The more I learn about how the brain learns language, the LESS technology I use or feel I need.
I taught the most successful year ever last year using NO computers, movies, filmstrips, PowerPoint presentations, CD-ROMS or anything. OK, I did use an overhead projector, but I could have gotten by without it.
I suppose if somebody had a way to give you COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT on a large scale without actually having a teacher present, then that would be a very effective type of instruction. The problem is that a computer can’t sense that confused look on your face like a real teacher can. The question, of course, is whether the real teacher really addresses the root of that confused look, or is in fact at least in part the cause of its presence.
Far East does have a rather newish dictionary out that I quite like – called “3000 Chinese Characters” or something like that. It has the character, stroke order, Pinyin and zhuyin, four or five words that contain that character (both as first and last element) and usually a four-character phrase containing that character, all with English translations. It would be useful for a “learn-to-write” book (although it’s not in frequency order but rather in alphabetical order) or as a way to review forgotten characters while learning some new compounds as well.
Far East also has a Palm dictionary out (competing with Oxford E<>C, I suppose). I have been using the Oxford and haven’t gotten around to installing the Far East yet to give it a test run. Since my opinions are free (that’s what they’re generally worth) of course I shall regale all and sundry with my review of this software when I finally get around to it.
One neat way to produce low-cost Web tutorials for reading is to use HTML code and use pull-down menus in the text (the first choice is the word in the language of the reading, and below that the next choice, visible only when the “menu” is pulled down, might be the English translation or the pronunciation or some note) or by using carefully chosen colors for HTML links (that is, clicking on a certain place will cause a translation or note to “light up” (originally the text was white, and when the link is ‘followed’ it changes color to something visible). It is a lot of work, though, and of course you have to have the materials in the first place…AARRGGH!!
(I feel much better now.)