Digital Resources for Ell Students and Those Learning a Foreign Language

By Nielsen, Lisa | Technology & Learning, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Digital Resources for Ell Students and Those Learning a Foreign Language


Nielsen, Lisa, Technology & Learning


I took four years of Spanish during my school years, though you wouldn't know it if you tried to have a conversation with me in Spanish. My experience is not unusual. The way language is typically taught in the U.S. often does not result in language acquisition. I wonder if things might have been different had I been a student today, in a time when technology provides such terrific resources for learning languages.

Here are five free digital resources that can support students in language acquisition.

(1) Duolingo has become a popular app to support foreign language learning. Its gamification elements make it both fun and addictive. You can earn points for correct answers, race against the clock, and level up. The bite-sized lessons are effective, and here is proof that it works: more than 100,000 classrooms are using Duolingo. Teachers can easily track their students' progress, run in-class activities, and assign homework.

(2) Livemocha's site explains that language is not just an academic subject but also a performing art--something that students must actively practice in order to master it. A learner can listen to people speaking a new language, memorize all of the grammar rules, and talk about the language ad nauseam. But to truly master a language, a learner must actually practice speaking it with a partner. Conversational fluency requires good instruction, a dose of courage, and a lot of real-life practice. Livemocha's methodology is structured around the Whole-Part-Whole learning model, a proven framework that allows learners to observe, learn, and then practice new language concepts.

The Livemocha community is made up of language enthusiasts: teachers, language experts, other language learners, and native speakers who are proud of their language and heritage. Community members help each other learn in a myriad of ways: they leave comments in response to practice exercises, build mini-lessons within exercise feedback, hold practice conversations via text, video, or audio chat, provide language practice and culture tips, and give much-needed encouragement (after all, learning a new language is not easy!)

Livemocha is available to students of all ages. Children under 13 must have written authorization from a school or other educational organization that registers them.

(3) Dotsub: Subtitles are great for both increasing literacy in a native language and for learning other languages. Citizens of Scandinavian countries are renowned for their terrific English language acquisition, and this is often credited to the fact that they grow up with subtitled English television and so have plentiful exposure to the language.

Dotsub is a digital resource that capitalizes on the power of subtitles. It is a browser-based, one-stop, self-contained system for creating and viewing video subtitles in multiple languages across all platforms, including Web-based, mobile devices, and transcription and video editing systems. It's easy to use, there's nothing to buy or download, and it's fun. You can upload your videos, transcribe and time-caption them, translate them into and from any language, and share them with the world.

Dotsub enables students not only to watch videos with subtitles in various languages but also to create the subtitles. …

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