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Setting up a High-Tech Language School? 332

Bakerybob writes "My wife and I are currently setting up a small Japanese language school, and I am in charge of all of the technical aspects, with a small but not tiny budget. What would Slashdot recommend as technologies we could use to improve the student experience (and hopefully to interest more students in the school!)? We have the easy bases (free Wifi access for students, a stunningly poorly designed homepage, and a few cheap computers lying around for them to play on between classes) covered, but I'm sure there are a lot of better ideas out there. Has anyone used Moogle? What about online lessons via webcam? Give it your best shot, revolutionary thinkers!"
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Setting up a High-Tech Language School?

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  • PDAs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b0lt ( 729408 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @05:37PM (#11120122)
    Give/rent the students iPaqs running Linux. They have a huge "awesome" factor, and are useful too :)
    • Not PDAs, iPods! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by OECD ( 639690 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @06:15PM (#11120503) Journal

      Seriously, some schools are using iPods.

      Aside from the standard "My pencil is yellow" fare, you cold load them up with popular Japanese songs (and traditional ones.) Mini-immersion, if you will.

      The iPods even have some PDA functionality, so you get that, too.

      PLUS, for c. $250 per pupil, you can add some serious 'polish' to people's perception of your school. "You get an iPod? To keep?" You'll be amazed at what that does to their willingness to fork over the big dollars! (There's almost certainly a discount for schools, too.)

      Heck, set up a 'podcast' exchange with a Japanese english school. (Podcasts are recordings meant to be downloaded for later listening in the iPod.) Have the Japanese students do three minutes of dialog in Japanese, and in exchange the Yanks do three minutes in American.

      OR, distribute lessons in podcast format, and charge people for distance-learning! (OR, distribute them for free and charge for the testing!)

      Good Luck!

      • I hate the term "podcast". Just call it what it is, MP3! There's nothing special about it that makes it any more or less suitable for playback on the iPod. It's just a MP3 designed to be listened to later.
      • Let me be the first to say that I wouldn't go near any language school who did this. They're expensive already, I don't need to add an unneeded MP3 player to that.
  • How about a big disappointment booth for your students after they spend all that time and money learning Japanese and then they find out that Japanese companies don't want to hire them (they hire Japanese) and non-Japanese companies don't want to hire them (they'll hire Japanese)? (from bitter, bitter experience and many wasted years in college)
    • Hey, greenmars. I don't mean to rub salt in a wound, but there will always be companies out there that hire american japanese speakers. You're right that they'll probably give preference to native speakers, but nobody said your PRIMARY function would be speaking japanese. That could just be a nice secondary thing that might encourage the company to pay you a lot of money to be overseas for them.

      • Right. You could be a secretary for the actual translator. Then your primary function would be to get coffee, collate, and if your boss isn't good, to convert Engrish [] into English.
      • When I moved to the Big City after graduation, and I started sending my resume to places looking for Japanese language proficiency, I got a call from a lady who worked for a Japanese airline's local office. She asked if she could take me out to lunch. I was suprised and happy. Then she spent the entire hour telling me why I should look for some other kind of job because of how badly the Japanese bosses were going to treat me and how almost no American could take it. Then she paid for the lunch and left. I
    • Oh sure (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Everyone knows the only reason to learn any language is to make money. I'm sure they're fleecing every one of their dedicated and greedily idealistic young pupils.

      Are you insane? You opened up the door to an entire world of culture, literature, games, movies, and people, and you're saying you wasted your years? Also, I mean, come on, how much of those years did you actually spend studying japanese? About a fifth of each, right? One class out of five.

    • Languages are always supplemental, they never make the main thrust of a career, so learning them in college is probably a bit of a waste.

      OTOH, picking up Japanese in your free time just to watch anime is worthwhile, imo ;)

    • Taking Japanese as a major was probably a mistake. The key is to take an unrelated field of study, and make japanese an extra, a resume booster. I can get a job as an engineer in japan, the fact that I've taken some japanese is just a bonus.
    • I studied Japanese for a couple of semesters in university and participated in a short homestay in Japan. Although I actually majored in English, that experience and paltry language skills helped me get my first job after university. I got a job with a financial services software company that had a large client base in Japan. They wouldn't have hired me without my prior work experience in marketing, communication and writing. However, the people on the hiring team figured that, if I had even a basic underst
  • You need to offer Extreme Language Courses.

    What you do is give them a few hours of very basic vocabulary training, then drug them and transport them to a part of the world that predominantly speaks that langauge, and only that language (ie if it's Japanese, drop them off somewhere in backwoods Japan). Give them a few yen to get started, and leave them to their own resources.

    When they show up at your door (possibly armed), a few months down the line, they will have a far greater command of the languag
    • I thought the next step after 'drug them' would be 'Put them on a island, each with random weapons, and tell them to kill each other off before 3 days are over'

      I guess that would only force them to respect the older generation, and not learn another language...

  • by bludstone ( 103539 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @05:41PM (#11120157)
    Do yourself a favor. Dont waste your money on computer stuff for a LANGUAGE class. Most of the language programs out there simply wont help the kids do any better.

    I know there has been this massive rush to get computers into everything-education, but its simply not needed.

    The tech you need is a good language teacher, some dictionaries, and maybe a few textbooks/workbooks.

    Maybe a japanese->english english->japanese dictionary could be useful, but even then it could make for some seriously lazy students. But I imagine those kids already know about babelfish.

    Maybe I'm being shortsighted, but I feel that, in this specific case, computers would be more of a distraction then a benifit.
    • Agreed. If I walked into a language school and the staff started showing me all of the great computers, I'd just leave and find one that put the time and money into instructors. Having a wifi point around might be a good idea if the school have a lot of customers who will need to check email during breaks, but otherwise, having a bunch of computers around is sort of moronic.
    • This simply isn't true. You are a shortsighted and uninformed person with latent luddite tendencies. Please stop spreading FUD about computers.

      In fact, most of the Japanese I learned I learned using computers. Now, please don't misunderstand, I don't speak Japanese, but I learned a few phrases and learned Katakana.

      The most effective language learning tool I ever saw or used was an online Flash application for learning Japanese alphabet. It used a very simple approach - it taught you something, then tested
      • This simply isn't true. You are a shortsighted and uninformed person with latent luddite tendencies. Please stop spreading FUD about computers.

        Computers suck when it comes to teaching languages. Sorry, it's true. I happen to speak Japanese and Arabic, and I have *never* found a computer program that was worth a used butt cheek.

        The best practice for language is sitting at a desk, reading, repeating to yourself, and writing the characters over and over and over - with your hand.

        And before you label me a l

        • I just happen to have quite some experience in both computers and education. And let me tell you, humans are generally pathetic teachers, but they suck even more in using computers to teach others. Most of the attempts to use technology to teach that I saw in my life were appalling.

          It's not the computers that are to blame - people who don't know how to apply them are. You need a great educator who also understands computers very well to design an efficient learning experience. But the good thing is that on
      • by mizhi ( 186984 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @07:34PM (#11121167)
        I think I can speak at least somewhat authoritatively on this topic since it's at least part of my area of thesis research.

        Bottom line: You are wrong when you assert that computers can be programmed to replace competent language instructors. But, the grandparent of this post is also wrong when they claim that they are not good for classroom instruction.

        It takes some knowledge about what makes for effective foreign language learning. What it boils down to is interaction. The traditional school of thought used to be that foreign languages would be learned by studying the grammar of the language first, understanding the grammatical transformations that go on from L1 to L2. Then, drop in the appropriate vocabulary, and boom. You're bilingual! Problem is that this made people very good at translation but barely passable in communication. After this, another trend of thought was that students would learn the language with a shitload of input. Just keep hammering them with endless streams of data, and eventually the innate learning algorithms of the brain would kick in and bilingual ability would magically appear. Hence the number of hours one has to pull at language labs. Most students sleep at these labs. There are a zillion and one approaches that claim to be superior but are, more often than not, a theory for a dissertation. In alot of these cases, the "superiority" claim comes from the nature of the evaluation criteria. Like I said previously, those taugh tin the old school "learn the grammar then the vocab" school of thought were really good translators, but horrible at communication. Both of the methods above are illustrations of transmissive learning. The idea that students are just empty cannisters waiting to be filled with facts and figures and somehow, they will magically think and solve problems.

        Fast forward to today. Educators have found that the most effective methods for learning are those that allow students to be actively involved in the problem domain. Allowed to explore and discover structure and make observations on their own with little guide posts to keep them on topic, students gain a more thorough understanding of the underlying principles.

        The same is true for foreign language learning. Some of the best results come from students who are allowed and encouraged to vocally produce their own sentences (NOT simply read, write, or translate) in dialogues with other students or people fluent in the target language. Given feedback during the conversation, either implicitly or explicitly, students are allowed to explore and learn from mistakes while engaging in an activity that was, on the whole, more enjoyable than lecture or "drill-and-kill" exercises. This makes sense in light of research on language acquisition in infants which shows that social interaction is crucial for proper development of language skills. It is also anecdotally observed by all learners of a foreign language that one doesn't really learn the language to the point of communicative competency until one actually goes to a country and interacts with people in the language. (Where else will you learn that when you say "gan4", instead of "gan1" in Mandarin that it means "fuck" instead of "bottoms up?" Trust me, when I say "gan1" these days, my pitch is nice and level!)

        This sort of activity isn't really encouraged in most foreign language learning classes. Especially at the high school level. In some universities it is, but for the most part it isn't. Most universities have the model of classroom time/lab time with tapes. One of the problems is student teacher ratio. When one is teaching 30 students, it's difficult to have proper dialogues with them... most resort to having students repeat phrases or reading scripted dialogue.

        Another problem is that students might feel shy about speaking the language. No one likes to make mistakes, and among peers, this can be a particularly acute fear.

        This is where computers can fit in. Dialogue systems (in the researc
        • Good comment, but I think your experience betrays you somewhat. Learning a foreign language is not necessarily about learning to speak it. I I had to measure how much time I spend reading in, writing in, listening to and speaking in English, the proportion would probably be something like 50/25/15/10. Obviously, reading comprehension is much more important, and that's where computers are much more effective than in drilling the student to speak. That would mean that computers are already capable of teaching
          • Some things to keep in mind.

            One is that I was talking in generalities. Everyone has their own learning strategies that work best for them. For example, in general education, I find that I hate lecture unless the teacher provides some sort of insight into material that I can read myself. I find that I learn stuff best when I actually go about writing a program or actually applying the knowledge in doing something. In learning a foreign langauge (I've studied both German and Chinese. German unsuccessful
        • There's also something about being able to see the waveform of the thing being spoken that really helps out with the accenting. I think Sony made a system that did that, matched it up with the printed words/letters and of course played audio also. And while the audio was playing, you could record yourself speaking it, and then see both your recorded waveform and the correct waveform. It's good stuff.

          There's no substitute for practice, but computers can cram a lot in really quick.
          • It depends. Visual feedback, when done correctly can be fantastic. For example, one paper I read used the acoustic properties of speech to control a video game like racing game. I believe it was used to instruct hearing impaired children learn to pronounce sounds and words. I think they met with some modest to good success. What makes the work stand out is that it is an example of a computer simulation that is fun for the kids and attains its stated purpose using feedback that doesn't necessarily map i
    • Dont waste your money on computer stuff for a LANGUAGE class.

      I totally disagree. This is one of the best types of classes for computer-based learning. A lot of the time in languages is just memorization or applying simple algorithms over and over and over (such as conjugation in Latin-based languages). That's very tedious to do. But it's also something a computer can check easily. I've seen simple, surprisingly addictive computer games that improve your vocabulary and conjugation.

      In other words, comput

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @05:41PM (#11120162)
    You're going to need a lot of fancy gadgets. They should be at least 1-2 years ahead of the gadgets you can get in the US.

    Set this [] up as the home page.
  • by qwp ( 694253 )
    set all of the computers to be their foreign langauge. So that when they go to use a computer it will always require them to use their knowlege.
    Computers are only tools, in school we have to learn how to use our mind as a usefull transparent tool By forcing the students to use their foreign language they will understand things better and quicker. ;)
  • by lbmouse ( 473316 )
    Don't hire a firm with a name like "Poodle Productions" to do your website [].
  • by GGardner ( 97375 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @05:43PM (#11120183)
    Maybe you could set up Skype or other VoIP systems and find some real, native Japanese speakers to pratice with.
  • Set up a nice big TV with a DVD anime collection there. I took Japanese in HS but forgot most of it out of disuse and plain boredom. If I had access to that kind of stuff as a kid I would have been a LOT more motivated.

    I'd also layer some artwork on top of various letters and let the kids make up their own stories for them.

    ie: (That's Ku I think) drawn sort of like O and calling it a "Ku ku bird" makes the memorizing muuuch easier.

    I'd also throw in some songs... my favorite was. Heh...
    Hitori, fu
  • English school (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Viking Coder ( 102287 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @05:44PM (#11120189)
    How about a broadband connection to a computer in Japan where there are people in a similar age-group who are trying to learn English?

    Microphones and webcams are pretty cheap. Yahoo Instant Messenger is probably more than adequate for your communication needs.

    Have the Japanese-speaking people speak as much English as they can, and have the English-speaking people speak as much Japanese as they can.

    Nothing beats talking to a real human.
    • By the way, I'm in Minnesota and it's about 4:00 PM Friday here, and it's about 7:00 AM Saturday in Tokyo.

      So it might be slightly difficult to coordinate schedules for an hour of conversation - but not impossible.
    • I'd think learning a language from someone who doesnt speak your native tongue would be exceedingly frustrating. How do you learn things like grammar and tenses without being able to communicate well in some language?
      • I have no respect for you because you have the freeipods crap in your sig, but...

        You could always learn this from the teachers, then practice conversation with the native speakers... Seriously, how are you going to improve your skills without talking to a native speaker of another language? There's going to be a lot of times where the person you're speaking to won't understand your native language, and you'll just have to make do. The more practice you have, the better you'll be prepared for this situati
  • Good luck with your project.

    You could check our Japan [] discussion and chat listings for some online help.
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @05:45PM (#11120201)
    setting up a small Japanese language school

    Is that a school in Japan, or a Japanese language school in the US (or elsewhere), or a school where all the classes are taught in Japanese?
    I 'think' youre talking about a school where Japanese is taught as a second language (spoken? written?), but it's not entirely clear.
    Define 'small'. 10 students? 50, 100?

    small but not tiny budget

    Define 'small' budget. $500, $500, $50,000?

    What about online lessons via webcam?

    What kind of classes? Some types work better, some don't. Teaching Japanese might fit into the "don't" category (resolution and frame rate).

    It's not entirely clear what you are trying to teach, or what problem the 'high tech' solution is supposed to fix.

  • Sounds very interesting. I've been through a period of intensive language school before, albeit for French. In my personal experience, especially for beginners, your money would be best spent on small class-sized personal instruction. We did some technology work and it was not as effective - perhaps for an intermediate learner once the bases are covered, but I found it could really lead to problems. I did enjoy parts of the computer-based portion, but found other parts to be useless. My French accent was tr
    • Sounds very interesting. I've been through a period of intensive language school before, albeit for French. In my personal experience, especially for beginners, your money would be best spent on small class-sized personal instruction.

      I was trained as a Russian liguist by the US Army, and I strongly agree with your asessment. We had periodic language labs where we listened to boring tapes or watched low quality video tapes, but most of the time we sat in the classroom conversing with instructors. Class siz

  • Check out the Hippo Family Club! No kidding... they're a radical group from Japan who learn 11-17 languages simultaneously. Their books on FFT and Quantum Mechanics are outstanding also.

    Transnational College of LEX - Hippo Family Club []

  • That means course materials, enrollment, billing, grades, everything. Seriously, the more they can do self-service via a web portal, the easier it will be on you.

    And you'll be able to do it all with OSS, if you like - PHP and Postgres or MySQL will get you most of what you need right there. Serve your study documents in someting everybody can read - PDFs of you don't want people changing things.

  • I've found that online discussion forums can help to supplement (but not replace) in-class education. Some people learn better when they are allowed to read, think, and write at their own pace. This could be especially useful in a language class -- just tell the students to talk about movies or sports or politics in the discussion forum.

    On the other hand, if students use laptops during class, I'd be wary of offering free WiFi. The internet is great for a lot of things - but it is also a remarkable time-was
  • Don't forget simple things like TV's and overhead projectors. Many of the language instruction stuff I've seen is still on VHS/DVD/CD, not computers.
  • Well, here is one thing that might have been not thought of. I am making the assumption that "Japanese language school", means you are teaching the Japanese language to people who speak English.

    If that is the case, have you thought about getting some movies in which are in Japanese. I don't know your class demographics, but many may enjoy Japanese Anime, or classical Japanese theater, or the many, many other Japanese movies that are out there. I have had four friends learn Japanese so they could better un

  • One of the most effective uses I've seen of technology in similar situations is marketing. If people see flash webcams and the like, they may well be tempted to come even though you are making very little use of them in teaching. From this perspective, you should be looking for technology that has a real 'wow' factor about it. For instance, 'free' ipods with lessons and the like.

    An alternative goal is technology that actually helps with education. There's plenty in this regard to. For instance, my lab
  • Moogle? (Score:2, Informative)

    Has anyone used Moogle?

    Don't you mean Moodle [], the online educational tool similar to Blackboard or WebCT? Moodle can be a great tool to assist the classroom experience; we're testing it out in my department and will hopefully deploy it throughout our private prep school for the next academic year.
  • foreign lang lab (Score:2, Informative)

    by kraj321 ( 841360 )
    Besides computers(hardware) you need to be looking into software as well to help students learn the language/s with the help of current technology. I have been trying to emulate, "state of the art" lab over @ Rice University, Houston, TX. Link :
  • Past Experience (Score:4, Informative)

    by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <basenamedave-sd@ ... minus poet> on Friday December 17, 2004 @05:56PM (#11120304) Homepage Journal
    I worked for the largest language school in the world for 5 years, during which we rolled out a series of e-learning applications. I can tell you the following things:

    1) Technology should be used to supplement langauge lessons - never teach them. Distance learning can be done via webcam if absolutely necessary, and you can take advantage of existing technologies for that. Look into Placeware or more likely WebEx.

    2) You can license existing e-learning platforms from companies like Auralog, they sell on a sliding scale.

    3) Students love to be able to see schedules and homework assignments online. Computer software applications also make great supplements for at-home practice. Also consider setting up a community bulletin board for students to communicate with eachother in their non-native tongue.

    I know none of this is revolutionary thinking - but it is sage advice for teaching language with technology. My company tried to teach through technology alone and it failed - the lesson learned was even eLearning needed to be a supplement - not the basis for learning.

    Best Luck!
    • My company tried to teach through technology alone and it failed - the lesson learned was even eLearning needed to be a supplement - not the basis for learning.

      How true. My company tried to build a heavier-than-air vehicle to fly and failed - the lesson learned was that you need to make it lighter-than-air - not heavier.

      Seriously, if you failed, that most likely means that either a) you suck or b) the task is hard. Rarely the reason is that c) it's impossible.

      I wrote elsewhere in this discussion with my
  • Streaming hentai
  • Having just the past four months learning a new language (six weeks of intensive Spanish course, then normal computer engineering college studies, all in Spain), I honestly can't think of anything that would beat the low-tech approach with small groups, many teachers, and lots of plain old-fashioned *speaking*. Of course some of this might not translate perfectly to a language like Japanese where the normal western student will have very few "hooks" in the form of similarities to their native language, but
  • I'd presume that short video and audio clips would help teach language. That would make a more vivid impression than audio alone. I figured I learned a fair amount of English from TV as an infant (though not as fast as the Splash mermaid).
  • The New York Times had a recent article about how one foreign language department was using Apple's music player to record and play back language lab materials. I have found a grant proposal [] while looking for a link to the article. The Times article suggested the use of iPod voice recorders as well.

    Of course you are looking for specific technology and technologies, as opposed to curriculum and methodologies but I have a dear friend who teaches the more advanced courses using a mix of history and the count

  • I spent a year at Waseda, and I studied Japanese for 4 years at a university prior to my year abroad. One thing is vital: watch movies in class. You should have students study text for only a year or two, but from there, go straight to media. By watching drama, you get to watch, listen, and read simultaneously (because they display captions on the screen). For Japanese, culture is just a part of the language as the vocabulary and grammar. So, when the students have grasped the fundamentals of Japanese, thro
    • Quite true. This is often the fault more knowledgeable fans have with nowaday's commercially translated Japanese media -- the localization of important cultural aspects.

      I've been self-studying Japanese for a few years now, and I still learn new cultural tidbits on a near daily basis.

      I don't mean that watching anime is the key, mind you; I'm sure others will try to suggest that. But live action and dramas work wonders on both the cultural aspect, and introduce the viewer to the vastly different landscape
  • Has anyone used Moogle?

  • To learn Japanese, you need books, a good teacher and a link to Japanese culture. No need for worthless software, PDAs, all that fancy stuff. Just have Japanese enabled computers connected to the Internet and a list of core links (read: Japanese news sites and such).

    Your main concern would be to promote the cultural aspects of learning the language: arrange for some kind of e-mail exchange program with Japanese speakers, have som native guests once in a while come to the school, organize Bunka no Hi even

  • With the right technology and connections learners of minority languages can help each other learn and maintain their skills when no one else is available.
  • Use the computers to store speach by native speakers from various places. There is a trememdous variation in English accents and dialects across the world. One avenue could be audible books. Another could be a database of particular words spoken in a sentence by various speakers.

    I think the ability to archive, search, and playback are the computer's best qualities for language instruction.
  • Unfortunately, Japanese is about the slowest language to adopt computer based education. It is an "infrequently taught language" and thus, there's not a lot of budget behind development. Also, Japanese are notorious technophobes. Yeah, it makes no sense, but it's true in some areas, especially areas with long tradition like education, so computer J Lang training is extremely poorly developed. Believe me, I know from experience. Computer tools work better at higher levels, when students already have a fairly
  • Take a look at PADict [] - open-source Palm OS Japanese dictionary with built-in Japanese fonts and handwriting recognizer.

    (shameless plug) My company, Pleco Software [] makes a similar product for Chinese, and we've found that for a lot of people ready access to a character dictionary can greatly assist with their studies and their later word recall.
  • Has anyone used Moogle?

    That would be Moodle []. The section on Moodle for Language Teaching [] has some interesting ideas and shows it is widely used for this purpose.

    An essay [] on using Moodle has this comment:

    The e-mail and archiving system in Moodle is one of its greatest features. Students post their messages on the Moodle web page, but the messages are sent out to all subscribers as regular e-mail after a teacher-determined delay, of say, 15 or 30 minutes. This gives the writer a chance to review the m

  • by Anonymous Coward
    one thing that has really helped is that the teacher has a high quality digital video camera which he uses to tape our oral assignments. Then when we listen to our conversations we pick up on our OWN flaws and consequently learn not to do that. There is no better learning that figuring what you did wrong ON YOUR OWN, because then we have to have done research of some form. One final comment, do not forget about teaching the culture. Bright students will begin to see the massive connection between the langu
  • Oh, and the PC's at the school should be filled with open source software! I'm talking Linux,, Mozilla Firefox & Thunderbird etc. etc.
  • I went to a Japanese immersion high school, and we used our technology resources for two major things: multimedia production, and access to reference materials such as encyclopedias, Japanese/English dictionaries, etc.

    Skills like desktop publishing, A/V creation and editing, and programming were not taught in seperate classes or even as subjects in their own right. Instead, students worked on quarterly projects that included research, design, and presentation of their finished product. That meant that we h
  • Seriously, make them use .jp sites. Want to check your mail? wont work, but will. The most important part of learning a new language is USING the language. Maybe even give them some age-appropriate japenese language games. The computers aren't going to teach them the language, thats the instructor's job, but maybe you can get them to use the language and give them some motivation to learn.
  • by NigelJohnstone ( 242811 ) on Friday December 17, 2004 @06:31PM (#11120653)
    Buy DVDs, lots of cartoon DVDs and lend them out to the students.

    DVDs because the multiple languages and subtitles are a great way to learn a new language. Cartoons because animation has simpler phrases.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because it's critically important for your studants to learn how to shout out "Look out! That giant tentacled demon is molesting that ninja-school girl!"

      (Wait, you mean they make other kinds of cartoons, too?)
  • Having just spent the past year studying Japanese at an intensive immersive program at Cornell University (FALCON), I might be able to provide some insight. First and foremost, your technology should support your teaching/training methodology. Develop your methodology first, then build your technology around it. Otherwise you may wind up spending your budget in ways that do not clearly contribute to your learning process.

    For example, the methodology at Cornell is to build both understanding and automa
  • []

    "Talking Panda iLingo sets a new standard for language translation software. Designed for the iPod, it's stocked with over four hundred essential words and phrases of the language you want to speak, organized for instant access. Download and install the program right now and begin your adventure abroad. Virtual fluency available in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Japanese."

  • As several people have already said, don't rely on the computers for the basic language instruction. What is far more important are good textbooks and good instructors. That said, there are two things for which computers are useful.

    First, once the students have a sufficient grounding, computers can be used to provide them with opportunities to use Japanese outside the classroom. These range from reading Japanese websites through IM and email with Japanese speakers to videoconferencing, though this last

  • ... I'd suggest you check out the open source rich media framework Xical [] for your e-learning needs. It's front line when it comes to dynamic rich-media e-learning applications (it's completely Flash based and GPLd) and is all you need on top of a self-made LMS. I recommend Zope/Plone/CMF for your own LMS. If your interessted in an open source based LMS you might want to ask the xical team (the mailaddress is on the .org website) - which I'm a part of - and we can get in contact. I work with various partners
  • a stunningly poorly designed homepage

    I suggest you fix that for starters. The web can be an absolutely huge customer draw if you let it. The idea here is to become a (minor) authority on your subject in order to attract interest. If people Google for information on the Japanese language and culture, and your site provides it in detail and in a pleasing-to-the-eye manner, a percentage will translate into customers. Its a chance to demonstrate your style of teaching and gets word of mouth if done properly.
  • I'm reasonably certain I remember Penny Arcade mentioning a game that taught you Japanese as you went along. Look into that.
  • I mean nothing helps better in learning a language than watching foreign films. Starting with subtitles turned in english (assuming thats the native language) then moving onto playing films with japanese subtitles and then eventually only in japanese. Films are fun-- people love movies, and the provide cultural information directly (by showing actual locations costumes and ceremonies) and indirectly by revealing the film maker's biases and cultural themes (for example in their portrayal of women or sexualit
  • I introduced Moodle to the school I work at about a year ago, and after a year of trying to make headway, finally I was able to get people to buy into it for this school year. It's been up all semester.

    Moodle is GREAT. There's no other way about it. It's easy to use, very featureful, easy to admin, simple to setup and get moving, and still powerful. It blows away anything else we've ever done before -- personal webspace, other course management systems, etc. We did a survey about how many faculty used
  • The purpose should not serve technology.

    I'm guessing your wife is Japanese and knows how to teach Japanese sufficiently. So that part assumed, ask HER how she wants to run the courses. And if you're all geared up to computerizing it as much as possible, then I dare say that you're running the risk of walking on new ground.

    You're asking Slashdot, so you know the answer 9 times out of 10 is "Linux" and/or "Open Source." I offer thoughts along those lines. Speaking as a student of Japanese, I know that l
  • I'm assuming this is a physical school.

    Have a library of anime. :)

    Seriously. I learned more Japanese listening to the anime I like in the original language than trying to learn it from a book. Plus it's fun. Motivation. Non-tedious. And you get the correct pronunciations for stuff. Plus how people really speak versus the business type speech in most language books. Plus the culture in some of shows.

    In order to retain a language it must be used and excercised. Have newspapers/recorded news shows
  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
    While I'm not entirely sure what is meant by "language school", I'm going to guess it means either a computer language school (ie, a technical school), or a spoken language school (ie, teach english to japanese children, or vice versa). Either way, it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference in what I'm going to say...

    I thought most technically savy people were aware of the shitty nature of all the schools which claim to be "high tech" schools, such as DeVry, ITT Tech, etc.? Maybe you aren't. Let me i
  • Forgive me for not having read the majority of the responses thus far, but I have exams I'm studying for.

    I take engineering at the University of Alberta and decided to take introductory Japanese as my fourth year complimentary studies elective course. All I can say is that I -highly- recommend against using computers as an aid to learning a foreign language. There is simply no substitute for verbal and written practice.

    Our university made extensive use of "web Course Tools" (webCT), including weekly marke
  • Moogles are a great teaching aid - they're japanese enough to be educational, and cute enough to keep the student's attention!

    On an unrelated note, Moodle [] is a quite nice bit of lesson management software; we've started testing it in our school, and it seems fine so far :)

  • How I learned French in one year [] using the Internet, an mp3 player, and a Netflix account.

    Written by a fellow geek. :)

  • Take a look at Then, make damn sure you don't do it the way they did, which is to say: do not use quicktime libraries in your java applets, because the result will crash nearly everything.

    Outside this small technical flaw, though, you'd probably find some inspiration in the course content, which is for advanced learners of German as a foreign language. They've included a lot of multimedia elements, movies, audio streaming and so on, and a lot of (vaguely) fun puzzles of the 'join the weird
  • ... the idea is that not everybody would want
    to move to Japan for a year or so...

    Also, some can't get the work permit needed
    to allow them to work as tutors, eg, due to
    their age (only younger tutors get them).

    So, Skype is a great way to let small
    groups (or even one-on-one) tutoring
    sessions go forward, with student(s) &
    tutor in different lands.

    Saves travel $$$'s - both for the big
    airfare trips at the start & end of
    the contract -and- each working day.

    This might be a way for
  • It's Better Manually with Better Organized Optical Knowledge.

    Sorry but I agree with the other poster, it's a sunk cost.

    Unless you have in the upper tens of thousands of $$$ to spend on a full blown language lab, you'd be better off getting some decent books and recordings. Or more to the point, a well-trained teacher.

    My son's school has attempted a 'computer technology based education' and frankly it's a complete failure, & I'm hacked off with myself for being sucked in.
  • This is slightly off topic, but here's a cool site to add to your bookmarks: []. Pop in the URL of a Japanese website, and when you wave your mouse over the kanji, it tells you the meaning/translation. Very cool!

  • I think you should use the computers to enable the students to watch anime with or without subtitles, as well as movies. Also, more important than that, is having the students watch real dialogues that you have recorded. I mean, real situations where people are using Japanese in a store or at the post office or someplace. You have to get the feel for the language and how it's used, which happens more easily if you can see it in action in a native environment.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern