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Section: Application Domains

Computer assisted learning

Although speaking seems quite natural, learning foreign languages, or learning the mother tongue for people with language deficiencies, represent critical cognitive stages. Hence, many scientific activities have been devoted to these issues either from a production or a perception point of view.

The general guiding principle with respect to computer assisted mother or foreign language learning is to combine modalities or to augment speech to make learning easier. Also, the system should provide indications on what should be corrected, a guidance which is considered as necessary by specialists in the oral aspects of language learning. Consequently, based upon a comparison of the learner’s production to a reference, automatic diagnoses of the learner’s production can be considered, as well as perceptual feedback relying on an automatic transformation of the learner’s voice. For example, with respect to prosody, the diagnosis provided through both a text and a visual display, comes from an evaluation of the melodic curve and of the phoneme durations of the learner’s realization; and the perceptual feedback consists in a replacement of the learner’s prosodic cues by those of the reference; i.e., the signal of the learner's utterance is modified in order to reflect the prosodic cues (duration and F0) of the reference in order to make the learner aware of the expected prosodic cues. The diagnosis step strongly relies on the studies on categorization of sounds and prosody in the mother tongue and in the second language, and also depends on the influence between them. Furthermore, reliable diagnosis on individual utterances is still a challenge, and elaboration of advanced automatic feedback requires a temporally accurate segmentation of speech utterances into phones and this explains why accurate segmentation of native and non-native speech is also an important topic in the field of acoustic speech modeling.