The International TEYL Journal
FREE Materials for Teachers   |   CertTEYL Certificate Course  |   FREE Monthly Newsletter
Return to journal index and home page.

Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) for TEYL

By Phillip L. Smith

Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) for Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL). The computer is a child's wonderland. The use of CALL software such as Windows Messenger, E-mail, the Internet, and other specific and non specific software can be integrated using effective pedagogy to create a powerful language learning programme. Computer Technology offers a certain degree of independent and structured learning. It easily assists and even stimulates young second language learners in all four skills of listening, speaking, writing, reading and also critical thinking (Cobb & Stevens, 1996). Two case studies presented show that computer technology has enhanced programmes in literacy and language learning.

Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL). Hanson-Smith (2004) suggests that computer technology can provide the student with the means to control his or her own learning, to construct meaning and to evaluate and monitor their own performance. Bruce (1993) states that the computer will change the nature of learning by placing the power of learning more in the hands of the learner. However, focus will need to be adjusted in developing an effective pedagogy for using computers in the classroom. Students will need to adapt to the technology. A student's personality, language proficiency and experience could influence the progress in adapting to TELL. Risk-takers are likely to master software easily and students who possess a higher language competence are likely to benefit from electronic medium. The more skilled and experienced users will focus on content whereas the less skilled may focus on mechanics. (Phinney, 1996). So it is important for teachers to identify, states Bickel & Truscello (1996) which strategies they should use. Structure is essential to making the computer lab an effective teaching environment (Trickel & Liljegren, 1998).

Cobb & Stevens (1996) make several recommendations in designing a computer based language programme. Designers should pay attention to pedagogy used in the process. Software should entail repetitive language drills and practices that provide immediate feedback and allow students to proceed at their own pace. It could be used to teach grammar creating an environment in which students could use the target language naturally on the screen. Computer use would stimulate student discussion, writing, critical thinking in a role that would empower the learner to use and understand language in using, for example, a word processing, spelling and grammar checkers; MS Messenger and the use of the Internet as a multimedia tool. This allows a variety of media including text, graphics, sound, animation and video which relates to a more authentic learning environment. (Underwood, 1984). Students can be paired up across the Internet or even in class and hold authentic realistic conversations. The hypertext medium of the World-Wide Web or Internet enhances reading and writing skills (Warschaver, 1995) and suits students with different levels of language ability. Students can compile messages using e-mail (Warschaver, 1996) to negotiate different languages experiences, collaborate on projects, ask the teach for help, indulge in real-time conversations, send letters, have pen-pals and go to libraries, all using the computer and the Internet (Hoffman, 1996). In tests outcomes, it shows that students wrote more effectively while having positive attitudes toward learning (Chapell, Jamerison & Park, 1996).

Using e-mail, students can receive effective feedback. The teacher can comment on writings using this facility. The teacher is able to respond to requests from students and examine their work in progress. E-mail feedback makes it possible for a teacher to develop ideas, both collectively and individually and ask better questions and at the same time providing examples and offering remarks.

Hypermedia (a retrieval system that provide access to texts, audio, graphics and video related to a particular subject), according to Ashworth (1996), provides a rich collection of resources. This can be used to support reading and listening in a foreign language and facilitate pronunciation training. Reading over the Web is a receptive skill that requires no oral skills to complete. Proof that the student has understood a reading can be accomplished through writing. The linking of media supports reading which by way of digitized voice can be pronounced. Contextual meaning can be illustrated through pop up graphics, animated sequences and video clips.

Even though not strictly an ESOL class, we see how computers enhance the learning process with a group of 15 year old students in the following case study.

Case Study # 1. This case study is based on an ethnographic research tradition using grounded theory to derive theory from classroom processes. It looks at the teaching methodology and classroom environment by way of specific observations of a literacy, language and numeracy class of fifteen year old first and second language speakers.

A Computer Learning Assistance Programme (CALP) was implemented in 2000 to deal with a group of school leavers who had no interest in normal school study. Computers were an important aspect in CALP, used to enhance literacy, learning, language and numeracy. New Zealand Qualification Authority units standards were used to provide the basis of a National Certificate in Employment Skills (NCES). The computers were used for word processing, specialized software for learning numeracy, English and research of topics.

The 17 students came with an array of problems: attitudes such as lack of self-confidence, rebellion, drugs, homeless, alcohol, depression and lack of English. The students indicated the main reason for leaving school was the fact they couldn't learn in a normal school environment.

During the 24 week full time course, there were six observations. The scope of the findings surrounded different modes of delivery and methodology. These included a teacher-central classroom and one-on-one self paced study plus group work. During the observations, learning was observed to take place only when students worked individually on their computers with the self paced units. Students did not respond well to typical teacher delivered classroom instructions. It was also observed that students always kept themselves busy using the computer and only requested help when they needed it. Hanson-Smith (2004) mentions this by saying that computers are patient, they speak clearly, and they don't (in their best incarnations) give off subtexts implying that the user is dumb; however, the current success of multimedia software may be that the student is kept busy and feels safe. The results revealed that, with the exception of five students who dropped out of the programme, twelve completed the course and received their NCES.

Brown (2000) said that there are visual and auditory styles of learning along with process, storage and retrieval. This has to do with how students productively express meaning. Brown also says that learning can be thought of as cognitive, affective and physiological traits. These are the basic processes used in learning. They are relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with and respond to their learning environment.

In regards to styles of learning, a field independent style enables a student to distinguish parts from a whole whereas field dependence is dependent on the total field so that the parts are not easily perceived. The students under study were generally field dependent in that they couldn't perceive the need for group work or teacher centred classroom instruction.

Case Study # 2. This study was also done by way of an ethnographic research tradition using grounded theory in 2004. Different from Case Study # 1 it centred around one student who was field independent studying a National Certificate in Education Achievement course from the New Zealand Correspondence School in Mandarin Chinese. The course consists of 12 lessons with one set of language files for each lesson. Each lesson included two or more sets of text with drills and grammar points. The course also included a list of vocabulary words in both pinyin and characters with English meanings covered by the 12 lessons. The course was enhanced through the use of MS Word® & MS Windows XP® Chinese Language Feature. The student created his own dictionary using an MS Word® Table with seven columns, the first with pinyin, then the Chinese characters, the English meanings, the word used in a sentence in Chinese characters, a reference number to the lesson and a grammar point for the word in the way it was used in the sentence. Vocabulary was added at the start of each lesson. He then created a set of macros to sort the table on any of the columns. This provided a way of showing information in different ways. This 'dictionary table' was left at the start of the document. The document was then divided up into 12 sections each covering information and notes typed from each of the lessons. Text was typed out both in pinyin and Chinese characters. It was found that after typing the sentence out in Chinese characters several times, a person easily remembered what each character stood for. Each Chinese character text was linked to language voice file. By clicking on the icon, the student heard the voice file of the text using MS Windows Media Player®. The file could be changed in any way from repeating a sentence to repeating a word. A search from anywhere in the dictionary table using either the Chinese pinyin column, the Chinese character column, or English meaning column immediately to the information needed. The use of the computer and computer software in this fashion created an interactive language programme that enhanced learning.

CALL Software. Squire & McDougall (1994) point out that teachers should be responsible for the selection of suitable educational software packages plus devise various kinds of relevant activities based on the content of the software. Teachers can modify a software package to support a variety of activities in the classroom to help fulfill their teaching goals. Software of this nature can be divided up into content free (software that is not necessarily designed for ESOL) and subject specific. Content free can include word processors, spreadsheets and databases. Content free software includes much of the afore mentioned use of the computer technology and the Internet for language learning whereas subject specific packages are designed to be used in specific teaching and controlled learning environments. This type of software can be further divided up into instructional, revelatory and conjectural. Some of this software is specifically designed to support an existing curriculum. This is known as explicit software, developed and used for an educational purpose.

Two packages examined here, by no means is exhaustive of what is available today but is at the very least only representative. 'Learn to Speak English' (Romusier, Bruno & Rice, 1995) and 'English Works 1 & 2' (O'neill, 1993) uses programmed instruction, second language acquisition and, to a degree, an artificial intelligence in their makeup.

'Learn to Speak English' (Romusier, Bruno & Rice, 1995) comes with two CD disks, plus tests and workbook. The software is topic-based using situations with people and places which shows the influence of CALL's historical development. The guide encourages students to take a linear approach to all work. The package is for elementary to lower intermediate students. With 'English Works 1 & 2' (O'neill, 1993), the first CD contains 16 topic based units. It's a little more advanced both in presentation and operation than 'English With Us'. After each dialogue language is developed further with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation points are dealt with.

For a more comprehensive list of software tailored for TEYL see Appendix I.


Language Learning can be integrated with computer technology, the World Wide Web, and the use of general and specific language software. It can enhance language programmes already in use. Computer Assisted Language Learning includes many different aspects from communicating by e-mail, speaking using messenger software or researching a project in English over the Internet. Language specific software is available for more controlled exercises and language learning.

1. This was funded by the New Zealand Government for a specific Private Training Establishment (PTE) in Hamilton, New Zealand. Fifteen year olds required Ministry of Education approval to be in the class.


Ashworth, D. (1996). Hypermedia and CALL. In M. Pennington (Ed.), The Power of CALL (pp. 79-96). Houston: Athelstan Publications.

Bickel, B. & Trucello, D. (1996). New opportunities for learning: Styles and strategies with computers. TESOL Journal, 6(1), 15-19.

Brown, H.D. (2000). Styles and Strategies. In Principles of Language Learning and Teaching: Fourth Edition. Longman: New York.

Bruce, B. (1993). Innovation and social change. In B. Bruce, J.K. Peyton & T. Batson (Eds.), Network-based classrooms: Promises and Realities (pp. 9-32). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Chapelle, C., Jamieson, J., & park, Y. (1996). Second language classroom research traditions: How Does CALL Fit? In M. Pennington (Ed.) The Power of Call (p. 35). Houston: Athelstan Publications.

Cobb, T. & Stevens, V. (1996). Computer assisted development of spoken language skills. In M. Pennington (Ed.), The Power of CALL. Houston: Athelstan Publications.

Hanson-Smith, E. (1997). Technology in the classroom: Practice and promise in the 21st century. TESOL Professional Papers (Online). Retrieved Nov 13th, 2004 from,

Hoffman, R. (1996). Computer networks: Webs of communication for language teaching. In M. Pennington (Ed.), The Power of CALL (pp. 55-78). Houston: Athelstan publications.

O'neill, R. (1993). English Works 1 & 2. London: Longman Group.

Phinney, M. (1996). Exploring the virtual world: Computers in the second language writing classroom. In M. Pennington (Ed.), The Power of Call (pp. 137-152).

Romusier, J., Bruno, C. and Rice, M. (1995). Learn to Speak English; The Complete Interactive course, Text and Workbook. Distributed by Softkey International Ltd. The Learning Company, London: England.

Squires, D. & McDoual, A. (1994). Choosing and Using Education Software: A Teachers' Guide. London: Falmer Press.

Trickel, K. & Liljegren, K. (1998). Using Multimedia Computers Effectively in the ESL Classroom. TESOL Professional Papers (Online). Retrieved Nov 13th, 2004 from,

Underwood, J. (1984). Linguistics, Computers, and The Language Teacher: A communicative Approach. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Warschauer, M. (1995). Appendix B: Basic internet tools for foreign language educators. In M. Warschauer (Ed.). Virtual Connections (pp. 393-412). Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Warschauer, M. (1996). Computer-Assisted Language Learning: An Introduction. In S. Fots (Ed.), Retrieved Aug 1, 1999 from,

Appendix I

Comprehensive List of TEYL software. For more information search for key words on the Internet such as ESOL software, CALL software, Education software or any of the specific names shown below.

Academy of Reading (Windows)
Software for the class. It's self directed learning for reading and literacy.

Brother Bear
A fun, quest-style game based on the 2003 movie of the same title. Best suited as a rainy days activity.

Classroom Newspaper Workshop
For children, teens or adults in a group setting. The teacher set tasks.

Clifford the Big Red Dog: Phonics
Promotes letter and sound recognition, associating objects with words, word families, and rhyming.

I Spy Fantasy
Includes 54 riddles that players must solve by finding objects hidden in a scene. Best for children with longer attention spans.

Just Grandma and Me and other Living Books
Created by Broderbund for children with reading and listening in mind. The teacher sets tasks for the children to do.

Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster
A fascinatingly addictive and effective program that hooked our reviewers, young and old. Best for beginners and early learners.

Let's Go Interactive
Created by DynEd. A comprehensive software for younger children. Self directed learning.

Lilo & Stitch 2: Hamsterviel Havoc
An adventure style video game that will be attractive to young fans of the TV and movies with these animated characters.

Making More Music
Experiment with different instruments, then put together the components of a musical score. Best for kids with music backround and interest.

Math Missions: The Amazing Arcade Adventure Grades 3-5
More than a dozen math activities covering a range of grade-appropriate skills, in real-world settings. Best-suited for students working at the indicated grade levels.

Math Missions: The Race to Spectacle City Arcade Grade K-2
Key math concepts for early learners. Best for children who already have familiarity with basic math concepts, and with using a computer mouse and keyboard.

McGee Series
Created by Lawrence Productions for group work in reading and literacy.

Mia's Language Adventure: The Kidnap Caper
A unique introduction to either or both Spanish and French. While solving a mystery, users play a series of games progressing from distinguishing sounds of letters and spelling words to deciphering simple dialogue. Best for kids with strong concentration skills.

Mission Possible World Geography
A geography quiz, cloaked in the guise of an adventure game. Best suited as a practice and review tool for junior high students.

Moop & Dreadly in the Treasure on Bing Bong Island
A wonderfully animated task in observation and problem solving, from the founders of Humongous Entertainment. Best suited to home use by young users (5-6) with persistence.

Mozart's Magic Flute The Music Game
A fun and educationally valuable musical jigsaw puzzle that teaches not only music listening skills, but also provides dollops of contextually relevant (and interesting) history.

Music Ace Deluxe
Sequenced series of lessons in hearing, reading and composing beginning piano music. Best for 4-12 year olds who want to practice beginning piano music.

Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island
Encourages girls to be independent problem solvers. Girls take on the role of the famous teen sleuth: exploring new places, questioning motives, collecting evidence and analyzing clues.

Oxford Picture Dictionary Interactive
Created by Oxford University Press for children, teens and adults to learn vocabulary.

Playhouse Disney The Wiggles: Wiggle Bay
A collection of eight games and activities, hosted by well-known Australian children's entertainers, the Wiggles.

Playhouse Disney's Stanley: Wild for Sharks!
An interactive, animated extension of Andrew Griff's popular series of children's books. Best-suited for lover's of the character and/or the topic, AND those children who have the patience for a quest-type activity.

Stationery Studio
Allows teachers and students to create and print themed writing papers and templates for reports, letters, shape books and creative writing projects.

Storybook Weaver
Created by the Learning Company for group work for children. Use in controlled writing tasks.

Comments and questions? Please contact us.

The International TEYL Journal is owned, published, and copyrighted © 2006 - 2012 Advanced Teacher Training.
All rights reserved. Online ISSN 1705-6276 Print ISSN 1705-6268 CD-ROM ISSN 1705-6284