Various types of training protocols have proven to be effective in second language learning

Image showing the University of Turku's ICT building in Finland

As the pioneering company in language labs and language teaching software, we at Sanako, have built our language teaching technology business on globally-renowned Finnish learning models. Our pedagogical approach is part due to the collaboration with the leading language teachers and academic language learning researchers. One example of this is our collaboration with the University of Turku from Finland. Read on to learn more about the latest research from their leading linguistic researchers, Maija and Kimmo Peltola.


Training enhances second language learning – various types of training protocols have proven to be effective

The ability to communicate in multiple languages is the prerequisite of the functioning of the modern world. Differences between languages have an enormous, yet predictable, impact on how the learning process proceeds. At the core of non-native language learning, lies the sensitivity to perceive and thus produce minute acoustic variations, which are not recognized in the native language. The phonetic/phonological reorganisation enables the learner to access new meanings through alien contrasts. Without this non-native sensitivity development, the other domains of language are not available.

Though human contact has been shown to have a remarkable role in the establishment of new language items, the accessibility to language learning must also be taken into account. Not everyone has equal possibilities to function and learn in multi-linguistic language contexts, not all schools have the teachers for several languages of choice. Thus it is imperative that more studies in the role language learning technology are available and more research is devoted to the development of modern language learning settings.

The Learning, Age & Bilingualism laboratory (in short, LAB-lab) at the Department of Future Technologies, University of Turku has devoted its efforts into the understanding of how different kinds of training protocols help the learner to better perceive and produce non-native speech items. Behind this endeavor, lies three keys to learning, namely, i) the ability to imitate (mirror neurons), ii) the central role of the perceptual system in production learning and iii) the complex role of the mother tongue.

LAB-lab is equipped with technology that can be used to test either the behavioural changes in the perception (reaction times, identification experiments, sensitivity tests…), the changes in articulatory patterns (ultrasounds), the fine-tuned alterations in the acoustic characteristics of production as well as the elicitation of new neural memory traces in the brain (EEG). We have combined these testing methods with the training protocols available at the Sanako solutions with the intention of seeing, whether various types of training activities actually affect the learning process.

So far we have shown unquestionable changes in the production patterns of child and adult learners within a few minutes of training. In addition, senior learners have also changed their pronunciation as a function of training. When the listen-and-repeat training is combined with overt and explicit information of the gestures necessary for the correct production, the changes take place immediately. The native language sound system has a significant role in the speed on acquisition, since different mother tongues pose obstacles to the perceptual sensitivity; thus, the learning curves are not identical cross-linguistically and the amount of training needed varies from one context to the next. We have also been able to show that new memory traces develop in the brain in just a few days and thus the perception of a non-native speech is then based on the same kinds of preattentively elicitable responses as the mother tongue. Also, we have discovered that certain consonants require more training that others, depending on their acoustic salience. We are currently testing the efficacy of audio-visual training protocols. We have shown that orthography draws attention away from the auditory information and therefore it hinders learning in literate adults. The preliminary results from lip gestures combined with auditory information are encouraging, since learning appears to be enhanced with this dual channel input.

Altogether, based on our research, repetition and training are really the keys to success. When the languages in contact are taken into consideration, even the most difficult items can be learned through various training methods and by all age groups.


Authors of this article:

Maija Peltola, Professor in phonetics, Head of LAB-lab, University of Turku, Finland.

Kimmo Peltola, University teacher in phonetics, Head of the international laboratories, University of Turku, Finland.

For more information, contact Maija Peltola (

University of Turku, Department of Future Technologies, is a long-time research partner for Sanako. They use in their research Sanako Lab 100 language laboratory and Sanako language teaching software solutions.


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