Jerusalem Post

Software Review: Autodicatic English


By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Is it possible for Israeli children, teens and adults to teach themselves English as a foreign language with the help of software, or is a human tutor preferable? The answer is similar to that of the question whether the overweight and flabby can lose weight and gain fitness by themselves or only by going regularly to a gym. Both tasks take determination, self-discipline and perseverance to succeed on your own.

The new editions of these English-teaching programs are based on Words in Context, which was originally put on diskette form and three years ago on CD-ROM by Laurin Lewis, a University of London graduate in applied linguistics and former English teacher at the Jerusalem College of Technology. Lewis collaborated with Dr. L.A. Hill, then one of the world's best-known authors of English learning books. Hill's technique of offering words whose base form is changed to insert into texts is the basis for the "Unseen" tests routinely used in Israeli schools.

The very reasonably priced program - businesslike, user friendly and free of distracting graphic pyrotechnics - is protected against illegal copying with an e-mailed or phoned-in lock code when you install it on your computer; afterward, there is no need to insert the disk.

The Beginners' disk starts from scratch, teaching the alphabet and pronunciation of letter combinations, vowels and simple words using Hebrew phonetics to aid pronunciation. Gradually, you "meet words," practice them by filling in blanks and review them by selecting English word translations from among five Hebrew words.

The Students' disk is the most comprehensive, with three levels of difficulty and between 27 and 56 lessons for each. While practicing, you have the option of adding letters to the basic word inserted into the desk or asking the computer to do it for you. This disk is at English matriculation level but with easier vocabulary than that needed for the psychometric exams. Such an advanced program would definitely be welcome. The Business English disk offers words at only one level, but with the same "meet words," "practice" and "review" sections.

All are recommended to those with autodidactic talents and a real desire to improve their English.

Lemad Anglit Lelo Moreh (Learn English Without a Teacher): English 4 Beginners, English 2 Students and English 4 Business, three CD-ROMS in Hebrew and English (www.english4students.com), requires Windows 98 and up, for children through adults, prices from NIS 89 to NIS 119.

Rating: *****