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Dipl.-Inf. Florian Hönig

Alumnus of the Pattern Recognition Lab of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

developing speech technology to aid second-language learning

Pronunciation Assessment

A major obstacle in computer-assisted language learning is the missing feedback from a human teacher. This is especially true for learning the correct pronunciation. Automatic pronunciation assessment aims to bridge that gap. Even for cases where there is a teacher present, it can help the students by providing more intensive pronunciation training than is possible in class. Also, it can help learners that tend to avoid exercising their pronunciation aloud in class. Therefore, we are developing methods for automatically scoring the quality of a learner's utterance with respect to segmental acoustics and prosody, and for detecting specific errors such as wrong word accent position or phoneme substitution.

Data Collection

In order to train and test an automatic pronunciation scoring system, a comprehensive corpus of annotated examples has to be collected. The annotation is very time-consuming and has to be performed by experienced labellers. 



Automatic Pronunciation Scoring

The basis of modern approaches to automatic pronunciation scoring is an HMM-based speech recognizer. A number of parameters are computed from the recognition result and from phoneme alignments, e.g. the likelihood of the spoken utterance to be a realization of the given target sentence. These can be used to classify whether the uttered words were pronounced correctly. Complementary to techniques based on a speech recognizer, the spoken utterance can directly be compared to reference speakers. Thus, subtleties can be captured that a standard triphone HMM-recognizer cannot model.