Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Tools and Resources to Empower People with REAding DIfficulties (READI) within the 13th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

Rodrigo Wilkens, David Alfter, Rémi Cardon, Núria Gala (Editors)

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Marseille, France
European Language Resources Association
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Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Tools and Resources to Empower People with REAding DIfficulties (READI) within the 13th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference
Rodrigo Wilkens | David Alfter | Rémi Cardon | Núria Gala

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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

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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Agree to Disagree: Exploring Subjectivity in Lexical Complexity
Matthew Shardlow

Subjective factors affect our familiarity with different words. Our education, mother tongue, dialect or social group all contribute to the words we know and understand. When asking people to mark words they understand some words are unanimously agreed to be complex, whereas other annotators universally disagree on the complexity of other words. In this work, we seek to expose this phenomenon and investigate the factors affecting whether a word is likely to be subjective, or not. We investigate two recent word complexity datasets from shared tasks. We demonstrate that subjectivity is present and describable in both datasets. Further we show results of modelling and predicting the subjectivity of the complexity annotations in the most recent dataset, attaining an F1-score of 0.714.

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A Dictionary-Based Study of Word Sense Difficulty
David Alfter | Rémi Cardon | Thomas François

In this article, we present an exploratory study on perceived word sense difficulty by native and non-native speakers of French. We use a graded lexicon in conjunction with the French Wiktionary to generate tasks in bundles of four items. Annotators manually rate the difficulty of the word senses based on their usage in a sentence by selecting the easiest and the most difficult word sense out of four. Our results show that the native and non-native speakers largely agree when it comes to the difficulty of words. Further, the rankings derived from the manual annotation broadly follow the levels of the words in the graded resource, although these levels were not overtly available to annotators. Using clustering, we investigate whether there is a link between the complexity of a definition and the difficulty of the associated word sense. However, results were inconclusive. The annotated data set is available for research purposes.

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A Multilingual Simplified Language News Corpus
Renate Hauser | Jannis Vamvas | Sarah Ebling | Martin Volk

Simplified language news articles are being offered by specialized web portals in several countries. The thousands of articles that have been published over the years are a valuable resource for natural language processing, especially for efforts towards automatic text simplification. In this paper, we present SNIML, a large multilingual corpus of news in simplified language. The corpus contains 13k simplified news articles written in one of six languages: Finnish, French, Italian, Swedish, English, and German. All articles are shared under open licenses that permit academic use. The level of text simplification varies depending on the news portal. We believe that even though SNIML is not a parallel corpus, it can be useful as a complement to the more homogeneous but often smaller corpora of news in the simplified variety of one language that are currently in use.

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The Swedish Simplification Toolkit: – Designed with Target Audiences in Mind
Evelina Rennes | Marina Santini | Arne Jonsson

In this paper, we present the current version of The Swedish Simplification Toolkit. The toolkit includes computational and empirical tools that have been developed along the years to explore a still neglected area of NLP, namely the simplification of “standard” texts to meet the needs of target audiences. Target audiences, such as people affected by dyslexia, aphasia, autism, but also children and second language learners, require different types of text simplification and adaptation. For example, while individual with aphasia have difficulties in reading compounds (such as arbetsmarknadsdepartement, eng. ministry of employment), second language learners struggle with cultural-specific vocabulary (e.g. konflikträdd, eng. afraid of conflicts). The toolkit allows user to selectively decide the types of simplification that meet the specific needs of the target audience they belong to. The Swedish Simplification Toolkit is one of the first attempts to overcome the one-fits-all approach that is still dominant in Automatic Text Simplification, and proposes a set of computational methods that, used individually or in combination, may help individuals reduce reading (and writing) difficulties.

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HIBOU: an eBook to improve Text Comprehension and Reading Fluency for Beginning Readers of French
Ludivine Javourey Drevet | Stéphane Dufau | Johannes Christoph Ziegler | Núria Gala

In this paper, we present HIBOU, an eBook application initially developed for iOs, displaying adapted texts (i.e. simplified), and proposing text comprehension activities. The application has been used in six elementary schools in France to evaluate and train reading fluency and comprehension skills on beginning readers of French. HIBOU displays two versions of French literary and documentary texts from the ALECTOR corpus, the ‘original’, and a simplified version. Text simplifications have been manually performed at the lexical, syntactic, and discursive levels. The child can read in autonomy and has access to different games on word identification. HIBOU is at present being developed to be online in a platform that will be available at elementary schools in France.

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PADDLe: a Platform to Identify Complex Words for Learners of French as a Foreign Language (FFL)
Camille Pirali | Thomas François | Núria Gala

Annotations of word difficulty by readers provide invaluable insights into lexical complexity. Yet, there is currently a paucity of tools allowing researchers to gather such annotations in an adaptable and simple manner. This article presents PADDLe, an online platform aiming to fill that gap and designed to encourage best practices when collecting difficulty judgements. Studies crafted using the tool ask users to provide a selection of demographic information, then to annotate a certain number of texts and answer multiple-choice comprehension questions after each text. Researchers are encouraged to use a multi-level annotation scheme, to avoid the drawbacks of binary complexity annotations. Once a study is launched, its results are summarised in a visual representation accessible both to researchers and teachers, and can be downloaded in .csv format. Some findings of a pilot study designed with the tool are also provided in the article, to give an idea of the types of research questions it allows to answer.

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Open corpora and toolkit for assessing text readability in French
Nicolas Hernandez | Nabil Oulbaz | Tristan Faine

Measuring the linguistic complexity or assessing the readability of spoken or written productions has been the concern of several researchers in pedagogy and (foreign) language teaching for decades. Researchers study for example the children’s language development or the second language (L2) learning with tasks such as age or reader’s level recommendation, or text simplification. Despite the interest for the topic, open datasets and toolkits for processing French are scarce. Our contributions are: (1) three open corpora for supporting research on readability assessment in French, (2) a dataset analysis with traditional formulas and an unsupervised measure, (3) a toolkit dedicated for French processing which includes the implementation of statistical formulas, a pseudo-perplexity measure, and state-of-the-art classifiers based on SVM and fine-tuned BERT for predicting readability levels, and (4) an evaluation of the toolkit on the three data sets.

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MWE for Essay Scoring English as a Foreign Language
Rodrigo Wilkens | Daiane Seibert | Xiaoou Wang | Thomas François

Mastering a foreign language like English can bring better opportunities. In this context, although multiword expressions (MWE) are associated with proficiency, they are usually neglected in the works of automatic scoring language learners. Therefore, we study MWE-based features (i.e., occurrence and concreteness) in this work, aiming at assessing their relevance for automated essay scoring. To achieve this goal, we also compare MWE features with other classic features, such as length-based, graded resource, orthographic neighbors, part-of-speech, morphology, dependency relations, verb tense, language development, and coherence. Although the results indicate that classic features are more significant than MWE for automatic scoring, we observed encouraging results when looking at the MWE concreteness through the levels.