Computer helps Asian students with English

July 11, 2012 at 8:05 PM
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NOTTINGHAM, England, July 11 (UPI) -- British university researchers say a computer program can help Asian students deal with sometimes difficult-to-understand regional English accents.

Computer scientists at Nottingham University said it is recognized some Asian students in Britain find it difficult to understand the range of different English accents spoken.

Difficulties can be experienced differentiating sounds at the end of spoken English words, like rope versus robe, and at the start, as in tin versus thin. This can make continuous speech difficult to follow, as misunderstanding a single word can potentially change the whole interpretation of a sentence.

The researchers' Spoken English Discrimination training program can train Chinese speakers in how to detect differences in speech sounds in adverse conditions, such as accented speech or in situations in which there are a number of sounds in the background, a university release reported.

"Our findings have shown that SED training really does have a significant impact in enabling Asian students to differentiate between sounds," researcher Nicola Pitchford said.

There is a commercial potential for SED, she said.

"There has already been interest in the program from government organizations, through to a major Chinese mobile phone company who are interested in developing it into an educational phone app," Pitchford said.

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