Speech and Language Technology in Education (SLaTE 2013)

Grenoble, France
August 30-September 1, 2013

A Speech-Based Internet Game for Beginner Students of English

Manny Rayner, Nikos Tsourakis

University of Geneva, Switzerland

We demonstrate a web-enabled serious game, based on the CALL-SLT platform, which is intended to help German-speaking beginner students of English improve their generative and auditory competence. Empirically, English is a language which Germanspeakers find easy to learn; the main challenge for the student is not so much grammar or phonology, but rather acquiring the experience needed to build up confidence. The game, designed to address this need, offers a short course of eight interactive lessons using a combined vocabulary of about 450 words. It was developed in collaboration with a secondary school teacher, with the content taken from a commonly used textbook. The system is gamified to increase student motivation, using common game elements such as badges.
   The game is structured as a series of short dialogues between the student and the machine, where the student is encouraged to use simple language in practical contexts like booking a hotel room or ordering a meal in a restaurant. At each turn, the system starts by playing a short video file in English (“How may I help you?”), and simultaneously displays a piece of text in German indicating to the student how they should reply (frag: Zimmer für 2 Nächte). The student gives a spoken response; they can usually respond in several different ways to each prompt (“A room for 2 nights please”/ “Could I have a room for 2 nights” / “I would like a room for 2 nights” …). If the student is uncertain how to respond, they can ask for a help example, which is presented in both written and spoken form. After the student answers, the system performs speech recognition, machine translation and matching, and either accepts or rejects. Depending on the result and the defined lesson structure, it can either go to a new step or repeat the current one; there are multiple dialogue paths. The student gains badges by completing lessons and achieving a minimum score dependent on the difficulty of the badge.

Bibliographic reference.  Rayner, Manny / Tsourakis, Nikos (2013): "A speech-based internet game for beginner students of English", In SLaTE-2013 (abstract).