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Foreign Language Teaching Techniques Using Multimedia Technology

written by: Larry M. Lynch • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 9/11/2012

The whole world's gone digital. Have you? Do your foreign language learners know and use more technology than you do? You can learn to use multimedia technology to its best advantage, and save money, time and other benefits. Here's how and why you should do it.

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    Traditional EFL Approaches and Methods of Presentation

    Check with most English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers and you’ll likely find many traditional tools heavily in use in some cases, in moderate use in most institutions, and noticeably lacking in the vast majority of others.

    Technological tools as applied to the classroom teaching and learning of a foreign language are in a drastically reduced state of use, as shown in a recently conducted study done with the participation of 168 students and 40 professors at five institutions of higher education in Bogota, Colombia. While the study is based on Columbia, it is applicable to many regions of the world, including the UK, Canada and the USA.

    The cross section of a typical "technology" lineup might include many of the following technological tools:

    • OHP - overhead projector for transparencies
    • Opaque projector
    • Cassette tape or CD ROM audio player
    • Video player – VHS or DVD formats
    • Photo slide projector and screen
    • Video Beam

    These EFL teaching tools, among others, have long formed the core of technology in most institutions in many parts of the world. They have and still serve many teachers in good stead for instilling foreign language skills in untold quantities of language learners.

    But the world is now a digital one and is changing rapidly, in case you haven’t noticed. What worked easily, well (and cheaply) before could now come under some very serious scrutiny. Why? Well, it’s because nowadays, better, faster and cheaper multimedia technologies have recently become more widely available.

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    Modern Multimedia in Foreign Language Teaching

    The time has come to consider updating our teaching styles, methods, techniques and technology as used in the EFL and foreign language learning classroom.

    Now, with only a laptop computer, a suitable audio/video cable connection, and even an older model, non-digital, non-plasma TV as an output monitor, you can accomplish a greater range of multimedia technology applications in any EFL or foreign language learning class group.

    Here are five key points to ponder:

    1. Use of modern multimedia technology is often less expensive to acquire, use and maintain.

    If you have only a portable laptop computer with viable connections to a standard or digital, plasma TV, you can eliminate the need for and use of several other pieces of equipment at substantial savings. These might include any or all of the traditional teaching tools as listed above for starters.

    2. Modern technology can provide a wider variety of tools available for use in EFL classes.

    From audio recordings and podcasts to movies, graphics production and display software to videos available online, multimedia is constantly available from an extensive range of sources. Never has a greater range of options been so readily available to English as a Foreign Language teachers worldwide.

    3. Simpler and easier classroom use.

    EFL teachers now might need but three distinct pieces of hardware to perform a broad range of functions in the language learning classroom of today; a TV (digital or analog), a desktop or laptop computer and the corresponding audio / video connection cable or hardware plus a DSL or Wi Fi internet connection.

    4. Frequently adaptable for using several multimedia modes during a class session.

    In teaching the four basis language skills, EFL teachers can make dramatic and extensive use of available media both online and off line. Media windows can be opened, minimized or closed as the EFL teacher desires during a class session.

    5. Incorporating video in EFL is easier and more effective using applied multimedia technology

    If you use or consider using such video based multimedia as movies or movie clips, documentaries, music videos and TV programs, among other available options, then you can readily adapt EFL approaches and methods of presentation to the interests and needs of your classes. One way of doing this is by incorporating video in EFL or foreign language learning classes you may have.

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    Incorporating Video & Other Multimedia Technology

    By incorporating video in EFL and foreign language learning classes you are empowered to greatly expand your learners language acquisition options through the following aspects:

    • Digital video viewing and production
    • Digital audio listening and production
    • Internet-based resources like theme relevant websites and online videos (YouTube, Google, etc.)
    • Excel spreadsheet viewing, manipulation and production
    • Production and viewing of Power Point presentations
    • Word processor-produced documents including PDF format files
    • Podcast listening and production
    • Webcam recordings
    • Digital images, charts and graphics
    • E-mail communications
    • Instant Messenger communications
    • Online synchronous and asynchronous chat rooms
    • Distance education features and benefits - Concept (mind) maps
    • Simulation software

    And yes, these are all immediately available through the use of only a portable laptop computer, viable connections, internet availability and a cable-ready TV. While some additional software might be needed for some venues, many times the necessary software is free or very low cost.

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    The Only Thing Holding You Back... May Be You!

    The only additional resource which should be updated to apply these technologies to the EFL class is the EFL teacher!

    It is the language teacher who must learn to accurately use and apply these and many other current and future multimedia technologies to effective use in the language learning class room.

    Insightful lesson planning, thoughtful, motivating lesson types and dynamics on the part of the teacher can easily make the combination of technology and TEFL a resounding success when their students are learning a foreign language using multimedia.