Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Game Embedded CALL System to Facilitate English Vocabulary Acquisition and Pronunciation

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Game Embedded CALL System to Facilitate English Vocabulary Acquisition and Pronunciation

Article excerpt

Introduction

English has become an international language and many Asian countries have established English learning policies to promote students' English ability. In Taiwan, the Ministry of Education has set up curriculum guidelines to enhance learners' oral communication and listening skills at the primary school stage. However, English instructors have indicated that coping with students' heterogeneity in classes with limited teaching time and arousing learners' speaking motivation are the main barriers when teaching (Su, 2006). In order to deal with teachers' difficulties, study have indicated that providing students with a one-on-one computer assisted learning system is a helpful method for encouraging learners of various language proficiency levels to learn in an enjoyable way (Dolati & Mikail, 2011). The concept of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) to achieve learner-centered learning can be traced back to the early 1960s, and with the arrival of the World Wide Web, CALL systems were no longer limited to personal editions but enabled asynchronous and synchronous communication between instructors and students. Over the last decades, a variety of educational applications in the CALL research have been implemented, from web-based applications (Golonka et al., 2012; Hsu & Ou-Yang, 2013) to ubiquitous mobile-based learning environments (Wu et al., 2012), and from vocabulary acquisition to English writing skills. Within the topic of adoption of technology in language learning, there is strong support for the claim that integrating automatic speech recognition techniques (ASR) into computer-based learning systems had a measurable impact on pronunciation learning (Chiu, Liou, & Yeh, 2007; Chen, 2011). For example, Neri et al., (2008) used a story-based CALL system, PARLING, to encourage young beginner learners of Italian to memorize the words in a story. The PARLING system uses the word game to encourage children to pronounce the words in the story, and adopted an ASR component to analyze the learners' utterances. SPELL is another CALL system that created an interactive virtual world learning environment for secondary school students in French to have English conversations with virtual characters (Morton & Jack, 2010).

The above studies demonstrated that integrating an automatic speech recognition (ASR) component in a learning system benefits language learning, and especially facilitates an improvement in pronunciation. However, most of the CALL studies conducted comparison research regarding learners' performance of practicing speaking with and without an ASR-based environment (Neri et al., 2008; Morton & Jack, 2010), and little research explores the learning factors or interaction design in the ASR-based environment which may enhance the effectiveness of speaking. Many design variables such as self-learning approaches or pedagogy need and are worth investigating (Kim & Gilman, 2008; Neri et al., 2008). Neri et al. (2008), for instance, integrated game-like speaking practices into their system design; however, their results focus on analyzing whether the ASR system can help young learners improve their pronunciation comparable to that through traditional teacher-led scenarios, while the results related to students' perceptions of participating in the game-like speaking activities in the ASR-based learning environment or the effect of combining game strategy with ASR techniques for promoting the learning of speaking were less investigated.

On the other hand, some studies indicated that adopting educational games into language instruction has a positive impact on promoting students' learning motivation and performance (Tsai et al., 2012; Chiu, Kao, & Reynolds, 2012). For example, researchers have demonstrated that using scaffolding games helps students acquire targeted knowledge better; and the adoption of game strategies in instruction decreases frustration resulting from excessive numbers of learning retries (Sun, Wang, & Chan, 2011; Tsai et al. …

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