Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Computer-Assisted Language Learning in British Sign Language Learning

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Computer-Assisted Language Learning in British Sign Language Learning

Article excerpt

Some scholars support the view that language learning can be promoted effectively in a nonnatu ralis tic environment like the classroom, and others that classroom language learning is characterized by a lack of authenticity, which, in turn, influences learners' motivation to interact with each other and practice the language in the same way as in natural face-to-face communication (Lightbown and Spada 200i). To overcome these classroom teaching limitations, computerassisted language learning (CALL) has been projected as a means to extend learners' opportunities to engage in communicative practice in the target language (Chapelle 2003).

For instance, CALL is capable of promoting greater communicative interchange than any other educational medium has so far been able to do. It can remedy the lack of authenticity in the classroom environment as it offers unprecedented exposure to authentic samples of language cultures by means of integrating multimedia (e.g., sounds and images) in ways that correspond to a broad range of learners. In addition, CALL offers access to natural language resources by taking into consideration learners' needs and interests. In doing so, CALL promotes personalized instruction and individualization in language learning, which, consequently, can increase learners' motivation since students direct much of the learning themselves. Moreover, CALL allows language teachers to process and present authentic materials with flexibility (Stevens 1992).

The fact that language teaching can be operationalized through CALL has directed researchers' attention to the learning task, which, in this case, is considered to be the unit that demands analysis of the communicative processes in which the learner is involved while working with CALL (Chapelle 2003). Research has centered on understanding how students learn a second language by interacting with CALL. In other words, research focuses on understanding the cognitive and social processes that CALL tasks create, such as the input they provide to learners, the interactions they stimulate, and the opportunities they provide to learners to produce the language (Chapelle 2003, 40).

In CALL, learners have an opportunity to acquire linguistic forms when they are directed or encouraged to notice some aspects of the linguistic input they are exposed to. The scope of such input is to transform their language. Linguistic input can be made salient by highlighting or stressing its structure and by repetition. It can also be made more understandable to the learner through various means of modification (e.g., simplification, clarification, translation, repetition). Another type of input enhancement is elaboration, which is intended to increase a learner's understanding of the input by offering additional grammatical phrases and clauses (e.g., relative clauses, restatements) (Chapelle 2003).

One of the key features of CALL' s enhanced input is that it is always provided interactively. In CALL tasks, interaction is provided in three different ways: interpersonal interaction, computer-learner interaction, and intrapersonal interaction. The first refers to the interaction between learners and teachers, in which the learners negotiate the meaning of a linguistic form, co-construct its meaning, and, thus, are prompted to pay attention to the form. The second type refers to the interaction between the learner and the computer program (software) by clicking, typing, and recording after listening or observing multimedia material. The third type concerns the interaction that takes place within the learners' mind, which stimulates their inner speech and engages their attention to the linguistic forms and the cognitive processing of input (Chapelle 2003, 60). Moreover, CALL tasks give learners an opportunity to produce linguistic forms, first, by planning before producing the language; second, through self-evaluation of the linguistic production; and, third, through error correction prompted by the teacher, other learners, and the computer (Chapelle 2003). …

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