New Putonghua software facilitates mastery of intonation

Shirley Lam


Thanks to support from CityU language scholars, scientists and technical experts, learners of Putonghua now will be able to master the tone and intonation more accurately using new online Putonghua learning software developed by Ms Sze Mei, Lecturer in the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics (CTL), and Dr Peng Gang, Research Fellow of the Department of Electronic Engineering.The software is the first of its kind in Chinese speaking communities.


The software, developed with a grant of HK$100,000 from CityU’s Teaching Development Grant, involves visual images to facilitate Putonghua learning. “The traditional way of learning Putonghua involves the mouth and ears only,” Ms Sze explained, “but this new software displays speech graphs of model and imitational utterances on the computer screen in order to help learners identify their mistakes in pronunciation.”


Based on the visible difference between the model utterance and their own imitational utterance, learners can adjust and correct their pronunciation. The software is beneficial to learners from beginner to advanced levels. While beginners can grasp basic knowledge about tone and intonation, advanced learners can use the software to practice and prepare for the National Putonghua Proficiency Test which places great emphasis on an accurate standard pronunciation.


Learners progress at their own pace


The software contains a total of 4,153 entries, comprising monosyllabic, double syllabic and triple syllabic words. Learners can choose from 28 exercises, each of which contains three levels of practice: pre-test exercises, progress exercises and a post-evaluation test. The scoring system and the different levels allow learners to progress at their own pace.


It has been Ms Sze’s long-time dream to create Putonghua language-learning software with visible tones and intonation. She could only upload pictures of intonation onto the web in 1995. “With the funding, the advancement in technology and the popularity of the Internet, I've seen my dream come true,” she said.


Ms Sze hopes to upload the software onto the CityU Intranet for staff and students to learn Putonghua online. On 24 Sep, a demonstration session was held to solicit staff comments on the software’s user- friendliness and effectiveness. CTL students have also been invited to make trial use of the software.




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