Magazine article Technology & Learning

Livening Up Foreign Language: Technology Enables Language Learning in Authentic Situations

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Livening Up Foreign Language: Technology Enables Language Learning in Authentic Situations

Article excerpt

Technology has long been associated with language learning: we're familiar with seeing children wearing headsets, reciting in unison recordings of Spanish or French vocabulary words. Nowadays, students can experience real life in real time across the globe, thanks to a host of new Internet applications. Here, we envision what could be happening in your Spanish or Chinese class.

Internet Audio

Students feel like they are in a Spanish-speaking country every time they enter the classroom. The teacher often plays music or newscasts from an Internet Hispanic radio station ( by using Real Player or Media Player. The students listen to the music and identify the theme of the song, its tone, and some of the repeated images. For instance, they may flag today's song as one about the sadness of lost love and the images of broken mirrors, ripped letters, and storm clouds.


The class does a biweekly videoconference on societal themes with peers in a Spanish-speaking country. They prepare for these presentations by researching local culture and sharing their findings. Research may lead to talk and debate about global warming or other high-profile issues, and students benefit from opinions and perspectives far different from their own.


Students enjoy the fast-paced "describe the image" culture game, where they pair up and tell a partner as much about the Woophy Flickr picture ( of a Latin-American place as they can in one minute. A variation is to have only one person tell about the image for the minute; with the partner offering additional sentences about the scene. They can also play "ask and answer" questions about the image. To assess progress, learners make a slash for each sentence they say and record the total number in a spreadsheet to easily see the number contrast from when they first played the game to when they last played.

Online Newspapers

Students stay up-to-date on news as one day a week they read Spanish. language newspaper accounts about a current event (www.allnewspapers .com). The teacher has students read a range of news sources so they can discuss the similarities and differences in perspective.


When the class watches part of a recent English movie in Spanish, the teacher often stops and asks them questions about what was said. The teacher then turns off the sound and has students supply the dialogue in Spanish. At other times, the teacher shows them a movie with original Spanish dialogue or a satellite Mexican TV show so they can explain the plot and themes, describe the characters, and tell their favorite part.

Recorded Conversations

To establish more personal connections, students might conduct ongoing written conversations with peers. Activities might include a chat about clothing styles with a student in Spain, or about peer pressure with another in Ecuador. Since they converse in an online program, their conversations are recorded. …

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