Developing students’ intercultural competence: An introductory lesson plan

June 9th, 2014 | Posted by Merica McNeil in culture | professional development | resources | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Developing students’ intercultural competence: An introductory lesson plan)

cultural icerberg

Want to talk about culture with your students, but not sure how to break the ice? As a starting point, it can be helpful to find out about their ideas regarding culture and the basis for these ideas. For example, what experiences have they had encountering other cultures? What challenges did they have? How did they deal with these challenges? What were the results? If they knew then what they know now, would they have dealt with the situation differently? If so, how? Discussing questions such as these, especially involving critical incidents, can help set the stage for starting to develop intercultural competence.

Since I had attended CERCLL’s Language Teacher Symposium led by Dr. Carmen King de Ramírez on March 8 on cultural intelligence activities (see details), I knew it was important to engage students in the discussion and find out the origins of their beliefs about other cultures. For example, are their beliefs based on their own experiences or from what they have heard others say about another culture? Carmen kept workshop participants engaged by providing a variety of practical activities that can be used to increase students’ cultural intelligence. She explained and demonstrated a variety of activities, and she also provided a packet of handouts to help teachers be able to implement activities in their classes.

When a colleague was looking for somebody to guest teach a lesson on the link between language and culture, I jumped at the opportunity. Instead of lecturing this class of university students on the chapter on this topic in their course textbook (Basics of Language for Language Learners), their teacher and I decided it would be more appropriate to help this group of students activate their background knowledge of culture based on their experiences. My lesson plan and Powerpoint are attached. Feel free to adapt them to suit your needs.


Powerpoint: Language_and_Culture


Culicover, P. & Hume, E. (2010). Basics of language for language learners. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press.


Penston, J. (n.d.). Visualising the iceberg model of culture. Retrieved from  James Penstone / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Upcoming Workshops on Engaging Chinese Students

May 29th, 2014 | Posted by Merica McNeil in Chinese | professional development | summer workshops | Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Upcoming Workshops on Engaging Chinese Students)

Places are currently still available for CERCLL’s summer workshops on engaging Chinese students, which will be held next Friday, June 6, 2014, in Tucson at the University of Arizona. The workshops are free to attend, but registration is required. There are a limited number of spaces, so register as soon as possible to secure your place.

An overview of the sessions and a link to registration is below:

Session 1: Engaging Chinese Language Students through Instructional Strategies, Activities and Relationships (9 am to noon)

Session 2: Engaging Chinese Language Students using Technology and Multimedia (1 pm – 4 pm)

The presenter for both of these workshops is Eric Chipman (University of Utah Confucius Institute).

This event is co-sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona.

For more details and to register for these or other workshops offered by CERCLL next week, go to the following website and click on “Register Now”:

Training Chinese Teachers in Communicative Language Teaching

December 11th, 2013 | Posted by Merica McNeil in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Training Chinese Teachers in Communicative Language Teaching)

Chinese teacher training was offered by the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This event was co-sponsored by CERCLL and attended mostly by K-12 teachers of Chinese working in Arizona. The morning workshop was led by Dr. Wenhao Diao, who recently joined The University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies and as an affiliated faculty member in the graduate program of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching. Prior to moving to Tucson in August 2013, Dr. Diao completed her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Diao has taught Chinese language, culture, and applied linguistics at various institutions including Carnegie Mellon University, Middlebury College, and the University of Virginia as well as at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China, where she earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. As an applied linguist, Dr. Diao is especially interested in the intersection of language and culture, particularly in Chinese. To read more about her background and recent publications, see: She is teaching a class on Chinese language teaching methods this Fall semester at the UA, which she’ll teach again in two years; this workshop brings some of that course to the K-12 community. You can also see her present a paper at January’s 2014 Intercultural Competence conference where the title of her talk is: Study Abroad: Being a Laowai or Becoming Like a Chinese.

In Dr. Diao’s workshop entitled “Communicative Language Teaching for Chinese: When, How, and for What Purposes?” she provided clear explanations and examples of how to effectively use communicative language teaching (CLT) in teaching Chinese. After the introduction and rationale, Dr. Diao briefly demonstrated three language teaching methods including grammar translation, the audio-lingual method, and CLT, which focuses on promoting language learners’ communicative competencies. She explained the goals of CLT, which include grammatical, discourse, sociolinguistic, strategic, and actional competences. As she emphasized, in CLT, students use the target language a great deal through communicative activities, which enables them to develop their communicative competencies. Dr. Diao explained how the teacher’s role in CLT changes in various stages of the lesson. More specifically, in the beginning, the teacher acts as a facilitator by preparing effective materials and tasks. When students are doing the communicative tasks, teachers should circulate to see how students are doing, answer any questions, and note where students are struggling. After students have been doing their tasks in small groups, the teacher should address problems, answer questions, and provide clarifications as necessary.

Throughout her workshop, Dr. Diao provided valuable examples of materials and tasks that she designed and used for teaching Chinese, many of which included authentic materials from pop culture. She pointed out that such materials and tasks contain linguistic and cultural content, which can motivate students because they are relevant. One sample included a multimodal poster and discussion questions. A second sample provided a picture strip story from a Chinese comic strip. The original text was deleted, and students needed to create their own interpretation of what was happening. In a third sample called scrambled sentences, each student was given a sentence in Chinese, and students were asked to read their sentences aloud to put themselves in the correct logical order, standing in a line.

The fourth example involved a role play in which some students were employees at the post office, and other students had specific requests or issues. After two minutes, students rotated so that they spoke with five different people, which promoted fluency and enhanced confidence. At the end, students voted on the best staff member in this example activity, which is appropriate for intermediate-level students. Dr. Diao highlighted that key aspects of effective role plays are that they encourage students to initiate, respond, and react. In addition, they include an information gap, meaning students need to communicate in order to find out the missing information from each other to accomplish the task. The role that she provides each student has a description and a specific need, which necessitates students using strategies to solve one or more problems.

Some other examples, which Dr. Diao used included short videos, one of which was of the Chinese version of The Voice, a transnational reality television singing competition. After demonstrating multiple examples, Dr. Diao reviewed how all of them included key elements to promote effective CLT: information gap, choice, and feedback. After highlighting several advantages of CLT including promoting fluency, Dr. Diao also mentioned some of CLT’s limitations. She explained that one challenge of CLT is to develop learners’ accuracy because it can be difficult for a teacher to listen to each student and give individual feedback. Furthermore, because of the preconceptions that learners may have of what language learning should be, some learners may not appreciate CLT. Thus she concluded that CLT is not a cure-all.

In the last part of her presentation, Dr. Diao provided several strategies for specifically promoting accuracy in Chinese pronunciation. She emphasized that language learners need to pronounce correctly because most Chinese people are not accustomed to foreigners’ speech. Since Chinese pronunciation poses great problems for language learners, Dr. Diao provided numerous useful strategies based on her own extensive teaching experience. For example, a teacher can use hand gestures to show students the direction of tones in Chinese pronunciation. She also showed a chart with the International Phonetic Alphabet and gave specific examples of how to help learners produce certain sounds that are typically difficult for English speakers to acquire.

The afternoon portion of the workshop included talks in Chinese by two local high school students who won awards in the 2013 Sixth Annual World “Chinese Bridge” competition: Anne Zlatow and José Antonio Gonzalez Mendoza. Each of these students talked about their experiences learning Chinese over the last four years. They also discussed their participation in the “Chinese Bridge” program, which enabled them to go to China and immerse themselves in the language and culture, an experience they both cherished. When responding to questions from the audience, Anne revealed that motivation was a key factor for her. She said that she loves learning Chinese and practices outside of class all the time, including talking with her friends outside of school and taking additional classes on the weekend at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center. José shared his keen insight when explaining that if you can learn Chinese, it shows that you can do anything if you work hard enough. This reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that if you do something for 10,000 hours, you can become an expert in that area.

At the end of the workshop, audience members were left inspired by these two students’ linguistic accomplishments and motivated to use CLT techniques that Dr. Diao so deftly demonstrated earlier in the day to promote students’ communicative competency.

This workshop was one of a number being offered to Chinese teachers by the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona and CERCLL. More information will be on available on our websites and you can sign up for announcements on CERCLL’s mailing list here:

For more information about the Confucius Institute at The University of Arizona, see:

Upcoming workshop on Innovative Technology in the Language Classroom

December 7th, 2013 | Posted by Merica McNeil in culture | professional development | SLAT - (Comments Off on Upcoming workshop on Innovative Technology in the Language Classroom)

Next Saturday, December 14, a free workshop will be offered at The University of Arizona on Innovative Technology in the Language Classroom. It is open to faculty and instructors of all languages.

The University of Arizona is a new member of several Arabic Flagship programs in the U.S. which are designed to improve the way Americans learn languages using innovative approaches to promote advanced language education.

According to Dr. Sonia Shiri, who is the Academic Director for the Arizona Arabic Flagship Program as well as Assistant Professor and Middle East Language Coordinator at the University of Arizona, the purpose of the workshop is to share cutting edge work using technology and encourage sharing ideas with the whole campus.

For more information about this event on December 14, see details here:

Location: The University of Arizona in Tucson, Marshall Building Room 490

The event is free, but an RSVP is required by December 10th in order to attend. RSVP here.

Download the flyer for full details.

The workshop is organized for the University of Arizona’s Arabic Flagship program by the Flagship Program, CERCLL, the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching, and the School of Middle East and North African Studies.

SWCOLT Conference Deadline Approaching

November 14th, 2013 | Posted by jtparry in professional development - (Comments Off on SWCOLT Conference Deadline Approaching)

The deadline for submitting a proposal to this conference is fast approaching (11/15)! See details below:

Southwest Conference on Language Teaching
2014 Conference at Snowbird Resort, Utah – April 24–26
Deadline to Submit a Proposal Approaching – November 15, 2013

Reaching New Heights Through Proficiency

SWCOLT/UFLA Accepting Session Proposals for 2014 Conference
Visit our site for the proposal form and more information about the conference:!conference/c1o4a

SWCOLT is currently accepting Session Proposals for our 2014 regional conference. The Utah Foreign Language Association is hosting the conference with us at the beautiful Cliff Lodge in the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City.

The theme of the conference is “Reaching New Heights Through Proficiency”. We encourage proposals that reflect the principal strands of the program:

  •  Teaching to Proficiency
  •  Teaching in the Target Language
  •  Dual Immersion Teaching Strategies
  •  Content-based Teaching
  •  Comprehensible Input Strategies
  •  Connecting to the Common Core
  •  Embedding Culture in the Curriculum
  •  Engaging Students in the WL Classroom
  •  Technology in the WL Classroom

You may submit proposals for a 60-minute session, and/or a 10-minute One Idea presentation.

The deadline for submitting a proposal for SWCOLT 2014 in Snowbird, Utah is November 15, 2013.

Half-day and full day workshops will be Thursday, April 24, 2014.
60-minute sessions and 10-minute One Idea Presentations will be on Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26, 2014.

Excellence in Classroom Teaching Awards

Visit our site to nominate a teacher to receive an award at the SWCOLT 2014 conference in Utah:!awards/c8k2

The Excellence in Classroom Teaching Award recognizes outstanding teachers of Languages Other Than English.  One individual may be recognized at each of the following levels:  elementary, secondary, and post-secondary. Any teacher residing in the nine state SWCOLT area can nominate or apply.

The Friend of the Profession Award recognizes an individual or organization not directly involved in the teaching of second languages that has made a significant contribution to the profession. Any teacher residing in the SWCOLT region may nominate/apply.

Honorary Lifetime Memberships are awarded to members who have made significant contributions to SWCOLT and to the language teaching profession.  Any teacher residing in the SWCOLT region may nominate/apply.

SWCOLT Teacher Scholarships Available 2014
Visit our site to apply for a scholarship:!awards/c8k2

The Centro MundoLengua Scholarship offers a wonderful opportunity for a high school Spanish AP Teacher to participate in Centro MundoLengua’s AP Summer Institute for Teachers in Sevilla, Spain, from June 22 to July 5, 2014. The scholarship includes tuition, room and board with a Spanish family (an individual room), course materials, completion certificate, cultural activities in Sevilla, and a welcome breakfast and farewell dinner.

The Universidad Internacional-The Center for Linguistic Multicultural Studies Scholarship offers a two-week opportunity to study language and culture in Cuernavaca, Mexico anytime in 2014. The scholarship includes registration and two weeks of course work. Transportation and lodging expenses are not included.

The Cemanáhauc Educational Community Scholarship offers Spanish language classes and intensive study of the arts and history of Mexico in an atmosphere of total immersion in the language and culture in colonial Cuernavaca, México. It is designed for a K-16 Spanish teacher who has had few previous opportunities to travel to Latin America, and who needs an opportunity to increase his/her oral fluency.

SWCOLT Board of Directors
Bonnie Flint (UT), President
Joyce Pitt (OK), Past-President
Judy Cale (CO), Program Chair, President-Elect
Natalie Figueroa (NM), Vice-President
Jocelyn Raught (AZ), ACTFL Representative
Paula Hirsch (CA), Evaluations
T. J. Troche (NV), Awards and Scholarships
Lynette Fujimori (HI) Teacher of the Year Program
Arron Wheeler (UT) Local Arrangements Chair
Mike Wood (UT), Newsletter Editor
Jody Klopp, Executive Director

Symposium on Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies

November 5th, 2013 | Posted by jtparry in culture | resources - (Comments Off on Symposium on Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies)

This coming weekend (November 10–11), CERCLL is sponsoring The Tucson Symposium on Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies. This event is funded by the National Science Foundation’s “Cyberlearning: Transforming Education” program, and involves a partnership with the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) and members of four southwest indigenous communities. The central goal of this symposium is to work with members from small communities as co-researchers investigating the viability of digital games, in this case using ARIS software, as a vehicle for learning both language and culture in a place-based approach. The indigenous communities involved share a common language family: Yuman. These mutually intelligible, but highly endangered, languages are still spoken to varying degrees. Community language educators from the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation, Ft. Mojave, Hualapai and Maricopa will be attending as will some of the teachers and high school students from Aha Macav Academy, a charter school which serves indigenous students. The presenters at the symposium include organizers, Drs. Jonathon Reinhardt (University of Arizona, specialist in second language learning through digital technologies), and Susan Penfield (former NSF Program Officer for Documenting Endangered Languages) along with Drs. Chris Holden (University of New Mexico, educational gaming), Steven Thorne (Portland State University, location-based language learning ), Sara Tolbert (University of Arizona, indigenous science education) and Ofelia Zepeda (Chair, University of Arizona Linguistics Department and member of the Tohono O’odham community, indigenous to Tucson).

Two concepts have guided the planning for this symposium/workshop: ‘think tank’ and ‘hands-on’. The schedule begins with learning to play a previously constructed game, “Desert Chef Apprentice’ on the UA campus, which requires digitally ‘gathering’ the raw materials for desert-based foods and processing them. After a working lunch discussion, we will visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to gather environmentally-based examples for use during Day 2, where participants will be building their own games in a computer lab.

As co-researchers, all of the participants, presenters and visitors, will be engaged in raising questions about the viability of such digital games for community-based language / culture education. We will want to question how the game might be re-imagined to include more cultural/ecological knowledge, more game elements, more language, and more fun. The discussions will introduce some concepts on game-mediated language pedagogy and location-based game design.

As a ‘think-tank’, the symposium will build on the knowledge and experiences of all of the participants, and will let things emerge naturally. To the extent possible, activities will be participant-driven as the vision for this is that all attendees are equal partners in this effort. This two-day initial gathering will be followed by a workshop offered at AILDI, 2014, by the symposium participants.  This workshop will be an opportunity to share their experience, new games and new ideas about incorporating place-based content in language-learning situations.

Report on the USDE’s Roundtable Visit

September 30th, 2013 | Posted by jtparry in cercll project | cercll staff | games to teach | professional development | title vi - (Comments Off on Report on the USDE’s Roundtable Visit)

From left to right: Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt, Dr. Béatrice Dupuy, Dr. Dann-Messier, Dr. Linda Waugh, and Dr. Kathy Short

We at CERCLL had something to celebrate this September 11: Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education and Acting Assistant Secretary of Education, and Dr. Sharon Lee Miller, Director of the Division of Academic and Technical Education, came to a roundtable held in their honor at The University of Arizona on the southwest leg of the U.S. Department of Education’s Back-to-School Bus Tour. The event began with Drs. Béatrice Dupuy and Linda Waugh providing an overview of CERCLL, explaining the purpose of the roundtable, and recognizing key guests including the University of Arizona’s Deans of Humanities and Education, leaders of the two National Resource Centers on campus, and other department and program Heads.

Dr. Dann-Messier served as the moderator of the roundtable and asked participants to introduce themselves and their work in the CERCLL projects. Then Dr. Kathy Short talked about how CERCLL’s Global Cultures project has been successfully implemented in many K-8 schools, expanded to produce additional materials for pre-school and elementary aged children, and also shared lessons learned. Next Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt explained about his two CERCLL projects: 1) Games To Teach: Developing Digital Game-Mediated Foreign Language Literacies and 2) a project sponsored by a National Science Foundation Cyberlearning Grant titled Partnerships in Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies, which will include a symposium on game-based learning with invited participants from Native American communities that will be held this November in Tucson.

After these overviews, Dr. Dann-Messier asked the international consultants who work with Dr. Short’s project and take the culture kits into K-8 schools to share their experiences using these materials as they interact with students, teachers, and parents. It was exciting to hear about how kids eagerly ask the international consultants questions and enjoy learning about their cultures while also interacting with the cultural artefacts and colorful books in the toolkits. One of the consultants working with the Arabic materials noted that many of the students using the kits had gone on later to take language courses.

Dr. Dann-Messier concluded the ceremonies and thanked everybody for their hard work and dedication to these educational projects; she added that one of the reasons for this event was to help make connections between relevant parties, and she is helping to connect people with similar interests. Several members of CERCLL’s core team attended a conference in Washington D.C. last week and were approached by others within the U.S. Department of Education who had heard about our activities because of the roundtable. In short, it was a successful visit as those in attendance got to hear inside perspectives about the two exciting educational projects at CERCLL, ideas were shared, and connections were made.

USDE-moderated Roundtable Discussion on K-8 Foreign Language Teaching

September 10th, 2013 | Posted by jtparry in cercll project | cercll staff | culture | games to teach | professional development | title vi - (Comments Off on USDE-moderated Roundtable Discussion on K-8 Foreign Language Teaching)

The US Department of Education’s annual back-to-school bus tour is underway! This week-long bus tour has the theme of “Strong Start, Bright Future”, and takes place in the US Southwest states of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California. You can read more about this bus tour on this site.

As part of this tour Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, The Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education and Acting Assistant Secretary of Postsecondary Education of the US Department of Education, will moderate in a roundtable held at the University of Arizona. You can read Dr. Dann-Messier’s biography here.

CERCLL was contacted by the USDE because of interest in some of our projects related to this year’s themes, specifically the Global Cultures project and Games to Teach project, and they wanted to learn more about how we are assisting in bringing culture and language learning to various communities.

This discussion will focus upon the tour’s themes of Teachers as Leaders and Early Learning. CERCLL’s Global Cultures project brings International Consultants and resource kits in several languages and world regions to local schools where they encourage exploration of foreign languages and cultures. The Games to Teach project provides educators the resources (both material and pedagogical) needed to design, implement and assess digital game-mediated learning activities; it has recently branched out with the assistance of a National Science Foundation Cyberlearning grant to Native American communities on the Arizona-California border.

Here are participants in the roundtable, that are taking part in the discussion in some form:

  1. Brenda Dann-Messier (USDE, Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education, Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education)
  2. Beatrice Dupuy (CERCLL Co-Director; Professor of French and Foreign Language Education in the UA’s Department of French & Italian; French Basic Language Program Director)
  3. Linda Waugh (CERCLL Co-Director; Professor in the UA departments of French and Italian, and English)
  4. Kathy Short (CERCLL Project Director; Professor in UA’s Language, Reading and Culture program; Worlds of Words Director)
  5. Jonathon Reinhardt (CERCLL Project Co-Director; Assistant Professor in UA’s Department of English; Director of the UA’s English Language/Linguistics program)
  6. Nayalin Feller (International Consultant 1: Global Cultures, Portuguese; Language Reading and Culture PhD student)
  7. MiKyoung Chang (International Consultant 2: Global Cultures, Korean; Postdoctoral Research Associate, College of Education)
  8. Ke Huang (International Consultant 3: Global Cultures, Chinese; Language Reading and Culture PhD student)
  9. Veronika Williams (International Consultant 4: Global Cultures, Russian; Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) PhD student)
  10. Fatima Abdulkazem (Teacher in Global Cultures; was International Consultant, Arabic; Safford Elementary now)
  11. Desiree Cueto (K-12 School official involved in Global Cultures: Multicultural Curriculum Coordinator, TUSD)
  12. Ofelia Zepeda (UA’s American Indian Language Development Institute Director; Games project collaborator;  Professor and acting Head of UA’s Department of Linguistics, and a MacArthur award winner for her poetry and work with the Tohono O’Odham community)
  13. Alyce Sadongei (UA’s American Indian Language Development Institute Program Coordinator; Games project collaborator)

In addition, the UA Deans of Humanities and Education will be in attendance, along with UA’s Acting Vice President for Research, and some other department and program heads involved in foreign language education related to these projects. Finally, there are educators and students interested in these themes attending as well.

Twitter: #EDTour13

Ten Online Tools for Language Learning, Pt. II

May 16th, 2013 | Posted by jtparry in resources - (Comments Off on Ten Online Tools for Language Learning, Pt. II)

Do you feel like exploring some online language tools over the summer to practice your own language skills, or want some ideas for the future? Here are five more tools, as a continuation of the first part of ten online tools for language learning:

6. Listen and Write

This site features a tool for transcribing various audio sources, including speech and songs from mp3s and YouTube video. Listen and Write currently has audio in 22 different languages which is broken down into over 20 proficiency levels. There are a variety of search options—you can search by proficiency level, language, category, or user channel. For the transcription, there are three different modes: full mode (requiring the entire sentence), quick mode (you only need to enter the first letter of each word), and blank mode (you fill out some of the words in blanks). The site gathers statistics about your activity, and lets you review what you have studied and see problem areas. Here is a screenshot from the transcription page:

You can also add to the site by submitting audio through your own mp3s, by linking to online mp3s, or by using YouTube videos. You need to submit a transcript of the audio so that it can be transcribed. Listen and Write also has a few beta tools, including a level test for English and a program for learning numbers.

7. Text 2 Mind Map

This is a free site for creating mind maps. It is very simple to use: Just use tabs to create a hierarchy of terms in the text box on the left, and click “Draw Mind Map”. Your terms will appear mapped out in different colors, and you can use the mouse to adjust the positioning of any box within the mind map. This works for any language. There is also a tab under the text box for options, where you can change the font, colors, line scheme, etc. See below for an example:

On the site there is also an option to download your mind map as an image or PDF. In sum, Text 2 Mind Map is a quick way to organize L2 concepts and vocabulary into groupings such as semantic fields and differing verb conjugations. There are many possibilities.

8. Lang-8
On Lang-8 you can create a free account to engage in language exchanges that focus fully on writing. In other words, you can post a piece of your writing in an L2 on the site, and native speakers of that L2 can use site annotation tools to correct it. These annotations make the corrections easy to follow, and there is room for comments. You can do the same for learners of your L1, and make friends in this way as on social networks. There are also a few additional features that are available through a paid premium account, including downloadable entries, prioritization of posts, and customizable URLs. Here is a sample screenshot from the site:

Lang-8 offers a convenient way to receive feedback on your writing and to think critically about language as you correct others. Although native intuition may not always be what you are looking for or may be too subjective, this is a great place to feel more in touch with the actual usage of your L2 and learn how to say utterances that you may not encounter in formal settings.

9. RhinoSpike
This free site has a similar premise to Lang-8, only it works to improve L2 listening. The site is simple: First, you provide texts in an L2. These audio requests go into a queue, and wait for native speakers of your L2 to correct the text if needed and then read it for you. You can also read texts in your L1, and your own requests move up the queue as you read for other language learners. Alternately, you can do the opposite, and submit audio or video, such as from youTube, that you want native speakers to transcribe. A sample audio request is shown in the screenshot below:

Due to the nature of RhinoSpike, you can choose texts to be recorded that are at your proficiency level and that match your interests. As shown in the screenshot above, there is also space for giving instructions to the recorder. In addition, this site can be used to have problem words or sentences pronounced for you. Thus this site gives users freedom and flexibility for practicing language listening.

10. Diigo

Diigo is a cloud-based bookmarking tool which offers a wide range of capabilities. It is used to bookmark webpages or images and store them for offline viewing or share them. In addition, Diigo allows users to annotate web pages with highlighting and sticky notes, and organize these pages in an online library. There are a few different ways you can integrate this tool into your browser, including as a bookmarklet or actual toolbar. The basic version of Diigo is free, although there are some premium capabilities available as well. Below is a screenshot that illustrates Diigo:

The screenshot above shows one usage for Diigo in language learning—you can access web pages and save them into your library. Then you can access tools to highlight words you do not know, and add sticky notes with definitions or encyclopedia entries. In this way Diigo could be used like hypermedia glossing, as one possible way of using it. Although Diigo is no doubt very useful, there are many other options available. If you are just looking for a simple way to save pages and annotate them, you may want to try tools such as Scrapbook, which is a free plugin for Mozilla Firefox that allows you to easily create folders and organize files that you have annotated with less to worry about.

In conclusion, there are many useful tools for online language learning. Some are already adapted to language learning and require little to no adaptation, whereas others are useful in general and offer promising applications to the language teaching context. It can be useful to explore and see the strengths and weaknesses of certain tools, as there are often many for certain areas. This post has given a little information about five such tools, and you are welcome to see the current list of annotated links collected by CERCLL here.

Ten Online Tools for Language Learning, Pt. I

March 22nd, 2013 | Posted by jtparry in resources - (Comments Off on Ten Online Tools for Language Learning, Pt. I)

There are numerous online tools that can be used in language learning and in second language (L2) classrooms; in fact, it is a focus of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) to find and adapt such tools. From among these many choices, the next two blog posts will introduce ten tools that are available online. These tools can be used in the language classroom to enhance learning, or they could be used by students to supplement their classroom experience. These ten tools come from an extensive list of language learning links that CERCLL has compiled, which you can find on the resource page (available here). Although the links on the resource page are annotated with a brief overview, these posts allow for greater description of a few of the tools. Here are the five of thee tools, with screenshots (Click the title to visit the link):

1. Lingro

This free online tool allows users to learn vocabulary within the context of reading. Currently on the site there are bilingual dictionaries for 11 different languages (in 22 combinations, most of which involve English as one of the languages). Using Lingro is very straightforward—simply find an online text and enter its URL where indicated on the Lingro homepage. Below is an example of this, using the Wikipedia article for Star Wars in French. By entering the URL for this page on Lingro, you can click any word in the text to get its translation. In this example I clicked on étoiles and a blue box popped up with the gender, definition, and part of speech:

Lingro also keeps track of words you have clicked on for your benefit and future study. On the website, you can review the words you have clicked on and create word lists with them. You can also view the sentential context for words that you have clicked on. Finally, you can create flashcards with these words. There is also a place on Lingro for users to help build the bilingual dictionaries, since the growth of the site is a collaborative effort.

 2. Italki

This site allows language learners to engage in a language exchange, in which two language learners mutually help each other by devoting time to practice each learner’s L2. These language exchanges can take place over Skype, e-mail, chat, or however the two parties decide. Italki offers a search tool for users to look up other users by the language that they speak and the language they are trying to learn. You can also search locations, genders, where speakers are from originally, or filter the results to display only those who are native speakers or have a photo. From this search, you are able to connect with those who match your interests and goals to set up a language exchange. It is also possible to set up a profile about yourself. Most parts of italki are free, but in addition to language exchanges there are also tutors from around the world who offer lessons for a charge. Here is a screenshot from italki:

This tool is very helpful, but it is important to plan for possible technical problems that may arise during these exchanges, and time zones may create difficulty in establishing synchronous (real-time) communication. There are many tools on the internet for finding language exchange partners, and it is worthwhile to explore the advantages and disadvantages of several. For example, some sites have different tools for finding users with similar interests, offer more or less free services, or list more speakers of a given L2. Other sites for exchanges include MyLanguageExchange, InterPals, The Mixxer, Conversation Exchange, SharedTalk, xlingo, and many others.

3. LyricsTraining

LyricsTraining is a unique site that offers over three thousand music videos with accompanying lyrics for purposes of practicing L2 listening. It has videos in 7 different languages, and these videos are rated according to the difficulty level of the lyrics. To use this tool, learners watch videos and need to provide all or part of the song lyrics as music videos play, depending on the game difficulty that they select. Their efforts are timed, and they cannot proceed through a song until they enter a lyric correctly; learners are given points based on their times. The words from these songs are stored in a word list for later reference. Here is an example screenshot (using the intermediate level game):

This tool is also built collaboratively, so that users can add music videos and timed lyrics to the site from YouTube. Once their contribution is reviewed, it is added to the site’s selection.

4. Storybird

This site offers tools for creating digital stories while choosing from a large selection of beautiful illustrations. Using Storybird, teachers or learners can find meaningful artwork and create a story alongside the pictures. As you create a story, several additional images to choose from appear next to your story. Here is a glimpse of the site:

These stories can be private, browsed by others, or even embedded and shared over social networks. Storybird offers free basic accounts, and has options for educators. This site would especially work well for K-12 students, but it could also be motivating and serve to stimulate creativity and writing skills in older language learners.

5. Eyercize

Eyercize is a novel way for learners to improve their L2 reading speed and vocabulary recognition; it is a free online tool for practicing speed reading by using sample texts on the site or by copying and pasting other texts. The main feature on the site is a reading pacer, which can be used as a tachistoscope. This reading pacer includes a sidebar with several adjustable settings (so that readers can choose the WPM reading speed, the amount of highlighted words, the number of words surrounding those highlighted, font size, etc.). The tool further collects statistics about each reader’s performance. This is shown in the below screenshot:

In addition to the stand-alone reading pacer, there is also an Eyercize bookmarklet which learners can add to their browser’s toolbar, which allows you to select text on any webpage and then click the bookmark icon to open the speed reader.

In conclusion, it can be overwhelming to be bombarded with so many useful online tools for foreign language learning. This list has provided some choices in this area, and serves as both a springboard to a greater exploration of online tools and an idea-generator for L2 curriculum and independent learning. If these tools are implemented into curriculum, teachers should remember to control the use of the tools, and not let the tools do the teaching.