Dorothy Chun gives invited keynote at SLaTE Conference in Austria

Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Dorothy Chun

Professor Dorothy Chun from UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School gave one of the keynote talks at the 8th Workshop on Speech and Language Technology in Education (SLaTE 2019) in Graz, Austria, on September 21, 2019. Her lecture was titled “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it (or Der Ton macht die Musik): Visualizing tone and intonation in L2 speech.”

Based on her role as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Language Learning & Technology and on her research in the field of Computer-Assisted Pronunciation Teaching (CAPT), Chun provided a brief overview of current research on using speech technologies for second language learning (O’Brien et al., 2018), including automatic speech recognition (Van Doremalen et al., 2013) and text-to-speech (Hilbert et al., 2010). She then focused on one of the most challenging aspects of speech for L2 learners, namely prosody, and specifically outlined how technology might be used to help with the perception and production of L2 tone and intonation, sub-components of prosody. Prosody has been shown to be even more important than individual sounds for comprehensibility and intelligibility of (L2) speech (Munro & Derwing, 2011), yet it is difficult to teach and learn. Chun’s projects and research have involved the development and user studies of software and apps for teaching tone and intonation using multimodal technologies that provide learners with audio and visual input and feedback (Chun et al., 2015; Chun & Levis, forthcoming; Niebuhr et al., 2017). What is needed for the future are training and assessment tools for L2 intonation at the discourse level (e.g., Hardison, 2005, 2018; Wang et al., 2017). A critical component will be how to provide usable feedback to learners based on the acoustic visualizations. She suggested ways that applied linguistics and speech technologists can fruitfully collaborate to advance cutting edge technologies for contextualized utterances and visualizations of intonation patterns that concretely display how “it’s not what you say but how you say it.”

SLaTE 2019 was sponsored by the International Speech Communication Association’s Special Interest Group on Speech and Language Technology in Education (SIG-SLATE). The main aim of SIG-SLaTE is to bring together researchers and practitioners from academia and industry working on the use of speech and natural language processing for educational purposes.

Dorothy M. Chun is a Professor in the Department of Education. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in historical Germanic linguistics but transitioned to the fields of second language acquisition and applied linguistics shortly thereafter. Her passion has been researching and exploring how second languages are learned and how technology can be leveraged to enhance the learning of language and culture. Her research areas include: L2 phonology and intonation, L2 reading and vocabulary acquisition, computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and telecollaboration for intercultural learning. She has conducted studies on cognitive process in learning with multimedia and has authored courseware for language and culture acquisition. Her recent research investigates how computer applications can help speakers of non-tonal languages learn tonal languages by visualizing the pitch curves they produce and comparing them with the pitch curves of native speakers. Other research projects involve using online communication tools to help second language learners interact with native speakers of the L2, thereby being exposed to authentic language use and having the opportunity to co-construct knowledge with their peers about another culture. Since 2000, she has been the Editor in Chief of the online journal Language Learning and Technology and in 2004 became the founding director of the Ph.D. Emphasis in Applied Linguistics at UCSB.

[Dorothy Chun is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805-893-5789.]