Voice recording in Language Learning

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Voice recording in language learning is one strategy that language learners don't want to overlook. In my view, voice recording can help language learners to improve accuracy and intonation. 

I’m currently devising a schedule to gather voice recordings of the students I have conversation classes with. In fact, I’ve already made a start with a few of them. All early signs point to improved awareness, motivation and intonation.

Let’s check out why voice recording in language learning is worthy of scholars’, teachers’ and students’ attention.


VOICE RECORDING IN LANGUAGE LEARNING - A POTENTIAL METHOD TO STAMP OUT PERMANENT ERROR PATTERNS AND NEGATIVE LANGUAGE TRANSFER

I plan to write about fossilization in second language acquisition in my next post. In a nutshell, fossilization refers to the end-state of second language acquisition. This end-state stops some way short of native-like production of the second language.

The fossilization process is characterised by persistent lexical and grammatical errors. No matter how many times the teacher corrects students, be it verbally or in written form, they continue to make the same errors. Moreover, gap fill exercises to practice grammar points have no effect on reversing the never-ending barrage of spoken errors.

Hence, I’m convinced that students of English need to actively analyse their own speech. Certainly, deep thinking and retrospective self-correction reap greater rewards than reading through lesson notes and doing grammar exercises. Furthermore, if teachers can get students to analyse their speech and “think in English” between classes, the upshot may be that these students will begin to “think in English” whilst actually speaking.


WHY MIGHT POLISH LEARNERS OF ENGLISH BENEFIT FROM VOICE RECORDING?

Many of my Polish students of English are striving to overcome the intermediate plateau to become “advanced” level speakers. Their task is hampered by the inadequate instruction and heavy grammatical spoken English syllabuses they were subjected to at school. Moreover, state school teachers in Poland aren’t too bothered with the subject of negative language transfer. Negative transfer is when the influence of the native language causes errors in the acquisition or use of the second language. In other words, students directly translate structures and grammatical patterns from their native language into the second language.

Hence, many Polish learners of English have so many psychological and linguistic obstacles to overcome. For instance, many of them have low self-esteem. When it comes to Polish learners' speaking skills, many of them overuse the present continuous aspect. Furthermore, Polish learners generally aren't willing to experiment with newly-learned collocations and more sophisticated vocabulary. Clearly, these students aren’t solely to blame for the situation. After all, they’re victims of the “grammatical system”. Nevertheless, it’s down to them to step up to the plate and try to remedy the situation.

Overall, I really believe that voice recording in language learning can turn the tide in regard to boosting confidence levels and neutralising fossilisation and negative transfer. 


VOICE RECORDING IN LANGUAGE LEARNING IN ACTION

So, a few of my students have started to send me short samples of their speaking. I insist that these audio files are no longer than two minutes in length. 

I’ve already received two recordings from Miki - a Polish student of mine. I’ve been teaching Miki for nine months so I’m quite accustomed to his fossilised errors. Moreover, Miki’s utterances tend to be riddled with negative language transfer, although the situation has improved in recent months. Overall, I fully believe that Miki can reverse these negative trends due to his hardworking and inquisitive nature. 

Here’s a transcript of Miki’s first recording:

transcript for voice recording in language learning

To help Miki get into the swing of things, I offered to transcribe his first two recordings and pick out some key errors for improvement. 

Nevertheless, I think that learners should take the initiative from the third recording by transcribing their own recordings. Indeed, the teacher should pass the buck to learners so they can develop a ‘critical ear’. If students can begin to recognise and correct their mistakes and areas of weakness, it must be progress. 

Now you can compare Miki’s original speech with the corrected version below:


WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK ON A VOICE RECORDING?

If I looked hard enough, I could find ten areas of weakness in Miki’s first recording. However, picking them all out would simply overwhelm him. Therefore, it’s better to focus on two or three areas of weakness.

When it comes to ‘Focus 1’, Miki applied upward inflection to the end of so many clauses and sentences (highlighted by the purple font). Also known as high rising intonation and upspeak, upward inflection is when a speaker applies a rising intonation at the end of a clause or sentence. Using upward inflection makes clauses or sentences sound like questions even though they're statements. 

Different teachers will have their own opinions about high rising intonation. Personally, I find it annoying. In my view, speakers sound less confident in themselves when they use it.

Regarding ‘Focus 3’, Miki, like many Polish learners of English, uses question structures within statements. For example, Miki said “I don’t know how does it work …”. The correct form is “I don’t know how IT WORKS”. Predictably, there’s a great deal of negative language transfer and fossilisation involved with such errors. 

In my view, Miki should now focus on these three issues for one month. He needs to engage himself in plenty of voice recording, self-analysis and self-correction. I’ve also encouraged him to share his transcriptions with me. 

Just to reiterate, it’s impractical to repair ten language points in a short period of time. Two or three areas would be much more reasonable.

Finally, Miki’s second recording was much better in terms of avoiding high rising intonation. I look forward to tracking Miki’s progress over the next few months with regard to negative transfer and fossilised errors.


CONCLUSION - VOICE RECORDING IN LANGUAGE LEARNING IS MASSIVELY UNDERRATED

I haven’t done a wealth of research into the role of voice recording in language learning. Nor do I have much experience with the matter. Nevertheless, logic tells me that students of English need to be better self-analysts. By analysing their own performance in conversation, there’s a chance that learners can transfer their blossoming “thinking in English” skills from this theoretical self-analysis to real life conversations. Teachers also need to be involved when it comes to giving feedback on voice recordings.

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