In May 2019, Rustam Shadiev, a professor from School of Education Science of NNU, was excited to be informed that his research team’s paper, “A study of the facilitation of cross-cultural understanding and intercultural sensitivity using speech-enabled language translation technology”, was published in the British Journal of Educational Technology, a journal listed in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). It aims to propose a speech-enabled language translation (SELT) technology that consists of speech-to-text recognition (STR) and computer-aided-translation (CAT) systems to support intercultural communication.
Born in Uzbekistan and earning his PhD. degree at National Central University in Taiwan, Professor Rustam Shadiev is interested in researching advanced learning technologies as well as cross-cultural education and language learning. His research topic during his doctoral program was speech-to-text recognition (STR). The STR system generates texts from voice input to show to students in the process of learning. STR-texts can help students follow the lecturer, take notes or make up for missed content during lectures. The idea of SELT (speech-enabled language translation technology) is to extend STR application to solve the problem that not all students are able to understand the content of lectures if the instructor lectures in a foreign language. In addition to generating texts from the voice input, SELT also simultaneously translates the STR texts into the students’ native language. In this case, students with low foreign language ability can understand the content of lectures if the lecture is delivered in a foreign language.
A cross-cultural learning activity was implemented, with 21 students representing 13 nationalities participating, for this study. According to Professor Rustam Shadiev, there were many difficulties before and during the activity. The main one was achieving a high accuracy rate. If texts generated by SELT had many mistakes, then they would not be meaningful and useful for learning. To solve the problem, the research team came up with several strategies. For example, a speaker needs to speak clearly, not too fast and not too slow; spoken sentences should be short and words less ambiguous. Another problem was that the participants had no previous experience in such a cross-cultural learning project supported by SELT technology. Therefore, the team had to provide thorough instructions to the participants. They explained to the participants all steps of the project, what and when they expected them to communicate with their foreign partners as well as how to use technology through cross-cultural communication.
(Professor Rustam Shadiev)
When it comes to the application of the research, Professor Rustam Shadiev believes that the research result can be beneficial to the teaching and research community in the field of cross-cultural education. “Our society becomes more and more globalized and our work and study require us to communicate with people from other cultures. However, many people cannot do it well because of deficiencies in their foreign language abilities. So, SELT can help address the language gap issue in such situations”, he says, and he suggests the following 4-step learning activity for students’ better and faster cross-cultural understanding:
step 1 – Students introduce themselves to one another to get to know each other better.
step 2 – Students share their own culture and traditions.
step 3 – Students learn about each other’s culture and try to experience it through active learning (e.g. French students share their local food recipes and Chinese students try to cook French food and understand related history and culture)
step 4 – Students reflect on their experiences.
(Professor Rustam Shadiev, right)
As a foreign professor teaching at Nanjing Normal University, Professor Shadiev came across the problem of cross-cultural misunderstanding as he and his students are from different cultures, but through mutual negotiation and discussion, this problem was solved quickly. Besides, he thinks that the atmosphere at NNU is friendly and the students are hardworking. “Many students and teachers care about me and are willing to help me when I encounter any problems. They are also very diligent and hardworking. With their support, we have conducted research and overcome problems on many occasions.” he said, “I find that students here are very responsible. I have never seen any students miss my class or fail to submit their homework. They have done a brilliant job”. For students who want to learn English in a more effective way, Professor Shadiev suggests that they should read more books in English, watch more movies in English, and communicate with others in English.
(Professor Rustam Shadiev, on the left)