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FAQ: Dave's ESL Cafe


How did it all begin? - Top

Well, I guess it really began when I began experimenting with how to use the Web in my advanced writing classes. In the fall of 1995 I was teaching a very bored writing class and wanted to shake things up. I lugged my Mac to class every day, taught the students HTML, and had them interview and take pictures of one another (with a $99 Quickcam camera). You can see the results at:

http://www.csun.edu/~hcesl004/CSUN.html

The students loved the project, and also made a lot of new Internet friends. Needless to say, I was hooked.

I started to think about going beyond the borders of my university. I surfed some of the other ESL sites on the Net and wasn't very impressed because they were essentially pages of just links, and lacked any kind of interactivity.

I'm from Los Angeles where there's a lot of graffiti. I'm not endorsing graffiti, but I thought it would be cool to create a graffiti
wall for ESL students and teachers. I began teaching myself CGI scripting with a language called PERL, and a few weeks later opened the
ESL Graffiti Wall. Immediately I began to get postings from all over the world. I was really excited!

I wanted to create even more interactivity, so I started posting answers to questions that I was receiving daily via e-mail. I didn't always have
the answer, but I could always give them a link to a Web page that might have the answer. Thus the creation of the ESL Question Page.

The rest of the Cafe just evolved as I learned more about HTML and CGI scripts, and added more and more. Sometimes I'd have an idea at 3 in the
morning, get out of bed, work on it, and have a new page at the Cafe at 7 am! It still drives my wife crazy!

Do more students or teachers visit the Cafe? - Top

I think that's it's a pretty even mix of ESL/EFL students and teachers. Students, of course, tend to visit the student sections, and teachers tend to visit the teacher areas. I've got plenty for both!

Who finances the Cafe? - Top

I've paid for everything since the opening of Dave's ESL Cafe in December of 1995 (and it hasn't been easy!). It kept getting more and more costly and time consuming, however, so I decided in 1998 to allow sponsors on some of the pages of the Cafe. Companies, schools, and organizations are now able to promote their products and services, and I can still keep the ESL Cafe free of charge for students and teachers around the world.

What is unique about the Cafe? - Top

I've tried to make the Cafe colorful, fun, interactive, and friendly. There is also a lot of "Dave Sperling" in each and every creation, so you can see a lot of me throughout the Cafe. In addition, I spend several hours a day maintaining the Cafe, so I think you can always feel that there is a real human being involved. I've also had the wonderful opportunity to present my work all around the world, so I've met hundreds of fans face to face. Most importantly, I listen to each and every suggestion.

What's most rewarding about the Cafe? - Top

I feel that I've made an important impact on the ESL/EFL community throughout the world, and I've done this by creating a virtual community that connects both students and teachers together.

Recently I received this message from a fan in Brazil, which sums up my feelings:

This is a Brazilian fan of yours. What I like most about your work is that you are able to pass feeling and your human touch through technology. It's not anything cold like a machine. It's a real lively person in a virtual world!

Wow! It doesn't get any better than this.

How many "hits" does the Cafe get? - Top

Dave's ESL Cafe gets millions of hits per month. You can take a look at some of the statistics at:

ESL Cafe Stats

What new area will you be adding? - Top

I'm always thinking of new ideas! These days, however, I'm focusing in improving and expanding what I've got, including the Discussion Center, Job Center, and Web Guide.

Lots coming in this year, so stay tuned!

Dave's ESL Cafe is maintained by the one and only Dave Sperling.
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