Published: Aug. 14, 2014

 Wes Song, Dr. Pui Fong Kan, Allina Robertson, Shirley Cheung, and Fan Yin Cheng

Research team from left: Wes Song, Dr. Pui Fong Kan, Allina Robertson, Shirley Cheung, and Fan Yin Cheng

Last year, CU Boulder Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Center Assistant Professor Pui Fong Kan received an ASSETT Development Award to create web based resources for pathologists who treat patients who are multilingual and are having trouble communicating in English.  Pui Fong explains that having a go-to database to learn more about a patient's primary language can provide helpful insights about the reasons patients may exhibit difficulty communicating in English.


The Idea

Pui Fong said that student input has made this project possible: "This project started in class.  I was talking about how the resources available to bilingual speech and language pathologists are limited."  Allina Roberts, a Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences graduate student, came up to Pui Fong after class that day and said, "We can do this!"  Roberts introduced Pui Fong to Wes Song, an aspiring programmer, who happened to be looking for a goodwill project.  Song volunteered to develop the website as his class project for a web development class.  Roberts now conducts research for the project.

CU Boulder Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Professor Pui Fong Kan Pui Fong would like the website to offer comprehensive sound bites of different languages' syllables, consonants, and dipthongs.  The team will invite peer institutions to contribute their expertise about the languages of the world.  Pui Fong and her team explained how time consuming and overwhelming it can be for a clinician when trying to research and learn about a client's first language.  Pui Fong's team envisions that with access to their website, speech therapists will be able to more quickly learn about clients' languages.  Such knowledge will help therapists determine how to help different speech clients communicate in English.  Pui Fong explained, "We are working with a diverse population ... Sometimes [speech patients] make errors in the second language, but they are just in the process of learning two languages; they don't have a problem ..."  The team would also like the website to offer some, "... resources about bilingual children."  The team's goals are to finish the website and invite other speech therapy clinicians, researchers, and linguists to contribute to it.

Right now, the team is working on the first phase of the website, and Song is rushing to complete the rest.  He is setting up the website so that approved users would be able to add new languages and tables of consonant or vowel sounds.  Song said that he is incorporating Web 2.0 to make the site more responsive and easier to use: he is using Javascript, CSS, and HTML to code different parts of the site.

Pui Fong views the project as a team effort, and says, "We want students to be able to participate and contribute."  Indeed, also working on the project are: Fan Yin Cheng, a visiting Research Assistant in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, and Shirley Cheung, an Honors CU Boulder Senior in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences.  Pui Fong appreciates the input that she receives from her team, "As this project continues I realize that [Song] has some interesting ideas, like mobile devices."  The team would like to offer the website on tablets and iPads for their portability.  Pui Fong says that she would like to include even more students in the project this year.