Purdue researcher creates technology, founds company to help students speak foreign languages

July 13, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University researcher has developed technology that helps students learn a foreign language through monitored individualized lessons performed outside the classroom setting.

Atsushi Fukada, associate professor of Japanese and linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts, developed Speak Everywhere technology to help students learn to speak a foreign language. He said learning to speak a foreign language in a classroom setting is more challenging than learning to read or write.

"In foreign language education, becoming able to speak fluently is the top priority, but speaking is the only skill that cannot be given as homework easily," he said. "Speaking practice takes place in class, but class time is limited and there are other things teachers must cover. In reality, speaking receives arguably the least amount of time and attention in class."

Another challenge is that foundational speaking practice such as repeating words and phrases and creating basic sentences during class time is inefficient and ineffective.

"It's inefficient because calling on each student would take a lot of time and leave other students idle. Practicing in chorus is ineffective because the teacher cannot monitor how each student is doing," Fukada said. "Foundational speaking practice is best conducted individually."
 Speak Everywhere is designed to be used in conjunction with foreign language courses at all levels, Fukada said.

"Teachers can use the tool to quickly create and deliver oral exercises to their students and retrieve and provide feedback on the students' oral submissions," he said.

Teachers sign up for an account to use Speak Everywhere for a nominal fee. They use an authoring tool to create a series of exercises for their courses, then allow students access to the exercises once the course is ready.

"After students submit their spoken responses, teachers can access and listen to them, grade them and give feedback. From the individual students' viewpoint, it is as if they are receiving personal tutoring," Fukada said. "Because speaking exercises now can be given as homework, the opportunities to practice speaking increase dramatically."

Fukada has signed a non-exclusive license through the Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization to sell the Speak Everywhere technology. He has started a company called e-Language Learning LLC, based in West Lafayette.

The Speak Everywhere technology is now available for licensing or commercialization through the Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization. Contact project manager Jonathan Gortat at 765-588-3485, jdgortat@prf.org.

About Purdue Research Foundation

Purdue Research Foundation  is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. The foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds research, scholarships and grants; acquires property; and negotiates research contracts on behalf of Purdue. In the 1990s, the foundation was charged with helping the university in the realm of economic development. The Purdue Research Foundation oversees the Purdue Research Park, which is the largest university-affiliated business incubator in the country. In addition to the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, the foundation has established technology parks in other locations around Indiana including Indianapolis, Merrillville and New Albany.

About Office of Technology Commercialization

Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization  operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the United States. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities.

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Steve Martin, 765-588-3342, sgmartin@prf.org

Sources: Atsushi Fukada, 765-496-6048, afukada@purdue.edu

               Jonathan Gortat, 765-588-3485, jdgortat@prf.org

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