Learning to Show You're Listening

Computer Assisted Language Learning, volume 20, pages 385 - 407, 2007.

Nigel G. Ward, Rafael Escalante, Yaffa Al Bayyari, and Thamar Solorio
Department of Computer Science, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract: Good listeners generally produce back-channel feedback, and do so in a language-appropriate way. Second language learners often lack this skill. This paper is an initial exploration in how to teach this. It presents a training sequence which enables learners to acquire a basic Arabic back-channel skill, namely, that of producing feedback immediately after the speaker produces a sharp pitch downslope. This training sequence includes an explanation, audio examples, the use of visual signals to highlight occurrences of the pitch downslope, auditory and visual feedback on learners' attempts to produce the cue themselves, and feedback on the learners' performance as they play the role of an attentive listener in response to one side of a pre-recorded dialog. Experiments show that this enabled learners to approximate proper Arabic back-channeling behavior.

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