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Web-Enhanced Foreign Language Learning: Cest Si Bon!

By Reese, Jean | MultiMedia Schools, November/December 2002 | Go to article overview

Web-Enhanced Foreign Language Learning: Cest Si Bon!


Reese, Jean, MultiMedia Schools


Bonjour! Buenos Dias, and Guten Tag.. those were the three languages I studied beginning with Spanish in high school, and adding French and German in college. After getting an MA in Spanish, I taught French and Spanish in high school before changing careers and becoming a librarian.

I can trace my interest in foreign languages to the sixth grade when our class welcomed an exchange student from Cuba. (I guess that dates me just a little!) I remember we labeled furniture and objects in the classroom with their Spanish names and I do believe this early exposure to Spanish sparked my interest in languages.

When I studied Spanish, teaching methods included conjugating verbs, lots of drills and vocabulary exercises, plus memorizing dialogues, and a weekly visit to the language lab for auditory and verbal practice. While this method is pretty much shunned in today's classrooms, I did learn languages. But was it fun or relevant to my life? Well, perhaps not.

A lot has changed since then with new methods and resources making their way into the classroom. Language instruction has never been more relevant to the global nature of today's society. Computers and multimedia technology along with the Internet and World Wide Web have given teachers and students the world at their fingertips ... and keyboard.

This article focuses on how language teachers can utilize the Internet and Web to enhance their classroom instruction. Well address issues such as locating language resources, we'll look at some great collections of Web sites to get teachers started, and we'll check out Web sites that provide supplementary material for listening comprehension skills, grammar, culture, and more. A note: Examples focus on Spanish and French resources.

Getting Started: Tools to Search the Web

Most everyone knows that search engines help you locate information on the Web. But did you know it's also possible to search for sites in a specific language? Try one of the "local Yahoo!'s" [http./www.yahoo.com] such as Yahoo! France, Yahoo! Japan, Yahoo! Espana, etc. AltaVista [http://altavista.com] has an AltaVista Worldwide that takes you to country-specific search pages. For Google fans [http://google.com], check out the link to Language Tools, where you can even specify a language be from a specific country. For example, if you'd like to find newspapers in Mexico, type "newspapers" and limit to results frorn Mexico. Patricia Pecoy's Foreign Language Search Engines Web site [http://facweb.furman.edu/pecoy/mf1195/searchen.htm] provides a collection of search tools divided by language so it's easy to find just the right one.

More than just a search tool, TrackStar [http://trackstar.hprtec.org/] lets teachers search for lessons by distinct tracks or themes. From the Home Page, select See Tracks by Subject/Category and select Non-English. There are close to 2,000 foreign language entries. Once you select a track-say, A French Tour-a description of the lesson follows along with a choice to use frames or a plaintext version, The grade level, subject, date last modified, and format are provided. The lessons include a variety of activities as well as allowing teachers the opportunity to organize and annotate their Web resources. Try any of these tools if you want to locate language-specific sites on the Web.

Foreign Language Collections on the Web

In an ideal world, teachers would have the time to learn the skills necessary to put together a Web site using resources tailored for their individual classes. However, in the real world, this doesn't happen as often as it should. Don't despair. There are some excellent language resources already on the Web. Here are a few that stand out as great general collections to help teachers get started.

Casa de Joanna: Language Learning Resources [http://casadejoanna.com] is an excellent resource that focuses on Spanish and French links. It is intended as a "jumping off point" for middle school and high school teachers and students.

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