Using Audacity to Listen, Record and Compare Your Pronunciation

I use the free, open source software Audacity to create and edit sound files for my site, but it can also be used to simply listen to mp3s as well as to record while listening.  This way, you can repeat what is said and compare your pronunciation to the original. Many language students never record themselves speaking and so they never really have a chance to listen to their pronunciation mistakes, much less in direct comparison to native speakers. At the university we used to have a program called LogoLab that allowed students to listen to an audio file, and record their pronunciation in blanks after the native speaker. Then the student could listen to the file once again and compare the native speaker’s pronunciation to their own. Luckily Audacity also allows recording a second track while listening to the first one, but with one little difference – it is still possible to actually talk over the original recording, so you have to try to fit your speech in the blanks.

In Audacity, you just need to choose Edit and Preferences… and check the box before “Play other tracks while recording new one” that is on the Audio I/O tab.  Then after you’ve opened the mp3, you click Record (the pink circle) and the first track (the original mp3) will play while a second track will open for your recording. If there is not enough time between words or phrases in the original mp3, you can click between them to place the vertical line and choose Generate and Silence… and add a few more seconds.  In the picture below, you can see the source audio on top with a word to repeat and the recording underneath with repetitions of the words.

The faster you can repeat the words or phrases, as well as the number of times you can repeat them, is very important in aiding your memory to retain the information. And of course, you should always practice pronouncing out loud, not only to help you remember, but also to help your mouth get used to different movements (such as front rounded vowels) that don’t exist in English.

For the truly nerdy who are interested in the link between phonology and vocabulary acquisition, read up on Baddeley’s Model of Working Memory.

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  • http://france-bienvenue.fr/ Anne

    Thanks Jennie. French students of English really need to improve their pronunciation – as you know ! This will be very helpful.

  • http://france-bienvenue.fr Anne

    Thanks Jennie. French students of English really need to improve their pronunciation – as you know ! This will be very helpful.

  • http://www.american-in-france.com/ cynthia in chambery

    i just used it to do my french lesson with you that you sent by email. So I hope it worked! You’re already proving to be a good teacher so thanks! Cynthia in Chambery
    .-= cynthia in chambery´s last blog ..Florida Boating and Beaches – October 2009 =-.

  • http://www.american-in-france.com cynthia in chambery

    i just used it to do my french lesson with you that you sent by email. So I hope it worked! You’re already proving to be a good teacher so thanks! Cynthia in Chambery
    .-= cynthia in chambery´s last blog ..Florida Boating and Beaches – October 2009 =-.

  • http://blog.langalot.com/ Patrick Crosby

    This sounds like a good technique. I’ve used the voice recorder app on an iPhone to record both my voice and stuff I hear on the street, but I don’t think you can do multiple tracks with it.
    .-= Patrick Crosby´s last blog ..5 Online Language Games =-.

  • http://blog.langalot.com Patrick Crosby

    This sounds like a good technique. I’ve used the voice recorder app on an iPhone to record both my voice and stuff I hear on the street, but I don’t think you can do multiple tracks with it.
    .-= Patrick Crosby´s last blog ..5 Online Language Games =-.

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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