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How Does Repeat Card Auto-Grading Work?

Austin Meusch
August 4, 2023

Starting a journey with Speakable often brings forth a common question from our educator community: how does auto-grading on the repeat cards work? More specifically, many wonder if our auto-grading system might be too lenient. We recognize these concerns and appreciate the opportunity to discuss them with you. Let's dive into the core of this question while also considering the unique experiences of the students.

Understanding the Language Learning Process

Learning a new language is often a daunting experience for students, especially if they've only been exposed to their native language. Their minds are already programmed with the linguistic rules and patterns of their mother tongue. Introducing a new language causes an internal battle of sorts, as the established norms are questioned and new ones are proposed.

When embarking on the journey of a new language, students must grapple with new scripts, sounds, and grammar rules. This resistance is natural and expected - the mind is trying to apply familiar rules to an unfamiliar context. This is the backdrop against which Speakable's auto-grading system operates. 

Let's consider an example: an English native speaker learning Spanish may pronounce 'tener' as 'ten-err,' inadvertently applying English phonetic rules to Spanish vocabulary. Students' internal programming will influence their early pronunciation attempts, demonstrating the challenges of overcoming native language biases.

A Focus on Comprehensibility

Given these challenges, Speakable’s auto-grading system aims to mirror a sympathetic native speaker's attitude – one who is actively trying to understand and engage with the language learner. Initially, the emphasis is not on achieving a native-sounding accent but on comprehensibility. This approach resonates with Stephen Krashen's theory of "comprehensible input," which posits that learners progress in their new language when they understand language in a context that is slightly above their current level.

Our auto-grading algorithm has built-in leniency. For beginner level cards (1-3 words), this often allows for minor mispronunciations, mimicking the way real-world conversations function. Remember, the purpose here is not to reinforce bad habits, but to foster an encouraging and forgiving environment where students can practice without the fear of making mistakes.

Listening, Speaking, and Learning

Repeat cards integrate listening and speaking into activities. At the onset of the card, students will hear the audio associated with that card and they hear the audio again when they pronounce it correctly. This integration reflects the interconnected nature of listening and speaking skills in language learning, and it encourages students to focus on producing comprehensible language while providing repeated exposure to the sounds of their target language.

We understand students won't master a new language overnight. Each student's progress will vary, and it's important to maintain a long-term perspective.

Long-term Patience, Short-term Impatience

The path to language fluency is more of a marathon than a sprint. We encourage educators to instill a sense of patience in students while simultaneously assigning activities in the short-term that challenge students' abilities. According to Robert Bjork's concept of "desirable difficulties," challenges encountered during learning can improve long-term retention and skill.

Confidence is the Objective

The goal of Speakable assignments is not necessarily to produce a native accent but to build enough confidence in students to start using the language. This is in line with the 'Output Hypothesis' proposed by Merrill Swain, which suggests that the act of producing language (speaking or writing) can trigger cognitive processes that lead to language learning. Confidence fuels the motivation to continue learning and provides a foundation for students to explore more immersive language settings.

Conclusion

Understanding Speakable's auto-grading system is part of the broader picture of embracing the language learning journey. Our goal should be to create an environment where students feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. Language learning is a gradual process that requires practice, patience, and perseverance.

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