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The Language Centre at the University of Southampton provides open learning resources for language learners from all parts of the University—specialist linguists from the School of Modern Languages, non-specialist linguists from many other departments, and staff or students wishing to brush up on their competence in a particular language. The Centre’s multiple media (audio, video, satellite TV and print) and computer-based materials are integrated into the learning and teaching process in a number of ways (Mar-Molinero and Wright 1993) and have recently been supplemented by access to the World Wide Web. This holds out the promise of being an exciting source of material for language study. It makes it possible to research the contemporary life, work and culture of the countries whose languages are being learned, and, through the use of foreign language pages, foreign language discussion groups and dedicated language learning sites, to stimulate language practice and use. It was a desire to focus on learners using this new self-access resource which led to the design of the current project.

The study itself comprised two parts: firstly, the detailed observation of a number of learners using the Web, followed by a series of semi-structured interviews, and secondly, a questionnaire survey aimed at all seven hundred or so learners registered for a language degree in the School of Modern Languages.

This report will briefly outline the learning context and describe the training and support of self-access language learners at Southampton, all of which are likely to have a significant influence on learning outcomes (e.g. Taylor 1996). It will then focus on three main areas of interest thrown up by the study:

It will also present the views and practices of some of the Southampton teaching staff as these relate to the opportunities offered by the Web.

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