UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Speech Science Forum 3rd December - Talia Isaacs

03 December 2020, 4:00 pm–5:00 pm

Please join us at the SSF on December 3rd for Prof. Talia Isaacs talk, "Investigating global pronunciation and fluency constructs: Measures derived from second language speech samples and raters’ perspectives"

This event is free.

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Dr. Antony Scott Trotter – Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Science

Talk Title: Investigating global pronunciation and fluency constructs: Measures derived from second language speech samples and raters’ perspectives


The first part of this presentation will overview major trends and areas of research inquiry in assessing second language (L2) pronunciation, including key global constructs, rating scales, rater effects, and the growing prominence of machine scoring. The second part will present the findings from a mixed methods study on the role of speakers' first language background and raters' L2 teaching experience in relation to global ratings of L2 speech (Isaacs & Thomson, 2020). The focus is on features that raters with and without a teaching background report attending to when listening to speech samples produced by Mandarin and Slavic leaners of English speech in relation to both global pronunciation and fluency ratings, and segmental, prosodic, and temporal measures drawn from the speech samples. In addition to highlighting group-level findings and pedagogical implications, methodological considerations in both eliciting human perceptions, and operationalising global and discrete pronunciation and fluency measures will be discussed.

About the Speaker

Prof. Talia Isaacs

Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and TESOL at UCL centre for applied linguistics

Talia's research interests are varied, straddling the areas of language assessment, second language acquisition, higher education, speech sciences, psychology, and medicine. Her work broadly addresses the pressing social-educational challenge of reducing language barriers and improving the oral communication skills of speakers for whom English is a nondominant language to foster their success in workplace and academic settings and promote social integration. A major research strand relates to profiling the linguistic difficulties that most impede the production of comprehensible (clearly understandable) speech in adult learners of English so that these can be targeted in instruction and assessment. Her other research interests include language for specific purposes, automated scoring of speech, and classroom-based assessment. Much of her work is situated in the mixed methods research paradigm. Her primary-authored papers have appeared or are forthcoming in international refereed journals, including Applied PsycholinguisticsHealthHealth CommunicationInternational Journal of Inclusive EducationJournal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), Journal of Second Language PronunciationLanguage Assessment QuarterlyLanguage TeachingLanguage TestingStudies in Second Language Acquisition, and TESOL Quarterly

In 2017, she developed and launched the world's first comprehensibility scale with Canadian collaborators. This data-driven tool is designed to help English for Academic purposes teachers more effectively target the most important linguistic factors for understanding international university students' speech. She is co-editor of Second Language Pronunciation Assessment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2017), the first edited collection dedicated to the topic of pronunciation assessment and Multilingual Matters' first gold open access book. She has a growing track-record of leading test development and validation projects through funded research or consultancy activities for major assessment organisations and regularly serves in an assessment advisory role for different educational stakeholder groups both locally and internationally.  She has served as Chair for the International Language Testing Association Best Article Award, a referee for the Journal of Second Language Pronunciation Best Paper award, and as an evaluator for other academic prizes. 

More about Prof. Talia Isaacs