Pronunciation is often one of the biggest reasons we feel insecure or lack confidence in our ability to speak the languages that we’re learning.
It’s also one of the hardest things to work on because there are few resources available to help you improve it. Even professional tutors aren’t often able to offer more than “listen and repeat”, so you have no choice but to cross your fingers and hope everything one day clicks into place.
But what if there is a better way?
Meet Speechling: A Way to Get Unlimited Pronunciation Coaching
Speechling is an online language study tool that offers language students a way to get coaching on their pronunciation in French, Spanish, English, and Chinese. While it doesn’t teach vocabulary or grammar, it does hone in on the thing that’s most often overlooked by other tools and does an excellent job of it.
My Experience Using Speechling
In order to form an opinion on Speechling, I decided to try it out extensively. In my first day alone, I made 140 recordings. I enjoyed getting into the content and having the chance to speak without the pressure of a realtime conversation.
It was fun working through the sentences, too. They’re practical and I found myself jotting things down to remember later on. The topics include everything from asking for help to basic questions, money to personal questions, and administrative to health. My favorite option, however, was one of the two Speechling Conversations features – Answer the Question. Not only do you get feedback on pronunciation, but the coaches occasionally correct any mistakes in grammar or word order when offering feedback on the answers that you come up with.
For English, French and Chinese I had feedback within a couple of hours. I didn’t get feedback on Spanish until about a day later. The site promises corrections within 24 hours. And yes, I tried out the English. I was curious to see if anyone would correct my pronunciation! The answer was no.
What I Like About Speechling
Real Voice Recordings // Rather than the computer-generated recordings used by a lot of language websites, Speechling has recordings of real native speakers. Sometimes they speak a little quickly, but it’s a real person. Plus, you can choose whether you hear a male or female voice which is a great way to get used to the ways different people speak.
Quick & Helpful Feedback // For three of the four languages I tested, I had feedback within a couple of hours. This was extremely useful and it allowed me to re-record the things I needed to work on right away. Plus, it motivated me to do a little more that day than I planned because the turnaround on my feedback was so quick. But just because it’s fast, doesn’t mean that it’s not helpful. In fact, the feedback is very useful. The coaches who went through my materials in each of the languages first repeated the words I needed to work on then re-read the sentences. I could then compare my audio before re-submitting a new recording
Multiple Language Combinations // If you’re into language laddering, or want to take things a step further, you can play with the language combinations. For example, if you already speak French well enough, you can use it to work on your Mandarin pronunciation. If you speak Spanish, you can use it to learn French. It’s really versatile.
Ease of Use // It’s really easy to get started with Speechling and make some serious headway in your learning. The platform is incredibly intuitive and user-friendly. You can record and submit your audio straight from your browser or smartphone, review your feedback, and re-record as necessary.
Everything is Color-Coded // The Audio Journal (where your recordings and feedback are stored) is color-coded, so it’s really easy to see the status of all of the phrases you’ve worked on. It’s also a nice motivation to see everything green (or to get you working towards turning it all green).
No Judgement // No matter how terrible you feel your pronunciation is, Speechling is a safe place to get better. The coaches don’t criticize you for any mistakes. They simply record the right pronunciation and then re-read the sentence. It’s a great place to build your confidence and pronunciation skills.
Test Your Listening Comprehension // You can use Speechling in a variety of ways – with the transcription and it’s translation, with the transcription only but no translation, with the translation only, or neither at all. With Chinese, you can show the pinyin as well (but not in every section). It’s a great way to test your listening comprehension in addition to improving your pronunciation.
Things That I Thought Could Be Better
Amount of Content // Speechling has Beginner (A1) up to Advanced (B1-B2) options and several themes you can choose from. However, I noticed that some of the sections seemed limited in content. In working through the prompts, the same sentences kept coming up. It would be nice to see them continue building their library.
Sample Audio Was Occasionally Too Fast // Some of the example sentences were read a little too quickly (especially Chinese). There is a ‘slow down’ feature but having them read naturally slower would be preferable to me even if it’s still a little faster than computer-generated half speed.
The Audio Size / Time Limit // I loved using the “Answer the Question” module over just reading or hearing and repeating. My biggest criticism was here, however. It seemed the audio limit is 7.5 sec or 1 mb. Sometimes I had more to say than that. And other times it took me longer than that to get what I had to say out. I understand the limitation but it was easy to exceed. It did force me, however, to reword my answers or say them more fluidly, which is in itself good practice. It was just frustrating that this got in my way a little too often.
To Sum Up
Speechling currently has two pricing plans. Free gets you 35 free corrections per month. The Premium account is $19.99 per month but you get unlimited corrections from a native speaker.
It’s an excellent way to practice speaking and get feedback at a fraction of the cost of private lessons. However, if you’re looking for a program to cover all the basics, this isn’t it. It’s incredible for learning phrases and working on your pronunciation, but it doesn’t teach individual words and assumes you have some prior knowledge of the language. I personally wouldn’t use Speechling as a complete beginner.
That said, I think that Speechling is a really great tool. Especially if you need a bit of a confidence boost and a no-pressure environment to work on your speaking and pronunciation.
30 Aug 2018 - Language Resources