January 27, 2002 - Learning English Online

MUSIC: "My Internet Girl"/Aaron Carter

(lyrics) "You've got e-mail ... "

AA: E-mail is just one of the benefits of the Internet. I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER we look at learning English online.

RS: Charles Kelly is an English professor who has devoted countless hours to three Web sites for students and teachers of English as a second language. He's an American who's been teaching at the Aichi [ah-ee-chee] Institute of Technology in Toyota, Japan, for twenty years.

KELLY: "Up to and even five years ago, six years ago, people who wanted to read a lot of things in English would have to buy things at a bookstore or mail-order books or magazines. But now they can go right online and look up any topic they're interested in and find things they're interested in reading. And of course one advantage of studying things you're interested in is (that) it increases your motivation to study it. So by reading in English about topics you're interested in, you tend to learn the vocabulary and the sentence patterns used to discuss that topic."

AA: Charles Kelly says that there is really only one potential hurdle.

RS: And that is the cost of connecting to the Internet.

KELLY: "More and more countries are offering unlimited access, so I think the future looks better. But at this point many countries -- for example, Japan -- people are paying per-minute on the telephone, so unless they have an unlimited account they're not likely to stay on the Internet a long time."

AA: "Do you have any advice for people who may see this as a big downside to trying to reach out to the rest of the world?"

KELLY: "One thing people can do to lower the cost is to find sites they're interested in, they can go right to the site and download two or three pages and hang up the phone, and then read those pages offline. That's a possibility. Some of the radio stations out there allow you to download the RealAudio file and listen to it offline."

RS: Charles Kelly operates one Web site with his older brother, Larry, who also teaches English at the Aichi Institute of Technology. The address is: w-w-w dot manythings dot o-r-g.

AA: And "many things" are exactly what you find there, from tests on slang and proverbs to a lot of other activities.

KELLY: "We have games, quizzes and puzzles -- things that tend to be fun. There are word search puzzles where a person would see a whole page full of letters and then they try to locate the hidden words within the letters. We have traditional grammar quizzes, multiple choice."

AA: Charles Kelly also edits a monthly online journal for teachers of English as a Second Language. It's called The Internet TESL Journal. That address is ... i-t-e-s-l-j dot org.

RS: And his third Web site is a-4-e-s-l dot org. That's the letter "a" followed by the number 4, then e-s-l dot o-r-g. It contains more than 1-thousand activities for learning English.

AA: Yet even with so much potential for using technology to learn a language, Charles Kelly says it's hard to predict the future of English language learning on the Internet.

KELLY: "I think from a commercial point of view, probably the universities that offer online courses might do better than companies that are trying to offer online courses, just the same as a lot of the dot-coms went offline a year or so ago, a lot of the English-teaching dot-coms did the same, they went offline."

AA: "And one thing I notice about your sites, it appears there's no advertising."

KELLY: "We decided a long time ago that that was a good idea. The a4esl.org has a lot of teachers that volunteer their time and send it quizzes and activities that we post on the Web, and as long as there are volunteers that are willing to share their time, we're willing to share our time."

RS: Professor Charles Kelly, speaking to us from the Aichi Institute of Technology in Toyota, Japan.

AA: And that's all for Wordmaster this week. If you'd like to reach Rosanne and me on the Internet, write to word@voanews.com. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.