It is widely recognized that one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is through spoken dialogue with a native speaker. However, this is not a practical method in the classroom due to the one-to-one student/teacher ratio it implies. A potential solution to this problem is to rely on computer spoken dialogue systems to role play a conversational partner. This paper describes several multilingual dialogue systems specifically designed to address this need. Students can engage in dialogue with the computer either over the telephone or through audio/typed input at a Web page. Several different domains are being developed, in which a student’s conversational interaction is assisted by a software agent functioning as a “tutor” which can provide them with translation assistance at any time. Thus, two recognizers are running in parallel, one for English and one for Chinese. Some of the research issues surrounding high-quality spoken language translation and dialogue interaction with a non-native speaker are discussed.
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