Face-To-Face With Change:  The 
Implementation of Technology-Enabled Learning of Nonverbal and Paralinguistic Features of Language

In The French Body - Project 1 Description

With In The French Body and In The German Body students come to grips with that hard-to-define expertise they need in order to connect fully with a native speaker. Conventional curricula supply some parts of this information as an aside to the regular program; however, these connections are a very large percentage of the focus in our approach.

Using role-playing techniques akin to those of "method acting," students learn to place themselves "into the bodies" of native speakers. We utilize video recordings of native speakers, engaged in unrehearsed, unscripted conversations as the centerpiece of classroom activity. Students can see speakers in their current cultural context, with all the details of body language and other verbal and nonverbal signs unique to their particular language and culture.

With careful guidance through these real-life examples of communication, students learn pronunciation, pacing and the special characteristics of everyday French or German speech. By learning the specialized "turn-taking" behavior of French or German conversation, students really can practice their French or German when presented with an opportunity to speak the language with a native French or German person. They internalize the body language, timing, physical distancing and other nonverbal elements of these examples of French or German communication. By experiencing how it feels to speak French or German fluently, to be "in a French or German body," students get a sense of what they are aiming for in learning the language. Students also seem able to understand French or German better when it is being spoken by natives after taking this course. They have literally "tuned in."

The system that is used to present this material in the classroom and language laboratory is composed of a standard videodisc player, a Macintosh computer, and a television monitor. It is cost efficient and has significantly improved analysis of the recorded dialogues. Unlike film or videotape, the interactive videodisc simplifies the isolation and analysis of conversation segments and also extends our ability to study the components of communication.

The videodisc itself contains a half hour of video, each part of which can be accessed precisely and instantly with no rewinding or long searches. The computer, which is linked to the videodisc player, guides the student through the material in a pedagogically sound manner and enables students to select the video material they need easily. Using this system, students can perform a variety of tasks virtually unheard of in language teaching. For instance, students can specify the viewing frame (head only or body length), they can play back the dialogue at normal or slow speed, they can break the dialogue into rhythmic units of varying lengths, they can call up at will a written transcription of any portion of the dialogue.

The SpeechLab feature of the computer program uses a microphone input to the computer and enables students to record, analyze and store their voice repetitions of the dialogue lines. Its feedback consists of a visual of the native speaker's intonation contour as compared to the student's. Intonation accuracy added to other performance factors contributes greatly to good native-like cadence and ultimately, to the intelligibility of the non-native when communicating with native speakers.

Those who are not participating in the Face-to-Face project but who wish to obtain the In The French Body or In The German Bodyvideodisc packages may do so through the Agora Language Marketplace.

The SpeechLab(tm) portion of the program is also available separately as an authoring tool for any language.

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