Bilingual Multimedia Storybooks and the Teaching and Learning of Mother Tongue and Second Languages

Professor Viv Edwards and Frank Monaghan

University of Reading, UK

Fabula, a project funded by the European Commission, is developing software which will allow teachers and children to create their own multimedia storybooks. It has grown out of the collaborative efforts of teachers, children, software designers, translators and researchers in computing, education and design from five countries. It currently supports five pairs of languages: Basque and French, Catalan and Spanish, Frisian and Dutch, Irish and English, and Welsh and English. The focus, then, is on the learning of minority European languages, but there is no reason why the software cannot be used in a range of other contexts.

A particular feature of the Fabula software is the juxtaposition of two languages on the screen, which encourages children to focus on both similarities and differences. Support from images, sounds, a wordlist and speech bubbles encourages children to search for and find the answer to any problem they encounter in the text. Drawing on our observations of children using the software in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, we will point to ways in which this software can help develop a greater awareness of language, build vocabulary and deepen grammatical understanding.