How Technology Is Changing the Face of TESOL

Guest Post…

Technology is not only changing how future TESOL teachers are learning their craft but also how their students will learn the English language. With the growing demand for TESOL teachers in public schools, adult education programs and cities with large immigrant and refugee communities, TESOL teachers must now consider the “digital literacy” of their students as well as their English literacy. The first step for anyone interested in TESOL is to gain certification, which might be through an online university TESOL program.

Online Tools for TESOL

While most TESOL programs have a traditional in-the-classroom structure, many more are now available as online programs allowing students from around the world to connect via the Internet, audio tools, voice tools, Second Life (a virtual world), Skype and e-readers.

youngWomanAtComputerA recent development in the online learning world is a voice recording program, which allows students and professors to post audio clips on message boards making the interaction feel more “real.” This technology provides students with the option to listen rather than read posted messages, and for audio learners this could be a significant benefit.

Some professors have also creatively used Second Life as part of their instruction. Rather than hoping the students interact with one another in their avatar personas, the professors encourage them to visit Second Life, find areas where language learning is happening in the virtual world, and observe.

TESOL teachers are taking the technology they used in their academic programs to teach their students because they now understand technology can both assist and enhance language learning. They are using technology like Skype to connect their classroom in the United States with classrooms in other countries where students want to learn English. Other tools are used to adapt classroom activities and homework assignments so that they are targeted to the language learning level of an individual student.

Digital Literacy Issues

However, these technological advancements bring new issues. TESOL teachers must consider if their students have the digital literacy to use these tools.

If part of the instruction is to write journal entries on a personal blog, do they know how to set up a blog and then post their writings? If Skyping with another classroom is part of a weekly assignment, do they know what Skype is and how to use it? Some students will have no difficultly using technology but might need instruction on how to best write for their blog or what they should and should not post on Facebook.

As new technologies continue to evolve, teachers should also consider the impact and benefits for students before immediately adapting them into the curriculum. Do they advance what you are trying to teach or are they just a distraction? It’s also important to remember that no technology is neutral. If you are integrating technology and social media platforms into your students’ writing assignments, the way a platform is structured and whether anonymity is possible will impact their interaction with it. So, make sure the technology works for your students before implementing it into their learning experience.

Technology and the Impact on Future TESOL Teachers

manWithHeadsetWhile language learning technology is a valuable tool, it’s important to note that it doesn’t fully replace a certified language teacher. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages supports the use of technology as a tool in combination with a qualified teacher. However, this will likely be a point of contention as school administrators try to cut costs by purchasing language learning software or online programs rather than hiring certified language teachers.

To assist in the debate, the TESOL International Association has developed “Technology Standards,” which focus on how English language teachers, teacher educators, and administrators can and should use technology in and out of the classroom. The standards build on work done by the National Educational Technology Standards Project in the International Society for Technology in Education, and consist of standards for language learners and language teachers.

Whether a student is learning through technology or in a traditional classroom setting, the instruction should be standards-based and help develop a student’s proficiency in the target language through interactive, meaningful, and cognitively engaging learning experiences, facilitated by a qualified language teacher.


Australian English. Not quite American English.

Australian Crosswalk

A Crosswalk in Australia

-Submitted by Meg Bauer, Abroad101′s Global Ambassador at Griffith University in the Gold Coast, Australia

Australian English is almost the same as American English. It took me awhile to get used to however. They talk really fast here. Australians always tell me that Americans talk so slow.  I used to always feel bad for saying “what?” every time an Australian spoke to me, but I’m getting better now! Continue reading

When Learning the Dialect Fails, Learning the Slang Prevails!

Signage in the Rome Airport

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Submitted by Global Ambassador, Caitlin, in Sorrento , Italy

My ‘Italian Communication Survival Test’ began right before the third leg of my journey to Italy,when I landed in Rome’s main airport. Like many tests, this one left me especially exhausted,confidence-less, and in fear of my final grade.
My flight arrived over a half an hour late into Rome Fiumicino airport, and I only had about fifteen minutes to go through security, check-in with Alitalia, and get to my gate. The airport was not busy, and the tram only had two stops, so one would think that I would find my way just fine. However, knowing that I had very little room for error, I was in panic mode, and we all know that the worst thing to do is to panic. I successfully got through security, and even managed to ask the security guard where I was supposed to go (in Italian), but I must have misunderstood him in my state of disarray. I took a left turn instead of going straight, and ended up on the tram back to where I started. I had to go through security yet again, and of course it was the same exact people working the security line as before. I asked the samesecurity guard where to go, this time, trying not to panic so that I could actually hear what he was saying.

Watching the clock, I knew I had less than ten minutes to get to my gate, so I ran as fast as I could, asking directions along the way. By the fate of one Roman Emperor’s powerful thumb, I found my gate and was freed from the clenching grip of stress and fear. At my gate,I had to wait in a long line, sweaty, tired, and with stretched out jeans from all the travelling. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by all Italians, dressed in shiny puffer coats, fashionable leatherboots, and with designer suitcases, amidst their strong scented designer perfumes and cologne. I was the Barbarian in the midst of an all-Roman empire, which only made waiting in line seem like centuries. When it became my turn to give the emperor, or Alitalia man, my ticket, I realized I forgot to check-in! He even told me to run to get my ticket because the bus going to the plane was about to leave! It is never reassuring when someone tells you to run. But I ran, luggage in hand, feeling as if I was the young, underdog gladiator running with my silver sword, praying to survive my first battle in the Coliseum. I asked the Alitalia official for my ticket—allin Italian, mind you—and I even told her that I was running late—which was pointless becausetime is not money in Italy. She, going at the same speed as if I had an hour to wait, finally gave me my ticket, and I immediately sprinted (not even exaggerating, I was literally rivaling my former track team-mates) to my gate to get on the bus that brought me to the Alitalia plane. I made it! I was no longer the gladiator. I was the emperor…Marcus Aurelius II, if you will.

Italian Phrase Book

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Although my relief skyrocketed when I successfully made it on the plane in time, I was still standing in puddles of fear. I kept thinking of how out of place I felt upon arrival in Italy, and began to wonder if I would ever be able to practice my Italian, or if the people would just mark me as an American and only speak English to me. I sympathized with the Barbarians of Ancient Rome, who got their nickname “barbarian” because the foreign language they spoke sounded like that of baby talk, or “bar bar bar.” Thankfully, this fear dissipated when I landed in Naples Airport, and was greeted by the driver, Tony, who brought me to my home-stay. During our car ride, I spoke to Tony only in Italian. He encouraged me the whole entire ride to speak only in Italian, and told me something that changed my whole entire point of view. He was Virgil, the wise and intelligent guide, and I was Dante, the fearful and naïve student. He advised me, telling me that I cannot be afraid to make mistakes when speaking the language, because mistakes are inevitable and are actually useful tools to learn. “When you make mistakes,”he said, “people will most often correct you, and that is when you learn.” “Eventually,” he continued, “you pick up on the mistakes yourself and begin to self-correct…and this is the road to fluency”—or for Dante fans, this is the road to lingual ‘Paradise’. I felt even more at ease when he talked about his own fears when trying to speak English. He told me that he, too, fears making mistakes when speaking a foreign language, but in order to improve, this is a fear that one has to overcome. This little inspiration was everything I needed to build my confidence, and speaking Italian the rest of the ride only made concrete the fact that I would learn as much Italian as I could during this semester, and the more mistakes, the better.

It is already the middle of April, and looking back, I am proud to say that I have spoken Italian in many diverse situations, often making mistakes, but more importantly, learning from them. I quickly discovered that knowing some Italian helps, but only gets me so far in the region of Naples where I am studying. When the people of this region are not speaking in the incomprehensible Neapolitan dialect, they are speaking Italian with a Neapolitan accent. It is difficult to explain, but instead of the symphonious sounding phrases that resemble poetry tipping off the tongue, Neapolitan is colorful, loud, vibrant, and full of the phonetic “sh” sound.

SORRENTO: The streets

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When I go to the Italian ‘bar’ during the day, or at night to watch a soccer match, all that I hear is Neapolitan dialect. Even at my internship, everyone speaks Neapolitan among one another,and I often am lost in translation. Being around the language for a few months now, I actually feel as if I am getting a Neapolitan accent! That is why I have most recently turned my study focus from Italian language to just plain slang! I never realized, but slang is often more usefulin most situations than the actual formal language! Here’s some slang and idioms to get you started:
1). In bocca al lupo- Good Luck (Literally means “in the mouth of the wolf” and can also beequated with the American saying “break a leg!”)

2). Essere nelle nuvole- to daydream (literally translated as “to be in the clouds”)

3). Beccare qualcuno- pronounced as BEH-CAH-REH KHWAL-KUNO and means “ to hit onsomeone/pick someone up” (beccare literally means to peck, haha!)

4). Sentire le farfalle nello stomaco- is the equivalent to the saying in English ”to feel butterfliesin the stomach”

5). Che palle!- It can be used to say “How boring!”, or can express boredom or annoyance ingeneral (literally means something quite different…so you may not want to say this in frontof the teacher, because it can come off a bit strong!). It is however used frequently amongfriends, often describing a boring class at school! Oh, and the most enjoying part of hearing thisterm is the hand gesture that goes along with it…which you can find everywhere on YouTube.

6). Ci vediamo dopo- pronounced CHEE VEH-DEE-AH-MOH DOH-POH and means “See youlater.” You can also say “ci vediamo” or “a dopo” which both mean basically the same thing.

7). Sono pazzo/a di te- It means “I’m crazy about you” (How romantic, right?!). If you arefemale, you’d say “Sono pazza di te” to someone, and if you are male, you’d say “Sono pazzo dite.”

8). Vattene!- “Get Lost!” (Can be used jokingly…or not so jokingly).

9). Su! Dai!- “Come on!” and is pronounced phonetically as: SUE! DYE!

10). Che schifo!- “Yuck/That’s Disgusting!” I have heard this most frequently out of any of theother expressions. It is usually the little girl that lives upstairs that uses it to express her hatred of peas when she has to eat them for dinner!
And to put it all together in my own mini Ital-English mini-drama:

Sono nelle nuvole. Sono pazza di te. When I see you, sento le farfalle nello mio stomaco.You said you liked me. You even told me you liked the poem I wrote for you. But I saw youbeccando (hitting on) another girl. Seriously?! Che schifo! Vattene! Ci vediamo never!
As you can see, some things are universal!
(note: this mini-drama is completely made up :P)