Thursday, May 29, 2008
bab.la : first impressions
From bab.la's about page:
bab.la is a language project by Andreas Schroeter, Thomas Schroeter and Patrick Uecker. The idea has been on Andreas' mind for quite some time. During his high school and university years he lived in Canada, France, Sweden and the USA. He noticed that just knowing the exact translation often doesn't really help. You really need to "live" the language to come up with the right word. Thomas and Andreas have been collecting dictionaries from different languages for a long time. Putting the things together was just a natural step: Starting a portal where language lovers can meet and exchange their ideas and learn languages from each other....
Though I have only perused it for a quarter of an hour, I think Bab.la is a platform that I will return to often. The kicker will be how well the site's test and quiz applications work and how they compare to popular and readily-available offerings, such as Quia. In my opinion, the functionality of the quiz-widget is also of utmost importance: How much can be accomplished in the embedded widget? Is the tool useful and practical for a language teacher who has only limited computer resources at his/her school?
Ignoring the question of technology resources within a school, I think it'd be wonderful if any student could turn to this platform to find le mot juste for any number of contexts where students pick a word out of the dictionary and use it auf gut Glück. Of course, even the best of tools require that the user has the wherewithal and desire to navigate towards the right answer. There is no panacea for a student stuck who doesn't care about the outcome of their writing.
However, there's the rub and the exciting part about Web2.0: wouldn't there be more "language lovers" among the general population if the tools and the networking-possibilities for learning the language existed and were incorporated as a part of class instruction? With some well-planned, structured hours in the computer- or language-lab of your school, in which students register on this site and explore it (here: teacher must structure this time such that a goal is reached), you might well have encouraged everyone in the class to become more independent and responsible in their language learning. Not only will you have admonished them not to Babblefish their essay, but you will have given them the tools to become competent users of the language on their own merits.
More on bab.la as I continue to explore it....