4 ways technology enhances language learning


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4 ways technology enhances language learning

  1. 1. 4 Ways Technology Enhances Language Learning Theresa Dold on 12/6/10 digg In the past, language learners faced a considerable number of obstacles that were practically insurmountable without constant practice and contact with native speakers. Nowadays, insufficient classroom hours, weak context for language learning situations and the lack of authentic input are all becoming things of the past. Technology is constantly changing and enhancing the learning landscape, especially for motivated students and creative teachers who embrace its power. This article discusses four particular ways in which technology can be used to enhance L2 learning. Wordcloud created with Wordle 1. Increased Time on Task Question: If the average university student spends 240 hours in the language classroom over a four-year period, and the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State estimates that English speakers need 575-600 hours of study to achieve a low-advanced rating in a Category 1 language (i.e. Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch), what is missing? Answer: Approximately 360 hours of language instruction and exposure. For students of a Category 4 language such as Mandarin Chinese, 500 hours merely guides you to a mid-intermediate level. Needless to say, learners at every level of any language must spend more time practicing the L2. Technology provides a way to minimize common classroom limitations such as short class periods. For example, when the student/teacher ratio acts a limiting factor, technology can step in and lend students access to authentic language produced by native speakers of various origins. Videos, podcasts and other
  2. 2. media give students the option to rewind and review material over and over again. Mobile apps such as FlashCardz for iPhone allow students to become more autonomous learners outside the classroom and to capitalize on individual learning styles. Indeed, technology creates opportunities to spend increased amounts of time on language learning tasks. 2. Contextualization Today’s technologies – by imitating and constructing associations, sounds, sights and social settings – also provide L2 learners with language in context. When we are able to link a language to a context (to an experience), we have a better chance of recalling the linguistic information to which we were exposed. To this extent, multimedia serves the important purpose of combining everything from audio and video to static pictures and texts to create contextualized learning environments. E-mails, spreadsheets, and word processing are other examples of “contexts” that can and should be applied to language teaching because they help students form associations. 3. Authentic Chunks According to many experts, the best way to retain vocabulary in one’s L2 is to learn the small phrases, or chunks, in which native speakers often use the lexical item(s) of interest. Many classrooms focus too heavily on individual parts that ultimately become isolated from real speech. Technology, however, is able to compensate by making learners aware of the ways in which certain lexical and grammatical elements are grouped together. At Voxy, we try to draw learners’ attention to such chunks and collocations by highlighting them in our online texts. Image: Macmillan Dictionary Blog 4. Additional Input and Intake
  3. 3. Researchers have started to indicate that input – the exposure to both spoken and written samples of a language, whether comprehended or not – is no longer enough for students. This input, they say, must be converted into intake: the comprehended input that helps to further develop students’ linguistic systems. Technology provides a way not only to increase language input but also to enhance the process of converting input into intake. Imagine the process of gathering online information for an upcoming presentation. This process requires that one access, read and sift through large amounts of information (input) in order to choose what is most important. For language learners, it is precisely this process of consciously and purposefully filtering through large amounts of input that ensures the input-to-intake conversion. A simple worksheet assignment hardly has the same effect. For a more in-depth discussion of the ways in which technology enhances language learning, take a look at this comprehensive technology module for language teachers created by Dr. Orlando Kelm of the University of Texas at Austin.