CALLing All Language Students

CALL=Computer Assisted Language Learning

What Is CALL? It's Not A Method--It's a Tool!

  • Study of using the computer in language teaching and learning (Levy, 1997)
  • Any way in which a learner uses a computer to improve his or her language (Beatty, 2003)
  • Learners learning language with, around, and through computer technologies (Egbert, 2005) ****My favorite definition for contemporary language education****
  • Some of the many, many structured, target-language-specific online programs shown below

History of CALL?


  • 1960's - 1970's. (Behaviorist Learning Model) Mostly repetitive language drills--drill and practice/grammar--computer was a tutor. PLATO was a well-known system running on mainframes. Programmed instruction was part of this trend.
  • 1970's - 1980's. (Communicative Learning Model). Learning with the computer whereby discovery and expression were emphasized. Grammar was taught implicitly rather than by drill.
  • Present. (Integrative Model). Real language use in authentic context, integrating skills of language learning--listening, speaking, writing, reading--while integrating technology in meaningful ways (Lee, 2000).

Why Use CALL? Can You Imagine Language Learning Without Computer Assistance?

  • Motivation. Computers are associated with enjoyment. Students of all ages enjoy using computers, and CALL gives language learning a contemporary slant.
  • Extend learning opportunities. The web provides opportunities to interact and communicate in the target language in an authentic atmosphere--a worldwide community on the web.
  • Learner's needs and interests can be personalized and individualized according to their target language level and needs (Mertzani, 2011). Think conversational versus business language needs.
  • The acquisition of language is so complex that in some ways it cannot be taught (Chapelle, 2009)--a concept that tasks the instructor with the creation of an environment so students can acquire language--an environment that provides as many types of learning opportunities as possible.
  • The availability of the human experience world-wide. CALL is not a substitute for visiting/living within a culture, but it makes it possible for students to better understand cultures and thus their languages by visuals and websites.
  • More opportunities for interaction with native language speakers via blogs, social media, etc. and thus more opportunity to at least write the target language.
  • 24/7 access to all sorts of reading materials, whether for instruction or practice in the target language.

Issues for CALL

  • Care must be taken in evaluating the acquisition of a target language when using CALL. Different programs foster different learning opportunities, such as grammatical construction versus meaning-focused activities (Heift, 2012).
  • Copyright concerns. Can include pirating software, but also includes copyright concerns about using images, texts, etc., from the web (Garrett, 2009).
  • Keeping up with all the choices available and being able to evaluate their efficacy.
  • Is an amazing resource, but cannot take the place of talking to real people (Jimin, 2007).
  • Privacy and confidentiality. CALL systems may use cookies, etc. Using social media leaves digital footprints.

Examples of CALL

Programs, whether web-based or even CD-ROM based that are specifically designed for the target language
Among many others: PLATO, Rosetta Stone, Mango, Fluenz, Rocket Languages, Muzzy, E-Tutor (Heift, 2012), Pimsleur

Websites for interactive language learning
Among many others, though these are free:
http://www.busuu.com Free interactive language learning. Includes apps, talking with native speakers, grammar guides, etc.
http://www.pumurosa.com Free English basics for Spanish speaking adults
http://www.livemocha.com Free drop-in, virtual classes in 35 different languages

Online materials not necessarily designed for the foreign language student, but very useful:
Dictionaries, encyclopedias, reference sources, wikis, blogs, newspapers, journals, radio and tv channels, 2.0 tools for production of project work, etc.

Long distance learning:
Online classes through universities and through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)


Using the definitions under "What Is CALL?", could include technology used to manage classes and teaching: email, word processing, course management systems to post assignments and to manage grades. Not everyone agrees with including management technology in the definition of CALL (Garrett, 2009).

Present and Future Trends of CALL

  • Crossing of boundaries between formal and informal learning (Jarvis, 2013). Think social media as a form of language learning.
  • Use of Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL). Smartphones!
  • Smartphones, ebooks, tablets, social media, etc.
  • Web-based software
  • Internet materials--text, audio, and visual
  • Network based language teaching (NBLT)--email, discussion forums, twitter, skype, wikis, blogs, etc. (Blake, 2009).
  • Learning opportunities for less commonly taught languages (LCTL) such as Dutch, Portuguese, Hindi, etc. (Garrett, 2009).
  • Preserve dying languages, such as Navajo