Authentic Material

Language Learning Express, or Lex for short, is a Windows program for language learning. It's a language learning tool for working on authentic material on the Web. By working on authentic texts that really interest you, the learning process will be more efficient and more enjoyable.
First you use Lex to surf the Web to find an interesting site to work on. Then you use different Lex functions to explore the texts on that site. If you are interested in plants and flowers you read about that. If you are interested in song lyrics, movie scripts or something else you work on that.
The important thing is that you are focused on the content and really want to understand what a web page is all about. In this process a lot of questions will naturally pop up. The most common one being: What does the word mean? Then again, Lex will make you turn to the Web to find an answer to that question and to others you may have.

 

All at Your Fingertips

Language Learning Express supplies everything you need as a language learner at your fingertips. It's a tool through which you will be able to use the vast amount of material available on the World Wide Web for the purpose of language learning.
When you have found an interesting site to work on you can easily look up words, listen to pronunciations, highlight words and make your own text exercises. Lex uses various sites on the Web to look up words in both bilingual and monolingual dictionaries.
As part of the look up process you can build up your own glossary, which later on can be used to make glossary exercises. To look up grammar points you simply navigate to grammar sites, either in your target language or in your native language. Thanks to Lex you will no longer have to spend a lot of time searching in books, like dictionaries and grammars. You can instead let the computer do all the tedious searching and focus your efforts on the language issues themselves. See Features for more information.

 

A Learning Tool

Language Learning Express is a learning tool. It is designed for the language learner, rather than the language teacher, but you, as a language learner, will benefit more from it if you use it in cooperation with a teacher. The teacher can then prepare texts and make them available on the Web and you can access them and work on them on your computer along with other material that you find on your own.
The fact that Lex is a tool for the learner does not mean that it replaces the teacher. The teacher plays a key role in the language learning process and the teacher is irreplaceable when it comes to answering questions and to explaining grammatical difficulties. The time spent together with a teacher, the lesson time, should consequently be devoted to areas where the participation of a teacher is essential. Lesson time is, however, in most cases limited and it is therefore important that you, as a learner, also make efficient use of the time in between lessons.
This is where Lex comes in. It enhances your capacity to work on your own. The amount of progress that you make in between lessons determines how much new knowledge that you can acquire from the teacher during lessons. By using Lex you can prepare yourself for upcoming lessons and since all your material is stored on the computer you can use Lex for efficient repetition and revision.
Lex is a language learning tool, not a language learning method. Being a tool, it can be used in conjunction with various language learning methods and of course also with other language learning tools such as CD's, tapes, podcasts, etc.

 

The Learner

Even if the teacher plays a key role in the language learning process, the most important person above all is of course the learner. Lex is devised for the motivated learner who has a strong desire to learn and who is willing to study on his or her own.
Motivation is a key factor. The learner who has a strong desire to learn will most likely be successful. The motivated learner has by definition no problem with motivation, at least not at the outset of the task to learn a language.
Motivation problems may, however, arise at later stages because the learner's motivation will most likely vary over time. The motivation of the learner will, among other things, be influenced by the progress that the learner makes and the way in which he or she perceives the learning situation as a whole.
Lex is designed to make the language learning situation more comfortable. In short, it makes life easier for the learner. The goal is to make the language learning process more efficient and at the same time turn it into more pleasant experience.
Lex encourages the learner to play an active role. It's a tool by which the learner can explore the target language on his or her own. The fact that the learner plays an active role is essential and has been shown to be beneficial for the learning process. As Seymor Papert writes in his classic book Mindstorms "I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge."

 

Reading

As a serious language learner you have to, at some point in time, start to read books in the target language. But even if you realize that reading is an essential activity it is not easy to get started.
One approach is to use special readers adapted for language learning rather than ordinary books. The advantage with special readers is that you can easily find one that is adapted to your level. The disadvantage though, is that it might be difficult to find one that interests you. Therefore, the best choice is usually an ordinary book.
The problem, however, is that it is difficult to find a book that matches your level, which means that you have to repeatedly interrupt the reading to look up words. This is a tedious activity, but by using Lex it becomes much easier. Either you locate the text of the book on the Web or you scan a chapter at a time into the computer. Then you either read from the screen and click on words to look them up or read along in the book and only turn to the computer when there is something to look up.

 

Which Languages?

Language Learning Express is written in English (i.e. commands, menus and help texts are in English). The target group is people who are proficient enough in English to be able to use an English program. Lex can be set up to study virtually any language, but how well it will work for a specific language depends on how much resources there are on the Web for that language.
If your native language is English there are a lot of resources available especially for studying western European languages like French, Spanish and German. Also, if your target language is English you are well off because there are a lot of Web resources in a variety of languages that focus on English as the target language.
If your native language is not English and you want to study French, Spanish, German or some other language the resources on the Web are more scarce, but it differs from language to language so you have to check that out for yourself.
In the Sessions section you can find session definitions for different target and source languages. There are, for example, sessions where English is source language and French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese and Russian are target languages and there are plenty of sessions where English is target language with a variety of source languages. If you visit this site (www.LearnWare.se) in Lex and go to the Sessions section you can start sessions from there.
These sessions should be looked upon as examples. It is fairly easy to set up your own sessions either from scratch or by modifying the supplied sessions. What you need to find on the Web are dictionary sites, grammar sites and of course material to work on in the form of ordinary Web pages.

 

Intended Users

The intended Lex users are language learners all over the world who are autonomous enough to use a learning tool on their own. Since it's easier to be autonomous as an advanced learner than as a beginner, Lex is geared towards the advanced adult learner and the university student rather than the child and adolescent learner.
The important thing though, is the learner's autonomy not his or her skill level. There are beginners who are autonomous enough to use Lex on their own. As a matter of fact to become really proficient in a language the learner is more or less forced to become autonomous at some point in time. At least that's true for an adult learner.
An important user group for Lex are professional users, who need to improve their language skills for business or social reasons. Lex can be used to study vocabulary and terminology from a specific scientific or professional field or it can be used as a tool by which the employees of a multinational company can improve their language skills.
Another important user group is language teachers. Teachers can by offering course material in Lex-format integrate Lex into a language course and thereby not only teach their students a language but also show them how to use Lex. That's the ideal way to learn how to use Lex, especially for beginners. The students can then with the course material as a base start to add their own material. From such a course the students will not only get knowledge about a specific language, but will also learn how to use a tool by which they can keep their knowledge fresh and updated and continue to improve their language skills.

 

Non-Native English

If you are a non-native English speaker you will, however proficient you may be, now and then encounter words that you don't know or that you are uncertain about. If you use Lex to surf the Web and you run into a word that you don't understand you just have to click on the word to look it up.
By clicking on the word it will be looked up in both monolingual and bilingual dictionaries. You can then very easily use the information from the dictionaries to make an entry in your own glossary. That activity in itself, i.e. finding the proper meaning and translation and the fact that you are actively thinking about the word and its usage will in itself enforce the learning process.
By adding words to the glossary you will gradually build up a collection of words that you want to learn. You can then create exercises from the words in the glossary and by running them you will learn the words in an easy and entertaining way. So even if you are already a proficient English speaker you can greatly benefit from using Lex. See The Glossary and Glossary Exercise in the Features section for more information.

 

A Lifelong Companion

Learning a language is a long process. It could even be claimed to be a lifelong process since you, as a learner, will through out life pick up new words and new phrases. It is an ongoing thing, rather than something that is limited in time and it will over time most certainly vary in intensity. The learning process will naturally be more intense during periods of language courses than after and between such periods, when it is likely to be more or less dormant.
One thing is certain though, the language learning situation will change over time. You will acquire knowledge from many different sources and most likely be taught by many teachers. The learning tool, however, may stay the same. You can continue to use Lex even when the learning situation changes. It can in fact be used to tie different learning periods together. Lex has the potential to be your lifelong companion in your endeavor to gain mastery over one or several foreign languages.

 

What to run on?

Language Learning Express is a Windows program that runs under Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. In addition, Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher has to be installed on the system.
Lex uses dictionary sites on the World Wide Web to look up words, which means that the lookup time is highly dependent on your network connection. If you have a fast broadband connection, you will be able to make much quicker lookups.
During a Lex session you will access five to ten or even more web sites concurrently. To be able to do that in a smooth and efficient way you need sufficient internal memory. Since you will have several windows open at the same time you also need a big screen, the bigger the better.
Lex runs much smoother if you have a large internal memory and a fast Internet connection and of course a powerful computer.

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