John Sloan


2022

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Reading Assistance through LARA, the Learning And Reading Assistant
Elham Akhlaghi | Ingibjörg Iða Auðunardóttir | Branislav Bédi | Hakeem Beedar | Harald Berthelsen | Cathy Chua | Catia Cucchiarini | Brynjarr Eyjólfsson | Nedelina Ivanova | Christèle Maizonniaux | Neasa Ní Chiaráin | Manny Rayner | John Sloan | Sigurður Vigfússon | Ghil’ad Zuckermann
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Tools and Resources to Empower People with REAding DIfficulties (READI) within the 13th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

We present an overview of LARA, the Learning And Reading Assistant, an open source platform for easy creation and use of multimedia annotated texts designed to support the improvement of reading skills. The paper is divided into three parts. In the first, we give a brief summary of LARA’s processing. In the second, we describe some generic functionality specially relevant for reading assistance: support for phonetically annotated texts, support for image-based texts, and integrated production of text-to-speech (TTS) generated audio. In the third, we outline some of the larger projects so far carried out with LARA, involving development of content for learning second and foreign (L2) languages such as Icelandic, Farsi, Irish, Old Norse and the Australian Aboriginal language Barngarla, where the issues involved overlap with those that arise when trying to help students improve first-language (L1) reading skills. All software and almost all content is freely available.

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Using LARA to create image-based and phonetically annotated multimodal texts for endangered languages
Branislav Bédi | Hakeem Beedar | Belinda Chiera | Nedelina Ivanova | Christèle Maizonniaux | Neasa Ní Chiaráin | Manny Rayner | John Sloan | Ghil’ad Zuckermann
Proceedings of the Fifth Workshop on the Use of Computational Methods in the Study of Endangered Languages

We describe recent extensions to the open source Learning And Reading Assistant (LARA) supporting image-based and phonetically annotated texts. We motivate the utility of these extensions both in general and specifically in relation to endangered and archaic languages, and illustrate with examples from the revived Australian language Barngarla, Icelandic Sign Language, Irish Gaelic, Old Norse manuscripts and Egyptian hieroglyphics.

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Celtic CALL: strengthening the vital role of education for language transmission
Neasa Ní Chiaráin | Madeleine Comtois | Oisín Nolan | Neimhin Robinson-Gunning | John Sloan | Harald Berthelsen | Ailbhe Ní Chasaide
Proceedings of the 4th Celtic Language Technology Workshop within LREC2022

In this paper, we present the Irish language learning platform, An Sc ́eala ́ı, an intelligent Computer-Assisted Language Learning (iCALL) system which incorporates speech and language technologies in ways that promote the holistic development of the language skills - writing, listening, reading, and speaking. The technologies offer the advantage of extensive feedback in spoken and written form, enabling learners to improve their production. The system works equally as a classroom-based tool and as a standalone platform for the autonomous learner. Given the key role of education for the transmission of all the Celtic languages, it is vital that digital technologies be harnessed to maximise the effectiveness of language teaching/learning. An Scéalaí has been used by large numbers of learners and teachers and has received very positive feedback. It is built as a modular system which allows existing and newly emerging technologies to be readily integrated, even if those technologies are still in development phase. The architecture is largely language-independent, and as an open-source system, it is hoped that it can be usefully deployed in other Celtic languages.

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Using the LARA Little Prince to compare human and TTS audio quality
Elham Akhlaghi | Ingibjörg Iða Auðunardóttir | Anna Bączkowska | Branislav Bédi | Hakeem Beedar | Harald Berthelsen | Cathy Chua | Catia Cucchiarin | Hanieh Habibi | Ivana Horváthová | Junta Ikeda | Christèle Maizonniaux | Neasa Ní Chiaráin | Chadi Raheb | Manny Rayner | John Sloan | Nikos Tsourakis | Chunlin Yao
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

A popular idea in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is to use multimodal annotated texts, with annotations typically including embedded audio and translations, to support L2 learning through reading. An important question is how to create good quality audio, which can be done either through human recording or by a Text-To-Speech (TTS) engine. We may reasonably expect TTS to be quicker and easier, but human to be of higher quality. Here, we report a study using the open source LARA platform and ten languages. Samples of audio totalling about five minutes, representing the same four passages taken from LARA versions of Saint-Exupèry’s “Le petit prince”, were provided for each language in both human and TTS form; the passages were chosen to instantiate the 2x2 cross product of the conditions dialogue, not-dialogue and humour, not-humour. 251 subjects used a web form to compare human and TTS versions of each item and rate the voices as a whole. For the three languages where TTS did best, English, French and Irish, the evidence from this study and the previous one it extended suggest that TTS audio is now pedagogically adequate and roughly comparable with a non-professional human voice in terms of exemplifying correct pronunciation and prosody. It was however still judged substantially less natural and less pleasant to listen to. No clear evidence was found to support the hypothesis that dialogue and humour pose special problems for TTS. All data and software will be made freely available.