LanguageBug does not assess or correct what learners are saying. In fact, it does not have any audio input during exercises, which means that it does not even “hear” its learners at all. Why?
Foreign Language Anxiety
Research has found links between perfectionism and high foreign language anxiety (Gregersen; Horwitz, 2002). As a result, learners should not begin to worry about having a perfect pronunciation.
LanguageBug understands that making mistakes is an essential part of learning any language. Learners deserve to know that from the beginning of their Portuguese learning journey.
When it comes to speaking only, it may be hard to define what is right and what is wrong. Variations in speech are common even among native speakers of the same language, as a result of:
- the same language in different countries,
- regional differences and dialects,
- accents in different social groups,
- formal/informal speech practices, etc.
Samuel & Larraza state (2015) that accepting “wrong pronunciation” is not an error. It may actually be a useful adaptation to an environment of linguistic variations (p. 51).
Accents can be a distinctive feature to express and maintain cultural identity. For that reason, not all foreign language learners seek accent reduction (Hartshorn, 2013).
Some learners prefer to keep their foreign language accent. Others may struggle to reduce it. In any case, it may be an act of prejudice when a speaker rejects or dislikes a “different” way of speaking.
Correction is not common-sense among researchers in the field of language learning and teaching. In fact, Corrective Feedback (CF) is the center of several debates. Sung & Tsai (2014, p. 38) have listed some of the fundamental questions around CF:
- does CF assist in language acquisition?
- what types of CF are the most efficient?
- what factors can influence the effectiveness of CF?
Language learners may also prefer “clarifications and elicitations” over corrections (Sung; Tsai, 2014, p. 39). Such types of feedback help them “find correct answers themselves” (p. 39).
Most language learning services rely on the right/wrong binary to function (see: Landscape Audit). Mistakes result in a big, red “X” sign that prevents learners to press “continue”. Sometimes, learners may be even “punished” with a reduction in the progress bar.
LanguageBug adopts a different strategy: it praises effort and welcomes mistakes. By doing so, it fosters risk-taking and reduces the chances of increasing anxiety. In summary, it understands that mistakes are part of the process of getting things right.