Using Technology to Bring Diversity into the EFL Classroom

Edo Forsythe, Hirosaki Gakuin University

The theme of the JALT2018 International Conference was Diversity and Inclusion. In keeping with that theme, the CALL SIG Forum focused on how the SIG can improve and enable diversity and inclusion in the SIG and language classrooms. The author joined five other CALL SIG members in doing presentations related to the theme, and the article below captures the information presented regarding how to use mobile technology to bring diversity into the EFL language classroom. Three topics will be discussed, including accessing world Englishes, teaching with diverse content, and finally, the author’s personal experiences in bringing diversity into his lessons.

Accessing World Englishes

English is a now the language of the world, but often in Japan, English is equated to the American Standard Dialect (Kubota, 1998). However, English is spoken in many other countries as either a primary or secondary language: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cameroon, Canada, the Caribbean islands, China, Egypt, England, Gambia, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Laos, Malawi, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe, to name but a few. It is highly probable that Japanese people will work with or interact with foreigners speaking English, but not the American Standard Dialect. Therefore, it is important for EFL classes in Japan to make students aware of and exposed to the accents and dialects of English used in other countries. There are a variety of technological resources available to enable EFL teachers to do this.

Speech Accent Archive

The first resource is the Speech Accent Archive created by Steven Weinberger at George Mason University at <>. This website’s homepage explains the site as follows:

The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed. The archive is used by people who wish to compare and analyze the accents of different English speakers. (Weinberger, 2015, n.p.)

The Speech Accent Archive can be used to allow language learners to listen to an audio clip of a person reading the text displayed (Figure 1). Each language artifact provides the demographic information of the speaker, the text being read, as well as the phonetic transcription of the speech so that students of linguistics can see the dialects reflected in textual format. Then, students can compare dialectical differences and discuss the aspects of the English that they heard, such as different emphasizing of syllables, variances in intonations, and the effects of the speakers’ first language (L1) on their speaking of English as a Second Language (ESL). The author uses this website in a lesson which has students in groups listen to different regional Englishes and then discuss what variances they noticed.

International Dialects of English Archive

The International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) website, <>, is the Internet’s first archive of primary-source recordings of English-language dialects and accents as heard around the world. With roughly 1,400 samples from 120 countries and territories and more than 170 hours of recordings, IDEA is now the largest archive of its kind. IDEA’s recordings are principally in English, are of native speakers, and include both English-language dialects and English spoken in the accents of other languages. (Many include brief demonstrations of the speaker’s native language, too.) (IDEA, 2019, n.p.)

The vast collection of linguistic artifacts in IDEA can be used in the language classroom to expose students to various dialects and accents of spoken English, just as with the Speech Accent Archive. IDEA also has a section that allows students to try to understand what is being said in various accents on their Test Your Comprehension page <>. This page has audio clips of a variety of English accents and the user must try to understand what is being said. A transcript is provided to allow users to check their accuracy. For an even greater challenge, the website offers a Test Your Ear activity <> which tests whether the listener can identify the region or country of the speaker in the audio clip provided. The activities on this site can be used in a variety of tasks inside or outside the classroom.

Accents of English from Around the World

A third website that can be used by students to explore the accents of world Englishes is Accents of English from Around the World < This site offers a phonetic comparison of a sampling of 110 different words spoken in a variety of dialects from English-speaking and other Germanic-language countries around the world. This site can be used in the classroom to allow students to compare various dialects and how specific words are pronounced differently in different countries. Furthermore, instructors could use the resources on this website to create activities that challenge students’ understanding of cultural accents and dialects of world Englishes.

Diversifying Classroom Content

In addition to exposing learners to the varieties of English accents, dialects, and pronunciations, mobile devices can be used to diversify the content provided in the language classroom. When presenting information about foreign cultures, teachers can have students use their mobile devices to look up and compare information about the topic being discussed. For example, when discussing holidays in one country, such as Halloween in America, groups of students can also use their mobile devices to research information about Halloween in other countries and then present their findings to the class.

An example of my own experiences with having my students use their mobile devices to diversify their learning is from the World News and Culture course that I teach. The course includes a review and discussion of a current topic in the news of the world, including relevant vocabulary and some background information. The students watch a video about the topic on their smartphones, and then we discuss the topic as a class. In order to diversify the perspectives that the students are exposed to, they are given links to similar reports on the topic from a variety of different resources. For example, in discussing the topic of a summit of the Asian Pacific Economic Council (APEC) ending without a formal statement, different news organizations reported on it with different viewpoints: RT News reported the APEC Summit as a failure as leaders cancel joint statement amid a US-China spat, while the BBC stated that the APEC summit ended without a statement over a US-China division, and Al Jazeera wrote that APEC leaders were divided after a US-China spat. Fox News had no mention of the lack of a statement, only mentioning that Vice President Pence and China’s Xi traded tough talk at the Pacific summit, while the Japan Times stated that PM Abe failed to bridge the U.S.-China divide at APEC summit.  The varied points of view expressed by these different news sources served as an interesting topic of discussion regarding the language used and the perspectives presented. The students also considered and discussed why each outlet might have a particular point of view. Allowing the students to interact with a variety of materials using their smartphones in the classroom deepened their understanding of cultural differences in current world events. In addition to these news outlets, other resources I have used in my lessons for students to access culturally diverse content include websites that host photos of daily life around the world, such as the Peace Gallery <>, Google images, YouTube, and Reuters Pictures. Teachers can create activities in which students use these resources to compare and contrast different topics across cultures.


Because smartphones and similar mobile devices are prolific in Japan, language teachers can take advantage of students having them to bring diversity in language and content into the language classroom. The three sites discussed at the beginning of this article, the Speech Accent Archive, International Dialects of English Archive, and Accents of English from Around the World, provide resources for students to compare the differences in dialects, pronunciations, and accents among English speakers of various countries. Language learners can use their mobile devices to access and compare the linguistic variances and deepen their understanding of the language. Additionally, teachers can have students access a variety of resources via their mobile devices to explore cultural and perspective differences of classroom topics. Thanks to Internet access and mobile technology, students are no longer limited to the culture and experience of their teachers. Mobile devices can bring the world into the language classrooms of today.

Useful Link



International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA). (2019). Retrieved from

Kubota, R. (1998). Ideologies of English in Japan. World Englishes, 17(3), 295-306. doi: 10.1111/1467-971X.00105

Weinberger, Steven. (2015). Speech Accent Archive. George Mason University. Retrieved from

Outgoing Editor’s Note: My first TLT Wired column was published six years ago when I took over the column editorship from Ted O’Neil. Since then, dozens of JALT members have shared their experience with using technology in language learning and teaching with our readers through the Wired column. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with those authors. I’ve learned a great deal over the years and have adopted many of the tips and tools mentioned in this column for my own lessons. I want to thank all of the editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, and especially Malcolm Swanson, for their patience, assistance, and support throughout my tenure as the Wired column editor. I leave the column in the very capable hands of a longtime colleague, Paul Raine, who will take the Wired column into the ever-evolving future of educational technology. I want to thank him for volunteering to take over the column, and I wish him the very best in his editorship! CALL will remain at the core of my language teaching and I am thrilled to have all of the Wired column readers alongside of me as we keep our lessons forever Wired! – Edo Forsythe