Computer-aided Assessment of Tone Production: A Case of Zimbabwean Students Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language

Document Type: Original Article

Author

Hebei University, China

Abstract

This study examined how technology can help in assessing and teaching Chinese tones to foreign students who are not used to tonal languages. It was an attempt to show how we can use the PRAAT software to make learners of Chinese as a foreign language realize their tonal errors. The data used was collected from the students at the University of Zimbabwe studying Chinese and this was part of a continuous assessment for the students’ pronunciation of Chinese tones. This method which was used by teachers to assess students’ tones was found to be easy to follow such that students could also utilize it for their own pronunciation practice. We argued that the use of computer-aided assessment makes assessment of students’ tone acquisition lesser arbitrary than when the teacher merely gives comments based on his or her individual perception. This is because this assessment method gives PRAAT acoustic pictures which show the tone structures for each student; hence, both the student and the teacher can visualize the errors. Since PRAAT can provide a platform to compare the student’s pronunciation with that of the native speaker and at the same time can help the teacher to explain why student’s pronunciation is wrong, this paper concludes that PRAAT can be a useful tool in assessing and teaching Chinese tones.

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