Dr. Alicia Cipria–The iPad in a Spanish phonetics course: Raising articulatory awareness to enhance pronunciation
Vowel production in English and in Spanish requires different ways of rounding and tensing the lips as well as degrees of jaw movement for accurate production and perception. In this sense, articulation to produce Spanish vowels needs to be more fixed and unambiguous than for English vowels, which usually have more variation in the production of a single vowel. In my Spring 2011 SP 484 class, I asked students to work with an interactive articulatory website. I then used a Flip handheld video camera to record students’ mouths while they read sentences in Spanish. The videos were split into photo stills or snapshots and saved to Dropbox and then to the photo library on the iPad. I then opened the stills in AirSketch, which has a folder for all of the images that are in the iPad photo library, and used a stylus to indicate changes in mouth articulation that would help the student produce a more native-like pronunciation. I emailed the resulting annotated photo instantly to the student, with space for extra comments, and attached their original recording. I also projected the annotated images so that we could discuss them in class. Because I was using an iPad 1, I had to find apps that were VGA compatible. AirSketch provided for more seamless composing and projecting than using iAnnotate in combination with Perfect Browser, which is what I tried first.
In the picture, you will see that the English-speaking student is producing a Spanish vowel sound with neutral lips (as in English). By using AirSketch on the iPad, I indicated to him the correct lip and jaw position to produce the Spanish [a] sound more clearly, as in the word disciplinAs.
Students found the experience helpful and enjoyable. With this method, I was able to help them become more aware of what sounds they actually produced and the changes they needed to make. After they received the annotated images and after class discussions, I assessed their pronunciation with another recording, which, in most cases, showed improvement in pronunciation.
It was a very useful experience overall. An initial drawback was trying to experiment with different apps until I found the ones that would do what I needed. The real drawback was the interface with the Flip video cameras I used, with much time spent trying to figure out a way to avoid using a computer to mediate between the iPad and the cameras, as well as trying to make the Flip app work. I got very useful help, though, from eTech all throughout the process. The major strengths of the experience were the portability of the iPad and the handy ways of making annotations for students. I plan to carry on the project again this semester, but using other video cameras, and iMovie to edit the videos into smaller clips.
-Alicia Cipria is Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics. She holds a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics from The Ohio State University, specializing in the semantics of verb tense and aspect. She has been involved with the Roadmap to Redesign for the three large courses of Spanish at the Elementary level since its very conception, in 2004. After the official R2R project finished successfully, she continued working on the refinement of the hybrid courses that resulted from R2R (in-class/online combination), which is still the norm for Elementary Spanish at UA, allowing for the accommodation of an ever-growing student enrollment. Dr. Cipria has directed dissertations dealing with the application of technology to language courses and has been invited to numerous focus sessions and advisory meetings dealing with technology and languages, organized by different publishers of College Spanish textbooks (McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, Heinle/Cengage, and Wiley).