Building Language with Grammar: Avaz FreeSpeech
Language refers to the method of human communication. either spoken or written consisting of the use of words and sentences to convey meaning. However, as the author of Free Speech Ajit Narayanan notes, language is abstract. The way that the words are arranged allows different meanings to be conveyed. This is referred to as grammar.
When young children initially learn to speak they use one word to express a whole idea. Their words may not contain the correct grammar but the context and the communicative interaction allows the conversation partner to interpret the meaning. If you interpret the message incorrectly, the child will let you know in no uncertain terms that you are wrong. 😉
car/car! – There is a car or I want the car or I like that car
car? – Is that a car? or Are we going in the car? or I want to go in the car or where is the car?
As their language develops putting a verb or a pronoun in front of the word builds the ability to convey meaning. However, the word order and the intonation used affects the meaning.
Go car – I want to go in the car or the car is going
Go car! – Look at the car go! or the car is going or Let’s go in the car now!
Most children eventually develop complex grammatical structures to allow them to express their thoughts and ideas effectively. However, for those who do not such as children with autism, second language learners, hearing impairment and apraxia of speech Avaz Free Speech can offer amazing support.
Avaz Free Speech creates a visual word map by linking words together in question-answer pairs. It allows children to create grammatically correct sentences by visually mapping pictures. The concept is shown in the video clip below:
The app helps you build a sentence with the meaning that you want to convey by asking questions. It automatically inserts a determiner (the) in front of the noun, but this can be changed by tapping the button and you are given the option of changing it to ‘a’ ‘this’ or ‘that.’
Once all of the items are in place (who is doing, what is being done, when it is happening, etc.), the grammatically correct sentence is verbally repeated back to the user.
Tapping on the either of the boxes brings up a list of predictable verbs. In this case, I selected the verb ‘want‘ However you can select additional verbs by tapping ‘more words’ and selecting the ‘actions’ category.
However, in order to select an additional verb, there has to be some external mediation from the educator because the app only provides an option of selecting ‘who’, ‘what kind’ and ‘whose.’
Tapping on the ‘do what’ button (which was the logical selection to me), brings up the option to change the sentence into question form. Thus, in order to select the verb ‘go’ you need to select ‘actions’ and the app then brings up the option of ‘for what purpose’
There are a couple of settings that can be can be customized by tapping the gear icon located in the lower right corner.
- The pictures can be hidden for users who are able to read.
- Access modes include tap and drag.
- The user can select from 4 different voices and change the rate of speech.
- There are 3 levels of vocabulary, inflections, and prompts. Level 3 vocabulary provides the most vocabulary, inflections and prompts
What I like:
- The app is a great way for kids to learn about building grammatically correct sentences and using grammatical markers (inflections) that affect the meaning.
- It is really easy to change the words selected by dragging them into the ‘delete’ bin.
- Words are categorised and this can be used to build vocabulary using the different categories.
- It was great fun to use with grade one children who are just learning about sentence formulation.
- It is versatile and intuitive to use. I used it with a child who has apraxia of speech and it was a fantastic way for her to expand on sentences which are typically short.
- For beginning second language learners, the app was really useful, particularly when working on different verb tenses.
- You can use the the question icon to change the sentence into question form and you can generate different question words by dragging the ‘question’ icon from left word palette I love this option (which was recently highlighted to me) because ‘Wh’ question words are often a difficult area to address when working with language.
- The app should be used with an educator/mediator in order to guide the child.
- The app is not always accurate in terms of grammar particularly when using longer or more complex sentences. However, I was usually able to turn this into a learning opportunity by using it as a way of getting the student to identify the incorrect sentence and reformulate it correctly.
- Although you can add words to the ‘people’ category, there is no option to add words to other categories. This was sometimes limiting, if the app did not have the word that the child wanted to say.
Despite some flaws, Avaz Free Speech is inspiring in it’s concept and I would urge you to watch this amazing TED video to understand how it came about.
This app is available on the App Store for $9.99
I have one copy of this app to give away to someone who inspires me with a blog post comment.
Thank you to Avaz for providing me with a copy of this app for review. All opinions are my own.