Autonomous Technology-Assisted Language Learning/Packages/PDA

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Using a PDA for Automatically Updated Text and Audio Input[edit]

by Gary Cziko

For the past year or so I have been using a Palm PDA as a portable source of automatically updated text and podcast audio in French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. This allows me to hear and read the latest news in these languages, as well as articles and programs about science, technology and culture wherever I may be. The content is updated when I re-synch my PDA with my desktop or laptop computer.

Hardware[edit]

I use a Palm Tungsten T5 PDA as my PDA. To allow additional memory for audio files, I have added a 1 GB SD memory card.

The synching computer is any one of a number of desktop and laptop computers on which I have installed AvantGo software. Any Windows computer connected to the Internet can be used for adding audio podcasts to the PDA.

Software[edit]

For text, AvantGo is used. This free software and service allows me to set up an account and select "channels" to be updated each time I synch my PDA.

For audio, I use the free MyPodder software (Windows only) provided by podcastready. Unlike iTunes (the most widely used software for subscribing to and downloading podcasts), Podcastready stores its program and audio files (downloaded podcasts) on your portable digital device only and does not use any program on your PC or store any podcasts there. This means that a person (for example, a student) could use any Windows connected to the Internet to check for new podcasts and download them to your PDA or other digital media player.

Texts resources[edit]

The texts I use (AvantGo channels) are the following:

  • French
    • Canada
      • Ici Radio-Canada.ca "Nouvelles en français par Radio-Canada.ca: actualité nationale, internationale, économique, technologique, sportive, météo et détente.
    • France
      • Le Monde interactif - actualités
  • German
    • Germany
      • SPIEGEL ONLINE
  • Portuguese
    • Europe
      • Euro News
    • Germany
      • Deutsche Welle - DW-WORLD-DE Português
  • Spanish
    • United Kingdom
      • BBC Mundo

Audio resources[edit]

The audio (podcasts downloaded via MyPodder) I listen to most are:

  • French
    • Canada
      • Les années lumières (weekly):
    • France
      • France Info-Info santé:
      • France Info-Info sciences:
      • France Info-Savoir être:
      • RFI - L'école des savoirs:
  • German
    • Germany
      • Langsam gesprochenen Nachrichten (daily):
      • Tagesschau Podcast (daily):
  • Portuguese
    • Brazil
      • PodBrasil
  • Spanish
    • Netherlands
      • La Ronda Informativa (weekly):
      • La Matinal (daily):
    • Spain
      • REE Hispanorama (weekly):
    • USA
      • Democracy Now!: Titulares en español (daily):
      • Nuevos Horizontes (weekly):

Needs and problems[edit]

I have yet to find an audio podcast with matching transcript available as a AvantGo channel. Doing so would allow me to both listen and read to the same material using my PDA.

There is no way to control the speed of audio using my PDA, nor can I easily jump back a constant number of seconds to easily re-listen to what I have just heard.

Conclusions[edit]

Using my PDA to obtain and present updated foreign-language texts and audio has been the single most important tool in my foreign-language learning. No matter where I am or what time of day or night it may be, I always have current, interesting material to read and programs to listen to in French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. This is helping me to maintain my French, improve my Spanish, revive my neglected German and learn Portuguese.