Two mice sat in their hole watching Cat lurk outside. "I know
how to make Cat go away," said the first mouse. "How?"
the second mouse asked in surprise. "Watch! Bow, wow!!!"
barked the first mouse. Peering through their hole in the wall,
they saw Cat running away in fear. "Ah, see the benefit of
knowing another language!"
Click on the link from my name, and you’ll know why we found
this such a great welcome to the Eva L. Easton’s website at
http://eleaston.com/. This language learning destination is fascinating,
rich, and even entertaining for students and teachers, alike. We
corresponded with Eva L. Easton, an ESL teacher of speech &
pronunciation at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey,
about her background, the contents of her site, and the motivation
behind its creation.
OTLNewsletter: In terms of your personal background how long have
you been teaching languages, how did you get
Eva L. Easton: I've been a language learner all my life, and an
ESL teacher for almost 20 years. I was born in Austria, grew up
in a multilingual home in the U.S., and have had the travel itch
for 30 years, with a particular interest in Eastern Europe.
OTLN: While there is a lot of focus on your site about learning
and teaching English online, there are also significant sections
to links for other languages as well. What would you say the focus
of your site is?
ELE: My site is basically an autobiography. It's a personal site
which started as a place to collect language materials in English
for my ESL/EFL students, and in other languages for myself. I use
the site every day for myself and my students. As such, the focus
of the site is equally divided between the two elements.
OTLN: Why a website? What inspired and pushed you?
ELE: One Saturday morning in November 1997, I was at the computer
in my home office, staring at the screen. My husband was standing
over my shoulder, watching as I hesitated. "Click already!"
he said. "Send the letter off. Say 'yes'." I hesitated,
hesitated again, but finally hit the return button and off went
the note. A week earlier there had been an e-mail with the opportunity
to teach English conversation online. The trick was that I wasn't
exactly a savvy computer nerd, so I had no clue how I was going
to do this. But I wanted it! Again I looked over my shoulder at
my husband, and this time I chuckled, "Now what are we gonna
do?" Well, we did figure it out. It was a learn-as-you go proposition
-- a great experience in maneuvering through new technology. What
we did was sit down at the computer, search the net, and figure
out what tools to use to work with students online. A week later,
a class roster came in the e-mail: 20+ students from all over the
The reason this story is important is that one of the students
in that first class happened to be a Microsoft trainer in Poland.
From thousands of miles away, she helped me with the technology
when I needed it. One day she asked me to edit a webpage she wanted
to put up, and after we finished the job, she suggested that I start
a website of my own. From that germ of an idea, the website one
sees today was born. A website: what a good idea! I could put up
materials for my online students. Well then, why not find materials
for myself as well? I started searching for German and Russian pages
online. And then, since it was going to be simply a personal website
for my own use, why not add a page of travel planning information?
No more brochures, tour books, lost addresses and phone numbers
all over my desk. I arranged the language site according to how
I categorize my own teaching materials: reading, writing, speaking,
listening to a language. And I arranged the travel pages based on
how I plan a trip.
Next thing I knew, I was receiving e-mails from literally all over
the world. People were commenting on the site and asking for help
finding things online. In answering some of the requests, I realized
how much I was learning, and it was off to the races. The site has
been up since spring 1998. There's a host of things I want to do,
with a search engine at the top of the list.
OTLN: So in what ways do you incorporate the Internet into your
ELE: I started by teaching English conversation online. Being online
has been very useful in my speech & pronunciation classes. I've
created my own pronunciation materials (no one else would let me
sing!). With 15-16 students per class, the Internet gives students
individual audio practice listening to the teacher's voice, and
doing audio quizzes. I need to spend very little class time on explanations
of pronunciation patterns. The class as a group figures out a pronunciation
pattern, using the "pattern" & "examples"
pages of a unit. Then they practice online, as I walk the room,
answer questions, and work with students individually. We use class
time more productively. Plus, students will sing along with the
computer more readily than with the class. :-)
Myself, I use the great quiz maker sites to make class materials.
"Quizzes" is the most popular page on the site, which
is understandable; busy teachers can always use help. The tests
and quizzes that people have put online really save us teachers
a lot of time.
OTLN: Do you feel the site is more geared towards teachers than
ELE: Yes, the site is more targeted for teachers, who seem to have
no trouble understanding the structure. As a result, there aren't
any explanations as to how to use the site, the kind of thing one
would need if the site were focused toward learners. My students
are college age or older, so the materials I search out are geared
for adults. If I find useful child-oriented sites, I include them
but I don't have any training or experience with younger learners.
OTLN: How would you characterize the resources you include on your
ELE: The site consists of two types of items. First,there are other
people's materials: links to language sites from around the world
that teachers and others have put online. If my site is useful,
it's because there are so many language professionals who have produced
quality materials and made them available to us.
I get ideas of what's "out there" from two sources: teacher
mail lists, which are a wealth of information about what's going
in the FL field (for example, FLTEACH: http://www.cortland.edu/flteach/),
and international, multilingual search engines (for example, Search
Engine Colossus: http://www.searchenginecolossus.com/).
The second category of resources is materials I've created: Pages
devoted to Pronunciation, which consist of the materials that I
have created for my own speech and pronunciation students. I like
to sing and that's why there are songs for pronunciation practice.
Anyway, as it says at the top of the "songs" page, this
is for English teachers who like to sing, not just for those who
Then there is also the Russian-English Lexis The "Recognizability
Factor" as a Tool for Teaching ESL to Russian-Speaking Adults
- a study of words which Russian and English have in common) among
other materials. I update the links almost daily. The only drawback
of working alone is that, if something goes wrong, there's only
one person I can complain to -- myself.
OTLN: Thank you for such an informative interview!
ELE: Thank you for the chance to talk about my work. This interview
offers an opportunity to thank all the language experts from whom
I learn so much.
© John Daniëls