Proc. of the International Congress on Acoustics, Vol. III, pp. 1969-1972, Kyoto, 2004 (Invited Paper)
Education in Acoustics using physical models of the human vocal tract
Abstract: It could be said that Acoustics forms a bridge between speech production and speech perception, and as such it lies at the intersection of several speech communication related fields. The field of Speech and Hearing Sciences, for example, deals with speech production and speech perception. Speech Pathology also relates crucially to Acoustics. In addition, the linguistic fields of Phonetics and Phonology have points of intersection in common with Acoustics, particularly Phonetics, which comprises three important subfields: Articulatory Phonetics, Acoustic Phonetics and Auditory Phonetics (related to Psycho-acoustics). Speech technology, including automatic speech recognition, speech synthesis and speech coding, is overlaid as an application of these fields.
Because acoustics is related to so many fields, such classes are generally comprised of students from a wide variety of backgrounds. At Sophia University, the author is teaching acoustics not only to Engineering students but also to students majoring in fields such as Linguistics, Psychology, and Speech Pathology. We believe that an education in acoustics is important not only for college-level students, but also for high-school or potentially even elementary-school students. Therefore, we are motivated to develop intuitive and effective methods for educating students of different ages and from varied backgrounds. Toward this aim, we proposed using physical models of the human vocal tract as educational tools, and we verified their usefulness in the classroom. We have also started exhibiting our models at a science museum targeting for 10-12 year-old children. Furthermore, we identified other areas where the models were needed, for example, as educational tools for speech pathologists and patients with speech disorders and hearing impairment. Finally, we have developed new models for language learning, such as models for the consonants /r/ and /l/, so that second language learners appreciate them, as well.