Computers have been used for teaching languages since the 1960s. With the invention of the personal computer, the PC, in the 1980s and subsequently the development of the World Wide Web or WWW, computer use in language learning has grown very quickly. Throughout the period there have been a number of discussions and debates regarding the benefits and barriers associated with its use, the use of technology in general in language learning, and the application of CALL in modern language pedagogy.
There are a number of barriers to the use of CALL in language learning: financial, availability of hardware and software, technical knowledge and acceptance of technology. Institutions and students alike may have problems affording the equipment and programs to effectively use or implement CALL. Even if the financial barriers are overcome, in many cases the learning may be taking place in remote regions where there is a question of availability of the hardware and software or a suitable environment to implement or use a computer in. Finally, even if the institution or student has the financial resource and the hardware and software is available, there still may be issues and barriers regarding the practical awareness and/or the acceptance of the technology for a successful implementation.
When an institution or student makes the commitment to implement or use a CALL system, there are several areas where that utilization has obvious benefits and quite possibly surpasses traditional teaching methodologies. In the early days of CALL, computers were used primarily as drill and practice tools. This is still true today and has proved effective. Computers were originally designed to perform repetitive tasks, which suits the drill and practice requirements ideally. The computer also has the advantage of not tiring or becoming frustrated with the drill and practice activity?s repetition.
Another benefit the use of CALL has is the use of hypermedia on a low end computer. The CALL software can deliver the desired material as text, audio, visual or any combination of the three. This modern way of presenting information and getting the students attention, keeps the learner interested and involved, and often contributes to a more productive learning environment. Through the use of more advanced technologies such as hypertext, links and the internet, the learners experience can be further customized and enhanced providing a more complete learning experience. Existing software has the capability of providing an image, audio pronunciation, usage information or additional information that often would not be practical or possible in a traditional classroom environment.
The history and development of modern computer technology has definitely established CALL as an effective and efficient tool in language learning. Call is firmly entrenched in today?s language learning arena and will be for the foreseeable future. However, there are several cautions to be observed and it is important to remember CALL is not a one stop solution. As raised by Garrett, ?the use of a computer does not constitute a method? but rather a ?medium in which a variety of methods, approaches, and pedagogical philosophies may be implemented.? References:
Computer-Assisted Language Learning:An Introduction by Mark Warschauer
Potential Benefits of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) at P?le Universitaire de Djibouti By: Cullen M. Church
Garrett, N. (1991). Technology in the service of language learning: Trends and issues. Modern Language Journal, 75(1), 74-101.
English Teachers&acute; Barriers to the Use of Computer-assisted Language Learning Kuang-wu Lee
Author: R.C. White
Date of post: 2006-08-24