Over the last few years videos and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) have
helped many learners to improve their English. CD-ROM combines the benefits of video
and CALL and is already beginning to make a strong impact in language learning.
How much do you know about it?
What does CD-ROM stand for?
Compact Disk Read Only Memory. This means that you can read information stored on
the disk but not record anything new on it. This makes it especially practical for
schools or self-access centres where there will be many CD-ROM users.
What equipment do you need to use a CD-ROM program?
A personal computer with a minimum memory of 8 megabytes
and a 486 processor or higher. In addition you need to have a sound card, speakers,
a microphone and a CD-ROM drive. With this equipment you now have a multimedia centre.
What can you do with a CD-ROM program?
There are two main categories of program. There are language reference CD-ROM
programs such as dictionaries. You can look up words you do not know and read their
meaning(s); often there are helpful illustrations. You can listen to how these words
are pronounced. And you can do all this extremely quickly - in seconds.
The second type of program is to help you on your language learning course.
Here is a description of some typical CD-ROM language learning activities. Not all
these activities are provided on all CD-ROM programs. Programs differ depending
on level and content.
You can watch a short video or look at pictures and listen to, for
example, a conversation. The video is an interesting and motivating way of helping
you to understand the language, especially if it shows you people using the language
in real situations. You can then listen again and check your comprehension by answering
questions. You are in control of the program so you can stop if you are finding
an exercise difficult and play the dialogue again for as long as you like.
You can play the conversation again, listen and repeat each sentence
or phrase. You can record your own voice and compare it with the CD-ROM recording.
You can take part in a conversation - playing one person (Mr/Mrs A) - and respond
to what Mr/Mrs B says - and then you can play Mr/Mrs B. This can all be recorded
and you can hear yourself from beginning to end. You can do these and similar exercises
with the text visible or not on the computer screen. Some programs may be available
in a version targeted for your nationality and you will therefore be able to have
instructions and translations in your own language.
Many programs have a lot of practice activities which you can work on at your own
speed and in your own time to remind yourself of Grammar, Spelling,
Numbers, the Alphabet, Vocabulary or Pronunciation.
Many CD-ROM programs include a self-testing element: you can find out how well you
do by getting a score at the end of an exercise or section of the CD-ROM!
What are the benefits of using CD-ROM in a language learning course?
There are lots! You can work with a CD-ROM program alone, as fast or as slowly as
you like, focusing on your own particular needs. You can practise points of grammar
or pronunciation again and again; there is not always time for this in your classroom
activities. You can revise and consolidate language you have just been taught at
a time convenient to you.
Can a technophobe use CD-ROM?
Yes. If you are not familiar with personal computers, you will need to spend a short
time getting to know how the keyboard works and how to proceed through the program.
However, the CD-ROM manufacturers are now producing much more user-friendly programs
to make them accessible to everyone - even people who think a mouse is a small grey
animal fond of cheese!