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Language Resource Center

Events of 2013-2014

September 27 and 28
Computer-Assisted Pronunciation Training Workshop

Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28, 2013

John Levis, University of Iowa
Dick Lyon, Google
Deborah Cordier, SR researcher

Friday 4:30 talk by John Levis in 700 Clark followed by reception and Dinner in 701 Clark
At Noyes Lodge, Saturday, September 28, 9am talk by Dick Lyon, followed by hand-on program demonstrations and lunch. Talk by Deborah Cordier at 1:15pm. Finally, a speaker panel from 3 to 4.

Abstracts of talks:

Effectively Teaching Pronunciation With Technology: What Teachers Need To Know About Pronunciation, And About Technology

John M. Levis, Iowa State University
Developing intelligible pronunciation is an essential skill in learning a foreign language. It is the gateway to spoken intelligibility and to success in listening comprehension, to a learner's ability to gain more opportunities to practice, and ultimately to communicative success in the new language. However, pronunciation is a neglected element of language teaching and is often not taught.

This talk will do three things: Lay out the elements of pronunciation that teachers should know about, differentiate what teachers should pay attention to and ignore to promote improvement, and describe the advantages and weaknesses of using technology to teach pronunciation.

The first area will describe general categories of pronunciation that apply to any language: segmentals, suprasegmentals, and global features of speech. Effective pronunciation practice in any language must include consonant and vowel sounds (segmentals), but more importantly, it must include work on rhythmic and melodic features of language (suprasegmentals). Finally, pronunciation also is part of global features of speech (such as fluency and speech rate). All categories are essential in thinking about teaching pronunciation.

Second, we must recognize that some pronunciation features are more important and some are less so. Research into pronunciation improvement has demonstrated that work on pronunciation usually leads to improvement, but only some types of improvement are heard by native listeners as true improvement. We will look at the importance of suprasegmentals in promoting overall comprehensibility, at the concept of functional load in choosing segmentals for instruction, and explore the most neglected element of pronunciation teaching, the use of listening practice for pronunciation improvement.

Finally, we will look at the ways in which technology can help teach pronunciation more effectively through Computer Assisted Pronunciation Teaching (CAPT). CAPT offers the promise of effective pronunciation teaching, especially if it is based on sound pedagogical and design principles (such as the use of multiple talkers and use of high variability input). CAPT can extend classroom speaking and listening practice, can individualize instruction, and can provide useful feedback through visual support and through speech recognition. All of these features of CAPT have weaknesses as well, but CAPT offers the promise of ending the long neglect of pronunciation among language teachers, and it offers language teachers the opportunity enhance the spoken intelligibility of their students.

Auditory Models for Visualizing and Measuring Speech Production in Second Language Learning

Richard F. Lyon, Google, Inc.
The spectrogram is a traditional tool for visualizing speech, and can be useful in speech and language training. But interpreting spectrogram displays is not simple, and getting meaningful scores or descriptive deviations from intended good "target" speech is still hard. An improvement on the approach may be made by changing to "cochleagrams" and related auditory representations, which are spectrogram-like but more tuned to how the ear analyzes sound. A good training system should make targets based on a voice with an average pitch and a vocal-tract length matched to the student; then, a good auditory-model-based analysis and measurement system can give clear feedback via visual differences, and also support meaningfully quantifiable differences of various types. Auditory representations have proven superior in automatic speech recognition systems, and can support measurement of formant errors, vowel category errors, pitch contour and duration differences (accent or emphasis errors), consonant realization errors, etc. Such an auditory measurement system could also support training for accent correction, teaching speech to cochlear implant users, and other related applications.

Automatic Speech Recognition for Language Learning:
Pronunciation, Teachers, Students and Feedback

Deborah Cordier, Researcher in Second Language Acquisition and Instruction Technology
Following work with ASR software, teachers and FL students in the lab and classroom, I discuss pronunciation and ASR-FL process, development, expectations, misconceptions and limitations. I will demonstrate ASR feedback features for FL pronunciation and scoring. The specific ASR-score feature was the focus of the FL student-generated research. Participants will view visuals of the software and have the opportunity to experience computer feedback.
A personal introduction to ASR in 2004 at a French University led to a first Lab User Group (USF, 2005), followed by pilot projects and research (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) involving three researchers (See Cordier, D., Cooksey R., & Summers, R., 2006 and 2009). Over two hundred FL students were introduced to the features of ASR for pronunciation practice and users have been involved at each stage of the research. With an outline of research findings and student-user responses, I will summarize the ways in which ASR was found to be useful for student pronunciation practice and learning. Further I will highlight important contributions to our understanding of how students engage with their learning in this context.

RSVP to Dick Feldman at
October 23
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In Search of the Holy Grail of Classroom Language Learning Success:
Is it Aptitude?

Paula Winke, Associate Professor, Michigan State Program
in Second Language Studies

Noyes Lodge 4:00pm
Reception preceding and following the talk

Some students in foreign language classrooms do exceedingly well, while others utterly fail. Ask any language teacher, and he or she will most likely tell you (based on experience and observation) that much of a student's success depends on motivation, effort, and, to some extent, aptitude for language learning. But how much of the average student's success is truly (and solely) dependent on aptitude - one thing that the student (and teacher) may not be able to control or augment during the course of study?

In this presentation I examine the construct of aptitude in learning a foreign language. Specifically, I define aptitude for learning Chinese to an advanced level. I test 2 hypotheses: first, that language-learning aptitude comprises 4 components (working memory, rote memory, grammatical sensitivity, and phonemic coding ability); and second, that aptitude affects learning both directly and indirectly (it can be mediated by strategy use and motivation). Native speakers of English (n = 96) studying advanced Chinese took the Modern Language Aptitude Test and a phonological working memory test, and responded to motivation and strategy use questionnaires. Using end-of-course listening, reading, and speaking proficiency test results as measures of Chinese learning , I constructed a structural equation model to test the hypotheses. The model fit the observed data. Of the 4 components foreseen to comprise L2 aptitude, rote memory contributed the most and working memory the least. Aptitude, strategy use, and motivation had about the same impact on learning but varied in how well they predicted the individual skills of listening, reading, and speaking.

I use the results of my study and others to highlight the big question: whether language learning aptitude, as theoretically defined, is (or should be) the holy grail of classroom language learning success.

Suggested readings:

DeKeyser, R. (2000). The robustness of critical period effects in second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 22(4), 499-533.
Hummel, K. (2009). Aptitude, phonological memory, and second language proficiency in nonnovice adult learners. Applied Psycholinguistics, 30(2), 225-249.
Li, S. (2013). The interactions between the effects of implicit and explicit feedback and individual differences in language analytic ability and working memory. The Modern Language Journal, 97(3), 634-654.
Winke, P. (2013). An investigation into L2 aptitude for advanced Chinese language learning. The Modern Language Journal, 97(1), 109-130.
November 11
Monday, November 11, 2013

You're majoring in what?
Careers in language for language and linguistics majors

Meg Malone
Associate Vice President World Languages and International Programs
Center for Applied Linguistics

Alice Cook House Seminar Room 7:00pm
In this discussion, I will explain briefly my path from undergraduate linguistics major to an executive position in language research. I have been employed in linguistics work for more than two consecutive decades, a track record that many of my friends and colleagues in other fields cannot match!

When I was a sophomore in college, my parents reacted a bit indulgently to my choice of major, language studies ("You can still go to law school," said my father). When I decided to forego law school to attend graduate school in linguistics, they were equal parts incredulous, concerned and supportive. While my cousins still can't figure out what I do for a living, I hope that my story will (1) resonate with you; (2) provide ideas for ways to turn your love of language into a living; and (3) give you some thoughtful responses to those questions you get about majoring in languages. In addition, I hope to hear your stories and questions. You are the next generation of linguists and language professionals.
November 12
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Aligning Curriculum with Formative and Summative Assessment:
Examples for Classroom Use

Meg Malone
Associate Vice President World Languages and International Programs
Center for Applied Linguistics

Noyes Lodge 4:00pm
Assessment is often on our minds recently, in part because of the "test-centered" nature of our society. We can seldom go a week without hearing about the impact of assessment (usually negative) on learning. At the same time, assessment is an important way to measure student progress and provide feedback to language learners and instructors on how they need to focus to improve or maintain their language learning. In this presentation, I discuss best practices in aligning curriculum with existing formative and summative assessments. In doing so, I will first comment on the current state of foreign language assessment. While this talk focuses primarily on assessment in the United States, I will refer to the recently released European Survey of Language Competencies to compare our situation with that of Europe.
December 10
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
LRC Fall Workshop
9am- 12:30pm, followed by light lunch
Noyes Lodge
This event will include
  • "Don't Let Canvas Manage You: The Effective Use of Learning Management Systems in the Language Classroom"

    Given the multitude of components that make up learning management systems (LMS), how does a language teacher decide how to use them efficiently? What are some of the pros and cons of using Canvas in the language classroom?
    • The goal of the presentation, "Don't Let Canvas Manage You," is to introduce language teachers to the various features in Canvas that can make it unique and to reveal how it can most effectively be used in a language classroom from a pedagogical perspective. Specifically, it will examine in-depth four principal components: content repository, communication and collaboration, assessment, and organization. Participants will have an opportunity to view a sample Advanced Spanish course on Canvas and at the end of the presentation, there will be time for questions and answers. Participants will also be able to try out Canvas on their own, using a free trial course, in the afternoon.
  • In conjunction with the Department of Romance Studies:
    "Developing Students' Written Production in- and outside of the classroom: Hands-on examples"
    This is a workshop by Dr. Angelina Craig-Flórez & Dr. Reyes Llopis-García from Columbia University
    • This workshop is two-fold. We will introduce a reversed approach to the traditional didactics of written production by: 1) Presenting hands-on examples of the Writing Process Approach when applied to in-class, formal, academic essays, starting from the Elementary level. 2) Presenting hands-on examples of the functional, communicative approach to intercultural language learning through informal writing beyond the classroom.
  • Finally, a demonstration of a computer-created visualization of students' pronunciation. We will examine that and discuss it to determine if the group feels this is worthwhile moving forward.
February 26
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Cognitive control in foreign language learning

Hank Haarman
Area Director, Cognitive Neuroscience
Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL)
University of Maryland College Park

Noyes Lodge, 4pm, Reception preceding and following the talk
An exciting ongoing development in second language acquisition research is the application of insights and methods from cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience to understand and create conditions that promote foreign language learning. In this talk, I will give an overview of several existing and potential cognitively-inspired approaches for improving second language learning. Approaches that will be discussed include (a) behavioral training aimed at improving working memory, (2) repeated (self-) testing administered to facilitate retention in long-term memory besides merely providing assessment, (3) creative problem solving to promote language learning, and (4) technological means for overcoming human information processing limitations affecting language learning. A central theme across these various applications is the need to consider the role of cognitive control in language learning, as research findings from cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience strongly suggest that language learning is modulated by domain-general cognitive control mechanisms related to the direction of capacity-limited attention in human working memory. Concrete suggestions for embedding the insights from cognitive and cognitive neuroscience research in actual classroom and other learning contexts will be provided, including (but not limited to) the need to offer a research-learning environment.

Dr. Haarman has offered a number of papers related to his talk. These include (see papers for full citations)
March 20
Thursday, March 20, 2014
4pm Noyes Lodge via video; Reception before and after the talk Evaluating Intercultural Growth in Student Essays

Janet Swaffar
Professor Emeritus, University of Texas, Austin
Assessment of foreign language programs has a history involving quantitative as well as qualitative approaches, notably the ACTFL proficiency test for speaking and the AP test evaluations for essays, both of which have been used for postsecondary as well as secondary students to assess performance. Both procedures involve training teachers to apply criteria that have been devised by others. This talk proposes that these rating procedures can be adapted to assess the particular programs and objectives of individual departments and that the process of determining what is taught and valued by that faculty will have internal validity and promote coherence in curriculum development. It is further argued that two major components of that process should be 1) the text types representing and referencing a program (i.e. students' write about a specific text in any media) and 2) assessing students' perceptions about the fundamental messages of that text. The talk is drawn from a model for evaluating an essay's language use after viewing or reading a given text, but focuses on the components assessing how students' express what they perceive vis-à-vis their native (C1) and the foreign (C2) culture of the language they are learning.

Professor Swaffar's talk will partly be based on this paper, which discusses a class project where students wrote essays about a target language TV drama, then those essays were evaluated for intercultural growth.
February 7, 14, 28
Friday February 7, 14, and April 11, 2014
Shared Course Initiative
Testing Workshops

G5 Noyes Lodge

These workshops are offered via videoconference from Yale University. They are a part of the development offered to participants in the Shared Course Initiative among Cornell, Yale and Columbia. But all Cornell teachers are invited to participate. The sessions will be in G5 Noyes Lodge.

The workshops are led by Mary Jo Lubrano. She is a Testing and Assessment Specialist at the Yale Center for Language Study. Before coming to Yale, she taught English as a Foreign Language and English for Specific Purposes at the University of Perugia, Italy, for over 23 years. She also led tester training workshops for NATO's advisory body on Language Training and Testing matters and the Bureau of International Language Coordination. She is a certified ACTFL OPI tester and a rater for NATO's Benchmark Advisory Test.

"Assessment Literacy" Friday, February 7, 3:00-4:15

This workshop will familiarize participants with fundamental testing principles, including understanding test purpose and learning ways to make tests more valid and reliable.

"Placement testing" Friday, February 14, 3:00-4:15

This workshop will focus on the core characteristics of placement tests. Participants will apply the concepts of validity, reliability and practicality as they design sample specifications for this test type.

"Assessing speaking" Friday, April 11, 3:00-4:15

This workshop will focus on developing techniques and prompts for testing using authentic speaking tasks. The workshop will address how to maintain reliability when assessing subjectively-marked tests.
April 16
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 4pm, Noyes Lodge
Reception before and after the talk

Language teaching/learning and Study Abroad

Marina Markot
Director of Study Abroad, Cornell University
May 9
Friday, May 9, 2014, 9am-12pm, followed by light lunch

LRC Spring Workshop

The workshop will include news about the LRC, both of our possible move and rewriting of our online tools. We will also have a report on this year's activities of the Council on Languages. Bernie Randles from the Academic Technology Center will give us a custom preview of the affordances of the new version of Blackboard coming online in the fall, specially focused on the needs of language teachers. We will also have talks by two Cornell teachers, William Reyes-Cubides on Voicethread and Meejeong Song on her WAL course for intermediate reading. Come prepared to think about what you would ideally like in an online platform for language teaching/learning.
July 12
Saturday, July 12, 2014

East Asian Language Pedagogy Workshop

Yo Azama
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages 2012 Teacher of the Year

Brain-Based Instructional Approaches for Maximizing Student Learning

Noyes Lodge 616 Thurston Avenue, Cornell University
8:30am-3:30pm, Breakfast and lunch will be provided, with a final reception

When and how does the brain work? How can we train the brain? How can we effectively utilize research findings in the language classroom? In this workshop, the presenter explains what we know about how the brain works, and demonstrates when and how to utilize that information in language instruction. He will share a variety of successful strategies to maintain students' motivation, develop critical thinking, provide feedback, and help students move toward higher proficiency. Workshop sessions will be highly interactive and provide practical ideas for teachers at all levels.

Event poster