Writing is an important part of second language learning, and can also be one of the most difficult. Some people find it difficult to express themselves properly because they don't have the words or grammar to do so correctly. Writing in a second language can be a daunting task, especially if you know other people will be reading it.
Various methods of online writing are available to everyone, including language students. Blogging is a popular method and is used by a number of people around the world to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Language students can use blogging not just to communicate ideas but also to practise their writing skills. I have used blogging in the past, and while at the beginning I found it difficult to write a lot, and was confined to sticking to the structures and vocabularly I knew well, but later on I found it easier to experiment with the language. The main problem with blogging in a different language, is that if it isn't being marked then it is unlikely that any corrections will be made.
Blogs are also a great way of increasing reading. If students are required to write blogs each week, and also to read and comment on other blogs, they are practising both their writing and reading comprehension ability. It also gives students the opportunity to correct mistakes that are being made. in the writing.
Throughout the course of the semester, we have covered a range of topics in LING 421; from the devolopment and evolution of CALL, to using technology to improve skills in L2 reading, writing and listening. We have also covered the importance of learning about the culture of the target language, as well as learning language 'in the wild' through gaming and social networking.
I have found this course particularly interesting, as a former language student and (hopefully) future language teacher. Having a past in language learning I was able to relate to a lot of the material we were learning, and I knew how I would react to the different materials having used a number of them ,myself. But it also provided me with the opportunity to view the classes from the perspective of the teacher, and to think about what needs to be taken into consideration when teaching a language. In particular, the topic of culture made me think a lot, because I intend to teach English over in Europe. It wasn't so much teaching the English culture that made me think, it was the fact that the people I would be teaching would have come from a totally different culture to myself and there would be things I'd need to know. I also wondered a little about teaching the English culture, and if that should be the UK version, or the New Zealand version.
Intercultural Communicative Competence through online media was the topic that I presented, and I am really glad I chose that topic. It was very interesting to see the results and comments from the study, and how the students thought they were being perceived in the other countries- for example the American students thought the German students were coming across as bored because they didn't ask as many questions. But it's basically all in the way they communicate through synchronous chat. The same result was found in a study between French and American students.
So as a result from this course, I am feeling slightly more confident going into the language teaching world. At high school language learning was always out of a textbook, but this course has taught me that there are so many more resources that can be used. While at high school, there were a lot of things I didn't understand in language learning, but I found I learnt a lot more after I had been on a language exchange and had been immersed in the culture- backing up the idea that learning the culture is just as important when learning the language. I hope to be able to bring what I have learnt in LING421 to my future language classrooms.
Listening comprehension has always been an integral part of second language acquistion. But the range of different materials has been increased dramatically since the internet and other technology has become more readily available in classrooms.
Speed modification has been a key development in listening comprehension. It allows students to listen to authentic materials from the target language, but slow it down to a speed they are able to understand. There are now a number of websites which post podcasts and videos, specifically aimed at language students. The students are then able to manipulate the speed of the speech, as well as in some cases view the text as it is being spoken. If a student is unfamiliar with the words, they can click on them and are given a definition. The problem with slowing down the speech is that it can sound unnatural if slowed down too far.
Listening comprehension is the aspect of language learning I had the most trouble with. Reading was fine, but once I didn't have a text to follow I found myself getting lost very quickly. To improve my listening comprehension skills I used to watch movies, childrens' cartoons, and would listen to music by German bands. After I while I found I could follow the spoken language a lot easier. I watched a movie called '1 1/2 Ritter', a spoof film. The problem with this was quite a lot of the jokes were specifically aimed at people living in Germany, and to native speakers. I had to google a few parts, and ask friends in Germany about others. It just shows how difficult it can be for language students to interpret the authentic materials.
That is one of the more unexpected findings of a Consortium on Chicago School Research study on technology use among CPS students, released today. The report found a “digital divide” among students in different types of ...
Vanessa Johnson's insight:
An interesting study into students using techology for educational purposes. According to the survey, many students that have access to the internet don't actually use it for school work.
Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) has a long history of helping learners to develop their second language (L2) abilities. Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) is a developing sub-area of CALL that uses mobile devices, like the iPhone or Android’s Nexus One, instead of a computer to delive,r educational materials.
We make simple learning tools that let you study anything, for free.
Vanessa Johnson's insight:
This website is fantastic for studying, especially language. I've used it many times to learn vocab for both German and Ancient Greek. You can make your own list of words you need to learn, or just use one someone else created. To learn the words you can either type them over and over, or play different games using the vocab list.
Perhaps one of the best ways to learn a language 'in the wild' is through digital gaming and social networking. Bringing these ideas into a classroom can either be really good, or not work at all, depending on the students.
I have never played MMOG or MMRPG, but I know a lot of people who do, almost religiously. Gaming (outisde of the classroom) has a language of its own, which players pick up and use regularly. I can see how that kind of use would be beneficial in a classroom, if a class were all to be playing a game together in their second language.
Social networking has had a great impact on language learning. It allows students from one country to connect and communicate with students from another. I have used Facebook extensively to chat with people in Germany, who are able to correct mistakes I make. Having contact with native speakers helped me a lot in learning a language, and I know other students have done the same thing with other languages.
The development of groups on facebook has meant that it is more acceptable to use in the classroom. Instead of having the instructor as a friend on facebook, it is now possible to create a group for the class, and posts can be made and commented on without being friends with everyone in the group. This allows students to keep their schoolwork separate from their social life.
Another site I have used a lot is imgur.com. On this site, people post images from around the internet and can comment on others. It is also possible to send private messages to other users. The majority of users are from the US, but there are numerous from the UK, Europe, Asia etc. If someone learning a particular language comes across a person from that country, they can communicate in the second language and possibly get help. Imgur claims to have a very supportive community, and in my experience it certainly is.
I was lucky for one of my classes, to be required to learn a new skill. I thought the best idea would be to learn a new language- so I chose Finnish. I decided to use memrise.com after doing a courseward review on the site, and this assignment allowed me to put into practice what I had done in the review.
The site focusses mainly on vocabulary learning, especially in the earlier stages of language learning. Later on the language gets more complex. The site goes through a number of techniques to help assist memorization. A few years ago, these were unavailable to language students but in my opinion, are much more useful than writing down words or making flash cards. They also provide an environment in which the learner can either work alone, with others, or compete with other students.
Another online reading and vocabulary tool is the use of multimedia glosses. In these, a student is able to look at a site in the target language, and if they dont understand a word they can simply click on it, and are provided with a detailed explanation of the word. In some cases the word is put in other contexts to also assist with comprehension. Online blogging sites are a good way of getting these resources. I haven't used these tools myself, but I can imagine they would be highly useful.
Traditionally, to be literate meant that you could read and write. But in today's ever developing world of technology it is becoming more and more necessary to be capable of using digital literacies. These include computer literacy, information literacy, and media literacy.
It's a well-known fact that young people are more capable at using technology- something I discovered first-hand while trying to teach my parents how to use computers and phones. Something that is straightforward and logical to me, is totally unknown to them. Being able to operate a computer or a smartphone is almost like learning another language in itself.
As far as second language acquisition goes, digital literacies would be more aimed at advanced language learners. Information literacy involves finding and evaluating information- for L2 learners this would be in the second language, a skill not yet accessible for beginners. The same goes for the media literacy, where the audience is also analysed. These skills are far beyond the capabilites of beginner and intermediate language learners.
Like Blake, I have also used Facebook to learn languages, possibly unintentionally. When I talk to friends in Germany, we have the option of talking in either English or German, and they much prefer when I speak German. I also keep in touch with other New Zealanders who went on the same exchange as I did, and we always speak in German. My friends in Germany have a similar music taste as me, and they often send me links to pages I might find interesting, or articles about bands I know. These pages are almost always in German, and I found my German was improving by reading them. If I came across a word or phrase I wasn't familiar with, it was easy enough to ask one of my friends what it meant.
Culture is an important part of every day society, although we don't usually notice it until we are immersed in a culture different to our own. Learning a language through a school or university means being exposed to a different culture, although it can be confusing. Through online exchanges, it is possible to learn about other cultures by chatting to people who live in other countries. Aspects of that culture that seemed confusing or odd at first, can be explained by someone who experiences that culture every day.
Having to explain things about one's own culture is also an important part of intercultural exchange, because things that were once taken for granted and considered 'normal' can be questioned, provided the student has an open mind and is willing to accept different perspectives and opinions.
I learnt German throughout school and some university. It is very difficult to set up online exchanges from New Zealand because of the time zone differences, language competence, and age gaps. However, while I was in school I went on exchange to Germany, living with a German family for 2 months. In those two months I learnt more about the culture than I had in the whole time I'd been learning at school. This exchange provided me with contacts in Germany, which meant that when I was at university I could talk to them outside of the classroom through Facebook or Skype, and they could help me with what I was doing, and I could help them as well.
These exchanges provided me with the opportunity to step back and look at my own culture, and compare it to the German culture I was learning about. I found that some things I thought were perfectly normal, were considered odd by the Germans.
8 Great iPad Apps to Create Flashcards for your Class ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning on Technology and language learning curated by Yuly Asencion (8 Great iPad Apps to Create Flashcards for your Class | @scoopit
This is quite an interesting article about using cellphones in the classroom. The author has some interesting ideas about how phones can be utilized to assist learning, which could be useful in some situations. As a personal opinion though, I wouldn't like to be using my phone for classwork. Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I prefer to keep my phone for contacting people outside of the classroom, and for non-school related things. It also assumes that everyone in the class will have access to a phone with the capacity to download material.
What I did find interesting about this article is that people are actually considering using cellphones in the classroom. While I was at highschool, cellphones went from being a novelty to a necessity, but if we were caught using them in class we were given an immediate detention. Even having a cellphone in class but not using it was enough to get into trouble with the teacher. It seems now teachers have realised they're not going to be able to stop cellphone use in classrooms, and are trying to figure out a way to make them part of the class. For me though, I'd prefer to have a separate phone for these kinds of activities, and keep my phone for everyday use.
This week I visited the Elementary French I course at http://oli.cmu.edu/, I thought I'd give a few insights on what I found. I assumed the role of the student in this case study, and having had no previous experience in French, thought I would find it quite difficult. However, the questions were easy to follow and had clear instructions. The first question required me to view a short video of two people having a short conversation in French, and then answer questions on what I heard. Althought the dialogue was spoken quickly, the questions were relatively easy to answer, being multiple choice. One problem I found with this technique, was that I would have difficulty replicating the situation without the guide of the video. I was able to identify what the people were saying, but not why they were saying what they did. When I got an answer wrong, I was given an explanation as to why it was wrong; but if it was right I didn't get an explanation as to why. Which means I could have gone through the whole course guessing the correct answer, and not actually learning anything.
I enjoyed using this site. The use of videos in my opinion, made it more appealing and I didn't get bored after the first few minutes, which is important for learning a new language. I think that if I really committed to learning French from this course, I would have no problems.