A French Vocabulary Tutor for th web

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					                                                            Gilles Labrie

A French Vocabulary Tutor for the Web

                             Gilles Labrie
                        Central Michigan University


This article discusses a project to design and implement a small French
vocabulary tutor for the World Wide Web. The tutor includes words, pic-
tures, and sounds to help students learn new words and their pronuncia-
tion. The article highlights salient features and design of the tutor and
then focuses on two variants of a module on technology-related vocabu-
lary that were created using very straightforward html code and JavaScript.
It also demonstrates the increased complexity and control made possible
with Java applets. Finally, it explores strategies for including various fea-
tures, for example, hot spots that can be used on the Web. Preliminary
assessment reveals that Web-based multimedia programs have some ad-
vantages over more traditional methods of vocabulary learning.


Computer-Assisted Language Learning, World Wide Web, French Vocabu-
lary Tutor, JavaScript, Java Applets


   Vocabulary acquisition is important in language learning as both for-
eign language students and teachers will attest. It is important to begin-
ning speakers of a language who substantially increase their power to com-
municate by increasing the number of words they know. It is also impor-
tant to intermediate and advanced speakers who often feel they have diffi-
culty communicating effectively because of their inadequate vocabulary.
   Vocabulary can be learned by trying to understand spoken or written
language. Researchers like Krashen argue that comprehensible input is
the only effective means of vocabulary and language learning. Others (Na-
tion, 1990; Oxford & Crookall, 1990) maintain that less contextualized
language can also be useful in vocabulary learning and that both direct
and indirect strategies ought to be used.
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  Some of the strategies for vocabulary learning reviewed by Oxford and
Crookall include: (a) decontextualized techniques (e.g., word lists, flash-
cards, and dictionary use), (b) semicontextualized techniques (e.g., word
grouping, word or concept association, visual imagery, aural imagery, key-
words, physical response, physical sensation, and semantic mapping), and
(c) fully contextualized techniques (practice in reading, listening, speak-
ing, and writing).


  This project is being developed as an attempt to use semicontextualized
techniques to provide an effective and enjoyable means of learning French
vocabulary. The project has two major goals. The first is to design and
implement a few modules of a small French vocabulary tutor for the World
Wide Web. The Tutor includes words, pictures, and sounds. The second
goal is to assess the effectiveness of the Tutor. Using one of the modules,
a preliminary study asked the following questions:

      1. Do students spend more time learning vocabulary with a com-
         puter-based tutor than they do with a textbook?
      2. Do they learn more with computer-based tutors than with tra-
         ditional means of vocabulary study?
      3. Do they find vocabulary learning more helpful and enjoyable
         with computers than with the tools they regularly use?


   The Tutor has two modes: a learning mode and a game mode. The learn-
ing mode, which allows students to learn words and their pronunciation,
is modeled on visual dictionaries that have pictures and words linked to
the pictures. The Tutor, as does the CD-ROM version of the dictionary Le
Visuel multilingue (1996), associates sounds with pictures and text.
   The words in the Tutor are divided into associated word groups. Mod-
ules for two word groups were first developed: one teaching the parts of
the body and the other a collection of technology-related words. Since
then, a module on fruit and vegetables has been developed and others are
currently being designed. The dictionaries for the individual modules dif-
fer; the vocabulary items for the parts of the body module all refer to a
single picture, whereas the technology vocabulary is presented sequen-
tially as a collection of pictures, each picture representing one word. If
students pass the cursor over the picture or an area of the picture, the
corresponding word appears alongside and a translation in English ap-
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pears in the status window below. If students click on the picture (or area
of the picture) the word is pronounced in French.
  The game mode includes two basic games: one in which students drag
words to the picture or area of the picture they represent and another one
in which the program pronounces the word and students must click on
the relevant picture or area of the picture. The program provides a score
for the number of correct answers and indicates the elapsed time since the
start of the game.
  Students use the Tutor in the learning mode to study, review, and learn
words. Using the dictionary, they can practice and get immediate feed-
back on the meaning of words and how they are pronounced. In the game
mode, students can use either game, the one focusing on the written word
and the other on the spoken word to test their knowledge of the vocabu-
lary. Because students get points for correctly identifying spoken or writ-
ten words, their score provides them with a target that they can try to
better. Moreover, because the timer in the program indicates elapsed time,
students can try to improve both their accuracy and response speed.


   First, the learning mode consists of a text dictionary divided into word
groups. Each group provides a network of associated words, pictures and
sounds that enhances learning. As Carter and McCarthy (1988) have noted,
“the more words are analyzed or enriched by imagistic and other associa-
tions, the more likely it is that they will be retained.”
   Second, the Tutor allows for systematic vocabulary learning. Often, af-
ter the first two years of study, vocabulary is not stressed. More advanced
students can use the program to learn groups of words which are not
familiar to them but which they might want to know.
   Third, because the program is web based, it is widely available (acces-
sible at The
Tutor replaces the note cards students often make to help them learn words
and has more elements: not just words, but also pictures and sounds.
   Fourth, the game mode provides a sense of learning by doing. Increas-
ingly greater associations are created among text, sounds, and pictures as
students try to connect written and spoken words with a picture or an
area of a picture.
   Finally, learners have complete control. It is clear that learners best learn
the words they want to learn. The Tutor is a hypertext document with
many links between the various exercises and gives learners maximum
mobility from one part of the program to another. Learners do not need to
proceed in a linear fashion through exercises.
   In short, the Tutor is distinctive because it incorporates picture, words,

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and sounds, includes games (play is an important element in sustained
learning), and, especially, is Web based, making it widely available.


  The module on technology vocabulary exists in three versions; one in
JavaScript, one in html code only, and a third, more flexible version cre-
ated as a Java applet. In the JavaScript version, shown in Figure 1, two
pictures appear centered on the screen aligned next to two white spaces of
similar size on either side.

Figure 1
Technology Vocabulary: JavaScript version

When students pass the cursor over the picture, the corresponding word
appears in French in the white space next to the picture. If students click
on the picture or the white space, the word is spoken in French. This
module requires three different pictures: a picture of the item (e.g., a com-
puter), a picture of the word typed on a white background (computer3.gif),

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and a blank white background (blank1.gif). Below is the html code for the
first two of the 27 pictures in the group:

    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE=“JavaScript”>
    function doit(word, num, trans) {
         document.images[num].src= word + “3.gif”;
         window.status=“a ” + trans;
    function undo(word, num, trans) {
         document.images[num].src= word + “1.gif”;
         window.status=“ ”;
    <A HREF=“comput.wav” //This is # 0
    onMouseOver=“doit(‘comput’, 0,’computer’);return true”
    onMouseOut=“undo(‘blank’, 0,’ ‘)”>
    <IMG SRC=“blank1.gif” BORDER=“0” WIDTH=“100” HEIGHT=“100”></A>
    <A HREF=“comput.wav” //This is # 1
    onMouseOver=“doit(‘comput’,0,’computer’);return true”
    onMouseOut=“undo(‘blank’, 0,’ ‘)”>
    <IMG SRC=“comput.gif” BORDER=“0” WIDTH=“147” HEIGHT=“100”></A>
    <A HREF=“monitr.wav” //This is # 2
    onMouseOver=“doit(‘monitr’, 3, ‘monitor’);return true”
    onMouseOut=“undo(‘blank’, 3, ‘ ‘)”>
    <IMG SRC=“monitr.gif” BORDER=“0” WIDTH=“114” HEIGHT=“100”></A>
    <A HREF=“monitr.wav” //This is # 3
    onMouseOver=“doit(‘monitr’, 3, ‘monitor’);return true”
    onMouseOut=“undo(‘blank’, 3, ‘ ‘)”>
    <IMG SRC=“blank1.gif” BORDER=“0” WIDTH=“100” HEIGHT=“100”></A>

When the cursor is moved over the picture, OnMouseOver calls the func-
tion “doit,” which paints the word in French on a white background
(computer3.gif). The function also puts the translation in the status win-
dow. When the cursor leaves the area, the function OnMouseOut calls the
blank picture with the white background, and the word disappears. Be-
cause the audio file is anchored to the picture, if students click on the
picture, the audio file “computer.wav” is played, and the words for a com-
puter are spoken in French.

Pictures and Sounds

   Because pictures on the Web will be widely disseminated, permission is
required to use the pictures of others; a better solution is to use one’s own
pictures. Pictures can be taken using a digital camera, or color prints can
be digitized using a scanner. Scanning pictures is relatively simple since it
is easy to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop or other image software to
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crop images or reduce the size of files. Most institutions have staff in
computer labs who are eager to help faculty developers. Once pictures
have been cropped, they should be used on the Web in their actual size;
otherwise the pictures may be distorted. Pictures should be digitized in
.jpeg or .gif format, if they are to be used in Java applets. The files should
also be small enough in size so that browsers can load them in a reason-
able amount of time.
   The Sound Recorder program on the PC can be used to record sound
files. Recording is straightforward and is easily learned using the help
files, but the quality is often mediocre and does not approach that which
can be obtained with professional quality equipment. The sound files in
the initial module of the Tutor are in .wav format. In the applets discussed
below, the sound files are in the .au format required by Java. Shareware
programs such as Goldwave are also available on the Web for easy con-
version to and from most audio formats.


  An HTML variant of the module on technology vocabulary is in fact
possible with the use of the <ALT> tag (see Figure 2).

Figure 2
Technology Vocabulary: HTML Version

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This tag was originally designed to provide an alternative text for brows-
ers unable to view images in a Web document. However, many current
browsers also display the alternative text when the mouse pointer is over
an image. Thus, the code below, showing the first four of the 27 images,
provides a variant of the JavaScript version above. The anchor first en-
closes the audio file. Within the anchor, the audio file is followed by the
image file and the <ALT> tag that encloses the information to appear on
the screen when the cursor moves over that image.

    <A HREF=“comput.wav”> <IMG SRC=“comput.gif” ALT=“un ordinateur” BOR-
    DER=“0” WIDTH=“147” HEIGHT=“100”></A>
    <A HREF=“monitr.wav”><IMG SRC=“monitr.gif” ALT=“un écran” BORDER=“0”
    WIDTH=“114” HEIGHT=“100”></A>
    <A HREF=“mouse.wav”><IMG SRC=“mouse.gif” ALT=“une souris” BORDER=“0”
    WIDTH=“57” HEIGHT=“100”></A>
    <A HREF=“keybd.wav”> <IMG SRC=“keybd.gif” ALT=“un clavier” BORDER=“0”
    WIDTH=“231” HEIGHT=“100”></A>

This version is the easiest to construct and can be easily implemented by
means of a Web page editor such as Netscape Page Composer. With the
editor, developers first import the images onto the new page and then link
each image to its sound file so that clicking on the image causes the corre-
sponding word to be pronounced. To have the word appear on the screen
when the cursor moves over the image, developers must add the word in
the alternative text box in the lower portion of the dialog box that appears
when importing the image file. The page created with the editor is quite
similar to the actual page as it appears on the Web; what you see in the
Web page editor is what you get when the page appears on the Web. The
creator of the page need not deal directly with the html tags, although the
html document with tags is being created in the background by the Web
page editor.


  The Java version of the module is composed of a Java applet embedded
in the html code read by the Web browser (see Figure 3).

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Figure 3
Technology Vocabulary: Java Version

In this version, the pictures scroll across the screen, three at a time. When
the cursor passes over one of the pictures, the corresponding word ap-
pears in French below; if students click on the picture, the corresponding
word is spoken in French. When the html code appears in the browser, the
embedded applet is automatically called. The html code with the call to
the applet follows.

      <HTML><HEAD><TITLE> technology vocabulary </TITLE></HEAD>
      <BODY BGCOLOR=“#0000F F” TEXT=“#FF0 000” LINK=“#FF0 000”
      <APPLET CODE=“picture.class” ALIGN=“center” WIDTH=575 HEIGHT=150 >
      <PARAM NAME=“number_of_images” VALUE=“28”>
      <PARAM NAME=“showing” VALUE=“3”>
      <PARAM NAME=“image1” VALUE=“comput”>
      <PARAM NAME=“translation1” VALUE=“a computer”>
      <PARAM NAME=“french1” VALUE=“un ordinateur”>

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Code, the first tag within the applet, lists the name of the file the browser
will run. The first parameter indicates the number of pictures, and the
second the number showing on the screen at any one time. The next three
parameters provide a name for the first picture, a translation of the word,
and the French word for the pictured item. This information is repeated
for all the words on the list. Other words and pictures are substituted for
the ones used here to create other modules such as the one on fruit and
vegetables, all using this same applet.
  The items passed to the applet vary in number depending on what the
applet needs. Here is some of the code that calls the applet on parts of the

    <APPLET CODE=“body.class” ALIGN=“center” WIDTH=398 HEIGHT=424 >
    <PARAM NAME=“number_of_images” VALUE=“1”>
    <PARAM NAME=“image1” VALUE=“parts_of_body”>
    <PARAM NAME=“number_of_words” VALUE=“25”>
    <PARAM NAME=“audio1” VALUE=“cheveux”>
    <PARAM NAME=“audio2” VALUE=“tete”>
    <PARAM NAME=“audio3” VALUE=“sourcils”>

The “number_of_images” parameter specifies the number of pictures the
applet calls, in this case only one. The next parameter specifies the name
of the image, “parts_of_body,” the parameter “number_of_words” speci-
fies how many the applet uses, and the next three parameters specify the
names of the audio files.


  Traditional linear computer programs follow a prescribed sequence. For
example, the program for an ATM waits for a card to be inserted in the
machine. Once a card has been inserted, the program asks for a password.
After entering the password, the user is given a number of choices, but the
choices are fixed. In short, the program starts in a fixed place with the
insertion of a card and proceeds in a linear fashion through a series of
choices that end when the card is returned to the user. Everything is fairly
predictable, except the amount of cash the user wants and other minor
  However, Windows programs in general, and Java applets in particular,
do not behave in this manner; they do not follow a predictable linear script.
In the beginning, as with the ATM, the applet is running and waiting for
something to occur. However, the applet does not follow a prescribed se-
quence of events but, instead, responds to what the user does with the
cursor. This approach requires a different kind of program. First, an applet
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has an “init” method which, as the name indicates, performs initial tasks
such as loading pictures and sound files into memory. It also has a paint
method which literally paints onto the screen the picture loaded in the
“init” method. The paint method is regularly called to repaint the screen.
Finally, handlers exist for the so-called events, that is, the movement of
the cursor as it enters and exits the applet area as well as the movement of
the cursor within the applet area. These handlers also determine what
happens when the mouse button is pressed. Whenever any of these events
occurs, the program captures the event and the coordinates of the cursor
at the time of the event.

Loading the Images

  Loading the images is one of the first tasks performed by the applet.
This task is accomplished in the “init” method with the code below:

      numimgs = Integer.parseInt( getParameter(“numimgs”));
      resize(width, height);
      imgnames = new String[numimgs];
      img = new Image[numimgs];
      for (int k=0; k < numimgs; k++) {
            imgnames[k] = getParameter(“img” + (k+1));

First, the value in the html code of the parameter “number_of_images” is
read. Then two new array variables are declared; “imgnames” will be used
to store the names of the pictures, and “img” to store the pictures them-
selves. The loop that follows fills the first array with the names of the
images from the html parameter list, then loads the images in the array

Loading the Sound Files

  The sound files are then loaded with similar code.

      audionum = Integer.parseInt( getParameter(“audionum”));
      audionames = new String[audionum];
      audio = new AudioClip[audionum];
      for (int k = 0; k < audionum; k++) {
            audionames[k] = getParameter(“aud” + (k+1));
            audio[k]=getAudioClip(getDocumentBase(),audionames[k]+ .au”);

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The number of audio files is determined by reading the parameter list in
the html code. Arrays are declared for the names of the audio files and for
the files themselves, and a loop is used to read the file names from the
parameter list in the html code; the audio files are then read into the array.
Once the files are loaded, the paint method literally paints the images on
the screen.

Creating the Hot Spots

  In the module on parts of the body, shown in Figure 4, a picture of a
young man is painted on the screen. (See the Java code for this applet in
Appendix A.)

Figure 4
Vocabulary for Parts of the Body

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When students move the cursor over a part of the image, the word for the
part of the body appears in French on the screen. Causing the word to
appear on the screen is done with so-called “hot spots.” Hot spots can
easily be defined in Java using the point, rectangle, and polygon classes.
Because rectangles are fixed in shape, the polygon class was used to de-
limit the irregular shapes of parts of the body. Any number of coordinates
can be included to create a “hot spot” on the picture of the body. First, the
x and y coordinates for the polygon are defined in pixels.

      Int[]     xcheveux = {158,166,184,221,236,241 };
      Int[]     ycheveux = { 0,21,8,13,27,0};

These points are easily found because, as the applet is being developed, a
preliminary version runs with the picture and a function prints the x and y
coordinates of the cursor movements in the status window. Once the points
are defined, the new polygon can be specified.

      Polygon cheveux = new Polygon(xcheveux,ycheveux, 6);

The parameter list includes “xcheveux” and “ycheveux” (i.e., the array of
points previously defined followed by the number of points in the poly-
gon). The MouseMoved handler automatically tracks the movement of
the cursor on the screen and the coordinates are saved in the variable
“point.” The paint method then writes the appropriate French word to the
screen if “point” is inside the area defined as the polygon “cheveux.” It
does so by calling the DrawString method to print the word at the speci-
fied location on the screen.

      if (cheveux.contains(point.x,point.y)){
            g.drawString(“les cheveux”, 10, 18);

Playing the Audio Files

  Whenever the mouse is clicked in an area of the picture representing a
part of the body listed in the vocabulary, the word is spoken. This proce-
dure is performed by the MousePressed handler.

      public void mousePressed (MouseEvent evt) {
           if (point == null) { point = new Point (evt.getX( ), evt.getY( ));}
           point.x = evt.getX( ); point.y=evt.getY( );
           if (cheveux.contains(point.x,point.y)){
                 audio[0].play( );
           else if (tete.contains(point.x,point.y)){
                 audio[1].play( );

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The MousePressed handler is constantly tracking the position of the cur-
sor. If the mouse is clicked, the MousePressed block is entered, and the x
and y coordinates of the cursor on the screen are assigned to point.x and
point.y. If the coordinates, point.x and point.y, are inside the polygon pre-
viously defined as “cheveux,” the corresponding audio file is played.


  The game mode of the Tutor was described earlier. One of the games
directs students to click on a button to hear a word and then on the pic-
ture that corresponds to that word (see Figure 5).

Figure 5

A second button, when pressed, repeats the last word spoken. The layout
therefore requires the addition of two buttons, play and repeat, as well as
text boxes to indicate the score and the time elapsed. Instructions to stu-
dents also need to be displayed, which are best added by creating a new

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layout, imbedding the previous layout within the new layout, and adding
the new features in turn at the bottom.
  In the game, a run method is added to determine the elapsed time. This
part of the code follows.

      Public void run ( ) {
            While (initial Time == 0);
            While (mythread != null) {
                 Try {      Thread.sleep(1000);
                            If (!stop)       {
                                  Time = System.currentTimeMillis();
                                  Interval = Time – initialTime;
                                  minutes = (int) Interval/60000;
                                  secondes = (int) (Interval % 60000)/1000;
                 } catch (Exception e) { }

The initial time is set to zero; then an infinite loop constantly updates the
number of minutes and seconds elapsed, and the SetText method prints
the results in the appropriate text box. Finally, a method is needed to re-
spond when a button is pressed. The buttons are defined as follows:

      Button    b[ ] = new Button[number];
      String    button_name[] = {“Entendre”, “Répéter”}

Button clicks are processed by the actionPerformed handler. If the play
button is selected, the handler randomly selects a word not already used
and causes the word to be spoken. If the repeat button is pressed, the
previous word is played again.

           Public void actionPerformed (ActionEvent e) {
           If ( e.getSource( ) == “Entendre” && !stop) {
                 If (initialTime == 0) initialTime = System.currentTimeMillis();
                 Voicenum = (int) (java.lang.Math.random () * 4);
                 Do { if yes[voicenum]);
                       Else {     voicenum++;
                                  If (voicenum > 4) voicenum = 0;
                 } while (!yes[voicenum}));
                 audio[voicenum].play(); essais++; tf2.setText(String.valueOf(essais));
           } else if (e.getSource( ) == “Répéter” && !stop) {
                 audio[voicenum].play(); essais++; tf2.setText(String.valueOf(essais));

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   A preliminary assessment of the tutor was completed with students from
Elementary Spanish classes who were paid a minimal fee for participating
in the study. Spanish students were used in the study because they repre-
sented a large relatively homogeneous group with experience learning for-
eign language vocabulary. Consequently, it was felt that the vocabulary
learning they were asked to do in the study was a task they were more
likely to know how to undertake and complete than students who had
never studied a foreign language. The students were paid a fee because
local experts advised that the recruitment of volunteers could be greatly
facilitated if a modest stipend were offered. Of the 66 students who par-
ticipated, the scores of 50 were retained. In a questionnaire administered
at the end of the project, the participants were asked which languages
they had studied and, to eliminate bias in the results, the scores of the 16
students who had previously studied French were eliminated (See the stu-
dent questionnaire in Appendix B).


   The students were asked to study 23 French vocabulary words, all re-
lated to parts of the body. (See the list of words in Appendix C.) All stu-
dents studied the same words, but they were divided into three groups
that were directed to study the vocabulary items in different ways. The
students in group 1 (n = 17) studied the words on a computer. When they
passed the cursor over an area of the image on the screen, the word ap-
peared in French next to it. If they clicked the left mouse button on the
same area, the word was spoken in French. The students in group 2 (n =
17) also studied the words on a computer, but they were unable to hear
the words spoken; they could only see the word appear in French on the
screen when they moved the cursor over an area of the body. The students
in group 3 (n = 16) worked with a more traditional printed version of
what the other students had studied on the computer. In fact, they worked
with three modified copies of the picture in Figure 4 above. Printed on the
first copy were all the words related to the head. The second copy con-
tained the words that are part of the arms and upper body. The third copy
included the words related to the legs and feet. The words printed on
these pages, however, had to be connected with lines to specific areas of
the body. To make the pictures less confusing, dots were added so that it
would be clear which areas of the body the printed words represented. To
assure that all the participants worked under the same conditions, the
picture with the dots was also used in the computer versions for the two
other groups of students.

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  No limit on the amount of time students were permitted to study was
imposed. They simply recorded the time they started studying the words
and the time they finished. After the students indicated they had studied
to their satisfaction, they completed three tests covering all the vocabu-
lary items. In the first test, they were given English words and asked to
write the French equivalents (English to French); in the second, they were
given French words and asked to write the English equivalents (French to
English); in the third, they listened to a list of words spoken in French and
were asked to write the English equivalents (listening/French to English).
The tests were each scored on the basis of 23 points. For tests where the
students answered in English, correct or mostly correct responses were
awarded one point. On the test where responses were in French, one point
was awarded for correct or mostly correct answers and one-half point for
answers where the word was recognizable.

Study Time

  Students in Group 1, those who used the computer and who could hear
the words pronounced, spent an average of 14.5 minutes studying the
vocabulary items. Students in Group 2, those who used the computer but
who could not hear the words pronounced, studied an average of 13.0
minutes. Students in Group 3, those who used the traditional method,
studied for 17.6 minutes on average. Analysis of variance showed that
there was a significant difference between the Groups 2 and 3, those who
used the computer without sound versus those who used traditional meth-
ods (p < .05).

Correlation Between Test Scores

  The students completed three tests after they had finished studying the
vocabulary. The analysis of students’ test scores showed a significantly
high correlation between the English to French and the French to English
test scores (p < .01) and a moderate correlation between the English to
French scores and the listening scores and also between the French to
English scores and the listening scores (p < .01). In other words, students
who did well on one test also did well on the others, and students’ scores
on one test were good predictors of their scores on the other tests.

Comparison of Test Scores Between Groups

  The mean scores and standard deviations on the three tests for each
group of students are shown in Table 1.

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Table 1
Mean Test Scores
                    English to         French to       Listening/French
                     French             English            to English
                    M (SD)             M     (SD)           M    (SD)
Group 1            15.5 (5.49)        20.3 (3.82)        15.2 (5.75)
Group 2            19.4 (3.31)        22.0 (2.09)        14.9 (3.92)
Group 3            16.7 (5.19)        19.9 (3.69)        11.8 (5.04)

There were no significant differences among the groups on the three test
scores, which suggests that the three methods are equally effective. The
test scores are also pertinent because the students in Group 3, using tradi-
tional methods, studied longer but scored no better on the tests. These
results suggest that working with a computer is a more efficient way of
studying than using traditional methods.
   As noted earlier, all the students had studied Spanish. When we ad-
justed for the years of study of Spanish (using years of study of Spanish as
the covariate in analysis of covariance), significant differences emerged
among the groups on the listening test. The students in Groups 1 and 2
had significantly higher scores than those in Group 3. Post hoc analysis
also showed a significant difference between Groups 1 and 3 and between
Groups 2 and 3 on the listening test. In other words, when the test scores
were adjusted for years of Spanish, students who studied the vocabulary
with a computer scored significantly higher on the listening test than stu-
dents using traditional methods. The difference on the listening test scores
between the two groups using computers was not significant, but the test
only assessed the students’ ability to recognize new words, not to pro-
nounce them.

Helpfulness and Enjoyableness

   A part of the assessment was based on student self-evaluation. We wanted
to find out whether students thought that computer-based lessons were
effective and found them enjoyable. In the questionnaire that the students
completed at the end of the session, we asked the following two ques-

    1) How helpful was this method in learning vocabulary?
    2) How enjoyable was this method of learning vocabulary?

Students’ responses to these questions are shown in Table 2 and Table 3,
and the means for the responses to the first question are shown in Table 4.

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Table 2
Helpfulness of Each Method of Learning
                     very helpful     somewhat             not very or
                      or helpful        helpful            not helpful
Group 1                   15
Group 2                   13               3                   1
Group 3                    9               6                   1

Table 3
Enjoyableness of Each Method of Learning
                     very enjoyable   somewhat             not very or
                      or enjoyable    enjoyable           not enjoyable
Group 1                    10             6                     1
Group 2                     9             8
Group 3                     7             4                    5

Table 4
Mean Response Scores on Helpfulness of the Method
Group 1               3.23
Group 2               2.76
Group 3               2.62
Note: 5-point scale (0 = not helpful, 4 = very helpful)

  Analysis revealed a moderate correlation between helpfulness and en-
joyment. Students who found the way they learned the French words helpful
also found it enjoyable to a similar degree. There were no significant dif-
ferences among the ratings of the groups for the question of how enjoy-
able they found the specific method they used to learn the words. How-
ever, on the question of how helpful the method was, Group 1, the group
of students who used computers and could hear the words pronounced,
had a significantly higher mean than the other two groups. This finding
indicates that the students found computer-based learning with sound more
helpful than those who used the computer without sound and those who
used traditional methods. However, one large caveat should be noted.
Because students were given a listening test, one would expect those who
heard the words to find the materials more helpful than those who did
  The questionnaire also asked students what was helpful and what was
not, and what suggestions they would like to offer. The answers to these
questions supported the conclusion in the self-evaluation on helpfulness.
Students in Group 1 reacted very positively to the program. 29% com-
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                                                           Gilles Labrie

mented favorably saying, for example, that “this method of learning is a
good one,” that they “would like to be taught like that,” that this method
of learning should “be used in all language classes,” and that the “program
should be available in all language labs.” Another student praised the ef-
fectiveness of the program:” I never thought I could speak French, but
here I knew how to say body part terms in a matter of minutes.”
  A few students in Group 2, who used the computer without having the
words pronounced, pointed out that they liked using the computer pro-
gram because a word only appeared when the cursor was moved over an
area of the body. Therefore, they could test their knowledge and verify it
immediately by moving the cursor and making the word they wanted to
check appear on the screen.

Suggestions for Improvements

  Students also suggested a number of improvements. Some pointed out
the poor placement and ambiguity of some of the dots painted on parts of
the body. Even when the dots are well placed, however, the question of
how learners distinguish among the words for thigh, leg, or calf remains.
For that reason, a number of students, including 29% of those in Group 1
who responded favorably to the program, suggested that the English equiva-
lents of all words be shown somewhere. In addition, of the students who
did not hear the words pronounced, 52% of those in Group 2 and 29% of
those in Group 3 would have liked to hear the words. The latter request,
however, is not surprising given that students had just taken a listening


  A few conclusions can be gleaned from the preliminary assessment of
the program in this study.

    • Students using paper copies spent more time on average study-
      ing vocabulary than both groups of students using a computer,
      though the only significant difference was between Groups 2
      and 3. It is noteworthy that the students using traditional meth-
      ods studied longer but scored no better on the achievement
    • Students who did well on one test tended to do well on the
      others and vice versa. Students’ scores on one test were good
      predictors for scores on the other two tests.
    • In general, the three methods of vocabulary learning were

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A French Vocabulary Tutor for the Web

        equally effective. Only when we adjusted for the years of study
        of Spanish was there a significant difference in listening test
        results between the two groups using a computer versus the
        noncomputer group.
      • Students did not find one learning method more enjoyable than
      • The analysis showed that Group 1 students using pictures,
        words, and sounds found the method they used more helpful
        than students in the two other groups who used pictures and
        words, with or without a computer. This result does not neces-
        sarily mean that students find computer-based learning more
        helpful than other means of study. Students in Group 1 seemed
        to find their method of learning inherently more useful because
        they practiced listening to the words and were better prepared
        for the listening test that followed. The only support for this
        hypothesis is the strong testimony from some of the students in
        Group 1.

  As for the Tutor, the design described above is merely the first step;
many more words need to be added to the lexicon. Indeed, this develop-
ment should proceed more quickly now that a few basic applets have been
created. In addition, other types of exercises and games could be included
in the future. One of the games already developed in which students drag
the vocabulary word to the area of the picture it represents has been ex-
tended so that it can be played by two students on the Web. The present
speed of the Internet, however, is too slow, without turn taking, to permit
the game to proceed in the usual fashion. The program will need to be

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                                                                     Gilles Labrie

Appendix A

Java Code Applet

import java.awt.*;
import java.applet.*;
import java.lang.Object;
import java.awt.event.*;

/* This applet shows 1 image on the screen. If the user moves the mouse over parts of
* the image, the word corresponding to that part of the image appears in French. If the
* user clicks on the image, the word is pronounced in French.

public class body extends Applet implements MouseListener, MouseMotionListener {
     int                 width          = 600;
     int                 height         = 424;
     Image[ ]            img;
     int                 numimgs;
     String[ ]           imgnames;
     AudioClip[ ]        audio;
     int                 audionum;
     String[ ]           audionames;
     String[ ]           translate;
     String[ ]           word;
     String              mes1           = “ “;
     Font                font = new Font(“TimesRoman”, Font.BOLD,24);
     Font                font2 = new Font(“TimesRoman”, Font.BOLD,14);
     int[ ]              xcheveux = {158,166,184,221,236,241 };
     int[ ]              xtete = {200,200,207,207 };
     int[ ]              ycheveux = { 0,21,8,13,27,0};
     int[ ]              ytete = {9,18,18,9};
     Polygon             cheveux = new Polygon ( xcheveux, ycheveux, 6);
     Polygon             tete = new Polygon ( xtete, ytete, 4);
     Graphics            dbuffer;
     Image               offscreen;

public void init ( ) {

     numimgs = Integer.parseInt( getParameter(“numimgs”));
     resize(width, height);
     imgnames = new String[numimgs];
     img = new Image[numimgs];
     for (int k=0; k < numimgs; k++) {
           imgnames[k] = getParameter(“img” + (k+1));

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A French Vocabulary Tutor for the Web

      audionum = Integer.parseInt( getParameter(“audionum”));
      audionames = new String[audionum];
      audio = new AudioClip[audionum];
      for (int k = 0; k < audionum; k++) {
            audionames[k] = getParameter(“aud” + (k+1));
            audio[k]=getAudioClip(getDocumentBase(),audionames[k]+ .au”);
      ofscreen = createImage(width,height);
      dbuffer = offscreen.getGraphics();

public void paint (Graphics g) {

      for (int k=0, j =0; k < numimgs ; k++) {
      dbuffer.drawImage(img[k], j, ystart, img[k].getWidth(this), img[k].getHeight(this),
      g.drawImage(offscreen, 0, 0, this);

      if (cheveux.contains(point.x,point.y)){
            g.drawString(“les cheveux”, 10, 18);
      else if (tete.contains(point.x,point.y)){
            g.drawString(“la tête”, 10, 18);

public void update (Graphics g) {

public void mousePressed(MouseEvent evt) {
     if (point == null) { point = new Point (evt.getX(),evt.getY());}
     point.x = evt.getX(); point.y=evt.getY();
     if (cheveux.contains(point.x,point.y)){
           audio[0].play( );
     else if (tete.contains(point.x,point.y)){
           audio[1].play( );
public void mouseEntered (MouseEvent evt) {
     repaint( );
public void mouseExited (MouseEvent evt) {
     repaint( );

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                                                                        Gilles Labrie

public void mouseClicked (MouseEvent evt) {         }
public void mouseReleased (MouseEvent evt) {        }
public void mouseMoved(MouseEvent evt) {
     if (point == null) { point = new Point (evt.getX(),evt.getY());}
     point.x = evt.getX(); point.y=evt.getY();
     showStatus(point.x +”,” + point.y);
public void mouseDragged(MouseEvent evt) {          }

Appendix B

Student Questionnaire

I.   Please circle one of the choices for each question.

     1. How helpful was this method of learning vocabulary?
          very                 somewhat       not very      not
         helpful    helpful      helpful       helpful    helpful

     2. How enjoyable was this method of learning vocabulary?
          very                 somewhat       not very      not
         helpful   helpful       helpful      helpful     helpful

II. What was helpful?

     What was not helpful?

     What suggestions do you have?

     What languages have you studied and how long?

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A French Vocabulary Tutor for the Web

Appendix C

Vocabulary List

les cheveux                hair
les sourcils               the eyebrows
l’oeil                     the eye
le nez                     the nose
la bouche                  the mouth
le menton                  the chin
l’oreille                  the ear
le cou                     the neck
l’épaule                   the shoulder
le bras                    the arm
l’estomac                  the stomach
les doigts                 the fingers
la main                    the hand
le coude                   the elbow
la poitrine                the chest
le dos                     the back
le poignet                 the wrist
le genou                   the knee
la cuisse                  the thigh
la jambe                   the leg
le pied                    the foot
le doigt de pied           the toe
la cheville                the ankle

498                                       CALICO Journal
                                                                  Gilles Labrie


Carter, R., & McCarthy, M. (1988). Vocabulary and language learning. New York:
Corbeil, J.-C. (1994). Le Visuel multilingue: dictionnaire thématique. Montréal:
           Editions Québec/Amérique.
Farrell, J. (1999). Java Programming. Cambridge, MA: ITP.
Geary, D. (1998). Graphic Java 2: Mastering the JFC: AWT. Mountain View, CA:
          Sun Microsystems.
Le Visuel: dictionnaire multimédia [CD-ROM]. (1996). Montréal: Editions Québec/
Nation, I. (1990). Teaching and learning vocabulary. New York: Newbury House.
Oxford, R., & Crookall, D. (1990). Vocabulary learning: A critical analysis of tech-
         niques. TESOL Canada Journal, 7 (2), 9-30.
Reynolds, M. C. (1996). Using JavaScript. Indianapolis, IN: Que.
Stanek, W. R. (1996). Web publishing unleashed. Indianapolis, IN:
Tyma, P., Torok, G., & Downing, T. (1996). Java primer plus. Corte Modera, CA:
          Waite Group Press.
Van der Linden, P. (1999). Just Java 1.2. Mountain View, CA: Sun Microsystems.


Gilles Labrie is Professor of French at Central Michigan University. He is
interested in the use of technology to enhance language learning.


Gilles Labrie
Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Central Michigan University
Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859
Phone: 517/774-3786
Fax:    517/774-2323

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A French Vocabulary Tutor for the Web


           for comprehensive listings of language publishers,
             schools, study abroad, learning center services,

500                                                       CALICO Journal

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