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Research news - February

artificial intelligence 2228610
Teachers go native

The most common teachers’ technique for repairing a breakdown in communication with students is to switch back to the class’s native language, a small study in Vietnam has suggested.

Teachers were more likely to start speaking Vietnamese with their classes rather than use visual aids or more effective English to improve comprehension, the study published by Vietnam National University in 2017 found.

The research, which involved the analysis of 113 teachers’ videotaped teaching sessions, found that the most common English mistakes teachers made were pronunciation (32.8 mistakes per person) with a high incidence of misplacement or omission of word stress, followed by grammar (12.6), and vocabulary (5.8).

The research took place as Vietnam conducted its National Foreign Languages Project 2020, which aims for all English language teachers to reach an English level 4 to work at primary and lower secondary school and level 5 for upper secondary and high-school tutors.

The suggestion that the use of L1 is not the best strategic technique to adopt in the classroom remains contentious as no evidence is provided to support the idea. The findings of the research differ from a larger 2014 study of 488 teachers who were asked to translate common classroom expressions and structures from Vietnamese into English. This study from the same university found that the most common types of mistakes were lexical and grammatical. However, the study did not look at pronunciation as it was a written questionnaire.

Hearing voices

Neurocientists studying stroke patients say they have detected which region in the brain allows us to recognise someone’s voice.

Researchers found that patients with damage in certain areas of the right posterior temporal lobe find it harder to recognise someone simply by hearing them speak.

The scientists, based at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, said that the posterior superior temporal gyrus is crucial for voice recognition.

Dr Claudia Roswandowitz, along with other researchers, tested the ability of 58 patients with brain injuries to learn and recognise voices, with a focus on those who had suffered a stroke.

The scientists carried out high-resolution brain scans of the participants. ‘In our studies, 9 per cent of the participants reported suffering from difficulties in recognising voices, a problem that is almost unheard of in the medical sector. Thus, we have to raise awareness of this matter,’ said Dr Roswandowitz.

She also highlighted that these findings could help in the search for a treatment for those affected by phonagnosia, the medical term for the inability to recognise voices.