Avaz FreeSpeech: Build Grammatically Correct Language – by Avaz, Inc. is a new innovative educational app that helps kids learn grammar and sentence structure by choosing a single word and expanding their thoughts through a series of wh- questions that create a “visual map” of their sentence. The question prompts help children to expand their language and create more complex, grammatically correct sentences. Users are able to arrange words in different orders to convey different messages. Avaz FreeSpeech is aligned with the Common Core Curriculum. It is targeted for children ages 6-18 who have difficulty with grammar or sentence structure or are learning English as a second language.
While language and sentence structure are often taught in a linear fashion from left to right, the developer took a new and interesting approach to creating sentences. The idea is that if a child uses a single word, the app will provide question prompts that build on that word to provide more detail-rich sentence. The app also predicts and adds abstract words, such as articles, that are difficult to represent with a picture. The app can be customized in the settings located in the lower right corner. The pictures can be hidden for users who are able to read. Access modes include tap and drag. The user can select from 4 different voices and change the rate of speech. There are 3 levels of vocabulary, inflections, and prompts.
Inflections Level 1: Allows the user to change between past, present, and future tense.
Inflection Level 2: Adds the ability to negate sentences or ask more types of questions.
Inflection Level 3: Adds modal verbs (can, may, must) and perfect tense.
The app has a wide variety of vocabulary that can be accessed under “more words”. The vocabulary is sorted into categories. It has a search feature that would be helpful in quickly locating vocabulary; although, this requires the ability to spell. Pictures can be added to the app via the camera or photo library. Unfortunately, the ability to add pictures and customize vocabulary was not an option under most categories. For example, I was able to add additional people, but I was not able to customize food or places on Vocabulary Level 3. The option to add vocabulary under multiple categories would be a worthwhile option in future updates.
Avaz FreeSpeech can be a wonderful tool for Speech Language Pathologists or ESL teachers working with children in grammar and sentence structure. The unique way that sentences are created through question prompts that map out the child’s thought to make grammatically correct sentences provides a different type of resource for teacher’s to put into their toolbox. I felt that the “mapping” concept could get confusing for younger users especially when generating longer, more complex sentences. As I created more complex sentences, there were times that the grammar was not correct; this could be problematic if student’s were working independently. I would recommend using Avaz FreeSpeech as a supplemental tool with teacher guidance to aid in developing more complex sentence structure.
Avaz’s work with AAC apps (Avaz Pro & other versions of it) has helped them get a better insight into specific language impairments and the solutions needed. Ajit's TED talk highlights the other possibilities of Avaz FreeSpeech and also talks of a futuristic 'universal translator'. But with this version of the app, the app is targeted at children with language learning difficulties. For typical sentences, the app rarely makes a grammar mistake. The best part about the app is it can create a syntactically correct sentence with an arbitrary selection of words. This is definitely interesting for children with Specific language impairments to understand the workings of language.
Laurie Spencer is a Speech Language Pathologist who has been practicing for over 15 years. She is employed by Easter Seals of Southeastern PA and works with a wide range of children with special needs including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, cleft palate, and tracheostomies. She has a passion for working with augmentative communication and helping children find their "voice".