The Virtual Language Centre promotes web-based resource-assisted learning. It is predicated on the assumption that through an examination of words used in context, non-native speakers will come to understand and be able to use English. Though it emphasizes vocabulary learning, it includes grammar, pronunciation, reading, and writing instruction and practice, which it supports through a range of resources: A web concordancer gives users the capability of entering keywords and finding authentic texts in which those words are embedded. A Net Dictionary defines those or any other words throughout the site. A Text-To-Speech icon produces audio versions of unknown words in British or American English with male or female voices. Common English pitfalls, such as articles and prepositions, are effectively addressed in the grammar pages. Elsewhere, the reading exercises are particularly rich, owing to the many links that fully support comprehension.
While not flawless, the teacher- and student-made exercises are sufficiently accurate in content and design. Characterized by challenging academic subject matter, the VLC also provides entertaining instruction for learners: word games, a RealAudio Jukebox, and an ESL corner.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
A lexicon-driven site, the Virtual Language Centre is extremely useful for teaching as well as for self-study. Centered on the online dictionary, it combines multimedia (streaming audio and sound files), web-based concordancing, active dictionary pages, and language-learning exercises such that all the features of the site complement one another clearly and uniquely. This unusual design and the high interactivity of this site make it particularly exciting to teach and to learn with. It could be readily integrated into college ESL/EFL courses, especially reading and writing courses. The site offers a toolbox of useful links for teachers, including a cloze exercise generator and quiz maker.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
However unusual the site, one navigates easily. Pleasant colors and graphics adorn the uncluttered welcome page, with clearly grouped language exercises, teacher resources, games and chat, and the central reference tools. The dictionary's use of red, blue, and black to differentiate definitions, examples, and the entries themselves is excellent.
While not as true as its name, the TruVoice speech engine renders sufficiently useful approximations of designated words.
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