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Comments wanted: some interesting CALL ideas

Date Submitted: 01-Oct-2009
From: Ziyuan Yao
Subject: Comments wanted: some interesting CALL ideas
Contact Email: click here to access email

Notice: Hello All,

Here are some quite new CALL (computer-assisted language learning) ideas. You can discuss them with me at

To see the complete list of items, and an HTML rendering of all characters please visit:

* Automatic Code-Switching (ACS) - The computer automatically selects a few words in a user's native language communication (such as a web page being viewed), and supplements or even replaces them with their foreign language counterparts, thus naturally building up his vocabulary. For example, if a sentence
(Chinese for 'He is a good student.') appears in a Chinese person's Web browser, the computer can insert student after 学生 (optionally with additional information such as student's pronunciation):
他是一个好学生 (student)。
After several times of such teaching, the computer can directly replace future occurrences of 学生 with student:
他是一个好 student。
Ambiguous words such as the 看 (Chinese for 'see', 'look', 'watch', 'read', etc.) in
(Chinese for 'He is reading a book before the TV.') can also be automatically handled by listing all context-possible translations:
他在电视前看 (阅读: read; 观看: watch) 书。
Practice is also possible:
他在电视前 [read? watch?] 书。
Because the computer would only teach and/or practice foreign language elements at a small number of positions in the native language article the user is viewing, the user wouldn't find it too intrusive. Automatic code-switching can also teach grammatical knowledge in similar ways.
* Progressive Word Acquisition (PWA) - In ACS, long words are optionally split into small segments (usually two syllables long) and taught progressively, and even practiced progressively. For example, when
(Chinese for 'Colorado') first appears in a Chinese person's Web browser, the computer inserts Colo' after it (optionally with Colo's pronunciation):
科罗拉多州 (Colo')
When 科罗拉多州 appears for the second time, the computer may decide to test the user's memory about Colo' so it replaces 科罗拉多州 with
Colo' (US state)
Note that a hint such as 'US state' is necessary in order to differentiate this Colo' from other words beginning with Colo. For the third occurrence of 科罗拉多州, the computer teaches the full form, Colorado, by inserting it after the Chinese occurrence:
科罗拉多州 (Colorado)
At the fourth time, the computer may totally replace 科罗拉多州 with
Not only the foreign language element (Colorado) can emerge gradually, the original native language element (科罗拉多州) can also gradually fade out, either visually or semantically (e.g. 科罗拉多州 -> 美国某州 -> 地名 -> ∅). This prevents the learner from suddenly losing the Chinese clue, while also engages him in active recalls of the occurrence's complete meaning (科罗拉多州) with gradually reduced clues.
* Subword Familiarization (SWF) - Again in ACS, word roots (e.g. pro-, scrib-) and meaningless word fragments (e.g. -ot) are optionally treated as two special kinds of standalone words and taught and practiced in the user's incoming native language information. Meaningless fragments are considered abbreviations and acronyms derived from real, meaningful words. Getting the learner familiar with all these subword units can facilitate the acquisition of longer, real words that contain them.

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