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Is CALL Obsolete? Language Acquisition and Language Learning Revisited in a Digital Age


TESL-EJ Volume 17, Number 4, ISSN 1072-4303


In this article, Huw Jarvis and Stephen Krashen ask "Is CALL Obsolete?" When the term CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning) was introduced in the 1960s, the language education profession knew only about language learning, not language acquisition, and assumed the computer's primary contribution to second language acquisition were programs based on traditional language learning. Things have changed dramatically--subconscious language acquisition has been shown to be more powerful than conscious learning. Studies strongly suggest that consciously learned knowledge about language has only limited functions. Its primary function is as a Monitor to edit language we produce, either before it is spoken or written, or after, and there are severe conditions that must be met for this to happen successfully. Second, computers have changed. Thanks to the Internet, computers do a lot more than they used to do, supplying an astonishing variety of visual, aural, and written input, providing a means of social interaction, as well as "information." Other studies confirm that the use of English on computers and other mobile devices includes both academic and social functions. What Jarvis and Krashen conclude is that students have considerable respect for digital devices as a source of comprehensible input, which in turn, also suggests that they have at least some appreciation for subconscious language acquisition. The implications of the research presented here are clear: The term CALL is obsolete, because its focus is limited to the computer, and because of its emphasis on conscious learning. Alternative acronyms such as Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL) or Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) account for some changes in the field, but continue to focus on conscious learning. It is time to move beyond CALL. MALU (Mobile Assisted Language Use) as defined by Jarvis and Achilleos (2013) is a significant improvement when discussing electronic devices: MALU covers more than desktop and even laptop computers, and makes it clear that more than language instruction and/or learning is involved.


Jarvis, H. & Krashen, S. (2014). Is CALL Obsolete? Language Acquisition and Language Learning Revisited in a Digital Age. TESL-EJ, 17(4),. Retrieved August 10, 2022 from .

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