Language teaching, at least in communicative approach, is basically an audiovisual interaction. The lack of true speech sound and image in CALL had disheartened many enthusiasts. Now, with IMM, they walk with their heads high. This paper analyses the need of interactive multimedia for CALL, and looks at the sound and image features of IMM in the light of language teaching. The future impact of IMM to CALL is anticipated with a brief illustration of the software "Monking", a Chinese character tutorial developed by the author.
In recent years we have seen the shift in language teaching theory and practice from structural approach to communicative approach. Communicative skills are emphasised instead of language as knowledge (like grammar rules). Speech sound and real world image become crucial elements in teaching language skills like speaking, listening, and proper usage of the language in social situations. All this implies a "downgrading of those very areas which best lend themselves to computerisation (eg, grammar rules instruction and drilling) and a corresponding upgrading of aspects less susceptible. to being computerised ... the computer thus finds itself making a greater contribution to marginal than to central elements. ... It is indeed ironical that computer technology ... should have arrived at a time when the theories about language learning which could best accommodate it were on their way out."(Kenning & Kenning, 1990, 48)
With the rapid development in computer technology, the interactive multimedia has promoted CALL into a new stage. The deaf and mute (those able to make a little noise, to be exact) now could talk and understand a bit in true speech sound and give vivid picture of a situation in the real world. This again set the imagination of CALL enthusiasts on fire.
Voice output. Ready made sentences, phrases or words are activated by the learner's key in response. Those digitised recordings of true speech sound are natural utterances. Voice synthesiser, which can read any text that the learner keys in, can be used in ELIZA kind of talking and proof reading, although it suffers from immaturity in naturalness.
Another new technology worth mentioning here is called Talking Book, which turns barcode reading into real speech sound. With a barcode wand connected to a computer (without monitor), learners can look at a text on paper and listen to the reading aloud at the same time.
"The added audio dimension offers great scope for teaching those concepts and skills which depend critically upon sound for full communication." (Shaw, 1993, 213) For instance, the tones of Chinese characters are very challenging to LOTE learners. Without accompanying speech sound, it is difficult to acquire them even if the Pinyin and tone mark is on the screen.
Voice input. Voices of teachers and students can be recorded and played back by computer. This helps phonetic instruction and pronunciation training.
Speech recognition, the most exiting new technology, has shown its potential in CALL. For example, pronunciation training needs constant feedback and repetition. The learner often feels embarrassed before a teacher and frustrated after repeated failure. With a computer as a backfeeder, the anxiety is greatly reduced. Although this technology is still in its infancy and the reliability of recognition needs improvement, we can expect that in the near future our students can really talk to, and with, the computer in target language.
Animation. Using authorwares like Actions II, animation becomes a easy task for the designer. It certainly contributes to the high motivation of the software. Sometimes it serves better than real life pictures because of its cartoon nature. With certain topics, it pays a decisive role. For example, without animation, it its hard to present the stroke order of Chinese characters.
Video. This is the most convincing step forward in CALL. In communicative teaching, it is the important and the most difficult task for the teacher to provide a situation close to the real world in order to impart knowledge of social-cultural aspects of the language in use. Without a true video play, at least the meaning of body language and facial expressions can hardly be conveyed. Interactive video made a breakthrough here and Aussie Barbie is certainly the landmark in CALL.
Some of these sound and image features have been in existence in other medium used in language teaching, such as audio recorders and video recorders, but the merit of interactive multimedia lies in its capacity in organising all necessary media into a computer which is "capable of generating human language while other forms of technology ... can only reproduce language." (Lee, 1993, 2)
The interactive feature distinguish IMM from any other technology. "True interactivity implies a dialogue in which both sides of a two way exchange adapt their behaviour in the light of the other's response. For this reason, linear videotape can never be fully interactive ..." (Coleman, 1991, 93)
The author has developed a software using these features to teach the characters and has received optimistic feedback. The program uses a Soundblaster card, an authoring language under windows called ActionII. The whole process of teaching is organised into an adventure of Monkey King who tries to discover and steal treasures in Emperor Jade's Palace in Heaven. The sequence in teaching is totally different from traditional ones. Instead of learning characters lesson by lesson, learners go from one character to another by exploring with the mouse on the character on screen, by adding one more stroke at a proper place (clicking on a hidden button that is in the shape of a stroke). This discovery learning reduces the memory load, also builds up the ability for distinguishing similar characters which are confusing in form.
Graphics and animation plays a essential part here. Each character is drawn with some part (such as radicals which give hints to the meaning of the character) highlighted in a different colour. Chinese characters are basically picto-graphic and self explanatory. For example, the character for "tree" is in a simplified shape of a tree. The character "rest" is radical of "man" plus the character "tree", meaning a man leaning against a tree. Animation is used here to illuminate this feature. When the icon for explanation is clicked, a man walks to the tree and take a rest. Another example is the sun rises from the horizon, meaning "morning" or "daybreak", which explains why the character is a "sun" above "earth" represented by a horizontal stroke. These visual illustrations greatly enhanced the comprehension and memory of, not only the meaning and form of each character taught but also the way characters are formed.
Speech sound, sound effect and music are also playing a part in the program. The testing section consists of arcade games. For example, as soon as a character is read out, many balloons begin to drift to the sky. The testee (now the Monkey King) should shoot the one with the right character before it is out of sight. The sound effect of cheers from crowd, urging music, the gunshot, all this makes the test very exiting.
Corbel, C. & Victoria, A. (1993). The 'Third Generation': An overview of some recent CALL texts. On-Call, 7(2). 24-28.
Dunkel, P. (ed) (1990). Computer assisted language learning and testing research issues and practice. Newberry House.
Farrow, P. (1992). Crystal ball gazing: Expanding CAL experience and expertise beyond the University into the community. In A future promised, Proceedings ASCILITE'92, 1-5.
Frick, W. (1993). The development of teaching materials. Paper delivered at CSAA 3rd Biennial Conference, July, 1993, Griffith University.
Garton, J. (1992). Learning how to manage text with interactive multimedia. On-Call, 7(1). 17-22.
Kenning, M. M. & Kenning, M. J. (1990). Computers and language learning: Current theory and Practice. Ellis Horwood.
Lee, T. (1993). The CALL potentials of Word for Windows. On-Call, 7(3). 2-6
Maxwell, R. (1993). Occupational health and safety with talking books. On-Call, 7(2). 29-30.
McCarthy, B. (1993). Developing CALL material for the foreign language classroom: Ideals and practicalities. On-Call, 7(2). 2-9.
Shaw, N. A. (1987). Interactive audio: A challenge or companion to interactive video? Using computers intelligently, 212-221.
Xiao, Xi (1993). The rediscovery in Chinese character system and 7 schools of teaching experiments in China. Paper delivered in CSAA 3rd Biennial Conference, July, 1993, Griffith University.
|Author: Xiao Xi, Visiting Lecturer, Curriculum Department|
Box 8 Hunter Building, University of Newcastle
Newcastle NSW 2308
Tel. 049 216 370
Please cite as: Xiao, Xi (1994). The impact of sound and image features of IMM on CALL. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 594-596. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/qz/xiao.html