Tom Keighley

Member Article

Innovative program helps Asian students to understand accents

Researchers at The University of Nottingham have developed a computer program that helps Asian students to improve their understanding of English accents in noisy environments.

Spoken English Discrimination (SED) training program trains Chinese speakers how to detect differences in speech sounds in adverse conditions.

It was developed by the team from the Schools of Psychology, Education and English, who recognised that some Asian students find it difficult to understand the range of different English accents.

They identified that some Asian students have particular difficulties with differentiating sounds at the end and start of spoken of words, such as ‘rope’ and ‘robe’, and ‘tin’ and ‘thin’.

Recognising the commercial potential for SED, the team secured development funding through the European (ERDF) funded Innovation Fellowship, and more recently via the University’s own Hermes Fellowship scheme.

This funding has allowed the team, led by Nicola Pitchford and Walter van Heuven, to develop the product, assess the market demand and identify business collaboration opportunities.

Nicola said: “Our findings have shown that SED training really does have a significant impact in enabling Asian students to differentiate between sounds.

“There has already been interest in the program from government organisations, through to a major Chinese mobile phone company who are interested in developing it into an educational phone app.

“In China alone, over 300 million people are involved in learning and teaching English, so we are very excited about the potential for the SED program.”

The University has a view to integrate SED training into existing English language teaching schemes.

Walter van Heuven added: “We are very interested in talking to people who feel that they can work with us to find new markets and applications for our SED training program.

“The aim of our work has always been to help as many people as possible through this program, so if anyone has ideas about how they can help to develop and market the SED training program, we would love to hear from them.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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