On campuses all over the world, universities spend millions on setting up Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) rooms. At Sophia, there’s a whole floor dedicated to them. As a computer nerd and language teacher, I should be excited about this, but I really think they’ve put the cart pretty far in front of the horse. Sure, they’ve got rows and rows of computers for students to sit at, but there’s almost no real language learning software out there that we can use in teaching.
That’s part of the rationale behind the work I’m doing for my master’s thesis right now. Based on real research on real Japanese learners, I’ve made a program to help teach learners to differentiate two of the hardest distinctions in English: L/R and compound stress. Learners sit down for about ten minutes and watch video clips, then choose the correct response. They need to differentiate words that differ just on that one sounds difference (minimal pairs), like “cloud” vs. “crowd” or “blackboard” vs. “black board”.
I’ve recorded all the video, and the programming is nearly finished. All that’s left is to set a bunch of students in front of it and see if it helps them. I’m hoping this will lead to more software that targets more varied skills, going beyond the vocabulary builders and grammar exercises that flood the market. Wish me luck!