Do you know of any pronunciation or phonetics software that would be useful to ESL learners? I have read that software with spectrographs or xrays showing tongue placement are very effective. I am wondering if this, or similar software, could be used in a language lab setting.
I'm working on American English pronunciation software Saundz that is intended to help ESL learners improve their pronunciation. It features a 3D animated teacher who demonstrates movements of vocal organs, so that students can see tongue placement, jaw movements, as well as air stream (with nasals, for example). There are 40 basic American English sounds and more than 400 words they can see, listen to and record, since in the practice mode, they also have the ability to make their own recordings and can compare them with recorded native speakers' pronunciations.
The software is appropriate for language lab use since it's web-based (although other platforms are supported), so no individual installations are required. Basically, all the equipment needed is a headset. We ran a field test of ten non-native English speakers, on which all of them showed some improvements.
There are two pieces of software that I know of that can show Spectograms. Praat is one, and is the more powerful of the two, but may have a steeper learning curve. I think that they are aimed more at linguists who analyse a language rather than those trying to learn a language.
The other is Speech Analyser Available for windows PC's though there may be a linux version available in the future.
These are fairly general speech analysis tools, I can't comment on how useful these would be for use by ESL students.