Advantages and Disadvantages of CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning)

Mid-Semester Assignment

Efi Dyah Indrawati

Universitas Muhammadiyah Prof. Dr. Hamka

Jakarta – Indonesia


Communication and technology have been part of our live, especially in the area of education. In all educational system, the use communication and technology has certain place; therefore, computers play significant role in the learning process. Teaching English for a second-language learner can take benefit from using a computer. Indeed, a computer is a tool and medium that facilitates people in learning a language, although the effectiveness of learning depends totally on the users (Hartoyo 2006, 11).

Recently, the numbers of English teachers using CALL has increased markedly. In addition, many articles have been written about the role of it in English learning. Although the potential of the Internet for educational use has not been fully explored yet and the average school still makes limited use of computers for some reasons , it is obvious that we have entered a new information age in which the links between ICT and EFL have already been established. This paper is aimed at discussing what CALL is and what advantages and disadvantages CALL offers so as we know its strength and weaknesses in in their usage for teaching English for ESL students.

What is CALL?

CALL is a program derived from CAL (Computer-Assisted Learning) which is implemented to language, but the use of computer here is mainly aimed at providing a language learning tutorial program (Hartoyo 2006, 21). In addition, Egbert (2005, 4) says that CALL means students learn language in any context with, through, and around computer technologies. From both definitions, the main focus of CALL is on the application of computers in language learning.

Advantages of CALL

Many educators (Jonassen 1996, Salaberry 1999, Rost 2002 in Lai 2006) indicate that the current computer technology has many advantages for second language learning. The following are the advantages as stated by many experts:

  1. Interest and motivation

Classical language teaching in classroom can be monotonous, boring, and even frustrating, and students can loose interest and motivation in learning. CALL programmers can provide student ways to learn English through computer games, animated graphics, and problem-solving techniques which can make drills more interesting (Ravichandran 2000).

2. Individualization

CALL allows learners to have non-sequential learning habit; they can decide on their own which skills to develop and which course to use, as well as the speed and level by their own needs.

3. A compatible learning style

Students have different style of learning, and an incompatible style for students will cause serious conflicts to them. Computer can provide an exciting “fast” drill for one student and “slow” for another.

4. Optimal use of learning time

The time flexibility of using computer enables students to choose appropriate timing for learning. Winter (1997) in Kiliçkaya (2007) stressed the importance of flexible learning, learning anywhere, anytime, anyhow, and anything you want, which is very true for the web-based instruction and CALL. Learners are given a chance to study and review the materials as many times they want without limited time.

5. Immediate feedback

Students receive maximum benefit from feedback only if it is given immediately. A delayed positive feedback will reduce the encouragement and reinforcement, and a delayed negative feedback affect the crucial knowledge a student must master. Computer can give instant feedback and help the students ward off his misconception at the very first stage. Brown (1997) in Kiliçkaya (2007) listed the advantages of CALL as giving immediate feedback, allowing students at their own pace, and causing less frustration among students.

6.  Error analysis

Computer database can be used by teacher to classify and differentiate the type of general error and error on account of the influence of the first language. A computer can analyze the specific mistakes that students made and can react in different way from the usual teacher, which make students able to make self-correction and understand the principle behind the correct solution. (Ravichandran, 2007)

7. Guided and repetitive practice

Students have freedom of expression within certain bounds that programmers create, such as grammar, vocabulary, etc. They can repeat the course they want to master as many as they wish. According to Ikeda (1999) in Kiliçkaya (2007), drill-type CALL materials are suitable for repetitive practice, which enable students to learn concepts and key elements in a subject area.

8. Pre-determined to process syllabus

Computer enhances the learning process from a pre-determined syllabus to an emerging or process syllabus. For example, a monotonous paper exercise of ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ type can be made more exciting on the screen in the self-access mode, and students can select their own material. Therefore, CALL facilitates the synthesis of the pre-planned syllabus and learner syllabuses “through a decision-making process undertaken by teacher and learners together” (Breen 1986 in Ravichandran 2000).

Disadvantages of CALL

Although there are many advantages of computer, the application of current computer technology still has its limitations and disadvantages. Some disadvantages of CALL are as follows:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. <!–[endif]–>Less-handy equipment.

According to Ansel et al (1992) in Hartoyo (2006, 31), the CAL program is different from traditional books that can be carried around and studied wherever and whenever they wish: on a train, at home, in the middle of the night, and so on. School computers or language laboratory can only be accessed in restricted hours, so CALL program only benefits people who have computers at home or personal notebook.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>Increased educational costs. Gips, DiMattia, and Gips (2004) in Lai (2006) indicated that CALL will increase educational cost, since computers become a basic requirement for students to purchase, and low-budget school and low income students cannot afford a computer

  1. Lack of trained teachers

It is necessary for teachers and students to have basic technology knowledge before applying computer technology in second language teaching and learning. Therefore, computers will only benefit those who are familiar with computer technology (Roblyer 2003 in Lai 2006).

2. Imperfect current CALL programs

At present, the software of CALL mainly deals with reading, listening, and writing skills. There are some speaking programs have been developed recently, but their functions are still limited. Warschauer (2004) in Lai (2006) stated that a program should ideally be able to understand a user’s spoken input and evaluate it not just for correctness but also for ‘appropriatness’. Speaking program should be able to diagnose a learner’s problem with pronunciation, syntax, or usage and then intelligently decide among a range of options.

3. Inability to handle unexpected situations

The learning situation that a second-language learner faces are various and ever changing. Computers merely have artificial intelligence, and it cannot deal with learner’s unexpected learning problem or response to learner’s questions immediately as teachers do. Blin (1994) in Lai (2006) stated that computer technology with that degree do not exist, and are not expected to exist quite a long time. In other words, today’s computer technology and its language learning programs are not yet intelligent enough to be truly interactive.


In summary, the advantages of CALL can be outlined as providing motivation and autonomy for learner, compatible and time flexible learning, immediate and detailed feedback, error analysis, and a process syllabus. Some considerations must be given to the disadvantages of CALL, such as less handy equipment, high cost of education, lack of trained teachers and of CALL programs of perfect quality, and limited capacity of computers to handle unexpected situations.

To conclude, CALL has certain advantages and disadvantages and  teachers should know the strengths and weaknesses in applying CALL in ESL classrooms. It is agreeable that technological advancement and development has enabled the application of CALL programs in language learning and instruction, and it has become a new trend recently. Even so, computer technology still has its limitation and weaknesses. Therefore, we must first realize the advantages and disadvantages of current CALL programs before applying them to improve our teaching or to help student learning. In the end, we can avoid the mistake in employing CALL program and get the maximum benefit for our ESL teaching and learning.

Bibliographical References

Hartoyo, Ma, Ph.D. 2006. Individual Differences in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). Semarang: Universitas Negeri Semarang Press.

Kiliçkaya, Ferit. 2007. The Effect of Computer Assisted Language Learning on Turkisk Learners’ Achievement on The TOEFL Exam. htpp:// accessed July 22, 2008/ 17:10:00.

Ravichandran, T., M.A., M. Phil., P.G.C.T.E., (Ph.D.) 2000. Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in the Perspective of Interactive Approach: Advantages and Apprehensions. Htpp:// accessed July 22, 2008 / 17:06:00.


11 thoughts on “Advantages and Disadvantages of CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning)

  1. wow, very good paper. I would love to quote some of it in my bechelor diploma paper, that is closely connected with CALL phenomena and trends in modern technology.

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