Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

CALST can be run from any pc, tablet or smartphone, irrespective of the operating system. CALST uses a responsive design, which means it automatically adapts to the screen size of your device.

Note that the browser is not allowed to access the microphone on an iPhone or iPad. On these devices, you will therefore only get listening and writing exercises, but no pronunciation exercises. We advise users to take these exercises on any other device (including an Apple laptop).

Yes, CALST is a web-based pronunciation training platform, so you need access to the internet to run CALST – but we do use local storage to deal with short interruptions of your internet connectivity. You can run CALST from most browsers, but it has been fully tested only with Chrome. You can download Chrome for free to your device.
Registered users can see the results from all the exercises they have taken. Also, CALST will remember the last exercise and automatically direct you to the next one.
By registering you allow your results to be logged, so that they can be used to improve CALST and to tailor the exercises for other learners with the same native language.
  1. The pronunciation learning typically starts with two listening exercises. In the first exercise you hear two very similar words, followed by a repetition of one of these words. By comparing the last word to the first two words in your acoustic memory and choosing one, you learn what distinguishes them. This is called a discrimination task.
  2. After the discrimination exercise you take another listening exercise in which you just hear one word. Your task is to say which of two very similar words it is. Since you cannot compare with any words you have just heard, this requires that you have a clear idea of their pronunciation (a so-called internal representation). This task is called an identification task.
  3. Once you have learned to hear the sounds (or other properties, like word stress) correctly, you are ready to pronounce them. By listening to a recording of your own voice and comparing it to the tutor’s, you can adapt and improve your pronunciation.
  4. Finally, it can be hard to know how words that you hear are written. Therefore, writing exercises help you to learn the relationship between sounds and letters in the language that you are learning.
If a speech sound does not occur in your language, you have to learn it. But even a sound that you have in your native language can be hard to pronounce. For example, some sounds may be easy to pronounce at the beginning of a word, but is not allowed at the end of a word in your native language: Chinese for instance allows only nasal consonants as in kin and king at the end of a syllable. So even though a Chinese has no problem with /p/ in pill, the same sound may be hard to pronounce at the end of the word lip. German and Dutch speakers will say /p/ and /s/ at the end of a syllable or word instead of /b/ and /z/, even though they allow both /b/ and /z/ at the beginning of a syllable/word. So even known sounds may be difficult in positions where they do not usually occur in your native language.
This is quite natural, actually. It is a result of the fact that your perception becomes more and more tuned to your native language in the first few months of life. This automatically also means that it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish categories in another language. If a new sound (category) is similar to a sound (category) in your native language, you will perceive it as the same, even if native speakers of the language you are learning can clearly and easily hear and pronounce the difference. This is called the “native language filter”. There are large individual differences, of course: Some people are better able to put the filter out of play than others.
Some languages allow very complex consonant clusters, like Polish. The word bezwzględny mean “ruthless” (quite appropriately for most leaners of Polish). Japanese, on the other hand, only allows syllables consisting of a single consonant followed by a vowel. Pronouncing unusual clusters can be hard, and we solve the problem by using different repair strategies: Language learners may simplify the clusters, substitute some sounds, add an e- at the beginning or insert a vowel into the cluster to break it up into two syllables; finally, we can reorder the consonants in the cluster. Since there is no knowing what learners may do (i.e., scientists cannot yet predict this on the basis of your native language), you get exercises for all repair strategies – until our logged user data are reliable enough to select only those exercises which deal with the repair strategy that other learners with the same native language use.
Prosody refers to properties of the language which are at a level higher than individual speech sounds. Word stress, lexical accents and intonation are prosodic properties. Since these are different across languages, CALST offers exercises for those. You can take the exercises several times, with different exercise material each time you take the exercises (except for the intonation exercises). This allows you to practise with new words as much as you like.
[Feature only available in Norwegian]
To answer your logical follow-up question “Why are there no exercises for prosody in English”: We are dependent on external funding for the implementation of exercises in English (and in other languages), which is hard to obtain. We hope to add these exercises in future, though.
In contrast to many other languages, Norwegian does not have a standard pronunciation. In their everyday use of the language, people speak their own dialect. Since these can be very different, you will have to learn to understand all of them when you learn Norwegian. So it is very useful to take the listening exercises for all the dialects in CALST. But you can choose one dialect which you want to learn to speak. This may be the dialect of the region where you are living, or often foreigners learn the Oslo dialect which is spoken by the largest group of Norwegians.

We are grateful for any questions and comments which help us to improve CALST. Please send an email to calst@hf.ntnu.no.

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