Linguatorium Auris:
What's Under the Hood
November 5, 2018
Brody Dingel
Linguatorium Operations
If you've ever tried learning another language, you know that mastering the perfect native-speaker accent is quite a challenge (and oftentimes impossible, some would say). Japanese learners of English often struggle with the 'ra'/'la' distinction, Spanish speakers deal with the many English vowels, Chinese ESL students with the 'th' sound, and so on.

However, what most people don't realize is that these difficulties start with the ears, not with the mouth. This is because, when learning another language, our brain processes all of the new sounds according to predefined categories in our brain that were established before we could even walk. This makes it difficult to even hear the difference between sounds at times, let alone pronounce them. So, before you start trying to teach your ESL students how to pronounce English sounds, you first need to make sure they can hear what you hear.

That's where Linguatorium Auris comes in. The whole point of Auris is to take care of this first step to learning English pronunciation: learning to hear the differences between English sounds. Under the hood of Auris, we've got a dataset full of pairs of English words that differ in just one important sound, such as "boss/bus", "pat/bat", "rake/lake", and so on. Our system will lead your students through each of these sound pairs, identifying precisely which sounds each learner struggles with and providing them with individualized activities to target each pair of sounds that they can't quite tease apart.

But that's not all! In line with Linguatorium's mission of bringing research findings to life, Auris uses the best available method of learning to hear these crucial differences between sounds: High Variability Phonetic Training (HVPT). Now, the name might seem daunting, but the principle is actually rather intuitive. In the real world, your ESL students are going to run into a wide variety of voice types, including people of different ages, different genders, different voice qualities, and so on. To prepare them for all of this variation they're about to experience outside the classroom, their classroom training ought to include high variation, too, right? This is exactly what Auris does with HVPT, using lots of variation in the input so that your students are prepared for the real world.

Combining HVPT with this individualized and adaptive learner model, Auris ensures that every student will learn to hear the differences between English sounds with just 10 minutes of practice each day. To see research we've done to prove that it really works, see this article we published earlier this year.

How are your students doing with their listening comprehension and pronunciation skills? Contact us today to get started with a free semester-long trial of Auris in your classroom.

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Dr. Mandy Qian, the lead developer of Linguatorium Auris, contributed to this blog post.