In this paper, we first discuss the concept of a support system for assessing German speaking ability, which should be developed with the help of ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Then we introduce "A German Speaking Course for Classes and Self-learning", a variety of German exercises and tutorials for training speaking ability, which the author and his collaborator at Hiroshima University have been developing with the above-mentioned support system.
In order to monitor the general speaking ability of students, including pronunciation, accent, and intonation, there have so far been two methods utilized: oral interviews, and recordings of student speaking tasks. But oral interviews are very time-consuming, and if we take into account the average class size of 40 students in most Japanese university language classes, they are practicable only one or two times in a semester at most. The other method is also time-consuming, because teachers must not only analyze and mark, but also collect, cue, and rewind the medias before giving them back. In addition, recently cassette recorders have almost disappeared from our daily lives, and only about 54000f students still have an MD-recorder, so the method of checking physical media has become nowadays almost unfeasible. Therefore, it leaves us no other option than to develop a support system for assessing speaking ability with the help of ICT such as the Internet, PCs, and cellular phones. In such a system, learners can submit their digitalized sound files to the teachers via the Internet, and the teachers can check them from home or the office. This kind of support system for assessing speaking ability should:
(a) provide tutorials and learning support for learners; (b) make it possible for learners to record and submit sound files easily; (c) make it possible for teachers to receive, sort, check, and mark with comments the submitted sound files; and (d) make it possible for learners to hear their own sound files and read the comments given by their teachers.
For realizing the function of (b), there are four possible methods at the moment. Among them the most realistic way is to develop -- while using multimedia authoring software such as Director or Flash -- one's own recording software, with which a person makes files either locally in a student's PC or via the Internet in the Server. But if we consider the fact that cellular phones will acquire more and more multiple functions so that the differences between them and PCs become less and less, in near future a cellular phone will be only one tool for recording sounds. Therefore, we should make use of the "Voicemail Unified Messaging Service" with cellular phones ahead of time in the developing process of a support system for assessing speaking ability.
We also have been developing a variety of German exercises and tutorials for training speaking ability, which should be integrated as learning contents into the above-mentioned support system for assessing speaking ability. They consist of the following fifteen parts: 1. Alphabet; 2. Pronunciation of consonants and vowels; 3. Accents at word level; 4. Sentence melodies; 5. Changes in pronunciation in spoken language; 6. Problems in pronunciation peculiar to Japanese learners; 7. Numbers; 8. Classroom expressions; 9. 100 basic expressions in dialogue form that can be used in daily conversations; 10. Oral reading tasks; 11. Tasks that make variations on basic expressions; 12. Tasks with open questions; 13. Answering questions orally after reading/listening texts or seeing pictures; 14. Customizable questions; 15. Tools. If everything goes well, we will probably be able to make them public via the Internet by the end of the 2008-09 academic year.