Speaking is one of the most difficult skills to teach. There are many objective factors involved: individual sounds, fluency, rhythm, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, etc. But there’s also the more subjective factors, such as shyness, numerous classes or, well, plain adolescence. All these, individually or combined hinder the development of fluency. These are two of the tech tools I find useful when trying to get my students to practice.
The idea of turning speech to text is not new. Apple’s Siri and “OK Google” have been out for a while now. Speech Recognition jumped into this wave. It is an interesting add-on for Chrome. Once installed, whatever you dictate to your computer will automatically turn into text in your Google Doc.
How can I use this in the EFL classroom? you may ask. Well, I found that some of my students have a hard time listening to themselves and cannot tell the difference between the sound they should be making and the one they really are producing. Here’s where this add-on came in handy. By giving them a text that would force them to produce certain sounds (eg the difference between ‘three’ vs ‘free’, which is so difficult for Spanish speakers) I make them see their pronunciation needs to be spot on; otherwise, the computer won’t recognize it.
This free Chrome app takes it a step forward. Fluency Tutor has a wide range of texts to choose from (you can even filter them according to age or lexile level) You can send them to your students directly or you can share a link with them (in the class blog or virtual class, eg) They have useful tools to help them through the task: a dictionary, a translator and a picture dictionary. Once they listened to the text and feel ready to start, they just click record and start reading. They can record as many times as they need and play their recording back to make sure they are happy with the result. Then, all there’s left for them to do is send you the recording. You’ll get it straight on your Drive in a folder conveniently called “Fluency Tutor”
If you look closer in your FT Dashboard, you’ll see how many times your student listened to the text, which words they looked up and how many times they recorded. A true gem.