Tokai University Foreign Language Education Center Journal. Vol. 15. (p. 83 - 88). Oct. 1995.

Online Resources for Language Teachers

by Tim Newfields

Many university libraries in Japan offer extensive Japanese language resources, but their foreign language resources tend to be more limited. Fortunately, it is now possible to access vast amounts of data from online sources. This article describes how language teachers can utilize online services for research and classroom ideas.
"With a staggering volume of information now available, the importance of filtering out extraneous messages is essential. Few ... online forums ... are monitored closely and even good conferences have substantial clutter."

For many, "cyberspace" is a fuzzy concept. At the time of this writing, only a few of the university teachers in Japan seem to using online resources. Technophobia and lack of information about how to use online services are major obstacles.

This article outlines how online services: can offer the following three things for language teachers: (1) access to electronic publications, (2) forums to discuss language teaching topics, and (3) information about teaching events. Each of these is considered in detail.

(1) Publications on the Digital Frontier

There are thousands of electronic publications available online. Four which might be of interest to foreign language teachers are listed below.

Details of how to subscribe to these publications appears below:

Table 1. Some Online ESL/EFL Publications
SERVICE: Computer Underground Digest (ISSN 1004-042X)
SEND MESSAGE: SUB CUDIGEST your-full-name-here

SERVICE: Edupage
SEND MESSAGE: subscribe edupage your-full-name-here

SERVICE: Education Policy Digest
SEND MESSAGE: subscribe Edpol-D your-full-name-here

SERVICE: Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language: An Electronic Journal
SEND MESSAGE: subscribe TESLEJ-L your-full-name-here

Some of the publications in Table 1 can be retrieved by other means than listservers. The TESL-L Electronic Journal, for example, can be gophered from cunyvm.cuny. edu along this path:

CUNY's Gopher > Subject Specific Gophers > Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language > Teacher Training Resources > TESLEJ - TESL Electronic Journal > Select the issue you want

This journal can also be viewed on the Web at this address:

For those who wish to avoid the hassle of having constant mail come to your electronic mailbox, a website browse is more convenient than a listserver subscription.

In addition, there are many bibliographic references available online. A good source for English publications is the U.S. Library of Congress. This can be accessed by via gopher at, port 70 or by listserv at You can also ftp to "", log in as "anonymous" and provide your e-mail address as a password. Another choice is to telnet to "" and log in as "marvel." Finally, you can reach this facility at via the World Wide Web.

The ERIC database is another good resource. Features over five thousand research abstracts, it can be accessed by telnetting to or HTTP-ing to [Expired Link].

In many cases, if you phrase a bibliographic question politely on any of the forums listed in Table 2, helpful answers will come. The Internet is an outstanding place for peer mentoring and I have been amazed at the courtesy of teachers around the globe in answering difficult questions about bibliographic references or suggested articles to read.

(2) Language Teaching Forums

There are six language teaching forums in cyberspace that I am aware of.

The largest and most active is TESL-L. With nearly 5,200 (1995) members from eighty countries, this forum has lively discussions on many aspects of language teaching and valuable archives on over fifty topics. Sub-conferences on K-12 education, adult education and literacy, material writing, whole language, CALL, administration, and job hunting are also featured.

JALTCALL is a forum with nearly one thousand messages from over 100 contributors. Most of the discussions are on language education in Japan, CALL, and career development.

NiftyServe's FENG forum is perhaps the oldest nationwide electronic forum about English language teaching in Japan. Featuring discussions about grammar, syntax, and translation, this forum is popular with many Japanese teachers and hobbyists. Nifty's ETIC forum has some discussions about language teaching. Since the JALTCALL forum has become popular, however, its traffic has become light.

FidoNet, a worldwide system of amateur BBSes, also has a special forum devoted to English language teaching. The E-JALT forum was established in 1993 and averages about 5-10 messages a week. Announcements about upcoming language teaching events and discussions regarding English usage appear in this forum.

For those interested in a Christian perspective on language teaching, the Christian TESL forum may be useful. Established in 1994, it has many discussions about curriculum context and student relations.

Finally, many FirstClassTM One Net hosts carry a lively forum in which ESOL teachers and students share their experience learning/teaching/using the English language. 80% of the postings in this forum originate in the United States. Its repartee makes it worthwhile.

Information on how to subscribe to these forums appears in Table 2.

Table 2. Some Online ESL/EFL Forums

SEND MESSAGE: Subscribe ctesl your-full-name-here

E-MAIL ADDRESS: via any of the 30+ Fido-Net nodes in Japan
SEND MESSAGE: with any Fido-Net BBS in Japan, select "E-JALT"

E-MAIL ADDRESS: via most FirstClassTM OneNet hosts around the world
SEND MESSAGE: none needed unless using an offline reader such as BulkRateTM
SEND MESSAGE: subscribe jaltcall

E-MAIL ADDRESS: via any NiftyServe node in Japan
for info:


SEND MESSAGE: SUB TESL-L your-full-name-here

Table 2 does not mention any of the Internet NetNews groups that discuss English language related topics. If you have a healthy tolerance for extraneous postings, groups such as "" or "misc.teaching.english" might be worth subscribing to. Unless you have an offline mail reader with filters and high-speed connection, however, many of these groups can contain a frustrating amount of insignificant postings. With over 13,000 NetNews groups available, perhaps the most productive use of NetNews groups is for students who wish to "chat" with others around the world about favorite topics. Groups such as "" or "" are apt to interest many college age EFL students. Japanese, French, Spanish, Korean, Russian, and Chinese language NetNews groups also exist and can be a valuable resource for those learning those languages.

(3) Conference/Event Information

Announcements about language teaching events appear in each of the forums mentioned in Table 2. The CUG.JALT forum on ASAHI Net, for example, has a special conference announcing symposia and workshops throughout Japan. Unlike journal announcements which are often dry, most cyberspace announcements are two-way: the text is constantly changing and any reader can express their opinion about a specific announcement or posting. It is easy to get an idea of how worthwhile a specific event might be by reading the responses to its posting.

The forums mentioned in this paper offer a chance to network with language educators. Online forums provide opportunities to make "virtual" friends, many of whom become real during later encounters.


This article has highlighted some of the online resources for foreign language teachers. With a staggering volume of information now available, the importance of filtering out extraneous messages is essential. Few of the online forums mentioned here are monitored closely and even good conferences have substantial clutter.

Learning how to a navigate many online services can be daunting. However, I believe computer literacy is a skill worth achieving. Fortunately, it is a skill which is becoming easier to achieve as software itself grows more intuitive. Anyone with a computer, book, modem, and software can participate in an online forum within an hour or less. To master the intricacies of the Internet, however, takes extensive time.

In an age of global communication and more and more data is being transferred from paper to memory chips and optical cables, any language teacher can access valuable information about their profession if they are able to selectively filter the megabytes of data online. There are many outstanding resources available in cyberspace. This article has highlighted a few.

Chronological Index Subject Index Title Index
Copyright (c) 1995 by Tim Newfields