We’ve all heard it said that “practice makes perfect”. And when it comes to learning to speak a foreign language, this couldn’t be more true!
However, with new language learners largely relying on reading textbooks, writing essays and listening to their teachers, speaking is too often left on the back-burner until it's time to start rehearsing passages for oral exams.
Luckily, new developments in voice technology are allowing students and teachers to give speaking practice the focus it deserves - both inside and outside of the classroom.
Tools like our online voice recording and messaging platform are creating new opportunities for students to improve their speaking skills, build confidence and receive extra support while studying at home.
Let’s take a look at five of the ways voice technology can help students immerse themselves in their language learning; helping them improve their pronunciation skills, become more fluent speakers and build confidence as they go.
#1 Improve pronunciation
It goes without saying that if you’re looking to become fluent in a foreign language, learning new vocabulary is just the first step. You need to learn how to pronounce it all correctly too!
While teachers may have this covered in the classroom, as soon as they get home and begin studying, students are on their own. Even if learners do reach out to their teachers by email, it can be pretty tough to explain how to pronounce a word correctly through text!
Tools such as our online voice recording and messaging platform mean that if a student is studying at home and a question about pronunciation pops into their head, they can simply send a voice note to their teacher while the question is top of mind and on the tip of their tongue.
Teachers can then reply quickly, directly and personally in their own voice - making the learning experience richer, more interactive and more efficient for everyone.
#2 Improve fluency and speaking skills
As well as helping learners hone in on specific pronunciation errors, speaking out loud can help students improve their overall fluency as they become more familiar with the sounds and rhythms of a foreign language.
Plus, in becoming more confident speakers, language students will likely see huge improvements in their grammar, comprehension and vocabulary too!
This point was highlighted in one study (published in Psychological Science) by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who compared the effects of listening comprehension and speaking practice on foreign language learning.
The researchers divided participants into two groups and taught the first an artificial language using typical listening exercises, while the second spoke and received immediate feedback on their vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation. All of the students then took the same grammar and vocabulary tests.
The results showed that the speaking group outperformed the listening group in all of the tests, even after the researchers controlled for individual differences in learning. The group that practiced speaking even outperformed the listening group on tasks that were almost identical to those the listening group had been given during training!
The researchers concluded that current teaching practices may underestimate the value of having students speak the language themselves (rather than simply listening and reading), and stressed that modern classrooms should place more focus on speaking in language learning - which is exactly what voice technology is all about!
Asking students to record themselves speaking is a fantastic way to get learners more comfortable with a foreign language, as it gives them a chance to practice their speaking skills through repetition, and to become more comfortable with new phonetics and sounds.
#3 Build confidence and prepare for exams
So much of successfully learning a language - and performing well in language exams - comes down to confidence and preparation.
In fact, after speaking with over 2,500 UK teachers, My Tutor recently concluded that students’ level of confidence was significantly linked to their academic success.
Getting used to recording themselves speaking confidently and fluently is one excellent way to help students feel more confident and prepared at the time of their verbal exams.
This is because if a child mostly practices a language through writing, and then has to be recorded for their real exam, they’re unlikely to feel comfortable and ready for the assessment.
On the other hand, if they’ve been able to practice speaking in a foreign language and being recorded while doing it - both at home and in the classroom - they’re likely to feel far less nervous when exam time rolls around.
Importantly, giving students the option to record themselves privately as part of their learning curriculum also provides them with a safe place to practice new vocabulary before speaking it aloud in class.
#4 Practice self-assessment
To truly fine-tune their speaking skills, it’s important for students to record themselves speaking - and play the tape back so that they can identify any areas of weakness.
In fact, the more mistakes made the better when it comes to self-assessment, as according to leading language tutoring program Lingoci, making mistakes while speaking can actually help you learn:
“To rapidly improve your speaking skills, you need to push yourself to make mistakes, and then receive accurate feedback so that you learn to make fewer mistakes in the future.”
Asking students to record themselves speak lets them reflect on their accent, grammar, fluency and intonation, as well as identifying where they tend to stumble over their pronunciation or “um” and “ah” excessively. This self-reflection, combined with helpful feedback from their teachers, will help get them on the path to success.
Over time, learners will also compile a collection of voice recordings that show their progress from beginners to advanced speakers.
#5 Complete spoken assignments outside of the classroom
Gone are the days where speaking activities were solely reserved for the classroom, and children simply had to focus on their textbooks at home.
New voice recording and messaging tools allow teachers to vary their homework assignments - from reading to listening and speaking - and cater to students’ individual learning styles and needs.
For example, if one child struggles with reading in French and another struggles with speaking, the teacher might set the first a written assignment and ask the second to record a minute of them discussing the same topic in French.
As we touched on earlier, voice technology also allows students to receive additional support from teachers outside of the classroom, sending them a quick voice note whenever they get stuck with a spoken homework assessment or have a question about pronunciation or vocabulary.
The future of language learning is here
Ultimately, voice technology provides both teachers and students with exciting new ways to practice the age-old fundamentals of language learning.
Practically speaking, voice recording and messaging tools help students to practice talking and receive better feedback, while giving teachers more options when it comes to setting targeted assignments and monitoring students’ progress and fluency.
On a broader level, voice technology also helps students benefit from a more well-rounded approach to language learning; letting them improve their speaking skills, pronunciation and build confidence both in school and outside of the classroom.
So, if you’re in the business of teaching students to use their voices in different languages, there’s really no reason not to give voice technology a try!
To find out how our online voice recording and messaging platform could help aid your students’ language learning, get in touch with telbee today!