Breaking news as it breaks! Broken news after it broke!
PITCH FALLS, ML—An exciting new language-
[The following transcript has been edited for neither length nor clarity.]
Скооп Смашылев: Ma Finisterre, explain to our readers how Doppler Adrenaline helps language learners master the challenging topic of tones.
Ma Finisterre: Sure thing, Scupper! Tones are really difficult for adult language learners to acquire, even those with a “good ear”. Heck, musical skills like perfect pitch may actually hamper the learning process because tones are relative in pitch. If I have a high voice—
Скооп: And you do, Ma!
Ma: —and I do, and you have a low voice—
Скооп: And I do, Ma!
Ma: —and you do, Scrapper
— then my “low” tone may be above your “high” tone in absolute pitch, making it hard for you to figure out exactly what sound you are trying to make. We solve that problem at Doppler Adrenaline by using recordings of your own voice, perceptually shifted so you hear yourself speaking with the right tone.
Скооп: You say the recordings are perceptually shifted. Do you mean you pitch shift the recordings as you play them back?
Ma: I’m so glad you asked that, Schlepper! We do not, though something like that was the original idea. Unfortunately
— or maybe fortunately! — I don’t have the computer skills needed to do that. I was lamenting this fact to my husband’s brother, Al—
Al “The Gonk” Quinn: “The Gonk”.
Ma: Al, don’t start with me. Anyway, Al
The Gonk: “The Gonk”.
Ma: Anyway, The Gonk is a retired rally car driver, and he mentioned that when he drove he enjoyed pitch-
shifting sounds — like the screams of fans, ambulance sirens, the sound of gunshots, what- have- you—
Скооп: Excuse me, gunshots?
The Gonk: Some them rally drivers is reeeeeally competitive.
Скооп: Huh. Continue, Ma.
Ma: Thanks, Schwepper. As I was saying, Al—
The Gonk: “The Gonk”.
Ma: —The Gonk said he enjoyed pitch-
shifting sounds with the Doppler effect by driving toward or away from things really fast.
The Gonk: Real fast.
Ma: And he thought he could pitch-
shift a voice coming out of a loudspeaker.
Скооп: That sounds really hard! How could Al—
The Gonk: “The Gonk”.
Скооп: How could The Gonk get the speed just right to get the tone just right?
Ma: What can I say, dude’s got mad skills.
The Gonk: Mad skillz, Broseph!
Ma: We originally worked with Chinese speakers who recorded themselves saying ma (嗎), and Al
— The Gonk! Don’t start with me, Al! — and The Gonk would drive toward, past, away from, or in circles around the loudspeaker until the speakers said they reliably heard perfect renditions of mā (媽), má (麻), mǎ (馬), and mà (罵). It takes millisecond precision, but The Gonk can do it!
Скооп: Incredible! How do you do it, Gonk?
The Gonk: To be honest, ’tain’t no big thing. The stakes is pretty low, y’know? If’n I mess up a little, some dude’s gonna call his new Chinese girlfriend’s mother a horse. ’At’s not so bad. Ain’t nothin’ compared to things I seen while drivin’ in the Dakar Rally inna desert over there. Tough times, tough times.
Ma: Shush, Al! Don’t mess this up for me! We’re gonna be on the teevee!
Скооп: Actually, Ma, ʙıːɛɴɛɴ is primarily a print news outlet, so this won’t be on television.
Ma: Aww, what the shucks? Well, anyway, we eventually built our small rally course, with strategically-
placed loudspeakers throughout, playing ma or other syllables on a loop.
Скооп: So, Gonk, what’s the most difficult part of the track?
The Gonk: ’At there rising-
falling tone’ll put some kinda ’spression on your face, fer sure. Ya zooms uphill directly at a loudspeaker, which’ll cause ’at there pitch to rise, then ya sails over the speaker, passin’ it an’ causing the tone — and yer stomach, eh? — to drop hard. Then ya lands about eighty feet farther down the road before takin’ a hairpin curve. Fun times, fun times.
Скооп: What have you learned about language learning and language learners, Gonk?
The Gonk: Well, I tells ya, seems like there’s two kindsa people who comes to Doppler ’Drenaline. I can usually tell who’s who when I meet ’em, and fer sure after we goes round the track once. There’s the one kind, and I says to them, “Say your tones right, and we can go around again!” Then there’s t’other kind, and I says to them, “Say your tones right, or we have to go ’round again!” I like makin’ ’em go ’round again! Ha ha ha!
Скооп: Thank you, Gonk. Thank you, Ma.
Ma: Thank you, too, Skipper!
Herr Doktor Beytonz Hwitsch
Students, however, are almost universally more positive. 98% of students we interviewed swear by Doppler Adrenaline, and enrollment has been booming
Additional reporting by Tōno L. Ōco and Tonita T. Tonucci, for ʙıːɛɴɛɴ.