The Language Train: Trial Report

Jim Milton

01 January 2006

English native-speaking learners of Spanish commonly mispronounce Spanish words. Sounds common in Spanish either do not exist phonemically in English or behave differently, and are replaced by sounds which do exist in English. This is commonly called negative transfer or interference. Learners in primary school identify pronunciation problems as a major obstacle to learning. They repeatedly report that poor pronunciation would lead to their stigmatisation in the event of using their foreign language. The Language Train software is designed to target the problems English-speaking learners of Spanish experience, and to provide practice and training in the auditory discrimination of some of the sounds learners commonly confuse.

The aim of this evaluation was to address the following questions:

  • Does intervention using Language Train software improve learners’ abilities in the auditory discrimination of Spanish words containing the target phoneme distinctions?
  • Does the intervention associate with the ability to identify and discriminate words containing the target phoneme sounds in a meaningful listening activity?
  • Does the intervention associate with the ability to make the phoneme distinctions in speech – is pronunciation of Spanish improved?
  • Does the intervention associate with/promote enhanced learning – is more language learned as a result, eg more words? This is an ambitious question given the limited amount of teaching involved in the project.
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