MANY of the challenges facing those who learn English as a second language (ESL) are the same as those facing anyone learning a language. In fact, I sometimes think ESL is an artificial distinction, although the problems confronting an American learning French, Spanish, or some other language are probably different than the problems confronting a non-English speaker learning English.
There are many approaches - and many acronyms related to ESL studies, including ESOL (English for speakers of other languages), EFL (English as a foreign language), EAL (English as an additional language), ESD (English as a second dialect), EIL (English as an international language), and ESP (English for special purposes). The teacher-centered acronyms include ELT (English language teaching), TESL (teaching English as a second language), TESOL (teaching English for speakers of other languages), and TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language).
Some approaches draw a distinction between learning English in a non-English-speaking country and learning English in an English-speaking country. Whichever approach or aspect is being considered, ESL resources have increased enormously with the introduction of computer and related electronic technologies.
Small hand-held electronic devices, created specifically for language learning or translation, are among the new resources. This technology has been extremely helpful to ESL students who can use them to decipher new and unfamiliar vocabulary to assist in word recognition. In middle schools and high schools, ESL students use these devices in their mainstream classes in place of far bulkier dictionaries.
Additional new resources include web-based and other types of software for use with everything from desktop computers to cell phones and handheld devices. A number of these programs offer new recording, speech recognition, and speaking technologies that greatly improve their usefulness and effectiveness.
Many free materials are available on the web, but these tend to be unsystematic and lack the record keeping and management functions that make some ESL software particularly valuable for classroom instruction. In addition, the sound of spoken words and translations on the web tends to be less clear than that in other types of programs.
This article will offer some examples of the many fine possibilities available in the area of ESL resources, with a mention of some of their more interesting features. Most of the programs listed here have an elementary school focus, although many of these types of programs tend to have high school and adult versions as well.
Speaking Global Translator
Franklin Electronic Publishers
Franklin makes several interesting hand-held electronic devices. The Speaking Global Translator is marketed more for travel than for education, but it could be very useful in any ESL classroom. The unit contains more than 450,000 words, 12,000 phrases, and 115,000 words spoken by a recorded human voice in 12 languages. The device translates to and from Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.
Users can enter a word in a language and the Speaking Global Translator will speak and show the word in the original language as well as in the translated language. A voice recording option allows users to record custom words and phrases.
Other interesting features in this $229.95 device include predictive spelling, a seven-line screen, an MP3 player, an organizer, a local/world clock, a calculator, a currency and metric converter, and more. This rechargeable unit weighs about 6 ounces.
Inglés en su Bolsillo/English in Your Pocket
Franklin Electronic Publishers
This excellent hand-held device from Franklin Electronic Publishers is designed to aid language learning; it is not a translator. …