TWEET ALL ABOUT IT: A question raised by an educator in Oakland, CA:
What tools are helpful for teaching foreign languages? What tools could help ESL students gain mastery in their first language?
Culture, culture, culture. That was the message from participants in our Twitter chat (#esinstruct) on language technology. @jimspanish summed up several comments when he noted: "we believe culture is as important as learning the language." Authentic dialogue--or better, chats with native speakers--really help, added @mexifornio. Skype and gchats are ways to connect students across borders.
Two resources friends shared outside of the chat that emphasize culture exchanges include this free site for connecting teachers who are looking for international-partner classrooms and The Flat Classroom project, which uses projects to knit together classrooms across international boundaries.
Watching movies with the subtitles in the target language is a tried and true strategy, added @mindyeve. @PlaySay observed that the growing number of tools means that teachers can try to match technology to the different learning skills of various students. @DaviesAZ asserted that learning the basics of a language can be done in a few days "if you focus on it" and that the hardest part of learning a language is establishing "a standard daily schedule." (Even so, here's an infographic that categorizes the hardest languages for English speakers to learn.)