Vol. 6. No. 1 M-1 June 2002
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Pronunciation Power 2 (Intermediate/Advanced)

ECL, Inc.
#208, 5405--99th Street
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
T6E 3N8
Phone: (780) 448-1032
Fax: (780) 448-1895
Email: info@englishlearning.com
Web: www.englishlearning.com

Pronunciation Power 1 (beginner-intermediate)
Includes 8-in-1 English Dictionary
$144.95 + $5.95 shipping and handling (U.S. funds)
(add 7% GST for Canada only)

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows:Intel Pentium processor, 100MHz or faster, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4, 32MB of RAM; 800x600 resolution at 16-bit (thousands) of colors; 4x CD-ROM drive or faster; High quality microphone; Speakers; 5MB available disk space

Macintosh: Power PC, 100MHz or faster, System 7.5.3 or later, 20MB of available RAM; 800x600 resolution at 16-bit (thousands) of colors; 4x CD-ROM drive or faster; High quality microphone; Speakers; 5MB available disk space

ECL, Inc., based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, offers a number of products for the ESL/EFL market. Among their most popular products is the Pronunciation Power series, consisting of Pronunciation Power 1 (beginner--intermediate) and Pronunciation Power 2 (intermediate--advanced). This review, the final in a series, looks at Pronunciation Power 2.

I ran this program on a Dell 4100. The program loaded and started without a glitch. The graphics and sound are excellent.

In addition, the program no longer requires a Quick Time installation, as noted on the inside cover of the cd-rom jacket

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Start-up

Upon start-up, you are taken to M1. You then have a number of options: Instructions, Credits, Lessons, Exercises and Exit.

M1

The instructions consist of twenty-four screens of step-by-step guidelines for using the software and are well worth the time taken to skim through them. In addition, the user has the option of printing each screen, if they would like to have a hard copy of the instructions to reference as they work through the program. M2 presents the Table of Contents, which is accessed by clicking on "Instructions" in the main menu. The contents include: Introduction/tips, Lessons, Speech Analysis, Exercises (from Sample Words to Sentences), Sound Symbol References and Glossary.

M2

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M3 shows one of these instructional pages, detailing the functions of numerous buttons found in the exercises component of the program: Go back to previous page, Exit, Record/Stop, Play, Instructor, Cursor, Click here to print the screen. In addition, the user has the option to save the recording for later review.

M3

As in Pro Power 1, the instructions are thorough and provide a good roadmap for navigating through the variety of lessons and activities provided on the cd. In order to exit this section and return to the main menu, you simply choose the back arrow on the far left. Although this might not be immediately obvious to students unfamiliar with this type of software, if they know to hover the cursor over the various buttons, a text message in the bottom of the screen will inform them of the purpose of the arrows. In fact, rolling over any given button will activate an explanatory statement in the central bottom area of the screen. [-3-]

Lessons

Layout

Upon accessing this section of the program, you are taken to the first lesson: /iy/, the high front vowel. The screen shot, L1, shows the main screen for each sound in "Lessons," using the screen for /iy/ as an example. Note the phrase "Click here to advance the animation frame by frame." While many of the buttons are self-explanatory, having a text explanation in the bottom center of the screen is extremely helpful when dealing with buttons such as the one which allows the user to advance the side view frame by frame. Finally, a particularly nice feature of the "Help" is that you are taken to the relevant section of Instructions and then are able to return directly to the screen from which you had chosen "Help." In fact, as in Pro Power 1, navigation within the program itself is quite easy.

L1

Content

The content of the Lessons seems both thorough and accurate. You move among the lessons for the 52 sounds as in Pro Power 1. The side views for the pronunciation of each sound are clear and provide learners a nice view of the "inner workings" of the vocal tract during articulation. A nice addition in Pro Power 2, more appropriate for higher-level students, is the "Side View Legend." Clicking on this button opens a floating window as shown in L2 below. The front views are particularly useful in reinforcing the round/unround distinction in vowels as well as in labial consonants. In addition, the "Air Flow Legend" lists major air flow qualities including voicing, obstruction and release, replicated when viewing the "Side View" video. Note that printing the screen shots shown, on an HP Deskjet 672C, took more than 1 minute each and was not of extremely high quality. [-4-]

L2

The Speech Analysis section of Lessons, L3, is accessible by clicking on the button labeled "Side/Front View" by the sound symbol. This section, as in Pro Power 1, includes several very nice features, including a waveform against which the user can compare his/her pronunciation of the target sound. The recording/playback feature in this version of ProPower is easily accessed and the resulting waveform (the lower in L3) can be easily compared with the model, in the upper frame. The "print" feature is available in this version and may prove particularly useful in providing a record of one's practice for an assignment.

L3

Overall, as with Pro Power 1, the Lessons in Pro Power 2 are thorough, easily navigated and appealingly presented. With the variety of opportunities to focus on the production of target sounds, this section of the package could be used for both self-study and individual study. [-5-]

Exercises

Layout

The layout of Exercises is clean and easy to navigate. As in Lessons, the learner can choose from among 52 sounds by clicking on the button containing the sound symbol on the left top of the screen, in E1 the button labeled /iy/. To the right, clicking on the button labeled Sample words, takes the user to a list of alternative exercises provided for each sound. When I first ran the program, the default exercise screen was set to Sample words. After the learner uses the program once, it will apparently return to whichever exercise type was last open.

E1

As shown in E1, the target sounds can be highlighted in pink in each word. Clicking on the headphone icon will play a recording of the word. In the lower center of the screen, the user has the choice of recording their voice, playing it back immediately or saving it to their computer to reference later. Note that the audio file of the word "only" was 64k. This feature could prove especially useful if instructors asked students to record their pronunciation of words for a homework assignment. The files could easily be emailed to the instructor or transported on disk. The "save" feature is available for all of the exercise types with the exception of Listening Discrimination. [-6-]

Content

As in Pro Power 1, the types of exercises are varied, providing the learner practice with both the isolated and contextualized target sound. There are five exercise types available. One particularly interesting exercise is the S.T.A.I.R. exercise. In S.T.A.I.R., the user is given the opportunity to practice not only pronunciation of the target sound but also stress and intonation as the sounds are presented in sentence contexts. As shown in E2, the user has the opportunity to listen to a model of the sentence. They can then record, play back and save their own recordings.

E2

Sample Words and Comparative Words provide an opportunity to practice the target sound in single words. In both sections, after listening to a model of the sound in a word, the learner can record and play back their own pronunciation. In Comparative Words, the learner hears minimal pairs, distinguishing the target sound from those that might prove confusing.

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In Listening Discrimination, the learner listens to a sentence containing a minimal pair from which they must select the word said. The learner selects the answer by clicking on one of the two words. They will then see a ""for a correct answer or an "_" for an incorrect answer. This exercise consists of ten sentences contrasting minimal pairs for each target sound. The learner has the option to reset the exercise and try again as many times as they would like.

The remaining exercise, Sentences, like S.T.A.I.R., is a sentence-level activity, focusing on target sounds in words in sentences. In this exercise, the learner listens to the model and then records his/her own production. Again, the option to Save the recording is particularly useful.

Summary

Pro Power 2 is a great program for upper-level learners of English. It reflects great improvement in layout, content and technical sophistication over the original Pronunciation Power. Like Pro Power 1, Pro Power 2 could supplement classroom instruction as well as serve as a great resource for self-study. If a learner is interested in even more practice, they could purchase a package of Pro Power 1 and Pro Power 2, for about $200 (a noticeable savings over the purchase of Pro Power 1 and Pro Power 2 separately).

Andrea Word-Allbritton
University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA
<language_training@hotmail.com>

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