Vista Higher Learning’s Groundbreaking Speech Recognition Transforms the Way Students Learn World Languages

BOSTON--()--An advanced version of Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) used in computers and other devices is changing the way secondary and higher education students learn world languages. Vista Higher Learning—the leading specialized publisher of world language products in the United States—has teamed with Cobalt Speech and Language, Inc. to develop a Verification Automatic Speech Recognition (VASR) engine which determines how well a learner’s speech compares to a specific, pre-determined word or phrase.

Most consumers have experienced Automatic Speech Recognition, the process by which a computer or other device converts speech into text. Vista Higher Learning has taken this technology one step further with VASR, enabling the computer to determine what a learner is saying and how accurate the speech is in both its form and substance.

The Massachusetts-based company recently released VASR in Portales, its groundbreaking introductory Spanish program in use at over 100 colleges and universities. Fifteen thousand students currently rely on Portales every day to practice their vocabulary and communications skills, improving their learning with instant and intelligent feedback which highlights their successes and errors. Portales prompts learners to state a word or phrase; then records the speech and provides real-time feedback with an emphasis on vocabulary recognition and speaking skills. This week, Vista Higher Learning announced that more than 1.5 million speech recognition recordings have been submitted by students using Portales. On average, 12,000 new recordings are submitted for review each day.

“When we released VASR this summer,” said Kurt Gerdenich, Chief Technology Officer for Vista Higher Learning, “we knew we were providing students with educational learning technologies unlike anything available today. Still, no one could predict that so many students would benefit from our advanced speech recognition so quickly.”

Portales currently offers three different learning activities featuring VASR: Vocabulary Tutorials, Fotonovela Tutorials, and Pronunciation Tutorials. In all, the program features over 300 VASR activities covering approximately 4,000 unique Spanish words and phrases.

“VASR enables students to receive accurate, intelligent guidance in real time during both vocabulary and pronunciation instruction. And because it reviews what is said and how words are pronounced, our speech recognition activities are the ideal tool to engage and encourage language learners,” said David Mackin, Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

In 2017, Vista Higher Learning will feature VASR in select products for high school Spanish, Intermediate Spanish, and Introductory French.

Portales builds on the extensive catalogue of programs developed by Vista Higher Learning which have made world languages accessible to more than 500,000 digital language learners this year alone. In addition, more than three million students and 20,000 instructors have used Vista Higher Learning’s textbooks and proprietary online learning platform, Supersite, since its founding in 2000.

For more information about VASR visit

For more information about Portales visit

About Vista Higher Learning

Vista Higher Learning was founded in 2000 as a publisher focused exclusively on world languages. Since that time, Vista has become the market leader for course solutions in Spanish, French, German, and Italian. Vista Higher Learning accomplishes this by producing highly engaging and authentic learning materials, media, and instructional technology. To learn more about Vista Higher Learning, visit

About Cobalt Speech and Language

Jeff Adams founded Cobalt in 2014, after a successful career building and managing world-class speech and language software groups at Nuance, Yap, and Amazon. Cobalt brings cutting-edge speech and language technology to commercial enterprises, enabling these enterprises to create the next generation of speech recognition solutions. Prior to joining the company, Cobalt’s speech and language scientists and engineers worked at Nuance (Siri), Yap, and Amazon, supporting applications like Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Amazon Echo. Cobalt’s employees have over 100 years of combined experience and more than 50 patent applications in speech recognition technology. To learn more about Cobalt Speech and Language, visit


Vista Higher Learning
Lauren Taylor, 617-728-9378 (w)


Vista Higher Learning
Lauren Taylor, 617-728-9378 (w)