Technology-enhanced foreign and second-language learning of Nordic languages (TEFLON)

Because of immigration, the demand for learning Nordic languages as a second language is high, yet acquiring a new language is challenging for many learners. For example, immigrant children should learn the language of their environment quickly to use it in school. To speed up learning but to avoid high costs of individual tutoring for the Nordic societies, new techniques of teaching languages suitable for scalable digital applications are needed.

Digital environments provide many possibilities for learning, but since children often enjoy gaming, digital language-learning games may be particularly attractive for child learners. In our earlier projects, we have designed digital language-learning games that have speech-based user interface for children. In the current project, we propose to build game versions for Nordic languages (Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian). The speech interface of the games is enabled by automatic speech recognition that is also used to assess children’s utterances and to provide feedback to reinforce learning. This requires advanced speech technology that not only can assess foreign speech but also assess children’s speech.

The Nordic versions of the game will enable us to study the effects of articulatory training on second-language learning in immigrant children and remediation of speech-sound disorder. By using behavioral and neuroscientific methods (electroencephalography, EEG), we also aim to determine whether articulatory gaming intervention has effects on literacy skills and neuroplasticity. In addition to scientific excellence, our interdisciplinary project aims to stimulate novel practices in engineering (speech technology) and language education.

The studies on the development of children’s language skills and the technology developed in the project are expected to have notable impact, benefiting individuals, businesses and the Nordic societies. Our interdisciplinary research team has background and experience in engineering, cognitive neuroscience, psycholinguistics, speech-language pathology, and language education.