Undeniably, the emergence of Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL) has benefited language learners in grasping the 5 essential skills of language which are listening, speaking, reading, writing and grammar skills. Let’s take a look at how CALL could actually aid the improvement of these 5 skills one by one.
1. Listening skill
In terms of listening skill, CALL is very important especially for those learning English (or any other language as well) as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) in places where English is not one of the native languages there. Computers are able to supply both the learners and teachers listening materials such as audios and videos of English spoken by the native speakers themselves. This allows the learners to receive direct contact to how English really sounds like thus allowing them to perceive and synthesise the sound aspect of the language.
For instance, learners can browse from the computer and the internet for English news, documentaries and movies to train their listening skill apart from the educational software and application where learners can look for words, phrases or sentences and listen to the audio recorded from native speakers of English.
2. Speaking skill
Just as how an input produces an output, the listening skill leads to the speaking skill. Similarly, CALL gives ESL or EFL learners in non-English-speaking countries the availability to receive input regarding the everyday conversation of the native speakers of English. As a result, they are able to learn to converse using the language among themselves. This is crucial especially in regards to pragmatic knowledge which varies across different languages and cultures.
The software and application to this skill include chat rooms that allow learners not only to converse via written text but also voice messages to their pen pals across the globe. Others are speech synthesiser software or applications. Today, most dictionary apps available allow the users to even listen to the pronunciation of the words.
3. Reading skill
The computer and the internet are able to provide learners and teachers a database of reading materials without requiring a piece of paper. Nonetheless, they are able to print them out too. Other than texts and sets of comprehension questions, learners can also access the the dictionary software or application which helps the learners in terms of speed and time. In other words, they can access a lot of information to help their reading skills in a shorter period of time compared to the orthodox learning type.
4. Writing skill
The infamous software or application to induce the writing skill is of course the word processor. Today, the word processor does not only help to reduce the painstaking exercise of writing on papers using pen. Instead, there are also other benefits to using it including the spelling checker, grammar checker, dictionary and thesaurus. Thus, while practicing writing through word processor, learners learn to spell the words correctly, write grammatically correct sentences, and look for definitions of words or phrases as well as their synonyms and antonyms to widen their vocabulary.
5. Grammar skill
Traditionally, grammar is learnt by first understanding the rules and concepts, memorising them, followed by drills of practices and exercises. As mentioned previously, the grammar checker in word processor helps the learners to construct grammatically correct sentences. The emergence of CALL helps the learning of grammar by making it more fun and interactive through games, for example. Learners can access a number of games related to grammar learning through their computers, tablets and smartphones.
To conclude, CALL in language skills has prompted the concept of learner-centredness. It means that learners are seen as individuals where they are able to access the computer and the internet individually to learn the language. It can also be seen that in language class, the focus is shifted from teaching by the teachers to the learners to learning by the learners themselves aided by the teachers. We can also see that there are many approaches to learning language and it differs from one person to another.