We have developed an English pronunciation learning system which estimates the intelligibility of Japanese learners' speech and ranks their errors from the viewpoint of improving their intelligibility to native speakers. Error diagnosis is particularly important in self-study since students tend to spend time on aspects of pronunciation that do not noticeably affect intelligibility. As a preliminary experiment, the speech of seven Japanese students was scored from 1 (hardly intelligible) to 5 (perfectly intelligible) by a linguistic expert. We also computed their error rates for each skill. We found that each intelligibility level is characterized by its distribution of error rates. Thus, we modeled each intelligibility level in accordance with its error rate. Error priority was calculated by comparing students' error rate distributions with that of the corresponding model for each intelligibility level. As non-native speech is acoustically broader than the speech of native speakers, we developed an acoustic model to perform automatic error detection using speech data obtained from Japanese students. As for supra-segmental error detection, we categorized errors frequently made by Japanese students and developed a separate acoustic model for that type of error detection. Pronunciation learning using this system involves two phases. In the first phase, students experience virtual conversation through video clips. They receive an error profile based on pronunciation errors detected during the conversation. Using the profile, students are able to grasp characteristic tendencies in their pronunciation errors which in effect lower their intelligibility. In the second phase, students practise correcting their individual errors using words and short phrases. They then receive information regarding the errors detected during this round of practice and instructions for correcting the errors. We have begun using this system in a CALL class at Kyoto University. We have evaluated system performance through the use of questionnaires and analysis of speech data logged in the server, and will present our findings in this paper.
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