LLT Journal: Review of TriplePlay Plus! English


REVIEW OF TRIPLEPLAY PLUS! ENGLISH

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Program title: TriplePlay Plus! English
Distributor: Syracuse Language Systems, Inc.
5790 Widewaters Parkway
Syracuse, NY 13214-2845
Phone: (315) 449-4500
Fax: (315) 449-4585
Program information: http://www.syrlang.com
E-mail: customerservice@syrlang.com
System requirements: IBM 486 DX 2/66 or faster with 8 MB RAM, Windows 3.1 or 95, 256-color display, CD-ROM drive, 16 bit sound card, speakers or headphones, mouse, 9.5 MB free hard disk space (standard install).
Price: US $49.95; for a site license: $250.00 for 5 users, $450 for 10 users.

Reviewed by Alison Mackey and Jung-Yoon Choi, Michigan State University

OVERVIEW

TriplePlay Plus! English is a CD-ROM-based multimedia package designed for beginning to intermediate ESL learners, ages 8 to adult. The program comes with a user's guide, plug-and-play microphone, and technical manual. TriplePlay Plus! is claimed to assist learners in developing three skills: listening, speaking, and reading. Vocabulary development, and a few other areas such as verb tenses and prepositions, are also targeted through a variety of games. This multimedia language learning program can be used by learners for self-study, by teachers in classroom settings (in computer labs), and also by second language acquisition (SLA) researchers. The software, which includes automatic speech recognition and 32 separate games, covers six main topics or themes. These include food, numbers, home and office, people, activities, and places and transportation. The current version under review here expands the activities and material from previous versions. The software is also available for Spanish, French, German, English, Hebrew, Japanese, and Italian.

DESCRIPTIONTriplePlay package

From the first screen, the Main Menu, learners can click on: (a) the SoundStart, which allows them to practice pronunciation of 50 words using the Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Record/Playback; (b) the Letters & Sounds, which demonstrates through the use of examples how English letters correspond with the various sounds of the language; or (c) the Language Connect, which gives them access to language learning resources on the Internet.

A remarkable feature in the SoundStart is that the ASR provides immediate feedback on pronunciation after learners select a word from the list and say it into the microphone. Learners can also record their voices and compare their production to that of a native speaker's by using the Record/Playback. The ASR feedback is provided visually as well as aurally. For example, when the software finds the pronunciation acceptable, learners hear a distinct "bink" (pronunciation is OK) or if it is not, they are provided with "bonk" (pronunciation is not correct). In the current version, visual feedback is shown through lights on the Speech Recognition Meter. The number of lights indicates how well learners pronounced the word; when they see all of the lights on the meter, their pronunciation is near native-like.

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The ASR feature represents a considerable bonus for the current generation of CALL software. Indeed, it shows how far the field has come from the days when native speaker production of "recognize speech" was understood by the software to be "wreck a nice beach."

The Main Menu presents other options for a number of games. First, learners select one of the three modes: listening, reading, or speaking. If they choose the speaking mode, they also choose a voice type from "child, female, and male" options. The speaking mode also contains the ASR feature, again giving learners feedback whenever they speak words, phrases, or sentences into the microphone. However, unlike the SoundStart mode, the feedback in the speaking mode is provided only as an aural type (the sound of either "bink" or "bonk") without the option of visual lights. After choosing a mode, learners then select one of the six subjects: Food, Numbers, Home and Office, People, Activities, or Places and Transportation. Within each topic, several of the 32 available games become active. Games are also arranged by incremental developmental level.

In the first level, games such as Concentration, Bingo, and People Puzzle allow users to learn individual words and simple phrases. In Level 2, learners can practice the vocabulary learned in Level 1 through usage of complete phrases and sentences. Level 3 represents the most complex language usage. At this stage, learners can extend Level 1 and 2 skills through conversations in a colorful comic strip format. In some games, learners can also choose a skill degree, depending on the cognitive as well as linguistic challenges of the game. Regular game-users will be familiar with the criteria of many of the games, and with determining skill-levels.

ADVANTAGES OF TRIPLEPLAY PLUS! ENGLISH

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DISADVANTAGES OF TRIPLEPLAY PLUS! ENGLISH

CONCLUSION

In the opinion of these reviewers, TriplePlay Plus! English is a good software program for a variety of contexts. Individual learners, ESL teachers instructing at the beginning to higher intermediate levels, and others interested in CALL as a learning tool can all use this program and find something useful.


ABOUT THE REVIEWERS

Alison Mackey is Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University. Her research interests include second language acquisition, research methodology, and CALL. She recently guest-edited a special issue of the Modern Language Journal (with Susan M. Gass) on the role of input and interaction in second language acquisition to appear in Fall 1998.

E-mail: mackeya@gusun.georgetown.edu

Jung-Yoon Choi received her MA in TESOL from Michigan State University. Her research interests include computer-assisted language learning and curriculum design. She currently teaches English as a second language in Korea.

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