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At the end of the article, an annotated bibliography provides references and suggestions for further reading.

If you decide to try using voice chat programs, it is not unusual to encounter the problem of convincing educational administrators to allow voice chat.

However, textbook dialogs and grammar exercises may be unnatural or lack examples of current English usage.

As Lightbown (1992) states: In being exposed to comprehensible samples of the language, the learner (whether in the classroom or elsewhere) inevitably forms some idea of what the patterns of the language are.

Three years ago I wrote an article for the TESL-EJ September 2003 issue on the topic of using computer voice chat programs for speaking practice.

In the time since that article appeared, a number of advances have occurred.

Computers’ sound capacity and the availability of media, such as streaming video clips and reporters’ interviews, have greatly increased.

Likewise, programs supporting voice chat have been improved. Certainly, it is possible to use videos, audiotapes and the teacher’s voice to improve students’ aural and spoken language abilities.

Computers have continued to be improved at a rapid pace over the last ten years.

With most new computers, it is no longer necessary to replace the sound card in order to hear good voice quality.

The sound quality is also much better due to improvements in the voice chat programs, some of which are able to self-adjust the reception during conversation.

Just as videos and DVDs have never replaced movies theaters, online voice chat will not duplicate the experience of face-to-face learning in real classrooms.

The programs I discuss in this article are free and require minimal equipment.

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And with some structure from the teacher, they are far from a waste of time.