Towards a Democratization of the Language Classroom: Digital Sound Files Challenge Phonology

Dr. Gordon Gamlin
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Language learners have increasingly easy access to digital voice recordings. The proliferation of MP3 players, availability of sound and video streaming, and growing shift towards digital online laboratories all combine to facilitate online "speaking". Learner's posted sound files are shared and stored in specific course areas of electronic learning systems where they remain widely accessible. The availability of sound files creates a new challenge in language teaching because it changes the spoken utterance and transforms it into a document. Hence we observe a change in learners' practice speech status. The context of an institution's learning system lends an aura of authority to learners' practice utterances and has them instantly appear as models. The use of digital sound files among language learners also democratizes the language classroom. Now all voices are equal, and the voices of the learners far outnumber the usually limited feedback of the "language expert". This is to be applauded because in a truly communicative language classroom learners ought to be more interested in addressing each other than in aping a teacher's example. On the other hand, the newly found authoritative aura of the imperfect phrase revives an interest in phonology. The communicative teaching approach derided phonology since successful communication does not rely on accurate pronunciation. What will be the future role of phonology in language teaching? Learners can now record and distribute samples of a target language among peers who will understand them better the more they conform to the pronunciation patterns of that same group. Members of the learners group understand each other perfectly well while native speakers may be excluded from the discourse. To exemplify this trend, the study examines dramatic readings by American university students of German as well as discussions of Japanese students of English along with teachers' feedback strategies.

Keywords: Phonology, CALL, Academic Technology, Language Acquisition, Communicative Language Teaching
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Towards a Democratization of the Language Classroom

Dr. Gordon Gamlin

Assistant Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures, Loyola Marymount University

Ref: T05P0259