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Page history last edited by gre_89@hotmail.it 9 years ago

Greta Pogliani

 

Introduction

 

The Internet has changed the process of communication and knowledge, specifically in ways in which we learn it. Today, the supply of guides and online courses on various topics is very rich. We are living in a social and cultural revolution which has evolved traditional learning and teaching methods, requiring different pedagogical methods. Online teaching and learning is being explored and researched in order to fully understand the perceptions of teachers and students, along with interactive and multimedia instructional materials.

 

The internet, in all its glory, has enabled us to learn new languages in a social and interactive way, outside the classroom and at our own convenience, allowing a means of practicingand playingwithfriendsand otherstudentsin a virtual space. Many websites allow communication between people around the world, creating true symbiotic relationships proving to be mutually beneficial. Online programs and CDs like Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur are attractive as they offer a means of learning a language in a convenient and relatively low cost way (Korikki, 2010, para2).

 

 

 

 

Learning, Evolved 

 

Years ago,language coursesappeared to beasubjectofstudy that was coldanddetached, almostmechanical. They consisted of a seriesof textsandexpressionsto be memorized, grammar and vocabulary torepeateddozensoftimesin ordertolearn thepronunciationof individualwords. The study was done mainly in class and at home alone, requiring concentration and near isolation in silence. Little opportunity to practice the language existed, and if it took place it was rare and only with the teacher. Today everything is different!

 

In recentyearsthere have beena numberofimportant changesthat have affectedteachingand learning. The internet offersa rich varietyofonlinecoursesin whichlearningiscarefullystructured, leavingspace andfreedomto usethematerialsavailable when convenient for us. Online courses are requiring professors and students to rethink their roles.

 

Haythornthwaite, Inglis, and a multitude of other researches over the last several years (as cited by Reid, 2009, Literature section, para1) rightfully noted that the offering of online courses is an ever changing field; teachers are still getting a feel for the medium and are coming to grips with some of the advantages and disadvantages of this new arena. Reid also cites a study conducted by David Jones in 1996, who found that courses on the internet were productive even then, “especially in cases where students were mature and comfortable with independent learning and computers”(Literature section, para1).

 

An obvious advantage to traditional classroom teaching methods is the instant and tangible “feel” of two or more people communicating with each other. However, Reid found a common upside to the online learning method included “the quality of interactions actually being better as more thought has been placed into responding, and students feel they are part of a broader community” (para2). In a study performed by Garrison and Arbaugh in 2007 (as cited by Ice, Kupezynski, Wiesenmayer, & Phillips, 2008, Introduction, para1), they concluded that community is crucial to achieving higher levels of learning.

 

 

 

The Internet and Multi-Ethnic Tools

 

There are many ways to improve the quality of foreign language learning, making us better able to meet the needs of today's world. More than ever, we are in contact with people from different cultures and speaking different languages. Still though, many people enter the world of business and higher education without adequate knowledge of a foreign language or culture. They are therefore limited in their aspirations and in their path of study and profession. Today, we can say that the knowledge of foreign languages ​​is considered as important as knowledge of information technology. There are many people who every day study and use the Internet in one or more foreign languages, and consequently has become important for the Internet to develop multi-ethnic tools. 

 

In 2004, search engines began providing various language supports. In 2007, Zhang and Lin (as cited in Chen & Bao, 2009, Introduction, para 3) “investigated multiple language support features in 21 search engines, and summarized the characteristics and functions of these search engines”. To nobody’s surprise, Google was identified as the leader in multiple language support. In May of 2007, Google launched its “Translated Search” in its Google Language Tools (http://www.google.com/language_tools), in addition to other language support services and tools. If we want to find anything on the Internet in another language, we can use this tool. Students studying or searching for information about a particular topic, journalists looking for foreign language newspapers, or travelers seeking for good review about a foreign city or country, all lives made easier using this Google mechanism.

 

 

 

Language Tools and Websites

 

The Internet has undoubtedly connected us to the world, changing the way some of us learn languages along the way. Or at least giving us more options to do so. This does not mean the difficulties of learning a language have been magically erased: “there is  no way to avoid the hard slog-through vocabulary lists and grammar rules. But the books, tapes and even CDs of yesteryear are being replaced by e-mail, video chats and social networks” (Wayner, 2010, para3). What the internet does offer, however, are fun and exciting new forums for people who want to practice languages. For example,  a free phone call via the forums run by Skype could enable you to talk with someone who wants to practice another language, where “the standard protocol is to spend half the time on one language and half the time with the other” (Wayner, para21).

 

Learning online is great for those a little leery of the classroom environment: “it takes away some of that anxiety about language learning that people can sometimes experience when they're in the classroom”, says Linda Parker, director of the Association for Language Learning (Lee, Virtual Learners section, para5).

 

 

 

Livemocha.com

 


 

Two years ago, before a month-long trip to the United States, I discovered Livemocha.com. I immediately thought it was great! Livemocha.com is an interesting web tool with a simple premise- help students to learn a foreign language online for free. It is a community of people with different interests, but working together with the common goal of learning another language. Its operation is very simple: follow online lessons created by qualified native speakers, complete the exercises and compare your results with other native speakers. You can create, as in any social network, a network of contacts, to talk and improve their written or spoken. It is interesting because our contacts become our classmates, teachers and students by integrating our expertise.

 

Sharedtalk.com

 

 

 

Sharetalk.com was a fantastic discovery! I am personally a member of this community and it is my favorite e-learning resource. I can communicate with students from around the world in a very simple way. I think the best way to continue learning a language is to practice it, and with Sharedtalk.com you can meet new friends, learn to speak and write, and share experiences and cultures. It is an online community of students engaged in learning foreign languages through voice chat, text chat or email, and is designed to encourage practice of a language.

 

Lingq.com

 

I discovered LingQ.com thanks to this project. It allows you to learn a foreign language by reading and listening at the same time. This is the basic principle of the Canadian website, created and directed by Steve Kaufmann.

 

As a member of LingQ.com, you can use audio and text to learn several foreign languages easily and cost-effectively. It is also possible to have tutors​​. LingQ.com also encourages you to make friends and exchange ideas in one or more languages.

 


 

Buusu.com

 

Busuu.com is a really interesting and fun service! It guarantees communication with people from different nationalities. In my opinion, Busuu.com is one of the most challenging websites. Being a member of bussu.com means a commitment to self-learning through different topics. It involves learning vocabulary, reading lessons, writing short texts that will be corrected by native speakers and chatting with native speakers. Busuu.com’s name comes from a Cameroonian language spoken today by only 8 people; the website’s name is meant to preserve its namesake. In fact, during the summer of 2010, busuu.com sent a camera crew in the remote village of Furu Awa, in the North West of Cameroon, and created a musical video sung by the real Busuu community. The video is now available on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLQK0Iebu5A

 


 

Video as a means of learning a foreign language online  

 

When you study a foreign language online, interactivity can really help! Also, if learning a foreign language is dictated by passion and hobbies, and not from educational and professional reasons, online video is a very useful tool for studying what we want to learn. However, in this context, remember a few rules: do not take it too seriously, have fun, and be careful because not all videos are valuable lessons. In fact, foreign language lessons for online video can reveal fun surprises. For example, some time ago I found an English lesson, narrated by a woman with an obvious and strong Italian accent.

 

Videos with educational content are equally as popular among the general population of internet users, and even more so for older adults. Roughly one in five internet users (22%) say they watch or download educational videos, and 3% do so on a typical day. This shows that learning a new language online can be accomplished through the use of posted web videos  (Madden, 2007, p.21))

 


 

Conclusion

 

Learning a foreign language can sometimes be boring and difficult. Many people are put off by the feeling that it would take a lifetime to learn all the words and grammar. Imagine looking at the ocean without knowing how to swim. The idea of learning a new language can be just as intimidating. Eric Taub from the NYTimes.com wrote “learning a language sometimes seems as difficult as dieting. The solution is to figure out how to stay interested after the novelty wears off… Online language programs have introduced crossword puzzles, interactive videos and other games to reward users for making progress” (para7).

 

References

 

*Chen, J., & Bao, Y. (2009, March 2). Cross-language search: The case of Google Language Tools. First Monday. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org

 

*Huffaker, D. (2011, April 2011). The impact of group attributes on communication activity and shared language in online communities. First Monday. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org

 

*Ice, P., Kupczynski, L., Wiesenmayer, R., & Phillips, P. (2008, November 3). Student perceptions of the effectiveness of group and individualized feedback in online courses. First Monday. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org

 

*Korkki, P. (2010, August 25). Foreign Language Courses, Brushing Up or Immersion. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

 

*Lee, D. (2010, September 17). 'Fair trade' solution to learning a new language. BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk

 

*Reid, S. (2009, March 2). Online courses and how they change the nature of class. First Monday. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org

 

*Taub, E. (2010, January 28). The web way to learn a language. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

 

*Wayner, P. (2010, July 28). Learning a Language From an Expert, on the Web. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

 

Pew Internet and American Study

 

*Madden, M (2007, July 25). Online video. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org

 

Websites

 

*Retrieved from http://www.livemocha.com/

 

*Retrieved from  http://www.sharedtalk.com/

 

*Retrieved from  http://www.lingQ.com/

 

*Retrieved from  http://www.busuu.com/

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