Technology for Language Learning Blog by Gary Cziko

News and links concerning the latest technology that can be used for learning and teaching foreign languages. By Gary Cziko, founder of and major contributor to the Autonomous Technology-Assisted Language Learning (ATALL) Wikibook and the TLL Podcast.


Google's Directory Provides a World of Languages

Because of an upcoming visit to Chile in early 2008, I am interested in finding Chilean media (written, audio, and video) to learn more about Chile and get used to the Spanish that is spoken in this string-bean shaped country in South America.

While searching the Web for information about Chile I came across Google's Web Directory, which is page-ranked version of the Open Directory Project (also known as dmoz), a directory of Web links owned by Netscape that is developed and maintained by volunteer editors.

Of particular interest to language learners is the World category of this directory, which as described by Google,
. . . includes directory content for languages other than English. For example, in World/Nederlands all the content is in Dutch and the directory descriptions are written in Dutch. The pages in this section of the directory are usually not translations of English language pages, but a whole section of the Internet exclusively in that language.
Entering the World category reveals a list of 75 languages. To find Chilean radio stations broadcasting online I selected Español -> Medios de comunicación -> Radios -> Chile where I found 44 radio stations ranked via Google's PageRank method. Newspapers, magazines, podcasts and a treasure of other information is also easily found by selecting one's language and area of interest.

So if you are interested in finding text and multimedia in a language from Afrikaans to Vietnamese, the World category in Google's Directory is a good place to start.


Try Yabla for advanced listening comprehension in English, French and Spanish

Although I understand it has existed for some time, I only recently discovered a website and service that promises to be very useful for learners of Spanish, French or English who want to be able to understand fast, colloquial language.

Yabla provides "supported" video clips providing original-language and English captions of all audio, the ability to easily replay any segment (or skip to ones ahead) and control the playback speed (normal or slow). In addition, clicking on any word in the captions provides dictionary definitions in English.

I have now played through all ten available segments (usually about 2 to 3 minutes each) excerpted from the popular Argentinian telenovela (soap opera) "Muñeca Brava." Even though my Spanish listening ability is quite good (I can understand just about any radio or TV news program with little difficulty in Spanish), some of these clips were almost completely intelligible to me when first played without captions at normal speed. However, playing them at slow speed while studying the Spanish (and English when necessary) captions easily made the clips comprehensible so that soon normal speed without captions was understood without difficulty.

This is just the type of Spanish input I need to push my Spanish listening comprehension to the next level and I believe that many others learners of English, French or Spanish will also find Yable very useful for this purpose.

While most of the videos provided by Yabla are available only to paid subscribers for about $10 a month, there are several free videos that can be found by first choosing your language of interest and then selecting "FREE DEMO".


Radio-Canada makes French-language audio and video more accessible

More good news for learners and teachers of French.

Radio-Canada, Canada's French-language national radio and television service, has redesigned its website to make its audio and video offerings more accessible.

For French learners, Radio-Canada provides a rich source of quality live and on-demand radio and television programs, primarily concerning, news, information, culture, science and environment. Listings of Radio-Canada's podcasts ("baladodiffusion") and RSS feeds are also provided.

Of particular interest are the evening television news broadcasts (Le Téléjournal) which are kept for two months after being broadcast.

Unfortunately, the video quality is far from state-of-the-art for Internet multimedia as demonstrated by France 24. Hopefully, this will be improved in the future.


France 24 launched: TV with international news & cutlture in French & English

The big video news today for French learners is the launching of France 24 with 24-hour news, information and culture TV programming in both French and English with Arabic and Spanish to come.

The Wikipedia article on France 24 reports that:

France 24 will be available by satellite to most of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as by cable and antenna to New York and Washington, D.C.. Both the French and the French/English channels are available live on the France 24 website, broadcast en direct in Windows Media format.
I've been watching for the last hour or so via the Internet and both the French and English channels look quite good and interesting. Because of the Windows Media Format for the streaming, there is no problem with Windows computers. Mac users will need to use Flip4Mac in order to watch the WMP stream using QuickTime, or VLC Media Player.

France 24 promises to be a major presence on the international TV news scene now dominated by CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera, and an invaluable resource for those interested in the French language, culture and the French point de vue.


Netvibes and Pageflakes for RSS Feeds and Podcasts

I recently discovered a web-based RSS aggregator that has changed the way I keep up on news of interest and access both foreign-language text and audio on the web.

Netvibes is a web-based RSS aggregator that allows you to set up a free account including as many pages ("tabs") as you want with RSS feeds and podcasts. It also provides many recommended feeds (in various languages) which change according to the region or country you set as your "Local content" (Settings > Local content). It is very easy to arrange your tabs as you wish (I use a separate tab for each language I know) and I particularly like that Netvibes will popup the first paragraph or so of a text news feed when you put your cursor over a feed title. By putting the URL of a podcast in the "Feed:" field, Netvibes will allow you to play podcasts, too, using its embedded audio player. Unlike iTunes and other podcast aggregators, Netvibes does not download the audio files of a subscribed podcast to your computer. Rather, it accesses the audio only when you decide to listen. Of course you must be connected to the Internet for this to work and Netvibes will not synchronize your iPod or other portable audio player, but you can access your feeds and podcasts from any computer connected to the Internet.

Netvibes also allows you to share your feeds and podcasts with others. This can be done by either exporting your feeds as an OPML list that you then send to others as an e-mail attachment and which they can import into Netvibes. Or you can publish a tab of your feeds by using the pull-down menu provided for any tab you select. This can then be published via "Tab Sharing" on the Netvibes "ecosystem" and you will be provided with an URL and html code that you can then share with others (for example, my tabe of Spanish-language feeds and podcasts can be found at this URL). You may wish to consult this Netvibes tutorial for more information on Netvibes and how to use it.

Pageflakes is quite similar to Netvibes. Pageflakes has the added feature of allowing you to publish your entire Pageflakes site, instead of just OPML lists or a single tab as in Netvibes. However, I have run into problems trying to set up Pageflakes to aggregate podcasts and play them. So I am sticking with Netvibes for now.

I had never much used RSS feeds until I discovered Netvibes. And my iTunes application was starting to drown in downloaded podcast files which I could not access from any other computer. Now I have instant access to all the RSS feeds and podcasts I am interested from any computer connected to the Internet, and I can easily share my feeds and podcasts with students and colleagues. All this has served to make foreign-language input in the form of text and audio much more accessible to me a more a part of my daily life.

See the ATALL Wikibook for more information on using RSS feeds and podcasts for language learning.



The purpose of the Technology for Language Learning (TLL) Blog is to provide news of the latest technological developments and ideas for using technology to facilitate second and foreign language learning.

Readers interested in this topic will also want to consult the Autonomous Technology-Assisted Language Learning (ATALL) Wikibook as well as the Technology for Language Learning (TLL) Podcast.

Comments and questions are welcome. Readers are also welcome to make contributions to the ATALL Wikibook.