Computer Assisted Language Learning

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) is an approach to teaching and learning in which the computer and computer-based resources such as the Internet are used to present, reinforce and assess material to be learned and usually includes a substantial interactive element. It also includes the search for and the investigation of applications in language teaching and learning. [1] Except for self-study software, CALL is meant to supplement face-to-face language instruction, not replace it.

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) has been around in one form or another since the 1960’s but only became widely available to the general public since the early 1990’s. CMC comes in two forms: asynchronous (such as email and forums) and synchronous (such as text and voice chat). With these, learners can communicate in the target language with other real speakers cheaply, 24 hours a day. Learners can communicate one-on-one or one to many as well as share audio and video files. Because of all this, CMC has had the most impact on language teaching.

CALL and computational linguistics are separate but somewhat interdependent fields of study. The basic goal of computational linguistics is basically to “teach” computers to generate and comprehend grammatically-acceptable sentences… for purposes of translation and direct communication with computers where the computer understands and generates natural language. Computational linguistics takes the principles of theoretical linguistics with the aim of characterizing a language with computational applications in mind. ref name=”Tenhacken”>Ten Hacken, Pius (May 2003). "Computer-assisted language learning and the revolution in computational linguistics". Linguistik online 17. Retrieved on 2007-12-11.

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A number of pedagogical approaches have developed in the computer age, including the communicative and integrative/experimentative approaches outlined above in the History of CALL. Others include constructivism, whole language theory and sociocultural theory although they are not exclusively theories of language learning. With constructivism, students are active participants in a task in which they “construct” new knowledge based on experience in order to incorporate new ideas into their already-established schema of knowledge. Whole language theory postulates that language learning (either native or second language) moves from the whole to the part; rather than building sub-skills like grammar to lead toward higher abilities like reading comprehension, whole language insists the opposite is the way we really learn to use language. Students learn grammar and other sub-skills by making intelligent guesses bases on the input they have experienced. It also promotes that the four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) are interrelated.

What most of these approaches have in common is taking the central focus away from the teacher as conveyer of knowledge to giving students learning experiences that are as realistic as possible where they play a central role. Also, these approaches tend to emphasize fluency over accuracy to allow students to take risks in using more student-centered activities and to cooperate, rather than compete.

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Students, too, need to adjust their expectations of their participation in the class in order to use CALL effectively. Rather than passively absorbing information, learners must negotiate meaning and assimilate new information through interaction and collaboration with someone other than the teacher, be that person a classmate or someone outside of the classroom entirely.

“Authenticity” in language learning means the opportunity to interact in one or more of the four skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) by using or producing texts meant for an audience in the target language, not the classroom. With real communication acts, rather than teacher-contrived ones, students feel empowered and less afraid to contact others. Students believe the learn faster and better with computer-mediated communication.