The science of speech scoring is based on measuring the “native-ness“of the speaker. For this reason it is very important to understand what is meant by nativeness. Nativeness is the measure of how closely the speaker’s speech resembles that of a native speaker. Think of your native language. When you as a native speaker listen to non-native speakers attempting to speak your language, you make every effort to understand them. As we’ve all experienced sometimes it is easy to understand non-native speakers speaking our language and sometimes it is much more difficult based on their speaking ability. There is a strong correlation between the nativeness of speech and our ability to understand it. Think about this range or spectrum of speech. On the high-end if you were listening to a foreigner speaking your native language and there was just a slight accent where you noticed that he wasn’t a native speaker, we would call this “strongly native” speech. On the low end if you could barely understand what the speaker was saying as a result of their very strong accents and frequent mispronunciations and misreads, we call this “strongly non-native“.
For these reasons the Language Power Institute recommends systems that have the ability to measure “Native-ness” since it is a very strong indicator of language power. Much of our research effort in this area builds upon work done by SRI International whom we consider a founding father in the area of measuring native-ness. Their work in the world renowned STAR Laboratory and pioneering efforts in the field of speech analysis provide an exciting foundation for further research.