Computer-assisted language learning

Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) is an approach to language teaching and learning in which computer technology is used as an aid to the presentation, reinforcement and assessment of material to be learned, usually including a substantial interactive element.



The History of CALL website traces the development of CALL from its origins on mainframe computers in the 1960s to the present day:

Early CALL favoured an approach that drew heavily on practices associated with programmed instruction. This was reflected in the term Computer Assisted Language Instruction (CALI), which originated in the USA and was in common use until the early 1980s, when CALL became the dominant term. Throughout the 1980s CALL widened its scope, embracing the communicative approach and a range of new technologies, especially multimedia and communications technology. An alternative term to CALL emerged in the early 1990s, namely Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL), which was felt to provide a more accurate description of the activities which fall broadly within the range of CALL. The term TELL has not, however, gained as wide an acceptance as CALL.

Typical CALL programs present a stimulus to which the learner must respond. The stimulus may be presented in any combination of text, still images, sound, and motion video. The learner responds by typing at the keyboard, pointing and clicking with the mouse, or speaking into a microphone. The computer offers feedback, indicating whether the learner’s response is right or wrong and, in the more sophisticated CALL programs, attempting to analyse the learner’s response and to pinpoint errors. Branching to help and remedial activities is a common feature of CALL programs.

Wida Software (London, UK) was one of the first specialist businesses to develop CALL programs for microcomputers in the early 1980s. Typical software of the first generation of CALL included Wida's "Matchmaster" (where students have to match two sentence halves or anything else that belongs together); "Choicemaster" (the classic multiple-choice test format); "Gapmaster" (for gapped texts); "Textmixer" (which jumbles lines within a poem or sentences within a paragraph); "Wordstore" (a learner's own private vocabulary database, complete with a definition and an example sentence in which the word to be learned is used in a context); and "Storyboard" (where a short text is blotted out completely and has to be restored from scratch). Wida's packages continue to be popular and are now merged into one general-purpose, multimedia authoring program known as "The Authoring Suite":

Another specialist business, Camsoft (Maidenhead, UK), has enjoyed similar success with its "Fun with Texts" authoring package, which was first produced in 1985 and is now available in an updated multimedia version:

Other CALL activities in the early days of computer use in schools included working with generic packages such as word-processors, which revolutionised text production assignments by enabling language learners to continually revise and have peer reviewed what they are writing before printing out the final version of their composition.

Current CALL software has embraced CD-ROM and DVD technology, and there is growing interest in Web-based CALL (see Felix 2001).

Pedagogical and methodological considerations

Fascinated by the new technology, many users within the school environment focused on technological issues, neglecting pedagogical and methodological questions and not realising that innovative pedagogy and methodology were required to integrate satisfactorily the use of computers into the languages curriculum. One point of criticism which could easily be refuted was the claim that students tended to be isolated from their classmates when working in a computer lab - the "battery chicken" syndrome. It was found out, however, that using computers in language classes could promote team work among students and, if planned well, could also encourage them to use the target language to communicate in front of their PCs, thus increasing the time they spent practising their oral skills.

Whole-class teaching, which was a feature of early CALL - because schools could only afford one computer per classroom - is now making a comeback with the introduction of interactive whiteboards.

Generally speaking, however, CALL pedagogy and methodology continue to lag behind the technology.

The current situation

The ICT4LT website contains a wealth of information on CALL that describes the current situation in CALL. The site was set up with the aid of European Commission funding, aiming to provide a comprehensive set of ICT training resources for language teachers:

Further reading

See the ICT4LT Resource Centre for a select bibliography on CALL:

See also EUROCALL's CALL bibliography: This is a comprehensive list of CALL publications, including other bibliographies on the Web.

ATALL (Autonomous Computer-Assisted Language Learning) ATALL Wikibook

CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) journal, Taylor & Francis, Abingdon, Oxfordshire: (formerly published by Swets & Zeitlinger).

Davies G. (1997) "Lessons from the past, lessons for the future: 20 years of CALL". In Korsvold A-K. & Rüschoff B. (eds.) New technologies in language learning and teaching, Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Also on the Web at:

Egbert J. & Hanson-Smith E. (eds.) (1999) CALL environments: research, practice and critical issues, Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Felix U. (2001) Beyond Babel: language learning online, Melbourne: Language Australia.

Fitzpatrick A. & Davies G. (eds.) (2003) "The Impact of Information and Communications Technologies on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and on the Role of Teachers of Foreign Languages". This is a comprehensive report commissioned by the EC Directorate General of Education and Culture, which can be downloaded in PDF or Word format from the ICC website: - click on "Report on ICT in FLL".

Fotos S. & Browne C. (eds.) (2004) New perspectives on CALL for second language classrooms, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Language Learning and Technology: A specialist CALL journal available only on the Web:

Levy M. (1997) CALL: context and conceptualisation, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

ReCALL: The Journal of EUROCALL, now published by Cambridge University Press - login at Back numbers are available at:

Warschauer M. (1996) Computer-assisted language learning: an introduction. In Fotos S. (ed.) Multimedia language teaching, Tokyo: Logos International. Also at

Warschauer M. & Healey D. (1998) Computers and language learning: an overview, Language Teaching 31:57-71. Also at

Professional associations

  • CALICO ( US-based professional association devoted to CALL
  • Pacific CALL ( professional CALL association in the Pacific: from East to Southeast Asia, Oceania, across to the Americas.
  • EUROCALL ( Europe-based professional association devoted to CALL:
  • IALLT ( US-based International Association for Language Learning Technology. IALLT is a professional organisation dedicated to promoting effective uses of media centres for language teaching, learning, and research
  • TESOL ( Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, CALL Interest Section
  • WorldCALL ( A worldwide association devoted to CALL and embracing other leading professional associations:

Professional journals

Journals dedicated to CALL

  • CALICO Journal (
  • Teaching English with Technology ( (IATEFL Poland)]
  • CALL-EJ On-line ( (online journal)
  • Computer Assisted Language Learning: An International Journal (
  • IALLT Journal ( (International Association for Language Learning Technology)
  • ON-CALL ( (The Australian Journal of Computers and Language Education)
  • Language Learning and Technology ( (online journal)
  • ReCALL ( (European Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning)
  • System (

Journals that regularly include CALL articles


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