Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taking The Living Room Offsite!

Once in a while, we take The Living Room outdoors. Today was one of those days. Stan and I made our way down to the Regional Language Centre (RELC) at Orange Grove Road to chat with some experts on The Impact of Technology on Language Learning and Teaching: What, How, Why. And it was insightful, to say the least.

Language Learning & Teaching in an Internet Age: We begin our conversation with Eric Barber (UK) and Gavin Dudeney (Spain).

For the past two centuries, language learning and teaching has stayed pretty much unchanged. But in just the last two decades, the explosion of technology has totally revolutionised the language classroom. With the Internet, we can now bring the outside world into the classroom, which opens up a world of possibilities, doesn't it?

Think about it: If you're picking up Italian, French or Japanese, you can now participate in virtual classrooms and communities. You can go online to a site like Second Life, and meet millions of people from around the world! There, in this virtual world, you can interact with real people - in a foreign language - and learn about their culture. More importantly, these interactions are authentic.

In our next conversation, we found out about Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) from Deborah Healey and Lance Knowles [pictured], who has developed award-winning courses for the past 25 years. "The most significant change is that while before, the interaction was very much between computer and persons, interaction these days is between persons - assisted by computers," explains Lance.

Our final conversation touched on foreign language learning and teaching. We explored how a 2nd or 3rd language is picked up, and how that may be different from acquiring a 1st language.

Well, according to Lara Ducate (USA) and Jorg Roche (Germany), it really is not that different! *gasp* The reason why people find it so hard to learn a brand new language is because of the way it's taught.

According to our experts, the right way to teach is through individuals words, then chunking of words, and not through learning the rules and structure first. And always keep it authentic and interactive. Lara even uses weblogs, wikis and podcasts to teach German to her American students!

Learning a foreign language really isn't that tough in the Internet Age,
say experts Jorg Roche and Lara Ducate.

Although it got a bit noisy during the tea break - when a throng of participants streamed out of the auditorium and hovered around us with cups of coffee & tea in hand - I enjoyed the engaging conversations. We had to strain to hear each other at certain points though!

What's good news for a travel bug like me is that picking up more than one new language doesn't seem all that inconceivable in this day & age. With the advancement in technology, and new research on how people acquire language and best practices in teaching, I may just be on my way to pick up Italian and Japanese in time for my next holiday!

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