Podcasts, Blogs Replace Costly Textbooks in Language Learning

AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin's Texas Language Technology Center (TLTC) is employing the latest multimedia technology and social networking software to create 21st century language-learning tools. Podcasts, blogs and interactive online materials are quickly replacing traditional textbooks and audiotapes.

The College of Liberal Arts initiative is part of an emerging academic movement known as open access—no or low-fee projects that support scholarship and instruction for everyone, everywhere.

Supported by a three-year, $540,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, TLTC is a leading developer of instructional foreign language Web sites.

"For many students, the Internet is the most common place to encounter foreign language," said Carl Blyth, associate professor of French and director of TLTC. "The Web's combination of text, image and sound is ideal for modern foreign language learning."

Three new sites will join TLTC's stable of free, Web-based multimedia resources. Language scholars and technicians will build the new programs from instructional technology created for "Français Interactif," an online French curriculum that includes streaming video, grammar quizzes and verb conjugation tools, which receives nearly one million hits per day from across the world.

TLTC's additional projects are:

  • "Aswaat Arabiyya" (Arabic Voices)—a listening comprehension program that will host more than 1,000 hours of authentic Arabic sound and video clips, including content from the Arabic news channel, Al Jazeera.
  • "Alkitaab Textbook"—a site supporting a leading Arabic textbook written by Mahmoud Al-Batal, associate professor of Arabic studies and director of the university's Arabic Flagship Program.
  • "Deutsch im Blick" (Focus on German)—first-year German language curriculum featuring videos of native speakers collected through the university's summer program in Würzburg, Germany. The site's grammar component, "Grimm Grammar," will feature zany, post-modern versions of Grimm fairy tales.
  • "Persian Online"—comprehensive Persian language site including audio, video, grammar and a glossary of common idioms.
  • "Radio Arlecchino"—Italian grammar podcasts based on Commedia dell'arte characters such as Arlecchino and Pulcinella.
  • "Tá Falado" (It's All Been Said)—Podcasts illustrating pronunciation differences between Spanish and Portuguese and highlighting cultural contrasts between the United States and Brazil. Users can download transcripts and ask questions as part of a discussion blog.
  • "Cantar de mio Cid" (The Song of the Cid)—a multimedia oral presentation of the epic Spanish poem.

Visit the Texas Language Technology Center for more information and to explore TLTC's online resources.

For more information contact: Carl Blyth, director, Texas Language Technology Center, 512-232-2312; Tracy Mueller, public affairs specialist, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2404.