ERIC Identifier: ED414770
Publication Date: 1997-12-00
Author: LeLoup, Jean - Ponterio, Robert
Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Internet Technologies for Authentic Language Learning
Experiences. ERIC Digest.
With the focus on language, communication, and culture in the national
standards for foreign language learning (1996), foreign language teachers are
continually searching for better ways of accessing authentic materials and
providing experiences that will improve their students' knowledge and skills in
these target areas. As the Internet transforms communication around the world,
it is natural that it should play a major role in the foreign language
The Internet enables computers throughout the world to communicate. To do
this, each computer must have its own Internet address, be connected to the net,
and be able to talk the same language, TCP/IP. Any kind of computer can be
networked in this way. Internet applications are computer programs that know how
to use the Internet to interact. Many Internet applications use a client/server
relationship where a client computer requests information from a server computer
that sends the requested files. Other applications use a peer-to-peer
relationship in which the computers exchange information in both directions.
These packets of information are sent from computer to computer, sometimes
passing through many intermediaries before arriving at their destination;
nevertheless, this process is usually extremely rapid. What matters to the
typical foreign language professional are not these technical details but the
software that enables communication over the Internet and how it can enhance the
classroom experience. The wide range of these programs (text, image, sound,
video, multimedia) makes them powerful additions to the foreign language
teacher's repertoire. This digest highlights a number of Internet applications
that can be used to enrich the foreign language classroom.
Email was in use before the Internet as we
know it today even existed and is probably the most commonly used Internet
application. With a single email account, foreign language teachers can
integrate email-based activities into their curriculum (LeLoup, 1997). For
example, international keypal projects that enable students to correspond with
native speakers of the target language are easily implemented where participants
have the necessary access, equipment, and foreign contacts (Knight, 1994;
Shelley, 1996). Distance learning is another curricular area where email is
being used (Ponterio, 1996).
Electronic discussion groups or "lists"
(sometimes referred to as "LISTSERVs") use email to provide a forum where people
of similar interests can participate in a professional dialog and share
resources. Hundreds of lists of interest to language teachers are available on
the Internet (see, for example,
http://alabanza.com/kabacoff/Inter-Links/listserv.html to search for scholarly
electronic lists). Some are service lists such as the LLTI (Language Learning
and Technology International) list, which distributes information about all
aspects of the technology used in language teaching; the IECC (Intercultural
E-Mail Classroom Connections, K-12) list, which provides a service for teachers
seeking partner classrooms for international and cross-cultural electronic mail
exchanges. Others are language specific and address topics as specific and
diverse as their membership warrants. FLTEACH, the Foreign Language Teaching
Forum, is a good example of a list that cuts across language lines to discuss
methodology, instructional innovation, professional articulation, and enhanced
student learning, among other topics. Participation in electronic discussion
lists can be a useful tool for professional development, particularly for
educators who are isolated geographically or within their districts from other
teachers of the same language (LeLoup & Ponterio, 1995a, 1995b).
When participating in discussions, certain rules and protocols (netiquette)
should be observed. Following list guidelines and learning how to accurately
express and gauge the tenor of a post or response (often by using smiley faces)
are very important skills in this faceless communications environment. In
addition, some lists are very active, and keeping up with the messages may be a
Several electronic journals target
foreign language professionals. Generally, these journals are free, are
published quarterly, and do not exist in paper form. There are a number of
reasons for publishing a journal electronically. First, by using electronic
communications technologies, electronic journals can reach a large and diverse
audience in a timely manner. Second, the hypermedia nature of Web-based journals
enables articles to include links to related background information located
elsewhere on the Web. Third, many of these journals have a technology focus, and
electronic dissemination illustrates many of the technologies treated in a given
issue. Of particular interest is "Language Learning & Technology
(LL&T)," which disseminates research on issues related to technology and
language education (http://polyglot.cal.msu.edu/llt). Another journal that deals
with timely topics in language education is "Teaching English as a Second or
Foreign Language: An Electronic Journal (TESL-EJ)" (http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/).
WORLD WIDE WEB
Although it is only one of the various
Internet applications, the Web browser may be the only one that many people
know. Thanks to its flexibility and integration of other services, the Web
represents the broadest and most powerful Internet application. Its defining
element is the hypertext link, which allows anything on one page to link to
something on any other page in the world. The multimedia nature of the Web and
the use of the Web page as an interface to other services have greatly expanded
the power of the Internet by making it possible to display information using a
combination of formats (Fidelman, 1996). This is essential for the delivery of
authentic materials in the form of texts, images, sound recordings, video clips,
and even virtual reality worlds. For some media formats, additional helper
applications or plug-ins must be downloaded and installed to enhance the Web
browser. In addition, sophisticated programming functions, such as CGI and
allow the student to work in interesting ways with the authentic materials found
on the page.
STREAMING AUDIO AND VIDEO
One way of connecting students
with native speakers and authentic materials is by using the technologies of
streaming audio and video, which virtually transport the target language
environment to the second language classroom without wasting time downloading
huge files. Students can hear live or pre-recorded broadcasts of music, news,
sports, and weather from countries around the world or watch the nightly news
from France or live TV from Chile transmitted to their computer in real-time.
This technology is in its infancy but is being developed and improved at a rapid
rate. An Internet search will keep the foreign language teacher up to date on
the latest free streaming media software that will place target language audio
and video files a click away.
A search engine is an on-line "private eye" that does detective work for the user. Search engines use keywords to find any
site (documents, files, Web pages) that contains those words. Some even
calculate a probability of the degree of relationship so the listing of hits is
presented in order from most to least likely to be what is sought. The Web is a
vast place, and trying to navigate it and locate desired information without
search engines would be a formidable task at best.
The Web has numerous search engines (e.g., Yahoo, Altavista, WWW Worm,
WebCrawler); many are language specific (e.g., Ole, Encuentrelo, Crawler.de
Suche, FOCUS Suche, Il ragno italiano, LOKACE, ECILA, SAPO). Each one performs a
little differently, so experimentation aids in the decision of which to employ
for a given search. It takes frequent practice to become adept at structuring
queries that generate optimal search results.
REMOTE ACCESS TO LIBRARIES AND DATABASES
catalogs, bibliographic resources, and other types of databases are available on
the Internet. Gopher, telnet, and the Web are all applications that enable users
to access these databases on their own computers. The ERIC database is one
example of an important resource accessible via the Web (http://ericir.syr.edu),
making it easy for teachers to locate Digests, Minibibs, and articles of
interest on-line. The system of Gopher menus is analogous to a virtual card
catalog (Krohl, 1993). All of these menus are connected, making up a vast
File transfer protocol (FTP) enables users to
move files between accounts on different computers wherever they might be, at
home and at the office or even in different cities, as long as both computers
have Internet addresses. The requirements are an FTP server running on a remote
machine and an FTP client running on the local machine. Requests are sent via
client software located on the desktop to a remote server located somewhere on
the Internet, which performs the service of returning the requested information.
The two major ways of using FTP are by moving files between computers on which
the user has accounts, or retrieving files from an anonymous FTP server that is
open to the public. This latter use is transparent in many instances; users are
often unaware that numerous files are downloaded from the Web via FTP.
CHAT, AUDIO, AND VIDEO COMMUNICATION
communication takes place via several different types of chat, audio, and video
communication programs. One such application is Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which
enables synchronous "conversation" among participants anywhere in the world.
Users enter a channel and "talk" by typing messages to all of the other people
on that channel; everything that is typed is seen instantly by everyone.
Hundreds of channels exist, with names usually reflecting the topics and
language discussed (e.g., francais). Private closed channels can also be created
for use in the classroom.
Audio and video communication programs, such as CUSeeMe and MS NetMeeting,
are other options for engaging foreign language students in synchronous
conversation. Users can talk directly to their interlocutor and, using the
proper software, even see and be seen by the person they are addressing. These
applications take a large amount of bandwidth and depend on a clear and direct
Internet connection; network traffic will also affect the results. Though only
in the initial phases of development, these new technologies are already
powerful and have the potential of making a tremendous impact on the ability of
students to communicate directly with native speakers in target language
In the end it is incumbent upon the foreign
language teacher to integrate these tools into the curriculum in a meaningful
way. Clearly, target language communication and cultures are well within reach
through current and emerging technologies, and information about using these
resources is readily available on-line. The intrepid and creative teacher will
venture into this virtual realm, find authentic resources, and use them to make
the second language classroom a marvelous place to learn.
Fidelman, C. G. (1996). A language
professional's guide to the World Wide Web. "CALICO Journal," 13;
Krohl, E. (1993). "The whole Internet: User's guide & catalog."
Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly & Associates.
Knight, S. (1994). Making authentic cultural and linguistic connections.
"Hispania," 77, 289-294.
LeLoup, J. W. (1997). But I only have e-mail--What can I do? "Learning
Languages," 2, 10-15.
LeLoup, J. W., & Ponterio, R. (1995a). Networking with foreign language
colleagues: Professional development on the Internet. Northeast Conference
Newsletter," 37, 6-10.
LeLoup, J. W., & Ponterio, R. (1995b). FLTEACH: Online professional
dialogue. In M. Warschauer (Ed.), "Virtual connections: Online activities &
projects for networking language learners" (pp.375-392). Honolulu: University of
Ponterio, R. (1996). "Internet resources for a French civilization course at
SUNY Cortland: A pilot project." NYSAFLT Annual Meeting Series, No. 11, 43-50.
Shelley, J.O. (1996). Minneapolis and Brittany: Children bridge geographical
and social differences through technology. "Learning Languages," 2, 3-11.
"Standards for foreign language learning: Preparing for the 21st century."
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