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Getting started

So, let's see how to use the system. It's usually up and available here. Click on the link, and you should get a screen that looks like this:

The text explains that you'll be practising the kind of language you'd need in a restaurant – reserving a table, ordering food, asking for the bill, and that kind of thing. Enter “guest” (no quotes) as your username, and hit Enter. (You don't need a password if you're entering as a guest). Now you should get a screen like this one:

Click on “Allow” to give the system access to your microphone. The screen should now be as in the next picture.

If you didn't get the popup window, the most likely reason is that your browser is unable to access Flash content for some reason. Make sure you have a recent version of Flash installed and check your firewall settings. If that doesn't help, it's possible that your network is blocking Flash. (Many universities do this). Check with your system administrator to see if they can help you.

Accessing help

By default, the system starts off in the version that teaches French to English people (the English and French flags at the bottom right of the left-hand pane). We'll see how to change languages in a minute, but for now let's just stick with French. We're in Lesson 1, which teaches you simple ways to order food, and the right-hand pane explains the grammar you're covering. You might want to look at that first to get a clearer idea of what the lesson is about.

The middle left pane, “ORDER POLITELY LAMB”, tells you what you're supposed to say, so if we were learning English we'd say something like “I'd like the lamb”, “Could I have the lamb?” or just “The lamb, please” - the system is flexible about permitting you to say things in different ways. But we're doing French, and maybe we don't know how to say it in that language. We can get assistance by pressing the Help button – the blue question mark on the bottom right.

If we do, the screen will look like the next picture. As you can see, the bottom pane now contains two lines with examples of responses that should work. The first one has a loudspeaker item on the left, meaning that you can listen to it as well as read it. If you click on that line, you'll hear a recording of the example.

Using recognition

Now you can try speaking yourself. Move the mouse to the purple Recognize button on the top right, press it, and KEEP IT HELD DOWN WHILE YOU'RE TALKING. Release when you've finished.

The first time you do it, the system maybe won't understand you, and you'll see something like this. Oops! It had no idea what you just said, and made a random guess – the red bar on the top left shows you got it wrong.

But don't give up yet! Listen to the example, and try again. After a couple more tries, you'll hopefully get it right. This time, the system recognized what you said and marked it as correct (the green bar on the top left).

If you know some French and experiment a little, you'll also be able to get a third kind of response. The screen below shows what happened when I said “L'agneau, s'il vous plaît” (“The lamb, please”). This a perfectly good way to ask politely for the lamb, but it isn't what I was supposed to be practising in this lesson: as you'll see in the text panel on the right (“Lesson 1”), you're meant to be learning the expressions “Je voudrais ____” and “J'aimerais ____”. So I got an orange bar, meaning correct language but wrong for the lesson.

Listening to your own voice

It's often useful to be able to hear your own voice and compare it with the recordings you get when you use the Help button. You can listen to the last thing you said using the loudspeaker control at the bottom left.

Getting the next example

When you've practiced the first example enough, you can move to the next one using the green arrow button on the right-hand side. The arrow button on the other side moves back to the previous example.

Changing the lesson

You can move to a new lesson with the green Lesson button (top left). You'll get a menu showing the available lessons. Double-click on the one you want.

Changing the language

You can move to a new language with the orange Language button (top left). You'll get another menu. As with the Lesson menu, select by double-clicking.

Some languages have had more work done on them than others. “French for English Speakers”, “French for Chinese Speakers”, “French for Arabic Speakers” and “Japanese for English Speakers” have all been tested fairly carefully on at least a dozen or so students.

Most of the courses assume you already know a bit about the language, so are not suitable for complete beginners. However, “Japanese for English Speakers (WMDF)” is an exception. This course, developed by Ian Frank at Future University, Hakodate, is meant to cover very basic Japanese and assumes no prior knowledge at all.

Changing the recognition level

You can make the recognition more or less “forgiving” with the control at the bottom right. By default, this is set to “hard”. If you think the system is failing to recognizing too often, move it to “medium” or “easy”. The recognition module will then consider fewer alternatives, and try to give you the benefit of the doubt when it's unsure what you've said and one alternative is correct.

How to study with CALL-SLT

How you use CALL-SLT to study is entirely up to you! But you will probably get the best results if you do the lessons more or less in the order in which they are presented, practice them systematically, and do the examples both with and without help.

If you feel that you are really pronouncing the words right but are still not being recognized, consider reducing the level of difficulty to “medium” or “easy”, at least for a while.

Now go to the demo and try it out!