms from Rainland uses everyday dialogues, jokes, poems, rhymes, sayings, and the like. British English.
Approximate single-unit price: $475
VideoVoice from MicroVideo (Windows); www.videovoice.com
Comment: Like SpeechViewer, this has graphical displays with exercises that are easy to use and interpret. This is designed for speech clinicians and does not include a database of sounds, assuming that the clinician will input the target sounds.
Approx. cost: $1000
VisiPitch II from Kay Elemetrics (Windows CD-ROM); www.kayelemetrics.com
Comment: This is a hardware-software combination designed for speech clinicians. It has extensive displays--sound spectrogram, waveform, pitch and intensity, formant matrix, and spectrum slices--but students will have trouble interpreting most of them on their own. Best used with a tutor. This is a high-end version of SonaSpeech, also from Kay Elemetrics.
Contact publisher for cost: Kay Elemetrics
Visual Voice Tools from Edmark Corporation/Riverdeep (Windows); www.riverdeep.com
Comment: A collection of seven tools that help students develop control of their pitch, loudness, voicing, and breath. Activities begin with simple sound awareness and progress from there. Students use a microphone for input; each tool provides visual feedback in the form of an animated graphic.
Approximate single-unit price: $200

This is not an exhaustive list, and intended to be a starting point for those looking for software to improve their students' pronunciation. I'd be delighted to add comments from others who've used these programs, as well as hear from people about pronunciation programs not mentioned here.

Tip to remember: the part of the body most important to pronunciation is the mind.


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If you have questions, comments, or for more information, contact Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu

http://www.deborahhealey.com/techtips/june1998.html
Last updated 8 October, 2009