Project Report by: Yoshimi Fukuda
Re:Proposal to adapt QTDictation for use in Japanese language instruction, Submitted by Yoshimi Fukuda, Trinity College
This project involved an adaptation of QTDictation for use as a part of beginning and intermediate Japanese language courses (J101, 102, J201, 202). Specifically, the software was tailored to be a companion exercise tool for the text book, An Introduction to Modern Japanese, currently in use at Trinity College. Dictation exercises from all 30 chapters have been prepared to aid students with their listening and writing skills. The preparation was conducted with guidance from Professor Rieko Wagoner. The bulk of my work involved digitally recording the dictations and separating words and phrases for integration into QTDictation. It was a time consuming, but relatively trouble-free task except for familiarization process in the beginning. Most of the work was performed during month of June and several weeks prior to beginning of the fall semester. In addition, a feasibility study was conducted in the spring to make certain QTDictation could be used as part of our curriculum.
Here are several observations I noted during the preparation process and approximately one month of real classroom operation of QTDictation.
- Avid Videoshop was used in the beginning for audio recording, but it produced a poor sound quality. It was later replaced by SoundEdit 16 which resulted in much superior recording.
- In each exercise I recorded the entire sentence first to maintain natural flow and rhythm of the spoken words. The sentences were then split into distinct subunits. As a result some of the words are difficult to hear. It is probably caused by the length of silence between the words in a sentence and/or by the fact that same word is often spoken differently whether it's used in a sentence or by itself. An alternative may be to record individual words and then string them together to form a sentence. Individual words will be heard clearly, but the sentence will lack rhythm like early electronically synthesized speech.
- Some of the students have noticed that the recording will not play smoothly if "PLAY A LINE" option is chosen repeatedly. It seems to clear up if the student pauses for a moment or goes back to the beginning of exercise. This is probably a case of an operator error rather than a software problem.
QTDictation, according to the documentation, is supposed to indicate any errors made by students, but in many cases it does not seem to properly highlight the mistakes. This leaves the students in some confusion, not knowing exactly what to correct.
- "I GIVE UP" option is displayed after second failed attempt by the students. I think it encourages them to give up too soon. They should be allowed to try 5 or 6 times before having this option. Also, it will be helpful for the instructors to evaluate the students if there was an indicator to show the number of attempts and whether "I GIVE UP" option was invoked.
- Lastly, it seems more convenient if an user does not have to quit the application when continuing on to next exercise.
Overall, I am satisfied with the application of QTDictation in Japanese language instruction despite some shortcomings. This is a big improvement over the old method - audio tapes. QTDictation has clearly advanced us forward in language instruction technology. I should be able to better evaluate its effectiveness toward the end of current academic year by observing progress made by the students.
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