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The Relevance and Impact of Computer-Aided Language Learning in Teaching English

The Relevance and Impact of Computer-Aided Language Learning in Teaching English

Today’s technology-based society has a significant impact on how English is both experienced and taught. A great number of professionals spend a large part of their day on the Internet and interacting with all that it and ICT, in general, has to offer. Through it, they absorb information, generate knowledge and are both indirectly and directly educated and influenced. Computer-assisted language learning tools provide us with a vast number of resources that we can use both in the classroom when teaching collective language lessons or in a group and individual students assignments. I would like to elaborate on different aspects of Computer-Aided Language Learning (CALL), some of which were highlighted in the ITTT Business English unit.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Gloria H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Choice of Materials

One important aspect of CALL is the range of authentic and non-authentic materials available for teaching English. Over the past months, through the ITTT Business English course and 120-hour TEFL course, I’ve learned about a variety of useful materials for teaching English. It is easy to download newspaper and journal articles, media stories, and short stories – many of which are appropriate for creating lesson plans. The influence of online media is clear, impacting all age groups but especially professionals who have regular access to information and communications technology. Duolingo and Memrise, for example, are two of a wide range of programs available for download that use non-authentic materials and draw upon simple and effective methodological approaches to building language and grammar structure.

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Examples of the impact of media influence include instantaneous music streaming. As a native English-speaker who has resided abroad (in France) for over a decade, I am always struck by the omnipresence and influence of English in pop music culture, and how quickly and effortlessly its lyrics are memorized. Today with applications such as YouTube and Spotify, it is simple to download music, often for free. An additional impact is via applications that let foreign-speaking learners view North American and British series and films, such as Netflix. I recently saw an advertisement in a Parisian bus for an application that actually teaches English through viewing series and films – are they fictional or factual. With the option of subtitles and audio settings, users can develop and enhance their listening and reading skills. Other powerful tools for language learning are audiobook applications like Beelinguapp which are easy to download on computers or mobile telephones and enable foreign-speaking learners to hear engaging stories in the English language.

I also was pleased to discover how simple it is to find and download lesson templates and other online aides geared for specific contexts. In my brief professional experience as a teacher, I have helped native French speakers to prepare for job interviews, English examinations, and business school interviews. In order to prepare for these situations, I researched relevant, helpful and accessible questions while helping the learners refine and improve their answers through repeated questioning and role-play. We can easily download and access many materials that can help students progress in finding work, including cover letters, CV templates, and interview guidelines, etc.

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Networking

One element I find interesting is that some young professionals with whom I have worked are often more comfortable looking up materials online rather than researching hard-copy ones- in a library for example. This is probably linked to the fact that they can run quick word/term searches and access translation tools. Many research topics are easily accessible and work can be more rapidly prepared. Email and word processing have also become the most common type of formal exchange and communication both at work and in higher education. They let the learners work autonomously, use auto-correct settings, and let them feel free from external judgment, all of which are powerful incentives for learning. Interestingly, I have some friends who are keen to practice English and are initially more comfortable to communicate with me via email or text rather than to have a live conversation with me– perhaps because they feel less intimidated doing so.

Student-Centered Approach

One major reason that CALL is so effective is that it places the learner at the center of the process with a tool they are familiar with. There is, of course, the downside that the learner may simply copy material not reflecting on his/her language and grammar structure level. The teacher has to be conscious of this, orienting the learner to helpful sites and tools that develop language and thought, that have relevant and rooted content, and do this slowly and methodologically.

Last but not least, all of these computer-assisted tools – online or not- serve as incentives for teachers to become in-tune with the times and to develop lessons that are relevant and interesting, while rooted in a pedagogical framework. This is dependant upon teachers taking the time to use CALL in general to advance their professional development. All of the tools and materials highlighted above are easily available to teachers, and many forums exist where they can exchange on topics including good practice, helpful experiences, and challenges.

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