[photopress:podcasts012.jpg,full,alignright]There comes a time when sheer numbers overwhelm. To deal with such a situation you are almost forced to go to computers to help. Thus Chinese scientists have developed a computer program to test how well people speak Mandarin Chinese.
Fu Yong, former deputy director of the State Language Work Committee said the technology will help improve oral testing of Chinese and promote Mandarin Chinese both at home and abroad. In truth, it is unlikely that any computer program at the current state of development of computers can improve on human judgment of speech. But it will certainly be a lot faster and infinitely less expensive.
It will also release human resources to teach Mandarin rather than test it.
The technology was jointly developed by the Acoustics Institute and the Software Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Ju Qi, deputy director of the Acoustics Institute said laboratory experiments — not quite the same as real-life testing — show that more than 98% of the results given by the computer evaluation system were as same as the results given by linguists. Initially, the system will be introduced to Mandarin Chinese examinations in Hong Kong’s middle schools and universities. From there it will spread.
Mandarin, which in Chinese is called Putonghua and literally means ‘common talk’, is taught in every school in the country and is, indeed, China’s ‘common talk.’ It is tempting to say it is the standard lingua franca but that brings yet another language into play. Most Chinese are verbally bilingual, speaking not only Mandarin — which has many regional accents — but also a completely different sounding dialect of Chinese.
A recent survey by the Ministry of Education showed that more than half of all Chinese people can speak standard Mandarin Chinese. Chinese is growing in popularity throughout the world, according to the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.
An official from the office predicted last September that about 100 million foreigners would study Chinese by 2010. Testing 100 million foreigners — and I will be one of them — creates an immense problem. For which a computer program, no matter how imperfect, may be the only answer.
Source: Jongo News