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Interesting Lectures and Seminars

Acoustics and Auditory Phonetics
Phonetics, Where “One Listening Is a Better Judge Than 100 Viewings”

Tatiana Filipova
Intensive Japanese Language Program, Center for Japanese Language Waseda University
Yumi Yoshizawa
4th Year Student at the School of International Liberal Studies

In this course, along with reviewing the physical aspects of sound and acoustics, and vocal organs, the basic elements of sound, by using a program called Praat, we are learning speech sound characteristics and analysis methods through sound waves and spectrograms on a computer.

Most of the students in the course have an interest in linguistics, so a special feature of the course is the pleasant atmosphere provided by the small numbers. As is with other courses of the School of International Liberal Studies, these lectures are conducted entirely in English. Previously having taken a course of phonology is prerequisite. Due to Professor Kondo majoring in phonetics, he delivers the lectures in a very clear and refined voice, and with easy-to-follow diagrams and exercises, it is relatively easy to understand considering the difficulty of the topic. Another feature of this course is the lack of a prescribed textbook, so a wide range of basic knowledge can be gained from the professor's handouts. If you have an interest in a specific topic, you can select a text from the reference list to deepen your understanding. The professor's kindness can be seen in Japanese translations of difficult specialist terms on the handouts. If there are difficult points, he provides explanations in Japanese and also recommends Japanese texts to read. This is where the good points lie when learning in English from a Japanese professor at the School of International Liberal Studies. No matter how much you say it is a faculty where study and research is conducted in English, you can't go as far as having a major that you can't converse about in your mother tongue.

A spectrogram decodes sound waves and displays wave frequency and strength on a time axes graph, and because the physical information is easily understood in a visual manner, you can determine the sex, age, mother tongue of the speaker, and the content of an utterance. Accordingly, spectrograms are also used in medicine and music, police voiceprint investigations, and elocution training for foreign language students. Lectures also involve practical recordings, experimental data analysis and research methods. Before the advancement of computers, this was a field relying much on physics and mathematical knowledge, but recently, with free software downloads available on the internet, anybody can readily analyze their own voice. I felt an inexplicable pleasure when recording my own voice and seeing the sound waves appear on a spectrogram. Phonetics is said to be where “one listening is a better judge than 100 viewings”, but there is much information which becomes clear when confirming it visually. In a field which has only developed along with the advance of technology, I hope it becomes possible to respond to various other fields and problems in the future.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)