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ERIC/CLL News Bulletin

September 1996, Volume 20, No. 1

 

The World Wide Web
and Foreign Language Teaching

by Michael D. Finnemann, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL

The Internet and its more recent offspring, the World Wide Web (the Web or WWW), probably represent the most highly publicized and captivating technological innovation of recent times. The international scope of the technology alone instantly appeals to language teachers, who are showing a rapidly growing interest in exploring its pedagogical possibilities. This article examines the Web as a resource for foreign language teaching from two perspectives: as a teacher-centered source of information and as a student-centered medium of language instruction.

WHAT IS THE WORLD WIDE WEB?

The Web is but one component of the Internet, a set of communication resources (such as e-mail) accessible over telephone lines. It is an interlinked mesh of "pages" or "sites" created by private individuals or organizations. The text of a Web page--which is simply a word-processed file--contains invisible codes (HyperText Mark-up Language, or HTML) that are readable by any computer and that help standardize Web page formatting. HTML permits authors to easily insert mouse-clickable "links" to e-mail forms, to other points on the page, to other files in a directory, or to other Web pages. It also allows embedding of graphics, sound, and video into a Web page. These capabilities produce non-linear and multimedia HyperText. HTML permits special programming (called "forms" and "scripts") for enabling authors to collect and process information entered by visitors to their Web site. Newer Web page technology includes the "frames" format (multiple scrollable windows on the same page) and Java, a scripting language supporting animation and other applications.

Users access the Web through the Internet via software called a "Web browser" (such as Netscape). The browser screen has space for entering the address, or URL (Universal Resource Locator), of the site to visit. A Web URL is a string of characters beginning with http:// followed by directory path information. (For sake of brevity, the initial string http:// is deleted from the Web references given below.) Searching for a Web site is facilitated by directories and search engines; "directories" are hierarchical tables of contents to the Web, and "search engines" hunt the Web by means of "keyword" queries. Yahoo! [www.yahoo. com], a universally hailed search site, provides both a directory and keyword search of its large quality-controlled index.

THE WEB AS A TEACHER-CENTERED RESOURCE

For a language teacher with individual (but not classroom) access, the Web is a vast, searchable library of information exploitable for classroom as well as personal or professional use. The Web offers several types of content of immediate interest to language teachers.

News and Media

News and magazine articles have always been useful in language instruction as a source of authentic reading and up-to-date regional and cultural information. Traditionally, teachers have been limited by the cost and availability of print media sources. However, large numbers of periodicals have now gone online, and many offer some or all of their content to the reader without requiring a subscription fee. For example, U.S. Robotics operates a site in Australia [www.intercom.com.au], offering access to numerous online newspapers and magazines from around the world. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Foreign Language News and Magazine page [nimrod.mit.edu/depts/humanities/internet_resources/ForLang Lit/flnews/news.html] offers an extensive list of online newspapers and magazines for some of the more commonly taught languages. Links to other international media are available at World Television Web Links [www. webovision.com/media/sd/tv.html] or World Radio Web Links [www.webovision.com/media/sd/radio.html].

A useful resource for learners and teachers of Spanish is TECLA [www.bbk.ac.uk/Departments/Spanish/TeclaHome.ht ml], a weekly magazine produced during the British academic year.

Regional Information

Regional information is available by simply entering the region or country as a keyword in a search engine or by browsing the menu choices of a directory for subtopics like "regions," "countries," "cultures," "travel," and so forth. Geographically organized directories provide excellent points of departure. The clickable Virtual Tourist World Map [wings.buffalo.edu/world] connects to The World Wide Web Consortium [www.w3.org], a listing of registered Web servers organized alphabetically by continent, country, and U.S. state. Virtual Tourist II [wings.buffalo.edu/world/vt2], another clickable map, accesses City.Net [www.city.net], a very popular site providing links to information on about 100 countries and 1100 world cities with categories like travel, entertainment, local business, and government and community services.

Pedagogical Information
The Foreign Language Teaching Forum (FLTEACH) [www.cortland.edu/www_root/flteach/flteach.html] is the FL teacher's flagship for information and discussion on methods as well as for access to specific teaching materials (handouts, activities, lesson plans, syllabi, software, CALL, etc.) and other resources. FLTEACH is actually a complex of services including an index to FL resources on the Internet and a listserv (Internet discussion forum). The FLTEACH homepage gives information on subscribing to the listserv.

The six federally funded National Foreign Language Resource Centers maintain very informative, mutually linked Web pages for language teachers. The K–12 NFLRC at Iowa State University [www.educ.iastate.edu/nflrc] is one entry point to the resource centers.

Language teachers can send information queries to AskERIC, an electronic question-answering service maintained by the ERIC system, and conduct or request a search of the ERIC database at [ericir.syr.edu]. Another excellent site maintained by the ERIC system can be found at [www.accesseric.org]. Both sites provide links to individual ERIC clearinghouses.

Language laboratories at educational institutions offer excellent practical support to language teachers. The Midwest Association of Language Learning [www.siu.edu/departments/cola/dfll/mwall.html] has pointers to a comprehensive list of language labs with Web sites. One of many lab sites, Ohio University CALL Lab [www.tcom.ohiou.edu/OU_Language] provides links to language-related Web sites and resources for language teachers on testing, technology and teaching, Web page development, software, materials reviews, linguistics, and employment.

Another example of important information available to language teachers is "The Guide to Learning Disabilities and Foreign Language Learning" [www.fln.vcu.edu/ld/ld.html].

Academic Information (Language, Linguistics, Literature, Culture)

Sites hosted by foreign language departments at colleges and universities give well-organized direction to multilingual academic content related to languages. Ohio University CALL (cited above) provides pointers to several. To name just one site with a comprehensive academic orientation, Washington & Lee Language Studies [liberty.uc.wlu.edu/~hblackme/newhome/langd.html] features full on-line text of the journal, "Modern Language Notes," links to the Summer Institute of Linguistics' comprehensive catalog of information on languages and ethnic groups, Netlink Language and Literature Resources, language articles from the Wiretap gopher, listservs, and dictionary resources.

See Steve Thorne's "Foreign Language Resources on the Web" [www.itp.berkeley.edu/~thorne/HumanResources.html] for a quality index to good foreign language Web sites.

Professional Information
The ACTFL Home Page [www.infi.net/~actfl] is a first stop, with information on proficiency testing and instruction, annual meetings, publications, professional development programs, National Standards, membership, and links to special interest groups and related organizations (e.g., American Association of Teachers of German, American Association of Teachers of French). Foreign language publishers sponsor sites offering professional information and opportunities. Agora Marketplace [agoralang.com] has job information, a publisher's directory, a calendar of professional events, and a keyword search of its database. Another publisher, Oracom, Inc./Nobis, sponsors "Lapsus Linguae" [www.nobis.com/ll], a new online, refereed, multimedia journal soliciting articles on any topic related to foreign language teaching.

THE WEB AS A STUDENT-CENTERED MEDIUM FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING
An ever increasing number of sites promote use of the Web for interactive language instruction. A review of a few such sites suggests a variety of innovative Web applications focused on both language content (grammar and vocabulary), skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing), and cultural information.

Grammar and Vocabulary Practice
HTML as Authoring Language
HTML forms and scripting capabilities can be used like a CALL authoring program to create fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, and short-text response items. Student responses are automatically evaluated or e-mailed to the instructor. Prokop's Using the Web for Language Exercises and Readings of Authentic Texts [www.ualberta.ca/~german/present.htm] gives a detailed classification of response-feedback formats, offers many links to examples of each application, and proposes criteria for the design of Web-based language practice. Some programming knowledge is required, but help is available. Godwin-Jones's Language Interactive [www.fln.vcu.edu/cgi/interact.html] introduces language teachers to forms and scripting, offers a number of ready-made forms, and discusses program linking (methods of connecting the Web to other applications to increase programming flexibility).

Grammar/Vocabulary Searches
The keyword capabilities of search engines and the "search/find" functions of Web browsers can be used to hunt the Web and specific texts for examples of grammatical forms and vocabulary that the student copies electronically and hands in with an analysis of uses. The Web then becomes a ready-made corpus of language data. See Ann Salzmann's The World Wide Web as a Corpus for Grammar Exploration [deil.lang.uiuc.edu] for details.

Listening Practice
Rosa-Chang Li's Learning Oral English Online [granny.lang.uiuc.edu/r-li5/book] experiments with sound files; students can click on words in texts and entire lines of dialogue to hear pronunciation. Although sound files can be large--consuming substantial memory and requiring time to load--and the variety of formats may require more than one sound application for listening to the audio files, technology will improve. Radio stations like Deutsche Welle [www-dw.gmd.de/index.html] and Paris-based France Info [www.radio-france.fr/france-info] offer audio files, and their players are available on site. Voice of America [www.wrn.org/stations/voa.html] offers non-copyrighted, digitized audio files of selected foreign language news broadcasts in several formats.

Conversation Practice
Real-time spoken communication is not yet practical via the Web, but conversation of a sort is possible at foreign language sites offering cafes or chat rooms, venues that allow students to dialogue through the keyboard. Many language programs set up restricted cafes or chat rooms for their students, but the public can look in at Godwin-Jones's Kaffeeklatsch [www.fln.vcu.edu/gj/311/klatsch.html] to get an idea. Web users can also visit WebChat sur QuebecNet [www.quebec.net/chat] to participate in an open French chat site.

Reading Practice
Focused Reading
An evident use of the Web is as a source of authentic texts for students. One Web-based teacher strategy is to prepare a page with a reading text and a series of questions using various HTML "forms" to test student comprehension. Another common activity we might call the "information hunt": the teacher prepares a set of links with content questions, and the students must search the links for relevant information and report back their answers.

General Reading
One hopes that, as students enthusiastically explore the Web, they read along the way. To guarantee reading in the target language, online magazines are a particularly good resource for students, given their variety and increasingly interactive format.

Writing and Composition
Contribution to Student Publications
Student-oriented publications give language learners a legitimate motive for writing: on-line publication. KidNews [www.vsa.cape.com/~powens/Kidnews.html] is a Web- based newspaper for Grades K–12 that accepts well-edited contributions in any foreign language. Exchange [deil.lang.uiuc.edu/exchange] gives English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students an outlet for their writing efforts. Learner/Class Creates a Web-Page
Creating an interesting and readable Web page is the ultimate in composition practice. Hyper-Text allows students to add multimedia content to their composition, but they must organize these components coherently and effectively: that is, "compose." An e-mail link to the page allows feedback from the world of readers. There are many on-line guides to Web-page creation and HTML (see Ohio University CALL, above).

Cultural Information
The Teacher Page as a Presentation or Tour Guide A teacher can create a Web page with an organized set of links to guide students to content on the Web. The Web page can become, in effect, a multimedia cultural presentation. In other cases, the page serves students as a teacher-guided "trip" to facilitate discovery of information related to regions or topics. Putnam's Language Learning [web1.ea.pvt.k12.pa.us/htm/depts/modlang/putnam] is an outstanding example of teacher-guided Web use at the K–12 level.

Student Web Research and Follow-up Activity
Students investigate topics of interest on the Web and use genuine, real-world information to make reports (oral or written) or accomplish assigned tasks. Students might follow on-line news in order to prepare simulated oral newscasts, or plan a "virtual" trip using facts from City.Net; see Rosen's "Teaching with the Web" [polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/lss/lang/teach.html] for details and a comprehensive set of links to other Web applications to foreign language.

Inter-Class Communication and Collaboration via the Web
Interaction with students elsewhere adds purpose and dimension to any learning activity. Language classes can join existing collaborative Web projects or establish their own. Classes can join MayaQuest [www.mecc.com/ies/maya/maya.html], for example, to interact with anthropologists investigating the Mayan culture on location. The Global SchoolNet Foundation [www.gsn.org] has a registry of active projects for K–12. Rosen & Bowers Language Learning Activities for the World Wide Web [polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/lss/lang/nflrc.html] recommends establishing "bilingual pages" for classes speaking each other's target language. Classes visit each other's Web pages and communicate via e-mail links on the pages. Mills's The World Wide Web as a Project for Collaboration. [deil.lang.uiuc.edu] and Corio's Interclass Projects on the Internet [www.vcu.edu/cspweb/ron.html] make additional suggestions related to college-level ESL projects but relevant to any foreign language. For language teachers who wish to establish e-mail communication between classes on the Internet, the Web offers Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections [www.stolaf.edu/network/iecc].

CONCLUSION
The sites listed above are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and this limited discussion can only point to representatives of some of the Web's more visible foreign language applications. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Web promises to be an important resource for language teachers. It provides teachers with ready access to a world of information enabling them to easily make classroom teaching more content based; the content can be timely, authentic, culture rich, and, consequently, more engaging for students. Though still in its infancy as an effective medium for on-line language learning, the Web has a number of capabilities that indicate it will play an increasing role in providing interactive language practice focused on both content and skills.


Newcomer Study

Newcomer Study
A new, four-year study of newcomer schools and programs for secondary students has begun. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the auspices of the National Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE), this study will examine characteristics of newcomer programs across the United States. Program design factors such as the following will be documented and analyzed across sites: goals; student identification, placement and exit; length of program; language of instruction; curriculum; instructional and assessment practices; teacher characteristics; and community involvement. Researchers will also conduct case studies of exemplary sites that successfully prepare newcomer students for their home school programs.

In order to prepare a database of schools, CREDE is requesting information about all newcomer programs. At this point, we are using a broad definition of newcomer program (for instance, it might serve secondary students who are recent immigrants or others who are not, but who need an intensive language learning environment), so all nominations are welcome. If you know of a program that serves newcomer students, please send the name and address of the school to Deborah Short, 4646 40th Street NW, Washington, DC 20016-1859 (e-mail: dshort@cal.org).

CAL Foreign Language Survey

National K–12 Foreign Language Survey The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is conducting a national foreign language survey that will provide current, much needed information about foreign language programs and instruction in elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools in the United States. The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, will replicate the landmark survey of foreign languages conducted by CAL in 1987.

The major goals of the survey are to provide a comprehensive, scientifically accurate national portrait of foreign language education at the elementary and secondary levels and to produce information on foreign language education on a state-by-state basis. The survey will address current patterns and shifts in enrollment, teacher training and qualifications, language and program offerings at various levels, foreign language curricula and instructional materials, assessment, sequencing, funding, successful program characteristics, foreign language educational reform, and major issues facing the field.

Your school may be included in the sample! In October 1996, the survey will be sent to a randomly selected sample of principals at approximately 5% of all public and private elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools in the United States. The results of the survey will provide a picture of how K–12 foreign language education has changed since the 1987 survey.

Postscript (3/2000): Survey results were published in 1999 and are available as a printed book from Delta Systems, Inc entitled Foreign Language Instruction in the United States: A National Survey of Elementary and Secondary Schools.


National Directory of Early Language Learning Programs

National Directory of Early Language Learning Programs Questionnaire

As part of the research project mentioned above, CAL is compiling a national directory of early language learning programs. The directory will include schools that start teaching foreign languages before Grade 7.

Other CAL immersion databases include total and partial immersion programs and two-way immersion programs.

We would very much like to include your school. If your school introduces the teaching of foreign languages before Grade 7, please take a few minutes to complete the attached mini-questionnaire (page 5) and return it to us. Although we will not be able to reach every program in the country, we would like to include as many schools (both public and private) as possible.

Please return the mini-questionnaire by December 1, 1996 to the Center for Applied Linguistics, 4646 40th Street NW, Washington, DC 20016-1859. We will send you ordering information for the directory when it is completed in 1997.

Thank you for your efforts! We hope that this U.S. Department of Education-funded directory will help schools to network with other schools around the country that have similar programs and enhance the teaching of foreign languages to children.


This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR93002010. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or ED.
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