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Volume 11 · Number 1 · May 1999


Janos Kohn: in memoriam 3

Introduction 5
Michael Goethals

On the politics of CALL 7
G Chesters

Du milieu favorable aux promesses des technologies de l’information

et de la communication 13
M Debrock

Four approaches to authoring CALL materials*

G Davies

The learner in the centre of world-wide learning: the promised land of ICT*
J Lowyck & J Elen

Why change authors into programmers? 19
P Bangs and L Shield

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: selected approaches 30

U Felix

Resistance to CALL: degrees of student reluctance to use CALL and ICT 38

J Gillespie and J McKee

*Available only via the EUROCALL website at

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 1


Internet-based activities for the ESL classroom 47

C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

Laying the foundations: designing a computing course for languages 58

C Jones

ICT and language skills: an integrated course 65

T Koet

A computer mediated curriculum in the EFL academic writing class 72

A Levine, O Ferenz and T Reves

Evolutionary Epistemology in language learning – possible implications

for CALL 80
C Maingard

Evolution des attitudes et des représentations dans l'apprentissage des

langues dans un environnement multimédia 93
J Rézeau

The ‘all-inclusive’ tutor – excluding learner autonomy? 111

M Ritter, C Kallenbach and J Pankhurst

From the developer to the learner: describing grammar -–learning grammar 117
M Schultze

How to offer real help to grammar learners 125

J Vanparys and L Baten

LEVERAGE – Reciprocal peer tutoring over broadband networks 133

J Wong and A Fauverge

President’s Report 143

Book Review
Virtual Language Learning: Finding the Gems Among the Pebbles 148

Software reviews
Español Interactivo. Método Camille 150
Colloquial Spanish CD-ROM 152
Business Territory 1 154

Diary 158

CTI Centre for Modern

Professor Graham Chesters
Centre Manager:
June Thompson
Information Officer: SPECIAL ISSUE
Jenny Parsons

CTI Centre for Modern

From Classroom Teaching
Languages, The Language
Institute, The University of Hull,
Hull HU6 7RX, UK.
to Worldwide Learning
Tel: +44 (01)482 466373/465872
Fax: +44 (01)482 473816. Selected papers from EUROCALL 98
Email: KU Leuven, Belgium, 9–12 September 1998

Subscription rates for 1999
Individual: £30.00
Corporate: £80.00
Commercial: £300.00
Further details from the above
J‡nos Kohn: in memoriam
ReCALL Journal It is with great regret that I have to inform EUROCALL mem-
Advertisement rates* bers that our colleague, János Kohn, passed away in March of
Full page: £150 this year. János, as many of you will remember, was a member
Half page: £100 of the EUROCALL Executive Committee and the organiser of
Quarter page: £70 EUROCALL 96 in Hungary. He was taken ill just over a year
Inserts: £150 (per thousand, ago and was diagnosed as having cancer. During the course of
single A4 sheet)
the EECALL Centre project for which János and I were jointly
(*reductions for EUROCALL members) responsible at Dániel Berzsenyi College, Szombathely,
1991–96, we developed a close working relationship, and I
© The CTI Centre for
came to regard János as a very good friend as well as a col-
Modern Languages,
University of Hull, UK league. János was an energetic and hard working man, always
able to overcome the problems that beset the project, espe-
cially in its early days when Hungary was still coming to terms
ISSN 0958-3440 with the rapidly changing circumstances after the borders were
opened in 1989. János had a mischievous sense of humour and
Journal Production
he loved to entertain the frequent visitors to the EECALL Cen-
Troubador Publishing Ltd tre. He was also a great scholar, a prolific writer and a profes-
PO Box 31, Market Harborough sional translator. Those of us who had the fortune to work in
Leics LE16 9RQ, UK the EECALL Centre and to attend the 1996 EUROCALL Con-
Tel: +44 (01)858 469898 ference will have fond memories of János Kohn, a brilliant
Fax: +44 (01)858 431649 organiser as well as a most entertaining host. He will be sadly
Email: troubador@
missed. Our sympathy is extended to all his family, especially
his wife Mária, and to all his colleagues in Hungary. The
Printed by: EUROCALL Executive Committee is considering various
Selwood Printing Ltd, West ways in which EUROCALL can commemorate János Kohn
Sussex, UK and further details will be announced in due course.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 3

16-18 September
Université de Franche-Comté
Besançon, France



If you have not already done so, please register soon!

Full details, programme, registration and accommodation

booking forms at

or contact

Michaël Goethals

This May issue is, as last year, an extended, was chosen to emphasise two aspects of the
special issue, offering a fine and varied selec- way language teaching is developing: from
tion of contributions to the annual EURO- the confinement of classroom walls to open
CALL Conference, this time in Leuven and access to the whole world, and from a teach-
Brussels in September 1998. Thus, being a ing perspective to an orientation on the learn-
Proceedings issue, it mirrors the success of ing process. “Not methodology – patterns of
the event and the richness of the ongoing teaching – but learning itself is experiencing a
development of the educational field of revolution. Managing information, managing
CALL, TELL and WELL, with its research, one's own training.” I wrote in my introduc-
software development and implementation in tion to the conference handbook.
teaching and learning practice. The papers in this issue are but a small part
The selection process was both difficult of what was offered to the participants: some
and delicate for the academic screening com- 120 contributions, in five types of presenta-
mittee, because even a double issue can only tion. There were keynote papers, paper ses-
contain some fifteen papers. A good number sions, show-and-tell sessions (pre-conference)
more were recommended for submission for a workshops, and posters: a good mix and a
future issue of this journal. So, the next meeting ground for research and practice.
issue(s) may well contain more interesting These Proceedings open with the two Sat-
papers from this conference. urday keynote papers. Both look ahead to the
EUROCALL 98 was held in Leuven, in the future, with comments and advice each in
Faculty of Arts of the Catholic University – their own way. For two more keynote talks the
with an afternoon in Brussels that focussed on reader is referred to the WWW, one as a short
local, regional, national and European policies survey, the other as a set of animated slides.
concerning ICT in language education. 8 Sep- The other contributions follow then in alpha-
tember was a full day of pre-conference work- betical order. The variety of topics is striking.
shops, with a plenary introduction by EURO- Although all submissions were screened inde-
CALL President Graham Davies on the day’s pendently, there appears to be very little topi-
theme of Authoring Programs. EUROCALL’s cal overlap.
Special Interest Group CAPITAL held its own The reader may taste a sample of this varia-
one-day workshop that day, as well. tion from the following list of words that
The Conference itself attracted 468 partici- emerge from a frequency count (with some
pants. Slightly more than half of them were clustering) of the words in the titles of all 120
local, Flemish participants. Large numbers, contributions offered at the conference (the
too, came from the UK, The Netherlands and numbers are their respective frequency values):
Germany, and smaller groups from 18 more
countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, 40 LEARNING, LEARNERS, LEARNER
Japan and the US. Just under half the partici- 33 LANGUAGES, LANGUAGE, TEACHING
pants were working in tertiary education, 11 TEACHERS, TEACHER
other large groups were secondary school 11 MULTIMEDIA
teachers, worked in adult education or were 10 WEB
courseware and software developers. About a 07 USING, USE
quarter of the participants were researchers. 07 BASED
The theme of the Conference proper, From 06 EDUCATIONAL, EDUCATION
Classroom Teaching to World-Wide Learning, 06 COMPUTING, COMPUTER

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 5


05 REALITY, REAL We thank our generous sponsors: the

05 NETWORKS, NETWORK Department of Education in the Belgian Min-
istry of the Flemish Community (and its Sec-
retary-General, Georges Monard); the VGC
04 INTERNET (the Flemish Community Commission) of the
04 COMMUNICATION Brussels Capital Region, especially in the per-
04 AUTHORING son of Petra Verreth; the sponsoring firms; the
03 TUTOR Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and its Fac-
03 TOOLS ulty of Arts; LINOV (the Leuven Institute for
New Ways of Teaching); Wvt-COTO (our
03 RESOURCE local CALL teacher workgroup within the
03 READING university’s in-service teacher training centre
03 PRACTICE Vliebergh-Sencie); Jan De Baere of the Talen-
03 MULTI centrum of the University of Ghent for his
03 LINE design and maintenance of the Conference
03 INTERACTIVE website. We owe much of the success of the
Conference to the faculty’s ICT support staff,
03 DEVELOPMENT to Lut Baten and her student helpers, to the
03 COURSE secretariat of both the faculty’s teacher train-
03 CENTRE ing unit and LINOV. Most especially I thank
03 AUTONOMY our Conference Manager, Luc Pauwels.
Finally, thank you all, speakers and partici-
The EUROCALL President’s Report, read to pants at this most challenging EUROCALL
the association’s AGM, concludes these Pro- 98.

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 7–12


On the politics of CALL

Graham Chesters
University of Hull, UK

This paper argues that CALL practitioners need to remain constantly aware of the political context in
which they operate, so that they can the better exploit opportunities to win funding, gain status for their
activities and generally succeed more often in the prime aim of enhancing the practice of language
learning. It seeks to situate EUROCALL’s own activity as an organisation at an important point of con-
vergence in the global context. It concludes with some quasi political advice both for individuals and for
the organisation as a whole.

Conferences serve to exchange knowledge, to we operate and which inevitably has the
create and sustain a community of practice. power to frustrate us. This wider picture can
They can be therapeutic too. They allow one be global, driven by great macro-forces which
to become absorbed in the disinterested plea- none of us can hope to influence directly: eco-
sure of academic debate. One can leave behind nomic, political, technological. But it also
the annoyance at a government (any govern- embraces the European microsystem and here
ment) that is not paying sufficient attention to we need not be so modest since the associa-
Education or giving enough funds. One can tion that joins the readers of this journal is not
forget for the moment the irritation that higher called EUROCALL for nothing. The larger
education academics persist in giving greater picture, with finer granularity, necessarily
prestige to research whilst seeing CALL as an enfolds each of our national systems, our insti-
ambiguous research discipline. Even the man- tutions, our sectors. I want to argue that
agement within your own institution seems EUROCALL as a body as well as EURO-
unaccountably not to value language learning CALL members as individuals should not, in
as much as you do – and is pressuring you to the enthusiasm of our pure, scholarly com-
recruit more students whilst simultaneously merce at the annual conference, assume that
giving you less money. And then there are the we are powerless to influence that larger pic-
colleagues even within language departments ture. We can. We can be more than passive
that question your enthusiasm for using com- recipients. But only if we begin to understand
puters... that picture.
But conferences ought also to engage with It would be ideal if all conference partici-
the politics of the very context within which pants, now returned to their institutions, did

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 7

On the politcs of CALL: G Chesters

not simply carry away from the annual confer- depends on the higher turbulences that can be
ence the bounty that comes from academic created and magnified in the stock markets of
exchange but also an enhanced determination the world. But, broadly speaking, it has
and awareness of ways in which the broader become a truism that an educated population is
policies within which we work can be influ- more useful to a nation than an uneducated
enced to the benefit of our discipline. one. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair famously
My argument begins by sketching the three said that the three key themes for his govern-
major force-fields that must define whatever ment would be Education, Education, Educa-
we do: tion. He had in mind not only the formal edu-
cation of children pre-University, of children
• Information and Communication pre-school but also those lifelong learners who
Technologies would need training and retraining, educating
• Teaching and Learning and re-educating, as they faced an employment
• Languages market which, it is estimated, would require
them to change their jobs four or five times
This much is obvious. Yet it is worthwhile to during a working life. Readers will have all
go further and attempt a rapid estimation of heard of virtual universities, corporate univer-
the weight, the power of these themes, their sities (e.g. British Aerospace in the UK),
individual relevance to our enterprise – and Microsoft University, universities of the Third
more particularly their convergence. Age, Children’s Universities, University for
Nobody is going to deny the accepted com- Industry. Learning is seen to be one of life’s
monplace that ICT will change, is changing, five central activities: entertainment/leisure,
has changed the world. The global information sex, family, work and learning. EUROCALL of
society is here. And despite its pervasiveness, it course properly concentrates on the last two
is still in its infancy in terms both of technolo- (although it would no doubt be immensely
gies and of applications. In a European context, more influential if it switched to the first two).
one has only to look at the Fifth Framework But at least we should feel mainstream. The
and the Telematics strand to realise the vast EUROCALL Policy document declares an
strategic scope, and the equally vast opportuni- unambiguous awareness of our need to address
ties for the CALL practitioner, developer and, the needs of teachers (at all levels) through
their close partner, the language engineer. The teacher training (whether initial or continuing
EUROCALL Policy Document – see the docu- professional development); it recognises the
ment printed on the inside of the back-cover of importance of learner styles, their necessary
this and other issues of ReCALL and adopted diversity given the universal model of learn-
by EUROCALL conferences over the last two ing, and issues of access.
years – naturally embraces information and The third grand theme is language. Dieter
communication technologies, stressing particu- Wolff (1997), in his keynote paper in Szom-
larly their potential as learning tools and a bathely in 1996 pointed to the re-awakened
gateway to huge classroom resources but also political interest in language within the Euro-
their capacity to create, support and enhance pean Community. The Treaty of Maastricht
collaboration between teachers, between learn- itself recognises the importance of linguistic
ers and between teachers and learners. diversity within the Union, the importance of
The second grand theme is teaching and multilingualism as a key target of the educa-
learning itself. Education is globally perceived tional systems. Wolff reflected that:
as the great economic driver, although there is
evidence that the relationship between educa- “There can be no doubt that the political inten-
tional qualifications and economic success is tions voiced in the Maastricht treaty and in other
not quite that simple. A great deal depends on official documents do not correspond to the
the nature of the education, the skills and cast everyday reality encountered in most of the
of mind of the learners; a great deal more states of the Union”.

On the politcs of CALL: G Chesters

Three years later, there is no cause to report a tional kudos attached to, say, History and Phi-
sea-change. Indeed, the expansion of the EU is losophy, or little of the professional power of
likely to make the realisation even more Medicine or Law or little of the direct political
intractable. But, at least, languages are present engagement of the Social Sciences.
in the political agenda. As they are for the G7 And, of course, language learning is only
whose pronouncements on a global language one aspect of language policy. We in EURO-
policy have had even less impact than those of CALL ought to reflect perhaps on the rela-
the EU. And one might suspect that the eco- tively limited boundaries of our self-defined
nomics of such a language policy might be remit. Let me illustrate. While I think it diffi-
more important than the cultural dynamics. cult to argue against EUROCALL as the con-
Some of you might remember Geoffrey vergence point of the three grand strands, this
Kingscott in Szombathely citing a Microsoft convergence of itself does not confer authority
speaker saying that when the firm had or influence. I expect that many readers will
localised its products (that is, translated and be familiar with a project or programme that
adapted the material instead of supplying only situates itself at the intersection of two of my
the American English version) sales tripled. strands, ICT and language: the EU’s Multilin-
EUROCALL’s Policy document nobly links gual Information Society. The application
its own objectives to the promotion of inter- areas include impressively: adaptive technol-
cultural awareness and mutual understanding. ogy (for disabled users), computer-aided
If one looks at the all-embracing nature of instruction, computer-aided and machine
our three grand themes and their undeniable translation, computer-aided language learning,
strategic importance not only for the develop- document indexing, document storage and
ment of Europe but of the world, then one retrieval, documentation authoring, electronic
might reasonably expect the confidence of the publishing, electronic dictionaries and the-
CALL community to be high, a sense that it is sauri, file format conversion, handwriting
riding with the swell. But is this so? recognition, hyphenation, language and
The great strategic sweeps I have just speech therapy, multilingual fonts, natural lan-
sketched do not carry in their wake an auto- guage understanding, natural language genera-
matic acceptance or a consequential, funded tion, natural language database interfaces, on-
plan to implement the strategies. ICTs are too line and text databases, optical character
easily seen as expensive, dysfunctional , dis- recognition, reference/encyclopaedic prod-
ruptive, causing more problems than they ucts, SGML, software localisation tools,
solve, promising more than they can deliver, in speech therapy, speech recognition, speech
thrall to the global marketeers; the Informa- synthesis, spelling checking, style and gram-
tion Society is a slogan, having about as much mar checking, telecommunications, terminol-
conviction as the prospect of the ‘paperless ogy management, text storage and retrieval,
office’. Teaching and learning is underfunded. text content analysis, voice-aided navigation,
Formal education can be too easily prey to word processing (monolingual and multilin-
political whim. Education, education, educa- gual)… and other areas.
tion is echoed by economies, economies, EUROCALL’s triple convergence, we need
economies. Too many in the higher education to understand, represents a narrowing – and
sector will counter the stress laid on learning that may be no bad thing. A niche strategy is
with a greater stress – and certainly a greater often the most sensible and the most realis-
prestige – laid on Research. able. I am not therefore challenging the very
Even language learning is all too often focus of our activities. But I am suggesting
seen as a discipline that is at a second level – that, just because we press three strategic but-
more to do with skills and accidents of birth tons, it does not mean to say that we have
than true intellectual challenge. In many insti- more influence than if we pressed two. While
tutions, the learning of language is functional that list is fresh in the reader’s mind, I also
or instrumental, possessing little of the tradi- want to make an ancillary point – which is to

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 9

On the politcs of CALL: G Chesters

say that the language engineers who drive the • the lack of clear institutional strategies to
above agenda are an extremely important, provide a framework for the development
even vital, set of colleagues whose goodwill of new technologies in teaching
and collaboration EUROCALL will need more • the strong resistance from both academic
and more. The Groningen Conference of and administrative staff to the use of tech-
Easter 1997 brought the two constituencies nology
together in an exemplary way which one • the problems predicting the true costs of
hopes will be taken as a model. such activities – which were often underes-
So if there is a gap between the higher timated.
strategic imperatives and our enthusiasms that
seem to push towards the same goal, between Apparently straightforward solutions, at least
concept and realisation, what can be done on paper, suggested themselves:
about it?
It goes without saying that, as individuals • develop an institutional strategy
and as a body, we can act as advocates for ICT, • increase staff development activities to
learning and languages. We can, as Geoffrey ensure that colleagues become aware of the
Kingscott suggested in 1996, lobby. But I want benefits
to propose that we need to do this with a • develop cost analyses of proposals for the
greater understanding of what issues might be use of new technologies.
involved and of who our allies might be. It is
important for example to understand that lying It is of course a great deal more complex than
between the high-level imperatives and our it seems to achieve any single one of these
departmental ambitions are intermediate bod- solutions, and each carries with it its own
ies, whether they be ministries, or our own timescale. Universities will differ, national
institutions (universities, colleges, schools, for university systems will differ – but there is a
example). It is on what can be done at the ring of general truth about an analysis that
institutional level that I wish to concentrate, claims that all universities and all systems are
for it is there that we might have most influ- in a state of flux and that, necessarily, we all
ence on policy. This implies a concentration find ourselves in a formative period (just as the
on the convergence of ICT and teaching/learn- Information Society itself is in the process of
ing. Language learning is again a subset or formation). In such periods, one can expect a
niche. tension between the innovators and the enter-
Some of the arguments and issues I will prise of senior managers on the one hand and
raise might have a particularly UK resonance the traditions of a departmental culture or dis-
but I choose only those which are capable of cipline on the other. While some of these ten-
greater generalisation; others will hopefully sions can be eased through staff development
have a Pan-European relevance. I am all the (although it risks sounding like indoctrination
more confident that this latter may be the case of the unwilling), some will disappear only
since I shall refer constantly to a document over time – as benefits are demonstrated by
issued in early 1998: Restructuring the Uni- the innovators. Certainly, these tensions exist
versity: New Technologies for Teaching and within UK language departments and readers
Learning published by the Association of from other countries will know if they are typ-
European Universities, or the Association des ical of other systems.
universités europénnes with the initials CRE It has been the task of the CTI Centre for
(formerly the Conference of European Vice- Modern Languages (CTICML) in Hull to
Chancellors). undertake discretely this drip-feed staff devel-
As a result of a survey across European opment in CALL since 1989 for the UK uni-
universities, it concluded that the three major versity system as a whole. It is a slow process.
obstacles to the full exploitation of ICT in Those language teachers who use CALL in
institutions are: their teaching are still in a minority.

On the politcs of CALL: G Chesters

How much quicker would the process have son to suppose that CALL practitioners may
been if the institutions themselves had in place be welcome as contributors to strategy and
a firm, clear and generally agreed strategy to policy-making.
promote ICT-enhanced learning? It is difficult What motivates strategy at an institutional
to measure but it is clear that the process level? The CRE document identifies four bases:
would have been quicker. The CTICML would
have been talking to a more confident con- • the pro-active: a university may perceive
stituency who, rather than feeling like isolated that learning technology may contribute to
enthusiasts engaging in a cottage industry, its positioning in the market-place (e.g.
would have seen themselves as fulfilling an distance learning gaining access to a new
institutional need and being recognised for market)
doing so. The CRE report points out some- • the reactive: students increasingly demand
what ruefully that university departmental learning technology, since that is what they
staff are not always given enough information are used to in other contexts; other univer-
to allow them to understand that the institution sities are doing it; some staff pressurise.
might have decided to give prime importance • the transformative: the institution sees that
to new learning technology. learner-centred approaches are becoming
more and more accepted (driven by peda-
“Senior management was rarely conscious of gogical principle rather than economics)
the extent to which the institution as a whole and seeks to transform the learning envi-
was unaware of its plans.” ronment
• the speculative: the institution imagines that
The issue then is not simply one of an institu- learning technology will improve the effi-
tion planning to give priority to new technolo- ciency and effectiveness of student learning.
gies in learning – but also one of communica-
tion. This lack of communication may be Readers will recognise all these syndromes
high-level incompetence (not, after all, and might even be able to map them against
unknown). Or there may be a curious sensitiv- the motives not just of the university but also
ity at work here. Institutions reported a reluc- of the language units from which they might
tance to adopt a top-down approach which come. In my experience, the first basis is
insisted that learning technology should pene- rarely the prime motive; it implies a level of
trate to all corners of the curriculum. On the market research and strategic planning that is
other hand, there are clearly risks in just wait- not commonly found. The second basis, if one
ing and hoping that change will happen. And, is talking about student-led and staff-led
equally, if change happens serendipitously at demand, is equally uncommon but is likely to
varying rates in different disciplines – and espe- become more widespread; on the other hand,
cially if change is funded from outside – then the fact that other universities are doing it is a
strategic control and harmonisation may powerful argument for any vice-chancellor.
become difficult. I suspect that language The third basis is the one that appeals most to
departments are at the forefront of such change, those with an interest in pedagogy. The fourth
largely because of the long tradition of using is paradoxically the one that unlocks most
technologies to help the language learning funds. My slightly world-weary advice would
process, and because European Union LIN- be to argue for the third, encourage a belief in
GUA funds have been made specifically avail- the second, be nimble enough to exploit the
able to drive the process. It should be in the first and positively promote the fourth even if
interest of EUROCALL generally if these early you don’t believe it entirely.
adopters were to make an impact within their In conclusion, let me be presumptuous and
own universities but beyond the confines of the try to give some pithy advice, both to individ-
discipline. Institutions need your experience. uals and to EUROCALL. To individuals, I
So as well as advocates, there is every rea- say:

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 11

On the politcs of CALL: G Chesters

• Be aware: it never does any harm to know • Seek alliances with similar organisations
more or less what you are doing and what (CALICO, CCALL, ATELL etc) and with
the context is in which you are doing it. the language engineering constituency
• Ignore dinosaurs: you will certainly meet • Always remember the CALL con-
dinosaurs on the route to the promised stituency and carry it with you.
land. You will not succeed in persuading
them. Go round and remember that, in
time, they became extinct. References
• Champion champions: don’t imagine that
all senior management colleagues are Kingscott G. (1997) ‘Europe’s future must be bilin-
obstructive. They too have their battles to gual’ in Kohn J., Rüschoff B. & Wolff D. (eds),
fight. Support them. New Horizons in CALL: Proceedings of EURO-
• Infiltrate: make sure that your voice is CALL 96,. Szombathely, Hungary: Berzsenyi
Dániel College, 3–14.
heard in the committees and that your
Wolff D. (1997) ‘Computers and New Technolo-
experience is seen to have general impor- gies: will they change language learning and
tance. Your own discipline will benefit teaching?’ in Kohn J., Rüschoff B. & Wolff D.
from this influence. (eds), op.cit., 65–82.
• Organise: pursue your goals by striking
alliances with colleagues from other disci- Graham Chesters is Professor of French at the
plines within your institution and with University of Hull in the UK. He is currently
CALL practitioners from outside your on secondment within the University as found-
institution. ing Director of the Institute for Learning. His
involvement with EUROCALL stems from its
To EUROCALL, I say: formal inception in 1993, a process in which
he played a leading role. He also directs the
• Articulate the issues for the community. Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for
• Lobby Modern Languages (CTICML), the adminis-
• Help institutions, national bodies, and trative headquarters of EUROCALL.
DGs at EU level Email:

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 13–18

Du milieu favorable aux promesses

des technologies de l’information et
de la communication

Mark Debrock
K.U.Leuven, Belgium

Dans le tout récent ouvrage New Technologies ordinateurs (EAO), moyens interactifs s’il en
for learning: contribution of ICT to innovation est. Non sans regret, j’ajouterais à ces
in education, les auteurs rapprochent les exemples l’échec qu’a connu l’utilisation
merveilles multimédiatiques du mythe de des laboratoires de langues, devenus
Sisyphe: accumulateurs de poussière dans beaucoup
“In the history of education the introduction of Les auteurs de New technologies for
any new technological tool was accompanied learning constatent également que, de
with high expectations regarding its innovating toute évidence, seule une minorité de
power for learning and instruction. After a period professeurs aussi bien que d’étudiants
of sporadic use, and some disappointment semblent demandeurs de nouveaux supports
about the obtained learning outcomes, the d’enseignement et d’apprentissage, et ceci
arrival of any new technological tool generated a pour de multiples raisons. Qu’on ne s’y
new set of expectations, limited use and result- méprenne: ces auteurs ne sont pas des
ing frustration. This is what we call the ‘Myth of cyberphobes, bien au contraire. L’ouvrage en
Sisyphus’, the king of Corinth condemned for question trouve son origine dans notre Institut
ever to roll his stone up a mountain in Hades des nouveaux moyens d’enseignement ici à
only to have it roll down again when he neared Louvain (LINOV), étroitement impliqué dans
the top.” (Dillemans, et al. 1998:41). l’organisation d’EUROCALL. Mais malgré la
moisson extrêmement riche qu’EUROCALL
Comme exemples, les auteurs rappellent non nous a apportée, la citation garde toute
seulement le sort qu’a connu dans sa valeur. Seuls les vendeurs de gadgets et
l’enseignement l’utilisation des supports les auteurs de didacticiels faciles, qui peuvent
unidirectionnels que sont la radio et la rapporter gros, fronceront les sourcils.
télévision, mais également les succès tout Seraient-ce les mêmes qui, autrefois, à
relatifs de celui de l’enseignement assisté par travers et contre tout se sont enrichis en

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 13

Du milieu favorable aux promesses des technologies: M Debrock

continuant à louer les avantages des valeur de la lenteur, du face-à-face et des

laboratoires de langues? Ceux qui réussissent savoir-faire traditionnels. Que peut devenir la
à trouver l’oreille des autorités politiques et société où la technologie de l’information et
autres en les convainquant de faire installer de la communication paraît aussi menaçante
des ordinateurs dans les écoles, le plus que l’extraordinaire progrès dans d’autres
et le plus vite possible. Les justifications sciences telle la génétique, où seule une élite
prospectives et prometteuses de l’introduction est capable de catégoriser, de faire le tri.
de nouveaux moyens d’enseignement sont Serait-il exagéré de prétendre qu’il faudra
rarement suivies d’évaluations rétrospectives, repenser bientôt la démocratie, l’école pour
il faut bien l’avouer. Bien que l’avertissement tous, où seront plus nombreux les
qui suit ait été lancé par Moreau en 1983 déjà, analphabètes malgré eux que ceux qui savent
il garde incontestablement toute sa valeur: ce qu’il est permis d’ignorer? Serait-il naïf de
voir se pointer déjà une nouvelle trahison des
“Quand le Ministre de l’Industrie et celui de clercs?
l’Education ont uni leurs efforts, il y a deux ou Un colloque comme EUROCALL
trois ans, pour développer l’EAO, l’enjeu est constitue un signal à ce sujet. Heureusement,
apparu clairement et, sur le plan industriel, il est nous avons tous pu constater ces jours-ci
infiniment plus important que les précédentes combien “les clercs” savent à la fois les
tentatives. Ne soyons pas ironiques à bon dangers et les possibilités. Nouvelle boîte de
marché: que l’éducation représente dans tous Pandore? N’oublions pas qu’elle ne s’est
les pays un énorme marché captif, c’est une jamais refermée, qu’il y est resté l’espérance
réalité économique incontestable; que l’on de l’homme qui veut vaincre. Concrètement,
souhaite utiliser ce marché captif pour lancer ce discours-programme permet d’identifier
une industrie nationale n’a rien de choquant… trois problèmes.
Mais il est certain que nous ne pouvons nous Nous savons, d’abord, que les multimédias
contenter de cet enjeu, et qu’il ne suffit pas à coûtent cher et ne diminueront en aucun cas le
fonder une didactique”. coût de l’enseignement. Nous sommes
conscients, par ailleurs, qu’un marché presque
Le marché captif, réservé donc à un petit illimité s’ouvre d’une part pour les maisons
nombre de fournisseurs, qu’a pu être il y a une d’édition toujours à l’affût de nouveaux
quinzaine d’années le marché des ordinateurs, créneaux, d’autre part pour les fournisseurs
des didacticiels, a bel et bien éclaté. d’ordinateurs qui mieux que quiconque
L’ordinateur est devenu aussi puissamment connaissent la courte durée réservée à l’emploi
omniprésent que riche en possibilités et nul ne de la machine dans ce secteur, toujours
peut prétendre soupçonner déjà la façon dont il dépassée au moment même où elle est vendue.
marquera l’existence des générations à venir. La puissance des microprocesseurs double
Le temps où l’on pouvait garder prudemment tous les 18 mois à prix égal. Cette réalité ne
ses distances par rapport aux Technologies de peut manquer de faire peur aux instances
l’Information et de la Communication dans la publiques qui se doivent d’investir.
société en général, dans l’enseignement en Nous savons, ensuite, que l’EAO ne
particulier est révolu. L’information de toute s’improvise pas. La mise au point d’un bon
sorte nous arrive avec une force, une violence programme qui tient compte à la fois de
d’un raz de marée. La multiplication de l’apprenant et de l’enseignement demande,
nouveaux médias, le phénomène Internet qui toute proportion gardée, de la part des auteurs
n’en est qu’à ses premières incursions dans la un investissement nettement plus important
vie de tous les jours appellent déjà des que celui que demande la rédaction du manuel
réactions comme celles qu’on peut lire dans classique. Les initiatives individuelles,
Où vont les autoroutes de l’information? précieuses et intéressantes, comme nous
(Guillaume et al. 1997) qui étudient des voies avons pu le constater ces jours-ci doivent
de traverse en rappelant et en réhabilitant la incontestablement être encouragées. Mais il

Du milieu favorable aux promesses des technologies: M Debrock

est d’ores et déjà évident qu’elles ne Nous savons enfin, et cela a été dit et redit,
permettront jamais de couvrir des entités que les enseignants -et je m’en voudrais de ne
d’une certaine envergure. pas inclure dans cette notion les parents et la
On sait l’énorme investissement qu’il y a famille en rappelant combien mal a été résolu
eu en 1995 aux Pays-Bas où un budget de 500 le problème vieux de presque un demi-siècle
millions de Florins a été constitué afin de de l’interaction avec la télévision-, devront
provoquer pour ainsi dire des projets où accepter de découvrir la possibilité de s’initier
collaborent plusieurs écoles professionnelles aux multimédias. Il ne faudrait pas s’y
supérieures et universités. En Flandre, nous tromper: des sessions d’initiation s’imposent
avons pu saluer l’initiative plus modeste et non pas afin de remédier à l’ignorance crasse
allant dans le même sens, lancée par le de l’analphabète qui, au mieux, se sert de son
Ministre pour l’Enseignement de la ordinateur comme d’une machine à écrire
Communauté flamande qui, en 1997, a prévu améliorée: à partir de l’an deux mille, les
un budget de 40 millions de Francs belges, instances publiques, soucieuses de la qualité
soit environ 2,2 millions de Florins. Ce budget de l’enseignement, devraient pour ainsi dire
a été renouvelé en 1998 et nous venons refuser le diplôme d’un étudiant terminant un
d’apprendre qu’il sera doublé en 1999. cycle d’études supérieures qui n’aurait jamais
Chaque année, depuis 1996, notre université a eu l’occasion de se familiariser avec un
débloqué un budget sensiblement identique ordinateur et devraient retirer leurs subsides à
avec un même objectif. Cela doit être l’Institut où cela se produit. L’initiative dont
également le cas, je pense et j’espère, dans la nous parlons est celle où l’enseignant trouve
plupart des autres universités. Ces budgets, l’information indispensable pour repenser ses
acquis parfois de haute lutte, les besoins stratégies et sa créativité en fonction des
existants ne diminuant pas pour autant, sont nouvelles possibilités éducationnelles
indispensables et toujours insuffisants pour qu’annoncent les multimédias. Cet objectif-là
permettre l’élaboration de projets où dépasse infiniment celui de l’initiation aux
interviennent non seulement la recherche, nouveaux moyens techniques. Les barrières
mais également le développement et psychologiques sont autrement plus
l’implémentation. Et de plus en plus s’impose complexes et plus délicates. Plutôt rares sont
l’évidence de rassembler, de constituer des actuellement les ouvrages qui préparent
équipes de chercheurs venant de différents l’enseignant à changer le fusil d’épaule. C’est
instituts afin de mieux faire face aux nouvelles pourquoi je prends plaisir à mentionner ici le
exigences sans saupoudrage des moyens tout récent et excellent ouvrage de K. Van
financiers. Rompaey, dans notre série Cahiers de
Plus important cependant que ce problème didactique où sont présentés l’intérêt, les
de budgets est celui de la qualité des produits. possibilités et la richesse de l’exploitation
Nous sommes conscients de ce que d’Internet pour les classes de langues
l’enseignement assisté par ordinateur, modernes, l’auteur cherchant à tenir compte
devenant par ailleurs de plus en plus interactif des objectifs des programmes d’étude pour les
plutôt qu’assisté, peut apporter à l’apprenant cours de langues modernes dans
individuel. Mais nous savons également que l’Enseignement secondaire de la Communauté
cela ne peut se faire qu’à condition que flamande en les rapprochant des possibilités
s’opère un changement de mentalité qui tienne des multimédias. Ici encore les instances
compte de l’indépendance évolutive de publiques doivent se rendre compte de l’appui
l’apprenant et, plus encore, de celle de qu’on attend d’eux pour la mise en oeuvre
l’enseignant individuel. Ici encore nous avons d’un réseau de formation de formateurs,
besoin du soutien des instances publiques qui réseau qui ne peut que profiter d’une
doivent être informées le mieux possible de la extension qui dépasserait les frontières.
dimension du problème qui ne peut trouver de Il n’entre pas dans les limites de notre
solution qu’en dialogue. contribution d’entrer plus avant dans les

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 15

Du milieu favorable aux promesses des technologies: M Debrock

décisions à prendre par rapport au défi La réalité du “locuteur” mériterait d’être

énorme que présente pour les années à mieux identifiée. Si Goosse entend par
venir l’exploitation des multimédias dans locuteur celui qui émet – j’allais dire qui
l’enseignement. Nous recommandons avec prépare – un texte qui répond aux exigences de
beaucoup d’insistance l’ouvrage cité plus haut la grammaticalité, il a sans nul doute
et qui sans nul doute fera date, sur les New pleinement raison. Mais ce n’est pas ce que
Technologies of Learning, en particulier nous faisons lorsque nous parlons, lorsque
les conclusions de la 3e partie sur les nous communiquons. Dans une approche
scénarios d’implémentation où sont abordés cognitive, l’étude et l’apprentissage d’une
les conditions nécessaires, les règles d’action langue étrangère qui tiennent compte de la
de base, les défis et les opportunités, réalité de la langue parlée doivent dépasser le
suivis par des réflexions générales et des niveau de la norme à reproduire. C’est
recommandations. pourquoi nous ne pouvons être d’accord avec
Voilà donc trois préoccupations que nous Chomsky qui dans un texte tout récent, à
devons rappeler aux autorités, où que nous savoir la Préface à l’excellent ouvrage de
soyons. Mais il y a autre chose et c’est tout Pollock: Langage et cognition (1997:XVI)
aussi important. semble dire que l’enseignement d’une langue
On comprendra qu’étant donné l’objectif seconde peut se contenter d’une description
général de l’ouvrage cité, on n’y trouvera pas superficielle:
de volet visant particulièrement l’une ou
l’autre discipline scientifique, comme celle qui “(...) les grammaires et dictionnaires tradition-
sous-tend l’enseignement des langues, à savoir nels les plus complets n’effleurent que la surface
la linguistique. Or, dans la mesure même où des choses et donnent des renseignements
ces dernières années l’enseignement des dont ne peut tirer profit qu’un lecteur disposant
langues modernes s’est orienté vers la de toutes les ressources de la faculté de lan-
communication, de nouvelles exigences se gage; ils supposent connus les propriétés et
sont manifestées quant au support de la principes de l’organe du langage qui ne sont ni
linguistique. Avant, ces exigences étaient par identifiés ni formulés. Cela est tout à fait légitime
ailleurs souvent trop simplement réduites pour si l’on a pour but de faciliter l’apprentissage
les besoins de la cause à ce qu’on pouvait d’une seconde langue, de donner des ren-
trouver dans la grammaire normative. Or seignements sur le sens et la prononciation de
celle-ci a presque exclusivement comme mots inconnus ou de fournir une vision globale
objectif la description de la langue écrite et se des propriétés qui distinguent une langue d’une
contente de formuler le plus clairement autre (nous soulignons)”.
possible les règles qui permettent pour ainsi
dire la reproduction correcte du code écrit tel Tout porte à croire que le célèbre linguiste
que celui-ci se rencontre chez les qu’est Chomsky n’a jamais connu le plaisir de
“bons auteurs”. L’objectif de l’ouvrage pouvoir enseigner une seconde langue dans
incomparablement riche qu’est pour le une situation interactive à un niveau avancé ou
français Le Bon Usage, est instructif à cet même intermédiaire. Se servir uniquement de
égard: grammaires et de dictionnaires qui n’effleurent
que la surface des choses, n’est-ce pas
“(...) fournir une description du français moderne précisément le danger qui guette certains
aussi complète que possible; apporter des juge- auteurs de didacticiels, même à un niveau
ments normatifs fondés sur l’observation de avancé? Une telle approche peut effectivement
l’usage, des usages; permettre aux locuteurs et suffire lorsqu’on élabore un didacticiel qui
aux scripteurs de choisir le tour qui convient le concerne la langue écrite, ce que nous avons
mieux à l’expression de leur pensée et à la situ- fait nous-même il y a une dizaine année dans
ation dans laquelle ils se trouvent.” (Goosse Zéro faute où l’accord du participe passé est
1993) abordé sur toutes ses coutures. L’objectif d’un

Du milieu favorable aux promesses des technologies: M Debrock

tel didacticiel est de mettre en place des Pour ceux qui cherchent à dépasser
connaissances qui supposent la capacité de une approche purement spéculative
savoir reconstituer des éléments appris sans y en linguistique, en l’enrichissant d’une
apporter de transformation significative, de vérification systématique à partir de données
reproduire le plus fidèlement possible ce qui empiriques, comme l’a fait Maurice Gross
est enseigné. Une approche cognitive depuis trois décennies déjà, les grands corpus
demande une réflexion critique et autonome peuvent constituer l’instrument par
aboutissant à une compétence qui inclut des excellence. Les tenants du modèle lexique-
aptitudes à conceptualiser et des aptitudes grammaire tel qu’il a été développé en France
méthodologiques conduisant à un savoir-être par Gross et son équipe, peuvent y trouver
où l’interrogation critique sur ce qui est une vérification ultime où la fréquence entre
proposé devient une deuxième nature. Le fait en ligne de compte. Le modèle en question a
d’aborder la langue parlée dans sa réalité fini par supprimer la priorité de la grammaire
toujours fort éloignée de la norme qui sur le lexique. Comme l’écrit Lamiroy
caractérise le code écrit, constitue une (1998:11):
stratégie excellente pour atteindre cet objectif.
Le code oral, lui, a été relativement peu étudié, “(...) la suprématie de la grammaire, considérée
pour des raisons évidentes: presque depuis Bloomfield comme la composante par
insaisissable dans sa réalité, il faut s’astreindre excellence des régularités, au détriment du lex-
au travail très onéreux de la transcription ique, traditionnellement considéré comme le
minutieuse, où une minute d’enregistrement locus de l’irrégulier, se voit abolie. Les travaux
demande environ une heure de transcription. du lexique-grammaire ont précisément montré
Un travail de transcription d’une envergure que des règles relevant de la grammaire sco-
assez importante a été entrepris dans notre laire aussi élémentaires que la règle du passif,
Département de linguistique: le corpus par exemple, sont bien moins ‘régulières’ qu’il
ELICOP (Etude linguistique de la n’y paraît à première vue, précisément à cause
communication parlée) qui ne cesse d’être de la variation lexicale à laquelle elles sont
enrichi et présente actuellement une soumises”.
transcription automatisée d’environ 40 heures
(428.000 mots). Ce corpus est mis à la Ceci n’est pas sans rappeler ce qui a été dit
disposition des chercheurs sur Internet plus haut au sujet de Chomsky: il peut être
( et dangereux de s’en tenir à des descriptions
c’est à ceci que je voulais en arriver: il me élémentaires et superficielles. En creusant tant
semble que l’échange de banques de données soit peu dans une approche cognitive et, du
utiles et leur accès devraient être facilités dans point de vue de l’enseignement, interactive,
le monde des chercheurs. Ce qui a pu être certaines règles élémentaires, l’enseignant
constitué le plus souvent grâce à des fonds d’une seconde langue rencontre rapidement le
publiques ne peut être considéré comme le risque d’être pris à court. En réalité, il n’en a
bien de chercheurs individuels. En faisant jamais été autrement. Mais vu l’envergure de
appel aux instances publiques pour trouver les la tâche par définition multidisciplinaire qui
fonds nécessaires afin de permettre la mise en est imposée aux chercheurs en didactique des
chantier de grands corpus, celles-ci devraient langues, il est compréhensible que certains ont
avoir la garantie que les résultats profiteront à dû parfois se contenter d’approches moins
d’autres chercheurs d’une part, à tous ceux et fondées.
notamment aux enseignants de langues qui En conclusion à ce discours-programme, je
savent le parti qu’ils peuvent en tirer, de ne peux faire que constater que le milieu
l’autre. favorable pour que les nouvelles technologies
Une étude valable de ces corpus demande de l’information et de la communication
évidemment que l’on soit averti des puissent tenir les riches promesses supposent
recherches au niveau de la linguistique même. tout un programme. Il faudra en appeler

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 17

Du milieu favorable aux promesses des technologies: M Debrock

d’abord à la responsabilité et aux initiatives remplir un coeur d’homme. Il faut imaginer

des instances publiques pour que d’une part, Sisyphe heureux.”
les investissements indispensables en
machines puissent trouver l’encouragement et Je souhaite ardemment que ceux qui se
l’appui indispensables tout comme les rencontreront à Besançon, l’année prochaine soient
conditions matérielles et instructionnelles pour tous, hommes et femmes, des Sisyphes heureux.
repenser leurs stratégies d’enseignement dans
ce que l’on pourrait appeler le biotope
fondamentalement bouleversé du milieu Bibliographie
institutionnel qu’est l’école au sens large du
mot. C’est dire qu’il faudra que le changement Debrock M. & Verstraete H. (1989) Zéro Faute
de mentalité attendu implique également les L’accord du participe passé, 1 manuel, 3 dis-
parents. quettes, TNT, Villeneuve d’Ascq.
Debrock M., Mertens P., Truyen F. & Brosens V.
Dans la mesure où l’on voudra atteindre un
certain niveau – et ceci en dehors du parti que http:/
des enseignants isolés peuvent tirer de ce qui Dillemans R., Lowyck J., van der Perre G., Claeys
est déjà à leur disposition, une collaboration C. & Elen J. (1998) New technologies for learn-
suffisamment étroite entre les instituts ing: contribution of ICT to innovation in educa-
s’impose. Le coût des programmes de qualité tion, Leuven.
est par trop élevé pour qu’on puisse se Goosse A. (1993) Le bon usage, 13e éd., Paris,
permettre de réinventer un peu partout la roue. LLN.
Ce coût élevé s’explique également par les Guillaume M. (1997) Où vont les autoroutes de
besoins de la recherche interdisciplinaire. Ce l’information?, Paris.
ne sera pas le silence mais le dialogue qui sera Lamiroy B. (1998) “Le lexique-grammaire. Essai
de synthèse”, n° spécial de Travaux de Linguis-
d’or. Il est bien évident que les technologies de
tique, 37, 7–23.
la communication pourront y contribuer Moreau P.(1983) “Les enjeux de l’informatique
directement. Illusions et mythes que tout cela? dans l’enseignement”, Les langues modernes,
Nous ne pouvons ni ne voulons l’accepter. 27 (1), 9–10.
Mais nous nous rendons pleinement compte Pollock J.-Y. (1997) Langage et cognition. Intro-
que la tâche ne sera pas simple. Mythe de duction au programme minimaliste de la gram-
Sisyphe? Eternel recommencement? Je me maire générative, Paris.
plais à rappeler les deux dernières phrases Van Rompaey K. (1998) Internet voor de moderne ta-
d’Albert Camus dans Le mythe de Sisyphe: lenklas, Coll. Cahiers voor Didactiek, 2, Leuven.

“La lutte elle-même vers les sommets suffit à

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 19–29


Why change authors into


Paul Bangs* and Lesley Shield†

*University College London & The Open University, †The Open University, UK

Experience in developing multimedia programs has found that reliance on commercial developers does
not always produce suitable material in terms of pedagogic quality, whereas training content writers as
programmers is costly. This paper examines attempts to solve this and illustrates important recent initia-
tives. The Open University is developing flexible activity-type shells which are content independent. This
is matched by an object-oriented approach to the program itself for maximum re-usability. The MALTED
project addresses the problem by providing sophisticated authoring tools, but also sets up an asset base
to make available re-usable language resources, helping to avoid re-invention of too many wheels.

Introduction sound, adaptable for particular end user needs,

cover minority languages, offer a range of lev-
This paper deals with one of the most pressing els, cover special purposes, especially for
problems today confronting tutors wishing to business and industry, and, finally, (though not
develop technology enhanced learning materi- exhaustively), utilise to an appropriate extent
als. How can the required range of materials the new technologies to full advantage.
(level, language, target group) be produced Attempts to solve this deficit problem have
when commercial developers see no cost ben- been only partially successful. Commercial
efits? And if tutors are to produce materials publishers are very willing to ensure the acad-
themselves, how to do this without massive emic credibility of materials on offer, and
training overheads as programmers, and with- often collaborate with educational institutions.
out sacrificing pedagogical considerations for However, the marketing imperative inevitably
ease and low cost of production? dominates the situation, leading to a concen-
It is worth reminding ourselves of the fun- tration on mass market potential – lower lev-
damental starting point, that there exists an els, domestic appeal, major languages, etc.
insufficient number of programs on the com- In this situation, tutors in educational and
mercial market which are pedagogically training sectors have created their own pro-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 19

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

grams to meet particular learner needs. The of academic institutions securing funding for
success of these ventures has been mixed, and fully creative, sound programmes of study,
in any case has in only rare cases made an these are rare (an example was the Teaching
impact above the institutional level. The rea- and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP)
sons for this are many. In some institutions, in the UK university sector. This programme
the chance interest of a language tutor in pro- has funded several language learning materials
gramming allows for a creative input, but this projects, including the TELL Consortium
rarely migrates throughout the languages materials described further on. More details
departments, even within the institution, and are available from the CTI Centre for Modern
tends to disappear as the enthusiast moves on. Languages, The University of Hull –
In other cases, tutors spend many hours
acquiring programming skills at various levels. The use of authoring languages or systems
With honourable exceptions, the end results still seems the obvious way forward, but con-
have tended to be short on professional appeal siderable experience has highlighted the diffi-
and complexity and, surprisingly, even short culties with currently available tools. We will
on academic rigour, probably due to their now outline two initiatives to solve this prob-
being driven by the programming, rather than lem, briefly setting the development of such
the pedagogic, imperative. In other cases, col- solutions within the historical context which
laboration with IT staff inside the same institu- has led us to adopt a specific approach to the
tion has been attempted, with the result that, solution of the problem.
again, the software far too often drives the
pedagogy (“Computers can't do it like that…”
is/was an often heard phrase). Good instruc- 2. The evolution of our approach
tional design is rare. to CALL authoring
With recent financial pressures, tutors have
turned to the use of authoring techniques 2.1 Discovering the problem with
which, it is often believed, require a minimal authoring languages
training overhead. In most cases, one of sev- The development of our CALL support tech-
eral things has happened. Often, the simplest nology, as evidenced in Winds of Change,
authoring tools have been used, creating what (Schröter 1995) the TELL Encounters series
are essentially text-based learning programs (Bangs 1997), and The Language Author,
(though some advances towards multimedia (Bangs 1998), began with the rationalisation
have recently embellished some of these), of a development project by South Bank Uni-
often leading to a pedagogic mismatch with versity for Eurostar rail staff needing to learn
the curriculum of the institution, such as ask- French for their duties on Channel Tunnel
ing students to type in text to fill gaps in a con- trains (Bangs 1992 & Bangs 1993)1. The ini-
versation. In any case, such programs have tial set of CALL materials consisted of dia-
rarely catered for higher levels, although they logues from practical ‘real-life’ scenarios –
have been extremely useful in allowing for taking orders in the restaurant car, answering
provision of materials for minority languages. timetable enquiries and so on. The learner
Others have gone down the route of hypertext could listen to a complete pre-recorded dia-
programming. The simplicity of use of these logue, repeating individual phrases as often as
techniques is agreed. What is in question, desired, or role-play as one of the two dia-
however, is the ability to use them to produce logue participants, recording their own utter-
a carefully structured programme of learning. ances and subsequently replaying the com-
It is possible. But in most cases observed, plete dialogue including their recorded voice.
tutors have only reached a level of expertise The project is described in Bangs (1994).
which allows for the ‘click and go’ type of The development environment was Author-
functionality, with end users often ‘lost in ware 2. In common with other authoring envi-
cyberspace’. Although there have been cases ronments which fail to separate program data

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

from presentational and logical constructs, the STIMULUS

outcome is that once a particular interactive Vous avez choisi?
element has been developed, the logic is repli- Are you ready to order?
cated and edited with new data for each occur- etpi1.wav
rence of that element. For example, if a dia- etp1.bmp
logue between two people consists of six
utterances by one person interspersed with six RESPONSE
utterances by the other, then two routines Non, pas encore. Dites-moi: qu’est-ce que c’est que le
(‘play the pre-recorded sound’ and ‘let the stu- petit déjeuner continental?
dent record their voice’) have to be copied and No, not yet. Tell me, what’s the continental breakfast like?
pasted into three separate flow-lines (student etpi2.wav
plays role ‘A’, student plays role ‘B’ and stu- etp2.bmp
dent is passive) a total of thirty-six times. If
that is just one of twenty dialogues of similar Figure 1
length then there will be a total of 720 copies
of the two routines. As Authorware developers successfully been separated and the idea of a
have found to their cost, such an approach is a ‘template’, into which content from a script
maintenance nightmare. could be poured, had been created.
For the CALL environment, Authorware Even with this important step forward,
provided an additional challenge – the lack of control over the behaviour of the program
inbuilt sound-recording facilities. This was remained embedded in the logic of the Author-
resolved by writing a suite of user-defined com- ware module. Script selection resulted from
mands in a Windows Dynamic Link Library hard-wired decisions such as a menu from
(DLL) to control an arbitrary number of sound which individual dialogues could be selected.
‘channels’ – allowing sound-files to be loaded Context-specific interaction (hyperlinking)
into and saved from memory, and for sound to could not be supported within the dialogue.
be recorded into and replayed from memory. Changes to the appearance or behaviour of the
presentation required modification of the
2.2 External content: scripts and Authorware template. To varying degrees, all
templates these limitations have subsequently been
The solution to the proliferation problem is to addressed by a combination of serendipity and
separate the program content from the under- design. Two challenges remain, however. Hav-
lying logic. In order to achieve that, all sound ing created generic delivery modules based on
and image filenames and displayed text were standard templates by moving content into
transferred into a set of plain-text files. Within scenario-specific scripts, we have yet to
each file, typically containing data for all address the need for re-usable content – at pre-
utterances within a single dialogue, there was sent, each script contains explicit material
an implicit order – by reading the text in rather than drawing on generic resources
blocks of four lines at a time, each ‘node’ of stored in a central asset-base. Equally impor-
the text (i.e. the description of a single utter- tantly, although techniques for hyperlinking
ance within the dialogue) could be ‘parsed’ as and for branching within modules now exist,
French text, English text, sound filename and no tools have been created to help the devel-
image filename. These text files become oper manage the resources being built or to
‘scripts’ which the interactive programme fol- assist in the creation of those resources.
lows which is shown in figure 1. (These developments were also described in
Instead of 720 instances of the two rou- Bangs 1997a, 1997b).
tines, we now had just one of each surrounded
by a looping structure which read from the 2.3 Structuring data: node definitions
textfile ‘script’ and determined which of the During the initial development work for
two routines to invoke. Form and content had Eurostar, one further problem had been identi-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 21

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

fied. Some utterances were too long to be pre- within the current node could yield results
sented as single units of information. The ini- built from several items of data – and for
tial design assumed that a dialogue would take selecting one such node at random from sev-
the form STIMULUS -RESPONSE-STIMU- eral options giving the ability to implement
LUS-RESPONSE-etc. With the need for a content such as “A plus (B or C or D) plus E”.
sequence such as S-R-S-S-R-S-R-R, addi- Once flexibility had been introduced in
tional information was required from the terms of the structure of a node, the concept of
script, in order to identify which of the two a script could be extended to any presentation
roles each utterance was to be associated with. requirement where the content is well-struc-
This led to the introduction of a simple label tured and repetitive. For example, given the
prefacing each node of the script. requirement to build a display showing the
The second phase of development intro- way that a verb is conjugated – typically a
duced a further requirement, common to many three row (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person)
forms of practice material – the need to allow by two column (singular, plural) matrix with a
students to repeat sessions with fresh content. caption – structures can easily be defined into
Specifically, material designed to allow prac- which any tense of any verb can be scripted (in
tice in structured dialogues with the Channel any language, even, with some provisos) and a
Tunnel controllers could take a form such as display template created to allow display of
“Train no. 525 please proceed to platform 22” the contents of the script. An example of this
and it was decided that within a single script, it also serves to show the way in which a node
would be necessary to allow variable content type is defined in the current script implemen-
such as the train and platform numbers. tation, and is shown in figure 2.
The solutions envisaged included the abil- For the template implementation in Author-
ity to present any one of a range of utterances ware, the content is displayed by invoking
selected at random as part of a script sequence, variables (or array elements) into which the
the ability to concatenate pieces of content to script nodes have previously been read. The
form a single utterance and the ability to retain variables are shown in figure 3, with the same
knowledge of the random choice made at one names as in the node definitions in the script,
point in a dialogue (e.g. the train number) so and in figure 4 with the variables read in from
that the same choice is made at a later point in the script.
the same dialogue.
These requirements were felt to be beyond NODETYPE verb_labels { verb_labels {
the capabilities of Authorware’s inbuilt pro- 1stRow “1st person”
gramming language in which the initial script 2ndRow “2nd person”
parser had been developed. Instead, a new DLL 3rdRow “3rd person”
was created, in order to allow a script to be 1stCol “singular”
read, parsed and decisions made at load time 2ndCol} “plural”}
about random choices such as train number.
The Authorware module would then
request script data one line at a time, requiring NODETYPE conjugate { conjugate {
the introduction of labels for each line within Participle “To be”
the basic structure stored in the script. This Tense “present tense”
quickly evolved into the ability to define dif- 1stSing I am”
ferent types of node, through a protocol simi- 2ndSing “You are”
lar to that of a ‘C’ struct or typedef construct – 3rdSing “He/she/it is”
the unique node type is declared and each ele- 1stPlur “We are”
ment within the node given a label which is 2ndPlur “You are”
unique within the node declaration. Syntax 3rdPlur} “They are”}
was incorporated for concatenating nodes – so
that a request for a single named element Figure 2

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

2.4 Flow control within the script: allow the application to branch within the
node labels script by associating labels with the individual
In the initial phase of the TELL Encounters nodes. Whereas the script had initially been
project, much effort was put into eliciting the seen as a simple sequence of nodes containing
development teams’ requirements for different content, the introduction of a ‘Find’ (or ‘Go
types of presentation template. It was found to’) command passes control over the logic or
that there was a limited number of these and behaviour of the application to the script as
that many were either synonymous, e.g. a well. This flow control is not limited to behav-
drag-and-drop interaction is simply another iour in response to judgement of student
form of multiple-choice question (MCQ), or answers. It is also possible to define routes
specific variants, e.g. Yes/No is also a form of within the script in response to other types
MCQ. In particular, the same node-type could of student interaction, such as ‘First’, ‘Last’,
be used to support several different types of ‘More’, ‘Explain’ or ‘Help’ buttons and so on.
interaction. This attribute was explored later in An example of this is shown in figure 6.
the Language Author. As part of the Language Author develop-
More important at the time was the realisa- ment work, an experimental finite-state
tion that the contents of a node need not be lim- machine was built in Authorware-3 which was
ited to presentation material. For example, one driven exclusively by knowledge of the node-
important element of an MCQ is the feedback type arrived at as a result of navigating
provided after the student selects an answer. through links embedded in the script. Since
This feedback can be embedded in the node the behaviour of the application is now imple-
information – for example, the node can define mented, alongside the content, in the script,
the question, four options and four associated the application ‘building-blocks’ of the indi-
feedback messages. Equally, the node structure vidual templates are more robust and better
can carry information that allows the applica- suited to being made available for customisa-
tion to make the judgement of right/wrong tion in terms of presentation style.
answers. This is a powerful step forward and a
significant advantage over most commercial 2.5 Hyperlinking and formatting
programs, with the ability to offer tailor-made The need for hyperlinking in the interactive
feedback which is shown in figure 5. dialogues of TELL Encounters (and the
Even more interestingly, it is possible for requirement to assist the student in locating
the node to carry navigational information to hyperlinks in text through formatting) high-
lighted a major shortcoming within Author-

{Participle} – {Tense}
ClickFillGap {
{1stCol} {2ndCol} "Haz clic sobre el verbo que se debería utilizar en la
{1stRow} {1stSing} {1stPlur} frase en español que se ve abajo"
{2ndRow} {2ndSing} {2ndPlur} "Click on the verb which should be used to complete
{3rdRow} {3rdSing} {3rdPlur} the sentence in Spanish given below"
"Mi hermano Juan ==== médico"
Figure 3
To be – present tense "Yes, because we are talking about a profession."
singular plural Incorrect
1st person I am We are "No, because a profession is considered a permanent
2nd person You are You are state, rather than something which can easily
3rd person He/she/it is They are change."}
Figure 4 Figure 5

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 23

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

explainNode = SaludosNode { ware. Although display text can be explicitly for-

Saludos matted, the use of external data precludes easy
Greetings formatting options. Since text is imported into
In Spanish you greet people with Buenos días in the Authorware displays using Authorware variables,
morning – or rather up to lunchtime, which can be as the only solution discovered to date requires split-
late as 3.00 p.m. After that you use Buenas tardes. ting the text into, for example, {plain} {bold}
There are some more examples for you to click on and {plain}{bold}{plain} segments. Clearly, the
hear. ability to dynamically import RTF or otherwise-
Exercise1 YouTry YouTry2 FeedbackExercise formatted text into the authoring environment at
TimeNode Click here to find out about telling the time run-time would be a major benefit.
DayNode Click here to find out about days, weeks and Two forms of script mark-up for hyperlink-
months ing have been implemented. The first simply
Example1 Example2} relies on word-matching within Authorware to
retrieve an ‘index’ into a resource-bank of
explanatory material from the script. The sec-
exampleNode = Example1 { ond (similar to the <A HREF> construct in
Buenas tardes, señor. HTML) is more flexible but shares HTML’s
bsp5n1.wav shortcoming in that every hyperlink has to be
Good afternoon} constructed manually.
Since this was the base line reached until
explainNode = DayNode { very recently, we will step back in order to
Days of the week and months, etc examine one solution worked out to produce a
Los días de la semana y los meses range of materials about to come onto the mar-
"lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado, ket, before proceeding to describe an impor-
domingo"} tant new venture.

gapFill = FeedbackExercise {
Select the most appropriate greeting to complete the sen- 3. Two initiatives towards a solution
08.30. @Buenos días@ señorita. It was always inevitable that any real efforts to
Buenas tardes make a substantial contribution towards creat-
Buenas noches ing the new tools and resources that tutors
Buen viaje required would need a major input of resources
Buen día on an international scale. The next section of
Yes because this is the morning. this work deals with two recent initiatives
No because it's not afternoon yet. which, taken together, should make a major
No because it's not night-time. impact on the situation. Both of them are partly
No because this is the word for 'have a good trip'. funded by the European Commission.
No because you have to use the plural.}
3.1 The Open University and the
TELOS project
recordresponse = YouTry {
The UK’s Open University has for some time
¿Cómo saludas?
been investing considerable resources in
How do you say hello?
developing a flexible set of reusable language
It is 08.30. How do you say hello to the young waitress
learning activity-type shells which are content
in your hotel when you order your
independent. This work has been partially
breakfast? You can record your answer.
assisted by participation in the EC Fourth
Tip - it's before lunchtime.
Framework TELOS project, funded by the
Telematics Applications Programme of DG
Figure 6 XIII. Details can be found at:

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield the various other languages the tutors them-

Whilst much of the project has been con- selves, with a minimal amount of training (one
cerned with distributive learning, it has half day on average) are able to write basic
enabled the university to consider fresh content into a standard framework inside a
approaches to the way it has assembled text file. This file has various columns as
demonstration material, since such material shown in figure 7. The whole file can be used
was to be made available in at least two lan- as a story-board for those involved in acquir-
guages and the Centre for Modern Languages ing the assets (sound, stills, etc.) while an eas-
at the OU is also developing materials at other ily, globally reduced version becomes the
levels and in other languages. The materials actual data file which drives the program (as
will be available from the end of 1998 or early seen in figure 8).
1999. The first CD-ROMs will be in French – At the moment the created ‘data file’ has to
En France en français, volumes 1 and 2. be accompanied by a ‘structure file’ which is
Begegnung in Leipzig will follow, and ulti- the ‘engine’ which organises the data into
mately Al timón in Spanish will complete the meaningful sequences – in other words re-
first stage of production. organising the building blocks, or ‘objects’
In the Open University system, a con- (created using Director’s ‘cast lists’) into the
stantly-evolving bank of activity-type shells is desired sequence, as shown in figure 9.
available, and materials writers can ‘mix and It is just as easy to create quite sophisti-
match’ these shells to form a complete learn- cated exercise types. Space precludes many
ing package. Activity-type shells are stored examples, but in figure 10, one can see the
separately from their content and have no limit text for the data file sequence and the accom-
to the number of items which may be panying structure file.
included. The external list of templates is The list of available exercise templates
matched by an Object-Oriented approach to is growing as programs develop and
the program itself for maximum re-usability. tutor/authors see the possibilities. We are still
For this latter purpose, it was felt that Macro- faced with the classic dilemma of how to pre-
media Director was best suited. The initial sent externally held text information in a suffi-
work to create the shell and fill it with the first ciently sophisticated display format, and that
content was extensive. However, as the system is the next problem to be addressed.
is now being used to create further materials in So far programmers have not been entirely

-Choice 1b
V1B002=" mother Ça y est, c'est décidé? Tu t'en vas samedi? Parfait! still of mother looking
Il faut te dépêcher de tout emballer, maintenant. delighted & enthusiastic
Et l'agence est d'accord, j'imagine?"

V1B002T=" So it’s all fixed, then ? You’re going on Saturday ?

Fine ! You must hurry and pack up now. I take it
that the estate agent has agreed, right ?"

--Choice 1C
V1B003=" mother Il n'en est pas question! C'est vraiment ridicule, still of mother who appears
cette idée de déménagement! Tu peux encore to say a categorical no
changer d'avis, non?"

V1B003T=" This is out of the question ! This idea of moving out "
is downright ludicrous ! You can still change
your mind, can’t you ?

Figure 7

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 25

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

V1B002=" Ça y est, c'est décidé? Tu t'en vas samedi? production standards in a format which is read
Parfait! Il faut te dépêcher de tout emballer, directly by the software, cutting out many
maintenant. Et l'agence est d'accord, j'imagine?" intermediate steps. This approach to develop-
V1B002T=" So it’s all fixed, then ? You’re going on Sat- ing CD-ROM materials is, then, powerful
urday ? Fine ! You must hurry and pack up now. I take it enough to allow for considerable flexibility
that the estate agent has agreed, right ?" within the activity shells available to the con-
V1B003=" Il n'en est pas question! C'est vraiment tent writers.
ridicule, cette idée de déménagement! Tu peux encore
changer d'avis, non?" 3.2 The MALTED Project.
V1B003T=" This is out of the question ! This idea of This project has been long in the planning, and
moving out is downright ludicrous ! You can still change arises from the various works described ear-
your mind, can’t you ?" lier. A powerful consortium has been assem-
bled and has managed to secure funding for a
Figure 8 project costing over 2 million ECUs, to which
the European Commission is contributing 1.68
million. Funding is from the Joint Call for
SEQUENCE { Multimedia Educational Software Taskforce,
MENU{TEXT=C1BM1 and is derived in the main from the Telematics
OPTION= NEXT Applications Programme, with other contribu-
OPTION="MCQ1" tions from the Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci
OPTION=EXERCISEBANK} Programmes. Led by The Language Centre,
SLIDE {SOUND= V1B002 University College London, the participants
TEXT= V1B002 include: Ministerio de Educación (Programa
PICTURE = V1B002A de Nuevas Tecnologías), Telefónica España
PICTURE = V1B002B and SEMA Group sae in Spain; École
PICTURE = V1B002C Nationale Superieure des Télécommunications
PICTURE = V1B002D de Bretagne, CYCNOS Systèmes Ouverts SA
PICTURE = V1B002E} and France Télécom in France; Capture Pro-
} ductions Ltd in Ireland; and Escola Superior
de Educação, Bragança, in Portugal. More
Figure 9
information and continuous updates will be
found on
eliminated from the system, but the instruc- In essence, MALTED (Multimedia Author-
tional designer is already taking a ‘back ing for Language Tutors and Educational
seat’and most of the programming time is Development), will examine end user needs,
going into creating new exercise shells and draw on the experience of the above men-
new screen designs or templates. Inherent tioned and many other initiatives, and develop
weaknesses still to be overcome are those the tools required by tutors to create pedagogi-
expected – the inability to control displays to cally sound, though sophisticated, language
any degree of sophistication and, especially, learning materials.
the difficulties in displaying complex text lay- There is a major difference from other pre-
outs by reading an external text file, with the vious initiatives, in that the aim is not just to
need to resort to somewhat cumbersome develop user-friendly special authoring tools
hypertext ‘mark-up’ techniques. However, the to enable language authors to create materials,
principle of externally held resources using a but the project will also address the question
central ‘engine’ is proving remarkably suc- of re-invention of the wheel. It is recognised
cessful at achieving economies of scale. Con- that tutors need access to ‘common cores’ of
tent-writers, with minimum training can, with content, or even highly specialised content,
a simple, user-friendly, templating system, which they can adapt for particular local
create highly sophisticated materials to high needs. Only this will solve the basic problem

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

Data File Structure file

Type C {
C1XT011="Talking about months, seasons and the weather. TYPE=C
Listen to the statements given when you click on each of CATEGORY=6
the speakers. Then drag each number to the picture to which CUETEXT=C1XT010
you think it applies. Only the correct answers will be accepted." SOUND=C1X001
C1X011="le vent chasse les nuages" SOUND=C1X002
C1X010="à l'ombre" SOUND=C1X003
C1X012="il fait 36" SOUND=C1X004
C1X013="l'hiver" SOUND=C1X005
C1X016="il fait généralement assez froid" SOUND=C1X006
C1X018="le ciel est souvent bleu" SOUND=C1X007
C1X019="au mois d'août" SOUND=C1X008
C1X021="au printemps" PICTURE=C1X001
C1X017="la semaine suivante" PICTURE =C1X002
C1X015="des inondations désastreuses" PICTURE =C1X003

Figure 10

of creating sufficient quantities of courseware 3.2.1 The tools and assets

which might bring about a change in learning The project, notwithstanding prior capture
delivery methods. The involvement of UCL’s of requirements, considers that the the
computer science department and experienced tutor/designer will need to have, as a mini-
technology companies will facilitate the devel- mum, the following facilities:
opment of telematic systems which will create
an extensive database of materials which par- • A simple framework into which the textual
ticipating tutors can draw upon, telematically, content, addresses of audio and graphics
as required, either to incorporate into student files, etc., can be placed. This framework
courseware at run-time or to package into will migrate into sophisticated software
‘bound’ courses for commercial or company routines on compilation.
in-house delivery. It is envisaged that one • A simple mark-up system for text which
important use will be for the ‘drawing down’ enables tutors to offer explanations, illus-
and subsequent ‘re-posting’ of items such as trations, audio exemplars, and access to
screens of grammar explanations. This will exercises, etc.
avoid many cases of re-invention of wheels, • Simple shells (= text frameworks) for a
and also serve to disseminate best practice. range of exercise types (to be determined).
The project will trial its systems extensively • Possibly user-friendly systems for the cre-
in five countries, but above all in Spain, where ation of audio files (and even graphics
over 1,000 language teachers in primary and files) as part of the creation process.
secondary schools will be involved, using the • A range of sophisticated display options
tools and assets to deliver courseware to up to (templates) into which the content can be
25,000 pupils throughout the country. placed.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 27

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

• Browsing tools to access the MALTED 4. Conclusions

database of assets to determine whether
there already exists identical or similar We consider that the development and integra-
content required by the tutor, whether tion of technologically enhanced courseware
requiring adaptation or not. for language learning is at a cross-roads. It is
• Tools to re-submit adapted or newly cre- essential, if we are to improve the offer to tutors
ated content material onto the MALTED and students, that facilities exist for much easier
asset base. creation of materials, without sacrificing either
• A range of generic mark-up facilities for pedagogic discipline or production values. In
linguistic items. This is potentially the this way we will have available a plethora of
most radical element of MALTED, as the good courseware at all levels, in minority lan-
aim will be to offer auto-generated mark- guages, and for many special purposes.
up annotations for a wide range of specific The initiatives described above represent, it
linguistic points. Not all will be achieved is felt, a major opportunity to make significant
within MALTED, but the routines to con- inroads into the problems. We welcome col-
tinue the work will be put into place. More laboration, comment and participation in tri-
specifically, the idea would be that a tutor alling. Details will be available if the web-sites
could mark up a word, e.g. “soyez …!” – are regularly visited.
and this could automatically invoke a
generic note on the formation of the irregu-
lar imperatives in French. Such automatic Notes
annotations could be over-ridden or added
to in order to cater for individual local 1. The development of this approach owes much
requirements or linguistic anomalies. to the work of Neil Sandford, Coordinator of
• A course structure framework into which the UK Multimedia Special Interest Group and
the newly created courseware can be Technical Director of the MALTED Project.
placed and maintained. This may be a 2. This is a CD-ROM in advanced English Com-
structure provided by MALTED, or might munications Strategies for engineers and tech-
nologists, developed in part with a grant from
be provided by existing facilities – part of
the EC LINGUA bureau. (International version,
the project will be to determine this. published South Bank University, London,
• The tools to package the resulting course- 1997). A further programme is nearing comple-
ware in different ways. For instance a tutor tion which will also take advantage of the
in a secondary school or university lan- authoring techniques developed – Sunpower
guage centre environment might package will be available in late 1998, and is aimed at
the courseware without the assets, and the advanced learners of Business English.
learner would then run the program when 3. A collaborative project involving several Eng-
required and draw on the assets telemati- lish and Scottish universities, as part of the
cally at run-time. In another scenario, the TELL consortium, based at the University of
local tutor may wish to package the course- Hull. Future programs for other languages are
in progress or planned, and will make extensive
ware, including the externally held assets,
use of the authoring systems created.
and maintain the resulting program for use
on a LAN – this might be particularly rele-
vant to a company training organisation, for
instance. The third scenario could be that of References
the commercial publisher (who may in any
Bangs P. et al. (1992) En Train de Parler, Video and
case require additional tools), who will Interactive Multimedia Courseware, London:
wish to package all materials onto ‘hard’ European Passenger Services.
media such as CD-ROM, or, Internet trad- Bangs P. et al. (1993) À l'Aube de l'Eurostar, video
ing allowing, onto a private Web-site for film produced for European Passenger Services,
access by commercial end users. London.

Why change authors into programmers? P Bangs and L Shield

Bangs P. (1994) “En Train de Parler”. In Beck U. & Bangs P. (1998) The Language Author, London:
Sommer W. (eds.), Learntec '93, Berlin: South Bank University. (This EC LINGUA
Springer-Verlag. funded project is in its final stages, for com-
Schröter F., Gove P., Bangs P. et al. (1995) Winds of pletion later in 1998).
Change, Munich: Hueber Verlag.2
Bangs P. et al. (1997) Spanish Encounters, German
Encounters, French Encounters, Italian Lesley Shield is Project Officer (Language Technol-
Encounters and Portuguese Encounters, Lon- ogy) and Paul Bangs is Language Technology Con-
don: Hodder & Stoughton.3 sultant for the Centre for Modern Languages at the
Bangs P. & Sandford N. (1997a) “Core and Periph- Open University. In addition, Paul Bangs is the
ery and the CALL author”. In Kohn J., Academic IT Director at The Language Centre,
Rüschoff B. & Wolff D. (eds), New Horizons in University College London, and is Director of the
CALL, Proceedings of Eurocall '96, Szombat- MALTED Project.
hely, Hungary: Berzsenyi Dániel College, pp Lesley Shield: The Centre for Modern Lan-
guages, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton
Bangs P. (1997b) “Author, Author! – but does (s)he
speak my language?”. In Little D. & Voss B., Keynes MK5 6AA, UK. Email:
Language Centres, Planning for the New Mille- Paul Bangs: The Language Centre, University
nium, Proceedings of CercleS '96, Plymouth: College London, 134-136 Gower Street, LONDON
Cercles. W1E 6BT, UK. Email:

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 29

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 30–37

Exploiting the Web for language

teaching: selected approaches

Uschi Felix,
Monash University, Australia

This paper discusses the findings of an extensive survey of approaches to language teaching and learn-
ing via the WWW. Its aim was to find exemplars of best practice in stand-alone courses, integrated
mixed-model courses (Web/CD-ROM/face-to-face), and interactive exercises for the development of
all four language learning skills. The findings suggest that, in some languages, resources are already so
plentiful that it would be more economical to integrate the best of them into existing courses and to
focus energies on global co-operation in the production of new high quality materials.

1. Introduction the fact that at least three different sites teach-

ing the basic structures of Swahili are simulta-
The Web is bewildering in its variety. Where neously under construction?
languages are concerned, we know that an What we see everywhere on the Web is an
enormous amount of work is being done to put ever-expanding multiplication of sites at all
a wide range of materials on to the Web, levels – individual exercises, courses of vary-
including whole courses. What we do not ing ambition, mega-sites that seek to catalogue
know is how to access this material efficiently. everything available in any one language or
The problem is first of all one of size. even in all languages together. Search engines
Exploring one site in detail is already time- do not provide a great deal of help in this envi-
consuming; exploring all available sites is at ronment, because the problem is not to iden-
the very least daunting and may be impossible tify the myriad of sites available, but to evalu-
in practice. And that problem grows by the ate them and discover not only what each does
day, as sites multiply. This is happening but also how well it does it.
notably in the major world languages that This paper reports on an extensive survey
dominate the teaching system, but sometimes of language resources on the Web aimed at
even languages of rather low enrolment are not making sense of what is there, identifying the
exempt. What, for example, do we make of centres of excellence, and suggesting ways in

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: U Felix

which the resources can most sensibly be used the Web. Of course, the process first of selec-
for language teaching and learning. This paper tion, and then of incorporation into an existing
cannot give a full account of all the material, program, is not cost-free and will involve
which is about to appear in book form (Felix some investment of time, but the returns on
1998a), but it reports the major findings, and the effort are promising, and the end result can
gives demonstrations of the most interesting be a well-rounded teaching approach, richer
example in each of three important categories than anything that teachers can hope to put
– stand-alone courses, integrated courses and together from their own resources.
individual interactive task-based exercises. It Even if teachers are resistant to the idea of
will also briefly look at the attractions of the using somebody else’s course and insist on
Web for language teaching and learning, along developing their own sites with all the expendi-
with some of the problems involved and sug- ture of time that involves, they can still use the
gested solutions. Web profitably to add ready-made elements to
their material and to make available resources
that would otherwise be lacking, rather than
2. The attractions of the Web reinventing the wheel when time is in short
supply. Use of Web courseware will require
A quick browse through the many resources negotiation with the authors, but there seems to
listed in Felix (1998a) will make the attrac- be a remarkable generosity of spirit among the
tions of the Web clear. Some authors (Blyth creators, with some making it clear that the
1997, Goelz 1998) spell out the advantages materials are freely available to all. There is
that they see applying to their own materials, even one site where the authors proclaim their
while one (King 1998) also mentions the dis- willingness to provide individual feedback
advantages of Web-based learning (particu- without charge, but that level of generosity is
larly refreshing since this is one of the sites very rare and it is hard to believe that it can be
that charge fees for access). We do not need to sustained. Computer-based feedback, on the
take the authors’ word for the advantages, other hand, is very common, and might be
though just watching students interact with the expected to grow in sophistication over time.
best resources is enough to explain the fre- In the commercial world, we can expect
quent reports of improvements in motivation publishers like Prentice-Hall and Heinle &
and attitude towards language studies that Heinle to be keen to make the sites which are
result from working in such environments based on their textbooks generally available,
(Atkinson 1998). since they constitute a strong marketing tool.
For teachers, one great advantage of the Beyond this, however, there are masses of
Web is that it offers easy access to a large vari- sites in the public domain: no language class-
ety of resources. Where these have been pro- room need ever complain about lack of access
duced, as they often are, by professional teams to authentic material when the Web allows stu-
supported financially by publishers, they are dents to visit the target country with its cities
likely to be of excellent quality. As such, they and museums and other cultural sites, to read
will always be hard to match by individual newspapers, to listen to radio and perhaps
teachers struggling with limited resources in even to watch television and films. Here, what
educational institutions. In some languages, the Web offers teachers is not so much a
there is so much material available that teach- ready-made list of classroom activities on the
ers could almost put together an entire course Web – though it does offer that – as examples
by choosing segments from the categories of what other teachers have been doing, and
listed in Felix (1998a) and adopting the most an inspiration to learn from them and incorpo-
suitable textbook. Near-total outsourcing may rate the same approaches into local courses.
be an excessive, unpalatable and unrealistic For students, where the formal curriculum
ambition, but teachers could certainly out- is concerned, there is potential for greater
source a significant part of their teaching to flexibility regarding the time and place of

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 31

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: U Felix

learning: a course wholly or partly on the Web move or disappear completely.

provides constant access to learning materials, In addition, most resources were created for
and may offer the extra benefit of communi- a specific purpose and a specific audience, and
cating with fellow-students and the teacher via most importantly for a specific environment
e-mail or a discussion group. which with few exceptions includes face-to-
In addition, the Web offers a wide variety face instruction. It would be foolish to assume
of experiences beyond the confines of the that clicking into a Web resource will generate
curriculum. These include, most crucially, the same opportunities as in a classroom. Mate-
authentic experiences of the target culture, rials are not neatly structured as they are in a
both guided and unguided, since the Web familiar textbook and the bigger the resource
offers students a space in which they can roam and the more complex the links to other rele-
freely as well as a source of material for any vant sites, the greater the chance of ending up
exercises that they may be set. Beyond this, somewhere bewilderingly unexpected.
the Web also offers the possibility of authentic
exchanges with native speakers in chat and
MOO sites. In other words, what it does is to 4. Dealing with the problems
bring the target culture and language not only
into the classroom, but also potentially into the Some of these problems need to be tackled by
daily lives of students. the developers themselves. One obvious need
is for site maps, helpful navigation systems
and front pages that give a clear explanation of
3. Problems of the Web what the site does. More sites need to switch
to Real Audio and Real Video, or perhaps bet-
Despite the attractions of the Web, it would be ter still provide sound and video exercises on
foolish to ignore the drawbacks. Today’s Web is CD-ROM for speedier access (this approach
a volatile medium. The often-used term World cuts across the easy access to the materials
Wide Wait is not far-fetched if you are working that is a great attraction of the Web but makes
at home with a slow modem connection or try- sense in integrated courses where the teacher
ing to access resources in the middle of a server may anyway be buying the appropriate text-
upgrade. On a computer that is not state-of-the- book). As long as access rates are so slow,
art, it can also be difficult or impossible to developers need to consider in each case
download the plug-ins that are a frequent fea- whether the use of sound or video adds an
ture of Web sites: graphics, sound and video important dimension to the learning experi-
can take a long time to load, and response rates ence: in principle, the ability to hear the text is
can be very slow, especially for resources that always going to be a great benefit, but the dis-
predate the use of Real Audio and Real Video. advantages are also real.
The Web is also not immediately user- In general, the user needs to recognise that
friendly. To the uninitiated a wonderful this is a different way of learning, and to adapt
resource like the Beginners’ German materials to the differences in exchange for the conve-
at the University of Victoria (Goelz 1996) can nience of time and place independence. This is
look like an enormous maze in which it is easy as it ought to be: there is no point simply
to become lost. The aspects that make the Web reproducing on the Web what can be done in a
an exciting tool for teaching, especially the book. That has not stopped some authors sim-
emphasis on constructivism (O’Haver 1998), ply putting books out there, but the real need is
problem solving (Boud & Feletti 1991) and to exploit the advantages offered by the
collaborative learning (Warschauer 1996), can medium and to avoid or reduce its disadvan-
create confusion and disorientation. Naviga- tages. (An interesting discussion of combining
tion is also not helped by the volatility of sites: CD-ROM and Web developments for this pur-
familiar graphics change, resources are added pose can be found in Burston 1998.)
or restructured, and, at the extreme, sites can Good hardware, good software and an

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: U Felix

excellent Internet Service Provider (ISP) will beginners and an intermediate course using
take care of a large part of the speed problem. cheerful Pinocchio graphics. The discourse
As an encouraging example, over the six throughout is friendly and unthreatening:
months that it took to collect these resources “Did all that grammar scare you? Relax…”.
in three locations, the Web was too slow to The site is very sophisticated, offering a
work with only twice, ironically enough once choice of activities (message board and chat
on the occasion when a presentation of the according to level), cultural titbits, extensive
materials was scheduled for colleagues! exercises with feedback (including scored
The problem of feeling lost in cyberspace exams), interactive exercises along the lines
usually dissipates with experience. It is quite of those described in 5.3 below, a gallery of
amazing to watch the ease with which young articles about Italy in both English and Ital-
students navigate complex sites, and the speed at ian, and links to other relevant sites. It is
which even the most timid novice adapts to the described as a “meeting place for people
new and challenging environment. This is not to wishing to understand Italian culture and lan-
say that everyone takes to the medium like a guage”. The site uses Real Audio as well as
duck to water. The fact that quite a number of WAV and is the only site so far that includes
students and teachers resist the use of technol- use of a downloadable recording device. With
ogy for a variety of reasons is well known (Felix this students can record their voice and com-
1997, Gillespie & McKee 1998, Meunier 1997), pare it to the original (a discussion of the use
although most of these observations were made of speech recognition devices in language
during the previous CD-ROM era. learning software can be found in Felix
Lessons 1 and 2 (beginners level) and lesson
5. What is on offer? 12 (intermediate level) are available for trial
before registration. Costs are very reasonable
The major focus for the survey was to discover compared to other resources of this (and lesser)
what sorts of sites are available, and which quality. US $14.95 will cover one year’s mem-
offer high quality examples of what can be bership of the Circolo di Pinocchio and access
done. What follows is a selection of sites in to the beginners or intermediate course costs
three categories – stand-alone courses, inte- another US $19.95 per level. Advanced level
grated courses and individual activities. course materials are under development. Princi-
pal developers are Maura Garau and Paolo
5.1 Whole stand-alone courses Vacchina in New York with extensive input from
Sites in this category offer on-line courses others. Cyberitalian is registered as a company.
with varying degrees of substance in terms of
content and feedback structures. They are 5.2 Integrated materials
available either to enrolled students at the host Sites in this category incorporate Web-based
institution, or more generally on a fee-paying materials into a larger package which
basis. Fees vary widely across courses, rang- includes other texts, CD-ROMs or video
ing from US $19.95 to several hundreds of resources. While they also include face-to-
dollars. At least, those were the figures as this face teaching at the host institution, their Web
article went to print, but fees changed several materials are freely accessible by anyone. We
times during the course of the research, so this have found such resources in French, Ger-
is clearly an area of some volatility. Two man, Portuguese, Italian and Vietnamese. The
courses were found for Chinese, two for Ger- following is the most impressive example in
man and two for Italian. The following is the French:
most outstanding Italian example:
5.2.1 First year french@ut austin
5.1.1 Cyberitalian (Garau 1997) (Blyth 1997)
Cyberitalian is an extensive site which offers a This is an excellent model of a well designed

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 33

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: U Felix

combination of face-to-face teaching and com- to extensive problem-solving activities in the

puter assisted learning materials, co-ordinated Chinese Long Walk (Clayton 1998). This type
by Carl Blyth at the University of Texas. The of interactivity can also be created in MOO
Web materials consist of extensive grammar and Chat sites (Truna 1995a, Fanderclai 1995).
exercises with feedback all based on the text- One example is the treasure hunt in Truna
book, and task-based interactive projects (1995b) where a variety of objects is left in
(along the lines discussed in 5.3), neatly con- different locations of the MOO for students to
structed around single topics. The site’s most discover. Another is the topic-related discus-
outstanding feature is its clarity of approach sions suggested by Ferguson (1998).
and user-friendliness. The Web front pages –
5.3.2 Experiential learning
highly recommended as models – provide a
The second group of sites offer a range of
clear outline of the approach and the content.
experiential learning, involving users in a
quest with a meaningful goal, or in the produc-
5.3 Ideas and pro-formas for tion of materials, or, most challenging of all,
interactive exercises in real interaction in authentic or virtual true-
The sort of exciting opportunity provided by to-life settings.
the Web is best reflected in interactive task- Where quests with a meaningful goal are
based exercises for the development of all four concerned, two examples are collaborative
language skills. In contrast to standard gram- researching of Indonesian newspapers for a
mar exercises, this category offers opportuni- class home page (Elliott 1998), and finding
ties for meaningful, contextualised work vacation accommodation through real estate
which can be carried out alone, in pairs or in sites in France (Blyth 1997).
groups. The best examples tend to be materials Where producing materials is concerned,
linked to textbooks and supported by publish- this is becoming a common part of the students’
ers. These sites are plentiful in the major Euro- learning experience. The tasks might include
pean languages with lots of duplication occur- writing something like the advertisement men-
ring, but very few such activities have been tioned above, creating a cyber community
identified in Japanese, Indonesian and Chi- through collaborative narratives (Truna 1998),
nese. We have included some of the best designing a greeting card in a choice of 14 lan-
examples in two groups. guages, or taking part in a competition to pro-
duce a collage representing the student’s view
5.3.1 Information gap of Singapore. A substantial example is the col-
The first group of sites lend themselves beauti- laboration between American and Polish stu-
fully to exercises involving some form of dents in creating sophisticated Web pages giv-
information gap which has to be resolved ing a picture of their campuses (Debski 1997).
using language as a communicative tool, with Where authentic interaction is concerned,
the learners having a limited influence over MOO and Chat sites in the target country offer
the outcome. In Adesso (Di Fabio & Hemment extensive opportunities, as I discovered when I
1997), students collect information from was testing Planet Talk in Germany and was
linked sites in response to the questions they subjected to a grilling to prove my bona fides.
have been given, fill in charts, and prepare Even at a less threatening level, students have
materials such as an advertisement for a to discover where people are, who they are and
famous café. why they are there, and then engage in mean-
While most such tasks in a variety of lan- ingful interaction, if they are to keep their
guages are presented on pro-formas that then respondents interested. A wonderful aspect of
have to be printed and delivered physically to this environment is the possibility of commu-
the teacher, some can be submitted electroni- nicating through assumed identities which can
cally. They range from self-contained short have a liberating and empowering effect
tasks in the exercise on Bavaria (Prokop 1997) (Turkle 1995).

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: U Felix

6. How to make best use of the the students’ part. It is hard to imagine that
resources any language programme would not be
strengthened by integrating work on the Web
In the new world of the Web with its continual into the curriculum.
advance in technology, there are not many maps The good thing about developments on the
to tell us how to make the best use of what is on Web, from the teacher’s point of view, is that it
offer, though there are discussion groups where now provides a variety of examples of how
teachers can exchange ideas. What follow are such links have been built into others’ courses
two groups of suggestions about what might be and therefore a variety of models exists from
done, both by teachers who wish only to exploit which teachers can profit when thinking about
existing resources and by those who want to how they want to exploit what is there.
develop their own resources.

6.1 Integrating Web Materials into 6.2 Global co-operation and

existing Programmes complementary development
The Web is a mine of resources just waiting to For teachers who prefer not to be just con-
be exploited, with a wide range of materials sumers of material but creators of new Web
that can support language learning inside and sites, the current state of play should sound at
outside the classroom. It provides opportunity least a mild warning. The fact that so many
for self-directed extra-curricular work, but sites are exploiting the same territory raises
teachers will want to look at what is there, and questions about efficiency and effectiveness.
consider whether and how it can be built into Duplication of beginners courses in the major
the curriculum. The most effective approach languages seems particularly irrational. There
may be to find a good course with interesting may be no more reason for publishers to avoid
Web-based activities that is integrated with a competition over Web sites than over begin-
textbook, and simply adopt that textbook. This ners textbooks, but the phenomenon of open
has such powerful advantages in terms of time access university sites that duplicate each
saved as well as of the author expertise other is more perplexing. Staff cannot have
exploited that it might be the very first strat- large supplies of spare time to spend on doing
egy to consider. what has already been done – even less, on
If any work on the Web is to be included in doing badly what has already been done well
the curriculum, however, and not just offered – so the alternative of co-operation seems
as an optional extra, there needs to be a way desirable. Instead of producing half a dozen
for it to be evaluated, and for the results to be more or less identical beginners courses, the
collected and reported. From this point of same amount of effort might lead to one or
view, the sites of publishers are attractive, two such courses – either jointly developed or
since they can establish an e-mail link to the the work of one particular team – leading on
instructor which will report the results of tests to several courses at higher levels. The need is
marked by the computer, but also forward for most obvious in the small languages: perhaps
marking free compositions composed on the Chinese, Japanese, French, German and Span-
screen, like, for example, essays on the site ish can take care of themselves, but the expert
which students have been visiting. labour available in Korean, Russian, Por-
Whether or not teachers wish to take tuguese or Arabic, for example, is so limited
advantage of formal course material, the Web that the costs of duplicated effort in the form
offers a window into the target culture which of missed opportunities will be high.
is of enormous benefit because it is so far
beyond what can be offered in the classroom.
Satellite television may be a rival, but the 7. Conclusion
strength of the Web is that it is an interactive
medium and requires active participation on What the survey of the Web makes clear is that

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 35

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: U Felix

a lot of resources supporting languages are gural WorldCALL conference, Melbourne, July
available. It may not be true yet that we can 1998.
simply log on to the Web to learn any lan- Blyth C. (1997) first year french@ut austin
guage that we choose – it may never be true, if (last vis-
ited 30/10/98).
only because learning a language in that iso-
Boud D. & Feletti G. (eds.) (1991) The Challenge of
lated context is a very big challenge – but the Problem-Based Learning, London: Kogan Page.
Web already offers a wide range of materials Burston J. (1998) “From CD-ROM to the WWW:
that can support language learning, including Coming Full Circle”, CALICO, 15(1–3), 67–74.
learning in the classroom, along with a variety Clayton J. (1998) The Long Walk: A Journey as a
of models from which teachers will be able to Learning Activity. Australian Federation of
profit when thinking about how they want to Modern Language Teachers Associations Inc.
exploit what is there.
One problem with the material is duplica- (last visited 30/10/98).
tion. This adds to the difficulty of identifying Debski R. (1997) “Support of creativity and collab-
centres of excellence, but also represents a sad oration in the language classroom: a new role
for technology”. In Debski R., Gassin J. &
waste of scarce expertise and time. It would be
Smith S.(eds.), Language learning through
much more sensible to embrace a co-operative social computing, Occasional Papers Number
model which would invest the scarce com- 16, Melbourne: ALAA and the Horwood Lan-
modity of time most in producing a range of guage Centre, 39–66.
complementary courses. However, the fate of Di Fabio E. & Hemment M. (1997) Adesso.
good advice is often to be ignored and the dif- Heinle & Heinle. (last
ficulties of getting people to work together visited 30/10/98).
should not be under-estimated. Apart from Elliott S. (1998) Ayo, berselancar berita Indonesia!
anything else, co-operation sits uneasily in a Australian Federation of Modern Language
system characterised by competition, and, in Teachers Associations Inc. http://www.epub- (last visited
any case, the problems of copyright and intel-
lectual property are significant. Fanderclai T. L. (1995) “MUDs in Education: New
It is unlikely, therefore, that the other big Environments, New Pedagogies”, Computer-
problem – making an informed selection among Mediated Communication Magazine 2:1
everything that is on offer – will ever go away.
Publishing a survey of sites is a first step derclai.html (last visited 13/8/98).
towards developing a critical guide which maps Felix U. (1997) “Integrating Multimedia into the
the territory and saves wasted hours of search Curriculum: A Case study evaluation”,
time. However, since the Web is evolving so OnCALL 11(1), 2–11.
rapidly, with new sites appearing all the time Felix U. (1998a) Virtual language learning: finding
and old ones occasionally disappearing, it might the gems amongst the pebbles, Melbourne: Lan-
guage Australia. ISBN: 1-875578-88-9. Distrib-
be thought that any such guide will date rapidly.
uted in the UK and USA by Camsoft.
That is only partly true: work done on substan- Felix U. (1998b) “Virtual Language Learning:
tial sites that are on-going – and sites linked to Potential and Practice”, ReCALL 10 (1), 53–58.
university courses are unlikely to disappear Ferguson A. (1998) Chat Session Discussion for
overnight – will continue to be valid. All the Advanced Learners of German, Australian Fed-
same, an eye needs to be kept on them in case eration of Modern Language Teachers Associa-
they change radically, and attention has to be tions Inc.
paid to newcomers; the material will need to be AFMLTA/ (last visited 30/10/98).
updated regularly if it is to continue to be useful. Garau M. (1997) Cyberitalian. www.cyber- (last visited 30/10/98)
Gillespie J. and McKee J. (1998) “Resistance to
References CALL: degrees of student reluctance to CALL
and ICT”. Paper delivered at the EUROCALL
Atkinson T. (1998) “Researching language learning conference in Leuven, Belgium. ReCALL 11(1)
and technology”. Paper delivered at the inau- 38–46.

Exploiting the Web for language teaching: U Felix

Goelz P. (1996) German for beginners [WWW Truna, aka Turner J. (1995b) “Virtual treasure
site]. URL (last hunt”. In M. Warschauer (Ed.), Virtual Connec-
visited 30/10/98). tions: Online Activities & Projects for Network-
Goelz P. (1998) Deutsch online. http://web.uvic. ing Language Learners, Hawaii: University of
ca/german/dol-demo/ (last visited 30/10/98). Hawaii Press, 242–244.
King B. (1998) Mandarin on-line. WorldWide Lan- Truna, aka Turner, J. (1998) Jarp Town. http://eli-
guage Institute. (last visited 30/10/98).
zhongwen/chinese.html (last visited 13/8/98). Turkle S. (1995) Life on the Screen: Identity in the
Meunier L. (1997) “Affective Factors and Age of the Internet, London: Weidenfeld &
Cyberteaching: Implications for a Postmodern Nicholson.
Pedagogy”, NEXUS - The Convergence of Lan- Warschauer M. (1996) “Computer-mediated Col-
guage Teaching and Research Using Technol- laborative Learning: Theory and Practice”,
ogy, CALICO Monograph Series 4, 122–132. Modern Language Journal 18 (4), 470–81.
O’Haver T. (ed) (1998) Essays on constructivism
and education collected by the Maryland Col- Associate Professor Uschi Felix is Director of the
laborative for Teacher Preparation. Language Centre at Monash University in Mel- bourne. She has a research background in applied
Projects/MCTP/WWW/Essays.html (last visited linguistics, with a focus on innovative teaching
30/10/98). methods and teaching evaluation. Her work has
Prokop M (1997) Bayrische Landeskunde.
focussed on CALL in all its various aspects, con-
centrating on the systematic integration into the
(last visited 30/10/98).
Truna, aka Turner J. (1995a) Using Text-Based Vir- curriculum of tested applications from stand-alone
tual Reality in the Classroom – A Narrative. software to WWW sites. Her comprehensive book
http://elicos (last vis- on approaches to language learning on the Web has
ited 30/10/98). just been published by Language Australia.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 37

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 38–46

Resistance to CALL: degrees of student

reluctance to use CALL and ICT

John Gillespie and Jane McKee

University of Ulster, N. Ireland

This paper examines the range of different factors which in our experience contribute to student resis-
tance to the use of computers for language learning. These problems relate to aspects of the computing
environment, social and psychological factors and issues relating to the curriculum and teaching meth-
ods. We have made basic suggestions about ways of overcoming these resistances. However our princi-
pal finding is that the most effective and coherent way of fostering student adoption of CALL is to
develop a computer based learning environment, which draws on the success of communications soft-
ware and the Internet, based on the computer conferencing program First Class.

Introduction do so by a tutor. Questionnaires, focus groups

and the noting of student reactions and behav-
CALL programs have been developed and iour patterns form the basis of the study
used successfully at the University of Ulster which follows. First, however, it may be help-
since the late 1980s. They have generally ful to describe the types of students currently
been well received by students and have exposed to CALL.
clearly been of educational benefit to their
users. Yet, even though today’s computing
environment is much more user-friendly than 2. CALL students
in the past, we, like other CALL developers,
have noticed that there is still evidence of In University of Ulster language courses,
resistance to CALL, whether to using the pro- CALL students fall into roughly three cate-
grams at all or to using them independently gories as far as initial knowledge of computing
for non-assessed personal work. This has is concerned: computer specialists, computer
prompted the present investigation into the initiates and computer novices. As we might
factors which cause students to be reluctant to expect, these groups tend to have different atti-
turn to CALL programs unless prompted to tudes to computers and computing.

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

• Computer specialists. These are students 3.1 The computing environment

on the International Business Communica- Problems here relate to access, equipment and
tion course which combines languages, compatibility, software, reference material and
business and computing. Most of these stu- to the management of computing activity.
dents have few technical problems and are Except where otherwise indicated, the prob-
more ready to explore technical resources lems below were common to students in all
independently – though not necessarily three categories mentioned above.
CALL programs. They are also likely to be
critical of program design and may feel i. Access
that they are already over-exposed to com- a. There are not always enough machines
puting. They are not necessarily less con- capable of running CALL programs to sat-
servative than other students as far as lan- isfy student need, resulting in frustrating
guage learning methodologies are delays and uncertainties, such as queuing
concerned. for machines and repeated visits to the lab.
• Computer initiates. These are students b. The hours of access to the lab often do not
who have taken a special Information suit student work patterns. Since students
Studies module on the Applied Languages are necessarily timetable-driven, they tend
course to introduce them, at the beginning to work more in labs later in the day and in
of their career, to word-processing, data- the evening because they have classes ear-
bases, spreadsheets, e-mail, the Internet lier. We have had to ensure that labs
and CALL software. Some take readily to remain open later in the evening and at
all this and others find it rather alien. weekends and recently students have been
• Computer novices. These students have lit- given 24-hour access.
tle or no previous experience of comput- c. There have been administrative problems
ing. They are often nervous and feel at a and delays in the issue of e-mail numbers
disadvantage, although some adapt well and accounts. This has sometimes been a
when time is taken with them. Others disincentive to their use.
remain resistant to using computers. Their
knowledge of the target language may also ii. Equipment and compatibility
be a factor. Some are mainstream linguists a. Incompatibility of equipment can create
and others non-specialists. For the latter, major problems. Students need to have
this insecurity with the language may cre- access to e-mail, the Internet and other ser-
ate additional difficulties, but conversely vices from the lab where they are working
the computer program, once mastered, on CALL programs. When, as in our case,
may add structure to their learning and students working on Macs cannot access
give a sense of greater control of the learn- the student e-mail system which is PC-
ing process. based, there is a major problem which we
have had to resolve on one campus by
using the First Class computer conferenc-
3. Types of resistance ing system and on the other by re-equip-
ping the laboratory with PCs. Problems
In looking at the different types of student may also arise when staff and students do
resistance we will consider the factors which not have the same type of equipment. For
help produce it and ways of overcoming it. The example, there were minor problems with
different groups of students mentioned above transmission of material via First Class
share some difficulties and not others, as will because the tutor used a Mac and the stu-
be indicated in the text below. Our research dents used PCs.
uncovered three major areas of concern: the b. Programs left open or changes in screen
computing environment, social and psycholog- set-up can be disconcerting and students
ical resistance, and educational factors. have often reacted badly. Some, particu-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 39

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

larly the computer specialists, are happy to majoring in languages. We had no CD-ROM
solve these problems themselves but oth- dictionaries or servers available, so students
ers, initially at least, find them very discon- had to trundle large dictionaries to and from
certing. the lab to enable them to use their CALL pro-
c. Noisy printers inhibit discussion of work, grams effectively. This type of awkwardness
and printing difficulties have caused many makes CALL less attractive, although there
complaints over the years, since students seems to be little awareness among students of
have shown a persistent preference for the need for servers. When a group of eight
hard copy material (McKee 1996: 182). final year computer specialists was asked:
Their first reaction has been to print out “Would a server in the computer lab be a use-
texts for analysis or translation so that they ful addition?”, the replies (yes 1, no 1, not sure
can work on them outside the lab. The 3 no reply 3) suggested little sense of urgency
recent introduction of laser printers has about the matter.
solved the noise problem but raised a new
difficulty. Students now have to pay for v. Student management of computing
printing, and cost is becoming a new disin- a. Many students still find typing a problem
centive to working with computers. and make too many mistakes to be com-
fortable. Typing tutors and typing courses
iii. Software factors often prove to be helpful.
a. CALL programs which are closed systems b. Disk management is still poor among stu-
involving the performance of repetitive lin- dents in general, even the computer spe-
guistic tasks can be very frustrating for cialists. Problems still arise from faulty
users. We have tried to avoid this problem disks because students often do not make
in program design by allowing students as backups and do not adequately protect
much freedom as possible to reply or not to their disks, carrying them about loose in
prompts, and to jump from stage to stage. the bottom of their bags. This can lead to
There is little evidence now of resentment loss of work and panic. Good practice must
at this type of difficulty among students. be taught as an essential part of the intro-
b. Software ‘glitches’ are much less common duction to computing.
than before, but students still manage to
find new weaknesses in programs. They do 3.2 Social and psychological resistance
things that programmers and program Several of the technical difficulties mentioned
designers never dreamed of. Such glitches above have a psychological dimension: the
are very damaging where they occur and preference for hard copy, problems of monot-
solutions must be found fast since they ony or reaction to glitches, but there are other
have a very serious effect on class morale. problems of a social or psychological nature.
Students are still scared of losing every-
thing, still waiting for something to go i. The location of work. Many language stu-
wrong. If a problem arises, its effects tend dents are in the habit of working on lan-
to be magnified out of all proportion and guage at home, in spite of all efforts to get
minor difficulties may be considered insur- them to do such work in the library. Going
mountable. Computer specialists are much back into a computer lab is also less attrac-
less likely to panic than the others, but they tive than working at home, particularly if
are also less tolerant of faults. they have to bring dictionaries and other
books with them. Until students have their
iv. Access to reference material own computers, this will continue to be a
The absence of essential support material can problem.
be a discouraging feature. On-line dictionaries ii. Feedback. We have found that students
are often either slow or too limited in scope need more reassurance when working on a
for the level of work required of students computer than when completing pen and

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

paper exercises. They want and need early type of exercise, can also provoke some
feedback, whether from the computer or hostility.
the tutor, on whether they are completing vi. Insecurity. Students, particularly the com-
the set task exactly as they should. puter novices and initiates, often fear being
iii. Team or pair work. We have often used alone to face computer problems, but the
this method in CALL teaching in order to need for constant support is more a percep-
enable a large class to fit into the computer tion than a reality. Student surveys on the
lab and to give computer novices access to Magee campus in 1995 and 1996 showed a
mutual support. It brings major benefits if clear desire for the teacher to be present
work is truly co-operative, but there have (McKee 1996: 180) yet, after the first cou-
been problems when one student was a ple of sessions, the teacher was rarely
‘passenger’. The passenger learned noth- approached for assistance. A help line to
ing and their co-worker or workers tutor and technicians can provide useful
resented his or her idleness. If the tutor is reassurance to encourage students to work
going to ask students to work in this way, more independently, as well as a means of
team management skills must be devel- resolving rapidly any problems which may
oped and some element of peer assessment arise. Students are still sufficiently inse-
introduced within the group. Team-work- cure, whether they lack confidence in
ing also demands more effort in relation to themselves or in the software designers, to
backup disks and effective communication panic quite quickly.
between students outside class, in order for
each member of the team to work effec- 3.3 Educational factors
tively and avoid problems caused by disks Some of the other factors which govern accep-
which have been lost or forgotten, or by tance of or resistance to the use of CALL derive
unnecessary duplication of work. from perceptions about peripherality or central-
iv. Getting emotional with the computer. ity to the curriculum. Its acceptability is greatly
There remains considerable fear of the enhanced when sufficient thought is given to its
computer, especially among the computer introduction and to the nature and quantity of the
novices, because of its high-tech image output expected from the student.
and complex nature. Surveys have also
shown evidence of anger at the intensive i. The curriculum
nature of computer work, at the concentra- a. When CALL was perceived as peripheral
tion it requires, at the problems that can to our courses, perhaps because it was seen
arise and so on. There is still considerable as the hobby of one or two tutors, it found
conservatism among students, who like the less acceptance than now, when it is more
safety of the language learning methods fully integrated into the curriculum and
they have known at secondary school. supported by a number of teaching staff.
v. The intensive nature of work with CALL. b. It was also less likely to be accepted and
Students are often asked to produce more used where student output did not count
detailed work when using CALL programs for assessment.
than with traditional exercises, particularly c. Early assumptions that students would
when working on text analysis, the sub- automatically welcome the chance to work
tleties of translation or the development of with computers have generally revealed
vocabulary and grammar notebooks. This themselves to be mistaken. Students must
may be resented by some students. In cer- be able to see good reasons for using com-
tain kinds of program, the unforgiving puters. The tutor therefore needs to explain
nature of the computer, which shows up the benefit of using a computer for the par-
very clearly all those inadequacies in the ticular kind of work that it addresses. If
student’s knowledge and work which students accept the explanation, they will
might remain hidden in a more traditional work much more contentedly.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 41

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

ii. Pedagogical factors norm, the tutor is more likely to face

a. Because students are more nervous with queries than when assessing a piece of pen
computers than when working with pen and paper work. Assessment criteria have
and paper, we have found that one intro- therefore to be clear and acceptable to stu-
ductory session is rarely sufficient to dents.
enable them to work confidently on their e. Students show resistance to independent
own, even if they are familiar with comput- work. All surveys on our own programs
ing. Instructions must be clear and tasks have shown no students or very few stu-
clearly defined and there must be a help dents using our CALL programs other than
line for back-up and reassurance. Matthew for assessed work. It is not just a question
Fox stresses the importance for the dis- of resistance to home-produced programs.
tance learner of avoiding isolation and con- Students do not use other CALL programs
sequent demotivation (Fox 1997: 38), but when they are made available to them.
we have found that this is equally impor- Only one student out of a focus group of
tant for the full-time, on-campus student around twelve second year students in
working independently with a computer. 1998 had investigated any of the programs
b. In the past, programs have made excessive available in the Magee computer lab. This
demands in terms of quantity and quality is part of a larger problem relating to the
of student output. To give an example, use of learning resources in general which
business students were left to work on all was highlighted during the recent Teaching
the stages of TAP (Text Analysis). The Quality Audit of university languages
work took a very long time and, since they departments in the United Kingdom. It
had no experience of literary textual analy- may be a question of better signposting by
sis, the stages on imagery and rhetoric pro- tutors or language advisors, but it is also a
duced only lists of images and rhetorical question of student choice.
figures. The following year, with a limita-
tion on the number of stages of the pro-
gram to be used, results were much better 4. Moving toward a computer-
and acceptance greater. based language learning
c. Regularity of work is also an issue. Stu- environment
dents forget how to use programs if work is
not regular. In the past, when the difficulty A crucial error has been to expect too much of
of the computing environment made longer CALL programs on their own. This is despite
sessions desirable, lengthy but more infre- the fact that students have generally felt that
quent CALL sessions were necessary. CALL sessions were beneficial. Surveys
Today, with fewer such difficulties, more immediately after using CALL programs have
frequent weekly sessions are desirable. given generally favourable results. A survey
Working on the computer throughout the conducted last year on retrospective attitudes
year, instead of only for one semester, also to the use of CALL (after a two year gap),
allows more time for acclimatisation for with a small group of final year computer spe-
those unused to computing. cialists was also interesting. After being
d. Our students like answers and want the reminded what the term CALL referred to, the
computer to provide them with an immedi- students were reassuringly positive. When
ate response. They reacted well to pro- asked, “Did your TAP (Glossary) and the
grams which gave them a score. But there training it involved have any subsequent
are many activities for which a comput- impact on your vocabulary acquisition tech-
erised scoring system is inappropriate, niques?” seven of the eight gave a positive
among them vocabulary acquisition, text response. When asked if the Text Analysis part
analysis and translation. Perhaps because of the program had brought any new insights
CALL work is still not accepted as the as far as interpreting the underlying message

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

of texts was concerned, the response was still they were asked to rank technological sup-
good, with five positive responses and one “no ports in order of usefulness for language learn-
opinion” out of the six who answered the ing. The rankings derived from the survey
question. were as follows:
CALL, then, is viewed positively in retro-
spect, even if it is approached by students with 1. Video
rather more trepidation than traditional teach- 2. TV
ing methods. It is not used independently to 3. Language lab
any great extent, but queries about non-CALL 4. First Class
independent work on grammar or vocabulary 5. CALL programs
are also likely to be answered in the negative.
However, we have found that other CALL E-mail, which was not then being used for for-
technologies are becoming increasingly popu- malised tandem learning, was not mentioned
lar, chief among them the Internet. by any of the students, and chatlines and the
Internet were each mentioned by two students,
4.1 Internet the Internet rating a third and a fifth place
The Internet is much preferred to CALL pro- from the two students. The poor placing is to
grams. In the 1998 survey of final year com- some extent a reflection of the slowness of the
puter specialists mentioned above, the eight adoption of the Internet in France. The recent
students were asked to rank all technological improvement in the number of French web
support in order of its appeal to them. Six out sites is producing a diminution in the number
of eight put the Internet in first position fol- of complaints from students about the lack of
lowed by video, TV, e-mail, language lab, French material.
First Class, CALL programs and chatlines. All In spite of their evident enthusiasm for the
but one had first used it in their first year at Internet, the students were clearly aware of
university (1994–95), and they were all, in the some difficulties related to its use. When
final year, setting up their own web sites as asked what was needed to make the Internet
part of their computing course. Even where more user-friendly, the eight final year com-
the Internet is not an integral part of the stu- puter specialists replied as follows:
dents' curriculum, it is increasingly used by
students, of their own accord or with minimal simplified search engines 3
prompting, to access information. quicker access 2
We have found the Internet to be the pre- quicker downloading 1
ferred option over books, library resources, better structure 1
video or TV, for class-based seminar presenta- a larger list of favourites and
tions, and also for some kinds of essay. It is pre-programmed addresses 1
used more if URLs are given; students have
been happy to work on their own without any Speed and ease of access are clearly matters of
signposting by teachers, although surveys of some concern, while the question of favourites
computer specialists in 1997 and 1998 both relates to the issue of navigation mentioned
showed some demand for signposting from a above.
minority of students (3 students out of 11 in In spite of these difficulties, we have
1997, 1 out of 8 in 1998). Web navigation noticed a growing tendency to turn to the
training sessions have now been introduced Internet, rather than to books, as the primary
and have been very well received. source of information. Second year computer
However, students do not see the Internet specialists were asked about this and
as a vehicle of primary importance in relation explained that they used the Internet for
to language learning. In the 1997 survey of source material rather than the Library
final year computer specialists, it was only because they could sit in one place and access
mentioned by two out of eight students when material with less effort.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 43

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

Although the Internet is a source of enter- class location, course outlines and coursework
tainment as well as instruction, students ques- requirements were sent to students via First
tioned about this aspect of it said that they Class, as was other important teaching docu-
were not generally using it for personal enter- mentation. First Class also functioned as an
tainment. When the question was put to a effective helpline to the teacher in relation to
group of second year computer specialists, all kinds of activity including academic and
only two out of the group of twelve admitted other needs. It became the vehicle for dissemi-
to using it for entertainment. All of them used nating Area Studies teaching notes, the send-
it for work, finding it most useful for Market- ing in of coursework (translations and/or
ing rather than Area Studies work in lan- essays), the returning of corrected work, and
guages, which is where tutors in the languages the creation of a databank of student presenta-
mostly see it used. tions which had been delivered in class, thus
making them available for revision and other
4.2 E-mail purposes by all the students taking the course.
While we are only now beginning to exploit e- When lecture notes were sent out to students,
mail for tandem learning purposes, it has been there was some concern as to how this might
useful as a tool to alleviate student insecurity affect attendance, but no significant negative
in dealing with CALL by providing a help-line effect has been observed. The immediate
as well as in relation to other teaching. How- result seems to have been that examination
ever, on one campus, problems of incompati- answers in the areas concerned are more accu-
bility have led us to adopt First Class as a rate. One has, however, to consider whether
basic means of communication and the general the use of this system discourages the develop-
usefulness of this computer conferencing pro- ment of good note-taking skills.
gram has led to its adoption for general use on The databank of presentations was very
both our Coleraine and Magee campuses. positively viewed by the students concerned.
The receiving, marking and return of work on
4.3 First Class First Class was welcomed because it was a
First Class enables computer conferences to be simpler, more immediate and more secure
set up to enable teacher and student to com- means of transmission than pen and paper and
municate effectively. Messages can be sent to because it dovetailed neatly with the use of the
individual students, or to all those on any par- translation program MetaText and the Text
ticular conference. They can be formatted and Analysis Program.
styled effectively and documents can be However, an experiment in optional co-
attached and sent along with them. It is possi- operative translation work using First Class
ble to trace the history of a message, see who mini-conferences was less successful. Stu-
has read it and so on. First Class also enables dents were happy to work together in groups
on-line discussions to be undertaken, although of three, but did not use First Class as a means
we have not implemented these as yet. of communication. When asked later why they
After a successful trial period in 1996–97 had not used it, they said they did not know
with some modules of study we decided, how. But, when asked further whether confi-
working on the basis that CALL could often dentiality was an issue, they cited embarrass-
be seen as peripheral to students’ main acade- ment, saying that looking stupid was more of
mic concerns, and building on the popularity an issue in a written medium than a standard
of the Internet and the communications side of class because written work ‘is forever’.
CALL, to use First Class to move towards the The results of the development of this envi-
creation of an integrated computer-based ronment have been very positive, even with
learning environment. novices, and it has been recognised as a better
All transactions on certain key modules environment than the stand-alone CALL
were undertaken using computers. All admin- setup. It is attractive not only to students but
istrative messages relating to timetabling, also to other colleagues, who have taken

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

enthusiastically to it as a superior way to man- guage learning strategies. For CALL to be

age and teach courses, not all of which involve accepted, it must be well integrated into
CALL programs. For students it offers new the curriculum, and accepted as valuable
possibilities of asynchronous communication by fellow teachers and Heads of Depart-
whether as individuals or as groups, fostering ment. It must also be managed, with realis-
team-building and peer learning skills. Even tic expectations of the volume of work
when students are using First Class for work required and the provision of good feed-
other than languages, the message that com- back to students.
puters are useful tools is being reinforced. 7. Independent learning with CALL pro-
grams does not happen. However other
supports such as television, video and even
5. Conclusion books are also under-utilised in indepen-
dent mode. Solutions may include the pro-
In spite of progress in hardware and program- vision of more space within the curriculum
ming in recent years, student resistance to for independent study, better signposting
CALL is still present. We have observed a and more support from language advisors.
number of reasons for this phenomenon.
On a more positive note, we have seen areas of
1. Accessibility remains a key issue. Even computing which are well-accepted and, as a
with plenty of machines and 24 hour avail- result, have devised an approach which
ability, pen and paper are still more readily enables these resistances to be further over-
available and easier to use. come, in addition to the measures we have
2. Incompatible systems still cause some suggested above.
technical difficulties which not only feed Students like using the Internet, mainly for
the fears of students already predisposed to the gathering of information, and conse-
be apprehensive about computers but cause quently the use of computers has become very
them to be more worried about CALL than much more attractive. Building on the popu-
those difficulties would warrant. larity of such a communications system, our
3. Lack of familiarity with elementary com- most encouraging conclusion, despite some
puting skills and with basic disk manage- issues of privacy, is that the creation of a com-
ment causes much unnecessary apprehen- puter-based learning environment, centred on
sion among students. If CALL is to be First Class, has helped engender more accep-
used successfully, they must be given an tance of and confidence in the use of comput-
effective general introduction to comput- ers for language learning.
ing and encouraged to use computers for This is because computing becomes part of
more than just CALL programs. student academic life and makes it easier,
4. Software which is faulty, repetitive or bor- since students can receive notes, be given on-
ing is a major disincentive. Students must line help and swap Web addresses. It also pro-
see a positive benefit in using the software vides a more positive environment in which
and be allowed a certain amount of free- the use of CALL programs can take place.
dom within the programs they use. In brief, our findings show that use of
5. It is also clear that social and psychologi- CALL is not really about software design and
cal factors such as location of work, prob- related problems any more; it is about other
lems with other students and fear of or factors – infrastructure and compatibility, cur-
frustration with the computer play a major riculum design, sound pedagogical strategies,
role in student resistance. They need to be and social and psychological constraints. The
tackled by the provision of more direct principles we have outlined in this paper have
training and support in order to meet these helped to enable us to overcome many of the
specific problems. problems of student resistance, but there is
6. Students are still conservative in their lan- still some way to go.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 45

Resistance to CALL: J Gillespie and J McKee

References John Gillespie and Jane McKee are Senior Lectur-

ers in the School of Languages and Literature at the
McKee J. (1996) “Independent Learning and the University of Ulster and have been involved in the
Computer: the Text Analysis Program at the development of CALL programs since 1987 with the
University of Ulster”, in Broady E. and Ken- CTI project and later with the TELL consortium.
ning M.-M. (eds.), Promoting Learner Auton- Programs produced include MCQ, MetaText and
omy in University Language Teaching, London: TAP. They have been members of EUROCALL since
AFLS/CILT, 159–183. 1993 and 1994 respectively.
Fox M. (1997) “The Teacher is dead! Long live the
teacher!”, Active Learning 7, 35–40.

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 47–57

Internet-based activities for the ESL


Christina Gitsaki* and Richard P Taylor†

*Nagoya University of Commerce, †Nagoya City University, Japan

The Internet offers a wealth of information and unlimited resources that teachers can use in order to
expose students to authentic language use. Exposure, however, is not enough to trigger language
acquisition. Students need to be involved in tasks that integrate the use of computers and enhance lan-
guage acquisition. This paper outlines an instructional system designed to guide English as a Second
Language (ESL) students through their exploration of the Internet and carry out projects that will ulti-
mately help them improve their reading and writing skills and enrich their vocabulary. Through this
instructional system the benefits of using the Internet for ESL purposes with different types of students in
different educational environments can be maximised.

1. Why use the Internet for able it is hard to keep students interested in
teaching English them for a long time. Looking at electronic
discussion lists such as NETEACH we can see
The use of the Internet and e-mail for teaching that more and more teachers are trying out the
English as a second or foreign language has Internet with their students and finding new
increased in recent years. Most language ways of utilising Web resources for language
teaching institutions today are equipped with teaching purposes.
computers, whilst Internet is the hot word and The Internet is gaining popularity because
people surf the web on a daily basis. With it provides students with opportunities for
much of the information on the Internet exposure to natural language and authentic
appearing in English, the web offers an abun- language use not only in the classroom but
dance of English language teaching resources. also outside it. Also, the information available
Also, many educational institutions are not on the Internet is frequently updated and cur-
keen on buying expensive software and CD- rent, making students aware of global issues
ROMs especially designed for learning lan- and concerns (Frizler 1995:72). Furthermore,
guages, and even when CD-ROMs are avail- using the Internet is fun. Websites are full of

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 47

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

animation, colour, sound, pictures, interactive (1995), the most common pitfall for teachers
forms and digital video clips adding to the stu- willing to use the Internet for teaching English
dents’ motivation and helping them enjoy the is allowing students to use the Internet with no
learning process. Using the Internet has clear language task in mind. Without teacher
become a part of our life and learning how to guidance and student-centered activities, com-
use it is an essential skill for students, so puters will do little to help students learn Eng-
through the use of computers and the Internet lish (Berge & Collins 1995). Although com-
students develop basic Information Technol- puter technology offers many educational
ogy (IT) skills (e.g. word processing skills, opportunities and possibilities for ESL, there
web-browsing skills, retrieval of information is a need for well-designed teaching materials
from on-line archives and databases) and learn that will utilise the Internet for language
English at the same time. When students use teaching and integrate second language acqui-
the Internet, they use English to find informa- sition and the acquisition of computer skills.
tion about other cultures and places around the Thus, there is a need for materials that will
world. So students use English not only to guide students as they surf the Internet and
learn about English culture but also to learn give them direction and motivation to com-
about other cultures (Muehleisen 1997), and plete specific tasks, have fun and improve their
interact with people from other countries in English at the same time (see also Yang 1998).
English, i.e. cross-cultural communication. The next part of this paper will give some
Finally, using the Internet for ESL enhances information on our teaching background, out-
student autonomy (Warschauer, Turbee & line an instructional design for using the Inter-
Roberts 1994) and gives learners the opportu- net for ESL and give sample Internet-based
nity to manage their own learning. Students activities for use in the ESL classroom.
can continue using the Internet and be exposed
to English even outside the classroom, making
learning English an ongoing process. (For a 2. Teaching English in Japan
more detailed account of the benefits of Inter-
net see Frizler 1995). In Japan students receive English instruction
The big challenge for teachers who want to throughout high-school by Japanese teachers
use the Internet for ESL is designing teaching of English. The main teaching method used at
materials that will help students use the Web Japanese secondary schools is the grammar-
and learn English at the same time. Frizler translation method (Buck 1992; Watanabe
(1995) exclaims: 1996). During English classes students are
involved in translating Japanese texts into
“I'm beginning to realize that just putting stu- English and vice-versa. This teaching method
dents on WWW isn't enough. They need focused is also reinforced by the school and college
tasks to help them best utilise the Web. Thus, examination system in Japan. School exams
teachers must create interactive activities which and university entrance exams require students
involve WWW.” (Frizler 1995: 55) to translate texts from Japanese to English and
vice-versa (Watanabe 1996). The main learn-
The Internet is like an ocean, offering an ing strategies used by Japanese students
abundance of information, but without navi- include rote memorisation, drilling and trans-
gating tools students can get lost in it. The lation (Taylor 1997). In high-school, Japanese
information available on the Internet can be students rarely get involved in communicative
overwhelming. Some teachers use the com- activities.
puter labs as libraries: they allow free access When Japanese students start attending a
to students outside classroom time. This university, they have had little or no experi-
approach does not really help students max- ence in using English in real life situations or
imise the benefits of using computers (Trickel listening to and conversing with native speak-
& Liljegren 1998). According to Magoto ers of English. A lot of Japanese universities

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

employ native speakers of English for teach- to put together their research questions first,
ing ESL to Japanese students. So, when stu- how to use effective keywords, how to com-
dents start attending English classes, they are bine keywords, how to browse through infor-
taught for the first time by English native mation and select what is most useful to them.
speakers and they are encouraged to be active An activity that we have used to teach our stu-
in the classroom. Most of the native English dents effective search strategies is an elec-
teachers follow a predominantly task-based tronic Trivia Quiz. Students have to write five
approach in their classrooms. They involve questions that are very difficult to answer (e.g.
students in situations where they have to use who is the tallest man in the world?). Then
English in a communicative way. A lot of they have to use the Internet to find the
classroom time is spent in practising language answers to their questions. After they have
skills in communicative tasks and developing found the answers to their questions, they
the ability to use English in a creative way. swap questions with their partners and try to
The Internet-based activities outlined in find the answers to their partner’s questions
this paper were designed for students who are using the Internet. The winner of the game is
at least at a false-beginner level of English, the person who answered most of the ques-
which is usually the level Japanese students tions correctly. This activity gives students an
are at when they start attending a university. opportunity to think carefully about the key-
Japanese students have a very good grounding words they have to use in order to restrict their
in English grammar, due to their high-school searches and it is an excellent way to show
English instruction, but very limited experi- students how to use Boolean operators and
ence in authentic language use. The purpose advanced search syntax with Internet directo-
of the proposed instructional design is to ries and search engines.
expose the students to authentic English use, While learning how to use the Internet, stu-
utilising the ‘Information Super Highway’, i.e. dents can also create their own free e-mail
the Internet. No special computer skills are account using one of the Internet websites that
required on the part of the student. In fact the offer free e-mail. After they have created their
first couple of lessons are constructed around account they can practise sending, reading and
practising computer skills and getting learners replying to e-mail. Once the students have
acquainted with some routine computer opera- acquired the basic search strategies, computer,
tions. The Internet projects are designed to be word-processing and e-mail skills they can be
used in a typical computer lab equipped with a introduced to Internet projects that require stu-
word-processor, an Internet browser, an elec- dents to conduct Internet searches accessing
tronic mail program, and access to the Inter- English web sites, gather information and then
net. use the information in order to perform realis-
tic tasks that promote communication and
3. Teaching basic computer skills
to language learners
4. Internet projects
As with any class that relies on the use of
technology, an ESL class that takes place in 4.1 Basic structure of an Internet
the computer lab has to introduce students to project
basic computer operations and word-process- Each Internet project comprises four main sec-
ing skills such as how to create a file, how to tions which introduce students to the topic,
save/copy/cut/paste, how to use different fonts guide them through their web search and help
and other formatting tools. them share the information they found on the
Also one of the first skills students have to Internet (see Appendix A). Each project begins
acquire is successful web-browsing and web- with a Mission that is stated at the beginning
search strategies. Students have to learn how of the project to introduce students to the topic

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 49

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

of the project and to give them a glimpse of of the class and it helps students practise their
the big picture (i.e. what their project is about, e-mail skills. Thus even though “the World
what information they will need to find, and Wide Web in and of itself is not interactive,
how they will use the information). The Iden- what students do with it can be” (Frizler 1995:
tify section is a warm-up activity. It contains 54).
ideas about the topic and activates learners’
schemata by engaging them in small tasks 4.2 Project topics
which include personal reflection and pair When teachers use a traditional textbook for
interaction. The Select section exposes the teaching English they often have to use mate-
learners to useful vocabulary that they will rials that are outdated, old-fashioned or based
encounter while searching the Internet, and on topics that are not appealing to everybody
gives them ideas about their task. By the end in the class because different students have
of this section learners have to focus on a spe- different tastes, opinions, preferences, ideas,
cific area for their Internet search. In the etc. In other words, traditional textbooks are
Search section the students conduct a search designed to appeal to a general audience and
on the Internet. First they have to list their key- do not respond to the interests of individual
words, allowing teachers to check the key- students. Unlike traditional textbooks, the use
words for spelling and validity before the stu- of the Internet allows students to choose the
dents use them for their search. When the information they want to read and find infor-
students get the results of the search they have mation that satisfies their particular prefer-
to browse through the different web sites and ences and interests.
choose two or three which contain the infor- The Internet projects introduce students to
mation they are interested in. This section also a topic, give them some guidance to help them
contains a chart which the students can use in with the language they will encounter and then
order to sort out the information they found on students are left on their own to direct their
the Internet. The final part of the project is the learning to the areas they are interested in. In
Share section. This section contains a commu- this respect, students are in charge of their
nicative task (e.g. a role-play, a questionnaire learning and able to direct themselves to lan-
or an interview) that allows students to interact guage resources that appeal to them. Table 1
in pairs or groups and share the information lists some of the topics we have used in the
they found on the Internet. This task also projects we have designed for our students.
offers students the opportunity to have a look All these topics have proved successful
at the information the other students have with first year freshmen students in Japan, and
found on the Internet. By sharing the informa- they require basic computer and Internet skills.
tion orally, students can utilise web sites not The use of the Internet in the ESL classroom
only as sources of information and task-based must have a pedagogical focus that is clear not
reading, but also to initiate communication only to the teacher, but to the students as well.
and discussion (Magoto 1995). Otherwise, students are likely to get caught up
Each Internet project is accompanied by a in the technological aspect of an activity, los-
computer writing task and an e-mail task. ing sight of their language learning goals
Those classes with emphasis on writing can (Shetzer 1995). Therefore it is important that
use the computer writing task which allows students are not burdened with complicated
students to use the information they found on and unnecessary computer tasks so that in the
the Internet in a constructive way. The com- end they feel that they are in a computer class
puter writing task also gives opportunities for rather than an English class.
the development of computer skills such as
downloading information from the Internet
(such as text and pictures) and using a word 5. Overview
processor. The e-mail task is mainly for shar-
ing the information electronically with the rest We have been using the Internet projects with

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

Table 1 List of project topics for the Internet-based activities

Topic Project

Summer Course students find information about an English school overseas offering summer ESL courses
to international students
Famous People students find information about their favourite famous person e.g. a singer, an actor, a
politician, a fashion designer, a sports person
Movie Previews students find information on new movies that are about to be released or movies they
would like to see in the future
Eating Out students find information about restaurants overseas and practise how to read a menu
and order a meal
Shopping Spree students learn how to do on-line shopping
Holiday Plans students use the Internet to plan a holiday overseas, e.g. find and book hotels, flights,
organise activities
Working Overseas students go job hunting on the Internet and learn how to apply for a job through e-mail
News Flashes students access on-line newspapers and magazines, and read news stories and
current events
Environmental Issues students read information on current environmental issues (e.g. global warming) and then
have a discussion on finding solutions for the environmental problems
Web Cards students find out how to send an electronic web card to their classmates and friends

our Japanese students for the past 18 months guage), it contains real language. As students
and they have proved to be working really navigate their way around the primarily text-
well. Students are motivated to complete their based Internet, they must read and write in
tasks and they have a sense of achievement English, which helps them acquire the lan-
when they finally find the information they guage (Falsetti 1995).
want on the Internet. From the point of view The feedback we get from the students is
of language acquisition, students get a lot of that they have fun, they are happy to learn how
opportunities to practise reading English, to surf the Internet and use computers. The
skimming and scanning, and “develop their acquisition and practice of computer skills
critical thinking skills by sifting through and “adds a relevance to their work and is a skill
gathering information from Web pages for they will need as they move into the work-
research projects” (Frizler 1995: 65). Students places of the 21st century” (Black et al. 1995).
also learn new words and collocations since Students find out that it is safe for them to
the language they encounter is always in con- venture outside their textbooks and that cop-
text. The Internet projects also provide oppor- ing with authentic English is not impossible.
tunities for students to practise their conversa- They are amazed at the wealth of information
tion skills through model dialogues and that is on the Internet and at how up to date the
speaking-oriented tasks. The computer writing information is (e.g. while our students were
tasks give students opportunities to practise working on the News Flashes project, they
their writing skills, synthesise information and chose a news story to read, and halfway
format documents (how to arrange pictures through the lesson they saw the headlines of
and text, use referencing, how to edit their the English newspapers change!). Students
own writing). Using the word processor for also feel that they can find almost anything on
completing writing tasks is thought to improve the Internet and this adds to their confidence
writing quality as well as the students’ motiva- and motivation. Finally, students learn com-
tion and attitude towards writing (Neu & Scar- puter and Internet skills that they can use out-
cella 1991). Also, because the Internet is a nat- side the classroom too, and in this way the
ural language resource (i.e. not a textbook Internet-based projects outlined in this paper
created for the purpose of teaching a lan- help students become ‘lifelong learners’

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 51

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

because they are able to locate the resources to ing in Japan: An investigation of student learn-
continue learning English outside the class- ing strategies and teacher classroom practices.”
room (Berge & Collins 1995). Bulletin of Aichi Sangyo University College 10,
Trickel K. & Liljegren K. (1998) “Using multime-
dia computers effectively in the ESL classroom:
References Use the computers. Don’t let them use you.”
Paper presented at the 1998 Southeast Regional
Berge Z. & Collins M. (1995) Computer-mediated TESOL Conference, Louisville, Kentucky.
communication and the on-line classroom in Warschauer M., Turbee L. & Roberts B. (1994)
distance learning. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton “Computer learning networks and student
Press. empowerment.” (Research note #10), Honolulu,
Black L., Klingenstien K., & Songer N. (1995) HI: University of Hawaii, Second Language
“Observations from the Boulder Valley Internet Teaching & Curriculum Center.
project”, Technological Horizons in Education Watanabe Y. (1996) “Does grammar translation
(THE) Journal 22 (10–11), 75–80 & 54–57. come from the entrance examination? Prelimi-
Buck G. (1992) “Translation as a language testing nary findings from classroom-based research.”
procedure: does it work?” Language Testing 9, Language Testing 13(3), 318-333.
123–148. Yang P. J. (1998) “Networked multimedia and for-
Falsetti J. (1995) “What the heck is a MOO and eign language education”, CALICO Journal 15
what's the story with all those cows?”, paper (1-3), 75–88.
presented at TESOL ‘95, Long Beach, CA.
Frizler K. (1995) “The Internet as an Educational
Tool in ESOL Writing Instruction.” Unpub-
lished Master’s Thesis, San Francisco State Christina Gitsaki is an Associate Professor at the
University [WWW document]. URL Nagoya University of Commerce, Japan. She holds an MA in TESOL from the University of Wales, UK,
Magoto J. (1995) “From the nets: World Wide Web and a Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition from
and ESL.” CAELL Journal 5 (4), 21-26. the University of Queensland, Australia. Her
Muehleisen V. (1997) “Projects using the Internet in research interests are in the use of computers and
College English classes”, paper presentation, the Internet for teaching English. (Email:
CALL: Basics and Beyond, Chubu University,
Nagoya, Japan, May 31.
Neu J. & Scarcella R. (1991) “Word processing in Richard P. Taylor is a lecturer at Aichi Sangyo Uni-
the ESL writing classroom: A survey of student versity, Nagoya, Japan. He holds an MA in Applied
attitudes”. In Dunkel P. (ed.), Computer-
Linguistics from the University of Southern
assisted language learning and testing:
Queensland, Australia. He teaches English for
Research issues and practice, New York: New-
bury House Publishers, 170–187. Business and Computer Communication Skills. He
Shetzer H. (1995) “Web Resources Page”. URL is interested in designing teaching materials for the use of the Internet in the ESL classroom. (Email:
Taylor R. P. (1997) “Vocabulary learning and teach-

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

Appendix A: Sample Project

Your Mission

Famous •

Identify famous people
Select your favorite famous person
Search and collect information about the

People •
famous person you have chosen.
Share the information about your favorite
famous person

1. Look at the people in the pictures. Can you recognize them? What are they famous for?

Famous Person Occupation

1. ______________________________ ______________________________

2. ______________________________ ______________________________

3. ______________________________ ______________________________

4. ______________________________ ______________________________

5. ______________________________ ______________________________

2. Check your answers with your partner.


A: Who’s that?
B: That’s Mel Gibson, the famous movie star.
A: Do you like him?
B: Yes, I do

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 53

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

1. Think of three of you favorite famous people. Write their names and occupations below.

Famous Person Occupation

Word Box
1. 1. singer
2. 2. supermodel
3. 3.

2. From the list above, choose one famous person you would like to know more about. Write
his or her name below.

My favorite famous person is..............................................................................................

He(She) is a(n)........................................................................................................................
(example: singer, movie star, politician, etc.)

3. Now talk about your choice with a classmate.

A: Who is your favorite famous person?

B: Celine Dion the famous singer.
Word Box
A: What do you think of her?
B: I think she is really great.

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

1. Look for information about your favorite famous person. Do a search using the person’s
name as a keyword for the search. Be sure to spell the name correctly.

Your Keywords: _____________________________________


2. Explore 2-3 websites your found about your favorite famous person.

3. Now choose the most interesting homepages and write their URL below.
URL: .....................................................................................................................

4. Now read the information in the homepages and fill in the following chart.

My favorite Birthday:..................................... Age:..................................

famous Person Starsign:...............................Nationality:............................
is Hobbies:..................................................................................
________________ Family:.....................................................................................
Career History:....................................................................................................................
Interesting information:....................................................................................................
Why he(she) is my favorite famous person:...............................................................

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 55

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

1. Interview two people about their favorite famous person.
Use the table below to help you ask and answer questions.
is his name? His name is ...........
What are her hobbies? Her hobbies are.......
does he He’s
do? a(n) ................
she She’s
How old is he? He’s
......... years old
she? She’s
When his
is birthday? It’s on ................
Where he He’s from ............
is from?
she She’s
He’s .........................
Why do you like him/her? a good ..............
he is
Yes, she is
he married?
Is she he’s single
she’s single

2. Write down the information about the famous people.

Example Student 1 Student 2

Name Celine Dion

Job singer

Age 30 years old

Birthday March 30th

Place of Charlemagne
Birth Quebec, Canada

Hobbies Skiing & Water Skiing

Family 13 brothers & sisters

Interesting Began singing at age 5

Information Speaks French
Reason for I like her music
this person

3. Now have a look at the answers you wrote down. Answer these questions.
Which of these famous people you would like to meet? ____________________________

Internet-based activities: C Gitsaki and R P Taylor

Famous People
Language Window
1. Here are some ways to talk about past events.

he was born in California

she went to London when she was 20 years old
he graduated in 1983
they gave a concert last year
she died ten years ago

2. Now write four sentences about past events in your life.

I was born in (place) (year)....................

When I was ....................................................................................................
Last year I......................................................................................................
I..................................................................................................... years ago.

Computer Writing
Use your word-processor to produce a computer profile of your favorite famous person.
Steps: A. Open a new file.

B. Use the information you found on the Internet to write the profile.

C. Find a picture of the famous person on the Internet and copy it in your file.

D. At the end of your document write the URLs of the homepages you used.

E. Save the file as YourName.Famous

1. E-mail the famous person profile to your classmates.
On the Subject line write the name of the famous person.

2. Have a look at the other students’ famous person profiles. Answer the questions.

1. Who are some of the famous people that the other students have chosen? .....................

2. Which famous person profile do you like the most?


Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 57

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 58–64

Laying the foundations:

designing a computing course
for language students
Christopher Jones
Department of Languages, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

This paper looks at the design of a computing course for modern languages students. The goals of this
course are to raise the level of IT skills with which modern languages students typically enter higher edu-
cation; to ensure that students gain the maximum benefit and enjoyment from their programme of study;
and to equip students with valuable transferable skills appropriate for a modern languages graduate of
the twenty-first century. The rationale behind the key decisions affecting the design of the course is
explained and practical suggestions for teaching the major topics are given. Particular attention is given
to the sensitive issue of assessment which can have a powerful influence on student motivation.

1. Introduction in particular (Fox 1997); the desirability of

ensuring that graduates leave higher education
On the BA (Hons) Modern Languages degree with appropriate transferable skills (Assiter
at Manchester Metropolitan University, stu- 1995); and the design of university courses
dents in their first year follow a computing that equip students with basic IT skills (Martin
course for one hour a week. The course is not 1997). However, it was the workshop on com-
a computer-assisted language learning course puter literacy at the University of Durham
but rather has the aim of providing students “Towards Computer Literacy for every Gradu-
with the necessary computer skills which they ate – Strategies and Challenges for the early
will need for success and enjoyment on the Nineteen-nineties” that threw down a chal-
four years of the degree. Many recent discus- lenge and provided guidelines which could not
sions have fed into the final version of this be ignored:
course: the use of educational media to sup-
port learning in higher education in general “The effective integration of computers into exist-
(Laurillard 1993); the need to reconsider ing degree courses may well do more to impart
approaches to teaching and strategies for real understanding about the potential and per-
learning within the field of modern languages formance of information technology than any

Designing a computing course for language students: C Jones

number of literacy courses which are margin- guage and/or level. It also meant that delivery
alised to the edge of the curriculum” (Gardner of the course would be entirely in English,
1990: 10). although as demonstrated below this would not
mean that the foreign language becomes irrele-
The outcomes of this discussion (McCartan vant to the successful running of the course.
1990) made it clear that computing courses Another key factor which most languages
would need to be integrated into subject areas undergraduates seem to have in common is the
as much as possible and would need to address low level of IT skills which they possess at the
the different needs of specific types of student. commencement of their course (Fox et al
Recent research continues to emphasise the 1998). This has two major repercussions for
vital importance of integration (Lousberg & the computing course. Firstly it has to start
Soler 1998, Mansfield & McNeill 1998). with the most basic skills so that a large pro-
portion of the students are not excluded from
making any further progress. Secondly it
2. Key issues for languages students means that any students who do come with a
useful level of IT skills will be unwilling to sit
Four key issues became apparent during early through too many basic sessions and this can
design work on this course: disrupt patterns of attendance at an early stage
in their course.
• The variety of languages and levels which In deciding which skills to teach when and
students may combine in their degree which skills to teach at all it has been of great
• The mainly poor level of IT skills which importance to consider the degree programme
they bring to the course as a whole. Students studying for four years
• The need to equip students for four years (including one year abroad divided between
of study via a course which only runs in two countries) only receive tuition in comput-
Year I ing during their first year. The course is there-
• The desire to equip students with valuable fore forced to cover all the computer-based
transferable skills appropriate for a work which will be expected of them not only
languages graduate in the current year but also in the three years
which follow. It is vital then to establish a bal-
Before looking at the impact of these factors it ance between skills which students need right
will be useful to consider them in a little more from the first few weeks of study up to the
detail. project work which they will have to complete
As Manchester Metropolitan University by their fourth year.
offers a BA (Hons) Modern Languages, rather The issue of transferable skills for under-
than single honours qualifications, all students graduates has been a topic of much discussion
take two foreign languages from a selection of recently (Assiter 1995), and it is clear that
four, namely French, German, Italian and many of the outcomes are of particular rele-
Spanish. In addition students taking French vance to languages students. The BA (Hons)
must have an A-level or equivalent qualifica- Modern Languages is not a vocational qualifi-
tion or experience; students taking Italian cation as such yet prospective employers of
study the language ab initio; and those includ- languages graduates will expect such students,
ing German or Spanish in their combination perhaps more than others, to be particularly
may take that language in the Post A-level proficient in delivering verbal information
route or the ab initio route as appropriate. This with clarity, confidence and professionalism.
has a major consequence for the delivery of It is in this last area, that of operating with
the computing course, as because of these var- written and spoken language in a professional
ious languages and levels which students may manner, that a computing course can provide
combine, it becomes impractical to deliver a much in the way of appropriate transferable
specialised computing course for each lan- skills.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 59

Designing a computing course for language students: C Jones

These then are the key issues which were to present the letter in a wordprocessed form,
identified as of particular relevance in the demonstrating their ability to employ layout
design of the computing course. How did they features and the extended character set of that
impact on the syllabus and delivery of the language. In this way the testing of a student’s
course and, just as importantly, how was the IT skills is embedded in a task which he or she
goal of integration achieved? will perceive as a test of their language skills.
The formation of explicit links between
activities in the computing course and
3. Design parameters assessed work in the rest of the curriculum is a
vital ingredient in achieving the integration
Many of the decisions regarding the selection of which the Durham workshop highlighted, but
software packages for the course were simple to it also serves a key role in increasing a stu-
make as the computing course had to conform to dent’s motivation to participate fully in the
the software selected by Manchester Metropoli- computing course. However as mentioned
tan University as standards for both staff and above not all skill areas are of immediate rele-
student use. This did not present any problems vance: some will only become of real use to
or conflicts of interest as the university has cho- students at a later stage in their studies. For
sen industry standard products. Of most signifi- this reason it becomes important to balance
cance to the computing course are: Microsoft the programme of study between the two
Office, specifically Word and Powerpoint; areas, perhaps dealing one week with a piece
Netscape Communicator; and Pegasus Mail. of software which students may not need until
Although the computing course itself has Year II and then concentrating in the next few
no examinations, assessed work which the stu- weeks on software or techniques which are
dents have to do as part of their studies has needed for work in the language classes which
been a major influence on the design of the are going on at that time. Even a simple matter
course. In the light of recent discussion such as expecting translations or summaries to
(Holmes & Leney 1998, Martin & Fayter be wordprocessed and double-spaced will
1997) it became clear that assessment could have beneficial effects. Of course students will
not be ignored. But given the outcomes of the need to make sure that they are conversant
Durham workshop it was felt to be of great with double-spacing, but as they also have to
importance to turn attention away from learn- pay for printing they will soon learn to use
ing computing for its own sake to learning Print Preview, change font style and font size,
computing within the framework of the sub- and alter margins to avoid paying for an extra
ject. One of the most successful ways of page which only has a line or two of text!
achieving this is to focus attention on a partic- The decisions about which software to
ular aspect of the course and then ensure that include and the desire to situate all assessment
relevant IT skills are a necessary prerequisite elsewhere in the programme of study resulted
for completing an assessed task in this area. in a computing course which would have to
For example, a student who has to write a cover the following areas:
business letter in a foreign language as a piece
of assessed work will be primarily concerned • Wordprocessing using Microsoft Word
with their written French, German, Italian or • Oral presentations using Microsoft Power-
Spanish; they will also want to make sure that point as an aid
they achieve the correct level of formality • Internet navigation using Netscape Com-
appropriate to the practices of the country municator
where that language is spoken; and they may • E-mail and in particular e-mail attachments
want to use the common recurring phrases using Pegasus Mail
which make up a proportion of all commercial
correspondence and which identify a letter as The successful delivery of this course, meeting
authentic. However, they will also be expected the demands of integration to suit the require-

Designing a computing course for language students: C Jones

ments of a modern languages degree and the set it apart. Footnotes or endnotes can be used
specific needs of our students, was dependent to provide background knowledge on obscure
on the development of a range of tailored points or vocabulary assistance with certain
teaching materials. words. Alternatively, students could prepare a
full translation and present both documents
side by side using the columns function. The
4. Materials development important thing is to ensure that students
remain focussed on the content of the task
4.1 Wordprocessing rather than on the IT side.
Wordprocessing is the first IT skill which is
taught to students as it is arguably the most 4.2 Presentations
useful in and of itself and also because many of Oral presentations in English and in the for-
the procedures which the students learn eign languages which the students are study-
through using a wordprocessing package are ing are a regular part of the teaching and
essential in other areas of computing: saving learning programme and also of the assess-
and loading, filename conventions, printing, ment pattern of the degree. Microsoft’s Power-
using the mouse to access menus or buttons, point can be a useful aid in preparing a presen-
and so forth. The importance of presenting tation and can help give a professional
written work in a wordprocessed form is made appearance to the final result. One of the easi-
clear to students at the beginning of the course, est ways of ensuring that students perceive the
and tutors will expect to receive language relevance of this part of the computing course
homework in this way. However, merely typing to their normal language studies is to timetable
up a summary or translation is a poor test of a this part of the course to run concurrently with
student’s IT skills and it is also no real encour- a genuine, preferably assessed, presentation
agement for students to regard the computer as which the students have to prepare. Work-
anything more than a glorified typewriter. For shops run during lesson time will then centre
these reasons it is more revealing for staff and on the topics for the presentation. This not
more stimulating for students if the latter can only provides an authentic task, it also moti-
become involved in small projects which make vates the students, as they can clearly see the
more use of the layout possibilities of an relevance of the computer work to their other
advanced wordprocessing program. studies and feel that they are somehow receiv-
One way of ensuring that students become ing extra help from a member of staff.
familiar with a wide range of the features of a The Wizards which Microsoft provides
wordprocessing program such as Microsoft with Powerpoint are helpful in the creation of
Word without drawing attention away from a series of slides to accompany a live oral pre-
their main areas of study is to give them tasks sentation. The Autocontent Wizard is the easi-
that involve the manipulation of set pieces of est way to introduce Powerpoint to students as
text from those areas. A simple project is the its use of colourful backgrounds and ready-
creation of a mini critical edition. Students made sections which need only be edited
taking an option in Short Narrative Fiction, quickly captures their interest and allows them
Women’s Writing, Popular Culture, Education to create their own presentations with a mini-
in France, Germany, Italy or Spain or any sim- mum of effort. However, for students prepar-
ilar topic may wish to choose a text from one ing their own individual or group presentation
of those courses or else from their language it is the Pick a Look Wizard with its option to
teaching programme. This text can then be prepare black and white overhead transparen-
annotated by making use of many of Word’s cies that is of most use. With only the basic
more advanced features. Students can research layout of the slide done for them, the students
and write a short introduction to the text or a are forced to concentrate on their own content.
brief biography of the author if relevant, per- This means that they will need to consider
haps presenting it in a different font style to how best to structure the points which they

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 61

Designing a computing course for language students: C Jones

need to make, how to link what is on the trans- the Unikino. Find this information then save it
parency to what they will say, and how to as a plain text file with the name kino.txt.
reduce the key issues from a presentation last-
ing ten or fifteen minutes in English or a for- Task 5
eign language in such a way that they will fit The University of Leipzig has an Akademis-
on one or two slides. In this way attention is ches Auslandsamt, or AAA, which is there to
turned away from the pure computing con- help students from other countries. The loca-
cerns of using software correctly to that area tion and opening times of the Akademisches
of the degree programme for which the stu- Auslandsamt are listed. Find this information
dents will have to give a presentation. then save it as a plain text file with the name
4.3 Internet navigation
The main requirement for materials for this This worksheet allows students to practise
part of the computing course was for some- their search skills, it demonstrates how the web
thing to focus on search skills. Given the pages maintained by the Department of Lan-
implicit aim of the course to establish links guages can help with their studies, it reminds
with the rest of the curriculum and to make the them of the importance of saving material as
relevance of the computing work explicit to plain text if they wish to make use of it later,
students, it was decided to create activities and it whets their appetite for their stay in the
which would allow students to learn how the foreign country during their Year Abroad.
Internet can be a useful preparation tool for If there are students who would like to take
their Year Abroad. A worksheet designed their interest in the Internet further, then it is
around an Internet ‘treasure hunt’ where stu- possible to give them a simple taste of web
dents have to find and save certain pieces of page design:
information served a number of purposes:
Basic Web Page Design Worksheet
German Universities on the Internet Worksheet
1. Type the following very carefully!
Task 1
The University of Jena provides menus of the <H1>Title</H1>
meals which it serves at its Mensa. Find this
information then save it as a plain text file <H2>Smaller Title</H2>
with the name menu.txt.
<H3>Even Smaller Title</H3>
Task 2
The University of Potsdam provides details on This bit plain<BR>
learning German as a Foreign Language
(Deutsch als Fremdsprache or DaF). Find this <B>This bit in bold</B><BR>
information then save it as a plain text file
with the name daf.txt. <I>This bit in italic</I><BR>

Task 3 <I><B>This bit in bold and Italic

The University of Bremen supplies informa- </I></B><BR>
tion on its library, the Universitätsbibliothek,
to do with opening hours and when you can <A HREF=“”>
borrow books. Find this information then save Manchester Metropolitan University<BR>
it as a plain text file with the name library.txt. <AHREF=“”
>Leipzig University<BR>
Task 4
The University of Augsburg lists the pro- 2. Now save your work as “name.htm”
gramme of films which it shows at its cinema, 3. Start Netscape Communicator. Select

Designing a computing course for language students: C Jones

<File>. <Open Page>. Select the name of updates of reading lists for final year options
the file you have just saved. which they will need to access if they want to
4. Look at how what you have typed corresponds buy books whilst in that country and if they
to what you see on screen. Try out the two want to have a look at the introductory texts in
links. the secondary literature. As for sending attach-
5. Now why not make your own Web Page ments, they will be working on written pro-
based on your work so far. Maybe you'd jects during their Year Abroad which will form
like to devote it to a topic which you have part of the assessment pattern of their final
a particular interest in. Think of a proper year. For this reason they are always keen to
heading and sub-headings. Don’t forget to get as much advice and opinion as possible
use bold and italic to make your points or from their project tutor. It is made clear to stu-
to make the page look nice. Find a couple dents that the simplest way of managing this is
of links that contain good information on to send tables of contents, summaries, or
your topic. Make a note of the URLs drafts via e-mail attachment to their tutor in
(http://www.etc) and put those on the page England. If it is felt to be necessary then the
instead of the university links. use of e-mail attachments can be tested during
6. When you’re ready save your work with a the first year by simply asking the students to
new name as “newname.htm”. submit an assessed essay or other piece of
7. Now go back and do what it says under (3) written work by e-mail. Again this is a very
and (4) using your own work in the new file. unintrusive way of checking on the acquisition
of computer skills through the normal assess-
Where possible the subject which the students ment pattern of the languages degree where
choose should tie into an area of the course the focus is firmly on language skills.
which is actually running concurrently with
this part of the computing course. In many
cases allowing the students to work in groups 5. Conclusion
can result in more detailed finished web
pages. Not all students, indeed not all cohorts, The three key areas have been
will want to attempt this last worksheet, but it
does show that even the more technical areas • Integration
of computing can be integrated into the mod- • Motivation
ern languages curriculum. • Delivery

4.4 E-mail The issue of integration has been at the heart

Most of this part of the computing course is of most of the decisions taken in the design of
devoted to the necessary skills which students this course. Using authentic source materials
need to know in order to send their own e-mails and tasks taken from the language classes and
and to manage the e-mail messages which they options which the students attend, the comput-
themselves receive, reminding students of the ing course has become a support mechanism
need to respect netiquette and the guidelines for for successful and enjoyable foreign language
proper use of university computer facilities. learning. Because all assessment is outside the
However one of the key advanced e-mail proce- computing course, the students see how the
dures which they will need to master is dealing computer can assist them in their main inter-
with attachments. This is one of those skills ests, and because most computer classes are
which students will not really need until their run as workshops dealing with practical
Year Abroad, so it is vital to stress the impor- issues, the students are motivated to attend as
tance of it by referring to what will be expected a form of preparation for their language work.
of them whilst abroad. Using English as the language for teaching
As far as extracting and reading attach- but developing materials such as worksheets
ments is concerned they can expect to receive to cover all languages it is possible to deliver

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 63

Designing a computing course for language students: C Jones

the computing course to a cohort of students tion: an evaluation”. In Cameron K. (ed.),

with different languages and different starting op.cit., 93–111.
levels. By stressing the relevance of the skills Laurillard D. (1993) Rethinking university teaching,
for later explicitly named parts of the course, it London: Routledge.
Lousberg M. & Soler J. (1998) “Action research
has been possible to provide students with a
and the evaluation of IT projects”, Active
sound foundation for their whole course of Learning 8, 36–40.
study, and indeed beyond. Mansfield C. & McNeill T. (1998) “The design and
integration of web-based resources in the mod-
ern languages curriculum”. In Cameron K.
References (ed.), op.cit., 119–124.
Martin A. (1997) “Student IT induction: an evolv-
Assiter A. (ed.) (1995) Transferable skills in higher
ing requirement”, Active Learning 6, 42–44.
education, London: Kogan Page.
Martin A. & Fayter D. (1997) “Cross-curricular IT
Fox M. (1997) “The teacher is dead! Long live the
tools for university students: developing an
teacher! Implications of the virtual language
effective model”, ALT-J 5 (1), 70–76.
classroom”, Active Learning 7, 35–40.
McCartan A. (ed.) (1990) Computer literacy for
Fox M., Holder J. D. & Weaver M. (1998) “Connect-
every graduate: strategies and challenges for
ing with directed learning: perceptions and practice
the early nineteen-nineties, Oxford: CTISS.
in multimedia and internet-based language activi-
ties”. In Cameron K. (ed.), Multimedia CALL: the- Dr Christopher Jones is Senior Lecturer in German
ory and practice, Exeter: Elm Bank, 65–80.
at Manchester Metropolitan University. His
Gardner N. (1990) “Computer literacy: holy grail or
chimera?”. In McCartan A. (ed.) Computer lit- research in the field of computer-assisted language
eracy for every graduate: strategies and chal- learning has covered the use of multimedia soft-
lenges for the early nineteen-nineties, Oxford: ware for vocabulary learning and the use of hyper-
CTISS, 6–11. text learning environments in languages for specific
Holmes G. & Leney J. (1998) “CALL implementa- purposes (LSP).

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 65–71

ICT and language skills:

an integrated course

Ton Koet
Amsterdam Faculty of Education, The Netherlands

Language learning should be enhanced by information and communication technology (ICT). This arti-
cle describes a foundation-year curriculum for future language teachers. In this curriculum the training
in the use of information and communication technology tools was integrated with language learning
and language teaching methodology. A learning environment ‘Professional Skills’ is described as well
as the database applications ‘Wordbook’ and ‘Reading file’. Data of a summative evaluation are pre-

Introduction nication programs and database management –

as well as by a presentation program, and that
It is now generally accepted that ICT can play a we should train students to use these tools by
major part in language learning. It was found embedding them in a language skills course. I
that in Dutch secondary education dedicated will then describe the marriage of Technology
computer assisted language learning programs Enhanced Language Learning and Language
were widely used for the learning of vocabulary Learning Enhanced Information Technology
and grammar (although not as widely as we within the 1997–1998 curriculum of the new
would wish; see Koet & Weijdema, 1997b). Amsterdam Faculty of Education and will show
General purpose programs are much less how each of the three computer applications
widely used; of the main general purpose com- was integrated into the curriculum. Finally I
puter applications – word-processing, commu- will present data from a summative evaluation.
nication, database management and spreadsheet
– only word-processing is used fairly widely in
language learning although, again, not as Foundation-year curriculum
widely as we would like to see it used. In this
article I will argue that language learning The Amsterdam Faculty of Education is a joint
should be enhanced by at least three of the project of the two main polytechnics in the
above applications – word-processing, commu- Amsterdam region: Hogeschool van Amster-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 65

ICT and language skills: T Koet

dam and Hogeschool Holland. It is the lum was played by the tutors. All first-year
expressed ambition of these two polytechnics to students were assigned to relatively small tuto-
create teacher training for the 21st century. The rial groups (some twelve students). For the
new faculty must serve as an example for the modern foreign language students, tutors were
other teacher training institutes in the Nether- language teachers with a special aptitude for
lands; these are also to be fairly radically restruc- the guidance of students. Tutors assisted stu-
tured to improve their appeal to students; this dents in several ways; they helped them in
appeal has for some time been so weak that processing the theories that had been offered
teachers of such subjects as Physics, Chemistry in the learning environments; more impor-
and German were on their way to becoming tantly, they assisted the students with the cre-
extinct species. ation of the various products required in the
A basic assumption of the new project was learning environments and the separate mod-
that subjects and skills that had been taught sep- ules. Last but not least they trained students in
arately were now to be integrated in ‘learning study skills and in the acquisition of such pro-
environments’ that are, where possible, ‘rich in fessional skills as reflection and research.
ICT’ – I use the literal translation of the Dutch Information and communication technology
terms. Thus there were no longer to be any played an important part, not only in the creation
courses that only address language subjects such of the various products, but also in the communi-
as grammar or phonetics, neither were there to cation between tutors and their students and
be any courses that address methodology sub- between students within a tutor group. Tutors
jects such as adolescent psychology, or IT had, therefore, to be highly computer literate.
courses that only address word-processing, but Tutors communicated with students in their
the acquisition of all skills was to be merged. group via the well-known shareware communi-
Of the six departments of the new Faculty cation program Pegasus, which enabled them
of Education (EFA) the department of lan- to address students individually and via lists.
guages had been most successful in proposing Students were also trained to obtain infor-
new ‘learning environments’. Indeed, the pro- mation via the EFA home page. On this page
ject for the new qualifying year had received a they found their timetable and announcements
generous subsidy from the Netherlands gov- that were relevant for all the students. Often
ernment department of education, which – readers were no longer available in written
among other things – enabled us to provide all form but could be accessed via the network
our first-year students with laptop computers, (see Koet & Weijdema 1997a). Finally, tutors
which could be linked to the network any- had to assist students in testing themselves
where in our building and eventually in other with the computer (see Koet 1997).
places too. This was entirely in line with the Although it was our aim to use information
expressed view of the Netherlands department and communication technologies in all the
of Education that modern languages are the learning environments and modules, their
secondary school subjects where ICT can best presence was most obvious in Professional
be applied (Ministerie van Onderwijs 1997). Skills, Wordbook and Reading file.
In the first year there were two major learn-
ing environments.
Learning Environment Professional
• Professional Skills. Skills
• Study Skills /Communicative Skills.
The first block of the learning environment
In addition to the major learning environments Professional Skills was devoted to the writing
there were nine English modules such as skill. Students had to acquire basic computer
Idiom/Wordbook and Reading file that showed and word-processing skills (Windows 95, MS-
a less obvious cohesion. Office Professional: MS-Word) and learn to
A crucial part in the delivery of the curricu- use the computer to receive and send written

ICT and language skills: T Koet

messages (Pegasus Mail). From the very begin- By the end of the second block students
ning students realised that ICT was necessary were able to access the internet (with the help
for their survival in the institute; not only did of Netscape). They had also learned to
they have to learn to retrieve information from acknowledge and identify their sources, so as
the network, they also had to learn to store their not to be guilty of plagiarism.
own work on the partition of the network server In the third block students had to apply
assigned to them. They had to learn to take the what they had learned during a practice and
necessary precautions against loss of data by research period in a secondary school. The
using correct and consistent backup procedures. formal letters of application and accompany-
They had to write introductory letters stating ing CVs were sent to the headmasters; stu-
their motivation for embarking on a teacher dents reported on the situation within the
training course and mail these to their writing school as it related to the Netherlands educa-
teachers, who would indicate mistakes in their tional system; after having been taught all
work with the help of the comment function their lives, they experienced what it is to
and mail the annotated versions back to them. teach; they wrote formal reports for the school
The final product was stored in the student’s and the institute and informal letters about
own ‘Portfolio’ database, an Access application their experiences to real or imaginary friends.
that was developed for the purpose. ICT was In the fourth block the Learning Environ-
integrated with Writing for All. In this course ment Professional Skills was devoted to pre-
students acquired the writing skills – in their sentation skills. Students had to write full
native as well as in the target language – that reports on what they had learned and experi-
they would need for their future profession. enced about the Dutch educational system in
They learned to use the tools offered by the general and their practice schools in particular.
word processor in the production of their These reports did not only have to be adequate
assignments: not only the spell checkers and in terms of content and correct as far as lan-
thesaurus but also the templates (‘Wizards’ in guage was concerned, but also had to meet
MS-Word terminology). It had been our experi- requirements as to word-processing and layout.
ence that this combination of an ICT course and A distinction was made between the written
a Writing Course was more effective than sepa- version of the report and the oral presentation.
rate courses (see: Koet and van Loon 1996). By In the ICT course part 2, students learned
the end of the first block students had learned to how to use a professional presentation program
produce formal as well as informal letters; they (Powerpoint) to present their reports to their
had written a letter of application and a curricu- peers. Communication technology was
lum vitae, they had produced a formal report employed to allow students to share their reports
about their experiences during the first block as and the presentation with peers abroad. The
well as an informal report to be included in a main aim of the involvement of foreign partners
letter to a real or imaginary friend. They had was to force students to use the target language
some idea of the conventions of formal writing as well as communication technology; to most
and those of informal writing and had become people it makes little sense to use e-mail and a
familiar with ‘netiquette’. foreign language in communication with a
The second block of the Learning Environ- speaker of the same language in the same com-
ment Professional Skills was devoted to a puter lab – although admittedly many Dutch
study of pupils and schools. Students had to students enjoy speaking English amongst each
acquire knowledge about the Netherlands edu- other; in a situation where the partner is remote
cational system by consulting such original and does not speak Dutch, there is no option but
sources as the Netherlands department of Edu- to use communication technology and what is
cation home page. They had to learn to the target language for both partners (see: Little
employ internet search tools to find what they & Brammerts (1996) and Woodin (1997)). We
needed; they also had to learn to make use of believed that sharing the reports through e-mail
computerised library catalogues. would not present too much of a problem,

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 67

ICT and language skills: T Koet

although on the basis of our experience with of the Amsterdam Polytechnic had, for years,
informal e-mail contacts we were aware of the had to produce wordbooks. The rationale
necessity of good preparation. We were a little behind the introduction of wordbooks was that
less confident about the feasibility of sharing it would be more profitable for students to
presentations with foreign partners, and feared select the vocabulary that they themselves
that videos of the presentation might well have wanted to learn than be prescribed an idiom
to be used as substitutes for video-conferencing. book and that, moreover, a future language
teacher should have lexicographical skills. In
these wordbooks (100 items per year – 400
Databases items over the four-year course) students had to
collect words that they thought useful; an entry
It is clear that in the Learning Environment
contained: the context in which they found the
Professional Skills students learned how to
word, the meaning, a Dutch translation, the
use word-processing, communication and pre-
source, the phonemic transcription, a sentence
sentation programs in a meaningful context
of the student’s own making and grammatical
that integrates language skills, language teach-
information. In the pre-digital past these word-
ing methodology, educational studies with
books had been made on paper, some seven
ICT skills. Although students were taught to
years ago we had started to ask students to
use information retrieval programs in the
make wordbooks with a word-processor and for
learning environment they did not use data-
the last few years we used Wordstore, a simple
base management programs. It is our belief
database management program that has the
that database management skills are just as
great advantage of offering a test option.
important for language students as word-pro-
Within the new department of languages of
cessing skills and the ability to use communi-
EFA all languages asked their students to pro-
cation programs. Indeed, I personally believe
duce wordbooks. As it was our policy to use the
that insight into and the ability to use database
target language in the user interface wherever
techniques are essential to any student in
possible, and as there is no version of Wordstore
higher education, not only because they pro-
for Windows we decided to create our own
vide a helpful research tool but also because
Wordbook program. For this we used Microsoft
they enable the student to deal systematically
Access – which is part of MS Office profes-
with any kind of information and thus con-
sional. Although the program is eminently user
tribute significantly to his or her intellectual
friendly we decided that it would be too ambi-
development. Database management skills
tious to expose our first-year students – already
were acquired in the courses Idiom/wordbook
endangered by a surfeit of ICT – to the program
modules 1 and 2 and in Reading file 1, 2 and
itself in the first block. We designed an even
3, as well as in ‘Portfolio’.
simpler interface in the four target languages
Before embarking on their wordbooks and
Dutch, English, French and German, which
reading files, students received a short introduc-
prompted students to fill in the fields of the
tion to databases from their tutors. In a work-
records. Where desirable the program divides
shop they learned such concepts as data file,
fields into subfields; also the program makes
object, attribute, table, row, column, cell, record
standard suggestions for some of the fields.
and field, alphanumeric, numeric and logical.
First students had to enter the context, the
Although wordbook and reading file are, in
sentence where they found the word; they
Access terminology, no more than tables within
must then highlight the entry; they were asked
a relational database, the concept of the rela-
for the source, and as this was usually but not
tional database was left until some later time.
necessarily a book they had to identify author
and title. They had to add a definition in the
Wordbook target language and a translation in the native
language. Also, they had to provide a sentence
Students of English at the Faculty of Education of their own containing the headword. Via but-

ICT and language skills: T Koet

tons they were able to access the spelling entry the fields were divided into six groups, for
checker to check the spelling of the context each of which there was a separate form.
and their own sentence. In one of the fields On the first form students were invited to
they were able to enter the phonemic transcrip- give a bibliographical description of the work
tion; a simple-to-use phonemic font was they had read. Anyone who has been involved
included in the program. Finally, they were with bibliography – not to mention editorial
asked to supply the correct part of speech; here work – knows how difficult it is for beginners to
they could choose from a field list: noun, verb, make a correct bibliography. The first form
adjective; depending on the target language, instilled correct bibliographical procedures by
they were asked to provide information on the asking for such elements as name, title, imprint,
gender of the noun: masculine, feminine, shelf mark etc. The second form (‘description’)
neuter for Dutch and German nouns and mas- dealt with the description of the work in literary
culine and feminine for French nouns. terms; because of the complexity of this matter
For the test it was essential that the head- the program helped students by providing lists
word be highlighted as the highlighted item is of terms from which they could choose. The sec-
stored for the testing program. The testing pro- ond form also prompted the student to provide
gram asks the student to fill in the headword in information about the author. The third form
the context from which it has been deleted by (‘passages’) required the students to reflect on
the program; the definition is available as a their reading experience; they must identify and
clue – for this reason the headword can never quote key passages, and key sentences, create
be used in the definition. The program was their own key questions, state what they believed
designed in such a way that at a later date to be the theme and norms and values in the
other fields (phonemic transcription, part of work and finally give their own evaluations. On
speech, translation into the native language) yet another form (‘extra materials’) students
could be incorporated in the test. were able to provide information about such
matters as reviews and audiovisual material
(film and/or recording) accompanying the work
Reading File studied. A fifth form (‘notes’) asked students to
identify the place of the work read within the
Probably the most ambitious database that stu- curriculum, whereas the last form (‘evaluation’)
dents had to produce was the reading file. In the enabled tutors to assess the students’ work. We
course of their studies students are supposed to assumed that the books studied for the reading
do a considerable amount of extensive reading. file would usually be sources for the items in the
It is our belief – a belief that is supported by, for wordbook and that in this way the relation
example, Mason and Krashen (1997) – that the between the tables in the relational database
most effective way of acquiring vocabulary is could become transparent to the student. Obvi-
extensive reading. We therefore asked 1st-year ously the individual databases were related in
students to devote 120 hours to extensive read- ways that are less transparent; as students’ work
ing; this was in addition to the reading they are was stored on partitions of the network server,
required to do for the learning environments reading files made by different students may in
and the separate modules. The standard for the the future be related and searched (e.g. with the
number of pages students were supposed to search parameter ‘title’) so as to easily spot
read per hour varied for the languages: the cases of plagiarism; it is obvious that this com-
department of English used a standard of 25 plex procedure necessitates the use of a sophisti-
pages per hour for 1st-year students. cated database management program.
Students reported on their extensive reading
activities in the reading file. The records in this
database were big and complex. It was therefore Evaluation
essential that the program should guide the stu-
dents through the fields. For the purpose of data The parts of the foundation-year curriculum,

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 69

ICT and language skills: T Koet

not only of the English course but of all the lan- which our curriculum is based. Results are
guages in the department of languages, that presented in Table 2.
were ‘rich in ICT’ were evaluated by a group of From Table 2 it is clear that students appre-
external researchers associated with the Univer- ciated the emphasis on ICT. The small stan-
sity of Amsterdam. (For a full report see Over- dard deviation would suggest that they were
maat (1998)). As no significant differences fairly unanimous in this. Finally, students
were found between students of English and were asked if they perceived the cohesion that
students of other languages, I give a summary we believed there to be in the curriculum.
of the results obtained from the whole depart- Results are presented in Tables 3a and 3b.
ment, which can be seen in Table 1. From these tables it appears that students
From this table it appears that student opin- do not always see the cohesion in the curricu-
ion of the two ICT courses is positive, as it is lum. They see the coherence between the sub-
of the adolescent psychology course ‘Pupils in jects that are rich in ICT but they do not
perspective’. Interestingly, these are modules always see how these subjects relate to the
that are the least ‘integrated’. Student opinion other subjects, in particular the teaching prac-
on the more integrated modules is less posi- tice period. A very serious problem is the lack
tive. Student opinion on portfolio and the of ICT hardware and applications in the prac-
email project is clearly negative. It is to be tice schools in the secondary sectors.
observed that the experiences with email pro- Although we pretended to train our students
jects are not always positive and that there are for the 21st century, some of their practical
many reports which suggest that such projects training took place in locations where the digi-
are fraught with difficulties. Our assumption tal – and sometimes the industrial – revolution
that the technical and organisational problems had had little impact, and at the hands of sec-
could be solved was clearly naive. Only rela- ondary school teachers who were obviously
tively few students – probably no more than suffering from technophobia.
25% – ever received answers to the messages The results of the evaluations were dis-
they sent to their ‘foreign partners’. The first cussed in the various curriculum committees.
version of the portfolio was far from perfect; There seemed to be a consensus that we
the word file and reading file programs did not should not be deterred by these disappointing
always do what students and tutors expected data after the first year but continue to
them to do. Nevertheless the above evaluation improve the delivery of our curriculum. In the
data could have been interpreted as indications 1998–1999 course some of the organisational
that the integration of ICT, methodology and and technical problems that beset the delivery
subject matter was perhaps not as desirable as of the 1997–1998 course have been addressed.
we believed. Therefore students were also A serious setback was the decision to continue
asked if they agreed with the principles on the laptop project only with the second-year

Table 1 Student appreciation of the courses that are rich in ICT in the foundation-year curriculum (1= very
bad; 2=bad; 3=neither bad nor good; 4=good; 5=very good)

Mean Standard deviation No. of respondents

a Information and Communication Technology-1 3.99 .91 65
b Writing for all 3.06 1.08 66
c Word book 2.50 1.03 66
d Reading file 2.74 1.17 66
e Pupils in perspective 3.47 1.13 64
f School in perspective 3.05 1.34 64
g Portfolio 2.05 1.06 66
h Email project 1.78 .97 64
i Information and Communication Technology-2 3.48 .97 65

ICT and language skills: T Koet

Table 2 Appreciation of emphasis on ICT in the erable extent. I have not been able to produce
curriculum (1 = very bad; 2 = bad; 3 = neither bad evidence that this marriage of language learn-
nor good; 4 = good; 5 = very good)
ing and ICT is always a happy union.
c Emphasis on ICT 3.68 .83 66
Koet T. (1996) “Integration of CALL and IT into the
Table 3a Perceived cohesion in the curriculum. Curriculum; a Case Study”. In Gimeno A. (ed.),
Positive statements (1 = strongly disagree; 2 = dis-
Proceedings of Eurocall '95, Technology
agree; 3 = neither disagree nor agree; 4 = agree; 5
= strongly agree) Enhanced Language Learning, Focus on Inte-
gration. Valencia: Universidad Politécnico de
M SD N Valencia.
Koet T. & van Loon H. (1996) “Communicative
It is clear to me that the subjects
Writing for 1st-year polytechnic students of
that are rich in ICT and the
English”. In Rijlaarsdam G., Bergh H. v.d. &
teaching practice period
Couzijn M., (eds.) Effective Learning and
constitute one learning
Teaching of Writing, Amsterdam: Amsterdam
environment 2.32 .93 66
University Press.
During my teaching practice
Koet T (1997) “Testing with the computer; strate-
period I found that ICT-skills
gies in the acceptation of CALL”. In Kohn J.,
are necessary 2.55 1.03 65
Rüschoff B., & Wolff D. (eds.), Proceedings of
EUROCALL 96, New Horizons in CALL, Szom-
bathely: Berszenyi Dániel College, 277–286.
Table 3b Perceived cohesion in the curriculum. Koet T. & Weijdema W.(1997a) “De Docent in de
Negative and neutral statements (1 = strongly dis- 21e eeuw”. In Conferentieboek Landelijke Dag
agree; 2 = disagree; 3 = neither disagree nor agree; Studievaardigheden 97. Studeren en Informati-
4 = agree; 5 = strongly agree)
etechnologie. Heerlen.
M SD N Koet T. & Weijdema W.(1997b) “Het gebruik van
computers voor het onderricht in de moderne
I find little cohesion between the talen in het voortgezet onderwijs”, Levende
subjects that are rich in ICT 2.58 .73 66 Talen, 524.
I have found little cohesion Little D. & H. Brammerts (1996) A guide to lan-
between the subjects that are guage learning in tandem via the Internet.
rich in ICT and the teaching Dublin: occasional papers, Trinity College
practice period 3.62 .87 66 Dublin.
In my practice school I have Mason B. & Krashen S.(1997) “Extensive reading
found few ICT applications 3.78 1.05 64 in English as a foreign language”, System (1).
Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap
(1997) Investeren in Voorsprong. Zoetermeer.
students, who had already been given a laptop, Overmaat M., Otter M E., & Oostdam R. (1998)
Evaluatie-onderzoek naar de propedeuse van de
and not to give laptops to first-year students in
Educatieve Faculteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam:
the 1998–1999 course. SCO-Kohnstamm Instituut.
Woodin J.(1997) “Email tandem learning and the
communicative curriculum”, ReCall 9(1), 22–
Conclusion 23.

In this article I have argued that we should Ton Koet is a lecturer in English and Information
enhance language learning by information and Technology. He works for the Amsterdam Faculty of
communication technology; I have described a Education and the Graduate School of Teaching and
course in which ICT is integrated to a consid- Learning of the University of Amsterdam.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 71

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 72–79

A computer-mediated curriculum in
the EFL academic writing class

Adina Levine, Orna Ferenz and Thea Reves

Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel

The purpose of this study was to investigate the application of a computer mediated curriculum in the
instruction of advanced written academic communication skills in a non-immersion situation. While pre-
vious studies have focused upon collaborative writing within a computer networked environment (Gre-
gor & Cuskelly 1994), the use of computer-tutorial programs (Warschauer, Turbee & Roberts 1996), or
the additive effects of supplemental computer-based instruction (Chun 1994), the present study dealt
with the implementation of a fully computer based EFL writing curriculum through the use of authentic
electronic computer programs. The following research questions were posed at the outset of the study:

1. To what extent does the use of authentic tools, tasks and environment encourage communicative
competence in the computer networked EFL academic writing classroom?
2. What is the effect of computer mediated instruction on teacher-student interaction, collaborative
learning, and students’ attitudes and motivation?
3. What are the benefits gained from a computer-assisted portfolio assessment?

The investigation design consisted of an experimental group which studied exclusively in the comput-
erised lab and a control group which was taught in a regular classroom according to conventional
teaching methods. Data collecting instruments comprised background and attitude questionnaires, on-
site observations, informal interviews, and systematic evaluation and assessment. Findings indicate that
authentic tools, tasks and environment are a strong motivating factor. While the compter-networked
environment enhanced the teacher-student interaction, it diminished peer collaboration. Computer-
assisted portfolio assessment appears to be advantageous to both the instructor and students.

Introduction language learning into their courses. There is,

however, a rather widespread view that com-
Within the past decade there has been a puter assisted language learning (CALL) is
growth in the number of university teachers not applicable to higher level academic lan-
interested in introducing computer assisted guage learning since available software is

A computer-mediated curriculum: A Levine et al.

often viewed as better suited for beginning writing environment. This environment could
levels of language learning. In terms of writ- be created not just through educational pro-
ing instruction, there have been positive grams as demonstrated through previous
reports on the use of networked computer set- research (Chun 1994) but also through com-
ting for elementary and intermediate level mercially available software, as applied in this
writing skills. The network computer class- study.
room is seen by some educators as a means to The present study was thus set up to inves-
promote collaborative writing, develop a sense tigate the following research questions:
of community, and establish a different set of
social interactions. 1. To what extent does the use of authentic
A number of studies have raised questions tools, tasks and environment encourage
dealing with social interaction between peers communicative competence in the com-
and between instructor and student through puter networked EFL academic writing
collaborative writing within a computer net- classroom?
worked environment (Warschauer 1996; Gre- 2. What is the effect of computer mediated
gor & Cuskelly 1994) as well as with the instruction on teacher-student interaction,
influence of tools, tasks and environment on collaborative learning, and students’ atti-
student motivation (Warschauer 1996). L1 and tudes and motivation?
L2 researchers have investigated such issues 3. What are the benefits gained from com-
as classroom dynamics (Galagher & Kraut puter-assisted portfolio assessment?
1994), the use of different types of technolo-
gies (Burton 1994), the use of collaborative
projects between different L1 and L2 student The Study
groups (Barson, Frommer & Schwartz 1993),
the additive effects of supplementary com- Research Design and Procedures
puter-based instruction (Chun 1994), as well The research design consisted of an experi-
as the development and acquisition of L1 and mental group and a control group, both
L2 skills with the help of computer tutorial taught by the same instructor and according
programs (Warschauer, Turbee & Roberts to the same syllabus. The experimental group
1996). was made up of seven students who were
In the framework of foreign language given preliminary instruction on the use of
instruction, however, the comprehensive usage computers and the chosen programs. Authen-
of a computer-based syllabus has not yet tic computer programs, readily available on a
become the focus of research. There is an commercial basis, were used. These included
obvious need to investigate the application of Microsoft Word, Netscape, Pine, and Telnet,
a complete computer-based writing curricu- and were chosen in order to provide students
lum in a non-immersion (FL) situation as well with an ‘authentic’ experience. The class
as to identify the changing social dimensions took place in one of the computer labs which
as a result of the application of a computer- provided each student with his /her own per-
based curriculum (i.e. collaboration in writing, sonal computer. The computers are set up in
instructor-student relationship, and student- booth-type enclosures which separate the stu-
student relationship). In addition, it is impor- dents from each other, thus making eye con-
tant to see whether portfolio assessment is tact difficult. The teacher sat at the front of
beneficial for the student and teacher as a nat- the room at a computer and could see the stu-
ural extension of the computer learning envi- dents as well as observe their monitors
ronment. through Classnet. As for textbooks, students
It was hypothesised at the outset of the pre- did not purchase a workbook but were given
sent study that graduate students of written access to material from the chosen workbook
academic communication can achieve realistic which was stored in an electronic form. Stu-
writing skills within an authentic computer dents could choose which section of the

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 73

A computer-mediated curriculum: A Levine et al.

workbook they wanted to work on and the Findings and Discussion

instructor would provide each student with
specific help and reinforcement as the need With reference to the first research question,
arose. The class time was neither structured “To what extent does the use of authentic
nor dictated by the instructor. Each student tools, tasks and environment encourage com-
could decide how much they wished to municative competence?”, quantitative analy-
achieve during each class period. Suggestions sis showed that achievement was similar for
were made as to how the class period might be the two groups. This finding is supported by
used. the factor analysis, in which “goals and syl-
The control group was comprised of twelve labus” did not show any statistically signifi-
students taught in a regular classroom in cant difference between the two groups. The
which each student sat at his/her own desk. finding can be attributed to the fact that the
The teacher stood at the front of the room dur- goals set and the syllabus planned for the two
ing instruction and walked around during in- parallel courses were identical at the outset.
class exercises. Students were told to purchase However, according to qualitative analysis, the
a workbook that included explanations, exam- experimental group showed a higher level of
ples and models, and exercises. Assignments achievement which could be ascribed by the
were intended to replicate typical academic amount of time needed to reach the objectives
writing tasks. of the course. Thus, the experimental group
It was decided that both groups would fol- had to achieve computer competence (i.e.
low the same aims and scope of the course, as learning to use the equipment and programs)
well as have the same teacher, syllabus, study before starting to work on developing writing
material, and assignments so that these vari- skills, and thus had to complete the course
ables would be kept constant. Lesson plans goals within two-thirds of the semester while
and class materials made use of either elec- the control group had an entire semester to
tronic texts downloaded from the Internet build up the necessary writing skills in order to
onto a hard disk for the use of the computer achieve the desired competence. The ability of
class, or the same texts in a printed form for the computer class to master the course objec-
the control group. Writing assignments were tives in a shorter period of time can be attrib-
parallel to those of the control group uted to a number of factors. The intensity of
although modified for electronic communica- the computerised writing instruction enabled
tion (i.e. students were supposed to email the students to devote more class time to
their assignment to their teacher and their actual writing; the computer-class students
‘keypals’). Composition and grammar exer- could decide where their writing weaknesses
cises were based on the same workbook lay and then they had the freedom to choose
made available either in an electronic form or the type of activities they needed (for example,
as hard copy. to carry out the written assignment or to work
on composition and grammar exercises).
Instruments Moreover, students were able to work more
Data collection instruments consisted of ques- intensively since the use of Classnet assured
tionnaires dealing with educational back- constant teacher supervision and intervention.
ground, knowledge of languages, expecta- Therefore, while quantitative achievement is
tions, priorities and attitudes, as well as the same for the two groups, it appears that the
classroom behaviour profiles, systematic eval- difference in available time is a possible indi-
uation and assessment, and post-course tele- cation of the advantage the computer mediated
phone interviews for course evaluation. instruction has over conventional pedagogy.
In terms of the effect the computer-medi-
Data Analysis ated instruction had on students’ audience
Pearson correlations, T-test and Factor Analy- awareness, the study shows that the experi-
sis were applied. mental group was able to achieve a greater

A computer-mediated curriculum: A Levine et al.

audience awareness. Factor analysis indicated needs. The students consulted with the teacher
a clear difference between the two groups in regarding which type of activity was needed in
audience consciousness (t[19 = 2.07*p, 0.05). order to work out a specific problem, and then
This can be explained by the use of real ‘key- they proceeded to work at their own pace.
pals’ as audience for the computer-network Regarding the second research question,
class, thus enabling those students to actualise the effect of computer mediated instruction on
audience consciousness to a greater extent teacher-student interaction and collaborative
than the non-computer class. The control learning, there was a noticeable difference
group, writing only to in-class peers and between the two groups. The differences
teacher, lacked the need to adjust their writing between the experimental group and the con-
to readers of different cultural backgrounds. In trol group were statistically significant in most
a sense they were limited by writing exclu- of the aspects related to the learning-teaching
sively to readers from similar backgrounds process. Factor analysis showed that factors
and culture. The experimental group, on the such as “classroom activity” (t[19 = 2.15 * p <
other hand, corresponded with American key- 0.045), “students’ interest in classroom activi-
pals and discussion group participants in addi- ties” (t[19=3.66**p<0.002), and “feeling of
tion to in-class peer readers and the teacher. achievement in the writing process” (t[19 =
This broadened circle of peers may be respon- 2.01 * p > 0.05) were different between the
sible for the greater audience awareness two groups, with an advantage to the experi-
among the computer-mediated class which mental group. Teacher-student interaction, in
was evident from the amount of background the control group, was limited because the
information and details included in the various teacher was not always able to communicate
writing assignments. with each student in every lesson in order to
The effect of authentic tools, tasks and provide individualised instruction. In the
environment can also be seen in the activities experimental group, on the other hand, there
and assignments of the two classes. In terms appears to have been more teacher involve-
of a quantitative difference, the control group ment since the computer-network environment
only wrote one draft a week for class meet- enabled the teacher, through the use of equip-
ings, while the experimental group wrote a ment, to communicate with and to supervise
number of drafts per week, depending upon each student during every class meeting.
how often they emailed their drafts to the An additional aspect of teacher-student
instructor and then rechecked their mail for interaction is the domain within which the
any response. Some students managed to sub- interaction takes place. Since the control class
mit four drafts a week. took place in a regular classroom, any discus-
An important difference that may be attrib- sion between teacher and student was heard by
uted to the use of authentic tools, tasks and all the other participants. This lack of privacy
environment is the nature of decision-making prevented the expression of sensitive issues or
in terms of the pace and choice of activity. open criticism. It also made the students aware
While in the control class the teacher decided of the difficulties their peers may be experi-
the pace and the type of activity that was to be encing, thus introducing an element of com-
carried out, in the experimental class the stu- petitiveness and tension. In the experimental
dents chose their own pace. The more ambi- class, the situation was quite different. Since
tious students could proceed faster and all interaction took place between teacher and
achieve more. The slower students were kept student via the computers, there was complete
from falling behind since the teacher was privacy. This privacy enabled the teacher to
available for individualised reinforcement as raise sensitive issues which are usually
the need arose. Part of the freedom to choose avoided in a public forum, criticism could be
their own pace can be attributed to the stu- openly expressed by both parties, students
dents’ freedom to choose the type of activity could not compare between themselves, and
which was most appropriate to their writing most importantly, students had more opportu-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 75

A computer-mediated curriculum: A Levine et al.

nities to clarify points or problems raised that there was not always enough class time
without any feelings of self-consciousness. for each student to speak out. In the computer
This finding is duly supported by statistical class, on the other hand, the students were
analysis which indicated that the role of more self-motivated and took initiative by par-
teacher as partner in the writing process was ticipating in self-learning activities. In addi-
greater in the experimental group (t[10 = 2.35 tion, students actively engaged the teacher in
* p < 0.041). discussions regarding personal writing, since
Computer-mediated interaction also had an they had an opportunity to ask for clarification
influence on both the teacher’s role and the or help.
students’ role. Another difference between the As for the character of peer interaction,
two groups concerned the degree and manner both the roles of participants and the degree of
of instructor involvement. The statistical interaction were affected. In the computer
analysis revealed that “teacher interference / environment students were engaged in dia-
control” had statistically more weight in the logue not through oral response but through
experimental group than in the control group. written response. Although most of the written
The analysis also disclosed significant differ- conversations were initiated by the teacher in
ences between the two groups among some of response to problems noticed in students’ writ-
the individual variables before factoring them. ing, once addressed students would participate
Factors related to classroom activities, such as in the teacher-student dialogue. It should be
“Direct peer interaction” (t[18 = 3.81 ** p < noted, however, that there was little sponta-
0.001; t[10 = 2.24 * p < 0.049) and “Impor- neous interaction between the students them-
tance of draft writing (t[19 = 3/13 ** p < selves. The students seemed to prefer concen-
0/005), had significantly more weight in the trating on their work rather than being
experimental group. The factor related to distracted by informal conversation. The peer
“teacher-student relationship” (t[19 = –2.90 ** interaction that did take place was limited to
p < 0.009) was significantly stronger in the requests for technical help or to clarify a lan-
control group. While in the control group the guage or topic issue. The reason for this may
teacher remained the initiator and facilitator; be that the students received immediate feed-
in the experimental group the teacher’s main back from their teacher and thus had no need
role was that of a mentor. Whereas in the con- to engage their peers in extended discussions.
ventional teaching environment it was the In the conventional environment, on the other
teacher who decided on the activities, the hand, the discussion that took place was
types of writing problem which would be teacher initiated and sometimes attained very
addressed in class, and who remained the cen- little response. The few students who were
tral person for answering questions or finding more assertive engaged the instructor in dia-
solutions to problems in writing, in the com- logue but did not involve the other students.
puter class the teacher guided and gave advice Any discussion that took place was rather a
but never dictated. Essentially, in the experi- conversation with peers, either about material
mental class the teacher’s role was that of presented or about a social topic.
working out problems with students, relating There was, thus, a difference in both the
to each student on an individual basis, and peer interaction and the atmosphere in the two
providing individual instruction and feedback. classes. While in the computer class the
Regarding the students’ role, it appears that atmosphere was formal and there was hardly
in the conventional class the students took a ever a situation in which students would prefer
rather passive role in that they waited for the to develop an oral discussion at the expense of
teacher to assign an exercise or move the class writing activities, the atmosphere in the con-
in a certain direction. Even in-class discus- ventional classroom was informal, at times
sions had limited participation, with the more even at the expense of in-class writing activi-
articulate students taking centre stage. Another ties.
disadvantage to the conventional class was As for collaborative learning, most students

A computer-mediated curriculum: A Levine et al.

in the experimental group would engage the mediated instruction on students’ attitudes and
instructor in written conversation in order to motivation, no statistical difference was found
either receive further directions for corrections regarding individual students’ classroom
or in order to argue and explain their reasons behaviour profile. Factor analysis revealed no
for what they had done. This collaboration was statistically significant differences between
reflected in written assignments which at times factors common to FL students: e.g. “the
referred to the points and ideas raised in these importance of knowing English”, “general atti-
conversations. In some cases, when students tude to English.” No difference was found in
felt strongly about the content of their written individual students’ classroom behaviour pro-
assignments or about the manner or form they file either. There was, however, an observable
had used, they engaged the instructor in writ- difference in the behaviour of the students,
ten arguments in order to defend their owner- which expressed their attitudes and motivation.
ship. However, among the students in the con- The computer network students tended to
ventional class, collaborative learning was arrive early and leave late, while the control
rather limited to the extent that students pas- group tended as a whole to either show up for
sively received written comments and sugges- class at the last minute or even enter the class-
tions for corrections to submitted written room a few minutes after the start of the les-
assignments; they rarely tried to justify the son. Most of the students in the experimental
content or form of their own writing. group appeared to be self-motivated in that
An additional element that emphasises the they tended to work diligently at their comput-
difference between the two groups is the ers throughout the class period and not take
nature of the community that developed in time off to chat with their neighbours. In the
each class. The experimental group’s commu- control group this was not the case and there
nity was greatly enlarged due to the usage of were repeated attempts to avoid carrying out
computers; the experimental group was writ- in-class writing assignments or activities by
ing for a real audience by preparing its written chatting with one’s neighbours. As for the stu-
assignments with the intention of emailing the dents’ attitudes toward the material being
final draft to US college student keypals. Thus, taught, in the experimental group there was
members of the community were not only the hardly any opposition to having to learn the
class and the instructor: the borders of the genre of academic writing, while in the control
community were enlarged to incorporate at group a number of students questioned the
various times native English speaking keypals meaningfulness of the course for their individ-
and members of electronic discussion groups. ual needs.
The input by outside members of the develop- As for the benefits gained from a computer-
ing community increased audience awareness assisted portfolio assessment (research ques-
and thus affected the attitude and motivation of tion number three), there was an obvious
the computer network students; they were advantage for the teacher of the course. While
exposed to ideas other than their own and had traditional portfolio assessment is based upon
to take into account different voices. The con- writing submitted by students, it does not
trol group wrote its assignments with the incorporate on-site observations and com-
instructor as audience. Thus the control ments by the teacher. It is the students who
group’s community was the class and the control what is submitted – or rather what is
instructor; there was no outside member who missing; students do not always make sure
could take part in the interaction. This lack of they include all the drafts of a specific paper.
outside stimulation put the control group at a In addition, with traditional portfolio assess-
disadvantage in that after a while most stu- ment the pace of interaction is dictated by the
dents were familiar with the views and opin- class schedule, so that there may not be as
ions of most of their colleagues and their many drafts of papers as a teacher would
instructor. desire in order to properly assess a student’s
With reference to the effect of computer work. On the other hand, computer-assisted

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 77

A computer-mediated curriculum: A Levine et al.

portfolio assessment is to the benefit of the and more focused teacher-student interaction,
teacher as it provides the teacher with the pos- which supports what has been called a unique
sibility of having on-site observation. The attribute of computer-assisted instruction
teacher received a complete set of students’ (Chun & Plass 1997).
drafts and assignments, including all of the As far as motivation and attitude towards
teacher’s comments. The teacher was able to learning is concerned, the study did not show
trace the integration of comments in subse- any statistically significant difference between
quent drafts. However, this did not prevent the the experimental and control groups. Never-
student from deciding which assignments theless, observation reveals some differences
should be judged for final class assessment. in classroom behaviour between the two
Moreover, the computer portfolio assessment groups, which may be ascribed to motivational
was seen by the students as a natural extension factors, namely the intensity of classroom
of classroom activities. In terms of the number activities and the willingness to put in extra
of drafts, the increased interaction between time.
student and teacher resulted in more drafts per Computer-assisted portfolio assessment
assignment. In general, we can say that com- (research question three) appears to be advan-
puter portfolio assessment is important for the tageous to both the instructor and the student.
general assessment of the student’s progress In terms of the instructor, there is an opportu-
both by the teacher and the student; the feed- nity to have a complete set of students’ work
back is immediate and elaborate and also pin- in order to observe progress throughout the
points the problems within the context of the semester. This set of computer work can be
work. compared with the student’s portfolio. As for
the student, the computer-assisted portfolio
assessment is a natural extension of classroom
Conclusions activities.
In summary, it can be suggested that the
The following conclusions can be drawn with computer based network classroom environ-
reference to the research questions. ment in an EFL academic writing course has a
Regarding research question one, “To what number of advantages in comparison to a tra-
extent does the use of authentic tools, tasks ditional classroom environment:
and environment encourage communicative
competence in the computer networked EFL a. academic writing is put into an authentic
academic writing classroom in comparison to context;
a conventional EFL academic writing class?”, b. exposure to various readers increases audi-
the use of authentic tools, tasks and environ- ence awareness;
ments did not entail any statistically signifi- c. students are exposed to different modes of
cant differences between the two environ- communication: word processing, email,
ments. However, considering the amount of listgroups, and Internet;
time needed to achieve the goals, there was d. there is complete privacy between teacher
clearly a higher degree of achievement in the and student so that sensitive issues and
experimental group. The class goals were criticism can be approached and dealt with
achieved by the computer students in two- without causing anyone undue embarrass-
thirds of the semester time. ment;
As to the effect of computer mediated e. the teacher’s role is that of a mentor rather
instruction on instructor-student interaction than an initiator;
and collaborative learning (research question f. students can assume responsibility for their
two), the study indicated that interaction and own progress;
collaborative writing is significantly different g. class time is put to more efficient use.
in the two environments. In the computer-net-
work environment there was a more intensive It should be noted that there are a number

A computer-mediated curriculum: A Levine et al.

of technical issues related to computer-medi- research”. In Lewis R. & Mendelsohn P. (eds.),

ated instruction that need to be addressed, e.g., Lessons from learning, North-Holland: Elsevier
what happens when the computer system goes Science B.V.
down or if the university is not able to provide Warschauer M. (1996a) “Comparing face-to-face
and electronic discussion in the second lan-
the necessary technical support?
guage classroom”, CALICO Journal 13 (2/3),
The findings revealed in the study should 7–26.
justify further large-scale research addressing Warschauer M. (1996b) “Motivational aspects of
the issues of achievement, interaction, and using computers for writing and communica-
attitudes and motivation in a computer-medi- tion”. In Warschauer M. (ed.), Telecollabora-
ated writing curriculum. tion in Foreign Language Learning, Honolulu,
HI: University of Hawaii Second Language
Teaching and Curriculum Center, 29–46.
References Warschauer M., Turbee L. & Roberts B. (1996)
“Computer learning networks and student
Barson J., Frommer J. & Schwartz M. (1993) “For- empowerment”, System 24 (1), 1–14.
eign language learning using email in a task-
oriented perspective: interuniversity experi-
Adina Levine holds a PhD degree in Linguistics
ments in communication and collaboration”,
from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. She is a
Journal of Science Education and Technology
2, 565–584. senior teacher of EFL at Bar-Ilan University and
Burton P. F. (1994) “Electronic mail as an academic has presented at numerous international confer-
discussion forum”, Journal of Documentation ences. Dr Levine’s research and publications focus
50, 99–110. on the teaching of reading comprehension as well
Chun D. M. (1994) “Using computer networking to as the different aspects of foreign language acquisi-
facilitate the acquisition of interactive compe- tion.
tence”, System 22 (1), 17–31.
Chun D. M. & Plass J. L. (1997) “Research on text Orna Ferenz is a PhD student in the English
comprehension in multimedia environments”, Department of Bar-Ilan University. She teaches
Language Learning & Technology 1 (1), 60–81.
undergraduate and graduate EFL reading and writ-
Galagher J. & Kraut R. E. (1994) “Computer-medi-
ated communication for intellectual teamwork: ing courses at Bar Ilan University. She has pre-
an experiment in group writing”, Information sented at a number of international conferences.
Systems Research 5, 110–138.
Gregor S. D. & Cuskelly E. F. (1994) “Computer- Thea Reves holds a PhD in language education
mediated communication in distance educa- from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. She is a
tion”, Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning Senior Lecturer Emerita at Bar-Ilan University
10, 168–181. and Supervisor Emerita of TEFL, Ministry of Edu-
Kemp F. (1993) “The origins of ENFI, network the- cation, Israel. Dr Reves is co-author of an oral
ory, and computer-based collaborative writing proficiency test-battery introduced as the national
instruction at the University of Texas”. In
school-leaving exam. She is author and co-author
Bertram B., Peyton J. & Batson T. (eds.), Net-
of numerous articles on language acquisition and
work-based classrooms, Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 161–180. various aspects of language education, and has
Linard M. (1994) “From learner’s styles to learner’s presented at a number of international confer-
activity: Lessons from various learner-centered ences.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 79

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 80–92

Evolutionary epistemology in
language learning:
possible implications for CALL
Christine Maingard
Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia

Whereas improvements in CALL design are dependent on theories of language learning and acquisi-
tion, limitations to the former have arisen from widespread disagreements over the latter. This paper
attempts to point towards a way forward using an evolutionary epistemological understanding of lan-
guage learning, and some implications of such an approach for CALL. An evolutionary approach,
involving trial and error elimination, requires a multi-dimensional learner-centred model that takes into
account advancements in psychology, education and linguistics, areas that have often been ignored by
CALL researchers and practitioners.

1. Introduction useful in helping us to understand learning in

a classroom-instructed environment where the
Following claims that all learning can be target language is usually not spoken outside
explained through an evolutionary perspective the classroom. This is in response to concerns
(Campbell 1974; Cziko 1995; Edelman 1992; that “key elements derived from the educa-
Plotkin 1994a, 1994b; Popper 1974), this tional settings” are frequently overlooked
paper examines the phenomenon of language (Levy 1998: 92). Consequently, this paper
acquisition as a product of evolution. It is aims to explore the notion that an evolutionary
argued that the closer language learning ‘mim- epistemological understanding can introduce
ics’ evolutionary epistemological processes, another perspective to CALL design, imple-
the more successful the learning of a foreign mentation and use.
language will be. An evolutionary epistemo-
logical framework is particularly useful in
understanding the processes required by 2. Why CALL needs a new
novice adult learners in successfully acquiring perspective
more difficult languages, such as Japanese.
Moreover, such a framework seems especially Despite the numerous claims in favour of

Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

CALL’s usefulness, there has been little over- (see Fredricksen, Donin & Décary 1995), or
all progress made towards a more thorough psychology (see Kaplan & Holland 1995) into
understanding of how such technology inter- their program design. Even though each of
acts with the language learner during the these areas have, in their consideration in
process of acquiring a new language. This is ICALL design, important principles to offer,
due to a number of reasons. First, for too long these principles are often only slightly touched
CALL research has been driven by the effec- upon, and more often than not remain a
tiveness paradigm. With the plethora of litera- peripheral rather than central consideration.
ture available there is no need to further elabo- CALL and ICALL should incorporate strate-
rate this point. gies that, according to Bailin (1995: 334), are
Second, there is an obvious neglect of based on an “integrated theory of language
drawing language learning theories into the use” which must encompass language learn-
CALL cycle, despite numerous invitations to ing. It seems, however, that this has not hap-
do so, and despite many claims of having done pened to date. This view is shared by
so. This neglect is understandable because the researchers such as Oxford (1995), who points
notion that an understanding of the link out that ICALL’s development lacks serious
between language acquisition theories and consideration of learning theories. Holland,
CALL will lead to better CALL design, and Kaplan and Sams (1995: 314) say that the crit-
ultimately CALL use, has its limitations. ical question lies in “[how] that psychology
These limitations are largely due to the well- should be addressed – and whether a priori,
known fact that there is an overabundance of empirically, or through some interaction –
second language acquisition (SLA) theories remains the interesting issue”. Overall, despite
and, it is contended here, there are rather few innovative work being done in ICALL devel-
second language (L2) learning theories avail- opment, the foundations remain rather fragile
able to choose from. It should be pointed out (Chappelle 1997).
here that an obvious distinction is made Third, a close examination of literature on
between SLA and L2 learning, a point which CALL research reveals a wide diversity of lan-
will be addressed in more detail later. Another guage learning settings. This is not problem-
issue arises at this point. If SLA models atic in itself, but what is problematic is that all
largely deal with “characterisation of language too often generalisations are drawn from this
rather than language learning” (Johnson 1996: diversity, frequently with too little regard to
174), to what extent can such models be con- the level of language the products are sup-
sidered as a base for CALL research, design, posed to teach. For instance, if we look at
and use? today’s favourite paradigm, that of construc-
The 1990s saw Intelligent CALL (ICALL), tivism and social computing, we may well find
as the emergent discipline in CALL develop- that this is a way forward for the more
ment. ICALL is said to place emphasis on the advanced language learner, but we have to
learner, as such software is often claimed to be consider what applications can be found in
based on theoretical models of language these paradigms when considering beginning
acquisition (Levy 1997). Yet, as MacWhinney learners.
(1995) cautions, this is not as simple as it Social computing is a paradigm in which
sounds, particularly when theories lack speci- the learning environment is seen as the driving
ficity in order to effectively guide ICALL’s force in the successful use of computers in the
development. language classroom. Such an environment
Nevertheless, there are various ICALL pro- should allow learners to collaborate with each
grams that are based on theories of language other in their attempt to use the computer as
pedagogy (see Douglas 1995; Felshin 1995; an agent to enhance their learning. In doing
Hamburger 1995; Murray 1995), particularly so, it is suggested that a project-oriented
communicative language teaching. Other sys- approach be adopted in an environment in
tems claim to incorporate theories of cognition which the language learner collaboratively

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Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

constructs creative products, by engaging in neglected questions that relate to what learn-
various activities such as exploring the World ing happens outside the classroom. We speak
Wide Web, building Web sites, and using of classroom-instructed learning as if learning
email, to name a few. Whilst the concept of only happens within the classroom, thus ignor-
social computing is certainly desirable in some ing the fact that much of the learning actually
areas of language learning, it should not be happens away from the classroom.
seen as a panacea for all that is still unresolved This is the point of departure for the evolu-
with CALL (e.g. Collombet-Sankey 1997; tionary epistemological approach presented
Debski 1997a, 1997b; Patrikis 1997; Shneider- here – beginning learners who are commenc-
man 1997). Some advocates of social comput- ing the study of a foreign language at a mature
ing go as far as suggesting that we “are rapidly age in a classroom-instructed environment and
moving away from ‘computer-based instruc- where the target language is usually not spo-
tion’ and ‘intelligent tutoring systems’ in ken outside the classroom environment. In
which the narrow choices for students sooner particular, it is argued, an evolutionary episte-
or later make them the victim of the machine” mological framework allows for a closer
(Shneiderman 1997:vi). Debski (1997b:45) understanding of learning a more difficult lan-
suggests that technology used in social com- guage, such as Japanese, where the difficulties
puting will enable “linguistic action and cre- associated with L2 learning are compounded.
ativity”, instead of “acquisition of artificially This is because Japanese is a language that is
selected language skills through repetition and profoundly different from many European lan-
usage in decontextualised or artificially con- guages. It is widely acknowledged, therefore,
textualised settings” (p. 47). Debski even that learning Japanese can present challenges
believes that L2 learners need to “abandon the for the learner far beyond those encountered
role of diligent acquirers of knowledge” (p.48) when learning a European language. With its
and choose creativity instead. Here we need to complicated writing system, the acquisition of
ask a vital question: “How can a learner be Japanese writing skills, for instance, requires
creative in her language learning approach, if memorisation strategies far more than we usu-
there is nothing to be creative with?” Basic ally hypothesise are necessary for the L2
skills need to be acquired first, and it is these learner. In order to reach average proficiency
early stages that this paper is concerned with. in Japanese, a minimum of 2000 to 2500 hours
In the past, apart from the obvious ques- of study is required, whereas for many Euro-
tions relating to the overall enjoyment of pean languages the equivalent is thought to be
CALL use, there has been considerable reached after about 500 to 700 hours (Aus-
neglect of looking at CALL use from the tralian Language and Literacy Council 1994;
learner’s perspective. All too often, CALL’s Leal 1991). This, however, appears to be only
advantages are seen from the CALL teacher / a rough estimate, and other sources report that
practitioner’s point of view. Certainly, there Japanese may require five times the amount of
have been many research findings that show study than for example French or Spanish
high degrees of enjoyment and satisfaction (Bausch et al. 1989).
amongst language learners during CALL use. Finally, there is evidence in the literature
However, such findings are not necessarily that many CALL researchers only function
indicative of how the learner benefits from within their own domain, seeming to ignore
CALL use in progressing towards the desired significant developments in other areas such as
goal of language acquisition. Such concerns education, psychology, instructional technol-
are echoed by Garrett (1998: 11) when she ogy and design, and human-computer interac-
states that “we have never undertaken a com- tion (Levy 1997). If second language acquisi-
prehensive or systematic study of what kinds tion is an “interdisciplinary field” (Seliger &
of language learning can happen when learn- Shohamy 1989: 1), then research and discus-
ers are not actively communicating”. What sion of CALL must extend beyond the CALL
should be added here is that we have also domain and draw on a variety of these fields.

Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

Evolutionary epistemology is a paradigm that ing the systems that produce error and selec-
allows an examination of L2 learning and tively retaining those modifications that pro-
SLA from a multi-disciplinary perspective. duce less error” (Cziko 1995: 120). This is
similar to everyday effective thinking where
trial and error processes are involved.
3. Evolutionary epistemology If we accept the notion that all knowledge
acquisition happens through the selection pro-
Evolutionary epistemology explains the “phe- cedure of trial-and-error elimination then,
nomenon of knowledge as a product of evolu- when acquiring skills such as reading, writing,
tion” (Callebaut & Pinxten 1987:18), where or learning a foreign language, we need to
“all knowledge depends on trial and error. consider the additional evolutionary compo-
Trial and error can quite meaningfully be nent of reinforcement, which leads to auto-
related to the general mechanism of variation maticity. Arguably, the most important out-
and selection” (Krohn & Kuppers 1989: 151). come of language acquisition is that of
Evolutionary epistemology holds that the automaticity. In the writing of Japanese char-
brain generates a multitude of mental states acters, for instance, automaticity is of para-
leading to possible cognitive behaviours, the mount importance. Automaticity facilitates
actual behaviour determined by a meta-cogni- skilled and immediate action without attention
tive process of selection. In sum, knowledge is or conscious thought (Edelman 1992; Lieber-
adaptation. What follows is an examination of man 1984). Shiffrin and Dumain (cited in
evolutionary epistemology by looking more Johnson 1996: 89) call automaticity, or
closely at the concepts of trial-and-error elimi- automatisation, “a fundamental component of
nation, repetition, control and instruction. skill development”. A candidate procedure
that leads to automaticity is reinforcement,
3.1 Knowledge acquisition through another evolutionary concept, which, unfortu-
trial-and-error elimination nately, is often misunderstood or “under-esti-
A trial-and-error elimination method of learn- mated” (Kirsner 1994: 295).
ing is analogous to Campbell’s ‘g-t-r heuris-
tic’, which are the three continuous and con- 3.2 Reinforcement
secutive phases in the general evolutionary Over recent years the concept of reinforce-
process: generate, test, re-generate (Plotkin ment as a necessary component in the learning
1987, 1994a). This also fits in well with Bald- of new skills seems to have lost its former cen-
win’s ‘trial and error’ method of learning. trality in our understanding of learning. Rein-
Baldwin (1910: 32), who speculated on Dar- forcement is achieved through repetition, or
winist theory in psychology, stated that “[the] practice. The view that repetition is a neces-
individual’s learning processes are by a sary (but of course not sufficient) condition in
method of functional ‘trial and error’ which order to learn new skills, such as a new lan-
illustrates ‘natural’ in the form of ‘functional guage or a piece of music, is consistent with
selection’”. biological explanations of human learning and
According to Pinker (1997), biological development. Hebb (1949), in his neurophysi-
‘learning’ proceeds thus: learnable connec- ological theory, emphasised that passive and
tions are tried out in various settings until the slow learning shifts to active and fast learning
‘magic’ combination is found. In the case of through reinforcement. This Hebbian principle
‘animal learning’, for instance, the settings could explain how skills are automatised
which eventually lead to the learned combina- through selecting information through atten-
tion is retained, and trial and error ceases. For tional processes, which are then rehearsed and
humans, learning new skills through trial and subsequently generate “multiple opportunities
error, and that includes learning a new lan- for new associations relative to a current task”
guage, “requires reorganisation of control sys- (Estes 1984). According to Hebb (1949) this
tems that is achieved by cumulatively modify- principle also explains how new learning,

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Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

which is fragile, turns into well-established ory, an explanation of memory organisation is

memories through a process called ‘consolida- useful. It should be noted that this explanation
tion’. is given from a developmental rather than an
Reinforcement is an essential element in evolutionary epistemological a point of view.
evolutionary epistemology. This is a point In normal memory there is “a physical process
shared by Pinker (1997: 342) who criticises of organisation and a psychological process of
current teaching practices of mathematics and repetition and association. In order that ideas
reading in the United States by saying that, may become a part of permanent memory,
due to emphasis on constructivism and igno- time must elapse for these processes of organi-
rance of evolution, they do not appear to be sation to be completed” (Squire 1984: 670).
very successful. The brain receives sensory input which is
“first subjected to perceptual processing, the
“Drill and practice, the routes to automaticity, are result being to determine what objects are pre-
called “mechanistic” and seen as detrimental to sent in the input” (Estes 1984: 620). Input can
understanding. [...] And without the practice that be in the form of material objects, or linguistic
compiles a halting sequence of steps into a ones, either in written or spoken form. A rep-
mental reflex, a learner will always be building resentation of that input is then kept in pri-
mathematical structures out of the tiniest nuts mary (or short term) memory for a short while.
and bolts, like the watchmaker who never made During that short time, some elements are
subassemblies and had to start from scratch selected through attentional processes and put
every time he put down a watch to answer the into the short-term working memory, where
phone.” items are encoded (e.g. in terms of auditory or
visual features) and can be kept active through
As a result, Pinker continues, the mastery of rehearsal processes. After cognitive opera-
skills “is unlikely to blossom [...] Without an tions, which may lead to information reorgani-
understanding of what the mind was designed sation, information is stored in the long-term
to do in the environment in which we evolved, memory (Benjafield 1992; Estes 1984).
the unnatural activity called formal education Generally, the intricate information pro-
is unlikely to succeed”. Pinker explains an cessing capabilities which result from lengthy
optimally designed information retrieval sys- and intricate developmental processes are not
tem which should be biased towards getting fully understood. Although much has been
recently and frequently encountered material. theorised about these processes, to account for
He links this with the work of Anderson who these developmental sequences from a biologi-
“notes that this is exactly what human memory cal viewpoint is a different matter. Enough is
retrieval does: we remember common and known about both evolution and cognition to
recent events better than rare and long-past take this further (Sperber 1994). It should be
events” (Pinker 1997: 143). noted, however, that the above stimulus input
To facilitate evolutionary processes of trial- processing model is oversimplified, but the
and-error elimination and reinforcement, point is to understand at which stage percep-
learning must take into account an “ever- tual control comes into play.
changing” and often “unpredictable environ- Powers (1973) generated a system theory
ment” (Cziko 1995: 106). Adaptation to the of perceptual control whereby behaviour is, as
environment, therefore, needs a mechanism to in a mechanical control system, influenced but
allow continuous adjustments. This, then, not solely determined by the environment.
leads us to the discussion of perceptual control This theory provides a model for goal-oriented
theory. behaviour in that it does not see past and / or
present stimuli responsible for controlling
3.3 Perceptual Control Theory responses, but that behaviour controls the
Perceptual control is about feedback mecha- “perception through the organism’s control of
nisms. To understand perceptual control the- its environment” (Cziko 1995: 110–111, italics

Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

in original). In essence, a control system con- linguistic aspects. Lieberman uses the term
trols what it senses rather than what it does “feedback control system” (p. 59) in his expla-
(Cairns-Smith 1996; Cziko 1995, 1992), and nation of how “the output is monitored in
the “output is continually monitored in order order to apply any changes necessary to
to apply any changes necessary to achieve a achieve a particular goal”.
particular goal” (Lieberman 1984:59). To understand how perceptual control the-
Cziko (1995: 233–234) argues that we can ory relates to learning a new language, or any
see that an error between a goal and a percep- new skills, Cziko (1995: 227–228) provides a
tion can only be eliminated through reorgani- delightful example of someone learning to
sation. “Thus, a perceptual control theory swim.
view of thinking and the reorganisation that
must take place during the acquisition of new “In its most rudimentary form, being able to
knowledge is consistent with a selectionist swim can be defined as staying alive in water
view of knowledge processes in general and that is deeper than one is tall, that is, being able
with education in particular”. As Plotkin to tread water. One way to "teach" a nonswim-
(1994a: 180) points out, our psychological mer to swim is to throw the person into a body of
states are, to some degree “determined by deep water (we could call this the immersion
those processes and mechanisms, which may method). This will likely create error, since the
also influence the nature and scope of what student will have difficulty keeping the head
can be matched to the outside world – lan- above the water. This perceived error in a crucial
guage is the obvious case in point”. Thus, variable will trigger reorganisation so that the
learning happens so that adaptive matching student will immediately begin to move her arms
relationships between the learner and particu- and legs vigorously in random patterns to find
lar short-term stabilities of the environment some way to maintain her ability to breathe. If
can be established, and is thus dependent upon she finds a behavioral pattern (actually a per-
the controlled perception of such environmen- ceptual-behavioral control loop) that allows her
tal stabilities. to breathe, if even only a few gasps before she
A perceptual control theory allows us to disappears below the surface again, the ran-
understand how learning is in effect a reorgan- domness of the movements will decline until she
isation that occurs through evolutionary epis- is able to keep her head above water continu-
temological processes, or, to put it differently: ously, at which point we would say that she has
“adapted behavior is in effect the control of learned to swim. In effect, the student has now
perception” (Cziko 1995: 227). What this gained control over a variable that she could not
means for language learning / acquisition is control previously, and so by our definition learn-
that a learner must arrive at his destination ing has taken place.”
through purposeful behaviour which is
adapted to the “continual challenges posed by Some years ago, of course, many children
environmental disturbances” (Cziko 1995: were ‘taught’ to swim by being thrown in the
111). deep-end. Since there is the possibility of
Lieberman (1984: 63) points to the impor- drowning, less drastic methods are deemed
tance of control systems as being crucial more suitable these days. This approach could
mechanisms that allow learners to automatise include verbal transmission (tell the learner
speech production, and without which cogni- step by step what to do), but even here the
tive aspects of the language could not be han- learner still has to acquire the swimming skills
dled. “The production of speech does not on her own. The most effective way to help the
involve a continual process of trial and error” student learn to swim is seen in a selectionist-
(emphasis in original) because of automatised reorganisation approach where the teacher is
behaviour. As pointed out earlier, automatisa- “constantly aware of the student’s current abil-
tion of certain linguistic processes is necessary ities and continually imposing upon her tasks
to allow the learner to pay attention to other that are just a bit beyond these abilities"

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Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

(Cziko 1995: 229). The learner then will reor- and 4.2) many links are being drawn between
ganise in order to gain control. It would seem the two areas, even though the primary focus
that advocates for adult L2 learning by is on second language learning.
unguided immersion have not profited from In order to be able to provide some satis-
such aquatic learning experiences of their par- factory answers to the question of how a lan-
ents’ generation. With this example of the guage is acquired, a brief detour into some
processes involved in perceptual control, simplified neuroscientific explanations of lan-
Cziko provides a clear link to Vygotsky’s guage acquisition is in order.
‘zone of proximal development’, as well as to
Krashen’s ‘input hypothesis’ (Krashen 1985: 4.1 Some neuroscientific explanations
1), both of which postulate that a learner of language acquisition
acquires an L2 by receiving (guided) inputs Language acquisition requires successful
which are an achievable step beyond the cur- change in brain states through generating,
rent knowledge level. selecting and regenerating. How these mecha-
So far, the discussion of evolutionary epis- nisms work has been speculated on by Edel-
temology as an explanation for learning has man (1992), in his theory of neuronal group
examined the concepts of trial-and-error elimi- selection (TNGS), and by Changeux (1985),
nation and repetition, and perceptual control in his neurobiological model involving popu-
theory. It was argued that an effective control lations of synapses. The human brain is com-
mechanism allows an individual’s learning to posed of a vast number of neurons (current
be influenced but not determined by its envi- estimates are some 100 billion). Neurons are
ronment. How these evolutionary epistemo- cells separated from each other by cell mem-
logical concepts relate to L2 learning and SLA branes and interconnected through dendrites
is the focus of the next section. and axons. Input signals are transmitted from
one neuron to the next through the dendrites,
output signals through the axons. Synapses are
4. L2 learning and SLA coupling devices that allow connections
between the neurons. When information is
To begin, a few points need clarification. stored in memory, the synaptic connections
Although it is argued that at a neurobiological are strengthened (Cairns-Smith 1996; Lieber-
level, first language acquisition and SLA may man 1984; Rose 1992).
be similar, it is also argued that the learning Edelman’s TNGS is a selectionist learning
processes that lead to first language acquisi- model in which the neuronal group is the
tion differ dramatically from those that operate object of selection. It fits well with
for adult learners who embark on SLA Changeux’s evolutionary model at the synap-
through classroom-instructed learning. It is tic level wherein learning leads to growth and
further argued that L2 learning and SLA are stabilisation of synapses through reinforce-
two different, albeit closely linked, processes. ment and subsequent elimination of redundant
This point will receive closer attention in Sec- synapses. Neuronal mortality is an important
tion 4.2. contributing factor to learning. A two year old
This part of the paper seeks to explain that human brain has an abundance of neurons,
language acquisition is indeed an evolutionary which decreases to about 40% of this amount
process. Even though first language learning on maturity (Changeux 1985). The process of
differs from L2 learning in a number of criti- selective stabilisation of neural networks
cal ways, understanding of SLA is embedded involves the dying off of a large number of
in the principles of first language acquisition. neurons, and a strengthening of the synapses
Thus, knowledge about first language acquisi- of the remaining ones. This process is the
tion has greatly influenced research into sec- strongest during the first couple of years, dur-
ond language learning and acquisition. Conse- ing which time a child learns to grasp, recog-
quently, throughout the next two sections (4.1 nise faces and shapes, walk and talk. In doing

Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

this, structures are being selected in the brain. 4.2 Language Learning versus
A relevant example is when babies are Language Acquisition
learning to talk. Babies all over the world ini- First language acquisition (and that includes
tially produce the same wide range of sounds, subsequent languages which are acquired at an
that is, they display syllabic redundancy. early stage, the results of which can be seen in
Through “attrition of spontaneous or imitated bi-lingual or multi-lingual speakers) advances
syllables” (Changeux 1985: 244), this largely, or entirely, in a ‘non-learning’ fashion
becomes mother-tongue specific. The particu- (i.e. the child is not conscious that it is learn-
lar first language (or languages if the environ- ing a language). SLA on the other hand, as is
ment is bi-lingual) is acquired when a subset discussed here, that is, the language is taught
of these sounds is reinforced to become a per- to adults in a classroom, beyond which there is
manent feature in the child’s brain. That is, relatively little or no linguistic input in the tar-
language acquisition is “accompanied by a get language, can only advance through for-
loss of perceptual capacity” (Changeux 1985: mal mechanisms, that is, the learner is aware
244). that he or she is learning a foreign language.
During early development the brain shows If, then, one looks at learning and acquisi-
“remarkable plasticity” (Johnson & Gilmore tion as two quite different processes, and if
1996: 365), but the adult brain evidently lacks one examines these in the light of evolution, a
some of the neuronal plasticity which is pre- clear picture emerges. Learning is explicit and
sent in the younger brain (Driscoll 1994). This it is a process that happens through instruc-
could explain why adult L2 learners, even if tionist-like processes. Acquisition, on the
they achieve fluency in the target language, do other hand, is implicit. Both can be described
usually not attain native-like accents. At the through evolutionary epistemology. The learn-
stage when an adult begins to learn a foreign ing / acquisition dichotomy was first proposed
language, there is no redundancy of neurons by Krashen (1981, 1985). However, Krashen’s
as in a two-year-old, and new structures are explanations and those proposed here do differ
not established so easily. Thus, what we are quite considerably. First, Krashen sees first
concerned with in the process of language and SLA as utilising the same processes. Sec-
acquisition of the adult learner is the process ond, for Krashen, acquisition is explained as
of neuronal learning, i.e. the process of estab- the subconscious process solely responsible
lishing “latent physical coupling” between for language proficiency, whereas learning is
neurons that are “stable in time and present as described as the conscious process with which
a latent physical trace” in the neural network language performance is being monitored. For
(Changeux, Heidmann & Patte 1984: 119). Krashen, learning has only minimal impact, if
Therefore, storage of new language knowl- any, on language acquisition. Thus, Krashen
edge is, as Changeux et al. explain, indirect rejects the proposition that L2 learning turns
and selective. In sum, all language acquisition into SLA.
is the result of selection of pre-existing brain This is in stark contrast to the proposals
representations. advanced here, namely, that:
Language acquisition is clearly an outcome
of specific exposure conditions, but just as • L2 learning is a conscious process which
clearly requires specific biological adapta- facilitates language acquisition but does
tions. It can now also be understood why chil- not necessarily lead to acquisition. Suc-
dren up to a certain age can easily acquire two cessful L2 learning will be best demon-
or more languages simultaneously. Where the strated through the learner’s employment
difference with adult learners lies is that sec- of particular strategies.
ond language acquisition needs the mecha- • SLA is a relative permanent change in lin-
nism of conscious learning, and where the guistic potentiality and, for beginning
already acquired first language is used as a adult learners, is the result of effective L2
scaffolding device. learning through reinforced practice. Suc-

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Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

cessful SLA can be demonstrated through achieved with the help of strategies, and even-
levels of linguistic achievements. tually lead to automatic processes “allowing
other controlled operations to be carried out in
Acquisition of the L2 language, therefore, parallel with automatic processes as perfor-
depends on learning. That is, SLA depends on mance improves” (p. 142). McLaughlin sees
the effective utilisation of learning strategies, the transition from controlled to automatic
particularly those that lead to automaticity of processing as central to SLA. Of vital impor-
certain linguistic knowledge. This then tance to the information processing frame-
enables us to see L2 learning as closely related work is meaningful practice. “Repetitio est
to general skill learning in which success can mater studiorum”, McLaughlin says, “prac-
only be assured through particular control tice, repetition, time on task” (McLaughlin &
mechanisms such as error correction and feed- Heredia 1996: 216, emphasis in original).
4.3.2 Anderson’s ACT (Adaptive Control of
4.3 Skill-based language learning Thought) theory
To see L2 learning as “a consequence of a Anderson’s ACT theory (Anderson 1976,
general process”, Plotkin (1997: 141) suggests 1983, 1993) is a complex attempt to simulate,
that L2 learning is similar to general skill within a computer model, human cognitive
learning. Skill-based language learning mod- function. Central to the theory is that higher-
els provide a clear link to the evolutionary level cognition is mainly concerned with con-
epistemological view of learning, in which trol. Fundamental to the ACT theory is that all
automaticity is the most important outcome. knowledge begins in declarative form, which
Automaticity is proceduralisation of skills then changes to procedural knowledge. Ander-
which is accomplished through the driving son explains how skills become automatised
forces of frequency, recency, and regularity. by moving through three stages. First, there is
Only when these forces are at play can there the stage where the learner has to apply con-
be effective trial-and-error elimination learn- stant attention to the knowledge and rules.
ing that ultimately leads to SLA. Three mod- Skill demonstration at this stage is slow, delib-
els of L2 learning and SLA incorporating fre- erate, and can contain many errors. Stage two
quency, recency and regularity can be easily allows the elimination of a number of errors
interpreted within an evolutionary framework. still produced in the first stage, and perfor-
These are McLaughlin’s information process- mance becomes more fluent. The last stage
ing model, Anderson's ACT theory, and John- manifests itself when the knowledge has
son’s skill learning model. A very brief expla- become automatised. When these stages are
nation of these models follows. translated into a language environment, the
learner moves through the first stage by
4.3.1 McLaughlin’s information observing and imitating. In the second stage,
processing model there needs to be practice, with feedback to
McLaughlin’s information processing model allow the elimination of errors. Further prac-
(McLaughlin & Heredia 1996; McLaughlin, tice, then, will lead the learner into the third
Rossman, & McLeod 1983) presents a per- stage, whereby acquisition of particular lan-
spective of human information processing, guage knowledge will occur, and automaticity
largely derived from cognitive psychology. will be achieved.
McLaughlin proposes a clear distinction McLaughlin’s and Anderson’s fundamental
between controlled and automatic processes, assumptions are reflected in another model for
and points out that for beginning L2 learners L2 learning, the Johnson skill learning model.
there is emphasis on “the use of controlled
processes with focal attention to task 4.3.3 Johnson’s skill learning model
demands” (McLaughlin, Rossman & McLeod Johnson (1996) argues that L2 learning should
1983: 142). Such controlled processes are be considered within a general skill learning

Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

framework, that is, learning a foreign language there appears to be no ‘new ways of learning’,
is like learning skills in a variety of domains, even when CALL is part of the curriculum.
and should not be seen as only operating Rather, it is necessary to take a fresh look at
within a unique linguistic framework. John- some of the ways with which effective L2
son's views fit particularly well into an evolu- learners always have approached their learn-
tionary epistemological understanding of SLA ing tasks, regardless of the available techno-
and L2 learning in that his views address the logical pedagogies.
importance of the processes argued in this How L2 learners have gone about their
paper. These include processes such as trial- learning tasks has been researched extensively
and-error, and various learning strategies that and discussed widely in the literature. L2
lead to the automatisation of skills. His model learning processes are commonly referred to
also clearly regards learning and acquisition as as language learning strategies. Characteristic
two distinctly different mechanisms. Of par- of the body of language learning strategy
ticular interest within this learning and acqui- research are some emerging principles and
sition dichotomy are the roles of declarative observations that seem particularly relevant to
and procedural knowledge as discussed in an evolutionary epistemological understand-
Anderson’s model. ing of L2 learning, at least for beginning adult
Fundamental to all three skill-based mod- learners in a classroom setting. It is urged that
els of L2 learning is practice. Within an evolu- these points be closely examined in future
tionary epistemological framework of L2 CALL research that involves beginning L2
learning, meaningful practice, in tandem with learners. These are:
error correction and feedback are necessary
processes. How these function has been • Focus on form must go in tandem with
explained in this paper’s discussion on percep- focus on meaning. This allows attentive
tual control theory. What follows is a discus- controlled processing which aids eventual
sion on how an evolutionary epistemological automatic processing of information.
framework could influence CALL. • Practice strategies, which include repeti-
tion, memorisation, and using newly
learned linguistic items, must take place
5. Possible implications for CALL within the concept of frequency, regularity,
and recency. This will eventually lead to
In order to argue that evolutionary epistemol- automaticity.
ogy will provide us with a better understand- • The learning environment must provide
ing of L2 learning processes in beginning L2 frequent, regular and immediate feedback.
learners who may also be CALL users, we • Error correction is two dimensional, with
need to step back from some of the claims in self-monitoring on one side, and correction
recent CALL literature. Claims that through by the teacher on the other. Error correc-
the use of CALL, learners become indepen- tion through the teacher is closely linked
dent and also more socially aware and confi- with feedback.
dent, have, so far, provided ‘little proof’ • Trial-and-error elimination is essential.
(Oppenheimer 1997: 4). Furthermore, it seems This is achieved through clarification / ver-
questionable that new technologies have ification strategies, guessing, and deduc-
brought with them new ways of learning, as is tive reasoning.
suggested by some (e.g. Collombet-Sankey
1997). It may well be that effective implemen- The principles and observations are not only
tation of CALL changes the dynamics of the derived from language learning strategy
classroom but, as pointed out by Oppenheimer research, however. Recent longitudinal case
(1997), this may have far less to do with the study research conducted with two groups of
technology than with the teaching. It is sug- beginning Japanese language learners at
gested here that for beginning L2 learners, Southern Cross University, with both of these

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 89

Evolutionary epistemology in language learning: C Maingard

groups using CALL as part of their curricu- Bailin A. (1995) “AI and language learning: Theory
lum, has confirmed that these evolutionary and evaluations”. In Holland V. M., Kaplan J.
epistemological characteristics are indeed typ- D. & Sams M. R. (eds.), Intelligent Language
ical of beginning L2 learners (Maingard, in Tutors: Theory Shaping Technology, Mahwah,
New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum, 327-343.
Baldwin J. M. (1910) Darwin and the Humanities,
London: Allan and Unwin.
Bausch K., Christ H., Hullen W. & Krumm H.
6. Concluding comments (1989) Handbuch Fremdsprachenunterricht,
Tübingen: Francke Verlag.
Within an evolutionary epistemological frame- Benjafield J. G. (1992) Cognition, Englewood
work, CALL research needs to be specific, yet Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall International.
in its specificity it can be broad. There is no Cairns-Smith A. G. (1996) Evolving the Mind: On
paradox implied in this statement. Specificity the Nature of Matter and the Origin of Con-
means that CALL research, and indeed all L2 sciousness, Cambridge: Cambridge University
learning research, needs to be learner-specific Press.
Callebaut W. & Pinxten R. (1987) Evolutionary
and setting-specific, as is suggested through-
Epistemology: A Multiparadigm Program with
out this paper. However, specificity allows for a Complete Epistemology Bibliography, Dor-
broadness, which means that an evolutionary drecht: D. Reidel.
epistemological framework requires a holistic Campbell D. T. (1974) “Evolutionary epistemol-
approach in examining learning and acquisi- ogy”. In Schilpp P. A (ed.), The Philosophy of
tion processes, not only from within the field Karl Popper, Illinois: Open Court, 413-463.
of L2 learning and SLA, but also from areas Changeux J. P. (1985) Neuronal Man: The Biology
such as neuroscience and cognition. It should of Mind, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Uni-
be borne in mind, however, that an evolution- versity Press.
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“Learning by selection”. In Marler P. & Terrace
essarily seek to replace existing models of L2
H. S. (eds.), The Biology of Learning, Berlin:
learning and SLA. Rather, it allows us to syn- Springer-Verlag, 115–133.
thesise some of the knowledge gained through Chappelle C. (1997) “CALL in the year 2000: Still
these constructs. Evolutionary epistemology in search of research paradigms?”, Language
holds considerable promise for our under- Learning and Technology 1 (1), 19–43.
standing of both knowledge acquisition in Collombet-Sankey N. (1997) “Surfing the net to
general and language acquisition in particular. acquire communicative competence and cul-
It should allow us to view language pedagogy, tural knowledge”. In Debski R., Gassin J. &
including CALL, from a somewhat different Smith M. (eds.) Language Learning Through
perspective. Social Computing, Melbourne: ALAA & The
Horwood Language Centre, 141–158.
Cziko G. (1995) Without Miracles: Universal
Selection Theory and the Second Darwinian
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Allen Lane / Penguin. guage Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford Uni-

Plotkin, H. (1987) “Evolutionary epistemology and versity Press.
the synthesis of biological and social science”. Shneiderman B. (1997) “Foreword”. In Debski R.,
In Callebaut W. & Pinxten R. (eds.), Evolution- Gassin J. & Smith M. (eds.) op. cit., v–viii.
ary Epistemology: A Multiparadigm Program Sperber D. (1994) “The modularity of thought and
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Plotkin H. (1994a) Darwin Machines and the ping the Mind: Domain Specificity in Cognition
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Plotkin H. (1994b) The Nature of Knowledge: Con- Press, 39–67.
cerning Adaptations, Instinct and the Evolution Squire L. R. (1984) “The neuropsychology of mem-
of Intelligence, London: Allen Lane, The Pen- ory”. In Marler P. & Terrace H. S. (eds.), op.
guin Press. cit., 667–685.
Plotkin H. (1997) Evolution in Mind: An Introduc-
tion to Evolutionary Psychology, London: Allen Since 1994 Christine Maingard has been teaching
Lane, The Penguin Press.
Japanese, Asian Studies, and Educational Technol-
Popper K. (1974) “Replies to my critics”. In
ogy at Southern Cross University. Prior to that she
Schilpp P. A. (ed.), op. cit., 1057–1197.
Powers W. T. (1973) Behaviour: The Control of worked as a teacher in computing in private indus-
Perception, Chicago: Aldine. try and at the tertiary level. Christine is currently
Rose S. (1992) The Making of Memory, Toronto: completing her PhD with its main focus on evolu-
Bantam. tionary epistemology in language learning, with
Seliger H. W. & Shohamy E. (1989) Second Lan- particular emphasis on Japanese and CALL.

ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 93–110

Evolution des attitudes et des

représentations dans l’apprentissage
des langues dans un environnement
Joseph Rézeau
Université de Haute Bretagne Rennes 2, France

Dans le domaine de l’apprentissage, les attitudes et les représentations des apprenants jouent un rôle
fondamental. La recherche exposée dans cet article met en évidence des différences sensibles de profil
d’apprentissage chez des étudiants linguistes et non-linguistes. Elle montre également que les représent-
ations de l’apprentissage des langues et celles des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communica-
tion (TIC) chez ces deux populations sont bel et bien des représentations sociales, qui montrent un
remarquable recouvrement entre les deux domaines étudiés. Enfin, une étude longitudinale d’un échant-
illon de la population étudiée montre que les profils d’apprentissage et les représentations sont suscep-
tibles d’évolution. La question reste posée de l’influence de l’environnement multimédia d’apprentissage
de la langue sur cette évolution constatée.

Introduction au conceptuel. Par ailleurs, le courant des

neuro-pédagogies insiste sur le fait que tous
Depuis Piaget, les chercheurs en pédagogie et les apprenants sont différents et donc qu’il est
psychologie cognitive s’accordent à décrire “important de faire prendre conscience à
l’apprentissage comme une construction du chacun de son profil et de ses stratégies
savoir. Dans cette construction du savoir, les d’apprentissage” (Ginet 1994: 42)
attitudes et les représentations des apprenants Le but de la recherche relatée dans cet
jouent un rôle fondamental. Si on retient article est d’étudier les relations entre les
l’hypothèse de Piaget selon laquelle l’accès à attitudes d’apprentissage, les représentations
l’abstraction est le vecteur central de la et l’apprentissage lui-même.
construction de l’intelligence, on peut Nous mettrons tout d’abord en évidence les
considérer qu’apprendre c’est modifier ses différences de profils d’apprentissage de
représentations pour passer du métaphorique différentes populations d’étudiants. Puis nous

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 93

Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

comparerons les représentations de 1.2 Recueil des données

l’apprentissage d’une langue ainsi que celles Le questionnaire de Narcy a été administré en
de l’informatique chez des étudiants de octobre 1997 à 347 individus répartis en 110
langues, des étudiants d’histoire de l’art et des étudiants linguistes et 237 non-linguistes
enseignants de langues. Enfin, nous nous (étudiants d’histoire de l’art 1ère et 2ème
intéresserons à l’évolution comparée des année et quelques étudiants de musicologie).
profils d’apprentissage et des représentations Pour chacun des cinq groupes de questions,
mis en évidence dans les deux premiers points des points négatifs ont été attribués pour les
chez un groupe d’étudiants d’histoire de l’art choix effectués dans la colonne de gauche, et
ayant étudié l’anglais dans un contexte des points positifs pour les choix effectués
multimédia au cours d’une année universitaire. dans la colonne de droite. Un zéro a été
attribué dans les cas de non-choix (aucune
case cochée) ainsi que dans les cas de double
1. Les profils d’apprentissage choix (deux cases cochées). De cette façon, le
calcul de la somme des points attribués a
1.1 Définitions et problématique donné pour chaque groupe de questions un
Dans la littérature de l’apprentissage et des nombre négatif (orientation vers les questions
sciences cognitives, les différences de gauche), nul (aucune orientation) ou positif
individuelles des apprenants sont évoquées (orientation vers les questions de la colonne de
sous les divers concepts de styles cognitifs, droite). Le Tableau 1 montre un exemple de
profils pédagogiques, modalités perceptives, dépouillement pour le premier groupe de
attitudes ou stratégies cognitives, préférences questions.
d’apprentissage, etc. On voit par exemple que, sur ce premier
Nous retiendrons la définition des styles groupe de questions, destiné à mettre en
cognitifs donnée par Monique Linard (1990: évidence un profil de type visuel (colonne de
130) “dispositions, relativement stables et gauche) ou auditif (colonne de droite), le
permanentes chez un individu, à recueillir et à nombre total de points peut varier dans les
traiter l’information selon des modes limites de -6 à +6. Pour l’individu de
préférentiels distincts”, définition que nous l’exemple, on obtient un total de 3 points,
appliquerons dans la suite de cet article au indiquant donc un profil de type plutôt auditif.
terme de “profils d’apprentissage”. Pour les besoins de l’analyse de données, pour
Le questionnaire de Barsch permet de chaque groupe de questions, formant une
mettre en évidence trois styles d’apprentissage: variable, le nombre de classes a été ramené à
à prédominance visuelle, à prédominance trois.
auditive et à prédominance kinesthésique.
Nous avons préféré utiliser un questionnaire 1.3 Analyse des données
directement ciblé sur l’apprentissage d’une Pour analyser les données, nous avons eu
langue, celui de Narcy (1991: 28). Etant donné recours à l’analyse factorielle des
le nombre relativement faible de questions correspondances (AFC) du logiciel Le Sphinx.
posées pour la détermination de chaque profil, Ce type d’analyse “vise à rassembler en un
les réponses obtenues ne peuvent donner que seul graphe la plus grande partie possible
des indications très générales sur les profils d’information contenue dans le tableau, en
d’apprentissage des sujets interrogés. s’attachant aux correspondances entre les
Néanmoins, nous supposerons ces indications caractères, c’est-à-dire aux valeurs relative.”
suffisantes pour tenter de vérifier l’hypothèse (Lagarde 1995: 57).
suivante: les étudiants linguistes possèdent Dans l’ordre décroissant d’écart à
probablement un profil d’apprentissage l’indépendance entre les différentes catégories
globalement plus favorable à l’apprentissage d’étudiants et leurs profils on trouve les profils
d’une langue que celui des étudiants non- suivants (le chi2 est donné pour 24 degrés de
linguistes. liberté).

Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Tableau 1

Vous avez le sentiment de très mal entendre x Vous avez le sentiment que sans entendre
l’anglais. tout en anglais, vous en entendez assez.
Vous préférez lire le texte de ce que vous x Voir et entendre une scène/conversation
entendez. vous suffit.
Vous cherchez à écrire mentalement ce que x Vous ne cherchez pas à écrire mentalement
vous entendez. ce que vous entendez
Quand vous lisez en anglais, vous n’entendez x Quand vous lisez, vous entendez mentalement
pas mentalement ce que vous lisez. ce que vous lisez.
Vous aimez regarder la personne qui vous parle. x x Vous n’avez pas besoin de regarder
Vous suivez le professeur des yeux. quelqu’un pour le comprendre. Votre regard se
“balade ” pendant les cours.
Quand on vous donne le chemin, un plan vous x Quand on vous donne le chemin, vous
paraît impératif, vous le faites au moins mémorisez ce qu’on vous a dit, pour le
mentalement. retrouver au fur et à mesure que vous
totaux -2 +5 résultat = 3

Tableau 2 nous attendre à ce que les profils de nos

étudiants linguistes soient orientés vers
PROFILS chi2 (arrondi)
l’auditif et l’analytique, indiquant ainsi un
TIMIDE / EXTRAVERTI 86 fonctionnement préférentiel de l’hémisphère
ANALYTIQUE / GLOBALISANT 65 gauche, celui qui précisément traite les
VISUEL / AUDITIF 54 fonctions du langage; et, corollairement, que
PERFECTIONNISTE / REALISTE 32 nos étudiants non-linguistes aient des profils
DEPENDANT / INDEPENDANT 30 de type visuel et globalisant. Considérons
donc le Tableau 3 et le Graphique 1 ci-après.
L’interprétation statistique de ce tableau
Le Tableau 2 indique que l’opposition indique que la dépendance (écart à
timide/extraverti est celle où l’on constate le l’indépendance) est très significative (chi2 =
maximum d’écart à l’indépendance selon les 67,18; ddl = 30, 1-p = > 99,99%). Mais, 12
catégories d’étudiants, tandis que les oppo- cases (28.6%) ayant un effectif théorique
sitions perfectionniste / réaliste et dépendance inférieur à 5, les règles du chi2 ne sont pas
/ indépendance dans l’apprentissage sont les réellement applicables. Cette non-applicabilité
moins significatives. des règles du chi2, due au nombre de cases à
A la suite des travaux de Roger Sperry faible effectif n’invalide pas la significativité de
(1913–1994), célèbre neuro-chirurgien la dépendance dans le cadre de notre travail. En
américain, prix Nobel de médecine en 1981, effet, si nous procédons à des regroupements
on s’accorde à reconnaître la spécialisation des modalités de la variable CATEGORIE, par
des deux hémisphères du cerveau humain. exemple en mettant ensemble tous les étudiants
L’hémisphère gauche, analytique et linéaire, linguistes d’une part, et les étudiants non-
traite tout ce qui est fonctions du langage; il linguistes de 1ère année d’autre part (HA1 +
permet la compréhension détaillée. MUS), ce critère de non-applicabilité des règles
L’hémisphère droit, globalisant, visuel et du chi2 disparaît sans pour autant que la
synthétique traite de la perception des images, répartition d’ensemble des données soit
mais aussi de la musique; il permet la fondamentalement modifiée. En revanche, ces
compréhension globale (voir Ginet 1997: 41 et regroupements nous font perdre un peu de
Trocmé 1987). Sur ces bases, nous pouvons l’information qui permet de distinguer

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 95

Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Tableau 3 Tris croisés juxtaposés. (ALL = Allemand, ANG = Anglais, ESP = Espagnol, ITA = Italien, HA1 =
Histoire de l’Art 1ère année, HA2 = Histoire de l’Art 2ème année, MUS = Musique)


ALL 0 10 4 2 3 9
ANG 8 45 9 5 19 38
ESP 1 17 7 1 15 9
ITA 1 5 3 0 2 7
HA1 15 107 17 41 61 37
HA2 17 47 8 19 31 22
MUS 4 19 3 7 14 5
TOTAL 46 250 51 75 145 127

précisément ces diverses catégories d’étudiants. proches que les effectifs du tableau sont en
Les valeurs du tableau sont les nombres de excès par rapport à l’indépendance: attrac-
citations. Les cases qui présentent une tion
contribution plus forte au chi2 sont en gras • à l’inverse, les modalités seront d’autant
(contribution positive) ou en grisé plus éloignées que les effectifs du tableau
(contribution négative). La dépendance ne sont en déficit par rapport à l’indépen-
provient pas tant des profils des étudiants non- dance: répulsion
linguistes, qui sont dans l’ensemble • les modalités situées à la périphérie du
‘équilibrés’ autour des valeurs centrales, que graphique signalent des profils originaux,
des profils des étudiants linguistes, très au contraire une position centrale interdit
nettement caractérisés par les tendances tout commentaire.
Le bien fondé des interprétations dépend d’un
Construction et principes de lecture certain nombre de facteurs, parmi lesquels:
Les graphiques de la présente étude ont été
produits avec le logiciel Le Sphinx, qui permet • l’intensité du lien entre les variables,
de représenter les écarts à l’indépendance par mesuré par le chi2 corrigé par le nombre de
la technique de l’AFC, qui conduit à tracer une degrés de liberté (ddl)
carte disposant les modalités des variables en • la quantité d’information restituée par le
fonction des écarts à la situation graphique; celle-ci dépend de la configura-
d’indépendance. Par exemple, pour le Tableau tion du tableau, selon laquelle l’algorithme
3, nous avons une variable en ligne: la utilisé par le logiciel parvient plus ou
catégorie de population considérée, qui peut moins bien à représenter simultanément
prendre les valeurs, (appelées ‘modalités’) tous les effets d’attraction/répulsion; en
ALL, ANG, ESP, etc. et deux variables en effet, la traduction d’un tableau à n
colonne: la variable ‘PROFIL1’, qui peut colonnes dans un plan à 2 dimensions fait
prendre les modalités VIS, VIS/AUD et AUD et la nécessairement perdre de l’information
variable ‘PROFIL2’ qui peut prendre les • sur chaque axe est indiquée la quantité
modalités ANA, ANA/GLO et GLO. d’informations restituée, exprimée en
Sur le graphique d’AFC, chaque modalité pourcentage de variance (ou d’écart à
est représentée par un pavé (carré) de surface l’indépendance); la qualité de la représen-
proportionnelle à son effectif. La position de tation est d’autant meilleure que ces pour-
ces pavés les uns par rapport aux autres centages sont élevés.
s’interprète ainsi:
• deux modalités seront d’autant plus Le Graphique 1 (AFC) restitue au total 86.9%

Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Graphique 1

de la variance du Tableau 3 ce qui nous permet l’apprentissage, surtout au début.

d’en tirer des interprétations significatives. Enfin, nous avons réuni sur un graphique
L’axe 1 oppose nettement, à droite, les d’AFC l’ensemble des six profils que le
étudiants linguistes, majoritairement de type questionnaire de notre enquête permet de
AUDITIF et GLOBALISANT et, à gauche, les non- mettre en évidence.
linguistes, dont une proportion significative Sur le Graphique 2, l’axe 1 oppose
est de type VISUEL et ANALYTIQUE. On peut être nettement, à gauche, les étudiants linguistes et
surpris de trouver les étudiants de musique à droite les non-linguistes. Il est frappant de
relativement éloignés du profil AUDITIF. Mais constater que les profils d’apprentissage
cette constatation concorde avec la desquels les étudiants linguistes sont les plus
spécialisation de l’hémisphère droit (indiquée proches sont précisément ceux que Narcy
plus haut) qui, outre les relations spatiales, identifie comme les plus favorables à
traite les mélodies, les bruits et les rythmes. l’apprentissage d’une langue, ou encore que
En ce qui concerne l’opposition ANALYTIQUE/ les profils dont les étudiants non-linguistes
GLOBALISANT, il est plus étonnant de voir les sont proches sont ceux qui peuvent poser
étudiants linguistes massivement proches du problème, ce qui revient au même. Aux deux
profil GLOBALISANT (à un degré un peu extrêmes de l’axe 1, on trouve l’opposition
moindre toutefois pour les hispanistes), EXTRAVERTI/TIMIDE, celle qui indique un
modalité préférentielle de traitement de maximum d’écart à l’indépendance chez nos
l’hémisphère droit, alors que c’est catégories d’étudiants. Ce n’est sans doute pas
l’hémisphère gauche qui traite les fonctions du un hasard si la timidité est le problème
langage, et qui a un fonctionnement de type connoté le plus négativement dans les
ANALYTIQUE. Cette disparité est peut-être due à commentaires et conseils de Narcy: “Hélas
la formulation des questions de cette section pour vous, si vous êtes timide, et si vos
dans le questionnaire. On peut également objectifs sont de communiquer, il n’y a rien
penser que les méthodes par lesquelles ces d’autre à faire que de vous lancer!” On
étudiants ont étudié les langues privilégient remarquera que l’opposition PERFECTIONNISTE
une approche globalisante davantage / REALISTE est peu marquée, mais que les
qu’analytique, ce qui a eu en retour pour effet données indiquent tout de même une
d’influencer leur attitude vis-à-vis de proximité des étudiants linguistes avec le
l’apprentissage. Cette deuxième explication profil PERFECTIONNISTE. Notre interprétation
est d’ailleurs confirmée par le point de vue en est que, même si les étudiants linguistes
adopté par Narcy (1991: 43–44), pour qui un peuvent faire preuve d’un profil réaliste dans
profil analytique est moins favorable à leur apprentissage de la langue, en tant

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 97

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Graphique 2

qu’étudiants d’un module de didactique des moins favorables à l’apprentissage d’une

langues (et majoritairement futurs langue que celles de leurs camarades engagés
enseignants de langue), ils font preuve d’un dans des études de langues. Dans leur
certain perfectionnisme, ce qui, toujours apprentissage de la langue, les
d’après Narcy, “est plutôt une qualité” (ibid: représentations des apprenants jouent
44) également un rôle fondamental. Une étude
En conclusion, et tout en restant bien comparée des représentations chez nos deux
conscient de la portée limitée des données de catégories d’étudiants mettra-t-elle en
notre enquête et de leur analyse, il semble bien évidence des différences aussi significatives
que les étudiants linguistes de notre population que celles révélées pour les profils
aient des profils d’apprentissage plutôt d’apprentissage?
favorables à l’apprentissage d’une langue, et
que les étudiants non-linguistes aient des
profils défavorables. Faut-il en conclure que 2. Les représentations
les étudiants linguistes se sont engagés dans
des études de langues à l’université 2.1 Définitions et problématique
précisément parce que leur profil favorable à La notion de représentation se retrouve
ce type d’apprentissage les y a poussés, ou au principalement dans les trois domaines de la
contraire que leur spécialisation en langues a psychologie cognitive (représentations
fait évoluer leur profil dans un sens favorable? mentales individuelles), de la psychologie
Les éléments dont nous disposons sont sociale (représentations sociales) et de la
insuffisants pour répondre à cette question, qui pédagogie (conceptions des apprenants).
rappelle le débat Piaget/Vygotski: le (Raynal 1997: 320) Du point de vue de la
développement précède-t-il l’apprentissage ou psychologie sociale, les représentations sont
l’inverse? ainsi définies:

Récapitulation Les représentations sociales constituent une

Dans cette première partie, nous avons mis en modalité particulière de la connaissance, dite
évidence l’existence de différences “ de sens commun ” dont la spécificité réside
significatives entre les profils d’apprentissage dans le caractère social des processus qui les
de deux catégories d’étudiants: les linguistes produisent. Il s’agit donc de l’ensemble des
et les non-linguistes. Les étudiants non- connaissances, des croyances, des opinions
linguistes présentent des attitudes a priori partagées par un groupe à l’égard d’un objet

Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Tableau 4 Répartition en modalités selon la catégorie







ALL 0 1 5 0 0 11 1 18
ANG 0 5 17 2 6 41 8 79
ESP 0 1 8 0 2 15 2 28
HA1 4 11 22 11 20 51 47 166
HA2 4 1 3 11 9 20 23 71
ITA 0 0 1 0 0 7 1 9
MUS 2 4 2 3 2 4 7 24
PRO 1 7 15 6 6 29 14 78
TOTAL 11 30 73 33 45 178 103 473
2,84% 7,73% 18,81% 8,51% 11,60% 45,88% 26,55% 100%

social donné. (Guimelli 1994: 12) souhaitions obtenir ainsi des représentations
d’une pratique et d’un outil. Enfin, nous
Nous chercherons à savoir dans quelle cherchions à savoir s’il existait des liens entre
mesure les représentations de l’apprentissage les représentations sur la langue d’une part et
d’une langue et des nouvelles technologies que sur la technologie d’autre part.
se font les apprenants sont partagées
(représentations sociales); si ces représentations Méthode
semblent favorables à l’apprentissage ou au La littérature du domaine des représentations
contraire si elles constituent un obstacle sociales fournit toute une panoplie de
épistémologique et enfin si ces représentations techniques et de méthodes propres à faire
sont susceptibles d’évolution. émerger les représentations. On en trouvera
des exemples dans Guimelli (1994),
2.2 Champ d’observation et méthode Malglaive et Migne (1994) et Les Cahiers
Champ d’observation Pédagogiques (1993). Nous avons choisi,
Notre premier champ d’observation concerne pour sa simplicité d’administration et la
les représentations de l’apprentissage et de la richesse des données obtenues, une
connaissance d’une langue. En faisant émerger formulation à mi-chemin entre l’association
les représentations de notre population sur ces de mots (ou évocation libre) et la définition,
deux points, nous souhaitions obtenir des en demandant simplement aux sujets de
informations d’une part sur le processus compléter des amorces de phrases.
d’apprentissage et d’autre part sur la mise en
œuvre des compétences langagières. En outre, Pour vous, apprendre une langue, c’est… /
et puisque les nouvelles technologies sont savoir une langue, c’est…. / l’informatique,
partie intégrante de l’environnement c’est… / un ordinateur, c’est…
d’apprentissage proposé à cette population,
nous avons fait émerger les représentations de Ce questionnaire a été administré en octobre
l’informatique et de l’ordinateur. Nous 1997 à la population d’étudiants déjà décrite

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 99

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Graphique 3

au paragraphe 1.2, ainsi qu’à 55 enseignants, PROFESSEURS se trouvant au milieu. Les

et l’enquête a fourni un total de 388 réponses représentations des étudiants LINGUISTES (qui
exploitables. étudient la didactique des langues) sont
nettement orientées vers les aspects de la
2.3 Observations didactique des langues actuellement les plus
Etant donné la forme ouverte des questions, en faveur: ouverture et communication. En
les réponses sont très variées sur le plan revanche, les étudiants NON-LINGUISTES sont
syntaxique et bien entendu sur le plan plus sensibles à l’aspect de l’acquisition de la
sémantique. Pour pouvoir exploiter et analyser langue, avec ses difficultés. Ils portent
les résultats, nous avons regroupé les réponses volontiers des jugements de valeur, et ont une
en un certain nombre de modalités pour vision plus utilitariste.
chaque question. Nous sommes conscient que
ce procédé est subjectif, et qu’il réduit la Analyse des réponses à la question ‘Savoir
richesse des données brutes à un petit nombre une langue’
de modalités. Pour la répartition des réponses en modalités,
nous avons utilisé une partie des modalités
Analyse des réponses à la question utilisées pour les réponses à la question
‘Apprendre une langue’ ‘apprendre une langue…’, auxquelles nous
La dépendance est très significative (chi2 = avons rajouté les modalités CONNAISSANCES,
91,27; ddl = 42, 1-p = > 99,99%). Les valeurs COMPRENDRE, COMPETENCE et PERFORMANCE.
du tableau 4 sont les nombres de citations de De même que l’AFC du tableau croisé des
chaque couple de modalités. Les cases qui modalités de représentation de l’apprentissage
présentent une contribution plus forte au chi2 d’une langue, l’analyse des modalités de
sont en gras (contribution positive) ou en grisé représentation de la connaissance d’une
(contribution négative). La ligne TOTAL donne langue fait apparaître des différences très
les totaux de chaque colonne; le total général significatives entre les groupes des étudiants
(473) est supérieur au nombre d’observations linguistes (partie gauche du graphique 4) et
(388) certaines réponses ayant été affectées à ceux des non-linguistes, situés à droite. Les
plusieurs modalités. La dernière ligne donne étudiants non-linguistes ont une représentation
les pourcentages de citations des modalités de utilitariste de la langue (FONCTION) et portent
la variable APPRENDRE, sur 388 observations. des jugements de VALEUR. Les étudiants
Le Graphique 3 explique au total 90.2% de linguistes mettent l’accent sur l’aspect
la dépendance, l’axe 1 expliquant 77.6% de la COMMUNICATION:
variance à lui seul. L’axe 1 oppose clairement
les étudiants LINGUISTES à gauche aux NON- pouvoir communiquer avec un plus grand nom-
LINGUISTES à droite; la catégorie des bre de personnes (ANG)

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Graphique 4

savoir communiquer et connaître une culture priori logique, dans la mesure où savoir une
(ITA) langue signifie avoir vaincu les difficultés de
son apprentissage, C’est donc ainsi que se le
ainsi que sur l’acquisition ou le résultat de représentent la quasi totalité des étudiants
l’acquisition de connaissances: (seulement 3 citations relèvent de la modalité
DIFFICULTÉ chez les étudiants, soit moins de
acquérir des automatismes (ESP) 1%). Curieusement, chez les enseignants, on
accumuler des connaissances (ANG) trouve autant de mentions de la difficulté pour
avoir acquis la grammaire et le vocabulaire la connaissance que pour l’apprentissage
(ALL) d’une langue: 6 citations, soit 5.5%. Ceci est-il
à interpréter comme le signe d’un certain
Enfin, les enseignants sont préoccupés par pessimisme de la part des enseignants, comme
la COMPRÉHENSION et par la DIFFICULTÉ qu’il y semblent l’attester les citations suivantes:
a à savoir réellement une langue… Les Savoir une langue, c’est … impossible (2 cita-
modalités PERFORMANCE, COMPETÉNCE, tions) / mission impossible / difficile, voire
COMPRENDRE et OUVERTURE, toutes quatre impossible?
proches du centre du graphique, sont les plus
communes à toutes les réponses, et Il est plus probable que les enseignants
n’expliquent donc pas la variance entre les pensent que ce qui est impossible c’est de
différentes catégories de sujets. savoir complètement une langue, comme
La notion de DIFFICULTÉ intervient l’indiquent les deux citations:
seulement dans 2.84% des observations pour
les représentations de la connaissance d’une impossible au sens strict, mais ça n’empêche
langue contre 8.51% pour les représentations pas d’essayer et d’arriver à communiquer pas
de l’apprentissage. Cette différence semble a trop mal.

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On n’a jamais fini d’apprendre une langue, réponse. Les réponses des individus de notre
même sa langue maternelle. enquête étaient plus riches et variées que
celles de la population de Komis, nous avons
Notre étude comparée des représentations jugé utile de les répartir en un plus grand
de l’apprentissage et de la connaissance d’une nombre de modalités, indiquées ci-après
langue nous a permis de constater que les (Tableau 5).
individus composant les groupes d’étudiants
linguistes, de non-linguistes, et d’enseignants AFC des représentations de l’informatique
ont des représentations communes inter- et de l’ordinateur
groupes, mais surtout intra-groupes, ce qui Une analyse des modalités retenues pour les
permet de considérer ces représentations représentations de l’informatique et de
comme des représentations sociales. Les l’ordinateur nous a permis d’élaborer le
représentations que ces mêmes individus ont graphique d’AFC ci-dessous (Graphique 5).
des nouvelles technologies présentent-elles le Sur ce graphique de type AFC figurent les
même caractère partagé? Les groupes modalités de représentation de l’informatique
partageant les mêmes représentations sociales et celles de l’ordinateur, dont les codes
dans ce domaine recouperont-ils les groupes figurent au Tableau 5.
mis en évidence dans le domaine de
l’apprentissage d’une langue? Observations
Les deux axes factoriels expliquent 100% de
2.4 Représentations de l’informatique la variance… La partie supérieure du
et de l’ordinateur graphique oppose à gauche les étudiants
Modalités linguistes (étiquette LING) aux professeurs
Pour la constitution des modalités des de langues à droite, tandis que l’axe 2
représentations de l’informatique et de oppose les linguistes dans sa partie
l’ordinateur, nous nous sommes inspiré de supérieure aux étudiants non-linguistes
l’étude de Komis (1994) qui avait retenu les (étiquette LANSAD) dans sa partie inférieure.
six modalités suivantes: divertissement, (Nous utilisons ici pour les étudiants non-
informa-tion, usage, machine, humain et non- linguistes l’étiquette LANSAD, acronyme

Graphique 5

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Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Tableau 5



de LANgues pour les Spécialistes d’Autres n° 299: ANG; la nouvelle technologie; un outil pour
Disciplines). apprendre une langue
n° 364: ANG; quelque chose qui nous sert énormé-
• les étudiants non-linguistes portent des ment de nos jours
jugements de valeur tant sur l’informatique n° 166: ESP; un outil très intéressant car très
(INF_VAL) que sur l’ordinateur (ORD_VAL), pratique
et jugent volontiers l’un comme l’autre • les enseignants, s’ils apprécient dans
complexe ou inconnu (Les numéros des l’ensemble l’ordinateur comme outil, évo-
citations renvoient aux numéros des indi- quent son aspect humain (ou inhumain) et
vidus de l’enquête, les codes renvoient à sont sensibles à l’ambivalence de l’infor-
leur filière à l’université): matique:
n° 76: HA2; un grand mystère n° 248: PRO; un outil pour rendre plus facile la vie
n° 25: HA2; loin de mes préoccupations quotidienne
n° 45: HA1; inconnu pour moi n° 275: PRO; un outil qui facilite la vie; un outil de tra-
n° 193: HA2; nouveau et étrange pour moi vail.
n° 241: HA1 ; quelque chose que je ne connais pas n° 278: PRO; un outil intéressant; un outil utile et
encore mais que j’espère un jour connaître tout à fait indispensable aujourd’hui
• chez les étudiants linguistes, on retrouve n° 287: PRO; un allié de la vie de tous les jours...
la modalité communication très présente; n° 295: PRO; un outil précieux; un compagnon utile
on trouve également chez ces étudiants des
représentations à un niveau d’abstraction ambivalence:
plus avancé que chez leurs camarades non- n° 41: PRO; fastidieux et génial
linguistes, telles les modalités d’usage n° 188: PRO; de sacrés raccourcis après quelques
(INF_USG et ORD_USG) et le concept de l’or- longs détours
dinateur comme un outil (ORD_OUT), com- n° 379: PRO; une joie et une douleur
ment l’indiquent les quelques citations qui aspect humain/inhumain:
suivent: n° 121: PRO; tellement moins qu’un être humain
n° 12: ALL; une nouvelle méthode d’apprentissage; n° 176: PRO; un bon collaborateur qui vous
un outil pédagogique demande sans cesse des augmentations
n° 194: ALL; un ensemble de procédés offrant des n° 360: PRO; navrant ou borné
outils pour l’apprentissage d’une langue étrangère;
n° 195: ALL; le progrès; un outil de communication; Outil, machine et instrument
n° 61: ANG; l’Outil indispensable, simple, top- Pour Rabardel (1995), l’instrument est une
rentabilité! entité mixte, constituée d’une part de l’artefact

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(l’outil), qui peut être matériel ou symbolique, restent encore relativement vagues, les
et d’autre part des schèmes d’utilisation schèmes d’utilisation ne semblent pas bien
développés tant par le concepteur que par intégrés.
l’utilisateur. On note par ailleurs que les 3. Représentations des usages de l’artefact,
termes de machine et d’outil sont donc de l’instrument. Ces représentations
généralement utilisés indistinctement dans le ne sont pas faciles à distinguer des précé-
contexte des Nouvelles Technologies, comme dentes, et sont relativement rares dans
par exemple chez Ginet: notre corpus. Ceci n’est pas surprenant
dans la mesure où, à la limite, une
[La salle de cours multimédia] ne reste rien représentation ‘instrumentale’ de l’ordina-
d’autre qu’un outil, [...] un outil qu’il faut utiliser à teur sort du cadre de la question posée,
bon escient. Comme toutes les machines, elle problème bien mis en évidence par la cita-
ne vaut que par l’utilisation qui en est faite. tion suivante:
(Ginet, 1997:6, nos italiques) Un ordinateur, c’est… une machine qu’on branche.
C’est son utilisation qui est importante.
Pour Komis (1994: 82), les représentations
de niveau élémentaire sont celles de Nous avancerons l’idée que l’instrumental-
l’informatique ou de l’ordinateur comme isation de l’ordinateur se fait au travers des
machine, qu’il oppose à des représentations logiciels qui permettent de l’exploiter, et, bien
plus évoluées, lorsque les enfants (de son entendu, de leur utilisation, idée exprimée par
enquête) évoquent des modes d’usage. Nous Rabardel (1995) et reprise par Baron et
proposons donc, de manière simplifiée, de Bruillard (1996: 210).
ranger les représentations de ce domaine, des
plus élémentaires aux plus évoluées, ou encore 2.5 Analyse comparée des
des plus extérieures au sujet aux plus intégrées représentations pour les quatre
par lui, sur l’échelle suivante: questions
Construction du tableau de caractéristiques
1. Représentations mécaniques: machine, Pour caractériser les représentations que les
appareil. Ces représentations restent différents groupes de notre population ont de
extérieures au sujet; elles sont le fait de l’apprentissage et de la connaissance d’une
sujets qui n’utilisent pas ou peu l’informa- langue, ainsi que de l’informatique et de
tique, qui ont des problèmes lors de son l’ordinateur, nous avons rassemblé sur un seul
utilisation, et font un rejet. tableau l’information la plus pertinente. Nous
un écran et un clavier avons choisi comme indicateur (chiffre entre
une machine avec plein de boutons parenthèses) le rapport des fréquences locales
une simple machine et des fréquences globales Ainsi, 28,44% des
une machine complexe, utile et frustrante étudiants LINGUISTES ont cité la modalité
quelque chose qui tombe toujours en panne quand COMMUNICATION (fréquence locale), alors que
je l’utilise! cette modalité est citée par seulement 18,81%
2. Représentations de l’artefact: outil. C’est des individus de la population totale. Le ratio
le terme de loin le plus utilisé dans les de spécificité est de 28,44/18,81 = 1,51; il
représentations de l’ordinateur chez les indique que la modalité communication est
sujets de notre enquête; il est souvent asso- sur-représentée parmi les LINGUISTES. Au
cié à d’autres termes: “outil de travail”, contraire, la modalité DIFFICULTÉ est nettement
“outil de communication”, “outil indis- sous-représentée dans cette catégorie de
pensable”, etc. Ces représentations population (indicateur 0,22). Afin de simplifier
indiquent que le sujet ne se représente pas l’analyse et de mettre en évidence les
seulement l’aspect extérieur, les com- comportements semblables, les 388 individus
posants de l’ordinateur, mais son usage, au de notre enquête ont été regroupés en trois
moins potentiel. Ces représentations groupes: LINGUISTES, LANSAD et PROFESSEURS.

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Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Tableau 6 Tableau de caractéristiques de l’ensemble des représentations


une langue une langue


OUVERTURE (1,25) (1,43) OUTIL (1,33)
USAGE (1,40)
(224) VALEUR (1,29) VALEUR (1,23) VALEUR (1,22)
(1,45) (1,76) (2,12) OBLIGATOIRE (1,30)

Pour interpréter correctement le Tableau 6, étudiants non-linguistes (LANSAD).

il faut bien comprendre qu’il ne s’agit pas
d’un tableau de données brutes, mais d’un • Les étudiants LANSAD portent des jugements
tableau de spécificités. En effet, si la modalité de valeur, évoquent la difficulté (de l’ap-
COMMUNICATION apparaît en premier dans la prentissage) ou la complexité (de l’informa-
cellule APPRENDRE une langue/LING, c’est bien tique), et ont une représentation élémen-
en raison de son ratio de spécificité calculé tel taire de l’ordinateur comme une machine.
qu’indiqué ci-dessus, et non en fonction du • Les étudiants LINGUISTES ont des représen-
nombre d’étudiants LINGUISTES ayant choisi tations plus évoluées, liées à l’action
cette modalité, ce qui placerait alors la (usages de l’informatique, l’ordinateur
modalité OUVERTURE (74 citations) en premier comme outil) ou conceptuelles (modalités
citations). • Les enseignants, en revanche, ont des
représentations différentes dans les deux
Observations domaines langue et informatique; ils se
L’analyse des différentes données de notre montrent très conscients de la complexité
enquête nous a amené à vérifier notre du monde, avec un ratio de spécificité
hypothèse de départ: au-delà de la variabilité élevé pour la modalité DIFFICULTÉ (3,85)
individuelle, il existe bien des opinions dans la connaissance d’une langue; ils
partagées par les individus qui composent les soulignent l’AMBIVALENCE de l’informa-
trois principaux groupes de la population tique, les aspects HUMAINS (ou non-
étudiée à l’égard de ces objets sociaux que sont humains) de l’ordinateur… La formulation
l’apprentissage d’une langue et les Nouvelles de leurs représentations prend plus souvent
Technologies. Nous pouvons donc parler de que chez les sujets des deux autres groupes
représentations sociales et pas seulement de (les étudiants) la forme de phrases
représentations mentales individuelles. élaborées, il s’agit alors de représentations
En outre, l’examen du Tableau 6 indique de propositionnelles, considérées par les psy-
frappantes similitudes entre les représentations chologues cognitifs comme de niveau plus
de l’apprentissage/connaissance d’une langue élevé que les autre types de représentations
d’une part et celles de l’informatique/ordinateur (Vignaux, 1992: 224 et seq.)
d’autre part, à l’intérieur de deux de ces trois
groupes de notre population, les linguistes et les Cette similitude des représentations dans

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deux domaines a priori non-liés constitue-t- 3.1 Evolution des représentations

elle un facteur favorable ou défavorable à Les études sur les représentations sociales
l’apprentissage de l’anglais chez nos étudiants montrent que celles-ci peuvent se modifier,
NON-LINGUISTES? L’utilisation des Nouvelles changer d’état, se transformer, mais que,
Technologies pour l’apprentissage de la langue contrairement aux représentations individ-
peut-elle faire évoluer favorablement les uelles, elles sont caractérisées par une grande
représentations des deux domaines et favoriser stabilité (Guimelli, 1994: 172).
l’apprentissage? L’étude de l’évolution des Afin d’étudier l’évolution éventuelle des
attitudes et des représentations en cours représentations dans la population définie ci-
d’année qui fait l’objet du point suivant dessus (48 étudiants d’histoire de l’art 2ème
essaiera d’apporter des éléments de réponse. année), nous avons croisé le tableau de leurs
réponses à l’enquête sur les représentations de
début d’année avec celui de l’enquête de fin
3. Evolution des attitudes et des d’année (Tableau 7).
Evolution des représentations de
En fin d’année universitaire (mai 1998), nous l’apprentissage
avons administré à nouveau le questionnaire sur Nous constatons tout d’abord une
les attitudes ainsi que le questionnaire d’enquête diminution sensible des jugements de valeur
pour faire émerger les représentations, à nos (-23%), que l’on peut interpréter comme un
étudiants d’histoire de l’art 2ème année. La signe que les étudiants concernés ont une
population des individus ayant répondu à la représentation plus précise de
fois aux questionnaires de début d’année et de l’apprentissage d’une langue. On lira ci-
fin d’année s’est réduite à un total exploitable après quelques citations caractéristiques de
de 48 individus pour le questionnaire sur les cette évolution chez sept sujets. Même chez
représentations et 53 individus pour le le sujet n° 7, qui semble aussi négatif en fin
questionnaire sur les attitudes. d’année qu’en début d’année, on constate
Le but de cette nouvelle administration des une évolution dans le sens d’une
deux questionnaires était de chercher à savoir élaboration de la pensée; on passe d’un
dans quelle mesure les profils d’apprentissage jugement de valeur affectif à une
et les représentations mis en évidence dans la explication liant la difficulté de
population concernée s’étaient modifiés en l’apprentissage au manque de motivation
cours d’année. immédiate.

Tableau 7 Evolution des représentations de l’apprentissage



MAI 98 →



97 à 98

OCT 97

VALEUR 0 2 2 5 4 9 22 -23%
OUVERTURE 0 1 4 1 11 3 20 +10%
FONCTION 0 0 1 3 3 3 10 id.
DIFFICULTE 1 0 3 1 1 2 8 +50%
Non-réponse 0 0 1 0 2 0 3 -67%
COMMUNICATION 0 0 1 0 1 0 2
TOTAL 1 3 12 10 22 17 65

106 ReCALL
Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

OCT 97 → MAI 98 Evolution des représentations de

1. essentiel vouloir se donner la possibilité de l’ordinateur
s’ouvrir Les évolutions les plus intéressantes sont
2. très intéressant s’ouvrir au monde et en apprécier celles qui vont de la représentation de
les différentes cultures l’ordinateur comme une machine vers des
3. essentiel assimiler les bases de cette langue représentations d’usage et d’outil. On peut
4. intéressant et savoir mémoriser, écouter, parler considérer que les individus concernés sont
important passés d’une représentation élémentaire et
5. nécessaire apprendre à maîtriser celle-ci à
extérieure à une représentation liée à l’action
l’oral comme à l’écrit
6. une nécessité bien appréhender grammaire,
et intériorisée (Tableau 8).
pratique vocabulaire, accent
7. souvent dur quand on n’en sent pas Conclusions
ennuyeux l’utilité immédiate Le faible nombre d’individus concernés par
notre questionnaire de fin d’année ne nous
Nous pouvons noter ensuite une légère permet pas de tirer des conclusions générales
augmentation du nombre de représentations sur l’évolution des représentations sociales
classées dans la modalité OUVERTURE (+10%). dans les domaines étudiés. Nous pouvons
Cette progression est faible, mais elle a pour cependant remarquer que – dans la population
effet de faire passer la modalité OUVERTURE en étudiée en fin d’année – la résistance au
tête des représentations de ce groupe, ce qui le changement semble plus importante dans le
rapproche des représentations des étudiants domaine de l’apprentissage de la langue que
linguistes telles qu’étudiées dans notre dans celui des Nouvelles Technologies.
deuxième partie. Les deux premières citations D’autre part, les représentations de l’ordinateur
du tableau ci-dessus vont dans ce sens. ont évolué dans le sens d’une plus grande
Enfin, nous constatons une nette conceptualisation et intégration des schèmes
augmentation (+50%) de la modalité d’utilisation. Enfin, dans les deux domaines,
DIFFICULTÉ, que nous interprétons comme les jugements de valeur de type péremptoire et
l’indice d’une prise de conscience des affectif ont nettement diminué pour faire place
problèmes d’apprentissage d’une langue, à des représentations plus évoluées, exprimées
comme en témoignent les citations suivantes. de manière plus élaborée. Cette évolution peut
être interprétée comme le signe d’une
difficile, car il faut se détacher de la sienne meilleure perception des deux domaines,
laborieux, mais tellement nécessaire probablement liée à l’environnement
un long parcours multimédia des cours d’anglais suivis tout au
long de la période de référence.
Evolution des représentations de la
connaissance d’une langue 3.2 Evolution des attitudes face à
Nous avons noté peu d’évolution dans les l’apprentissage
deux modalités de représentation de la Méthode
connaissance d’une langue qui étaient déjà de Le questionnaire “Attitudes” a été
loin les plus fréquentes dans cette population administré en début d’année universitaire
en début d’année: FONCTION (-1) et (octobre 97) à une population assez étendue
OUVERTURE (+1). En revanche, on peut d’étudiants (voir plus haut). Le même
interpréter comme une évolution positive la questionnaire a été administré en fin
disparition des 4 NON-REPONSES ainsi que des d’année (mai 98) uniquement aux étudiants
3 citations de la modalité DIFFICULTE. Enfin, d’histoire de l’art 2ème année encore
on notera également comme très positive présents en cours (HA2).
l’augmentation sensible (de 1 à 8 citations) de
la modalité PERFORMANCE (représentation liée Observations
à l’action). Le Tableau 9 indique (sur 53 réponses) en n1

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 107

Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Tableau 8
obs. OCT 97 MAI 98

n° 7 un appareil cher, encombrant et plein compliqué à maîtriser mais bien sympathique

n° 15 une machine un outil intéressant dans tous les domaines
n° 21 quelque chose qui tombe toujours en panne aussi commun qu’une cuisinière, utile
quand je l’utilise!
n° 32 une machine électronique programmable de un outil rapide qui permet de traiter diverses
traitement de l’information activités
n° 35 un clavier, un écran, des programmes outil de travail, médiateur de connaissance
n° 45 une machine ennuyeux, mais permet de faire beaucoup de
n° 47 une machine intelligente l’avenir car tout est pratiquement informatisé

Tableau 9

n1 n2 n3 n4

visuel ← auditif 10 visuel → auditif 29 +19 36%

analytique ← globalisant 15 analytique → globalisant 30 +15 28%
dépendant ← indépendant 14 dépendant → indépendant 26 +12 23%
timide ← extraverti 14 timide → extraverti 24 +10 19%
perfectionniste ← réaliste 17 perfectionniste → réaliste 26 +9 17%

le nombre de réponses au questionnaire de fin globalement positive, puisqu’elle va dans le

d’année indiquant une évolution de la colonne sens de profils considérés comme plus
de droite vers la gauche, en n2 le nombre de favorables à l’apprentissage de la langue.
réponses indiquant une évolution de la gauche
vers la droite, en n3 la différence n2-n1 et en
n4 le pourcentage n3/53. La différence: Conclusion
nombre total de réponses 53 – (n1+n2), qui
concerne les réponses identiques en début et Au terme de cette étude des profils
en fin d’année (pas de changement), n’est pas d’apprentissage et des représentations de
reportée sur le tableau. l’apprentissage d’une langue et des Nouvelles
On remarque pour les cinq profils un solde Technologies, nous pouvons dégager un
positif des évolutions dans le même sens certain nombre de constatations et de
(gauche à droite), le plus favorable à conclusions provisoires.
l’apprentissage. Les données recueillies tant dans le
questionnaire sur les attitudes que dans
Conclusions l’enquête pour faire émerger les
Bien que le nombre d’individus concernés par représentations mettent nettement en
cette enquête de fin d’année soit relativement évidence des attitudes et des représentations
faible (53), l’analyse des résultats montre une communes aux étudiants linguistes d’une
nette évolution des attitudes ou profils part et aux étudiants non-linguistes d’autre
d’apprentissage. En outre, pour l’ensemble de part. Les attitudes et représentations des
la population considérée, cette évolution est étudiants linguistes sont globalement plus

108 ReCALL
Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

favorables à l’apprentissage d’une langue surprenant et encourageant, si l’on rappelle

que celles des étudiants non-linguistes. ici que Linard définit les profils
Faut-il en conclure que les étudiants d’apprentissage comme des “dispositions,
linguistes de notre population se sont relativement stables et permanentes chez un
engagés dans des études de langues à individu, à recueillir et à traiter
l’université précisément parce que leur l’information selon des modes préférentiels
profil favorable à ce type d’apprentissage distincts” (1990: 130).
les y a poussés, ou au contraire que leur
spécialisation en langues a fait évoluer leur
profil et leurs représentations dans un sens Références
favorable? Une étude longitudinale réalisée
sur plusieurs années, et sur une période à Baron G.-L. et Bruillard E. (1996) L’informatique
cheval sur le lycée et l’université apporterait et ses usagers dans l’éducation, Paris: PUF,
Collection l’éducateur, ISBN 2-13-047492-6.
sans doute des éléments de réponse qui nous
Cibois P. (1983) L’analyse factorielle, Paris: PUF
manquent ici. Que-sais-je? 2095
L’étude comparée de ces attitudes et Doise W. et al. (1992) Représentations sociales et
représentations sur un groupe d’étudiants non- analyses de données, Grenoble: Presses Univer-
linguistes en début et en fin d’année sitaires de Grenoble, ISBN 2-7061-0442-2.
universitaire montre une évolution qui va Cahiers Pédagogiques (Les), Les Représentations,
globalement dans un sens plutôt favorable à 312, mars 1993.
l’apprentissage de la langue, et donc qui Ginet A. et al. (1997) Du laboratoire de langues à
rapproche les étudiants non-linguistes de la salle de cours multi-médias, Paris: Nathan,
leurs camarades linguistes. En outre, ISBN 2-09-886170-2.
Guimelli C. et al. (1994) Structures et transforma-
l’évolution des représentations de
tions des représentations sociales, Lausanne:
l’apprentissage d’une langue comme celle des Delachaux et Niestlé, ISBN 2–603–00945–1.
représentations des Nouvelles Technologies Komis V. (1994) “Discours et représentations des
se fait globalement dans le sens d’une plus enfants autour des mots informatique et ordina-
grande conceptualisation de ces teur”, Enseignement Public et Informatique, 73,
représentations. il semble donc possible mars 1994, ISSN 0758-590X
d’établir un parallèle entre ces deux Lagarde J. de (1995) Initiation à l’analyse de
évolutions, qui vont toutes deux dans un sens données, Paris: Dunod, ISBN 2-10-002610-0.
favorable à l’apprentissage considéré comme Linart M (1990) Des machines et des hommes,
“modification des représentations”, thèse Paris: Editions Universitaires, coll. Savoir et
évoquée dans notre introduction. Cette Formation, ISBN 2-7113-0425-6.
Malglaive G. et Migne J (dir.) (1994) Représenta-
évolution parallèle des attitudes des sujets
tions et apprentissage chez les adultes, Educa-
dans les deux domaines de l’apprentissage de tion Permanente 119/1994-2
l’anglais et des Nouvelles Technologies ne Narcy J.-P. (1991) Comment mieux apprendre
nous permet pas toutefois d’affirmer que l’anglais, Paris: Les éditions d’organisation,
l’environnement multimédia dans lequel s’est coll. Méthod’ Sup, ISBN 2-7081-1246-5.
déroulée cette expérience a été un facteur Rabardel P. (1995) Les hommes et les technologies,
décisif de ce progrès cognitif. Tout au plus Approche cognitive des instruments contempo-
peut-on penser à une synergie entre les divers rains, Paris: Armand Colin, ISBN
moyens mis en œuvre pour faciliter 2-200-21569-X.
l’apprentissage. Raynal F. et Rieunier A. (1997) Pédagogie: diction-
naire des concepts clés, Paris: ESF, ISBN
Quant à la question de savoir si les
2-7101-12116, ISSN 1158-4580.
profils d’apprentissage et les représentations Richard J.-F. (1995) Les activités mentales, Paris:
des apprenants sont susceptibles de se Armand Colin, ISBN 2-200-21628-9 (2ème
modifier, notre étude montre que, dans la édition refondue).
population étudiée, ce sont les premiers qui Sphinx (Le) Version Windows, Logiciel d’enquêtes
se modifient le plus. Ceci est à la fois et d’analyse statistique de données, Le Sphinx

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 109

Evolution des attitudes: J Rézeau

Développement 13, chemin des Amarantes Joseph Rézeau est professeur agrégé d’anglais à
74600 Seynod France. l’université de Rennes 2, où il enseigne
Trocmé-Fabre H. (1994, 1987) J’apprends, donc je principalement à des étudiants d’histoire de l’art. Il
suis, Paris: Les Editions d’Organisation, ISBN a créé pour eux un cours d’anglais sur cédérom,
2-7081-1740-8. English in Art. Il fait actuellement une thèse sur la
Vignaux G. (1991) Les sciences cognitives, une
médiation pédagogique en environnement
introduction, Paris: Editions La Découverte,
coll. sciences cognitives, ISBN 2-7071-2082-0. multimédia. Email: courriel:

110 ReCALL
ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 111–116

The ‘all-inclusive’ tutor – excluding

learner autonomy?

Markus Ritter*, Christiane Kallenbach†and James Pankhurst

*University of Siegen, †Cornsen Verlag, Berlin, Germany

A multimedia learning environment would appear to benefit from an intelligent tutoring system that
draws on didactic expertise, knowledge of the program structure, and knowledge of the learner's previ-
ous activities. On the other hand, one may argue against a tutor because of the damaging effects on
learner autonomy: the tutor may hamper genuine learning by taking the learner by the hand, whereas
what the learner needs is to have sufficient space to move freely through material in an explorative
rather than an executive mode, generating her own queries and finding her own solutions. It is argued
that tutoring may be a necessary stage on the road to autonomy.

We chose to present this paper at EUROCALL CALL in the widest sense, but rather than
in the form of a multimedia ‘disputation’ make broad generalisations, our discussion
because we recognise that there are different centres on a program called English Coach
views on tutoring in CALL and no neat and Multimedia, which has been published in vari-
ready-packed answers with respect to tutoring ous modules to accompany a German text-
and the global aim of learner autonomy. We book for 11 to 16-year-old learners of English.
hoped that this polemic form, based on the The program’s ‘intelligent’ tutoring system is
medieval disputation, would shed light on the currently being extended to make it even more
apparent contradiction between an inevitably flexible in fulfilling learner needs.
intrusive tutor and the desirable goal of In the more recent volumes of English
autonomous learning. The two disputants here Coach, the learner can choose between vari-
are Christiane, who argues for a tutorial func- ous tutor figures: there is an owl called Archie
tion, and Markus, who fears for learner auton- who flies in as a trouble-shooter and lands on
omy. Simply for clarity and convenience, the the on-screen control console, or a friendly
tutor is assigned a masculine pronoun, the badger with a gentle west-country accent, who
learner a feminine pronoun. ambles in in a friendly fashion, or even a dis-
embodied voice. The tutor arrives whenever
Christiane: We are interested in tutoring in the learner calls on him, and also turns up of

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 111

The ‘all-inclusive’ tutor: M Ritter et al

his own accord to advise that the path a learner efficient route for language development. You
is choosing may not be the best one at the have a point there, of course. Who could claim
moment, to suggest that it might be useful to do to offer clear-cut and established answers on
some work on a long-neglected area of the pro- how to best support the learner’s developing
gram, or that it would be better to do some target language competence? Unfortunately, a
training before attempting to do a test, and so lot of what we do is still based on assump-
on. The tutor has only an advisory function, and tions. However, this should not prevent us
the learner does not have to follow his advice. from offering such advice if we do assume that
a certain path is preferable to another. If, for
Markus: I must admit that I am not exactly instance, a learner keeps ignoring a particular
happy with the way you describe this kind of help feature in the software, such as the in-
intervention, I’d rather call it a regulation of built dictionary, and seems to muddle around
the learner’s activities. This is exactly what I and do a lot of unsuccessful guessing instead,
had anticipated with respect to the term ‘all- why should the tutor not intervene? To my
inclusive’: the tutor attempts to dominate, or mind, you cannot expect the learner to come
dictate what he considers the best path to lan- up with the appropriate strategy or course of
guage acquisition for the learner; and this is action all by herself.
what I find incompatible with what we know It all depends on who we are talking about
about language learning today. Why don’t you as our target group. It makes all the difference
let the user discover her own preferred track whether we have a heterogeneous group of
instead of telling her what to do? adult learners in mind who vaguely express the
wish to brush up their English, or whether we
Christiane: Wait, first of all, as you might are talking about school children who follow a
recall, the user actually does have the option to strict syllabus and attend lessons at school that
decide against the advice and do the test that are centred around a particular textbook, as is
she has selected ... the case in our example. In the case of such an
adult group I would basically agree with you –
Markus: ... but only at the expense of a bad their goals and techniques are (or at least
conscience. You instil in the learner a belief should be) much more established. Therefore
that there is always somebody who is the ‘pos- they should be given more freedom to move
sessor-of-the-right-answer’. Instead, you should through the material of their own accord, in a
try to instil the conviction into the learner that more explorative fashion. They will need less
she is the only one who can really take charge counselling and advice. But I doubt whether
of her learning. this applies to younger learners to the same
extent. We want to build up their target lan-
Christiane: I find this ‘bad conscience’ argu- guage competence gradually and systemati-
ment a bit of an exaggeration. It is really a cally, and we want them to develop a more and
matter of how this advice is presented, and our more independent learning style. For that, from
choice of pleasant and slightly unconventional a CALL perspective, a tutoring system that
tutor types is supposed to bring in a fun ele- lends them a hand if necessary is not an obsta-
ment – after all, learning material in a tutorial cle but a necessity. I think autonomy, as
CALL-context should pay great attention to defined by the French second language acqui-
motivational aspects – something which often sition (SLA) researcher Henri Holec (1981: 3),
seems to be forgotten when we talk about is one of the finest long-term objectives:
computer-aided language learning, and indeed,
language learning in general. So I don’t really “to take charge of one’s learning is to have, and
share your ‘moral conflict’ objection. But to hold, the responsibility for all the decisions
that’s not my main point here. You expressed concerning all aspects of this learning, i.e.:
your doubts about us software developers or
language teachers always knowing the most • determining the objectives;

112 ReCALL
The ‘all-inclusive’ tutor: M Ritter et al

• defining the contents and progressions; needs to be taught as well. That is why we
• selecting the methods and techniques to be should also look at tutoring in a narrower
used; sense, in particular those occasions when the
• monitoring the procedure of acquisition prop- tutor in a multimedia program takes over the
erly speaking (rhythm, time, place, etc); teacher’s role because no teacher is present.
• evaluating what has been acquired. The explanation of grammatical structures, for
example, becomes one of the tutor’s tasks.
The autonomous learner is himself capable of
making all these decisions concerning the learn- Markus: But why not do away with the
ing with which he is or wishes to be involved." explicit teaching of grammar altogether? What
is the point of confronting the learner with
But again, I am rather sceptical of the auto- something ‘pre-didacticised’, structured and
matic evolution of autonomy in younger learn- ordered? If one takes seriously what so many
ers. The development of learner autonomy second language acquisition researchers have
looks to me like a long and often laborious claimed about developmental sequences in the
process, and tutoring systems are a valuable acquisition of grammatical features, then that
means of leading the way there. would certainly seem the more appropriate
way to go about it.
Markus: I am glad we seem to agree on two
main points: first, autonomy is, as you put it Christiane: But no piece of software can possi-
nicely, one of the finest ‘long-term objectives’, bly provide the amount of input necessary for
and second, it is a process to be fostered rather the learner to gradually understand one feature
than a quality that develops by itself. So far so after the other. After all we are talking here
good. But I’m afraid we are still rather vague about multimedia software for language learn-
and non-committal with respect to the central ing, not sophisticated tools that the learners
question, which is: if we really take learner might use, under the guidance of a teacher and
autonomy seriously, what does this imply for in a rather different learning situation. And I am
the design of CALL materials? Looking at tuto- convinced that no multimedia program is capa-
rial software from that perspective, I am doubt- ble of making up for a ‘total immersion’ natural
ful about whether tutorial programs have much acquisition setting. After all, the differences in
to offer for the autonomy-oriented classroom the hours the learner is exposed to the foreign
because the underlying principles of autonomy language are considerable: we are talking about
exclude many of the characteristics that are typ- roughly 4000 hours per year in a natural envi-
ical of such software. You mentioned Holec’s ronment as opposed to approximately 160
definition of autonomy. If the autonomous hours per year of classroom learning. No
learner is expected to take over the responsibil- teacher would sit his students in front of heaps
ity for the various aspects of her learning then of texts or tapes, his only piece of advice being
this is just not compatible with the strict guid- to just keep reading and listening, with the
ance and carefully graded procedure you would vague prospect that in the end they will have
typically find in tutorial software. How can you gained some understanding of the language
expect your user to define the content and pro- they have been studying. I am not saying that
gression of her learning, to select the methods this is always and inevitably bound to fail. It
and techniques to be employed, or to evaluate might work for somebody who is, say, fluent in
what has been acquired if the tutor takes care of Spanish and wants to learn Italian. But unfortu-
all this? In other words, do you really have any nately when designing language materials – be
trust in the learner’s own capacity for learning it print, audio or multimedia – one simply must
languages? Why do you think you have to show go about it by having some sort of ‘general
the way, or guide this process? learner’ in mind. Just as writers, when writing,
are thinking of some ‘implicit reader’, software
Christiane: Because I think that learning developers will have to have some concept of

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The ‘all-inclusive’ tutor: M Ritter et al

the ‘implicit user’. This learner or user will of how comparison of adverbs works. And above
course be given various options in the learning all I am convinced – and evidence from
process because we recognise that learners do research seems to confirms this (Digeser 1988;
not all follow one fixed pattern or learning tem- Kallenbach 1996) – that learners want gram-
plate. But the only option that we have to offer mar. For them grammar forms one of two fun-
cannot be: go and find out everything for your- damental pillars of language learning, the
self! That would mean we exchange our whole other of course being vocabulary learning.
didactic philosophy for an ultimately irrespon-
sible ‘all-inductive’ approach. Markus: That seems to me to be a long-stand-
ing, but pre-scientific position, and if you are
Markus: But even if we both agree that one determined to hold on to that, then of course
has to move away from the traditional assump- nothing will ever change.
tion of certain fixed developmental sequences,
implicit in most textbooks, and if we accept Christiane: Pre-scientific? I have just pointed
the rather radical consequences that moving out that recent research confirms the position.
away from this position entail, there is a ques- I would never advocate a position only
tion that remains for you to answer: “Why because it has been around a long time. But to
don’t learners learn what teachers teach?” as go along lines that run counter to learner
Richard D. Allwright (1984) once said. Gram- expectations doesn’t seem very appropriate
mar of course is the most obvious area where either. Error correction is another example in
learners simply don’t take in what their teach- point. It is quite clear that any kind of interac-
ers or a tutor might offer them in terms of tion involves assumptions as to what the com-
explicit explanation. So why do you not think municative set-up is like. This is how David
about doing away with your explicit grammar Nunan (1987: 136) describes the language
teaching? No progression, no grammatical syl- classroom scenario:
labus. The software – more so than any of the
traditional print or audio materials – could “In all lessons, it is generally the teacher who
easily go in that direction and simply offer the decides ‘who should say what, when’. [...] while
learner a variety of topics and related activi- the ostensible focus [...] is on meaning, the
ties: a lot to read, to listen to and a lot of lan- covert focus at least from the learners’ perspec-
guage-oriented tasks for the learner to accom- tive is on form.”
plish. And whenever the learner feels the need
to look something up, there could be an easily And I am inclined to think that the same applies
accessible reference guide that is available at to language learning with a multimedia pro-
all times and provides the learner with the gram. However much we might try to involve
information she is looking for. the learner in communicative tasks, she will still
try to ‘get it right’ and score as many points as
Christiane: I agree that the model you are possible. And we shouldn't blame the learner. A
describing might work for certain learners, learning program contains simulations of real
namely those who are not learning their first life – some of them might work quite well, oth-
foreign language and therefore have an idea as ers to a lesser degree. But in any case this ‘will-
to what structures they will encounter, where ing suspension of disbelief’ only seems to work
difficulties might come up and above all: to a certain extent. A computer sputtering out
where they have to look if they want explicit words and sentences and inviting the learner to
information on, say, the comparison of type in or record her reply is of course a big
adverbs. A reference grammar is normally achievement but it is not the same for the learner
based on grammatical concepts and inevitably as being involved in real communication.
makes use of a metalanguage that a beginner
has not yet acquired. If one doesn’t know what Markus: Of course, I admit that error correc-
an adverb is, one won’t want to know about tion can offer cognitive aids and shortcuts to

114 ReCALL
The ‘all-inclusive’ tutor: M Ritter et al

what might otherwise take ages. But to me, a pus work, concordancing, text tools etc., where
tutor who tells me all the time ‘what you said learners can work at tasks in an independent
or did was wrong because ...’ acts along the manner. But whenever such tools are used in a
same line as an intrusive tutor who keeps language class, there is usually a teacher who
telling me what to do next and why I should accompanies the learning process and focuses
do this rather than that. Admittedly, such the learners’ attention on a certain aspect of the
advice is optional and the learner is free to language or on text features. The tutorial role of
ignore it. But one way or another such inter- the classroom teacher needs to be incorporated
ference by the tutor will influence the learning in a software program as well. If we, as
process. Of course we hope it will influence it researchers and teachers, have an idea as to
for the better, but we cannot be sure of this what the learner should learn, then I think tutor-
because each learner acts differently and ial software somehow also needs to focus the
reacts differently to such advice. learner’s attention on selected items because
In the light of language learning theories, otherwise, and here I quote Gavioli (1997), “the
such as the variable competence model for use of computer applications in the classroom
instance, error correction is recognised as can easily fall into the trap of leaving learners
being based on a clear mismatch: the teacher’s too much alone, overwhelmed by information
knowledge or in tutorial software, the knowl- and resources.” The process becomes extremely
edge offered by the tutor is more analytical time-consuming and, I dare say, frustrating.
and automated than the learner can cope with.
The teacher or tutor inevitably has a much Markus: But of course the question remains: how,
more refined understanding of the language as if at all, do feedback, explicit instruction and gen-
a system of rules and structures than the eral guidance speed up the learning process?
learner can possibly have. Only very rarely Modern constructivist theories claim that
will grammatical feedback reach the learner in directing the learner along pre-designed paths
an appropriate form and at exactly the moment hampers her individual process of knowledge
when she is really ready to profit from a given construction because each and every learner
piece of information and incorporate it as an will inevitably follow her personal path, which
implicit or explicit ‘rule’ in her knowledge is influenced by all sorts of biographical and
about the language. A tutor will usually pro- educational circumstances. You have focused
vide grammatical, morphological or lexical very strongly on the actual content aspect of
information which is completely wasted on tutoring in a given multimedia program: a tutor
the learner. So why disturb her with your pre- who would tell the learner to do her conditional
fabricated error messages in the first place? sentences in a certain order or explain that the
use of a certain preposition has completely
changed the meaning of a verb, etc. However, I
Christiane: The learner’s knowledge might be
suspect that if we are to have a tutor, his real job
much less analytic than the teacher’s or tutor’s,
would be to draw the learner’s attention to learn-
and maybe you are right that feedback doesn't
ers’ needs at a strategic level, such as:
help to expand the learner’s explicit or implicit
knowledge about the language in eight out of • How much can you manage in one session?
ten cases. However, I wouldn’t want to miss the • What is the best way for you to remember
other two times when grammatical information words and their meanings?
might really help. And furthermore, looking • How comfortable are you when you actu-
beyond the provision of grammatical informa- ally use the foreign language?
tion that we have been discussing, a tutorial • How can you tell that you’ve made progress?
program might help our learner to gain better
control over the foreign language by offering This tutor clearly moves away from content
practice and revision cycles, feedback on and focuses the learner on the learning process
results and general encouragement and motiva- itself. So the tutor would not primarily help
tion. I am well aware of the advantages of cor- the learner accumulate knowledge but would

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 115

The ‘all-inclusive’ tutor: M Ritter et al

support her in finding out how knowledge can questionnaire about her latest achievements,
be acquired and put to use. grades, changes of attitude etc., and prompt
her to evaluate her position regularly;
Christiane: You are right. When it comes to • recommend revision cycles according to
promoting the learner strategies that you have the established results in the software, and
just mentioned, I totally agree with you: these encourage the learner to achieve this in an
tasks should definitely be incorporated in a independent manner in the long run;
tutor’s repertoire. • draw the learner’s attention to different
skills and learning activities and stress the
Markus: Perhaps then we do have some com- importance of balancing them;
mon ground, where there is a point of contact • draw the learner’s attention to the various
between the idea of tutoring and the long-term help features and tools (dictionary, refer-
objective of learner autonomy. Wenden makes ence grammar) available and give exam-
this link very explicit even in the title of her ples how to use them sensibly;
book, Learner strategies for learner • encourage the learner to set herself realis-
autonomy. And this twin focus on strategies tic goals and to work out a realistic work-
and autonomy is also at the heart of her defini- load for her individual needs.
tion of an autonomous learner: “somebody
who has acquired the strategies and knowl-
edge to take some (if not yet all) responsibility References
for her language learning and is willing and
self-confident enough to do so”. Allwright R. D. (1984) “Why don’t learners learn
what teachers teach? The interaction hypothe-
sis”. In Singleton D. & Little D. (eds.) Lan-
Christiane: So this would be a first answer to guage learning in formal and informal contexts,
the question we put forward in the title of our Dublin: IRAAL. 3–18.
talk – tutoring and autonomy are compatible if Digeser A. (1988) “Hemmt explizites Sprachwissen
tutoring goes beyond telling students what das Fremdsprachenlernen?” Praxis 35 (3), 227–
they have done wrong and what they should 238.
do next, and suggests in addition various kinds Gavioli L. (1997) “Exploring texts through the con-
of strategies to gradually free the learners from cordancer: guiding the learner”. In Wichmann
the guidance they might need at the outset of A, Fligelstone S, McEnery T, Knowles G (eds.),
their learning, or if it is concerned, at least in Teaching and language corpora, Harlow,
Essex: Addison Wesley Longman Ltd., 83–99.
part, with ‘learning how to learn’.
Holec H. (1981) Autonomy in foreign language
Maybe we could make this consensus a bit learning, Oxford: Pergamon.
more precise and come back to tasks for our Kallenbach C. (1996) Subjektive Theorien – Was
tutor. Let us put forward a handful of possible Schülerinnen und Schüler über Fremd-
tutor interventions that relate to what we may sprachenlernen denken, Tübingen: Narr.
call ‘learner training’, and which look feasible Nunan D. (1987) “Communicative language teach-
for implementation into our software. ing: making it work”, English Language Teach-
A good tutor, concerned with helping the ing Journal 41 (2), 136.
learner to become autonomous in the language Wenden E. (1991) Learner strategies for learner
learning process could: autonomy, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall.

• sensitise the learner to the function of feed- All three authors have been engaged in teaching and
back, for example, by including explana- research in second language acquisition in Germany
tory positive feedback, or by providing the and the Netherlands, and have all contributed in var-
option to dismiss feedback for a while; ious ways to the development of English Coach Mul-
• prompt the learner to evaluate her overall timedia. Markus Ritter is currently researching for
progress in and attitude towards the foreign his habilitation, Christiane Kallenbach is a pub-
language, for example, by filling in a little lisher, and James Pankhurst a freelance author.

116 ReCALL
ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 117–124

From the developer to the learner:

describing grammar – learning
Mathias Schulze
Centre for Computational Linguistics, UMIST, UK

This paper sketches the place and function of grammar in the context of language learning in general
and attempts to show the relevance and usefulness of these formal concepts of grammar to Computer-
Assisted Language Learning in particular. The approach to grammar described here will be illustrated
through a brief discussion of a grammar checker for English learners of German, ‘Textana’, which is
being developed at UMIST.

1. Grammar in language learning successful grammar learning that will need to

be explored. Here, only the example of parser-
In recent years, the usefulness of conscious based CALL1 will be discussed – a project
learning of grammar has been discussed time that attempts to modify an existing parser
and again, very often in direct opposition to grammar in such a way that it can function as
what has been termed ‘the communicative the backbone of a grammar checking CALL
approach’. Goodfellow and Metcalfe (1997: component. This component could then be
4ff), in the introduction to a special issue of integrated into a CALL program, a word
ReCALL on grammar in Computer Assisted processor, an e-mail editor, a webpage editor
Language Learning, argue that “... the contrib- etc. The design of the grammar checker is
utors to this edition of ReCALL have shown mainly based on findings in theoretical lin-
that, through CALL, grammar can be taught guistics and second language acquisition the-
without sterility but with sensitivity, richness ory.
and enjoyment.” (ibid: 6) This assumption Research in second language acquisition
leads to the question of what role exactly the has proved that grammar learning can lead to
computer (program) has to play in a sensitive, more successful language acquisition. Ellis
rich and enjoyable grammar-learning process. (1994) relies on a study by Long (1991) and
The diversity of approaches outlined in this argues that teaching grammar with ‘focus on
special issue of ReCALL on grammar illus- forms’ is counter-productive, “while that
trates that there are many different roads to [approach] which allows for a focus on form

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 117

Describing grammar – learning grammar: M Schulze

results in faster learning and higher levels of des Lernenden beim Spracherwerb heraus-
proficiency.” (Ellis 1994: 639) The distinction bildet, auf Grund dessen dieser die betreffende
between ‘forms’ and ‘form’ can be explained Sprache beherrscht, d.h. korrekte Sätze und
as the distinction between grammar drill Texte bilden, verstehen und in der Kommunika-
which concentrates on individual forms on the tion verwenden kann.”
one hand, and conscious reflection during or at
the end of a text production process which Helbig identifies further a Grammar B1 and a
concentrates on the form of the text – concen- Grammar B2 – the former being a linguistic
trates on the ‘how’ of text production as grammar (“die möglichst vollständige und
opposed to the ‘what’. Assuming that the over- explizite Abbildung der Grammatik A durch
all text production process is embedded in an den Linguisten”2 (ibid.) and the latter being a
authentic communicative task, then the reflec- didactic grammar (“eine didaktisch-methodis-
tion stage requires the learner to monitor the che Umformung und Adaption der Grammatik
linguistic aspect of the text production, not B1, eine Auswahl aus der Grammatik B1, die
only the content or the communicative func- in den direkten Lehrmaterialien enthalten ist.”3
tion, i.e. during the reflection stage the learn- (ibid.)). Taking into consideration that it is
ers focus on the form of the (written) text. possible to differentiate grammar B1 even fur-
Here learners have the opportunity to correct ther, Helbig supposes the existence of gram-
grammatical errors and mistakes they have mars B1a – the linguistic description of the
made while concentrating on the subject mat- foreign language; B1b – the linguistic descrip-
ter and the communicative function of the text. tion of the mother tongue; and B1c – the con-
It is at this stage that a grammar checker for frontation of mother tongue and foreign lan-
language learners can provide useful and stim- guage (ibid.) The description of grammar B1c
ulating guidance. is a literal translation of Helbig’s wording – in
In order to ascertain the computational fea- the terminology used now, the term ‘interlan-
tures of such a grammar checker, let us first guage’ appears to be the most appropriate.
consider what exactly we mean by ‘grammar’ The application of Helbig’s grammar clas-
in a language learning context. sification to CALL produces the following
Helbig (1975) discusses possible answers results:
to this question from the point of view of the
teaching and learning of foreign languages in 1. Grammar A remains as defined by Helbig.
general: In other words it refers to the target gram-
mar of the interlanguage continuum.
“Als Ausgangspunkt für die Beantwortung der 2. Grammar B1a is the grammar which
Frage nach der Bedeutung (und Notwendigkeit) enables the parser to process grammati-
der Grammatik für den Fremdsprachenunterricht cally well-formed sentences in the target
diente uns eine Differenzierung dessen, was language.
man unter ,,Grammatik” verstanden hat und ver- 3. Grammars B1b, B1c and B2 enable the
steht: grammar checking CALL tool to detect
errors in the learner input and provide the
1) eine Grammatik A: das dem Objekt linguistic information to generate feedback.
Sprache selbst innewohnende Regelsystem, 4. Grammar C is the grammar system which
unabhängig von dessen Erkenntnis oder the CALL tool should help to correct and
Beschreibung durch die Linguistik; expand. Additionally, the grammar checker
2) eine Grammatik B: die wissenschaftliche- will gather data for learner profiles which
linguistische Beschreibung des der Sprache should allow useful insights into the devel-
innewohnenden Regelsystems, die Abbildung opment of Grammar C of learners who
der Grammatik A durch die Linguistik; have used the program.
3) eine Grammatik C: das dem Sprecher und
Hörer interne Regelsystem, das sich im Kopf Consequently, Grammar B in its entirety and

118 ReCALL
Describing grammar – learning grammar: M Schulze

Grammar C will have to be considered first to correct a text, which they have just pro-
and foremost when developing the grammar duced, is to help them to identify all correct
checker. The question then arises: if Grammar sentences (the ones in L) and identify all ill-
A provides the linguistic data for the parser formed sentences (the ones in V*–L); and then
developer, how can we ‘feed’ these different to encourage, explain, demonstrate the trans-
grammars into a computer program? formation of the latter into a corresponding
well-formed sentence. Could a computer pro-
gram perform this task – a task based on infi-
2. Computational grammar nite possibilities? Yes, it could – but not based
on infinite possibilities. That is why it will be
The computer requires that any grammar necessary to look for an approach which is
which we intend to use in any program (or based on a finite set of possibilities, which can
programming language, for that matter) be then be pre-programmed. Let us therefore
mathematically exact. Grammars which sat- consider L the set of strings that can be con-
isfy this condition are normally referred to as structed using the (formal) grammar G. A for-
formal grammars. The mathematical descrip- mal grammar can be defined as follows (see
tion of these grammars uses set theory. There- e.g. Allen 1995):
fore, a language L is said to have a vocabulary
V. The possible strings which could be con- G (VN, VT, R, S)
structed using the vocabulary V is then called
the closure of V and will be labelled V*. If Grammar G is the function with four lists as
there were no restrictions on how to construct arguments: VN is a list of non-terminal sym-
strings, the number of possible strings is infi- bols such as NP (noun phrase) and VP (verb
nite. This becomes clear when one considers phrase); VT is a list of terminal symbols, i.e.
that each vocabulary item of V could be words; R stands for the set of grammatical
repeated infinitely in order to construct a rules which describe the formation of non-ter-
string. However, as language learners in par- minal symbols; and S is a start node. And here
ticular know of any language L adheres to a we are already dealing with sets which have a
finite set of (grammar) rules. In other words, L finite number of members. The number of
contains all those strings, the closure V* that grammatical rules is fairly limited. This is cer-
satisfy the grammar rules of L. tainly the case when we only consider the
basic grammar rules of a language that will
V* have to be learned by the intermediate to early
advanced learner. (Note here what we said ear-
lier about Grammar B2 – the learner grammar:
it was only a subset of Grammar 1 – the lin-
L V*–L guistic grammar.)
Formal grammars have been used in a
number of CALL projects. Matthews (1993)
Note that the consequence of V* (the num- continues his discussion of grammar frame-
ber of strings that could be constructed using works for CALL which he started in 1992
vocabulary V) being infinite is that V*–L (the (Matthews 1992). He lists eight major gram-
number of possible agrammatical sentences) is mar frameworks that have been used in
infinite as well. This explains why grammar CALL:
teaching software that attempts to anticipate
possible incorrect answers can only do this • Various Augmented Phrase Structure
successfully if the answer domain is severely frameworks (including DCGs4) as used,
restricted and the anticipation process will for example, by Chen & Berry (1989),
therefore much simpler. Of course, what any Schwind (1990), Labrie & Singh (1991),
language teacher does when helping learners and Sanders (1991). Also included are sys-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 119

Describing grammar – learning grammar: M Schulze

tems embedded under PATR-II-like envi- and exactness, covering the range of issues that
ronments such as Levin et al. (1991) and different authors believe grammar should
Chanier et al. (1992). embrace. For our purposes we have used a
• Augment Transitions Networks (ATNs) working definition of grammar as the arrange-
used by Weischedel et al. (1978). Handke ment of word-classes, where this arrangement is
(1992) uses a Cascaded ATN variant. represented by rules of phrase structure/con-
• Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) used stituency.” (1998: 9)
by Feuerman et al. (1987).
• Systemic Grammar used by Fum et al. Thus, this series of parser-based CALL pro-
(1992). grams does not rely on a grammar formalism
• Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG) used by developed in Linguistics, but appears to make
Abeillé (1992). use of a tailor-made notion of grammar. How-
• Incremental Procedural Grammar (IPG) ever, Bolt and Yazdani mention that LINGER
used by Pijls et al. (1987). made use of DCG5.
• Word Grammar used by Zähner (1991). Matthews adds, after having listed the dif-
• Preference Semantics used by Wilks & ferent approaches, that “the ... list does not
Farwell (1992). include some of the frameworks ... for
(Matthews 1993: 9) instance, Categorial Grammar, Generalised
Phrase Structure Grammar (GPSG), and Head-
Of course, these are only some examples. Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG)”
More recently, Tschichold et al. (1994) (Matthews 1993: 9). His plea is for the use of
reported on a prototype for correcting English the PPT (Principles and Parameters Theory)
texts produced by French learners. This sys- (Chomsky 1986) as a grammar framework for
tem relies on a number of different finite state CALL applications, basing his judgement on
automata for pre-processing, filtering and three criteria: computational effectiveness, lin-
detecting. Brehony & Ryan (1994) report on guistic perspicuity and acquisitional perspicu-
‘Francophone Stylistic Grammar Checking ity (Matthews 1993: 9). In later parts of his
(FSGC) using Link Grammars’. They adapted paper, Matthews compares rule- and principle-
the post-processing section of an existing based frameworks using DCG (Definite
parser so that it would detect stylistic errors in Clause Grammar) as the example for the latter.
English input produced by French learners. He concludes that principle-based frameworks
Another approach is reported by Bolt and Yaz- (and consequently principle-based parsing) are
dani (1998): Yazdani, working together with the most suitable grammar frameworks for
others in Exeter, developed a grammar checker what he calls Intelligent CALL.
that underwent a number of changes over the Recently, other unification-based grammar
years. Initially it was developed for French, frameworks not included in Matthews’ list6
and then it became a language independent have been used in CALL. Hagen, for instance,
grammar checker (LINGER = Language Inde- describes “an object-oriented, unification-
pendent Grammatical Error Reporter). The lat- based parser called HANOI” (Hagen 1995)
est endeavour is ISCA – an Interactive Sen- which uses formalisms developed in Head-
tence Constructor and Analyser which, as eL Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG).
(enhanced LINGER which succeeded He quotes Zajac (1992):
LINGER), is intended to check English gram-
mar. Bolt and Yazdani claim that “Combining object oriented approaches to lin-
guistic description with unification-based gram-
“[grammar] is a many-sided notion, ranging from mar formalisms ... is very attractive. On one
the very broad conception of getting the right hand, we gain the advantages of the object ori-
words in the right place to very speculative ented approach: abstraction and generalization
notions of underlying, abstract (psycho)linguistic through the use of inheritance. On the other
faculties. In between, are all shades of formalism hand, we gain a fully declarative framework, with

120 ReCALL
Describing grammar – learning grammar: M Schulze

all the advantages of logical formalisms ...” of grammatical information is stored with the
relevant lexical sign in the dictionary. To
Of course, not even this extended list is com- reduce redundancy in the dictionary entries,
prehensive – at best it could be described as words can be described as members of certain
indicative of the variety of linguistic classes and subclasses and as a member they
approaches used in parser-based Computer ‘automatically’ have certain features. This
Assisted Language Learning and, in particular, means that HPSG dictionaries can be written
in the field of grammar checking. The in such a way that they make use of word
approach selected here is based on this gram- classes taken from traditional structural lin-
mar formalism – Head-Driven Phrase Struc- guistics – word classes that are widely used in
ture Grammar (Pollard & Sag 1987, 1994). language teaching materials and in language
classrooms. The advantage is obvious: HPSG
Besides its use of features and unification, appears to be in this sense psycholinguistically
HPSG is seen by its developers as a delib- intuitive. This factor is bound to be beneficial
erately eclectic approach, incorporating for a CALL application.
many of the insights of LFG [Lexical At the end of this short excursion into for-
Functional Grammar] and other linguistic mal grammar(s) it can be concluded that any
theories. But there are a number of distinc- CALL grammar checker component needs as
tive aspects of HPSG which deserve point- its foundation a formal grammar describing as
ing out immediately: comprehensively as possible the knowledge
• HPSG makes great use of structure shar- we have about the target language grammar.
ing This was the grammar Helbig (1975) refers to
• HPSG places more emphasis than LFG as Grammar B1a. But what part do the other
on the phrase structure aspects of the lan- grammars play in a CALL environment?
guage (e.g. constituency and order)
• HPSG aims at drastically reducing the
number and detail of linguistic rules 3. Textana – Grammar checking for
• HPSG relies heavily on a type system foreign-language learners
which specifies the kind of linguistic
object being described Let us use Textana – a grammar checker for
• HPSG integrates syntactic and semantic English learners of German - as an example of
information in a single representation such a CALL environment. Comparing a
(Bennett 1997: 97) grammar checker like Textana to commer-
cially available grammar checkers reveals two
The feature-based approach of HPSG major differences: Textana attempts to provide
allows very detailed information about each feedback on errors typically made by foreign
sign (morph, word, phrase, sentence) to be language learners, and does not function as a
stored. This is advantageous for a CALL style checker like many commercial grammar
grammar checker tool because it is possible to checkers do (e.g. they notify the text producer
store, during the parsing process, information of the over-use of passive constructions, point
on the parsed substrings (e.g. a particular noun out sentences which are either too complex or
phrase) which, if incomplete or erroneous, can too long). Hence, the provision of adequate
then be used to reason about the intended feedback on the morpho-syntactic structure of
structure. The number of grammatical rules parts of the German text produced by English
tends to be small, and it is therefore possible learners is the most important task for
to attach feedback to each of these rules to be Textana. Let us therefore consider the place of
used when these rules are violated by a feedback provision within a parser grammar.
learner. (This gives us the necessary finite set.) In a first approximation, we could say that
In addition to that, it can be said that HPSG is feedback shows the relation between the pro-
heavily dictionary-based. In other words, a lot duced construction in V*–L and the intended

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 121

Describing grammar – learning grammar: M Schulze

construction in L. As stated earlier this How can the parser anticipate a correct
approach would be based on an infinite num- construction and so form a basis for the
ber of construction possibilities. Therefore, the recording of any possible deviation? Anticipa-
provision of adequate feedback and help to the tion involves a (formal) error typology7 since
learner appears to be difficult if not impossi- this typology provides some answers to the
ble. However, it has been indicated above that following questions:
feedback could be linked to the finite sets on
which the formal grammar relies. How can • Where does the error occur?
this be done? Each member of the three sets Information from error analysis research
will have to be considered here. The non-ter- and Head-Driven Phrase Structure Gram-
minal symbols like NP and VP, the words and mar (HPSG) is exploited to classify error
the set of morpho-syntactic rules carry certain mainly on the basis of lexical categories
features that determine their behaviour in a (parts of speech). This is possible due to
sentence and determine their relation to other the dictionary-driven nature of HPSG.
signs within the sentence. For instance, a mas- • What constraints have to be relaxed?
culine article only unifies with a masculine Error analysis and corpus analysis (of
noun, a noun phrase in the nominative indi- learner corpora) offer useful insights into
cates its willingness to act as the grammatical the nature of possible learner errors. Here
subject of a sentence, the separable prefix of a we mainly distinguish according to inven-
German main verb prefers to occupy the sen- tion, omission, insertion and inappropriate-
tence-final position in a verb-second clause ness (Taylor 1998).
etc. These features which restrict what the text • Where does the error come from?
producer can do with a given (terminal or non- This part of the error typology is informed
terminal) symbol in a sentence and under what by Interlanguage (IL) research and cate-
conditions a particular grammatical rule has to gorises errors according to the three major
be applied will be labelled constraints. If any IL processes: transfer, overgeneralisation
of these constraints is violated in a sentence, and simplification (Selinker 1992).
this sentence will be grammatically ill-formed.
But it is precisely these ill-formed sentences a This error typology was then extended in order
grammar checker has to deal with! Therefore to pitch feedback at an appropriate level of
it is necessary to relax some of these con- complexity. Depending on the frequency of a
straints, in order to enable the parser grammar particular error and whether or not the under-
to process these ill-formed sentences. A lying grammatical phenomenon had already
relaxed constraint is simply not as strict on the been taught to the learners (pre-systematic vs.
learner input, it stipulates a preference (e.g. post-systematic error), four levels of feedback
that the grammatical subject of a sentence complexity have been established with a possi-
should be in the nominative), but it would ble fifth level for selected errors.
accept a noun phrase that is case-marked dif-
ferently if it cannot find another nominative • error warning (-> post-systematic default)
noun phrase. If the parser finds such a phrase, (e.g. “This sentence appears to contain a
the relaxed constraint will ensure that, firstly, grammatical error.”)
the phrase can be processed and, secondly, that • highlight
the use of accusative-marking instead of a (e.g. “This part of the sentence / this phrase
nominative-marking is recorded. Conse- contains a grammatical error.”)
quently, a relaxed constraint defines the rela- • general explanation
tion between an anticipated construction in L (e.g. “This sentence should contain a
and deviations based on a rule violation and/or grammatical subject and this noun phrase
an inappropriate feature. This approach is nec- should be in nominative.”)
essarily based on a finite set of rules and fea- • specific explanation (-> pre-systematic)
tures. (e.g. “This sentence should contain a

122 ReCALL
Describing grammar – learning grammar: M Schulze

grammatical subject. The noun phrase den Notes

Mann should be in nominative.”)
• [correction] 1 The notion of ‘parser-based CALL’ was intro-
(e.g. “Should the phrase den Mann be der duced by Holland. She argues: “The use of
Mann?”) parsers in CALL is commonly referred to as
intelligent CALL or ‘ICALL.’ It might be more
Let us return to our provisional description of accurately described as parser-based CALL,
because its ‘intelligence’ lies in the use of pars-
feedback, which can now be formulated more
ing – a technique that enables the computer to
precisely summarising the previous discus- encode complex grammatical knowledge such
sion. Feedback shows the relation as humans use to assemble sentences, recognise
errors, and make corrections.” (Holland 1993:
between produced construction in V*–L and 28)
intended (?) construction in L 2 “the comprehensive and explicit modelling of
by explaining the underlying constraint of the Grammar A by a linguist”
anticipated construction in L based on 3 “a didactico-methodological transformation and
Grammar B2 adaptation of grammar B1, a selection of gram-
to support (?) production of construction in L mar B1, which is part of the direct teaching
and by reasoning about the likely cause of the material”
4 Definite Clause Grammar (see Periera & War-
rule violation
ren 1988).
to extend (?) Grammar C – the learner-inher- 5 See previous footnote.
ent grammar. 6 In an earlier article, Matthews briefly mentions
the potential of “grammars where lexical infor-
First, our better understanding of feedback mation plays a crucial organisational role”
shows that Helbig’s notion of different gram- (Matthews 1992: 25), mentioning among others
mar systems in the learning and teaching of a Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar
foreign language is not only applicable to (HPSG) (Pollard & Sag 1987, 1994), and high-
(parser-based) CALL, but provides useful lights their great potential in relation to Second
information for authors of software which Language Acquisition.
7 Substantial parts of the following discussion are
aims to provide learner support in grammar
based on work carried out by Taylor (1998).
acquisition. And secondly, the above descrip-
tion of feedback given by a grammar checker
which is based on a modified parser shows
that it is possible to construct tools that sup-
port the focus on form by learners during the Allen J. (1995) Natural Language Understanding,
reflection stage of a text production process. New York: Benjamin Cummings.
Even if the grammar checker were only to Benett P. (1997) Feature-Based Approaches to
detect a small number of morpho-syntactic Grammar, Manchester: UMIST. Unpublished
errors, this would be beneficial for the learners manuscript.
as long as they were aware of the limitations Bolt P. & Yazdani M. (1998) The Evolution of a
of this CALL tool. On the other hand, the Grammar-Checking Program: LINGER to ISCA.
feedback description still contains a number of
question marks in parentheses after some of uthor/call/index.htm (checked 24/3/98)
the important keywords – whether the Brehony T. & Ryan K. (1994) Francophone Stylis-
tic Grammar Checking (FSGC) using Link
intended aims of grammar checking can be
Grammars, CALL 7(3), 257–269.
achieved can only be validated through the use Chomsky N. (1986) Knowledge of Language: Its
and thorough testing of such a grammar Nature, Origin, and Use, New York: Praeger.
checker. Textana is currently only a research Ellis R. (1994) The Study of Second Language
prototype which serves as a useful testbed for Acquisition, Oxford: OUP
hypotheses on computer assisted language Goodfellow R. & Metcalfe P. (1997) (eds.) CALL –
learning, linguistics and pedagogy. The Challenge of Grammar. ReCALL 9 (2)

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 123

Describing grammar – learning grammar: M Schulze

(Special Issue). Periera F. & Warren D. (1988) “Definite Clause

Hagen L.K. (1995) “Unification-Based parsing Grammar for Language Analysis”, Artificial
Applications for Intelligent Foreign language Intelligence 13, 231–278
Tutoring Systems”. CALICO 12 (2–3), 5–31. Pollard C. & Sag I.A. (1987) Information-Based
Helbig G. (1975) “Bemerkungen zum Problem von Syntax and Semantics, Chicago: University
Grammatik und Fremdsprachenunterricht”. Press.
Deutsch als Fremdsprache 6 (12), 325–332. Pollard C. & Sag I.A. (1994) Head-Driven Phrase
Holland V.M., Maisano R, Alderks C, & Martin J. Structure Grammar, Chicago: University Press.
(1993) “Parsers in Tutors: What Are They Good Selinker L. (1992) Rediscovering Interlanguage,
For?” CALICO 11 (1), 28–46. London: Longman.
Long M. (1991) “Focus on Form: A Design Feature Taylor H. (1998) Computer Assisted Text Produc-
in Language Teaching Methodology”. In de Bot tion. Feedback on Grammatical Errors Made by
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Perspectives, Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Tschichold C, Bodmer F, Cornu E, Grosjean F,
Matthews C. (1993) “Grammar Frameworks in Grosjean L, Kübler N. & Tschumi C. (1994)
Intelligent CALL”, CALICO 11 (1), 5–27. “Detecting and Correcting Errors in Second
Matthews C. (1992) “Going AI. Foundations of Language Texts”, CALL 7(2), 151–160.
ICALL”, CALL 5 (1–2), 13–31.

124 ReCALL
ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 125–132

How to offer real help to grammar


Johan Vanparys* and Lut Baten†

*Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, †Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

This article discusses strategies for creating a supportive grammar learning environment, which have
been implemented in CALL packages for Dutch. They stem from recent advances in cognitive psychol-
ogy and cognitive linguistics, as well as our own experience. The basic metaphor behind our concep-
tion of the ideal CALL package is that of a toolbox rather than a set of instructions. Users select a tool
from a range of available instruments because they think it is the one that suits their purpose best. Dif-
ferent learners may pick out different tools and use them in different ways, even if their goals are the

Introduction Nederlands 2 (Vanparys, Baten et al.

1996), which caters for their lexical needs;
In this article we shall discuss six strategies • EuroGram Dutch (Vanparys, Baten et al.
for creating a supportive environment in 1996), a product of the LINGUA-spon-
which grammar learning can take place under sored EuroLing project (Dirven et al.
optimum conditions. These strategies have 1995).
been implemented in the following multime-
dia programs for learning Dutch (see also The target audiences of these programs consist
Baten & Vanparys 1995): of students in higher education and adults
learning Dutch in a variety of contexts, includ-
• StepIn (Baten et al. 1996), a beginners' ing schools, training centres and self-tuition.
course that introduces the essential aspects Each program tries to create an environment
of vocabulary and grammar, as well as where the user can act as an autonomous
communicative functions and skills; learner, with regard to both content and learn-
• Interactief Nederlands (Vanparys, Callut et ing strategy.
al. 1996), grammar learning software that In her overview of grammar learning /
takes post-beginners to upper-intermediate teaching in the past 20 years, Vekemans
level, in conjunction with Interactief (1994) proposes a synthesis of the socio- and

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How to offer real help: J Vanparys and L Baten

psycho-linguistic parameters of the learning take this into account by providing enough flex-
context: the learners’ objective is to apply ibility, e.g. by offering different ways of access
grammatical structures in their everyday use to the same content (cf. Bull 1997). Here learn-
of the language, the teachers’ role is to help ing strategies come in, as these will foster
the learner acquire this skill. Along the same autonomous acquisition, during classes and
lines, we would like to formulate the main afterwards. This takes us to the first strategy.
issue of this article as follows: how can efforts
spent on learning grammatical rules be opti-
mised in terms of the overall objective (acquir- Strategy 1: Make meta-language
ing a foreign language) within a CALL con- accessible
For a long time, theories about foreign lan- By far the best way for learners to raise their
guage (FL) learning were influenced by the awareness and to discover their learning strate-
behaviourist conception of the mind as a black gies is for them to communicate with each
box that never opened up to observation. other about the learning process. Communica-
Though input (stimulus) and output (response) tion among learners, between learners and
could be observed, it was commonly believed teachers, with and about the target language
that one would never know what went on and the learning process itself is of the utmost
inside. Fostered by mainstream linguistic theo- importance. For this purpose, a meta-language
ries (structuralism and transformationalism), is required as a point of reference to talk about
the ensuing methodologies – based mainly on the language and to mediate the analysis.
drills – turned FL learning into a rather boring Grammatical descriptions offer this type of
activity with a low degree of efficiency. This meta-language.
period has come to an end, thanks to the cog- Since meta-language, i.e. language about
nitive revolution in psychology, linguistics and language, is part of the everyday language
applied linguistics. The human mind is now employed in the classroom, it should be direct,
more adequately conceived of as a problem- clear and available to everyone. This does not
solving organism, capable of defining its mean that we advocate shielding learners from
needs and goals and devising strategies to grammatical terms at all costs. We have expe-
work towards these in a creative way. We now rienced that Anglo-Saxon students learning a
know a great deal about the way language is language on the continent often complain that
represented in the mind, how it is stored and they lag behind their peers in getting a grip on
retrieved (Aitchison 1987). This knowledge the language system, owing to a shortage of
can be put to use in order to devise effective meta-language. On the other hand, this does
and efficient (and, we believe, more appeal- not imply that we would recommend exposing
ing) techniques for the benefit of the FL learners to very detailed grammatical descrip-
learner (Vanparys 1995, Vanparys, Zimmer et tions larded with grammatical terminology. In
al. 1997, Heidemann 1996). From a cognitive this context, we would like to refer to the
perspective, the position that one would experience of Verlinde (1993), who reports
acquire a foreign language in an unconscious cases of learners of French getting lost in such
way, unconsciously adding to one’s internal a jungle.
(that is, hidden) language model, is no longer In fact, a lot of phenomena can be lumped
tenable. Consequently, one may suppose that together on the basis of analogy; splitting
consciousness raising, assisted by the teacher, everything up goes against the principle of
can contribute to the process of foreign lan- efficiency. For instance, Verlinde (1993) dis-
guage acquisition (Sharwood Smith 1995). cards the distinction between co-ordination
Another relevant point is that learning and subordination in French as pedagogically
styles may differ across learners and that they irrelevant. An extreme but interesting example
may have to find out the style that suits them of analogy can be found in the theory of Cog-
best (Narcy 1990). Learner assistance should nitive Grammar. Langacker (1987: 258ff.)

126 ReCALL
How to offer real help: J Vanparys and L Baten

argues quite convincingly that the conceptual • The index presents lexical items of the tar-
distinction underlying the aspectual difference get language in alphabetical order and
between simple and continuous (or progres- takes the user to those sections where these
sive) verb tenses is in fact the same as the one words pose particular grammatical prob-
that differentiates between count and mass lems. For instance, picking an er- word
nouns. Though the principles of Cognitive from the index will take the user to the sec-
Grammar have never been exploited in terms tion on pronominal adverbs.
of FL learning, the potential is obvious. The
count / mass distinction in nouns is made in Though these techniques are derived from the
most languages, whereas the simple / continu- ones applied in paper books, computer pro-
ous distinction is specific for English and con- grams can implement them in a much more
stitutes a notorious stumbling block for learn- user-friendly way. For one thing, searches in a
ers of this language. As a result, the intuitively long list can be facilitated by adding an edit
familiar count / mass opposition could be used field in which the user can type the first letters
as a stepping stone in elucidating the aspectual of the search string. The search mechanism
properties of English verbs. then immediately jumps to this location. For
The crucial point in connection with meta- another, the computer’s high storage capacity
language is its accessibility. Let us take a spe- does away with the need to avoid duplication
cific grammatical construction to exemplify of information. (For instance, the index may
the notion of accessibility and explore ways of contain, besides eraan, also er- and aan:
implementing it: eraan; pronominal adverbs may appear in the
glossary as: pronominal adverb, adverb:
Ik zal aan haar denken. (“I shall of her pronominal adverb, pronouns: pronominal
think”. = I’ll think of her.) adverb, er- forms, prepositions vs. pronominal
Ik zal eraan denken. (“I shall of-it think” = adverbs and the like.) Windowing constitutes
I’ll think of it.) another advantage: ongoing activities need not
be aborted when the user wishes to trigger a
In Dutch, the construction Preposition + Pro- new one, they can be temporarily suspended
noun can be used only if the pronoun has a or remain active in the background.
human referent (aan haar = “of her”). For
referring to non-human entities, one has to use
a so-called ‘pronominal adverb’, which is Strategy 2: Be consistent
made up of er + Pronoun (eraan = “of it”).
This structure is very common in Dutch but Accessibility of meta-language can be
does not exist in most other languages, so that enhanced by visual means, such as a consis-
it provokes quite a lot of errors by non-native tent screen layout and consistent use of colour.
speakers. With regard to meta-language, the The EuroGram screens, for instance, have
problem of the learner may be that he does not been designed on the basis of a detailed set of
know that he has to look under the heading guidelines, instructing the authors where to
‘pronominal adverb’ to find an answer to his place example sentences, explanations of
questions. CALL grammars such as Interactief rules, summaries, etc. and what colour attrib-
Nederlands and EuroGram assist the learner utes to use for each element (Baten & van der
by means of an on-line glossary and index: Wijst 1994).
Visual techniques could be pushed a lot
• The glossary provides definitions of gram- further by exploiting the principles of iconic-
matical terms. If the user encounters the ity suggested by Engels (1978), where meta-
term ‘pronominal adverb’, e.g. in a section linguistic terms are paired with iconic media-
on pronouns or prepositions, and he does tors, i.e. visuals with a high intuitive value.
not know what it means, he can look it up (See Engels et al. (1989) for an application to
in the glossary. the English verb system.)

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The principle of consistency applies not ways through the program, different kinds of
only to screen design but also to the organisa- feedback, on-line consulting tools and differ-
tion of content. For instance, the overall struc- ent interface languages:
ture (as presented in the table of contents) of
EuroGram hinges on recurring distinctions • Interactief Nederlands offers a large variety
between ‘form’ and ‘use’, between ‘core rules’ of tests, including pre-tests and post-tests.
and ‘extensions’. Under ‘form’, rules are pre- Prior to studying a particular section, the
sented about the formation of a particular cate- learner is given the option of taking a short
gory, e.g. how to form the plural of a noun or test in order to determine whether or at what
the past tense of a verb. The semantic aspects level (e.g. basic or intermediate) he should
of these categories are dealt with under ‘rules’, study the section. After learning it, he can
e.g. when to use a past tense or a present per- take a test to determine whether he’s ready
fect. ‘Core rules’ contain the basic information to go to a higher level, or to stop working on
that needs to be studied first, whereas ‘exten- this section altogether. After taking a test,
sions’ cater for the needs of more advanced the program gives some advice, which can
students. easily be overridden by the user.
• The program offers multiple pathways
through its contents. For instance, depend-
Strategy 3: Maximise learner ing on his learning style, the user can
control tackle a section by first studying the gram-
mar screens and then doing the corre-
The Windows® Interface Guidelines for Soft- sponding exercises or, alternatively, he can
ware Design start with the following recom- start by jumping into an exercise and acti-
mendation: vate the corresponding grammar screen
when he gets stuck.
An important principle of user interface design is • Feedback is available in exercises as well
that the user should always feel in control of the as tests, whether the user made an error or
software, rather than feeling controlled by the not. Basically, two kinds of feedback are
software. [...] The first implication is the [...] offered: full and context-sensitive. When
assumption that the user initiates actions, not the user requests full feedback, the com-
the computer software – the user plays an plete rule is displayed in the same format as
active, rather than reactive role. (s.n. 1995: 3) during the learning stage. Context-sensitive
feedback includes only those portions of
In a set of guidelines for designing CALL the rule that are relevant to the current item
software, this principle has been formulated as in the exercise and presents these in relation
“Maximise learner control” (Laurillard 1997). to the sentence that the user is working on.
Our own programs try to approach the user / • With regard to on-line consulting, we have
learner as a mature person, capable of setting already mentioned the index and the glos-
his own goals and working towards them in sary. On top of that, the program includes
accordance with his personal learning style. its own lexicon, which can be activated by
The basic metaphor we apply is that of a tool- right-clicking the mouse over any Dutch
box: we try to conceive of a CALL program as word. In StepIn, this lexicon is made more
a set of tools rather than a set of instructions. interactive, being linked with a ‘notepad’.
A tool is something you select from a range of The user can transfer information from the
available instruments because you think it is lexicon to his personal notepad and add
the one that suits your purpose best. Different information to it, thereby constructing a
people may prefer different tools, even if their customised lexicon which constitutes the
goals are the same. As a result, we try to sup- starting point for extra exercises.
ply many options. In Interactief Nederlands, • Finally, we do not shy away from using the
these include a variety of tests, different path- learner’s first language. Interactive Neder-

128 ReCALL
How to offer real help: J Vanparys and L Baten

lands mainly aims at speakers of French. to prefer subject matter divided into manage-
All information is available in Dutch and able portions that can be retained as single
French. Despite the prevailing orthodoxy units, preferably on the basis of a catchy exam-
that FL learning should take place exclu- ple. The limited size of the computer screen
sively in the target language, we have becomes an asset here. It forces program
experienced that learners, especially fran- designers to slice up their explanations into
cophones, feel much more at ease if they units that fit onto a single screen or window. In
have recourse to their mother tongue, and EuroGram, these units are presented one after
we respect this as a relevant dimension of another, as in a slide-show. At the end of each
their learning style. sequence, the complete picture is presented in
summary fashion. This may be dubbed a ‘bot-
tom-up’ approach, where the larger picture is
Strategy 4: Split up gradually assembled on the basis of its compo-
nent parts. Interactief Nederlands takes the
One should know the meaning of a linguistic ‘top-down’ route. By default, it displays only
unit (lexical or grammatical) before actively the essential aspects of a rule; the user can
using it in speech or writing. We may be stating click on ‘expansion’ buttons to get more detail.
the obvious, but how many learners are actually The advantage of this approach is that the
trained in receptively understanding grammati- learner gets more freedom in selecting the level
cal structures in order to make use of them in of detail at which he prefers to learn.
making hypotheses for reading or listening Splitting up also involves making a distinc-
comprehension? Grammar books or programs tion between form and use. For many gram-
rarely make a distinction between structures matical structures, it is possible to distinguish
that need to be actively mastered and those that between the way they are constructed and the
are useful for receptive purposes only. conditions under which they are used. Both
Just like vocabularies, grammars are elabo- are equally important but should not be mixed
rate systems involving phenomena with vary- up, especially in the early stages of learning. It
ing degrees of frequency. Before introducing is important for the learner to know whether a
the learner to a new structure, it is important to particular exercise relates to form or use. In a
determine whether he will need to master it subsequent stage, both can be intertwined in
actively (for speaking / writing), or whether a the same activity, provided feedback is ade-
receptive command will do. Since a great quately geared.
number of grammatical rules are in fact opera- In this context, we would like to underline
tions on lexical items, word-frequency lists the importance of not only explaining formal
can be used as a yardstick. For instance, users matters but also spelling out the semantic and
of Interactief Nederlands who work at the pragmatic functions of grammatical structures.
basic level are exposed to irregular forms only In our experience, FL learners know fairly
if the word in question belongs to the 1000 well how to construct a passive sentence, but
most frequent words. At the intermediate when it comes down to making the right
level, 1000 extra items are added. The same choice between an active or passive in a given
principle is applied in the exercises, not only situation, they often use the less appropriate
with respect to target words but also regarding form, owing to a lack of insight into the func-
the surrounding contexts. tion of the active / passive distinction (e.g. top-
The maxim ‘split up’ applies not only to icalisation, agent downtoning, etc.). This takes
the selection of contents and the differentia- us to the fifth strategy.
tion in levels, but also to their actual presenta-
tion. Grammatical structures can be quite
complex and may require lengthy explana- Strategy 5: Provide insight
tions. With the exception of those who spe-
cialise in a FL at advanced level, learners tend The cognitive revolution alluded to in the

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How to offer real help: J Vanparys and L Baten

introduction to this article has not only influ- details). If these are explained to the learner,
enced our conceptions of the human mind but the tedious lists can be discarded.
also the way linguists look at language. In the Real insight is achieved when new infor-
pre-cognitive era, grammar was viewed as an mation is integrated into existing knowledge.
autonomous module with little or no semantic This takes us to the final strategy, where we
import. Judging from traditional FL textbooks, make a plea for an integrated approach.
grammar is some kind of machine that runs on
its own and for its own sake (or, perhaps, to
tease FL learners). Cognitive linguistics has Strategy 6: Integrated learning
shown that grammatical structures are
endowed with conceptual content as much as In the introduction, we stated that grammar
lexical items are, though of a more abstract learning is but a means to an end: the learners’
kind. Since the meanings of grammatical ultimate objective is to apply grammatical
structures are anchored in our conceptual structures in their everyday use of the lan-
apparatus, they are quite intuitive and can be guage. Here the problem of transfer slips in:
exploited to enhance grammatical competence knowledge of grammatical rules does not
in an FL context. automatically result in spontaneous applica-
Let us consider the difference between tion. This often provokes desperate comments
countable and non-countable nouns to illus- by teachers: I put a great deal of effort into
trate this point. Although this distinction has explaining the rule, then we did a whole bat-
important ramifications throughout the struc- tery of exercises up to the point where I was
ture of noun phrases (e.g. the choice of deter- quite sure that my students had mastered it,
miners and quantifiers, the declension of but ten minutes later, when they engaged in a
adjectives in some languages), we often con- spontaneous conversation, the same old errors
tent ourselves with saying that some nouns kept coming back! Then with a shrug of the
have a plural form and others do not and then shoulders: why do grammar at all?
we add that some FL words behave differently Without pretending to offer a miraculous
in this respect from their equivalents in the solution, we would like to point to the impor-
learners’ language. A typical example is bread tance of integrated learning (hoping not to
in English. However, we would help learners a contradict our Strategy 4). With regard to the
lot more by explaining the underlying concep- structure of language, we do not view gram-
tual distinction: countable nouns designate mar as a separate module or level but as a set
things we conceptualise as discrete objects, of phenomena that are closely intertwined
whereas non-countable nouns name masses or with the lexicon. With regard to the skills to be
substances. If the learner understands that acquired by the FL learner (listening, reading,
English bread names a substance (like water speaking and writing), the ubiquity of gram-
or gold) and not an object (like drop or ring), mar (and lexicon) is obvious. These factors
he will no longer experience the word as an need to be taken into consideration in the
exception and integrate it more easily into his design of CALL programs.
knowledge base. In StepIn, we have tried to establish a
To take another example, verb complemen- strong link between lexicon and grammar. The
tation (i.e. the choice between a ‘that’ clause, grammatical sections and the file on commu-
infinitive, gerund or participle after a given nicative functions contain references to lexical
verb) is traditionally dealt with by memorisa- items and the dictionary includes grammatical
tion of long lists, as if the combination of a and communicative information. Integration
given verb with a given complement type was also means that examples in the grammar and
an arbitrary convention. However, the co- sentences in the exercises are taken from the
occurrence of a given complement type with a communicative sources the user is acquainted
given verb is motivated by semantic parame- with. Moreover, strict control of lexical and
ters (see Vanparys (1996) chapter 3 for grammatical difficulty is necessary: the lexi-

130 ReCALL
How to offer real help: J Vanparys and L Baten

con should be transparent if the focus is on a References

grammatical structure and the grammar should
Aitchison J. (1987) Words in the mind: An introduc-
be transparent if the focus is on expressing
tion to the mental lexicon, Oxford: Basil Black-
notions or functions. well.
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standing a few words, infers meaning from computer? – Over niet-ingeloste verwachtingen
context, and builds his comprehension process met computer-ondersteund taalonderwijs”. In
in which structures help him to build his own Janssens G., Hiligsmann P. & Theissen S.(eds.),
knowledge base, into which he gradually inte- Leermiddelen voor het Nederlands als Vreemde
grates more and more information. In this Taal, Liège: Liège Language and Literature,
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Albrecht A. & Vanparys J. (1996) StepIn,
right from what is wrong.
Tilburg: Escape. (CD-ROM)
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knowledge acquired in one domain (e.g. a the development of the EuroGram computer
grammar class or a working session with programs”. Internal EuroLing report.
grammar software) to other domains (e.g. Bull S. (1997) “Promoting effective learning strat-
understanding a TV programme). This is not egy use in CALL”, Computer Assisted Lan-
an easy matter. As a result, he will be depen- guage Learning (10), 3–39.
dent for a long time on tools like dictionaries Dirven R., Albrecht A. & Waumans W. (1995)
and reference grammars. No matter whether “Foreign language learning by computer: Prin-
these are made available as books or in elec- ciples, fundamentals and instructions for the
tronic form, learners need to have the skills to setting up of a database”. In Dirven R. & Van-
parys J. (eds.) Current Approaches to the Lexi-
use them if their learning process is to be
con, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 463–490.
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the ways dictionaries are misused. Even if the applied semiotics”. Trier: L.A.U.T. (Series B,
learner has access to a reference grammar, he n° 38).
may be unable to locate the answer to his Engels L.K., van Beckhoven B., de Bisschop T.,
question. So, we would like to conclude this Goethals M., Kortmann B. & Dirven R. (1989)
section by saying that integrated learning “Time, tense and aspects”. In Dirven R. &
requires a certain degree of familiarity with a Geiger R.A. (eds.) A user’s grammar of Eng-
range of tools. lish: Word, sentence, text, interaction. Part B:
The structure of sentences, Frankfurt am Main:
Peter Lang, 311–354.
Heidemann A. (1996) The visualization of foreign
Conclusion language vocabulary in CALL, Frankfurt am
Main: Peter Lang.
CALL programs generally reflect the design- Langacker R.W. (1987) Foundations of Cognitive
ers’ conceptions about the way they think Grammar. Volume 1. Theoretical prerequisites,
learners should proceed. Despite the body of Stanford: Stanford University Press.
literature on learning strategies, there is still a Laurillard D. (1997) “The TELL Consortium – For-
need for more flexible courseware that enables mative evaluation report”, Hull: CTICML, Uni-
users to work in pursuit of their goals on the versity of Hull.
basis of their learning styles (cf. Bull 1997, Narcy J.P. (1990) Apprendre une langue étrangère,
Oostdam & Rijlaarsdam 1995:63). Paris: Editions d'Organisation.
Oostdam R. & Rijlaarsdam G. (1995) Towards
Strategic Language Learning, Amsterdam:
Amsterdam University Press.
Acknowledgement Sharwood Smith M. (1995) “Language awareness,
consiousness raising and the enhancement of
Thanks to Paul Meara for his useful comments input”. Lecture given at the symposium “Gram-
on a previous draft. matica Opnieuw Bekeken” (Grammar Recon-

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sidered) at the University of Amsterdam. Vanparys J., Zimmer C., Xinghua L., & Kelly P.
s.n. (1995) The Windows® interface guidelines for (1997.) “Some salient and persistent difficulties
software design, Redmond (WA): Microsoft encountered by Chinese and Francophone stu-
Press. dents in the learning of English vocabulary”,
Vanparys J. (1995) “Introduction: Coming to grips ITL – Review of applied linguistics (115–116),
with the lexicon”. In Dirven R. & Vanparys J. 137–164.
(eds.) Current Approaches to the Lexicon, Vekemans L. (1994) “The sad tale of Gram-
Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, xi-xix. marella”, Info ILT September 1994, 4–6.
Vanparys J. (1996) Categories and complements of Verlinde S (1993) “Une approche alternative de la
illocutionary verbs in a cognitive perspective, grammaire”, Info-Frans 20 (3), 7–17.
Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Vanparys J., Baten L., Claes M.T. & Dieltjens L. Johan Vanparys lectures LSP (Dutch and English)
(1996) Interactief Nederlands 2 – Multimedi- at the University of Namur (Belgium). His fields of
amethode Nederlands op basis van de Woorden- research include CALL and cognitive linguistics.
schat, Brussels: Didacta (CD-ROM).
Lut Baten, a member of the academic staff at the
Vanparys J., Baten L., Dirven R., Meijers G. & Van
der Wijst P. (1996) EuroGram Dutch, Tilburg: KU Leuven (Belgium), is involved in FL-teacher
Escape (courseware). training (Dutch and English) and lectures LSP and
Vanparys J., Callut J.P., Claes M.T., Pétré R., Sirja- ESP (Business English). Teacher training and LSP
cobs G. & Thys-Frère S. (1996) Interactief are also her fields of research. Both authors design
Nederlands – Multimediamethode Nederlands and develop courseware for Dutch as a FL and co-
op basis van de Grammatica. ordinate CALL projects.

132 ReCALL
ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 133–142

LEVERAGE: Reciprocal peer tutoring

over broadband networks

Jan Wong and Agnès Fauverge

University of Cambridge, UK

This paper reports on the experimental use of a broadband computer network hypermedia environment
for language learning (French, English and Spanish). Using Web-based resources, students engage in a
collaborative task over a network which offers high quality video-conferencing, application sharing and
access to authentic multimedia resources. One of the main aims was to establish the practicalities of
providing learners of languages with opportunities to engage in reciprocal peer tutoring. After outlining
the pedagogical assumptions, and describing the set-up of the network-based learning environment, the
trials are analysed, and the effectiveness of network-based language learning in supporting collabora-
tive learning is discussed.

1. Introduction LEVERAGE focused on task-based multime-

dia learning of languages. The objectives of
LEVERAGE (LEarn from Video Extensive the project were:
Real ATM Gigabit Experiment) was a three
year collaborative research project, partially • to demonstrate how communication
funded by the European Commission’s between learners in cross-linguistic situa-
DGXIII Advanced Communications Tech- tions could be supported and improved
nologies and Services (ACTS) programme, effectively by multimedia broadband tech-
the aim of which was to ensure the effective nology;
application across Europe of developments in • to develop, implement and field trial a
telecommunications. To encourage a dialogue complete multimedia network infrastruc-
between developers and users, the work of ture to support joint work between and on
ACTS was carried out in the context of trials. the sites of three of the partners: University
LEVERAGE brought together a multi-disci- of Cambridge Language Centre, Institut
plinary team of academics and industrialists National des Télécommunications, Evry,
from organisations across Europe spanning six Paris (INT), and Departamento de Inge-
countries and many different cultures1. niería de Sistemas Telemáticos, Universi-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 133

LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

dad Politécnica de Madrid; • the ability to work at a time of their own

• to take early benefit of the system perfor- choosing;
mance assessment gained from extended • access to a vast number of resources;
trials and evaluation by non-specialist • contact with other geographically dis-
users; and persed users and experts.
• to determine and exploit the potential for
the commercialisation of networked multi- The possibilities of network-based lan-
media systems for wider application in guage learning seem almost unlimited – but
education, industry, public services and what about the learning process itself? If one
commerce. believes that learning takes place in a social
setting, that learning is a collaborative effort,
that it involves the learner in a dialogue with
2. Pedagogy and technology teachers and peers and that it is in the context
of this dialogue that the learner acquires a new
The advent of high bandwidth networks is joint ‘cognitive system’, the question arises:
widening the range of communication chan- how can this form of (language) learning take
nels from traditional asynchronous text-based place in a networked environment and how
communication (email and file transfer) to can we ensure that the new infrastructure sup-
synchronous exchanges using video-confer- ports the social dimension of learning rather
encing and instant access to high quality audio than damages it?
and video resources.
LEVERAGE combined the new network- 2.1 The LEVERAGE approach
ing and data-processing facilities available to The approach chosen in LEVERAGE tried to
explore how the capabilities of broadband net- address these issues by emphasising the inter-
works could be married with innovative task- personal aspects of language learning. Small
based pedagogy to provide solutions to the groups of four to six students worked on a
rapidly expanding need for language and common task which required the collaboration
cross-cultural skills which enable people to of all participants. Learners of one language
co-operate in an increasingly international were put together with learners of their native
environment. language. For example, two English-speaking
From a pedagogical point of view, the main students collaborated with two French-speak-
questions the project was attempting to answer ing students on a common task. The nature of
were: the task engaged the students in a multitude of
roles. As native speakers of their own lan-
• How well do high bandwidth networks guage they functioned as the ‘experts’ in a
support collaborative learning? pedagogical dialogue while as learners of the
• How well is a task-based approach suited other students’ native language they played the
to the network environment? role of the ‘learners’. Together, they had to
• What facilities are required to support net- acquire and agree on a body of knowledge and
work-based learning? then present that knowledge to the outside
Network-based language learning, which is Language learning is essentially a social
increasingly seen as a way of responding to and cultural process situated at the metacon-
the demand for more varied and flexible scious level, but also involving conscious and
opportunities for acquiring and maintaining a non-conscious levels. Learning as an intersub-
second language, seems to have a number of jective activity with possibilities of control and
attractive aspects: intervention has to focus on the metaconscious
level and is thus mainly concerned with issues
• the ability of users to work from remote of problem framing, focus, negotiation of
locations; meaning, planning, monitoring and evaluation.

134 ReCALL
LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

For intersubjectivity to be established, the co- exercise module, all brought together in a
operating individuals must share some sym- hypermedia environment, with collaborative
bolic external representations, usually but not learning taking place via multi-point video-
necessarily or exclusively construed via a conferencing and the use of shared chat and
common language. Also for development to editing applications.
take place, one of the individuals must have Prior to the trials the pedagogical expecta-
internalised more of the relevant external rep- tions were that:
resentations and show some greater compe-
tence in manipulating these representations. • Peer collaboration would encourage stu-
For the LEVERAGE project one of the dents to adopt an intersubjective attitude
crucial questions was to establish whether and and help them construct a realm of com-
how well a network-based system could pro- mon knowledge.
vide an appropriate environment for learning. • Interaction with their peers would push
To explore this a network-based learning envi- students to articulate their thinking, to
ronment was set up, putting great emphasis on resolve disagreements and misunderstand-
collaborative learning in small groups and ings through justification and negotiation
involving both elements of reciprocal peer and to plan their work by sharing out
tutoring and adviser-based tutoring. The aim responsibility and ensuring the work con-
was to engineer a situation which would verged in a common goal.
require students to engage in a series of meta- • Students would engage in activities where
conscious processes including planning, moni- they have to adapt their own language and
toring and the negotiation of meaning. use their second language to achieve a
The goal-oriented nature of a task helps the common objective. They would have to
learner to frame the problem space. He can learn to construct a background of shared
explore it, which entails negotiating new understanding and to expand and build on
meanings with his collaborators or tutor, he that background. The need to collaborate
can plan, monitor, modify and evaluate his with native speakers of another language
actions in the problem space and internalise would not only help them to improve their
the newly encountered external and culturally proficiency in the target language but also
shared representations. Collaboration, speech help them raise their awareness of lan-
as the medium of interaction, the externalising guage as the major form of cultural media-
of thinking and so on are all naturally present tion.
in this form of task-based learning.
For language learning the emphasis has to 2.2 Network infrastructure
be on tasks which involve a particularly high The first two trials were based on an ATM net-
level of interaction and opportunities for dia- work and provided high speed local networks
logue. The LEVERAGE tasks offered the in Cambridge and Paris running at up to 625
structural framework around which the vari- Mbits on the backbone and 25 Mbits to the
ous language acquisition opportunities were desktop. For the second trial, the link between
grouped, including various forms of compre- Cambridge and Paris was based on a 10 Mbits
hension and production. ATM connection linking the two countries
In each trial the students’ collaboration (provided by the JAMES project, another
extended over a period of five to six weeks. ACTS project, together with UKERNA and
Each student had a multimedia workstation France Telecom). The 10 Mbit ATM connec-
with additional desktop-video-conferencing tion was arranged between the two sites for
hardware and software. All learning resources two afternoons a week.
were stored on central servers and presented For a number of reasons outside the control
through a standard web browser. The of the project, the third trial had to use ISDN
resources available included video, audio, and connections (8 B channels) to connect the
text material as well as a dictionary and an local ATM networks in Cambridge, Paris and

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 135

LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

Madrid. This technical change for the third tres apart, students who did not know each
trial proved a good test of the adaptability of other before taking part in the LEVERAGE
the system. trial had to introduce themselves, negotiate
their roles in the language learning task and
collaborate to produce a successful oral pre-
3. Analysis of user trials sentation – all via the network.

3.1 First user trial set-up 3.2 Second user trial set-up
During the first user trial, eighteen Cambridge A total of twenty-six students participated in
students from different disciplines, including the second user trial, sixteen working at two
scientists, engineers and mathematicians, none locations at INT and ten working from the
of them specialist linguists, collaborated in three locations in Cambridge. The students
groups of three to complete a language learn- were put into eight groups, each consisting of
ing assignment. two INT students working with one or two stu-
The students in the first trial were asked to dents from Cambridge. There was an adviser
prepare a bid, in French, for an advertising in Cambridge available on-line to all. The stu-
contract to promote the Nord Pas-de-Calais dents in Cambridge were all volunteers, while
region in the UK. Resources available through for the INT students the trial was part of a
the LEVERAGE system included: video, scheduled class.
audio, authentic materials in HTML format, The second trial was based on the Channel
access to the Internet, an on-line dictionary Tunnel. Students took on the role of English
and glossary, comprehension exercises, and and French engineers who were preparing a
the ability to video-conference and share joint presentation to the Canadian Institute of
applications with each other (see figure 1). Engineering. This presentation was to last
The final objective was a twenty-minute twenty minutes and the students had the
oral presentation explaining the chosen mar- choice of either working on-line and deliver-
keting strategy and the production of material ing the presentation off-line or doing both the
supporting the presentation. Documents lead- preparation and presentation on-line.
ing into the task (initial letter, memos and In addition to the applications facilitating
authentic information about the area) were collaboration used during the first trial, three
available on the system. An on-line language additional synchronous applications were
learning adviser was on hand to help students made available to the students: a customised
individually or in groups by video-conference English / French – French / English dictionary,
and / or e-mail. a simple shared text editor, and a chat tool that
Working at three locations, several kilome- enabled the students to type messages to the
group (see figure 2).
The eight groups were timetabled for ses-
sions that lasted a maximum of two hours for
two afternoons a week. At other times, stu-
dents used email to contact each other and the
adviser, and were able to use the workstations
and access the local resources.

3.3 Structure of topic resources

provided – first and second
user trials
From a pedagogical point of view, the struc-
ture of topic resources had to be simple while
at the same time containing a wide range of
Figure 1 authentic materials in HTML format, access to

136 ReCALL
LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

oped in parallel in French and in English.

Depending on the variety of the authentic
material available in each language, a degree
of flexibility allowed some slight differences,
which were seen as a reflection of natural cul-
tural differences.
Table 1 gives an outline of the amount of
resources available to the users as well as a
glimpse into the overall simplicity of the
In terms of the structure itself, and bearing
in mind that access to all LEVERAGE
resources was through a Web browser, the
Figure 2 strategy adopted was one of a simple frame
system (see figure 2). The division was as fol-
lows: two horizontal frames; a button bar in
the Internet, an on-line dictionary and glos- the bottom frame allowing general navigation
sary, audio and video extracts with transcripts and the launching of LEVERAGE applica-
and related listening comprehension exercises. tions and tools (conferencing, dictionary, help,
The main difference between the two trials etc.). The top frame was divided in two verti-
was the use of exclusively French authentic cally and it contained on the left-hand side an
material in the first trial as compared to the index always present for easy navigation and
second trial material which had to be devel- reference, while on the right-hand side the

Table 1

Type 1st Trial 2nd Trial 2nd Trial

French English French

Pedagogical Support (French & English for both trials)

Introduction / Task 5 3 3
Help 5 4 4
Suggestions 8 7 6

Topic Resources (Documents)

Nord-Pas de Calais Channel Tunnel
- Administration 7 - Communication 17 17 (13 scanned)
- Business 12 - Construction 11 11 ( 1 scanned)
- Sites 15 - Financial 11 25 (12 scanned)
- Information 13 - Environmental 11 10 ( 7 scanned)
- Assistance available 15 - History 8 13 ( 6 scanned)
Video/Audio Transcript 22 16 10
Total pages 102 88 99

Multimedia Resources
Audio clips 13 8 10
Video clips 16 19 11
Exercises 20 25 20
External Links 22 8 7

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 137

LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

main frame allowed the display of sub-topic tem’s effectiveness for language learning was
resources and all material. to show that the kinds of interaction which are
To give a more precise insight into the recognised to be effective in non-networked
structure itself, Figure 3 illustrates the naviga- interactions (negotiation of meaning, scaffold-
tion system. One of the main criteria was to ing and so on) also takes place over networks.
limit to three the number of sub-links from The evaluation was therefore based on obser-
one main topic resource to the related mater- vation and recording of sessions, and in addi-
ial. Having done so, the users always knew tion the students filled in pre- and post-trial
where they were and had easy access to all questionnaires, and post-trial interviews were
topic resources as well as application conducted.
resources. The two aspects given the highest rating by
all students were video-conferencing and
3.4 Questionnaires and interviews access to native speakers.
Because of a number of constraints, traditional
pre- and post-tests of language competence 3.4.1 Video-conferencing
would not have been very revealing in terms of Video-conferencing was undoubtedly the most
showing significant advances in language widely appreciated feature of the LEVERAGE
competence. With intermediate to advanced system. All users ranked it as “Very useful”.
students five or six weeks is too short a period Written commentary on the questionnaires
for significant and reliable improvements to be indicated that students felt that the quality of
visible. Also, the background of the partici- the video-conferencing added a human dimen-
pants was too varied, with some students tak- sion to communication with peers that was
ing additional language instruction, so that if nearly equal to face-to-face communication.
any significant improvements could be shown They appreciated being able to see the facial
it would have been difficult to prove that these expressions of their peers and the desire to
were a direct result of the trial. ‘meet’ over the network was one of the
Given the external constraints on the trial, strongest motivating factors for carrying out
the only feasible approach to measure the sys- the prescribed work.

Figure 3

138 ReCALL
LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

3.4.2 Access to native speakers dents were asked directly about their experi-
The LEVERAGE system made it possible for ence with and of the system, and they were
users to increase and intensify their exchanges also observed working on their own and inter-
with native speakers as compared to the class- acting with each other mediated by the sys-
room situation. Access to native speakers was tem. In this way it was possible to use both the
one of the most highly ranked features and subjective impression of the students and
students recognised its role in helping them to objective, analytical data in the evaluation.
gain insight into cross-cultural communica- Computer literacy amongst the users varied
tion. Some French students stated that being greatly from the highly experienced user to the
able to speak to native speakers is so obvi- near novice with difficulties using a mouse
ously important for learning a foreign lan- and moving windows in a graphical user envi-
guage that it needed no further comment. One ronment. Both the observation of the students
English student stated that and the interviews afterwards indicated that
the level of computer literacy had little impact
“Nothing beats speaking real French to a real on how effectively the system was used.
Frenchman and there is the added benefit of The objective set for the users of the
relaxation – uncommon in French classes where LEVERAGE system was the preparation and
teachers are instinctively intimidating”. delivery of a presentation in the foreign lan-
guage. The quality of the presentations in gen-
Students in both institutions especially appre- eral matched the quality of presentations
ciated having the possibility of communicat- expected after a group of similarly proficient
ing with native speakers of their own age and students had worked together for about eight
with whom they shared similar interests. hours plus some additional hours of private
study. (This assessment is based on the judge-
“Good that they were of a similar age and with ment of assessors with experience in judging
similar interests. This lead to far more than the coursework-based oral presentations). The
completion of the task – e.g. chatting, having a presentation showed clear signs of being the
laugh etc, and they are now excellent future result of a collaborative effort rather than a
contacts.” summation of individual performances.
From a pedagogical point of view, the most
Students also mentioned the importance of encouraging aspect of the trial was that the
native speakers in helping them to improve observation and recording of sessions pro-
their pronunciation and understand the mean- duced evidence of students working collabora-
ing of new words. tively on the network.
The major difference between the first and The native / non-native speaker interaction
second trial lay in the fact that the collabora- and the reciprocal peer tutoring made the sec-
tive work involved French and English native ond and third trials much more interesting in
speakers in the same group, thus every partici- terms of language learning than the first.
pant played the dual role of second language Amongst the questions raised were: How
learner and native speaker informant. would the students negotiate the choice of lan-
guage? How would they collaborate? Would
there be evidence of planning, work sharing
4. Evaluation and so on? Would there be clear signs of peer
tutoring and where would it occur: in the lexi-
In evaluating the system the major focus lay cal or grammatical domain or at the discourse
on establishing whether the infrastructure was and planning level? How would they use the
able to support intensive collaborative learning various communication facilities? Would one
and whether those elements identified as communication channel dominate to the
indicative of such learning could be discov- exclusion of the others?
ered. To find an answer to this question stu- Interestingly, the choice of language

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 139

LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

appeared to be uncontroversial and almost F1: Very long.

automatic. Concerns of the teaching staff that E1: It’s fourteenth of March, but we have
one language might dominate were not borne five or six weeks.
out. The fact that most students preferred to F2: Five or six!!!
practise the foreign language indicated that the E1: Oui… oui c’est seulement… err… trois
opportunity to speak the foreign language was terms???… C’est ça? Terms? Qu’est-ce
perceived to be the most important aspect of que c’est en français? (Yes, it is only three
this form of collaborative work, the opportu- err ‘terms’? Isn’t it? ‘Terms’? What is it in
nity to listen to a native speaker was obviously French?)
perceived to be of lesser importance. F1: Terms… Terms c’est the ‘trimestre’.
One of the most significant aspects of the (Terms… terms, it is a trimester)
observed instances of peer tutoring was their E1: Yeah, c’est seulement trois trimestres de
integration into the collaborative process. huit semaines. Donc ce n’est pas beau-
Overt tutoring occurred not as a distinct and coup. (Yes, it is only three trimesters of
separate interactional unit but naturally and eight weeks. So, not very much)
spontaneously in the context of the task. The F1: But trimestre in French is the third of
most directly observable instances of peer one year.
tutoring were seen at the lexical level. There E1: Pardon?
were numerous examples, from the simple F1: Non, euh… trimestre in French is three
asking for an equivalent term: months.
E1: Three months.
E1: Je crois que… que c’est, err… il faut F1: Yeah.
err… de… qu’est-ce que c’est ‘record’? (I E1: Oh, it’s a quarter of a year. Yeah.
believe that … that it is … err… it is nec- F1: Three-mestre!!! (TRI – mester)
essary …err…what is the word for E1: Oh, OK!
‘record’?) F1: A fourth of the year.
F1: Enregistrer. (record)
E1: Enregistrer, OK. and syntactic and semantic issues

to straightforward corrections: E1: Qu’est ce que c’est ‘fut’ f-u-t? (what is

‘were’? ‘w-e-r-e’)
E1: OK… Oui-oui, parce que je n’ai pas le F2: Euh… C’est le verbe être au passé…
déjeuner. Parce que mon… ma… mes… (Oh, it is the verb ‘to be’ in the past tense)
mes lectures finit à une heure… à une E1: OK… OK.
heure Angleterre??? (OK…Yeah-yeah, F2: Euh… Je fut… travailleur quand j’étais
because I did not go to lunch. Because my jeune à l’école… (er… I was a hard worker
‘lectures’ finished at one o’clock, when I was at school)
o’clock in England)
F1: Cours… mes cours! (Lectures… my lec- Or
E1: Cours, pardon. Mes cours finit à.. à une E1: (…) Ce n’est pas temps ancien? Je ne
heure Angleterre, c’est deux heures sais pas, je suis enrhumé. J’ai cru que les
France, donc… (Lectures, sorry. My lec- adjectifs… parce ce que sometimes it’s les
tures finished at one o’clock in England, temps anciens et… is it? (It’s not ‘ancient
that is two o’clock in France, so…) times’? I don’t know, I have got a cold. I
thought that the adjectives…because
to the negotiation of meaning: sometimes it is ‘ancient times’?)
F2: Oui, mais dans le temps ancien, non. On
F2: When is your next holidays… euh… E1? dit plutôt l’ancien temps… dans ce cas là.
E1: Err… Five weeks time.(..) (Yes but not in ‘le temps ancien’. We’d

140 ReCALL
LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

rather say ‘l’ancien temps’ in this case.) between the students show a number of fea-
E1: OK, oui. tures indicative of collaborative discourse like
the negotiation of meaning, consensus build-
There were also instances of misunderstand- ing and maintenance, repair and so on. During
ings and errors but these were usually quickly the initial phase of establishing the task goal
resolved through negotiation of meaning. and an appropriate course of action there was
Generally the transcripts of the working heavy reliance on direct communication
sessions were dominated by discourse centred between the members of the group; but even
around collaboration and co-ordination. It after this phase, when the group members
ranged from the simple arrangement of the tended to explore the available resources,
next session and the resolution of timing learning as a collaborative interaction contin-
issues to the discussion of the available mater- ued.
Video-conferencing was clearly the main
channel of communication but the text-based 5. Conclusion
chat tool (LECHE) and shared editor
(SIESTA) played a significant role too. They All in all, this leads to the conclusion that
were often used in exchanges about lexical broadband networks, which are capable of
meanings to resolve spelling issues and the offering high quality audio and video-confer-
like, and provided a degree of permanency in encing, are able to support effective collabora-
the planning phase with one student jotting tive learning environments. However, the pro-
down some ideas and the others changing and vision of sufficient communication bandwidth
amending them. This seems to indicate that in itself is not enough. The students must be
the availability of some visual reference with a provided with the right setting to encourage
degree of permanence is an important element collaborative working, an appropriate task for
in language task performance. It allows the example, and support must be available where
collaborators to externalise their ideas and for one reason or another the process of under-
thus make them the subject of reflection and standing the problem domain, finding solu-
negotiation. tions and monitoring progress does not work.
Overall, it appears that a network-based To this end the role of the adviser in the sys-
learning environment offering video and tem is crucial.
audio-conference does allow high level inter- After the first two trials it can be stated with
subjective processes to take place. The stu- some confidence that a system like LEVER-
dents were able to arrive at a consensus of AGE can offer an effective and efficient lan-
what constituted the task, to plan a series of guage learning environment in situations where
intermediate stages to achieve the task objec- direct contact between students, and between
tive and to support each other in the accom- students and tutors, is not feasible. In principle,
plishment of the task. the system offers all the main features required
Both the data obtained through the obser- of such a system. The system has reached a
vation of collaborative working sessions and degree of stability where it can be considered
the subjective response of the students in the for everyday use. The one remaining problem
post-trial interviews provide clear evidence was the difficulty in providing a reliable con-
that the system was effective in supporting nection between the sites. However, the provi-
collaborative learning. The task involved stu- sion of the trans-national link was outside the
dents in establishing a common understanding control of the project. From a pedagogical
and provided planning, monitoring and evalu- standpoint it was important to see how collabo-
ation opportunities. Peer-to-peer support was rative network-based language learning works
provided throughout the collaborative work, with reciprocal peer tutoring.
mainly via the audio-channel and to a lesser In this respect the results were very
degree via the visual channel. The exchanges encouraging. The degree of collaboration and

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 141

LEVERAGE: J Wong and A Fauverge

the intensity of the interaction with non- Number: AC109/CAM/WP2/DS/P/215/b1

native/native speakers collaborating seem to DWP 232 Report on the first user trial, CEC Deliv-
exceed that seen between collaborating native erable Number AC109/CAM/WP2/DS/I/232/b1
speakers in the first trial. This indicates that DWP 233 Report on the second user trial, CEC
Deliverable Number AC109/CAM/WP2/DS/P/
the system offers a viable alternative to direct
face-to-face encounters where these are not Bump J. (1990) “Radical changes in class discus-
possible for reasons of cost or distance. sion using networked computers”, Computers
As the system stands it proves that net- and the Humanities 24(1–2), 49–65.
work-based collaborative learning certainly is Kern R.G. (1995). Restructuring classroom interac-
effective. What remains to be shown is that it tion with networked computers: “Effects on
can be successfully integrated into the day-to- quantity and quality of language production”,
day teaching and learning environment of edu- Modern Language Journal 79(4), 457–476.
cationally and culturally diverse institutions in Vygotsky L.S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge,
the respective countries. MA: Harvard University Press.
Wertsch J. (1991) Voices of the Mind, Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Jan Wong trained as a primary school teacher and
1. Currently the LEVERAGE project consists of taught in New Zealand in the 1970s. She completed
eight partners – CAP Gemini Telecom France, a B.A. Hons in Economics and Sociology at Anglia
University of Cambridge Language Centre
Polytechnic University in 1993. Her work as a
(UK), CILT – Centre for Information on Lan-
guage Teaching and Research, London (UK), Research Assistant within LEVERAGE has involved
AND Software (the Netherlands), ASCOM the development of web-based materials, organisa-
Hasler AG (Switzerland), VTT Research (Fin- tion of trials and project management.
land), Institut National des Télécommunication
(Évry/Paris-France), Departamento de Inge- Agnès Fauverge (Master in English and Linguistics
niería de Sistemas Telemáticos Universidad with distinction in 1993) taught French at the Uni-
Politécnica de Madrid (Spain). versity of Manchester and at UMIST for five years.
Her work as a Research Assistant within LEVER-
AGE involved multimedia language learning
Bibliography resources and web interface design and develop-
men, plus trials organisation and on-line advising
DWP 215 Functional specification for language and evaluation.
learning in LEVERAGE, CEC Deliverable

142 ReCALL
ReCALL 11:1 (1999) 143–147

President’s Report
EUROCALL Annual General Meeting
September 1998

1. Introduction Françoise Blin will continue to attend

Executive Committee meetings as an observer.
It gives me great pleasure to present this fifth This is because she has agreed to take on the
President’s Report on the activities of EURO- role of co-ordinator of national representatives
CALL over the past year. EUROCALL has of EUROCALL: see Section 8 of this report.
now been in existence as a formal professional EUROCALL Members will probably have
association for five years. noticed that we hold our meetings at the venue
of the current year’s EUROCALL conference.
Holding the Spring meeting at the conference
2. Executive Committee meetings venue enables us to inspect the facilities for
the forthcoming conference, identify potential
The Executive Committee met twice in 1998: problems and make recommendations. Hold-
ing the Autumn meeting at the conference
March 1998, Leuven, Belgium venue just before the conference itself saves
September 1998, Leuven, Belgium travel expenses as we all aim to attend the
annual conference in any case.
There is only one change in the constitution of Full minutes of the meetings of the Execu-
the Executive Committee: Thierry Chanier tive Committee are available from June
replaces Françoise Blin as a co-opted member. Thompson, EUROCALL Secretary at the
This is in accordance with the principle EUROCALL office in Hull.
whereby we review co-options annually so
that the Committee always contains: (i) the
organiser of the current year's EUROCALL 3. Forthcoming EUROCALL
conference, (ii) the organiser of the previous conferences
year’s EUROCALL conference, and (iii) the
organiser of the forthcoming year’s EURO- EUROCALL 99 will take place at Université
CALL conference. If the Committee already de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France.
contains a member who is/was/will be a con- EUROCALL 2000 will take place at the
ference organiser then we have the ability to University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland. The
co-opt another suitable member. Thierry organiser is Philippe Delcloque, who is also a
Chanier is welcomed to the EUROCALL member of the EUROCALL Executive Com-
Executive Committee as organiser of EURO- mittee.
CALL 99. A venue for EUROCALL 2001 is still

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 143

President’s Report

being sought. Anyone who is interested in tak-

ing on the demanding task of organising our
annual conference should contact June Selected papers from EUROCALL 1997 were
Thompson, who will provide detailed informa- published in a double issue of ReCALL 10(1)
tion on what is entailed. (144 pages). Similar arrangements will be
There are special implications for EURO- made for the publication of selected papers
CALL 2002, as this is also the year in which from EUROCALL 98.
the second WorldCALL conference will take Forthcoming publications will include:
place. It has been agreed by the Executive
Committee that if WorldCALL 2002 takes • an additional Web-only issue of ReCALL, to
place in a European university then we will be edited jointly with William Haworth of
not hold a separate EUROCALL conference the WELL project (
that year but will explore ways of combining • a special ReCALL publication on Natural
the two events. At present, no decision has Language Processing, to be edited jointly
been made regarding the venue of World- with Mathias Schulze of UMIST.
CALL 2002.
ReCALL Newsletter
The ReCALL Newsletter is available at the
4. EUROCALL workshops CTICML website:

Members are reminded that an informal data-

base of EUROCALL members has been set up
– all specialists in different fields of CALL EUROCALL Directory project
and TELL – with a view to providing expertise A publication entitled CALL courseware
in the running of regional EUROCALL work- development: a handbook was produced as an
shops. Any institution that wishes to host a outcome of the EUROCALL Directory pro-
regional EUROCALL workshop can call upon ject, which was funded by DGXXII of the
this expertise. It is expected that the EURO- European Commission. 500 copies were
CALL member will provide his/her expertise printed. Further information is available at
free of charge, subject to the payment of travel EUROCALL’s website:
and subsistence expenses by the local host.
During the coming year it is hoped that the
database will be established and maintained on
a more formal basis.
6. Electronic communications
5. Publications Website
EUROCALL’s website has been completely
ReCALL revamped by Kylie Baxter, to whom I owe my
ReCALL, a fully-refereed academic publica- sincere thanks for the many hours of hard
tion, continues to be published by the CTI work that this involved. Members are encour-
Centre for Modern Languages, University of aged to keep revisiting our website, which
Hull, in association with EUROCALL. The offers a wealth of information and useful
quality of contributions to this publication has links:
improved steadily and it now occupies a
respected position among journals devoted to
IT and language learning and teaching.
Back numbers of ReCALL are also avail- Discussion list
able and may be ordered via the CTICML EUROCALL’s electronic discussion list can
website or read in PDF format: be joined by anyone. It is now an open discus-

144 ReCALL
President’s Report

sion list. If you have access to email facilities act as a channel of communication between
you can join the discussion list simply by the central EUROCALL organisation and
sending the following single-line message to: members (and would-be members) from that country. I am pleased to announce that a num-
ber of designated contacts have now come for-
join eurocall-members yourfirstname yourlastname ward and that documents have been drawn up
describing their responsibilities.
For “yourfirstname yourlastname” substitute The list of national representatives and an
your own names of course! outline of their roles can be consulted at
Mailbase will then contact you to confirm EUROCALL’s website. Françoise Blin has
that your email address can be reached and to agreed to act as co-ordinator of the national
check that you really do wish to join the dis- representatives.
cussion list. If your country is not already represented
on the list of national representatives and you
would be prepared to take on the responsibil-
7. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) ity of acting as the main point of contact in
your country, please get in touch with June
The position and role of SIGs are currently Thompson, who will provide you with further
under discussion in the Executive Committee. details.
It is planned to issue guidelines on setting up
and running SIGs within EUROCALL.
One new SIG has been proposed: Natural 9. Links with other associations and
Language Processing. organisations
CAPITAL EUROCALL maintains close links with a
CAPITAL is a joint SIG of EUROCALL and number of professional associations and organ-
CALICO, devoted to using computers in the isations that promote technology enhanced lan-
domain of pronunciation, speech recognition, guage learning. We welcome the attendance of
etc. To join the group, individuals or institu- representatives at our conferences and partici-
tions must be members of one of the parent pation in our activities, and we endeavour to be
organisations, CALICO or EUROCALL. represented at their conferences and to collabo-
The European co-ordinators are: rate in other ways. These are some of the key
associations, organisations, events and projects
Philippe Delcloque, University of Abertay with which EUROCALL members have been
Dundee, Scotland associated during the last year. This list is not
Ton Koet, Hogeschool van Amsterdam, intended to be all-inclusive, and I apologise for
Netherlands any omissions.

For further details see CAPITAL’s website: CALICO

We are pleased to welcome a number of CAL- ICO members to EUROCALL 98, especially
capital/capital.html Bob Fischer, Executive Director. CALICO is
now based at Southwest Texas State Univer-
sity. Co-operation between CALICO and
8. National representatives of EUROCALL is becoming closer. For example,
EUROCALL both associations offer reductions in their con-
ference fees to members of either association.
When EUROCALL was formally founded in
1993, it was envisaged that each country WorldCALL
would have a designated contact who might EUROCALL was well represented at World-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 145

President’s Report

CALL 98. Several EUROCALL members were EUROCALL continues to remain in regu-
on the Steering Committee and I was a member lar contact with:
of the Scholarships Committee. Several papers,
including my keynote, were presented by ATELL (Australia)
EUROCALL members, who also took part in IALL (USA)
panel discussions. The Proceedings will be pub- CALL Austria
lished. It is likely that WorldCALL will be an CCALLNET (Canada)
ongoing activity and that another WorldCALL
conference will take place in four years. You
can get further information and join a discus- 10. Membership and recruitment
sion list at:
Graham Chesters, EUROCALL Treasurer, is submitting his report, which includes informa-
worldcall/welcome.html tion on current membership and membership
fees. The situation looks very healthy at pre-
Council of Europe sent.
Two EUROCALL members, Lis Kornum and Conferences are now restricted to EURO-
Bernd Rüschoff, have been involved in the CALL members. In effect, this means that
Council of Europe’s activities, particularly non-members will pay higher conference fees
those promoting new technologies and lan- than members – which has always been the
guage learning. case – but the higher conference fee will now
include the annual EUROCALL membership
European Language Council and the fee. This has the advantage of enabling us to
Thematic Network Project (Languages) transfer membership fees collected in this way
These two linked projects, both of which are direct to our current account.
funded under the SOCRATES Programme of Membership subscriptions are our main
the Commission of the European Communi- source of income. As I have indicated in my
ties, include sub-groups on New Technologies previous reports, please publicise EURO-
and Language Learning. Joseph Rézeau and I CALL at seminars, workshops and confer-
are members of the ELC’s Policy Group on ences, among your colleagues at work – in
New Technologies and Language Learning short, wherever you can. Publicity leaflets can
and of the Scientific Committee of the The- be made available to you if you can make use
matic Network Project’s sub-group on New of them, and attractive posters have been
Technologies and Language Learning. I am printed.
also a member of the Board of the European
Language Council. Further information about
these projects can be found at: 11. Seminar on research in CALL Following the successful seminar on research
in CALL, led by David Little at EUROCALL
Language Learning and Technology 97, it has been decided by the EUROCALL
Journal Executive Committee that the time has come
I am a member of the Editorial Board of this to take action on one of the proposals put for-
new journal, which is published exclusively on ward in David Little’s report:
the World Wide Web:
Little D. (1998) Report on Seminar on Research in CALL, EUROCALL 97,
ReCALL 10(1), 127–128.
The Editor is Mark Warschauer, University of
Hawaii. Subject to members’ approval, EUROCALL

146 ReCALL
President’s Report

funds will be released to support the holding no reactions to my appeal last year.
of a second seminar on research in CALL at
the University of Essen, Germany, in the
Spring of 1999. The main aim of the seminar 14. Thanks
will be to discuss the issues raised by David
Little in the above document and to produce Many thanks are due once again this year. It is
an action plan that will aim to raise the status difficult to single out every EUROCALL
of CALL as an area of research. It is estimated member who has made a valuable contribution
that funds will be available to cover the travel, to the success of our association.
accommodation and subsistence expenses of a My personal thanks are due to the Execu-
small number of EUROCALL members who tive Committee for being diligent and support-
have a special interest in research. ive throughout the year.
The seminar will not be confined to My special thanks are due to June Thomp-
EUROCALL members. Representatives of son and Graham Chesters for handling the
other associations, e.g. CALICO and IALL, increasing burden of administration. June is
will be invited to attend at their own expense. unfortunately unable to attend this year’s con-
EUROCALL Treasurer, Graham Chesters, ference and is enjoying a well-deserved holi-
will provide further details regarding the day. We miss her and look forward to welcom-
finances required to support this seminar. ing her back soon.
I wish to offer my personal thanks to
Michael Goethals and Luc Pauwels as the
12. Susan Myles: in memoriam main organisers of EUROCALL 98, not for-
getting their enormous team of helpers.
As reported in ReCALL 10,(1), Susan Myles, a Thanks are also due to:
EUROCALL member and a contributor to
EUROCALL 97, passed away in November • the Rector of the University of Leuven,
1997 after a long struggle against cancer. She Prof. André Oosterlinck for agreeing to
will be sadly missed by all of us who knew host EUROCALL 98 and for constantly
her. I wish to record the expression of our supporting the EUROCALL 98 team;
sympathy to her family and colleagues. • the Vice President for Education and
Chairman of the University of Leuven’s
Teacher Training Institute, Prof. Mark
13. Sponsorship Debrock;
• the Chairman of LINOV, the University of
As I have indicated in my previous reports, Leuven’s Postgraduate Training Institute,
EUROCALL desperately needs sponsorship Prof. Kurt Deketelaere;
as membership fees alone are insufficient to • the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Prof. Willy
enable EUROCALL to embark upon exciting Evenepoel;
ventures. I therefore urge all members to pass • the Head of the Department of Linguistics,
on to the Executive Committee the names of Prof. Nicole Delbecque;
companies that might be willing to sponsor • ICT and other technical support staff of the
EUROCALL. When seeking sponsorship it is faculty;
important – especially when contacting a large • teacher training staff for language teaching.
company – that we have the name of an indi-
vidual contact in the company, preferably Graham Davies
someone who is known personally to a President, EUROCALL
EUROCALL member. Once again, I have had September 1998

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 147

Book Reviews

Virtual Language Learning: Finding the Gems Among the Pebbles

Uschi Felix, Language Australia Ltd, Melbourne, VIC 3001, 1998, Aus$ 35
ISBN 1 875578 88 9

In this new book, Uschi Felix provides a • Annotated List of Example Sites.
thought-provoking overview of how the Web • Making Sense of the Technology.
can be used as a resource in language learning. • Getting the language right: text input and
The book’s intended audience is: output.

• Teachers who wish to integrate interesting In Part 2, Annotated List of Example Sites,
sites and ideas into their curriculum. chosen Web sites are categorised, then sub-cat-
• Anyone who wishes to refresh or improve egorised by language. An effort has been made
a language or get a feel for a new one in to select sites from lesser taught languages, as
the comfort of their own home. well as the commonly taught European lan-
• Teachers who are toying with the idea of guages. The majority of examples from the
developing their own courses or materials lesser taught category reflect South East Asian
on the Web. languages. The categories chosen include:
• People who wish to learn more about
approaches to language teaching, and in • Integrated Material – cases where web
general to delivering courses, on the Web. resources are used in face-to-face teaching
in conjunction with other resources such as
Some readers, whether they are learners or text, video, and CD-ROMs.
teachers, may find an existing resource in the • Substantial materials – whole subjects.
book which they can immediately incorporate • Substantial materials – protected .
in their teaching or learning. However, the • Activities/Exercises/Task based on Maga-
book’s primary value is as a means of provid- zine or book.
ing good examples for the curious teacher who • Grammar instruction / pronunciation/ dia-
may then be inspired to explore the Web in logues – traditional.
more detail. The book will also serve as a • Grammar/Vocabulary – interactive with
source of ideas for those wishing to develop feedback.
their own resources. • Sites in target language country providing
The book is divided into four main parts: authentic interaction.
• Moos/MUDS/Mushes.
• Introduction. • Self-contained interactive tasks – ideas.

148 ReCALL
Book review

• Self-contained interactive tasks – profor- Part 3, Making Sense of the Technology,

mas to print or submit. provides a basic overview of the Internet with
• Structured teaching plans for interactive simplified explanations of the technology
tasks. behind it designed to be easily understood by
• Interactive Tasks: Using Chat sites. the non-technical reader. This sections deals
with graphics, audio, and video formats in the
The amount of explanation for sites covered in context of producing Web-based materials for
each section varies from a short description of language learning. Also included is an
the content and purpose of the site, to a overview of interactive technologies which
detailed account of how it can be used in lan- allow feedback to the learner, thus increasing
guage teaching. For example, in section D, the degree of interactivity within tasks or
sites are referenced which directly comple- exercises. Such feedback ranges from inter-
ment material contained in commercially personal communication between tutors and
available textbooks such as Mosaicos and fellow learners, to interaction of the form
Chez Nous for Spanish and French from Pren- found in language exercises such as instant
tice Hall. These exercises could easily be feedback when completing grammar or com-
exploited by existing users of these course prehension exercises. This section gives a
books. Other sites examined contain exercises non-technical person an idea of the degree of
linking to freely available authentic materials complexity involved in producing different
such as on-line newspapers and magazines. types of material.
Whilst usable in their existing format, these Part 4, Getting the language right: text
examples also provide a source of good ideas input and output, deals with the problem of
for anyone wishing to provide structured displaying text, and enabling input from the
learning materials for use with freely available learner for non-standard character sets. The
resources either for use in the classroom, or in languages covered range from the relatively
independent learning. Worksheets of this type simple European languages to languages
could be produced on either paper or the Web requiring alternative fonts such as Greek,
depending on technical skills and time avail- Cyrillic, Thai, and Vietnamese, as well as right
able. to left languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.
Each section contains at least one well A wide range of problems and alternative
developed case study serving as an example of solutions are considered in some detail.
good practice that is transferable to other con- In addition to the material reviewed so far,
texts and languages. For example, sections H the book contains some lengthy appendices
and L provide examples of on-line chatting offering links to resources and resource col-
and MUDs and MOOS (text-based virtual lections organised by language. To facilitate
worlds where users can move to different loca- examination of the resources, the book comes
tions, pick up or view objects, and chat to with an accompanying CD-ROM containing
other users) which provide the uninitiated with the full text of the book, and live Web links to
experience of these environments. In section all of the sites covered. Given that publica-
L, there is detailed advice from Andrew Fer- tions of this type become out of date quickly
guson at Trinity College on planning a chat due to the dynamic nature of the Web, it is
session for advanced learners of German (see intended that updates to the book will be dis- tributed on a updated version of the CD-
AFMLTA/resgide0.htm). This advice is rele- ROM.
vant to anyone planning a chat session what- Dawn Ebbrell
ever the language or level of student. University of Hull

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 149

Software Reviews

Español Interactivo
Método Camille
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Lingua, Camille, Difusión.
Supplier: Talkfast International Ltd, London House, 243 Lower Mortlake Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 2LS,
UK. Tel +44 (0)181 948 1011, Fax +44 (0)181 948 3900. Email:,
System Requirements: 486DX processor, 8MB RAM, CD-ROM drive 4x, 16 bit sound card, Windows 3.1,
Microsoft Video for Windows 1.1
Price: Single user £39.95 plus VAT

The software package comprises two CD- ence of the ‘tutor’s’ voice, which guides and
ROMs with a user guide, and is aimed at provides help for the learner at every point.
beginners in Spanish. Five European universi- This help is also available in written form and
ties have collaborated to develop this package the student can choose between French and
which was designed and produced at the Uni- English as a support language. There is also a
versidad Politécnica de Valencia in Spain. It tutorial to enable the learner to get to know
consists of 14 units built around communica- their computer; no previous knowledge of
tive situations, each unit being introduced with computers is assumed.
a video sequence. These units are grouped There is a good balance between providing
around 4 modules organised by communica- choice for the learner and a guided approach.
tive skills, grammar and vocabulary. For Learners are given freedom to take their own
example, the second module En la ciudad preferred learning path, without leaving them
includes ‘At the market’ as the context for completely to their own devices. Indeed, a
developing communicative skills; ‘the indefi- great deal of support is given to the student by
nite article’ as a grammar objective; and ‘fruit presenting activities in a graded manner: stu-
and vegetables’ as vocabulary items to learn. dents first establish the meaning by doing a
Unit 5 of each module is a revision unit. listening comprehension exercise (e.g. match-
ing pictures with what they hear), and then
Intended Use they concentrate on more specific aspects,
such as grammar, by filling in the gaps.
Español Interactivo lends itself to being used The backbone of the program is the ‘units’,
as a self-access learning resource. One of the which are complemented by reference tools in
features of this program is the constant pres- the form of grammar and dictionary. These

150 ReCALL
Software reviews

work well as feedback and teaching tools. within ‘real’ contexts and by doing real tasks
(e.g. filling in forms, describing a painting,
etc.) and there is some form of meaningful
Pedagogical content feedback provided. There is also an element of
The program’s main aim, as the title suggests, fun in the exercises. For example, in the
is to introduce language in an interactive way. vocabulary section we find riddles, and many
This is achieved by providing the student with dialogues represent humorous scenes.
numerous graphics and sound for each lan- The reference sections (grammar, vocabu-
guage point dealt with. The three components lary and culture) are comprehensive. The
of each unit include exercises where graphics grammar section covers in depth many of the
and sound form a central part. The visual ele- problems that the student of Spanish encoun-
ments usually have the function of presenting ters, although sometimes the level might be a
the language interactively, and are followed by bit too high. The vocabulary/dictionary section
an exercise to practise the new teaching point. is very helpful, so students can always find out
There are different types of exercises: written the meaning of a word and its gender (in the
input gap-fills, matching, true/false, role-plays case of nouns) without having to reach for
where students can record themselves, etc. It their hard copy of the dictionary. Finally, there
is worth singling out a very useful and simple is also a culture section where the learner is
exercise that is included at the end of each made aware of the basics of Spanish culture in
unit, where students can test themselves on the a very entertaining and visually rewarding
key vocabulary learned by matching up jum- way. This is a section that is rarely seen in lan-
bled words. guage courses, and it enhances the course con-
Learners are given freedom to take their siderably, not only because of the content pre-
own preferred learning path, without leaving sented in it, but also for the assumption
them completely to their own devices. Indeed, underlying it, namely that language and cul-
a great deal of support is given to the student ture go hand in hand.
by presenting activities in a graded manner: In general, this is one of the best CD-
students first establish the meaning by doing a ROMs I have seen. It offers a varied and sub-
listening comprehension exercise (e.g. match- stantial language teaching component which
ing pictures with what they hear), and then goes well with current approaches to language
they concentrate on form, by filling in the teaching. As well as being a pedagogically
gaps. sound package, Español Interactivo succeeds
Feedback is given with different phrases, in presenting new language in a light hearted
such as, ¡Así es! ¿Como lo sabías? ¡Fíjate and visually attractive way by exploiting the
más!, which appear randomly both in written best that multimedia can offer. To sum up,
and aural forms. Another form of feedback is here is a summary of the strong and weak
the reference grammar and dictionary which points of this application:
can be accessed by students. Feedback is also
given by allowing learners to listen to particu- Strong points
lar pieces of the audio again and trying the • Contextualised grammar exercises
exercise once more. At the end of the exercise, • Good quality and relevant illustrations and
users can also look at their score. However, graphics
not much ‘immediate’ feedback (specific to • Good variety of exercises
each response or answer) is given, and if • Well designed listening comprehension
learners want to know where and why they exercises
failed they have to find out by accessing the • Comprehensive culture section
reference grammar. • Presentation of key vocabulary for each
All in all, the pedagogical approach is very unit
sound: functions, grammar and vocabulary are • Grammatical, dictionary and cultural refer-
taught in a communicative way, are practised ences across the program.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 151

Software reviews

Weak points can be used either as a stand alone package or

• Control and navigation is sometimes weak to complement another course. Have fun!
• No immediate or context-specific feed- Cristina Ros i Solé
back. The Open University

To conclude, I strongly recommend this CD- Acknowledgements

ROM. I think it will prove to be an essential Many thanks to Mike Truman and Raquel
learning aid for anybody with access to a PC Mardomingo for their revision of an earlier
and who is beginning to learn Spanish, since it draft of this review.

Colloquial Spanish CD-ROM

A Multimedia Language Course
Author: Untza Otaola Alday
Supplier: Routledge, 11 New Fettter Lane, London, EC4P 4EE, UK
System Requirements: 486 processor, 8MB RAM, 2MB hard disk space, double speed CD-ROM drive,
sound card and Windows 3.1. or higher.
Price: Single user £39.99 plus VAT

The software package is aimed at beginner lan- textualised way, with photographs that illus-
guage learners of Spanish. It consists of lessons trate the theme, and leads the student into the
built around situational dialogues. There are 14 topic through a dialogue. This dialogue pre-
lessons covering topics ranging from ‘travelling sents the main language points that will be
around’ to ‘hopes for the future’. practised later on in a variety of exercises.
There are listening comprehension questions,
multiple choice exercises, ‘drag and drop’
Intended Use gap-fills, where the student can key in the
answers, ‘matching’ exercises and even some
Colloquial Spanish is presented as a tutorial to ‘role-play’ exercises where the student is
be used on its own or to support autonomous asked to play a part by translating an English
learning. The package gives the student a fair sentence into Spanish.
amount of control by keeping him/her There are plenty of pronunciation exercises
informed of the objectives of the lesson and by where students listen to the words and check
giving him/her clear instructions of what to themselves by recording their voice and com-
do. This is achieved by providing the student paring it with the model. However, most of the
with access to a summary of the content of the exercises are quite repetitive. There are no dis-
lesson, including the language points covered, criminatory exercises or visual help.
and a matrix of all the language points covered The recordings are very clear and there is a
in the whole program. variety of voices. The inclusion of some Latin-
American accents would have enhanced the
Pedagogical content The level of the language content is right
for beginners and the grammatical explana-
The program introduces each lesson in a con- tions provide them with a good level of sup-

152 ReCALL
Software reviews

port. The explanations are presented in a very much of the feedback is of the ‘right or
simple and clear way and cover most of the wrong’ type.
problems that students at this level encounter.
However, there are a few inconsistencies that
could be ironed out. Screen layout and design
Although graphics are numerous, they do not
Learner independence and control always directly help or illustrate the exercise
on the screen. Video is not used in any part of
An asset of this program, as mentioned ear- the program, so an opportunity to add cultural
lier, is the fact that the learning objectives of and linguistic context to the exercises has been
each lesson and language points to be prac- missed.
tised are very well defined. This helps stu- In general, the pedagogical approach is
dents to feel more in control of their own sound, with a good variety of exercises and
learning. However, another simple way of practice in a range of skills. The screen design
giving more control to learners is by letting is very clear and user-friendly and the lan-
them choose their own path in the program. guage coverage is comprehensive. Here is a
This can be done by a non-linear design. summary of the pros and cons:
This program, however, seems to be written
with a linear approach in mind. There are Strong points
even references in the grammar such as ‘As • Clear and easy screen design
you have seen earlier’ which indicate that • Language at the right level
students are not expected to choose different • Good variety of exercises
routes. Similarly, exercises can only be done • Well designed listening comprehension
at one level; whereas devices and help exercises
screens that ask students to state their prefer- • Clear grammatical explanations
ences would give them more freedom and • Objectives of the units are clearly
control (e.g. to work with or without sound, explained.
with or without translations, etc.). Finally,
incorporating a record-keeping mechanism Weak points
or ‘study-tracker’ with which students could
tell where they had been and whether they • Lack of detailed and meaningful feedback
had completed the exercise could also • No video
enhance the program. • Students’ control over their own learning is
Feedback plays a vital role in giving stu- limited by the program design.
dents control over their own learning. It points
out why they have made mistakes and pro- In general I recommend this CD-ROM and I
vides them with the knowledge they need to think it should prove to be very useful for
find the right solution next time. If programs Spanish beginners to improve their listening
provide inadequate feedback they can become comprehension and their knowledge of the
little more than testing devices. This program rudiments of Spanish grammar.
offers two mechanisms for feedback. The first Cristina Ros i Solé
is the very clear guidance and information The Open University
about the language points covered in each
unit: students can assimilate this before Acknowledgements
attempting the exercise. The second is the Many thanks to Mike Truman and Raquel
audio component, in which students can hear Mardomingo for their valuable comments on
the correct answers. Unfortunately, however, an earlier draft of this review.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 153

Software reviews

Business Territory 1
A Multimedia Language Course
Supplier: Lingonet Oy, Linnankatu 11 A 20, 20100 Turku, Finland, Fax: +358-2-234 5445.
System requirements: 486/66 processor or better, Windows 3.1 or 3.11 with 8 MB RAM or Windows '95 with
16 MB RAM. Four speed CD-ROM drive and Soundblaster compatible sound card.
Price: £62.00 + VAT + P&P

Business Territory 1 is a multimedia learning menu mentioned above.

package available on a single CD-ROM. It is If we click on an icon representing an
intended for adult learners of English who employee we are presented with a number of
need to use business English in their work- cue cards – video segments into which the
place. It exposes learners to authentic lan- interview is divided – which offer three possi-
guage as used by a selection of employees of a bilities:
British electronics company. Learners are
expected to have some knowledge of business 1. Listen to the interviewer’s question,
concepts and idiom, and to have an intermedi- 2. Play the video clip to watch and listen to
ate to advanced level of proficiency in general the employee’s response, and
English. 3. Listen to the interviewer paraphrasing the
Business Territory 1 includes 40 minutes of employee’s response.
authentic video material recorded on location
in a Cambridge company. The video clips are These cue cards are arranged according to the
supplemented by support material comprising questions posed by the interviewer and vary in
transcripts, audio/text paraphrases, and duration and in number, ranging from a mini-
audio/text comments, as well as a glossary. mum of three to a maximum of six.
There is also a wide range of tasks that are Only when we have listened to a video seg-
based on the video clips and suitable for self- ment twice are we allowed to click on the text
access use as well as one-to-one and group button, available on the video control panel, to
teaching. The support material and tasks visualise the spoken passage. This, I find,
encourage students to take both responsibility could be a drawback for impatient students as
for their learning and to co-operate and com- they would skip useful information included in
municate with their fellow students. the glossary entries, available when blue high-
On entering the course we encounter a lighted text is shown, and comments, available
screen displaying picture icons representing when there is red highlighted text. Both the
the faces of the ten company employees inter- glossary and the comments open up individual
viewed on video, and a menu displaying a overlay windows that do not obstruct the main
number of options. First, an Overview, and screen. Unlike the glossary, the comments are
then the headings into which the materials are available both in audio and text format,
arranged, Jobs, Topics, Group work, Exercises, although, once again, only when we have lis-
and finally, a section under the heading tened twice do we have the right to read the
Teacher’s Territory. text version. This, which could be useful in the
The contents can be approached in one of main audio sequence leading to the compre-
two ways: by clicking on an icon representing hension exercises to encourage students to
one of the employees, which gives access to become accustomed to infer information from
the video clips relating to that person, or by an oral source – which is what normally hap-
selecting one of the options from the main pens in an authentic environment – I find a bit

154 ReCALL
Software reviews

extreme when dealing with explanatory infor- In the topics section the video clips are
mation which is meant to provide linguistic arranged according to the main topic underly-
and cultural comments on certain ‘more diffi- ing the sequence. There are fifteen options
cult’ expressions used in the video sequence. from which to choose. In any one topic we are
Once the learner has watched and listened to presented with all the cue cards which corre-
the video sequence s/he can continue with the spond to the employees who talk about that
tasks which are accessed by clicking on num- topic. These video clips lead, in turn, to a
bered tabs displayed above the text window. number of varied tasks ranging from gap-fill-
The tasks, which the program recommends to ing passages, true/false questions, re-wording
be carried out in order, take the form of gap- and re-ordering exercises, etc., and a very
filling exercises based on the video transcript. interesting set of writing exercises which are
The first of these tabs requests the learner to carried out by giving the learner a set of
watch the video clip where the selected instructions and prompts and then requesting
employee describes his or her job within the him or her to call up the Windows notepad.
company and then proceed to the second tab These exercises encourage the learner to carry
and complete the exercise. A third tab, avail- out either role-playing tasks or writing exer-
able throughout, gives access to a Windows cises which can be stored in the program
help menu describing how to proceed in each directory on the hard disk for the learner’s
section. future reference or the teacher’s supervision.
The gap-filling exercise works in a conven- These files may be printed out if need be,
tional fashion where the learner has to select a which is an advantage as the tasks can be
gap and write the correct answer in a separate handed in to the teacher once completed.
box. The box will only admit correct letters to The remaining two sections for students,
be inserted, thus preventing the learner from available from the main menu, are group work
misspelling a word. To aid in filling in the gap and exercises. Group work includes activities
the audio recording of a complete unit of such as, ‘describing the structure of a com-
meaning can be listened to but no other means pany’, ‘a typical working day’, ‘job inter-
of help is available should the learner finally views’, etc., to be carried out by groups of stu-
decide to give up and request the correct dents, and a final ‘group quiz’ which
answer. Should this be the case, the learner encourages collaborative work among stu-
would have to go back to the main video dents. These activities are mainly based on
screen and watch the video three times in creative writing skills, guided writing skills
order to see the text. The options within the and inferring information from the videos.
exercise are to write a word, to apply it to the They are all linked to notepad files that can be
passage, to skip a word and to listen to the stored and/or printed out.
selected fragment. The exercise also keeps a The section described as exercises focuses
score of the correct answers but the program, on individual student work and offers a range
unfortunately, does not store these results, of activities based on developing communica-
which would be extremely useful for the tive skills. The exercises deal with topics such
learner’s own future reference or for the as ‘dealing with people’, ‘working for a com-
teacher/tutor to supervise the scores accom- pany’, etc. extracted from the video
plished after fulfilling a whole session. sequences. These tasks also give access to the
Another way of approaching the materials notepad and can be stored or printed out if
is by going directly to one of the sections into necessary.
which the video sequences are divided. The The last section is devoted to the teacher
learner can select either jobs, which leads us under the heading Teacher’s Territory. Person-
back to each of the video clips where the ten ally I think this resource is unique, since other
employees describe their role within the com- popular CALL materials lack a teacher-ori-
pany and the same gap-filling exercise ented aid. Business Territory 1 has been gen-
described above, or topics. uinely designed for both self-access and one-

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 155

Software reviews

to-one or group tutoring, as described in the record of their work, although the tabled sheet
accompanying guide, in the sense that it pro- has to be printed out and progress annotated
vides, on the one hand, a guide to the reference by hand.
materials, the table of contents and background The quick help section provides a brief
information, and on the other, the transcripts of overview of the courseware and the key pro-
all the interviews, paraphrases, comments, task vides printable answer sheets for all the lan-
sheets, a learning review, a quick help, and guage auditing tasks arranged under the same
finally, the key to all the exercises. headings as the student sections, jobs and top-
This section can only be accessed using a ics, and which include full transcripts and
password made available in the accompanying completed exercises.
booklet. The teacher’s guide describes the Navigation is intuitive. A return button is
table of contents, which consists of a list of all always available to backtrack, converted into
the items in Business Territory to aid lesson an exit button to quit the program from the
planning. ‘Background information’ includes main menu screen. The graphics design could
information on how to use the software as a be more user-friendly on occasions but it does
classroom resource in one-to-one teaching and not interfere with the activities.
as a presentation tool. The three following sec- To conclude, my overall opinion of Busi-
tions provide the printable transcripts of all the ness Territory 1 is positive because it exploits
video and audio materials included. The task genuinely authentic materials, providing
sheets contain printable work sheets based on audio-visual contents suitable for progres-
the tasks in the topics section, group work sively more difficult and complex activities,
activities, individual exercises and report including group work. I found especially inter-
tasks, all of which can be printed out. esting the section for teachers, which allows
The printable learning review section has them to make the most of the materials avail-
been designed specifically for one-to-one able throughout the courseware.
learners who can use it to monitor their learn- Ana Gimeno-Sanz
ing on a daily basis and keep a permanent Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain)

156 ReCALL
Language Processing
Proceedings of a one-day conference
held at UMIST, 9 May 1998
organised by the Centre for Computational Linguistics, UMIST,
in association with EUROCALL
a special ReCALL publication

edited by Mathias Schulze, Marie-Josée Hamel

and June Thompson

Available, price £10 sterling (cheque or credit card only please)

from the CTI Centre for Modern Languages, University of Hull,
Hull HU6 7RX, UK. Order form available at

ReCALL Vol 10 No. 2 1998
Report from WorldCALL 98
This report was co-ordinated by Robin Goodfellow of the Open University. Aplogies for omit-
ting to include his name as author of the report.

Report from EUROCALL 98

The presenter of the paper entitled “Evolutionary Epistemology in Language Learning and its
Possible Implications for CALL” felt that the report on her presentation did not accurately
reflect what she had said. Please refer to Christine Maingard’s full paper which is published in
this issue.

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 157

1 - 2 July 1999, Jyväskylä, Finland Information: Sara Hassen, In Any Event UK, 1
European Language Council Second Conference: Riverside, St. Anne’s Road, Bristol BS4 4ED, UK
Language Teaching and Learning: New Directions Tel: +44 (0)117 977 9477, Fax: +44 (0)117
for Higher Education in Europe 9724345
Information: Tau-Maija Heilala, Congress Man-
ager, CMM, Confennia Ltd, PO Box 35 (AIL), 11 - 13 December 1999, Leeds, UK
FIN-40351 Jyväskylä, Finland 4th Annual Cross-cultural Capability Conference
Tel: +358 14 603 663, Fax: +358 14 603 727 Information: Joy Kelly, Centre for Language
Study, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds LS6
9 - 11 September 1999, Exeter, UK 3QS, UK
8th International Exeter CALL ‘99 Conference Tel: +44 (0)113 2837440, Fax: +44 (0)113
Information: Keith Cameron, CALL ‘99, School 2745966
of Modern Languages, Queen’s Building, The
University, Exeter EX4 4LE, UK 30 June - 2 July 2000, Derby, UK
Language World
16 - 18 September 1999, Besançon, France Information: Educational Exhibitions, 14 Gains-
EUROCALL 99 borough Gardens, London N12 8AG.
Information: Thierry Chanier, Laboratoire Tel: +44 (0)181 445 1757, Fax: +44 (0)181 446
d’Informatique de Besançon, Univeristé de 8214
Franche-Comté, France
Tel: +33 3 81 58 84 70, Fax: +33 3 81 66 64 50 31 August - 2 September 2000, Dundee, Scotland EUROCALL 2000
Information: EUROCALL, University of Hull,
21 - 23 September 1999, Bristol, UK Hull HU6 7RX, UK
ALT-C 99 6th International Conference: The Tel: +44 (0)1482 465872, Fax: +44 (0)1482
Learning Technology Life-Cycle 473816

158 ReCALL
ReCALL: Notes for Contributors
ReCALL, the journal of CTI Modern Languages in association with EUROCALL, seeks to fulfil the stated aims of
EUROCALL as a whole, which are to advance education by:

(a) promoting the use of foreign languages within Europe;

(b) providing a European focus for the promulgation of innovative research, development and practice in
the area of computer-assisted language learning and technology enhanced language learning in
education and training;
(c) enhancing the quality, diffusion and cost-effectiveness of relevant language learning materials.

All articles are refereed. They are accepted for consideration on the assumption that they have not been previously
published and are not currently being submitted to any other journal.
Typical subjects for submissions include theoretical debate on language learning strategies and their influence on
courseware design, practical applications at developmental stage, evaluative studies of courseware use in the teach-
ing and learning process, assessment of the potential of technological advances in the delivery of language learning
materials, exploitation of on-line information systems, and discussions of policy and strategy at institutional and disci-
pline levels. Survey papers are welcome provided that they are timely, up-to-date and well-structured.
The language of ReCALL is normally English. However, papers in French or German will be considered.
Authors should be aware that editorial licence may be taken to improve the readability of an article.
Three free copies of the journal are sent to contributors of articles in lieu of offprints. One free copy is sent to contrib-
utors of reviews.
Copyright is assigned to the publisher, but the right to reproduce the contribution is granted to author(s), provided
that the contribution is not offered for sale.
Submission of documents:
● Hard copy: preferably laser-printer output.
● On 3.5” disk in Word for Windows 2.0 format or higher (please state version).
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Please label your disk with your name, date, the titles of files stored on the disk and the name of the word-processor
you have used.
Papers may also be submitted in MIME-encoded format by email.

Texts for articles should not exceed 5,000 words: texts for reviews should not exceed 1000 words. Line spacing 1.5
with a point size of 12 (please indicate word-count at the end of your text). The text should be left-aligned only.
Make sure that graphics and screen dumps are also available on disk and are of sufficient size and quality to be
reproduced in a reduced format. Please indicate which graphics package you have used to produce them.
For articles your text should be laid out as follows:
Title of article: Do not use capital letters, except at the beginning of the title and for proper names. In languages
other than English, use standard conventions.
Author: First name, last name, institution.
Biographical information: Brief, no more than 50 words.
Abstract: No more than 100 words.
Text of article
If your article/review includes numbered sections and paragraphs, use the following system:

Vol 11 No 1 May 1999 159


Use bulleted lists within above system or i., ii., iii. then a., b., c.
No brackets.

Don’t use full stops in abbreviations: ICI, OBE not I.C.I., O.B.E.
When referring to the title of an organisation by its initials, first spell out the title in full followed by the abbreviation in
brackets, thus: Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Thereafter refer to ICI.

Don’t underline. Use italics or bold for emphasis.

Bibliographical referencing within the article/review

... as was stated in a recent study (Davies 1995:65) ...
... see also Ahmad et al. (1985:123–127) ...
“... quotation ...” (Davies 1985:15)
Please avoid using footnotes.

References at end of the article/review

Please pay particular attention to the use of full-stops after initials and the use of commas, colons, brackets. Above all,
be consistent. Your text will be returned for re-editing if you do not adhere to the prescribed system.

i. Single-author books
Davies G. D. (1985) Talking BASIC: an introduction to BASIC programming for users of language, Eastbourne: Cas-
ii. Dual-author books
Davies G. D. & Higgins J. J. (1985) Using computers in language learning: a teacher’s guide, London: CILT.
iii. Multiple-author books
Eck A., Legenhausen L. & Wolff D. (1995) Telekommunikation im Fremdsprachenunterricht, Bochum: AKS-Verlag.
iv. Edited books
Rüschoff B. & Wolff D. (eds.) (1996) Technology-enhanced language learning in theory and practice: EUROCALL 94:
Proceedings, Szombathely: Berzsenyi Dániel College.
v. Articles in journals, magazines, etc.
Little D. (1994) ‘Learner autonomy: a theoretical construct and its practical application’, Die neueren Sprachen 93 (5),
vi. Articles in books
Johns T. (1991) ‘Data-driven learning and the revival of grammar’. In Savolainen H. & Telenius J. (eds.), EUROCALL
91: Proceedings, Helsinki: Helsinki School of Economics, 12-22.

Contact address
Please address your manuscript, and any queries, to:
June Thompson
Editor, ReCALL
CTI Centre for Modern Languages, University of Hull
Hull HU6 7RX, UK.
Email: or

160 ReCALL