Increased demand to learn English for business and education has led to growing interest in automatic spoken language assessment and teaching systems. With this shift to automated approaches it is important that systems reliably assess all aspects of a candidate’s responses. This paper examines one form of spoken language assessment; whether the response from the candidate is relevant to the prompt provided. This will be referred to as off-topic spoken response detection. Two forms of previously proposed approaches are examined in this work: the hierarchical attention-based topic model (HATM); and the similarity grid model (SGM). The work focuses on the scenario when the prompt, and associated responses, have not been seen in the training data, enabling the system to be applied to new test scripts without the need to collect data or retrain the model. To improve the performance of the systems for unseen prompts, data augmentation based on easy data augmentation (EDA) and translation based approaches are applied. Additionally for the HATM, a form of prompt dropout is described. The systems were evaluated on both seen and unseen prompts from Linguaskill Business and General English tests. For unseen data the performance of the HATM was improved using data augmentation, in contrast to the SGM where no gains were obtained. The two approaches were found to be complementary to one another, yielding a combined F0.5 score of 0.814 for off-topic response detection where the prompts have not been seen in training.
We describe the collection of transcription corrections and grammatical error annotations for the CrowdED Corpus of spoken English monologues on business topics. The corpus recordings were crowdsourced from native speakers of English and learners of English with German as their first language. The new transcriptions and annotations are obtained from different crowdworkers: we analyse the 1108 new crowdworker submissions and propose that they can be used for automatic transcription post-editing and grammatical error correction for speech. To further explore the data we train grammatical error detection models with various configurations including pre-trained and contextual word representations as input, additional features and auxiliary objectives, and extra training data from written error-annotated corpora. We find that a model concatenating pre-trained and contextual word representations as input performs best, and that additional information does not lead to further performance gains.
There is a growing demand for automatic assessment of spoken English proficiency. These systems need to handle large variations in input data owing to the wide range of candidate skill levels and L1s, and errors from ASR. Some candidates will be a poor match to the training data set, undermining the validity of the predicted grade. For high stakes tests it is essential for such systems not only to grade well, but also to provide a measure of their uncertainty in their predictions, enabling rejection to human graders. Previous work examined Gaussian Process (GP) graders which, though successful, do not scale well with large data sets. Deep Neural Network (DNN) may also be used to provide uncertainty using Monte-Carlo Dropout (MCD). This paper proposes a novel method to yield uncertainty and compares it to GPs and DNNs with MCD. The proposed approach explicitly teaches a DNN to have low uncertainty on training data and high uncertainty on generated artificial data. On experiments conducted on data from the Business Language Testing Service (BULATS), the proposed approach is found to outperform GPs and DNNs with MCD in uncertainty-based rejection whilst achieving comparable grading performance.