Rude Thoughts About IT in Language Education

| January 5, 2005
Rude Thoughts About IT in Language Education

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Thor May

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Thor May has been teaching English to non-native speakers, and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. At the moment he is teaching in Chungju National University, South Korea. Many of his papers, essays and stories may be seen on his website at

Information Technology in language teaching probably began with papyrus. It has attracted admirers and detractors ever since. This paper takes a slightly irreverent look at current IT, as well as its actual and potential uses in foreign and second language education. The power of commerce in IT development has always been a prime motivator, so the analysis here recognizes the essential economic context, with the resulting effects on language learning.

Some time ago I was approached by an entrepreneur who was thinking about getting out of the concrete pylon business and making a new fortune in the wonderland of Information Technology applied to language teaching. Concrete mixes surely have the odd problem with foreign bodies, but it seemed to me that IT and language education were an entirely less stable porridge. This short paper is a fairly crude attempt to label some of the elements in the IT-language mix, together with a few irreverent observations on the alchemy : past, present and possible future. Professionals in this trade may be piqued by more than the mixed metaphors here, but their search and mine for an occasional flash of gold in the pan will keep us all shovelling.


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Category: Monthly Editions, Volume 1