The Reading Matrix
Vol. 2, No. 3, September 2002

Reviewed by Jens Nicklas



Audience: Sprachlabor is primarily designed to accompany seminars or lectures on phonetics and phonology. It can also be used by students who have attended such a course in order to review its content. Because the texts offered are quite short and difficult, Sprachlabor is only for the advanced student with a deeper knowledge of phonetics. Sprachlabor can also be used by speech therapists or psychologists working with sound articulation.


Media Enterprise - Ingolf Franke. Gottbillstraße 34A; D-54294 Trier


Windows 3.1, 95/98 or Mac OS 8.5 and above, Netscape 4.0 and above or Internet Explorer 4.0 and above

Minimum hardware requirements: for PC PC: Pentium/233 MHz; MAC: PowerPC
24 MB of RAM and 500 MB free space on the hard drive
Color monitor set at 32-bit true color and 800 x 600 resolution (PC)
CD-ROM drive
Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers or headphones


DM 99 + p&p

Sprachlabor is a CD-ROM that provides an interactive introduction to phonetics and the sounds of the German language. It explains the essential terms and functions of the human speech organs' anatomy and physiology as well as sound production. It also teaches the necessary articulatory and acoustic phonetics, along with basic symbols to transcribe phonetic sounds. The program includes animation, a phonetic chart with a video of a person articulating a sound, spectograms of the sound, illustrations of the sagittal section, and short hypertext that explains concepts and terms. Sprachlabor also boasts a phonetic database containing more than 4000 references to articles in publications dealing with phonetics; this database can be expanded, regrouped and searched (focusing on author, title, year, journal, key word). References are to articles in the journals Phonetica, Language and Speech, Sprache-Stimme-Gehör, Folia Phoniatrica, Journal of Phonetics. There are no references, however, to book length publications.

The CD-ROM is easy to install and, on loading, it plays both a sound and a video sample to check whether the computer's sound and video facilities work. It then opens up on the overview, listing the four main parts of the program: (1) Introduction to Acoustics; (2) Voice and Speech Production; (3) Spectography; (4) Multimedia description of the sounds in German. Users can choose to view any of these four sections or they can start with the introduction to basic concepts, which is presented in hypertext format on the right side of the screen. In the first three chapters, the yellow words there are linked to explanations, diagrams, or additional information about the terms. The definitions are short, concise and very helpful. The left hand side of the screen is used for diagrams, animations, photographs, and, at the bottom, a "Moment" feature that tells the program to "wait," as well as links to the above mentioned database of articles and a WASP icon. This WASP (standing for Werkzeuge zur Analyse von Sprache) icon takes the user to a part of the program that allows him or her to analyze prerecorded sound files or to record his or her own voice and see it in the form of time signals, short time spectra, or spectograms.

The fourth chapter provides an exact description of the vowel and consonant sounds of the German language. Sprachlabor provides a physiological description of the sound with accompanying diagrams, X-ray pictures, and palatograms; a video of a female speaker pronouncing an example word containing the particular sound (the speaker is shown from the front and from the side); an acoustic description with diagrams, time signals, and spectogram; an audio recording of a male speaker pronouncing an example word.

In conclusion, Sprachlabor is a first-rate accompaniment for any course on phonetics and phonology. Its multimedia and hypertextual approach makes it a valuable tool for a course in German pronunciation. It is easy to use, features concise and to-the-point explanations, helpful diagrams and animations, and, finally, a fully searchable and expandable database of literature dealing with phonetics. The only drawback this reviewer could find was that the example words are often unnaturally pronounced, which, of course, obscures the aim of the audio track: to provide a faithful representation of naturally occurring German speech.



















Jens Nicklas is currently pursuing a Master's degree in German at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a teaching assistant, offering beginning and intermediate German courses at Notre Dame. Besides SLA, his focus is on 20th century Austrian literature, film and the performing arts, and the literature of migrant writers in German. He earned his Magister from the University of Innsbruck, Austria with a thesis on The Heterogeneity of Migrant Writing in German (2001).