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Using ASR Technology in Language Training for Specific Purposes: A Perspective from Quebec, Canada

Issue: Vol 28 No. 3 (2011)

Journal: CALICO Journal

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.11139/cj.28.3.721-743


For many patients throughout the world, access to healthcare depends on the patients’ and healthcare providers’ ability to communicate efficiently in each other’s language. One way to reduce linguistic barriers to healthcare access is to increase the number of linguistically and culturally competent healthcare professionals. Conspicuously absent in the literature on second language (L2) training of healthcare professionals, however, is the use of technology that combines meaningful interaction, feedback, simulation, and asynchronous access. The goal of this paper is to fill this gap by describing and evaluating the “Virtual Language Patient,” a computer-based L2 training module for healthcare professionals. The module employs automatic speech recognition technology, pronunciation assessment, and video clips of a simulated medical history interview with a minority language patient. Five nurses-in-training at a French-language nursing college in Quebec reported that the module was easy to operate and that it addressed their anticipated language learning needs. More importantly, analysis of the data file automatically generated by the module revealed improvements in acceptability of the nurses’ pronunciation of the medical interview questions. These findings suggest that the module can be effective in language training for healthcare professionals. Implications for the improvement of virtual dialogue systems are discussed.

Author: Nicholas R. Walker, Pavel Trofimovich, Henrietta Cedergren, Elizabeth Gatbonton

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