The eNunciate site explains the mechanics of accurate pronunciation in its tutorial videos in a way that’s easy for students to understand.
–Misuzu Kazama, Japanese Instructor
Students like having online reference materials that they can refer back to at any time.
–Asami Tsuda, Japanese Instructor
Instructor: Asami Tsuda
Department: Japanese Program, Department of Asian Studies, UBC
Courses: 2nd Year Japanese Courses: JAPN102: Elementary Japanese II A and JAPN103: Elementary Japanese II B
Over her career of teaching Japanese, Asami has noticed that students make similar pronunciation mistakes over and over. She notes that in many cases, students have difficulties articulating some sounds because those sounds simply do not exist in their native languages. She has been looking for ways to help students overcome those barriers, but it has not been easy due to limited class time and a lack of resources.
As a co-principal investigator of the project “Multimodal approaches to the empowerment of pronunciation teaching and learning: Creating online interactive tutorial videos” (eNunciate project, in short), Asami led a Japanese pronunciation pedagogy team and created a series of videos designed to improve students' Japanese pronunciation and intonation, and implemented those videos in her courses JAPN102 and JAPN103.
JAPN102 and JAPN103 are the 2nd year Japanese courses at UBC. Summer intensive courses run 4 hours per day for three weeks. The student cap for both courses is 24 students. The course aims to increase students' abilities to use Japanese appropriately within its cultural context so they can use it in real life. To help students achieve proficiency in Japanese, especially proficient pronunciation, Asami created a series of pronunciation lessons on challenging Japanese sounds and intonation patterns, and she then implemented them by adopting the flipped classroom approach as well as peer learning techniques.
Students were asked to practice the pronunciation of challenging Japanese sounds and intonation patterns by reviewing video materials on the eNunciate site before coming to class. In class, students were grouped heterogeneously based on the sounds they find challenging and further practiced their pronunciation by making use of instant feedback from their peers. Asami emphasizes that creating a safe learning environment is an important factor for practicing pronunciation in class, especially in peer leaning.
To ensure that students watched all of the instructional videos on Japanese pronunciation and understood the content before coming to class, students took a low-stake quiz in class. Asami often observed students reviewing/summarizing/asking each other about the content of the video before the quiz. As part of this new educational intervention, students also completed pre- and post-treatment tests of their ability to accurately perceive Japanese pronunciation. Through the pre-treatment test, students were informed of Japanese sounds that students with their specific language backgrounds are likely to have difficulty perceiving accurately. The post-treatment test informed them of their improvement. Asami also added pronunciation as one criterion on the rubric used for oral examinations.
Asami observed that students noticed their own pronunciation problems and started monitoring their own pronunciation (in Japanese and other languages). Students also reported that they liked having reference materials that they could go back to anytime.
Evaluating students' actual improvement is not an easy task. Pre- and post-treatment tests can be used as a measure for listening skills. But evaluating actual sound production requires an expert opinion. What can be done to help language instructors observe each student's progress without spending too much time/effort?
Asami recommends giving students enough time to think about why pronunciation is important at the beginning of the course. She said, “giving them the motivation to do work outside of class is the most important step of all.”