T. Ravichandran
Assistant Professor of English, IIT Kanpur
(Paper presented and published in the Proceedings: National Seminar on CALL,
Anna University, Chennai, 10-12 Feb. 2000, pp. 82-89.)
To begin with the question whether computers really assist second language learning, many teachers
who have never touched a computer tend to respond with an emphatic no; whereas, the overwhelming
number of teachers who give computers a try find that they are indeed useful in second language
learning. No doubt, computers make excellent teaching tools, especially in teaching languages in any
aspect, be it vocabulary, grammar, composition, pronunciation, or other linguistic and pragmaticcommunicative
skills. And the major benefits offered by computer in enhancing language acquisition
apparently outweigh its limitations.
Interest and Motivation
It is often necessary, in a language learning classroom, to provide repeated practice to meet important
objectives. Because this can be boring, painful, and frustrating, many students lose interest and
motivation to learn foreign languages. CALL programmes present the learner with a novelty. They
teach the language in different and more interesting, attractive ways and present language through
games, animated graphics and problem-solving techniques. As a result even tedious drills become more
interesting. In fact, CALL motivates the students to go beyond the point of initial mastery and practice
activity until they become automatic.
Many students need additional time and individualised practice to meet learning objectives. The
computer offers students self-instructional tasks that let them master prerequisite skills and course
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objectives at a speed and level dictated by their own needs. Besides, additional programmes can be made
available for students who master objectives quickly. These additional programmes can provide more
intense study of the same objectives, proceed to higher objectives, or integrate the objectives covered in
the unit with other objectives. In this manner, a computer gives individual attention to the learner and
replies immediately to questions or commands. It acts as a tutor and guides the learner towards the
correct answer while adapting the material to his performance.
A Compatible Learning Style
Students differ in their preferred styles of learning. Many students seem to learn much more effectively
when they are able to use a compatible learning style than when they are forced to employ an
incompatible one. Serious conflicts may arise when a teacher employs a style that is incompatible with
a student’s. In this regard, the computer can be used for adapting instruction to the unique styles of
individual students. To cite an instance, the computer can provide an exciting rapid-fire drill for one
student and a calm, slow-paced mode of presentation for another.
Optimal Use of Learning Time
By using the computer, students are often able to use their Academic Learning Time (ALT) more
fruitfully. Academic Learning Time (ALT) is the amount of time a student spends attending to relevant
academic tasks while performing those tasks with a high rate of success. For example, not all the time
officially scheduled for studying a foreign language is likely to be allocated to it. If an hour is assigned
to working on a topic, but the teacher devotes five minutes at the beginning of the session to returning
papers and five minutes at the end to reading announcements, then only fifty minutes have been
allocated to working on the topic. Scheduled time merely sets an upper limit on allocated time.
Likewise, allocated time merely sets the upper limit to engaged time, which refers to the amount of time
students actively attend to the subject matter under consideration. Even though fifty minutes may be
allocated to studying a topic in French class, students may stare out the window or talk to their
neighbours instead of pursuing the assigned activity. Therefore, even when they are actively engaged in
studying the foreign language, students learn effectively only when they are performing at a high rate of
success. This smaller amount of time is the factor that is most strongly related to the amount of learning
that takes place (Lareau 1985:65-67). Computers enhance second/foreign language academic learning
time by permitting learners to acquire specific information and practice specific skills and by helping
students develop basic tools of learning which they can apply in a wide variety of settings. This also
subverts the relationship between time and traditional instruction. Traditional instruction holds time
constant and allows achievement to vary within a group. Computer-assisted learning reverses this
relationship by holding achievement constant and letting the time students spend in pursuit of the
objectives vary.
Immediate Feedback
Learners receive maximum benefit from feedback only when it is supplied immediately. Their interest
and receptivity declines when the information on their performance is delayed. Yet, for various reasons,
classroom feedback is often delayed and at times denied. A deferment of positive feedback, though
important to act as encouragement and reinforcement, may not harm the progress of the learners.
Nonetheless, any delay in offering negative feedback, the knowledge that one is wrong, will become
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crucial. A blissfully ignorant student may continue mispronouncing a word or applying a misconception
before discovering the nature of this error. In such case, the computer can give instantaneous feedback
and help the learner ward off his misconception at the initial stage itself. In addition to this, the
computer can look for certain types of errors and give specific feedback, such as, “It looks as if you
forgot the article.”
Error Analysis

~ by jeanehistoria on December 29, 2009.

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