Labs RU

Labs Radboud Universiteit

Masculinity in Dutch

“Will we be able to stop the man-made climate change?” When we say man-made, we usually mean that humans created it. But shouldn’t we actually say “man-and-woman-made” or simply “human-made” then?
In many languages including English and Dutch we often use masculine words when we talk about people in general. “Mankind” doesn’t just refer to the male part of humanity. The proverb “To each his own” doesn’t just appeal to men, but is used for women, too. But is this how we actually understand them? Does this subtle linguistic choice affect the way we think? By running a small experiment, we will demonstrate how we as linguists can answer these questions.

Friday 29 September

MyST: My SpeechTrainer

Good verbal communication skills in (Academic) English including good pronunciation and the right collocations are becoming more important for a growing number of people like students and employees in educational and research institutions. To improve your verbal communication skills it is necessary to practice intensively and to get feedback on your speech. With MyST this is possible. The CALL software MyST can be used on different devices, such as smartphone, tablet or PC. We will demonstrate MyST at the DRONGO language festival, where visitors can use the MyST app to practice their English.  

Friday 29 September & Saturday 30 September


People can try and make a short subtitle to experience how difficult this is. This is fun to see but also fun to do. 

Friday 29 September 

CHASING: gaming to improve your speech

Traditional speech therapy usually involves multiple repetitions of the same exercises. Although there is merit in repetition, it is not very motivating to do the same exercises over and over again. In the CHASING project we investigate how we can make speech therapy more motivating through gaming. In this project we developed a game that helps people practice to speak louder and clearer. It is a two-player game on a tablet that employs Automatic Speech Recognition to provide automatic feedback on speech quality. The game is specifically intended for adults and elderly with speech problems, but it is also fun to play for others. Come and visit our lab, play the game and experience getting feedback to improve your speech.   

Friday 29 September & Saturday 30 September

Talking backwards in Africa, Argentina, France and the Netherlands

By using sound recordings, we will demonstrate that computer programmes can easily mirror the acoustic signal and produce backward speech. Examples from the Dutch dialect IJmuidens and the French argot Verlan will demonstrate how speaking backwards works in real life. Why is it for humans much more complicated than it is for machines? 
In many languages people talk backwards. Sometimes people do it so others cannot understand them, like in the Dutch town IJmuiden during the Second World War. Sometimes people do it just for fun.
By showing a few examples from Spanish, Luganda, French and Dutch, we will demonstrate that speech can easily be reversed by a computer programme, but that this does not look and sound like how people would do it.
The question why the computer cannot do what people can, lies in the fact that the brain can do something a machine cannot do: imposing a cognitive structure to the unstructured acoustic reality.

Saturday 30 September

Your language or mine?

When having a phone call or a chat conversation with for instance a cousin or a colleague from Germany, you can agree on both speaking English because you are not good at speaking German and the other is not good at speaking Dutch. English offers a solution because you both speak a bit English. But is this a good solution? Would it be better if your cousin or colleague can keep on speaking German and you can keep on speaking Dutch? You do kind of understand each other’s words and maybe your conversation will become clearer. To test this, we have come up with a game. You have to carry out a ‘find the X number of differences’ assignment together during a chat conversation. You will do this together, either both in English or your cousin or colleague in German and you in your mother language Dutch. At the end of the game we will evaluate in which language you found the most differences.

Saturday 30 September

English at your fingertips

Due to the increasing importance of English as a global language, the number of non-native speakers of English has expanded dramatically in the last few decades. When non-native speakers (NNS) communicate in English, their English is likely to deviate from the native speaker (NS) norm, and most noticeably at the level of pronunciation. 

Previous research has demonstrated that non-native accentedness may impede comprehensibility of non-native speech but may also lead to negative evaluations of a non-native speaker with regard to competence or professionalism. To date, studies have used pen and paper questionnaires to measure evaluative reactions to non-native accented speech. 

The lab will demonstrate how we can measure (emotional) reactions of respondents to spoken language more directly by recording changes in respondents’ electrodermal activity. Respondents will be asked to listen to different non-native and native accented samples of spoken English while changes in their electrodermal activity are recorded by a Biopac system. 

Participants will learn that listening to speakers with accented English can cause unconscious attitudinal evaluations that they may not be aware of.
Saturday 30 September

The birth of a sign language on Bali

In a small village on Bali, a sign language has spontaneously arisen from social interaction between hearing and deaf villagers. We will show video material of how deaf people have integrated into the local community by sign language which is also ‘spoken’ by hearing people. Deaf children in the village are learning sign language in a natural environment, where their parents but also the local nurse, primary school teacher and neighbours use sign language while communicating with them. It is also possible to guess the meaning of the signs of this young sign language. Are these signs more transparent than those of the older Dutch sign language?

Saturday 30 September

Learning French, pourquoi?

The knowledge centre France-the Netherlands organises an interactive debate about utility and need of good linguistic skills of the French language. With some stimulating statements we will start a discussion with the participants about the possible opportunities and threats of the French language in the 21st century. The Netherlands has a rich tradition of multilingualism but what remains nowadays? What is the state of the French language in education? What is the position in the world of the French language and what does this mean for us? What is the imaging of the French language? Are you satisfied with your French language skills or would you like to improve? We would like to know your opinion and experiences! 

Saturday 30 September

The Language Interaction consortium

The Language in Interaction consortium will be present with a booth to display all published language apps during interactive hands-on sessions. Several mobile devices will be accessible for the public to freely interact with and experience our apps:
It is on the tip of your tongue…, but the right word doesn't pop up. This is the daily experience of patients with aphasia. The app WoordWolk (word cloud) helps such patients. They browse through clouds of associated words until they reach the word they had in mind. The app has a clear and simple interface, but underneath clever techniques are being used.
Does that happen to you as well? That letters or numbers have a color? This is called synaesthesia. For people with synaesthesia two or more senses appear to be interconnected; The app SynQuiz contains four playful quizzes to find out whether you may have this type of synaesthesia, i.e., for letters and numbers, days of the week, or months.
Have you always wanted to know what different languages sound like? Come to our booth and play LingQuest. You must really pay attention and listen well. Do speakers actually speak the same language or do the languages just look alike? The game includes over 70 languages from the most common to endangered languages, including languages from the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Yvo is a board game that lets you practice with grammar in a playful manner. Yvo is similar to Scrabble or Wordfeud, but instead of composing words with letters, you compose sentences with words. The iPad is the gameboard on which you put the words from their shelf into a gramatically correct sentence. The players determine mutually whether a sentence is grammatically correct.

Saturday 30 September

Why do we struggle to spell Dutch verbs?

Society places great importance to correct and neat spelling of verbs. Mistakes in this part of spelling, no matter if they impede the communication between writer and reader or not, the spellers usually are reproached because it would indicate lack of knowledge of the rules and/or laziness. The spelling of verbs follows very uniform rules and therefore should be simple. Still, many mistakes are made. This lab presentation explains why. By yourself or with a partner you can do a computer game in which you will see that it is not surprising we make mistakes when spelling a verb.

Friday 29 and Saturday 30 September

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