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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2006

Автор: Ларина М.В.

It has been said that when the computer made its debut on the world scene, it was the greatest invention since man harnessed electricity. Today, several decades later, many people wonder how they ever managed without computers. This course paper that you are reading was prepared using them. Computers can retain information stored in their memory and retrieve it instantly. Ah, marvelous computers! How wonderful they are! What would the world do without them?

In modernized areas of the world, almost every aspect of people’s lives is affected in some way by computers. If you rely on retirement income, disability checks from government, tax and insurance refunds, or a host of other such payments, your receiving them is dependent on computers. If you are an employee, chances are that your payroll checks are computerized. Computers keep track of money deposited in banking institutions and the interest paid. They control countless devices in modern homes, such as those that generate electricity or purify water. They are a boon to doctors, clinics and hospitals in diagnosing health problems – and saving lives. Computers are used to monitor weather conditions and to keep airplanes from colliding in the air.

Recently, though, computers have become so widespread in schools and homes and their uses have expanded so dramatically that the majority of language teachers must now begin to think about the implications of computers for language learning.

What relationship do teachers and students have with computer? Can computer be assisted language learning and teaching? Does the computer have programs which help students to learn foreign language?


Computer - Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is an approach to language teaching and learning in which computer technology is used as an aid to the presentation, reinforcement and assessment of material to be learned, usually including a substantial interactive element.

Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) studies the role and the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in second/foreign language learning and teaching. It includes a wide range of activities spanning materials and courseware development, pedagogical practice and research.

Typical CALL programs present a stimulus to which the learner must respond. The stimulus may be presented in any combination of text, still images, sound, and motion video. The learner responds by typing at the keyboard, pointing and clicking with the mouse, or speaking into a microphone. The computer offers feedback, indicating whether the learner’s response is right or wrong and, in the more sophisticated CALL programs, attempting to analyse the learner’s response and to pinpoint errors. Branching to help and remedial activities is a common feature of CALL programs.

Facing this sudden deluge of CALL titles, students and teachers are likely to wonder: How effective are these programs? How worthwhile is it to spend time and money on them? How do we choose among so many offerings? Having invested much time and effort and come to the sobering realization that their labor of love may not have always worked miracles, CALL developers may also ask themselves: Have the initial promises of CALL been realized? How do we improve? Is there any untapped potential left in CALL?

There is no question that Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) has come of age. Computers have been a feature of teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) since the 1960s in higher education and since the early 1980s in secondary education. The rapid growth in the use of ICT in MFL in the 1980s led to the foundation of the two leading professional associations: CALICO (USA) in 1982 and EUROCALL (Europe) in 1986, both of which continue to thrive and now form part of the WorldCALL umbrella association.

Early CALL favoured an approach that drew heavily on practices associated with programmed instruction. This was reflected in the term Computer Assisted Language Instruction (CALI), which originated in the USA and was in common use until the early 1980s, when CALL became the dominant term. Throughout the 1980s CALL widened its scope, embracing the communicative approach and a range of new technologies, especially multimedia and communications technology. An alternative term to CALL emerged in the early 1990s, namely Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL), which was felt to provide a more accurate description of the activities which fall broadly within the range of CALL. The term TELL has not, however, gained as wide an acceptance as CALL.


For many years, foreign language teachers have used the computer to provide supplemental exercises. In recent years, advances in computer technology have motivated teachers to reassess the computer and consider it a valuable part of daily foreign language learning. Innovative software programs, authoring capabilities, compact disk technology, and elaborate computer networks are providing teachers with new methods of incorporating culture, grammar, and real language use in the classroom while students gain access to audio, visual, and textual information about the language and the culture of its speakers.


For many years, basic drill-and-practice software programs dominated the market in computer-assisted language learning. These programs focused on vocabulary or discrete grammar points. A vast array of drill-and-practice programs are still available; in addition, however, an increasing number of innovative and interactive programs is being developed. Simulation programs, while reinforcing grammar points, present students with real-life situations in which they learn about the culture of a country and the protocol for various situations. For example, the "Ticket" series by Bluelion Software and "Recuerdos de Madrid" from D.C. Heath are simulations that provide country-specific situations in a task-based format. "PC Globe" and encyclopedia-type programs are information programs that allow students to conduct research in the target language. Games such as the foreign language versions of "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" by Broderbund Software or "Trivial Pursuit" from Gessler publishers provide an entertaining environment for students to learn culture and the target language through problem-solving and competition. Writing assistants, like "Salsa" and "Systeme-D" aid students in writing compositions in the target language by providing help in grammar, style, and verb conjugation and use.


The greatest flexibility for teachers using CALL is in the area of authoring programs. Teachers can use these programs to create simple or elaborate software programs using their own materials. In this way, teachers are able to design the program to fit their own lesson plans. Authoring programs range from simple template programs to more complicated authoring languages. Template programs, such as "Choicemaster" and "Storyboard" from Eurocentres Software, provide teachers with the basic structure for a program into which they put their own exercises. "Dasher" by Conduit Software, and "Calis," developed at Duke University, provide more flexibility in creating exercises that allow teachers to work with screen design and different types of programs. Teachers have the most flexibility in program development and design in authoring systems such as "Toolbook," by Asymetrix, and "Hypercard," packaged with each Macintosh computer, which allow multimedia capabilities as well as less complicated authoring possibilities.


In addition to their individual programs, computers linked together in networks are expanding the way we teach and learn foreign languages. Local area networks (LAN) are computers linked together by cables in a classroom, lab, or building. They offer teachers a novel approach for creating new activities for students that provide more time and experience with the target language. Certain LAN setups allow students and teachers to correspond with each other via computer or to conduct collaborative writing activities in the target language. For example, LAN set-ups like the ENFI system at Gallaudet University provide an interactive mode of learning. Exercises on such a system enable students and teachers to communicate back and forth. Students can also engage in cooperative writing exercises, conversations in the target language, and problem-solving exercises. Teachers can observe students' activities and progress and make comments to individual students from a teacher station similar to that found in an audio lab.

Expanding the unique capabilities of the LAN, long distance networks--or computers linked together across long distances--facilitates communication with students throughout the country and abroad. Computers can communicate across thousands of miles via modems and phone lines using telecommunications software. Communication abroad allows for direct interaction with native speakers. For example, "Minitel," a French commercial network service available in the United States, allows students to correspond in French with native speakers in France.


Compact disk technology has many uses in foreign language education, including information retrieval, interactive audio, and interactive multimedia programs. The compact disk - read only memory (CD-ROM) allows huge amounts of information to be stored on one disk with quick access to the information. Publishers have put complete encyclopedias, which could fill more than a dozen floppy disks, on one compact disk (CD). Students and teachers can access information quickly and efficiently for use in and out of the classroom. In recent years, many foreign language computer programs have been put on compact disks, eliminating the need for many floppy disks.

A new dimension has been added to many of these programs - digitized sound. Compact disks that use digitized sound offer quick random access to information as well as superior sound quality. The Hyperglot company has put its programs on a CD that they call "Lingua ROM." This software has a program disk and various language disks that contain the digitized speech. With such programs, students are able to hear the pronunciation of a phrase, a word, or even a syllable or sound and then record their own voice following the example. The students can then listen to the original recording, as well as their own, and compare the two. They can record their own voices again and compare the two until they feel their pronunciation has improved or is correct. While digitized sound is far superior to tape recorded sound, the space needed to store digitized sound is relatively large. However, continuing advances in CD-ROM technology will alleviate the space limitations.

The most recent advance in CD technology is the development of the CD-I (compact disk - interactive). This technology includes digitized sound, compressed video, animation, and possibly text to create a multimedia platform for interactive programs. While this technology is still developing, the Phillips corporation has recently made the CD-I available on the commercial market. Because Sega Genesis has already put CD-I on the home video game market, the advent of CD-I educational technology has begun.

Strengths of Computer

Interactivity is a crucial strength of the new technology. The computer is interactive, first of all, by virtue of the fact that the user can gain control over learning and therefore becomes an active participant in the learning process. Interactivity also allows the instant feedback from the computer. The interactivity of the computer makes it especially suited for implementing learner-centered teaching methods.

Multimedia should be considered truly revolutionary for language pedagogy. The new technology really shines in its presentation of form and meaning. The sound and graphic capabilities of the computer not only have improved presentation; they have also made possible what conventional textbooks cannot do. Digitized audio has made possible the modeling of pronunciation. The teaching of characters' stroke order and direction has taken a giant step forward from the cumbersome representation on paper to the animated demonstration formerly achievable only with a human instructor. Still or animated graphics for illustrating meanings and speech production may both educate and entertain.

Random and rapid access allows the instant retrieval of vocabulary and grammar explanations. It also contributes to easy learner control and recycling of materials.

The computer's ability to store and manipulate data also makes it possible to keep scores, log errors and track learner performance.

The consistency and patience of the computer is not only crucial for learning by association and repeated exposure. Paradoxically, without the possible ill-effects of an over-bearing human teacher, the patient and interactive computer can provide a very user-friendly and learner-centered learning environment.

In addition to the above-mentioned general characteristics, digital speech technology in particular has enabled the graphic display of the relevant acoustic properties of speech such as amplitude, pitch level and frequency composition.


Some educators and syllabus designers must be very critical of software programs that they consider using in their teaching contexts. A program may look very good the first few times it is viewed, but dynamic, visual qualities are not sufficient to assure that it will be effective in teaching the target material. Users may quickly tire of the spinning characters, lights and whistles. The content and methodology of the program has to be the principal rationale in choosing a CALL program.


Technology has the potential to play a major role in foreign language learning and instruction. However, the development of this potential is in the early stages.

There is no doubt as to the growing global awareness of the importance of language skills and with that, international cooperation. Traditionally, computers have been used predominately in drill and practice exercises. They are in fact suited to this kind of programming and use. Computers are fast and they don’t get tired or frustrated with the repeated errors of learners. They are impartial, unbiased and they can store a copious amount of information and data. But computers are also able to provide context and background to a lesson in an interesting and stimulating way. The patient, interactive and powerful reinforcing abilities of a machine are well documented

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” This old, generally accepted saying exemplifies our trend toward becoming a visually oriented society. We have gone from reading newspapers, to listening to the radio, to watching television. Now computer technology allows us to combine the features of all three mediums in hypermedia. A simple PC can offer interactive, colorful, animated, audiovisual information to accompany lessons. The linking of these resources is a powerful tool. But more important to language studies than the pleasing images, is the computer’s ability to draw connections and make links between data.

Hypertext and the use of concordances are two tools which draw such links. They are less commonly found in commercial language learning software and yet may be very effective tools in the second language learning (SLL) process. Computers have the ability to deal with a user individually and efficiently. Students don’t have to wait for assistance from a teacher. They can study from any location where access is available and at any time. Such advantages may be one reason for the lower dropout rates, longer attention spans and successful, rapid learning related with CALL programs.

The benefits of CALL are many and varied and those who put computer technology to use in the service of good pedagogy will undoubtedly find ways to enrich their educational program and the learning opportunities of their students.


1. Esteras,S.R. 2003. English for computer users. Infotech: Third edition. Cambridge University.

2. Breland,H.M. 1996. Computer-assisted writing assessment: The politics of science versus the humanities. New-York: Modern Language Association of America.

3. Kassim Shaoban. October, 2003. Assessment of Young Learners. Forum. English Teaching.

4. US. News. May, 2003. Personal computer.

5. Laura Lorber. Spring/Summer 1999. Is Nothing Private? Managing Your Carreer.

6. History of CALL - http://www.history-of-call.org/

7. EUROCALL - http://www.eurocall-languages.org/

К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2006

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