Computer Assisted Language Learning

The field of CALL involves the use of a computer in the language learning process. It aims to teach aspects of the language learning process through the medium of the computer. It can be (and have been) developed for the many parts of the language learning process. Some of the factors that determine the characteristics of any CALL program include the language taught, the language of instruction, the language writing system (both roman and non-roman character based), the level of the language to be taught (from absolute beginners to advanced), what is to be taught (grammar, informal conversation and pronunciation) and how it is to be taught.

The field of CALL uses many acronyms, they are:

1. CALL Computer Assisted Language Learning. It will be used as a general term throughout this chapter to cover all of the above, unless otherwise stated

2. CAI Computer Assisted Instruction. It refers to the use of the computer for instruction, regardless of what is being taught.

3. ICALL Intelligent Computer Assisted Language Learning. It refers to the integration of techniques from the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Computational Linguistics to enhance CALL applications.

4. CELL Computer Enhanced Language Learning. It effectively means the same thing as CALL.

5. TELL Technology Enhanced Language Learning. TELL is an acronym that is mainly used in North America that covers the same domain as CALL.

6. WELL Web Enhanced Language Learning. It refers specifically to the use of the web (or Internet) in the language learning process. It is more specific than CALL but as computer technology becomes more internet-focused, it will cover a greater part of the CALL domain.

CALL is interdisciplinary in nature. It draws on psychology, Second Language Acquisition (SLA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Computational Linguistics, Instructional Technology and Design and Human Computer Interaction (HCI). This makes CALL an interesting and challenging field – interesting because of the different perspectives available and challenging because of the vast quantity of knowledge available. CALL can be a tutor and tools.

A CALL tutor offers flexibility on several different levels, including access time, geographical location and learning pace. It must be reliable, as it is the primary (and sometimes only) learning source. The feedback must be timely, accurate and appropriate. Moreover, currently a tutor can only effectively deal with certain language skills. A CALL tool is designed to assist learning - it is part of a larger process. The tool does not have a methodology and the learner is in direct control. Examples of CALL tools include email, electronic dictionaries, concordancers, Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) and the word processor.

CALL materials share many of the characteristics of non-CALL material. Materials can either be authentic, produced locally or commercially. Another commonality is that there is often dissatisfaction with commercially produced materials. There are four different types of knowledge that are necessary for the development of CALL materials: theory of instructional design, theory of language teaching, theory of language learning and knowledge of applicability of technology. Theories of instructional design involve linking learning theories with the practice of building instructional systems. Theories of language teaching include behaviourist, explicit learning, comprehension-based, communicative and humanistic approaches. The field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) provides many of the theories of language learning. Knowledge of applicability of technology encompasses knowledge of the different types of technology available and their suitability for their intended process. This includes awareness of the alternatives available, their ease of application/implementation and their pedagogical appropriateness.

There are some benefits of CALL they are:

a. Learner Autonomy. With a CALL program, learners can work at their own pace. The learner can spend more time on those topics that are causing difficulty.

b. Privacy. Many learners are shy in a traditional classroom setting, not participating as much as they would like, for fear of making mistakes and being the object of ridicule. The computer offers a forum where learners can lose their self-consciousness.

c. Feedback. The computer can give feedback at the touch of a button. Thus, learners can test their knowledge and learn from their mistakes.

d. Motivation. CALL generally increases students’ levels of motivation.

e. Access to Information. CALL program has the potential to provide more information to the learner (via links to electronic dictionaries, more detailed screens and links to other sites)

f. Interactivity. The program can only pass from one section to another with the “consent” of the learner. Thus learners have to drive the program. Usually they have to use the target language in exercises within the program. They have plenty of opportunities to practise the language in a one-on-one situation.

g. Non-Traditional Features. The variety of exercises available helps to maintain the student’s interest. Audio and video are features possible in CALL that cannot be as smoothly integrated into the more traditional learning courses.

h. Repetition. Another benefit of CALL is the ability to repeatedly review information

There are also limitations of CALL to consider, they are:

a. Limited Availability of Resources, include time and money for development of CALL materials, finance to purchase computers and lack of teacher knowledge. Sometimes there is a mismatch between the CALL program and the users and/or the setting.

b. Anti-Social Behaviour means that Learners may get “wrapped-up” in the program and focus on learning the language in isolation.

c. Learning Content means that the problem with CALL programs is that sometimes misleading, oversimplified explanations are provided. Not only will this waste the students’ time, it will confuse them and will not meet their learning needs.

d. Underutilisation of Resources means that users may not make full use of the software

e. Ineffective Deployment means that CALL program can try to encompass as many different learning situations as possible, it will not be possible to cater for every situation.

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