Review of ActiveChinese: Chinese Language Skills for the Business World

Article excerpt

Title                   ActiveChinese: Chinese Language Skills for
                        the Business World

Platform                Windows[R] 98, ME, 2000, XP; Mac OS X

Minimum hardware and    Display: 800x600 minimum, 1024x768 preferred,
software requirements   with 32-bit color depth (millions of colors).
                        Connection: Broadband (cable modem,
                        DSL, or LAN).
                        Browser: IE 5.5, 6.0, Firefox 1.0
                        Plug-ins: Macromedia Flash 7.0 or later.
                        Settings: Browser must have cookies and
                        JavaScript enabled and pop-up blocker
                        disabled for www.activechinese.com; computer
                        must have audio and microphone enabled.
                        Audio: Speakers.
                        Voice Over IP software: suggested to have a
                        Skype (www.skype.com) account for working
                        with tutors in real-time.

Publisher               ActiveChinese, Inc.
                        One Market Street, Spear Tower, Suite 2260
                        San Francisco, CA 94105
                        http://www.activechinese.com/

Support offered         FAQ; Online contact form; Online one-on-one
                        tutor

Target language         Chinese

Target audience         Beginner to Intermediate

Price                   Depends on which of the four courses (Ice
                        Breakers, Adjusting to the New Environment,
                        Cultivating a Deep Understanding, Chinese
                        Business World 1-2-3) and the package options
                        the learner selects, with the prices ranging
                        from USD $99.00 to $599.00.

The learning process is no doubt more efficient when language learners are focused, engaged, and in charge of their own learning. Such language learners usually have specific goals for their own learning, and, furthermore, they are motivated and responsible for planning their learning activities, evaluating their performance, and monitoring their overall learning processes (Little, 1999, 2007); in short, such learners can be called autonomous. Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) applications and computer-based educational materials have been widely regarded as supportive of learner autonomy (Warschauer, 2002; Weasenforth, Meloni, & Biesenbach-Lucas, 2005). Nevertheless, the perceived potentials for fostering autonomy in the electronic learning environment are not fully realized until hypermedia interactivity is improved and broader access to the Internet is available (Hemard, 2006). Benefiting from the increasing availability of Internet technology and exploiting the enhanced interactivity of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) (1), ActiveChinese introduces an online virtual classroom, Chinese Language Skills for the Business World. It incorporates the latest technology in multimedia design on the Internet, and, on its website (http://www.activechinese.com/intro1.jsp#Intro1), it promises to "provide a 24/7 visual and audio learning tool for 21st century Chinese learners" and make "learning Chinese thus much easier than ever before" (para.7). As an Internet-based language learning environment, ActiveChinese combines up-to-date features of interactive websites, such as Flash animation and RIAs, and the benefitsof video-conferencing, such as Skype.

ActiveChinese is a self-contained language learning website that provides a Chinese learning environment for beginning to low-intermediate adult learners of Chinese as a second or foreign language, particularly those who have an interest in Chinese language skills for business purposes.

Design and Modules of Active Chinese

As shown in Figure 1, the opening portal of ActiveChinese consists of five principal components, which are displayed on the navigation bar. …