Specialist software vendor Nexidia has launched an application that can test the verbal proficiency of speakers of English as a second language in offshore contact centres.
Nexidia, which specialises in phonetic technology for audio and video search, uses what it calls Phonetic Search Engine (PSE) technology to do “phoneme pattern matching”, picking up phonemes - the smallest phonetic units that can convey distinct meanings, such as the m in mitt or the b in bit.
The Language Assessor software uses PSE technology to test speakers by identifying and rating the clarity of their pronunciation of words, phrases, proper names, slang and non-standard grammar patterns.
Language Assessor, also known as an accent analyser, is aimed at companies considering offshore technical support sites where English is not employees’ first language or where the spoken English accent might be difficult for customers to understand.
The Language Assessor offers a script that is read by candidates and recorded. The program takes the recording and searches for key words, scoring the reader by the ease with which the key word can be found.
The second part of the assessment matches the speaker's phonetic pronunciation against a North American English phonetic model.
The third component measures the pace at which the script is read. Following the tests, an aggregate score is given, allowing companies to select only the top performers.
Because there are a finite number of phonemes in any language, Language Assessor is easily ported to languages other than English. Currently the company offers 33 language models.
The audio search engine can index one hour of audio in 17 seconds, after which an actual audio search would take a fraction of a second.