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June 1998 - Issue No. #31 (p.14)

Globetrotting on the World Wide Web

This article is reprinted with permission from TESOL Matters, Vol. 8 No. 2 April/May 1998.

by Christine Meloni

George Washington University

When my son was in third grade, he had to write a report on Mexico. It was an independent project to be done outside of class. Of course, being only 8 years old, he couldn't be left completely on his own so Mom had to help out. We first went to our local library, looked through the card catalogue, and selected some books on Mexico to take home with us. I then looked for additional books at my university library and made a stop at the Mexican Embassy for some booklets and brochures.

Although I found it an enjoyable and worthwhile project, it did take time and, for a working parent with two small children and a husband working abroad at the time, free time was in short supply. Today the situation would be infinitely easier. My son and I could sit down at the computer, get on the Web, and in short order locate sufficient information for an excellent report.

On the World Wide Web there is a wealth of information about the countries of the world that can be of use to students, to teachers, to travelers, and to anyone interested in learning more about the world. Let me give you a few examples.


Many thanks to Bruce Laidlaw for introducing me to ERIN, the Australian Environmental Resource Information Network. This site focuses on the environment, but one learns a great deal more about Australia than just its environment while visiting the numerous pages of this excellent site.


"Austria offers urban sophistication and rustic simplicity, excellent restaurants and music festivals, towering mountains and green valleys, and spectacular winter snow." So begins Expedia's excellent guide to Austria. Created by Microsoft, the World Guides provide information on many countries that includes the following categories: overview, almanac, geography, history, arts, culture, people, and highlights.


Kids Web Japan is a very useful, attractive site for learning about Japan. The home page has a very colorful and user-friendly table of contents. For example, you can click on a boy playing soccer for information on sports or on a kabuki actor for information about tradition and culture. The other categories are regions of Japan, politics and the constitution, daily life, schools, outside the classroom, nature and climate, protecting the environment, history, international relations, and economy and industry. Each section has clearly-written material accompanied by excellent photos. An added plus for teachers is the list of questions at the end of each section to test the reader's knowledge of the material. This site also includes a map of Japan and an annual calendar of Japanese holidays.


Hitchhiking Viet-nam: Letters from the Trail can be found on the PBS Online page at It is Karin Muller's personal account of her 7-month adventure hitchhiking around Vietnam. The Boston Globe calls it "a breathtakingly sensitive personal statement." Muller explains why she chose to go to Vietnam on her own and describes life in Vietnam as she saw it. It is, as TV Guide observes, "a fetching first person account of an exotic culture." Be aware that there are numerous photographs that are very interesting, but they do slow up the downloading process considerably.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates site, located at, offers a map and a variety of information about this Arab nation's culture, tourism, and history. Although there is not a great deal of text, many beautiful photographs give the visitor a good idea about the country.


The Italy Home Page is the source of an incredible amount of information on Italy. Separate pages deal with Maps of Italy, Regions and Main Cities, the Italian Language, Current Events, Fine Arts, Italian Literature, Music, Italian Cuisine, News. And the list goes on.


The Web site Peru Explorer at describes Peru as "one of the most remarkable countries on earth." This site offers a wealth of information about this South American nation with descriptions of geographical locations such as Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca as well as explanations of Peru's history, government, arts, folklore, contemporary culture, archeology and mountain climbing. Beautiful photos accompany the texts.

The United States

The Web site Yahoo! offers guides to 12 cities in the US: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas /Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. Many categories are covered, such as arts and humanities, business and economy, education, entertainment, society & culture.

Countries of the world

Yahoo! also offers guides to a number of countries outside of the US: Australia and New Zealand, the UK, Japan, Korea, France, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, South East Asia, Sweden, and Ireland. As these guides are designed for people who speak the language of the country, most are not in English. The Yahoo! for Korea, for example, is in Korean, and the Yahoo! for Denmark in Danish. These are, therefore, not useful for students studying English or for teachers unfamiliar with the language of the country. (But if you know the language, they do provide many worthwhile links. As a student of French, I visit the Yahoo! France site often for its wealth of authentic language.) Do, however, visit the sites for Australia and New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and Ireland. You will find links of interest.

Student Sites

The students in Heidi Shetzer's class at the University of California in Santa Barbara have created a very informative and visually attractive site called the Global Travel Guide [site no longer active]. Each student has written a travel essay about his or her country. Seventeen different countries are represented. What a great idea!


The Sabre Group, Inc. offers Travelocity -although this is a commercial site whose main purpose is to sell plane tickets and book hotel rooms, it offers a wealth of information about world places that could be of value to teachers and students as well as travelers. Information is arranged in several categories: flights, cars, hotels, weather, overview, attractions, culture, essentials, business, and social. Although paragraphs are generally long with no illustrations, this makes downloading faster and the site accessible to non-graphic browsers.


I must conclude with a confession. Although the Web does have lots of wonderful information, I still love going to my local library or a local bookstore for travel books with their glossy photographs of breathtaking sights around the world. But for speed and accessibility, you cannot beat the World Wide Web. And often the text and photographs are exceptional.

Keep in mind that Web sites have a tendency to change addresses or disappear. All the URLs in this article were active and accurate at press time. If you have any suggestions for sites to feature in future, please contact me. I'd also welcome suggestions for my ESL Web site designed to help students improve their English proficiency.


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650