Language Learning in the Wild

  • Seedhouse, Paul (Primary Chief Investigator (PCI))
  • Olivier, Patrick (Chief Investigator (CI))

Project: Research

Project Description

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - Award value: £162,525 (UK pounds)
The aim of the project is to produce a digital kitchen that speaks to the user in French, (or other language) and gives instructions on how to prepare a French dish. Sensors are attached to all equipment so that each time an item is correctly or incorrectly moved, participants can be given appropriate verbal feedback and further instructions.This project adapts the technology of our existing Ambient Kitchen for communication with people with dementia and adapts it to the field of language learning. Participants are equipped with a headset and microphone and can request a repetition or a translation of what the kitchen is saying to them. A situated language learning session will take students through the cooking instructions step-by-step, as is receives evidence from the sensors that the participants have carried out the stages of the task. In addition to verbal instructions and feedback, these are provided in writing on a large font digital display with translation facility. Prior to the task, a video is shown if the food being prepared, together with audio and text in the foreign language. Assessment of task completion will be both continuous, using the kitchen's sensors to detect and evaluate appropriate activity, and post-test, through an analysis of acquired vocabulary and structures.

Once designed, the kitchen will be trialled in an authentic training setting, namely in one of Newcastle College's large training kitchens. Students from both the Catering and French departments will use the kitchens to develop their linguistic and culinary skills. The design of the kitchen and related software will develop through user input and result in a fully trialled kitchen, which will be installed in the National Centre for Languages (CILT) in London, the Government's recognised centre of expertise on foreign language learning. CILT's role will be as the primary dissemination and exploitation partner and their staff will demonstrate the kitchen to visitors. The pedagogical design of this study employs Task Based Language Teaching (TBLT), a well-established approach to language learning which prompts learners to achieve a goal or complete a task. Much like real-world tasks, such as asking for directions, TBLT seeks to develop students' language through providing a task and then using language to solve it. This project provides an opportunity for language learning to be combined with the completion of a motivating real-world task in an authentic setting (college catering kitchens) using the latest technology. It therefore offers the opportunity of taking the excellent research-based pedagogical principles and procedures developed by TBLT over the years out of the classroom and into use in real-world applications.

In terms of the broader social context, the pedagogical design of the situated language learning system is intended to create a transferable, interdisciplinary model of task-based, situated learning which can be applied to many different technological settings and many different skill and knowledge sets. A significant challenge for the UK is how to employ the available digital technology to upgrade the skills of its workforce in a rapidly changing world. A specific challenge is how to improve the declining foreign language proficiency of the British workforce. The number of pupils gaining a GCSE in a foreign language has decreased significantly, whilst a recent British Academy report discussed concerns that the future of the UK's world-class research base might be threatened by the decline in modern language learning. The language learning and spoken interaction aspects of the project will be led by Prof Paul Seedhouse and the technological aspect will be handled by Prof Patrick Olivier, who developed the existing Ambient Kitchen for communication with people with dementia.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/06/1029/02/12