- A website (or Web site) is a collection of Web pages
- either common to a particular domain name or subdomain on the World Wide Web on the Internet.
- or a more self-contained collection within a (sub)domain (e.g. this Wiki)
2 Websites as a new genre
Websites are a new genre that has developped thanks to the emergence of Internet. From the book The Language of Websites by Mark Boardman, it can be inferred that all of websites, despite their differences, share some characteristics related to their function, layout, language and the audience they are aimed at.
As the general purpose of websites is to reach a very wide audience that could be located anywhere in the world, the main feature they all share is their long-distance and large-scale communicative function. Indeed, they consist in a series of documents that are published on the Net so that as many readers as possible may access to them.
Their layout and graphic aspect is strictly related to their main function: their structure, the graphology of their texts, their images and the arrangement of wording of their hyperlinks play a key role in catching the audience attention and keeping readers at that particular site. Therefore, it is very important that a website shows an attractive graphics and a layout that allows viewers to surf within the site easily and quickly.
As far as their typical structure is concerned, websites consists of a set of webpages linked together via hiperlinks. They are made up of:
- a main page, which is often called a home page, that usually contains a head with a title, a short presentation of the site, some images and a list of contents that serve as hyperlinks.
- other webpages, which develop the contents and consist of quite long texts, images and sometimes audiofiles or videos related to the content;
- hyperlinks, which are associations among the various webpages, that are very useful for readers because enable them to quickly understand what contents the website includes and go directly to the webpage they are concerned with without having to follow a sequential order (this special kind of consultation is called surfing).
Concerning the language, home pages are generally characterized by few complete sentences that introduce the site to viewers and a number of noun phrases or post-modified noun phrases that serve as links, while the other webpages consist above all in complete sentences which are organized in paragraphs. As regards the register used, it depends a lot on the specific kind of the website, e.i. on the specific purposes and specific kinds of audiences it want to address. For example, istitutional websites are typically characterized by formal language, while personal websites, such as weblogs, or sites that want to establish a direct contact with readers usually use informal language.
However, it is very difficult to generalize and identify some common features because websites differs a lot one from another. If one want to identify some specific characteristics, he/she has to base himself/herself on specific types of websites.
3 Types of websites
As Xavier University Library on-line emphasizes, there are a number of different kind of websites and each of them has its specific purpose:
- Commercial, whose purpose is to sell products or services.The audience such a site is aimed at is generally made up of anyone who is interested in the products or services the site advertises. The Internet address often ends with .com.
- Entertainment, whose end is to entertain and provide amusement. Viewers of such a site might be both people who are killing time surfing the Net and people who want to relax by watching a movie or listening music. The Internet address often ends with .com (example);
- Government, whose goal is to provide information produced by government agencies, offices, and departments. Government websites are addressed to anyone need important and very reliable information concerning institutions. The Internet address often ends with .gov (example);
- Internet Service Provider, whose aim is to promote companies and services related to the Internet. These websites are particularly aimed at people that are concerned with new Internet services. The Internet address ends in .net (example);
- Military. The purpose of this type of website is to provide information about the military. Such a site is aimed at people who want to be well-informed about the Army news, to get to know the Army's structure and organization and also to learn how to become a soldier. The Internet address ends in .mil. (example);
- News, whose end is to provide information about current events. The audience this type of websites is addressed is made up of anyone who wants to keep abreastof current events. The Internet address often ends with .com (example);
- Organizational, whose goal is to advocate an individual's opinion or a group's point of view. The audience such a site is aimed at consist above all of people who share the viewpoints the website's contents express. The Internet address often ends with .org (example);
- Personal, such as personal weblogs, whose aim is to provide information about an individual. Viewers of this type of sites are usually people who share the interests of the website's author. The Internet address has a variety of endings;
- Educational, whose aim is to provide information about an educational establishment or useful tools to improve the knowledge about a specific topic. The audience of this type of websites consist in particular of students or teachers but it may also consist of anyone who want to enrich their knowledge in a specific field.The Internet address often ends in .edu.
4 Educational Usage in Language Learning
The Internet is made up of many different websites (Wikipedia) , each of which has its main purpose. Among these there are many websites that have an educational purpose and, as such, they have been adopted by teachers in their classrooms. This is true, for example, for language teachers.
Many pedagogists have analysed this phenomenon and have demonstrated how important and effective it is for students who are learning a foreign language to integrate traditional language lessons in the classroom with online language lessons.
- In the abstract of her article The web as a vehicle for constructivist approaches in language teaching, pubblished in the Cambridge Journals Online, Uschi Felix highlights the main aim of her work. In her work she analyses whether the Internet can be considered a valuable integration to traditional language teaching and she concludes proving that it does because it offers “an environment for interactive learning that can foster the acquisition of communicative skills”.(Felix, 2006)
- In her article New Era Trends And Technologies in Foreign Language Learning: An Annotated Bibliography, Janice B. Paulsen, from the University of Richmond, claims that thanks to this type of foreign language instruction students show a greater interest and enthusiasm in speaking the target language and in getting to know its culture better. She also affirms that “Web-based learning activities" can have the same positive effects on the students’ language knowledge as the ones obtained studying abroad in the target language country.(Paulsen, 2006)
- Meena Singhal, from the University of Arizona, points out the benefits of the Internet for foreign language education in the article The Internet and Foreign Language Education: Benefits and Challenges. In particular, some ideas she highlights in her work are:
- the communication benefits of the Internet,
- how in the Internet a student can find ESL (English as a Second Language) websites which provide language activities to practice the specific areas of language learning,
- how the Internet can be considered a great source of accessible information for language learners.
Regarding this last idea, Meena Shinghal points out how important it is for language learners also to understand the culture of the target language and through the Internet students “can obtain geographical, historical, social/cultural, economic, and political information” from the countries in which the language they are studying is spoken. They can obtain this kind of information, for example, by reading online newspapers.(Shinghal, 2006)
Therefore, today there are more and more people who believe the Internet should be used for language learning. This opinion is becoming even more supported thanks to the growing presence of websites for educational language learning usage. According to my personal experience of these last months in my (bloggingenglish course), there are several websites for English learning a student can find on the Internet.
- Blogs, i.e. websites where language students can write articles to practice their writing skills. Students can work either alone on their own blogs or together with their teacher and classmates on a collective blog. In my bloggingnglish-course experience there was a collective blog, where the teacher would write weekly e-tivities for the students to accomplish, and then every student had their own blog where they would post the message required by each e-tivity. An activity of this kind not only allows students to practice their English writing skills but also many other skills. First of all students learn to search for information on the Net using search engines, such as google, del.ici.ous, wikipedia, etc. Then every student gets to practice their reading skills when going through the information found. Moreover, each student gets the chance to comment on their classmates’ works, learning in this way to analyse critically an English piece of writing and each student also recieves comments on his/her work and can therefore correct eventual mistakes.
- Search Engines, like (google), (del.ici.ous), (wikipedia), etc., are websites useful for language learners to get information on any topic in the target language.
- Online dictionaries and grammars, which students can easily consult for any kind of linguistic or grammatical doubt without wasting too much time.
- Online libraries and good collections of online literary classics, which students can consult in their spare time, if they like reading books, enriching their target language vocabulary.
- Culture Websites, i.e. websites which provide students with online newspapers, radio broadcasts, tv news, movies, etc.
- Websites with podcasts ( podcasting), which represent an important source for language learners who want to improve their listening skills.
- Wikis, which may be useful for students who want to retrieve information on any topic in the target language, or, in a higher level, for any student who wants to experience a collaborative writing experience in the language he/she is studying.
- ESL Websites, i.e. websites where language learning students can find different kinds of language activities, such as reading tests and comprehension questions, grammar exercises, pronunciation exercises, vocabulary exercises, etc.
- Wikipedia: Website definition
- Randall's ESL CyberListening Lab (an example of ESL websites)
- Activities for ESL Students (an example of ESL websites)
- Online Library
- Webster's Dictionary
- Bilingual Online Dictionary
- Online English Grammar
- Felix, U. (2002). The Web as a Vehicle for Constructivist Approaches in Language Teaching. Cambridge Journals, 14(01). Retrieved December 14, 2006, from http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=108931
- Paulsen, J.B. (2001). New Era Trends And Technologies in Foreign Language Learning: An Annotated Bibliography. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning, 3(01). Retrieved December 14, 2006, from http://www.imej.wfu.edu/articles/2001/1/05/printver.asp
- Singhal, M. (1997). The Internet and Foreign Language Education: Benefits and Challenges. The Internet TESL Journal, 3(06). Retrieved December 14, 2006, from http://iteslj.org/Articles/Singhal-Internet.html
- University Library, xu.tutor: evaluating websites, Types of websites. Xavier University. Retrieved date December 16, 2006 from http://www.xavier.edu/library/xututor/evaluating/types_of_websites.cfm
- Mark Boardman, The Language of Websites, London, Routledge, 2005.