Thy's Web Analysis of BBC Learning English
Nowadays, there are many websites that enhance learning and teaching English. Individuals are able to engage in these processes via online interaction or off-line activities, such as using web-derived materials. Some websites have specific users, while others attract a wide range of participants. Additionally, some only provide information, while others support online communication. I have chosen BBc Learning English for its wide resources, diverse participants, and significant participant contributions to analyze the Halliday’s framework: Field, Tenor and Mode (Halliday, 1985)
The purpose of the BBC Learning English Program is to support users who are learning and practicing English, especially to improve their English skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing. In addition, this website provides teachers with useful teaching resources.
Each section of the website has specific purposes. The News English section provides “vocabulary definitions and explanations for the language of authentic BBC news reports” (BBC English Learning, 2007). Users can practice business-related English in the Business English section. In this part, users practice listening and speaking based a variety of business situations. Users also have a chance to complete language learning exercises, including the Ten Days in Manchester exercise, a virtual interactive business English course featuring Tony and May who are attending a conference. In the Watch and Listen section, users watch videos and listen to the narrator, and then are provided with exercises such as multiple choice and open-ended questions. The Grammar and Vocabulary section provides answers to common questions about the use of English. Users can improve their English pronunciation and grammar through tips and explanations in this section.
In the Communicate section, users are able to share their thoughts and ideas with others around the world by participating in the message board, the Student Blog, and the Teacher Blog. The Quizzes section has various types of quizzes to help users learn vocabulary. Also, the Exam Skills segment in the Quizzes section offers guidance on how to succeed in exams. In the Flatmates section, users can listen to conversations between Flatmate characters, and then answer the comprehension questions. In the Talk About English section, users can listen to people talking about specific topics, including food and cooking. Teachers can also access information about resources in the For Teachers section. In this section, teachers can also share ideas on a range of teaching topics.
The website serves a wide range of participants, mostly people who would like to practice English and share ideas about English learning and teaching. In some parts of the website such as the Business English section, the target users are business persons. Management of the website is handled by BBC staff.
The role of participants
It appears that this website is designed for individual use, in a way that each individual can contribute to the site. However, the site creates an English learning community which provides a space where English learners all over the world can communicate with each other, and practice English. Each page of the website can be translated into the learner’s native language. This attracts a large number of participants. For instance, in the Vietnamese version, most of the comments are from Vietnamese English learners. Teachers are also able to download the audio and teach in classrooms. Learners become very active users, as they engage in reading/listening activities and reflect on their comprehension through exercises provided on the website. Learners can write blog entries, upload poems, and participate in many other activities to enhance their English comprehension.
Level of interactivity
For most of the BBC articles and news information, activities and comprehension exercises are provided. Users can download audio files and transcripts for offline activities. In addition, users are able to comment on articles or they can provide feedback to other online users’ comments. Users can also contribute to the website by writing blog entries, composing poems, posting questions about English language problems, or participating in the Country of the Month projects, in which participants write a story about a specific country. Both users and BBC producers have the power to manage the page. The producers are responsible for the contents of the page, including articles and exercises. In addition, they collect, evaluate, and reply to the information that users post. Users participate actively in the website and share English learning problems with other participants.
The website mostly uses British English. In addition, because of the wide range of participants who come from different countries with different languages, this page also supports 21 other languages. The most noticeable thing is that not all the parts in English are translated into other languages. For instance, on the Vietnamese page, only headings and brief information of articles in the News English section are translated into Vietnamese, the rest of the articles and the audios are in English. Some other parts are eliminated completely, such as the Watch and Listen and Communicate sections. As well, there is no message board in Vietnamese, instead users can send messages of discussion right below the articles. In the English version, people sometimes use other languages such as Hindi, Portuguese, or Spanish to communicate, especially in the opening and closings of the messages.
The website employs a variety of registers, depending on the purpose of each section. In the Words in the News segment in the News English section, most articles employ complex vocabulary with political terms such as electoral fraud, allegations of corruption, rival factions and decommissions. However, in the News about Britain segment, vocabulary and structures are simplified as most of the readings are narratives of daily life in Britain. In the Business English section, many structures in business conversations and business terms such as rules and procedures, outsourching and subcontracting are used. Multiple-word verbs such as hang on, get through to, and hang up are used. Furthermore, a variety of English is used in some parts of the website. For instance, users can listen to Japanese English accent in the audio file about Yuko Harina story.
Most of the messages in the message board are written in the form of a letter. Not so many slang words are used, maybe because what users share are pre-moderated by the managing staff. The informal features of the message are the use of emotion icons and other symbols which can be interpreted into many messages: happiness, sadness, signature, greetings, guessing, and gifts, or simply goodbye signals. In some messages, abbreviations such as ur (your), v (you), n (and), 2 (two), BB(baby) are used.
All kinds of channel: written, spoken, images, animation and sound are used. In the Teacher and Student Blogs, many idioms are used to support users practicing English. Teachers use idioms such as it’s second to none or next to nothing in the Teacher Blogs, and students will ask about their meanings by writing other blog entries in the Student Blog.
Furthermore, there is a close connection between texts and images. For instance, in the article of modern British families, the image shows a mother making animals in clay with her children. In the other session about learning English Road Trip, the image shows a car on the street with the notice board “Road Trip”. Apparently, each image partly contributes to the meaning of the text and helps users predict what the content is about. In most articles, there are accompanying audios to which users can listen.
In each audio of each section, there will be an introduction as follows: Hello and welcome to Peoples and Places, the programme from BBC Learning English that searches the world for interesting people and interesting stories or Hello and welcome to Entertainment. These greetings help users picture what programs they are listening to and they could predict the content of the audio.
The structure of the discourse in some audios are reflective of the activity. For instance, the discourse in the story of Yuko Haruna is dialogic and the listeners can predict the content which tend to be more informal and depict the personal daily life and experience.
It is supposed that this page is appropriate to the target users. English is simplified. In addition, explanations of vocabulary and grammar in each part partly enable students to understand the content deeply. The combination between texts and audio/video provides more insights to the contents of the articles.
User construction and interpretation in the site
The BBC Learning English is an interactive page in which users can participate in many activities. Users can contribute their writings such as poems, daily stories to the page. The page enhance students’ language learning by providing resources,tools and space to practice English. They can send emails, post comments, and connect with the other users in the world. Furthermore, they can contact the BBC staff to ask questions about English.
The BBC Learning English is a good site in terms of giving information and providing users with a space for communication. However, there is no simulated spoken interactions between users. The other weakness of the page is in the Watch and Listen section. In this section, there are few videos that users can watch. Instead, there are only some images. Furthermore, because most of the users’ postings are evaluated by the BBC staff, the communication is limited in some ways.
BBC Learning English. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/index.shtml
Halliday, M.A.K. (1985). Language, context and text: Aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective. London: Oxford University Press.
Kleifgen, J.A. (2007a). Guidelines for Tenor Analysis. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://www.studyplace.org/wiki/index.php?title=Guidelines_for_Tenor_Analysis
Kleifgen, J.A. (2007b). Mode of discourse. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from http://www.studyplace.org/wiki/index.php?title=Questions_to_ask_when_assessing_a_website%27s_Mode
Thy Tran 23:08, 22 June 2007 (EDT)