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Language Discovery Online

Students are shown how to use the website Language Discovery Online to make contact with students in Japan that is secure and easy to use. The website assists them in composing messages in Japanese. The students in Japan reply in English.

Communicating with students of a similar age in another country is something that all teachers would want their students to do. What better way to practice new language skills, learn about another culture, and make new friends? Recently the replacing of letters with email has made communication fast and much more effective than handwriting, but has caused concern for many teachers because of the risk of emails being intercepted by unwanted users. The problem of what to write next after students have exhausted their language skills also arises.

Language Discovery Online, a Web 2.0 project, has tackled these problems. The patented website deals with the issues of security and limited student language skills. The website is safe, fast and a great tool in extending the student’s linguistic and cultural knowledge.

What is Language Discovery Online? Basically students create an email by using a palette system. There are two palettes, one for sentences and one for vocabulary. There are various topics students can choose sentences from and they can exchange words to make their email personal. Students gain an understanding of how sentences in the Japanese language are formed quite differently from English sentences. Students don’t just click on one sentence in English to be displayed in Japanese. They need to click on the order it would appear in Japanese. This gives students a deeper understanding of how Japanese works. When a student clicks on words in the palette the words are converted into Japanese and displayed in their email. Students click send and the emails are sent to students in Japan with similar profiles. The system in Japan is the same but obviously the emails appear in English and are sent to students in Australia.

By using Language Discovery Online, students in Australia are able to communicate with students in Japan much more effectively. They are able to communicate at a language level much higher than what they are actually at.

In the past, when sending a letter to a potential pen pal, often a reply did not arrive. LD Online emails are distributed to students in Japan looking for new friends. The potential for more friendships is high. This means students are busy replying to a number of emails, not just one. It keeps up the interest and motivation to communicate even more.

LD Online displays not only text messages but also cultural information. The program lists cultural keywords with native sounds and images. These help students to understand both foreign language and culture. Students learn firsthand about a Japanese person and their life in Japan. They also learn that languages are not directly translated word for word. Language is much more involved than that.

More information on Language Discovery Online can be found on

A great feature of the Language Discovery Online website is that it is secure. Teachers can control students’ access and allow them to use from home and involve the family in this LOTE activity. Email addresses are only able to be used through this website between registered students. There are a number of options for teachers to select for their students depending on the year level. Teachers can choose for all emails to be sent to them first for approval before they’re sent on to students in Japan. There are also mechanisms to prevent unacceptable language. There is great support from the Language Discovery Online team. It therefore is a great resource for all students regardless of their age.

Language Discovery Online can be used by students for personal enjoyment as well as in the classroom. Students could focus on a particular theme to gather information from Japanese students to use as part of a class project. Teachers can develop a range of activities for students to do. Many students have never written emails before and therefore some clear structures may need to be set up for students to get them started.

Introductory Task

When introducing the email system to students I set up a fictional student user identity such as ‘Bart Simpson’. Working on an interactive whiteboard I show students how to log on and fill in the information section. Students can participate in this by pretending to be the fictional user and fill in the appropriate details. I then introduce students to the palettes by doing Task 1 together, letting students take it in turns to create a sentence.

I then explain to students that they are representing themselves, their class, Japanese teacher, school, state and country when corresponding. They become ambassadors and anyone reading the email automatically will make assumptions about Australia.

I also discuss what should go in the title such as ‘Hello’, ‘Hello from Australia’, ‘Hi’, etc. The majority of students tend to write ‘I’m cool’. I ask students as a group about how they’d feel if they received an email with this in the title. Would they think the person sending the email is cool? Most say they don’t think it’s cool, and therefore this tends to resolve the issue.


Language Discovery Online Task 1

Write an email including the following:

Greeting – Hello
My name is…
What you like
Ask a question
Anything else appropriate if you have time
Farewell – goodbye, write soon

Example of student’s first email

こんにちは。 はじめまして。 わたしの なまえはgrace です。 わたしは6 ねんせい です。 わたしは11 さい です。 あなたの なまえは なん ですか? あなたは なんさい ですか? えいごで へんじを ください。

Language Discovery Online Task 2

Write an appropriate reply:

  1. Read the email you received and think about any questions you’ve been asked
  2. Create a reply making sure to do the following:

Greeting – Hello
Thank you for your email
Answer the questions you’ve been asked
Ask another question
Anything else appropriate if you have time
Farewell – goodbye, write soon

Example of student’s reply email

How are you
こんにちは。 しりあえて うれしいです。 あなたの なまえは なん ですか? あなたのたんじょうびは いつ ですか? あなたは ニンテンドーDSで 遊びますか? おとなに なったら あなたは なにに なりたいですか? わたしの なまえは カルウイン です。 わたしは おとこのこ です。 すぽーつ が だいすきです。 どんな ゲームが 人気 ありますか? にほんでは じしんは ひんぱんに おこり ますか? 私は お休みの間 返事が 出来ません。 えいごで へんじを ください。 さようなら。

Language Discovery Online Task 3

Class project – How many students in a typical Japanese class?

As part of a class project, ask your pen pals about their school. There is no question on the palette at this stage to find out directly how many students there are in a class. So how can we find out? Students all look at the questions on the palette to do with school on an interactive whiteboard. (Some students will realise that if they find out how many students are in the school and how many classes there are, they will be able to work out an average.) Collect the data and present it on a spreadsheet on an interactive whiteboard for all to see. Use the data to work out the class average and discuss the findings. Students then look at pictures of a typical Japanese school and write up their findings for assessment.

Create a reply making sure to do the following:

Greeting – Hello
Thank you for your email
Answer the questions you’ve been asked
Ask – What’s your school’s name?
Ask – How many students in your school?
Ask – How many classes are there in your school?
Anything else appropriate if you have time
Farewell – goodbye, write soon

Language Discovery Online - Student Feedback

I asked students to give me feedback on what they thought about emailing students in Japan. All responses were positive. Here are some student quotes.

Elise – It is fun because we get to communicate with kids from overseas.
Fergus – I think it was great because we could convert our English into Japanese.
Jedd – I made some friends and I got to use Japanese writing and I found out a new website.I made 2 friends.They wanted me to talk to them about Australia and I sent back to them. It was really fun.
Madi -It was cool because we type it in and it comes up with Japanese they type it in and it comes back in English.I like the idea.I wish we could do it with other countries.
Mattia -I enjoy emailing because they email back with enthusiasm.It’s also interesting.
Liam -It was great but challenging at the same time and fun.
Mitchel -Cool because we are emailing people in a different country.
Reuben -I enjoyed emailing students in Japan because I had to change the words so they would make sense in Japanese.
Rhys -It is fun that we got talk to Japanese people and that they get to reply.
Meg -I thought it was really interesting that we could send an e-mail to a Japanese student in Japan and they understand it! I never knew that you could set up a site where you can write in foreign languages to different countries.I also learnt that Japanese people say their sentences differently to Australians and we say their sentences differently so sometimes the e-mails come back to front!
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