By Grace Wang and Camie Kwok

The homepage of Babbel (Photo Credit:

Highlights of Stevenson and Liu (2010)’s article on foreign language learning websites:

In recent years, some foreign language learning websites have incorporated Web 2.0 functions. Specifically, they allow users to interact with native speakers of their target languages. Stevenson and Liu (2010) conduct an online survey and a usability test on three such websites: Palabea, Babbel and Livemocha (1). While incorporating Web 2.0 functions, these websites also include traditional Web 1.0 features like providing video lectures on vocabulary and grammar.

In their survey, questions on how current users used Babbel are asked. The survey results indicate that the users find the “Vocab Training” section most useful, while disliking the “Discussion Board” and “People (chat) page”, as they resemble those of a dating website more than a learning one’s.

Both technical usability test and pedagogical usability test are carried out for all three websites. Apart from feedback similar to the ones mentioned on Babbel, overall speaking, users show greater interest in traditional learning technology. In other words, they expect to receive sufficient input from video lectures and readings before interacting with proficient language speakers. In addition, users are concerned about whether the sites help them reach their learning goals in a clear and systematic manner.

Remark: (1) Palabea has already closed down, while Livemocha has been sold and converted into another site called Bilingua.

Sharing from Grace on the social networking function on a website called Yeeyan:

A user’s account on Yeeyan (Photo Credit:

As the social networking function of language learning websites is often their specialty, let me share with you my experience. Yeeyan is a website focused on providing translation resources and online discussion about translation. When I was in high school, I was interested in translation and visited this website very often. On Yeeyan, I met a nice Chinese man who lived with his perfect wife and 2 children in America. He encouraged me to learn more about translation and recommended some places and books to me. We kept emailing each other once per month for half a year, until he decided to stop using the website. He expressed that the website had changed too much, and we lost contact ever since. After that, I stopped visiting that website as well. I think this experience shows that the relationships you built online sometimes motivate your learning; yet, at other times, it may de-motivate you.

Based on the article and our personal experience, we notice the following affordances and constraints of the social networking feature of these websites:

1. Doing – it provides users a group of authentic communicators to interact with in the target language. It is something seldom affordable in reality;
2. Meaning – it provides users an atmosphere of freedom to express themselves;
3. Relating – it helps to build up interpersonal relationships with people who have common interests, some of whom are experts of the target language;
4. Thinking – it relieves users’ feeling of loneliness in the path of language learning;
5. Being – it gives you a new identity as a user, rather than a passive learner, of the language.

1. Doing – Conversation topics tend to be restricted to games, movies, stars, books, cultures, etc., as they are easier for extended discussions. Other topics may bring communication breakdown;
2. Meaning – the freedom these platforms provide may lead to abusive language and sexual harassment;
3. Relating – the personal relationships built, if they are too weak or intense, may de-motivate or distract learners from the goal of language learning;
4. Thinking – users need to be independent thinkers, not easily swayed by online relationships;
5. Being – the identity of the users is limited by the forms of online communication provided by the website. In the case of Yeeyan, the speeches are edited before being sent; hence the users are not spontaneous interlocutors who take part in face-to-face conversations.

So do you have any experience in being motivated or de-motivated by the people you interact with on a foreign language learning website or app? Do you think it is a good experience or not and why? Alternatively, how do you evaluate the social networking features of language learning websites?

Further readings:
1. An article on the analysis of language, learning and identity in social networking in language learning websites, citing Busuu as an example:

Alvarez, J. (2015). “Language, learning, and identity in social networking sites for language learning: the case of Busuu.” 75(08), Dissertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol.75 (08).

2. An article exploring the affordances of microblogging as one form of social networking in language learning, taking Twitter as an example:

Fewell, N. (2014). “Social networking and language learning with Twitter.” Research Papers in Language Teaching and Learning, 5(1), 223-234.

52 thoughts on “The Use of Web 2.0 Functions in Foreign Language Learning Websites

  1. 1.So do you have any experience in being motivated or de-motivated by the people you interact with on a foreign language learning website or app? Yeah, I have joined in an online course lectured by many excellent foreign university teachers once upon a time, which is called Coursera where you are brought into an online learning community resembling very much a real course in reality , and you are supposed to accomplish the assignments for the certificate if you wish.
    2. Do you think it is a good experience or not and why?
    It is definitely a good experience, enabling me to have the opportunity to have connections with those teachers and the new discipline I am not accessible to at college.
    3. Alternatively, how do you evaluate the social networking features of language learning websites?
    Language learning websites are sure to be praised as to the irreplaceable benefits to the learners they bring. But as social networking gathers the precious and diverse resources together, it requires us to have sensible minds to discover and distinguish the possible problems it may occur.

  2. I used to learn Engliah via a website called Interpals several years ago, it was a great website and there was a column called Language Exchange from which you could learn any language you like with native speakers and make friends at the same time. And I did find a person who helped me a lot with my English, but we gradually lost contact because of his tight schedule.
    overall, I think it wasn’t a bad experience for I learned something from it.
    From my perspective, I think language learning websites are a good medium to learn language in authentic and intriguing environment regardless of distance and time limit, but as learners we should be careful in order not to be overwhlemed by tons of resources and try to be critical when browsing websites.

  3. Doreen, you have recommended a really fascinating website! I just downloaded the app of Coursea and realised that the courses available are offered by prestigious universities. I couldn’t believe that I can enroll in their courses, have my assignments and tests marked and hold discussions with learned professors and peers at the touch of my fingertips. However, I then noticed that I had to pay a considerable sum for each course, which is one of its major constraints.

    Despite that, there is an invaluable affordance in Courea, which may not be paralleled by free websites like Babbel, Yeeyan and Interpals – it asks for more commitment from the learners (by paying, enrolling only within a period, doing homework and tests) while also offering more commitment by having high-quality course providers.

    So, in your following comments, you can comment on your level of “commitment” as a result of the website or application you choose. A narrative account like Julie’s would help our understanding a lot. Your thoughts would enrich the discussion of the journal article we quoted as well, since only things like the layout and some technical issues are explored there.

    Also, another really good remark that Julie made is about the huge variety of resources available online. So, you may also comment on your process or concerns when you try to look for the best language learning websites.

  4. Hi, Grace and Camie, your post reminds me a foreign language exchange app, called “Hello Talk”, which was recommended by my French teacher. Here are some information and screenshots (taken from the official website of HelloTalk, because I myself didn’t use it for a long time…) about this educational app. HelloTalk allows learners to register one native and one target language for free (though you can unlock more with an in-app purchase), so that the users might find the matched language learners through the search function. Besides this, this app has some useful functions which are similar to WeChat / What’s app. It allows users to communicate in the way that works best for them, such as free phone calls, instant messages and voice messages. Considering the language learning purpose, it has a great long press feature for any message sent or received, so that the users can correct the partner’s writing easily. This app has a social page where the learners can post their questions, confusions about the target language or share anything else they want, which seems similar to Moments in WeChat.
    I used this app for about a semester, and I did make several language learning partners here. At the very beginning, we kept chatting for once a week, and we did motivated by this activity, because we were able to chat with native speakers instead of learning from the boring textbooks. At that time, we all made some progress in language learning. However, sometimes it is hard to find a topic which triggered both our interests, and we were all busy with our school final project. Then, this learning partnership came to an end without any signs. Actually, though this experience did not last a long time, I still think it is a wonderful experience, because the social features of this kind of educational app/websites provided me a platform and opportunities to connect with native speakers, which is a kind of direct and effective learning experience.

    • Dear Michelle, thank you for your sharing your own experience in using hellotalk as a language learning tool and providing a wholistic analysis of the affordances of this app. I think your evaluation of this app is quite fair and you have basically pointed out the reasons for my using it for about half a year as well (high five!). However, actually, after reading your comment, I was thinking several questions – is it a very common or typical thing that the commitment of users to language learning through this kind of apps/websites won’t last long? if it is true, how can we, as language teachers, to help maintain their commitment to language learning on these apps/websites? I would be very glad to hear more discussion from you 🙂

    • Actually, according to the questionnaire which I conducted for analyzing the usage of Shanbay(another educational app), this kind of phenomenon seems to be a very common one. Here are some reasons for that. Firstly, after a period of trial, they might find that it is not a suitable or effective way for them to learn languages. Besides this main reason, they quit these websites/apps for other reasons, like they are busy with other things in life, they cannot get satisfied responses, or they just lose interests.
      For improving this kind of situation, as language teachers, I think we can be an instructor and participant in this kind of learning activity. What I mean is to join and use this kind of apps/websites with students, instead of just recommending it to students. In this way, we can not only build a kind of learning partnership with students outside classroom, but also push students to keep using it. However, one downside of this method is that it might become a kind of task or homework for students. Do you have any other thoughts or better suggestions on it?

    • yes, I agree that teacher should not only recommend it to students. instead, language learning would be more effective if teachers can participate in the use of those apps/websites. though, assigning using those apps as homework may sound like drillings, it is much better than the traditional drillings. Michelle, thank you again for your sharing!

  5. Hi, Grace and Camie,
    Glad to have such an in-depth post on technologies in learning. As to the question, I am afraid my experience on online interaction with foreigners is limited, but there is one or two may count if I have to share something. Actually, he (sorry about that I could not get to remember his name) is a FT on a website preparing learners for the IELTS speaking tests. The first time I encountered him was when I searched for some free speaking classes online. He was giving a lesson at that moment, and out of curiosity, I clicked into the website and listened to his speech. I have to say that he was very humorous and considerate. He listened to the followers’ speech online and then gave detailed feedbacks immediately. This was so encouraging and of course I gave it a try. After that he commented on my speech and asked me for an email address. I did not think too much about it but surprisingly, he sent me a document of his feedbacks and OMG with my original speech. It impressed me a lot and then I signed up for his class without hesitation. With his help, fortunately, I passed the test smoothly. Though there has been a long time since we contacted each other one year ago, I still bear in mind his generous help and that charming voice. Above all, this is a rewarding experience, for I have learnt more than expected due to this cute and appealing foreign teacher.

    Website brings us to every corner of the world, where interactions are ongoing. Communicating with others online brings about positive outcomes in terms of language learning. In my case, for instance, the foreign teacher and I built up a relationship somehow and it facilitated my English speaking progress. In this sense, this kind of websites could bridge the gap between the givers and takers, which to some extent, achieves the language learning resource-sharing.

    However, this kind of online language learning websites in fact does not function independently. Such systems have to deal with the technical issues. In other words, a language learner could have access to these sources only if the web is available. Otherwise, they will be de-linked. They would not learn anything no matter how sufficient the resources are out in the cyber world. In my case. I would rather have a face-to-face talk with my tutor in person because it makes me feel safe, being free of worrying about “out of service”.

    • hi Nicole, the point you’ve mentioned that the sense of worrying brought by those technologies is pretty interesting. As we are enjoying the affordances, we are meanwhile suffering from the problems that the new language learning tools cause, like the technical problems and the sense of unsafety and anxiety it brings. Thank you for your sharing!

    • Hi Nicole, your point of “out of service” is quite intriguing to me, but I think people in this world are not easily in the status of “out of service” anymore except in some extreme situations where people cannot connect to each other via the Internet. But I do agree the point that face-to-face talk makes people feel safe without worrying the possibility that someone suddenly disappears. Also, face-to face talk enables people to have more authentic and interactive experience of lanugage learning compared with online ones.

    • The anxiety resulting from the disappearance of the speaker is an interesting issue, not mentioned in the journal article, which primarily focuses on anxiety caused by insufficient input before interacting with native speakers only. To me, the latter could be a bigger problem. So here we can see that this kind of Web 2.0 applications or websites may attract people of different orientations to subscribe to them; and as a result, they discover affordances and constraints of different nature as well. Interesting!

  6. Hi, Grace and Camie,
    Thank you for bringing up this interesting topic.
    I used to join some English classes from the on-line learning website called YY in mainland China. Many teachers give lecture there for free. Unlike the English classes in school, which focus more on grammar teaching. The lecture shared on YY are mostly about improving oral speaking. Also, with the multimodal functions of photos, videos and voice recording, teachers can always make their classes very interesting and unique. And is was this website that stimulated my interest in language teaching. So I think it is not only useful for students to improve their English through internet, but also practical for teachers to learn to be a more creative teacher.

    • Hi, Annie, I had used this web before when I was preparing for my IELTS exam. It is a useful platform that I can practice both listening and speaking. I can choose to join a channel and receive the listening materials shared online. And also, because this sharing is on a certain time, I need to get up early at 7:30 to get it just like I am a having listening class. what’s more, within the same channel, I can find a person to practice oral English, then we join the same room which is under the channel, and only we two will be in that room to practical different topics in IELTS. I think it is very useful, because I am more motivated when I am learning with some people who have the same aim with me, we can encourage each other and improve together.

  7. From the posts of Michelle, Nicole and Annie, I discovered several things: 1) It seems that mainland students are more aware of the freeware for language learning than the local students that I knew, and 2) they incline to use it for speaking, writing and in some cases listening. This may show that 3) our mainland counterparts are more in need of external assistance for enhancing those skills, and that 4) they are more autonomous in learning.

    Nicole, in particular, has a relatively high level of involvement in her interactions with her charismatic tutor and ends with obvious achievement in IELTS. Apparently her engagement has to do with the competence, dedication and personality of the tutor.

    This makes me ponder on a problem – it is always our hope that these fun, interactive tools can be incorporated into the classroom for more sustained and structured learning. However, is it possible at all? Would teachers be put off by the technical problems or embarrassed by the existence of competent and charming tutors out there? Are there some sites or apps that can accommodate these issues?

    • Actually, there is a website named MOOC for China universities, ( which is similar to Coursera. People can follow the lessons online and register the courses they want. Also, the teachers are encouraged to update their courses on the website. Compared to the Coursera, this website founded by the Ministry Education of the PRC, which means if a teacher’s course appears in this website, his/her teaching ability will be confirmed by the official department. To some extent, it sets a motivation for teachers to improve their teaching ability. In addition, they won’t feel embarrassed by those charming tutors, they also have the opportunities to be a part of them.

    • Hi Camie! Thanks for all your information brought on the discussion.

      Regarding your question that whether it is possible to incorporate online interactive tools into classroom teaching, I think that firstly, it is already an undeniable fact that online educational tools are becoming increasingly prevalent and playing a more significant role among language learners than before. And nowadays, self-access learning has also received an increasing attention by teachers both at universities and schools.

      Therefore, I think from both learners’ and teachers’ perspectives, having access to more opportunities to use the target language should be a great improvement in language teaching and learning, for the goal of the education is to bring knowledge to and also lead the students to a bigger world.

      And concerning your another question that would teachers be put off by it, I think they might probably be supportive in a sense that their students are becoming more attentive and active in learning the language after all. However, no matter how popular the online tools would be, I believe that institutional English classes will still remain the main and most important and systematic way of learning English for most of the learners, and these many other ways could only be seen as an auxiliary means in that leaners can choose more freely what to learn based on their individual differences.

  8. Hi, Grace and Camie,
    Glad to know your opinions over the merits and demerits of the social networking feature of these websites. What I want to say is that the second point of the constraints is a new idea for me. I didn’t realize that until I saw your post. And it is true that because of the inadequate supervision of the platform, some uncivilized behavior or criminal acts may occur.
    What Nicole said reminds me my experience on online interaction with some English speakers. I used to use an application named Palfish. It is an application on which we can find native English speakers and qualified English teachers. You can not only find some native speaker to practice your oral English, but also find some English teacher to help you improve your English grade since there are different courses provided by the teachers on that app. I used to use it chatting with a Chinese English teacher who now lives in England. With her help my English speaking improved a lot, and because of her I become more motivated in practicing my oral English. As for me, I think it is a good experience to know someone else on a platform. I benefited a lot from interacting with individuals on the platform.

  9. Hi Grace and Camie, your questions remind me of my experience that using the website italki ( to improve my writing skill. Although it includes both the paid and free modes, I must say the free mode is so powerful that it can meet most needs. I post my short passage written in English on the website and usually I can get the feedback within 24 hours. The grammar and words inappropriate used in the passage will be corrected by the native speakers. Sometimes their prompt response makes me have more motivation to learn the language and post more passages on it. Another function of this website is that you can also help other users with your own mother tongue. Sometimes I correct the writing for Chinese learners and it is really an interesting process. So I think it is a wonderful experience for me. As for the question how to evaluate the social networking functions provided by the language learning websites, my answer will be: it all depends. For the users who want to improve their language skills urgently, the social networking function is redundant because they may be unwilling to spend time on the social contact. But the users who are likely to know about the culture and social customs, it provides a good opportunity to chat with the native speakers.

  10. After reading the sharing of Grace Fu, Danella and Michelle, I realized that these language learning applications offer speaking training with professional teachers, and better still, writing with corrections and feedback given for free.

    Michelle suggested teachers trying out these applications with students rather than just asking them to use them. I think normally teachers do try out things related to new technology before recommending them to students. Yet, I have the feeling that probably only junior form students in Hong Kong would be committed to these activities, while most of the senior form ones would still turn to tutorial centres for sharpening their language skills. To them, having to pay for the service, seeing the tutor face-to-face and attending classes with the “herd” seem to give them an incomparable sense of security. So I think more suggestions on how to promote this kind of autonomous learning by teachers, or even incorporate it in class, are needed.

  11. As a senior high school English teacher, I have recommended students several popular websites or apps, which turn out to benefit their reading, listening and speaking. But rarely did I find any app useful to improve students’ writing. Due to the enormously large class size in Mainland China, teachers labor over correcting each student’s compositions, consuming much time and effort. Recently the proliferation of the website( brings convenience and efficiency to my colleagues. Submitting their compositions, students will get immediate detailed feedback in the aspects of spelling, grammar, diction and even writing structure. Then they can conduct self-correction according to it. What’s more important, it presents a table showing the common mistakes made by students and teachers, therefore, are clear about the students’ problems.
    To many students as well as teachers, however, the wide variety of English learning websites and apps available confuses rather than comforts. For example, several websites, which propagate that students can achieve high proficiency in a short period of time, pay attention solely on segmental pronunciation,. The priority is given to native-like pronunciation, thus causing the misconception that pronunciation is of utmost importance. So both teachers and students should choose the learning websites or apps with caution, according to the needs of learners and the constrains of the educational setting.

    • This seems to be an amazing website. However, how do I submit my own text for marking? Also, does it have an English version for explanation of errors?

    • Hi, Camie, thank you for your reply. Launched by a mainland company, it mainly aims at Chinese English learners, so it has no English version. If you’d like to submit your writing I can give you my account, which is provided by the school I’m working for.

    • Eric, do let me know in class. The website you introduced is quite distinctive and I’d like to try it out more.

  12. HI Grace and Camie, thank you for your specific introduction on foreign language learning website and apps.

    I would like to share the English learning experience of beginners with apps, my niece, who is five-year-old, is using Dada English App to learn English. Through the App, she has face-to-face contact with the native English speakers one hour a day, her teacher teaches her words and simple sentences and encourages her to say it out. Besides, to stimulate beginners to practice oral English, the App has set some rewards for children, e.g., giving their favorite toys for those who practice English for half an hour each day, or designing easy games to help children memorize words and expressions, etc. This edutainment style of the App motivates my niece a lot to learn English, she could get immersed in the English environment easily, and it is helpful to ensure that she could speak standard English at the beginning.

    As for social networking features of language learning websites, I think, firstly the layout of website should be clear and easy to follow, for example, the website should divide into different sections as users may have various learning goals. Secondly, information and content in the website should be convincing, interesting, and high-qualified to ensure that users can trust the website to achieve their educational goals. Thirdly, the website should be user-friendly, such as, making sure learners can have access to “lessons, vocabulary, and other types of traditional learning content before interacting with other users” (Stevenson & Liu, 2010). And users can easily have access to traditional dictionaries/translation tools to ensure smooth interaction with other users.

    • Your recommended app has a few appealing features, like giving rewards to learners and designing games for them. But I wonder if it targets at very young learners only. Also, does it charge the customers?

    • HI Camie, DaDa English is actually an online education platform focusing at English learning of young children aged 4 to 16, and the users have to pay for it.

  13. Hi, Camie and Grace. Thank you for providing such a thorough description on language learning website/app and the explanation of Web 2.0 function. And I already mark down some useful website and app mentioned in the comments for my future teaching.
    YY language, as Annie mentioned, can be used as a multimodal teaching channel. From my experience with YY language, I find it share some similarities with some popular social networking app like WeChat, what’s app, skype, qq, etc. I once attended a WeChat writing and speaking course. Their fee is much lower than attending the onsite course. In addition, it saved me from transporting. The course materials which include a document and an explaining audio from the teacher are given out on daily basis. And the learners turn in the assignments (writing task and speaking task) in the form of an attached document or an audio. Finally, the teacher gives timely feedback to the students on their assignments. I personally find this quite useful to some extent. As the relationship between the learner and the teacher is built on money, normally, the connection ends when the course is due.

    • I agree that economic advantage and timely feedback could account for the prevail of online language course and language learning websites these days. I never try any WeChat course before but I have joined a WeChat chatting group whose members are all IELTS learners. We were required to finish our daily speaking task according to the given topic. And any member who failed the task for successive two days would be moved out. I believe it is that kind of mutual supervision that promotes my speaking skills.

  14. Eric, Grace J and Eva have expanded our spectrum of useful language learning applications with Web 2.0 functions – spanning from tools for serious assessment of writing, WeChat-like networking sites to those which are edutainment-based. I am sure that the teacher’s awareness of these sites will help him/ her to design lessons, or recommend applications, to students that suit their individual needs.

    Before moulding students into independent learners that use these sites with commitment, I am inspired by Fewell’s “Social networking and language learning with Twitter” (2014), in which the writer studies a group of “students (who) participate in an online Twitter community with other classmates, writing a minimum of three messages per day for a period of two months” (p.4). It is shown that the students felt quite comfortable with the microblogging format on Twitter because: 1) the length they had to write was short; 2) hence they found it less like another piece of homework; 3) they felt more equal to their peers and others given the same length they could post on the platform; 4) there were few technical issues, so the teacher could even spare some class time for the task. So, perhaps Twitter, as a relatively well-known website for students, can be used as the start of introducing new literacies in English class. What do you think?

  15. With the internet prosperity and development, our learning mode and way of communication have been changed greatly. You have outlined the affordances and constraints clearly in this post, which I did encounter when I accessed to those apps to facilitate my language learning.

    The website that I visit the most frequently is ‘Quora’(,a place for people to share knowledge and better understand the world. After you log in the website, it will ask you to choose the fields that you are interested in, such as technology, education, cooking, etc. It covers nearly all the topics in each field, people can raise their questions and share their opinions at the same time. Though the website is not designed for language learning specifically, I do find it helpful to learn English writing as I read some intriguing comments. People can enjoy the delight of interaction with other users around the world and practice English writing when they share their comments. The upvote from other users is the motivation for me. However, new English language learners may find it difficult, especially when the answers with respect to the topics that they are not familiar with. Besides, the mistakes in the answers may be ignored by new learners and reproduce it as a right one.

    I come to think another question that the websites or apps specifically designed for language learning usually fail to attract users permanently. Then how to combine these two affordances together effectively is worth thinking.

    • Hi, Vicky. I was impressed by your question, which promoted my thinking of a possible classification of those social-neting featured language learning websites and apps. Based on your preference of using communicate-oriented websites rather than language-oriented ones, I suppose most of language learning websites/apps can be categorized by whether they are communication-oriented or language-oriented.

      For the communication-oriented ones, they characterized with languages as communication tools to exchange information or knowledge about a certain topic, task or field. Examples are Interpals, recommended by Julie; Hello talk App, by Michelle; YY, by Annie; Quaro, by Vicky. For the language-oriented ones, they characterized with languages as the learning targets and the language input are usually emphasized before interacting with others. Examples are Palfish, recommended by Grace Fu; Dada English App, by Grace J; italki, by Dannella.

      Based on the above classification, maybe as language teachers, we should recommend the communication-oriented ones to language learners who have low motivation on language learning thus their interests in a certain topic can serve as the motivation to language learning, whereas the students with high motivation in language learning, both kinds of websites/apps are recommendation-worthy so that they can not only enjoy the high-effieceny in target language learning in terms of vocabulary, grammars, etc, and the joyness of using languages as a tool to communicate.

    • Vicky, Quora does sound like a commendable website, i.e. one with quality and in-depth input for learners, while also having attractive social-networking functions like the “upvote” system you mentioned. So, may I say Quora is for more serious learners than Twitter’s, though they possess some similar features?

    • Grace, thanks for your thoughtful sharing. Your last suggestion, i.e. “[recommending] the communication-oriented ones to language learners who have low motivation on language learning thus their interests in a certain topic can serve as the motivation to language learning, whereas the students with high motivation in language learning, both kinds of websites/apps are recommendation-worthy”, is an inspiration. Now I have got more ideas about how to approach my students with varied abilities. 🙂

  16. Hi Grace and Camie. I would like to share one of my learning experience on Wechat to you. Being the most popular messaging app in China, Wechat can also function as a foreign language learning app. Several years ago, I have joined in a course on Wechat, called Uband. There are a wide range of courses covering different subjects on its official account, like culture, politics, writing skills, translation skills and among others. Some of them are free, while others may cost a few yuan. Learners are able to sign up for any course of their choice at the touch of their fingertips.
    I remember that I have chosen a course on the topic of Greek mythology, which is targeted at improving language proficiency as well as developing critical thinking through learning excerpts from Greek mythology. Before the course began, I was added into a Wechat Group as many other learners, where we are free to discuss and share our ideas of learning. An interesting thing is that, although it is called a course, no fixed learning time was set for us as long as we could finish the task before the deadline. Learning content was posted on the official account everyday. Besides detailed text and image-based descriptions, the post also included a video or audio clip made by our instructors. If my memory serves me right, the course lasted 3 months, during which I had to read the post, complete the assignment, and post my assignment through the official account every single day. If learners manage to fulfil all the tasks on time during the course, their tuition will be paid back. For me, this is a fantastic learning experience, from which I have not only acquired knowledge but also made a bunch of like-minded friends. Some of my classmate shared multiple rewarding learning resources and experiences on the Wechat Group, which is a real boon to me.
    I do think learning from Wechat might bring us a lot of convenience, which is easy to operate and provides more flexible learning opportunities. Another strength could be that, as Wechat is one of the most frequently used app for individuals, every time they check their Wechat, they might be reminded that it’s time to study.

    • The language learning function of WeChat reminds me of Coursea, though there are some great affordances not found there, e.g. being cheaper and having your money reimbursed upon completion of the course. The English-targeted objectives are good as well. Overall speaking, it demonstrates WeChat as a successful, multi-faceted app that can benefit its users significantly.

  17. Yes I’ve had the experience of trying to improve English learning by communicating with my foreign friends through online social network platforms, mostly Facebook and instagram.

    On the one hand, these kinds of platforms have really helped me maintain my interest in learning English and improve my writing and reading skills. I believe attitude plays an immense part in achieving anything. As a language learner, it really matters whether you are learning English out of strong interest or just for coping with examinations, for it can lead you to a very different outcome. In this respect, the increasingly advanced technology provides learners with a free and fun social platform where learners can access plenty of opportunities that they lack in the real physical world to interact with people around the world using the target language, which is absolutely helpful.

    On the other hand, there are also some aspects in the experience that I think are not so good to language learning. Take twitter as an example, as we all know that it is a super convenient and user-friendly platform for people to interact by posting microblogs, but only with a maximum of two or three sentences. In this case, learners might find it pretty easy to read or write due to its short form, which might gradually and invisibly decrease their ability and patience to read a long academic research or formal newspaper. However, in spite of this shortage, these kinds of platforms still do more good than harm. I believe that it would become even more beneficial to language learners if learners could integrate this ‘informal’ way of learning English with the ‘formal’ materials such as BBC news or other app/websites that contain longer and more complex English resources.

    In conclusion, learning English via these apps/websites is absolutely a good experience. As leaners, we should be aware of the advantages, make full use of them and learn to develop our own set of independent strategies using these online technologies.

    • Ruby, I like the way you addressed our problems by having a positive and balanced mindset, i.e. acknowledging the importance of these technologies, having confidence in them, while also feeling at ease with the fact individual applications may only play a subsidiary and short-term role in learners’ life. That way of understanding the issue is quite visionary.

  18. The application I would like to share is called ‘Fun Dubbing'(英语趣配音). This is an application designed for English learners of all levels. The application provides different kinds of dubbing materials, such as English movies, Speech, Documentations, Youtube videos, etc. Learners can dub for the materials they like and upload them online to receive comments from other learners. I think this is an excellent application to prove learner’s intonation. While dubbing, the learners are able to listen to the original version repeatedly, thus, they can imitate the tones of the native speakers. Because this application has a large amount of dubbing resources, most of the learners can find a material they are interested in to dub for, and the comments online are sincere and nice, the learners can be motivated by using this application to improve there intonation and sound native like.
    I think I have a good experience in using this application, the communication with other learners online is really helpful. I share the problems in my pronunciation and try to get comments to improve that, no matter I receive praise from others or my advice is accepted by others, I will be happy and more motivated in language learning.
    The social network features of language learning web/app make the web/app an interactive platform, which makes English learning a more interesting process, also, the using of English online makes English learning a practical tool in daily communication but not dry structures on text book.

    • Thank you for your sharing, Lissie! I used to be a fan of Fun Dubbing as well. As far as I know, some teachers even encourage their students to use this app to dub several times a week to improve their interests. As you mentioned, this app not only provides us a great number of dubbing materials, but also a platform of interacting with others. Maybe its a good idea incorporate this app with our pronunciation class.

    • Hi, Lissie, I really love your introduction on ‘Fun Dubbing’. Actually, I was so addicted to it when I was in my undergraduate. It is really a good app for English learners particular who wants to improve their spoken English. By reading after the original voice, learners can correct their pronunciation or intonation effectively. Also after dubbing, we could share it to our teachers or friends and then more comments could be collected.
      I am convinced that a good app or software for language learning should be interactive, Web 2.0 is an importance function of it.

  19. Hi, Camie and Grace, many thanks for your two interesting post. Actually, I have less experience in learning foreign language through online interaction with other users, and I am more used to sharpen my language skills with the help of what Web 1.0 usually provides, like video lectures. Even so, what you
    mentioned and some others commented still remind me of my online courses. Differing from the free video lectures which is prerecorded, only paid registers are allowed to watch that live webcast course presented by one experienced lecturer and his teaching assistant. To provide simultaneous interaction opportunities for learners, a discussion board is placed in the right column. Much response does help me to make up the key notes I just miss, but some of them are super boring so that less academic atmosphere could be maintained or even created. Therefore, I aways try to hide that chatting board so as to focus my attention.

    I have to admit that it is a good try for language learning websites developing its social networking function. Peer reviews and tandem learning have been encouraged by a great number of language educators. However, to avoid endless meaningless chatting taking place of academic discussions, the user always leaving irrelevant and useless comments should be warned or banned by administrators.

    • Hi Fiona, I think you have pointed out an important thing – there need to be a discussion organizer who helps to maintain the learners’ focuses on the given topic or field in order to make the communications beneficial to language learning (I guess that’s also the way how our edublog works ). And this may be one of the notes that language teachers keep in mind when using Web 2.0 function of language learning websites.

  20. Hi, Grace and Camie, thanks for your interesting post. To be honest, I have very limited personal experience of Web2.0, like social networking to learn language, so I am afraid I can’t give you feedback that is very useful.
    However, from your post and other classmates’ reply, I have downloaded some APPs which sound helpful, I’d like to try and figure it out. As Grace and Michelle mentioned, the personal experiences of using these websites, or apps, do not last long for many personal reasons. So how to prove the learners’ commitment? It reminds me of MintReading ( 薄荷阅读 ), a widely-used public platform for English reading on WeChat. The reading installment are fixed, which means the learners can’t start reading whenever they like. And the leaners have to pay for the commitment (149 per installment). It doesn’t cost much, compared with Coursera Doreen mentioned, and the money will return back to the learners in the form of authentic books they read. I think it may be a good way to make sure the learners’ commitment.
    Social networking features of language learning website, for me, it sounds cool. However, for introverted learners like me, I may refuse to talk with proficient native speakers, although they may be very kind.

  21. Hi, Grace and Camie, thanks for sharing your findings about the application of Web 2.0 in language learning settings. To answer the questions that you raised in the article, I have to say that I seldom learn language online or with an APP. I once tried an APP called Shanbay which is designed to help learners memorize as much new words as they can but it turned out to be not so suitable for me.

    The principle of Shanbay is that users who have the same academic goals such as passing CET4 or CET6, improving one’s English for college entrance exams or just expanding one’s workplace vocabulary can join the same group. Within the group, there will be a leader, being responsible for checking whether the group members have memorized new words or not as a kind of attendance checking everyday. And one’s low rate of attendance will result in being removed from the group whereas learners with high attendance rate will be rewarded by the group. The intended goal of this kind of reward and punishment is to encourage the users to use the APP everyday and the design of the learning group is aimed to build up the relationship between users with the same goal so that they can help each other and be more interested in the learning process. But as for my personal experience, I don’t think it is useful. As my original intention of using this APP is to help myself learn new words more easily, I think the APP should emphasizes more on helping learners memorize new words, e.g. giving more example sentences, explaining the meaning of words in a more understandable way, teaching the spelling rules of certain pronunciation, using pictures to strengthen memory of the words, etc. As for the learning group, it doesn’t have much influence on my learning. If I am removed from one group, I can simply join another one, which means the relationship between the users is not so tight and helpful. Frankly speaking, I don’t think the social networking within this specific APP will have any huge impacts on the users.

    BTW, after reading the article you shared, I have a question over the application of Web 2.0. Since you have mentioned in the article that most people still prefer traditional learning technology (video lectures, readings), can we infer that Web 1.0 has already met the needs of online learners? Is it necessary to use Web 2.0 (learners interacting with each other) for language learning?

    • Jiaying, thank your for your question. I think there is a somewhat difference between “learners’ preference” and “learners’ needs”. There are many reasons that can account for learners’ preference of traditional leaning technology, e.g. their habits (unwilling to try new things), their personality (dislike social networking), their reliance on or preference of reading and writing rather than listening and speaking, etc. thus their preference of traditional learning technology does not necessarily means that the traditional ones has already satisfies their learning needs. in fact, some of the above commenters has already gave their answers to whether is Web 2.0 necessary. they have shared a lot their experience in learning language by using 2.0 websites/apps. I think for these commenters 2.0 websites are good tools for them, but I won’t say it is a must, because before we use new technology the should first make several questions (listed on our week 1 ppt). I think whether is 2.0 web necessary in our class really depends on what we need and how we use it.

  22. 1. Actually , I don’t have the experience of interaction with foreigner on the internet. But I have seen my students who are really excited about chatting with them on APP . Even before their IELTS tests, they would like to find a foreigner (Maybe just not Chinese and not the English native speaker )to practice their oral English . Such experience really stimulates their interests in learning.

    2. From the point where I stand, I have a neutral position about internet interaction for its advantages and disadvantages. It is obvious that language learners become excited because they feel they can finally put what they have already learnt into really practice. But we cannot ignore the fact that they may be demotivated because they confront with difficulties or everything is not what they think . Input first, then apply.

    3. I think internet can be regarded as a tool where we can interact and communicate . It is a good way to express ourselves. So I totally agree with what your have already said above. Taking advantage of the tool and use it in a appropriate way.

  23. 1. Actually , I don’t have such experience interacting with foreigners online. But I think my students are much more interested in having a chat with foreigners on the APP. Even before the IELTS speaking test, they will look for foreigners to practice their oral English .

    2. In my point of view, I think I am in the neutral position for the internet interaction has both positive and negative effects. Indeed, language learners’ interests can be stimulated by applying what they have already learnt into practice. But we cannot ignore the fact that they may be demotivated by confronting some difficulties that they cannot solve. As a result , input first, then apply .

    3, I totally agree with what you have already said above. we can regard the internet as a tool where we could express ourselves and we should also find some solutions in case we meet the problems.

  24. Personally speaking, I have such experiences of using foreign language website to interact with other people. When I was a senior high school student, there is a quite popular foreign language website called as Hujiang website among our classmates. It is a multi-language website that provides us with listening practices, short hilarious videos, and educational foreign language program, to name a few. We students benefit from it a lot, for example, if you sign in the website every day, then you will get a bunch of digital money which you can use to buy the internet language teaching courses. In this way, students are more motivated and encouraged to use this website every day, which promotes the language training.
    At that time, I used it to write English diaries or watch English short videos. I learned the cultural differences between varies of countries from such videos, and more importantly, my listening ability seemed enhanced from such training. One day, a stranger gave me a comment in my English diaries, I got to know that she was a American girl who was studying Japanese through Hujiang website, from then on, I began to communicate with her in English and sometimes we talked about other topics besides language learning.

    In my view, the benefits of using language learning websites hold more weight than the downsides. For example, just as you mentioned, conversation topics tend to be restricted to games, movies, stars, etc. in language learning websites, which can easily distract the users. Or for another disadvantages, the users can get abusive language and sexual harassment through such channel. However, I believe any website or any social media networks can lead to such unpleasant results, therefore, it still depends on the way of using it.

    • thank you for your balanced evaluation of using Hujiang website. I used to use it for listening practice and found it very useful, but unlike you, I didn’t use the interaction function of this website. I agree your point that how much users benefits from it largely depends on the way that they use it.

  25. Learning on the website becomes a new trend in acadamic circle, let alone learning language. This post reminds me of my friend’s experience of learning Japanese via Jianghu Japanese Website.At first, I cannot believe that she can continue on learning a kind of new language online without a ‘real’ teacher. However, last month, she told me that she passed the language assessment test of Japanese, which impressed me a lot. After reading this post, I think I should keep pace with the world. Only in this case, I can be a good teacher.

  26. I had experience of interacting with people in English through Instagram. I was motivated by that at first, because had chance to communicate with foreigners online. But later, I became less motivated, since we only constrained on the topic like the appreciation of pictures and asking and answering questions like ” What is it” and ” where is it”. I think, for English learning, Instagam is a good place to pick up new words ( I first learnt the word ” Ukraine” in it), but it is not suitable for improving other aspects of language learning a lot.

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