Posts Tagged ‘errors’

Understanding exactly how learners acquire language aids teaching

November 22, 2011

Learners and their needs are increasingly becoming the central focus of our teaching. However, if we look more closely at how learners acquire language and use this knowledge to structure our teaching methods, we can teach much more swiftly and effectively.
In order to acquire a language so that it becomes part of our automated output, we first need to ‘notice’ the target language. You can hardly avoid noticing a picture of a tiger on a page, for example, but if you turn the page over, how much detail were you aware of? Did you notice the position of its paws and its tail? The term ‘noticing’ in language acquisition, in its technical usage, includes thinking about it in depth.
After ‘noticing’ new language, we need to make sense of it by relating it to what we already know. Relating it to our own experiences and previously acquired knowledge makes the new language real for us as individuals. For me, a tiger lily, one of my favourite flowers, reminds me of the tiger, making it easier to relate to the word ‘tiger’.
Then we need to remember, recall and use the new language; we need to ‘push’ ourselves to produce it in meaningful situations.
How can we encourage our students to ‘notice’ the vocabulary they need to learn? Using the word ‘vegetable’, for example, we could break up the word into short syllables: veg – e – table, we could make connections with the syllables – the word ‘table’, or for more advanced students, we could use colloquialisms and idioms such as ‘to veg. out’ meaning to relax. For beginners who have difficulty with pronunciation, we could focus on the silent vowels for example and write the word as ‘vegtbl’.
After this, how can we make it easy for students to connect with the language? We could ask them to translate into their own language, select the correct meaning from several that we have offered, name as many collocations as they can, for example, ‘fresh’ vegetables — that is a common collocation — but do we talk about ‘new’ vegetables so much? And of course there is the ever-useful gap fill in which you provide sentences with gaps and one of the gaps needs to be filled with the word vegetable.
Then, how can we encourage our students to retain new words? We could say the word and ask the students to repeat it, the learners could look at the word, say it, cover it, write it down and then check it, or we could ask them to use the Linkword method. This involves looking at the new word for ten seconds while thinking of interacting images that not only reflect the meaning but also use similar sounds to the syllables of the word. For example, if they wanted to remember the Spanish word for cat, the word is ‘gato’. Gato sounds very similar to gateaux, cake, so they could think of a cat eating a gateau.
A major issue with our students is often the way they ignore corrections to their written work. So, how can we encourage them to: ‘notice’, make sense of, remember and make use of our corrections to their written work? Instead of writing in the correct forms, I suggest we ask our students to correct their own work in an informed way. For example, if they have written ‘I am student by brighton. I has two brothers.’, instead of correcting it to ‘I am a student in Brighton. I have 2 brothers.’ we could use an Editing Guide. This is a list of numbered common errors that pinpoint the type of error and explain rules for correct usage.
For example:
1. article? a? the? no article? e.g. a book (we don’t know which one); the book on the table (we know which book); Books are popular (we don’t know how many books we are talking about.)
2. verb form? …
Armed with a page of such information, all we need to do is underline where the errors occur and write the number that corresponds to that type of error in the written work. It is then the turn of the students to read the information in the guide and to correct their mistakes accordingly.
So you can see, using our understanding of how we acquire language, that is, knowing that we need to ‘notice’, make sense of, remember, recall and use the language can help our students learn much more quickly, effectively and enjoyably with a minimum of resources.
(reference: book: ‘Teaching Language Learners’.

Rosemary Westwell
rjwestwell@hotmail.com

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Giving a presentation

April 23, 2011

This post contains a description of my experience giving a workshop presentation to the IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign language) Conference in Brighton April 2011

After a relatively iffy presentation at the conference last year, I was determined to do better this time. Kind friends came and suffered my first attempt and after making improvements from their suggestions, I believe it was OK! In fact, one member of the audience said to me as we left – that was a very good presentation and I had people crowding to see the book and asking me where they could get hold of it. So, my efforts to give much more information in a more agreeable way seem to have paid off.  One change I made was to have a lot of pictures. …

The presentation: Who or what do we teach? We don’t teach English, we teach language learners and if we focus on how learners acquire a language we can teach much more quickly and effectively.

During my PhD study (The development of language acquisition in a mature learner) I realized that a lot of the ideas I had been developing were also important to the way we teach. If we use our knowledge of how we acquire a language to restructure our approach, we can teach much more quickly and effectively. I have put these ideas into a book called Teaching Language Learners and we used ideas from this book in the workshop.

Have you ever felt, as I have, that I would be good teacher if it weren’t for the students? So many times I prepare a lesson in meticulous detail that would be the perfect lesson only to find that the students mess it up. They believe they have already learnt the subject, they don’t want to learn grammar at the moment or they would go off in a tangent, become terribly interested in a minute detail that was relatively unimportant. However, if we focus on how our students are acquiring language, few of these problems will arise.

So, how do we acquire a language? Note: I talk about ‘acquiring a language’ rather than ‘learning a language’ because for me the term ‘acquire’ includes a wider more permanent aspect to the process. So in order to acquire a language, we need to notice the target language. You can hardly avoiding noticing a picture of a tiger on a page, for example, but if you turn the page over, how much detail were you aware of. Did you notice the position of its paws and its tail? Where were the shadows? What other thoughts made the picture of the tiger real for you? The term ‘noticing’ in language acquisition, in its technical usage, means thinking about it in depth.

After noticing the target language, we need to make sense of it. We need to relate it to what we already know. That is why language acquisition is a unique experience for every individual. Each person has a different background and different previous experiences. Relating new target language to our own experiences and previously acquired knowledge makes the target language real for us. For me, a tiger lily, one of my favourite flowers reminds me of the tiger, making it easier to relate to the word ‘tiger’.

After noticing and making sense of the target language, we need to remember and recall the new language in order to fully acquire it. Then we need to use the language, we need to push ourselves to produce it in meaningful situations.

How can we encourage our students to ‘notice’ the vocabulary they need to learn? e.g. ‘vegetable’. Think of as many different ways as possible you could encourage your students to notice the word ‘vegetable’.

You no doubt have offered a number of useful ideas, some of which may have offered the following:

  • You could break up the word into short syllables: veg – e – table
  • You could make connections with the syllables – the word ‘table’, or for more advanced students you could move into using colloquialisms or idioms such as ‘to veg. out’ meaning to relax.
  • For beginners who have difficulty with pronunciation, you could concentrate on how the word is pronounced. You could focus on the silent vowels for example. Students often find it easier if they see the word written exactly as it is pronounced e.g. vegtbl
  • You could ask the students how many different kinds of vegetable they can name. By the time they have mentioned a number of examples, the word ‘vegetable’ has been used a number of times thus reinforcing it in their memories.
  • Or you could provide text containing the word ‘vegetable’ and ask the students to select other words they think would be useful to add to their vocabulary.

Next, how can we make it easy for students to connect to the language? How can we encourage our students to connect with the word ‘vegetable’ in ways that are meaningful to them as individuals?

  • You could ask them to translate into their own language.
  • You could ask them to select the correct meaning from several that you have offered.
  • You could ask them to name as many collocations as they can e.g. you can have ‘fresh’ vegetables, that is a common collocation, but do we talk about ‘new’ vegetables so much?
  • And of course there is the ever-useful gapfill in which you provide sentences with gaps and one of the gaps needs to be filled with the word vegetable.

Then, how can you encourage our students to remember?

How many different ways can you think of that will engage the students in memorizing the target word or words?

Memory techniques:

  • You could say the word and ask the students of repeat the word after you. There are some annoying adults who can remember words immediately this way, There are others, like myself, who need much more help than this.
  • You could use the method used to teach spelling many years age – You have the word written down, the learners look at the word, cover it, write the word down and then look to check if they have written it down correctly
  • You could ask them to use the Linkword method which worked very well for me although I only managed to retain the new language temporarily. What you do is to look at the new word for ten seconds while you think of interacting images, often humorous, bizarre that not only reflect the meaning but also use similar sounds to the syllables of the word. For example, if you want to remember the Spanish word for cat, the word is ‘gato’. Gato sounds very similar to gateaux, cake, so you could think of a cat eating, sitting on flying over a piece of gateau.

How can we encourage our students to use the language?

  • We could try the sledge hammer approach and try to force them to use it under duress, by saying ‘Use the word in a sentence NOW’ but that may not be the most successful way.

Let us take teaching the present perfect (I have done) for example, as in ‘I have thrown the ball over the net’.

Here is one way you could go about it.

1) You could ask the students for all the past participles they know and or introduce ones they need to know at their level or for a particular task. e.g. do (I have) done;  see (I have) seen

One way in which we use the present perfect is when we want to focus on the action itself.

2) To practice this use of the present perfect you could ask students to make up a series of questions e.g.

What have you done recently?

Which films have you seen?

3) Then you could ask your students to move into pairs or groups. One student could use the questions and the other student could provide the answers, both students using the present perfect in meaningful ways.

Another major issue I have with my students is the way I would burn the midnight oil marking students’ written work and return it to them the next day. They would look at the overall mark or comment(s). Yes a ‘B’ OK and then put the page away. They would ignore the corrections and learn nothing. You could ask them to rewrite the passage correctly, but some many have an aversion to writing. So, how can we encourage our students to notice, make sense of, remember and make use of our corrections to their written work? For example our student may have written ‘I am student by brighton.’ I think we should give the work of correcting to the students to do. I suggest using an Editing Guide. This is a list of common errors on one page, each error being numbered. Each error is explained and the correct forms listed. For example, if there is a problem with the use of an article, this could be listed as the first common error.

1. article? A? the? No article? e.g. a book (we don’t know which one); the book on the table (we know which book); Books are popular (we don’t know how many books we are talking about.)

Armed with a page of such information, each common error numbered, all you need to do is underline where the error occurs and write the number that corresponds to that type of error in the written work. It is then the turn of the student to read the information in the guide and to correct their mistake accordingly. In this case, they would write ‘a’ between ‘am’ and ‘student’. Not only would they notice their mistake, but in having to read the guide they would learn how and when to use this form correctly next time.

So you can see, using our understanding of how we acquire language, that is, knowing that we need to notice, make sense of, remember, recall and use the language can help our students learn much more quickly, effectively and enjoyably with a minimum of resources.

Depending on the age and level of the students, some may indeed be able to teach themselves much more if they are encouraged to use this approach.

‘Give them the tools and they will finish the job’ I say (with apologies to Winston Churchill)

Giving a presentation

This post contains a description of my experience giving a workshop presentation to the IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign language) Conference in Brighton April 2011

After a relatively iffy presentation at the conference last year, I was determined to do better this time. Kind friends came and suffered my first attempt and after making improvements from their suggestions, I believe it was OK! In fact, one member of the audience said to me as we left – that was a very good presentation and I had people crowding to see the book and asking me where they could get hold of it. (It is available from Burrows Bookshop in Ely and I hope to do an ebook version later.) One change I made was to have a lot of pictures. …

The presentation: Who or what do we teach? We don’t teach English, we teach language learners and if we focus on how learners acquire a language we can teach much more quickly and effectively.

During my PhD study (The development of language acquisition in a mature learner) I realized that a lot of the ideas I had been developing were also important to the way we teach. If we use our knowledge of how we acquire a language to restructure our approach, we can teach much more quickly and effectively. I have put these ideas into a book called Teaching Language Learners and we used ideas from this book in the workshop.

Have you ever felt, as I have, that I would be good teacher if it weren’t for the students? So many times I prepare a lesson in meticulous detail that would be the perfect lesson only to find that the students mess it up. They believe they have already learnt the subject, they don’t want to learn grammar at the moment or they would go off in a tangent, become terribly interested in a minute detail that was relatively unimportant. However, if we focus on how our students are acquiring language, few of these problems will arise.

So, how do we acquire a language? Note: I talk about ‘acquiring a language’ rather than ‘learning a language’ because for me the term ‘acquire’ includes a wider more permanent aspect to the process. So in order to acquire a language, we need to notice the target language. You can hardly avoiding noticing a picture of a tiger on a page, for example, but if you turn the page over, how much detail were you aware of. Did you notice the position of its paws and its tail? Where were the shadows? What other thoughts made the picture of the tiger real for you? The term ‘noticing’ in language acquisition, in its technical usage, means thinking about it in depth.

After noticing the target language, we need to make sense of it. We need to relate it to what we already know. That is why language acquisition is a unique experience for every individual. Each person has a different background and different previous experiences. Relating new target language to our own experiences and previously acquired knowledge makes the target language real for us. For me, a tiger lily, one of my favourite flowers reminds me of the tiger, making it easier to relate to the word ‘tiger’.

After noticing and making sense of the target language, we need to remember and recall the new language in order to fully acquire it. Then we need to use the language, we need to push ourselves to produce it in meaningful situations.

How can we encourage our students to ‘notice’ the vocabulary they need to learn? e.g. ‘vegetable’. Think of as many different ways as possible you could encourage your students to notice the word ‘vegetable’.

You no doubt have offered a number of useful ideas, some of which may have offered the following:

  • You could break up the word into short syllables: veg – e – table
  • You could make connections with the syllables – the word ‘table’, or for more advanced students you could move into using colloquialisms or idioms such as ‘to veg. out’ meaning to relax.
  • For beginners who have difficulty with pronunciation, you could concentrate on how the word is pronounced. You could focus on the silent vowels for example. Students often find it easier if they see the word written exactly as it is pronounced e.g. vegtbl
  • You could ask the students how many different kinds of vegetable they can name. By the time they have mentioned a number of examples, the word ‘vegetable’ has been used a number of times thus reinforcing it in their memories.
  • Or you could provide text containing the word ‘vegetable’ and ask the students to select other words they think would be useful to add to their vocabulary.

Next, how can we make it easy for students to connect to the language? How can we encourage our students to connect with the word ‘vegetable’ in ways that are meaningful to them as individuals?

  • You could ask them to translate into their own language.
  • You could ask them to select the correct meaning from several that you have offered.
  • You could ask them to name as many collocations as they can e.g. you can have ‘fresh’ vegetables, that is a common collocation, but do we talk about ‘new’ vegetables so much?
  • And of course there is the ever-useful gapfill in which you provide sentences with gaps and one of the gaps needs to be filled with the word vegetable.

Then, how can you encourage our students to remember?

How many different ways can you think of that will engage the students in memorizing the target word or words?

Memory techniques:

  • You could say the word and ask the students of repeat the word after you. There are some annoying adults who can remember words immediately this way, There are others, like myself, who need much more help than this.
  • You could use the method used to teach spelling many years age – You have the word written down, the learners look at the word, cover it, write the word down and then look to check if they have written it down correctly
  • You could ask them to use the Linkword method which worked very well for me although I only managed to retain the new language temporarily. What you do is to look at the new word for ten seconds while you think of interacting images, often humorous, bizarre that not only reflect the meaning but also use similar sounds to the syllables of the word. For example, if you want to remember the Spanish word for cat, the word is ‘gato’. Gato sounds very similar to gateaux, cake, so you could think of a cat eating, sitting on flying over a piece of gateau.

How can we encourage our students to use the language?

  • We could try the sledge hammer approach and try to force them to use it under duress, by saying ‘Use the word in a sentence NOW’ but that may not be the most successful way.

Let us take teaching the present perfect (I have done) for example, as in ‘I have thrown the ball over the net’.

Here is one way you could go about it.

1) You could ask the students for all the past participles they know and or introduce ones they need to know at their level or for a particular task. e.g. do (I have) done;  see (I have) seen

One way in which we use the present perfect is when we want to focus on the action itself.

2) To practice this use of the present perfect you could ask students to make up a series of questions e.g.

What have you done recently?

Which films have you seen?

3) Then you could ask your students to move into pairs or groups. One student could use the questions and the other student could provide the answers, both students using the present perfect in meaningful ways.

Another major issue I have with my students is the way I would burn the midnight oil marking students’ written work and return it to them the next day. They would look at the overall mark or comment(s). Yes a ‘B’ OK and then put the page away. They would ignore the corrections and learn nothing. You could ask them to rewrite the passage correctly, but some many have an aversion to writing.

So, how can we encourage our students to notice, make sense of, remember and make use of

our corrections to their written work?

For example our student may have written ‘I am student by brighton.’ I think we should give the work of correcting to the students to do. I suggest using an Editing Guide. This is a list of common errors on one page, each error being numbered. Each error is explained and the correct forms listed. For example, if there is a problem with the use of an article, this could be listed as the first common error.

1. article? A? the? No article? e.g. a book (we don’t know which one); the book on the table (we know which book); Books are popular (we don’t know how many books we are talking about.)

Armed with a page of such information, each common error numbered, all you need to do is underline where the error occurs and write the number that corresponds to that type of error in the written work. It is then the turn of the student to read the information in the guide and to correct their mistake accordingly. In this case, they would write ‘a’ between ‘am’ and ‘student’. Not only would they notice their mistake, but in having to read the guide they would learn how and when to use this form correctly next time.

So you can see, using our understanding of how we acquire language, that is, knowing that we need to notice, make sense of, remember, recall and use the language can help our students learn much more quickly, effectively and enjoyably with a minimum of resources.

Depending on the age and level of the students, some may indeed be able to teach themselves much more if they are encouraged to use this approach.

‘Give them the tools and they will finish the job’ I say (with apologies to Winston Churchill)

The importance of teaching and learning English as a Foreign Language must not be ignored.

April 28, 2010

The teaching and learning of English as a Foreign Language has often been viewed as a peripheral activity, a sideline, something to do in the holidays. However, recently I came across a situation in which ignorance in this field can be downright dangerous.

I have studied the process of language acquisition in adults and have assumed that most professionals are aware of the effect on communication when their staff members are using English as a second language.  But this is not always the case.

Consider the following situation: a representative of the NHS is assessing a patient‘s care before making recommendations. English is a second language for the nurse in charge of the patient and in an interview with the NHS representative the following occurs:     

“What are his sleep patterns like?” the NHS representative asks.

“Ah, sleep, we give him his medicine and he sleeps.” the nurse replies.

“Do you need to turn the patient or is the mattress sufficient?”

“The mattress is very good.”

“Are there any muscular contractions? How is he positioned in his bed?”

“He is like this.” The nurse sits very still, legs straight.

You have probably guessed what happened. The nurse caught hold of one or two key words in the questions and only responded to these words, NOT the questions. The patient, in effect, slept at night and for varying periods during the day. He DID have to be turned; the mattress was an additional aid to prevent bed sores. The patient DID have contracted muscles; – one leg was permanently contracted crossing the other. The NHS representative was accepting the nurse’s words without question. Even when it was pointed out that the nurse misunderstood the questions, the NHS representative begged to disagree – after all, this was her area of expertise.  

If the situation had been:                                                                

Native speaker doctor: “I think we’ll cut his medicine A and increase medicine B.”

“Medicine A and Medicine B, yes, increase” 

The patient would surely have been given excessive medication with life-threatening consequences.

It is time our ‘professionals’ made it their business to understand the importance of teaching and learning English as a Foreign Language in their context. If ‘minor’ misunderstandings continue to be ignored, the consequences will be disastrous. 

 

I used to think I could write, but …

March 24, 2010

I used to think I could write but after I gave the script of my book ‘Out of a Learner’s Mouth’ to a copy editor, I am not so sure! Here are some more of my mistakes for you to try. It is set out thus: my original script/ suggested changes by the copy editor;

I am slow in recalling./ I am slow when recalling.;

At the beginning …/First;

I make sure my money is secure. /Checking  my money is secure.;

 I can’t be bothered checking. / I can’t be bothered to check..;

I try to force myself to know what the change should be./ I work out the change.;

… which makes it much more interesting/… which is much more interesting;

Mental blockage…/mental block;

I will concentrate on the listening and vocab. exercises only./ I will just concentrate on the listening and vocab. exercises;

Maybe I am justified in rebelling. / Maybe I am right to rebel.;

If they failed to understand something, a point or exercise …/ If they failed to understand a point or exercise …;

They did not get the feeling that they were failing/ They did feel that they were failing.

.Being a rather uncouth bunch of individuals, to say the least, …/.As we were a rather uncouth bunch of individuals …;

At this stage in my life …/now;

But I cannot see a connection so I …/ But as I cannot see a connection there I…

I could make an intelligent guess./ I am getting better at guessing.

… memories of taking …/ I remember.;

I am associating words with the French. / I associate words with the French.;

While I am watching it, I realize …/ While I watch it, I realize …

Geared for new students … / Geared to new students …

I am just reading vocab. / I can read the vocab.;

I have reached the very first tiny rung in a long uphill struggle. / I have reached the first rung of a long uphill struggle.;

I am motivated about…/ I am motivated towards…;

I cannot think of the words. / I cannot remember the words.;

While teaching last week, during coffee break, …/ During coffee break at teaching last week, …;

As I come out of the lift and head towards …/ Heading towards …   END         

When Isee the corrections, I think ‘of course!’. I wonder how long it will take for me to write without so many errors. As they say, it is ‘practice, practice, practice’ that will win the day.

I have found something that may improve my writing (I hope).

February 23, 2010

I have found a great book that may improve my writing. Style by Joseph Williams, published by Scott, Foresman and Company ISBN 0-673-38186-2, gives ten lessons in ‘clarity and grace’. I am not sure about the grace bit, but he certainly helps to clarify. I have not finished reading the book, but I have already come across some brilliant ideas.

New to me is the notion of placing an important idea at the END of a sentence. While he agrees that you try to put the central idea at the beginning of the sentence/paragraph I never thought of leading up to a main idea and placing it at the end.

I always have a problem with too many adverbs and he shows how to avoid these. In the chapter on cohesion he provides lists of joining words that I can use when teaching. He provides exercises for you to try and answers to some of them in the back. I really need answers to any exercises I do, so I skipped those that had no answers.

 I have decided to buy a copy for myself for I think it will be very useful if I teach advanced English as a  Foreign Language in summer as planned.  

And no, nobody is paying me to say these things!

Positive proof: You can’t write without help

February 19, 2010

Previously, I posted my first attempts at writing my blurbs for my forthcoming book: Out of a Learner’s Mouth. The publisher (Rodney Dale of Fern House in Haddenham) asked me for the final drafts of my blurbs for the front cover of the book (about the author) and for the back of the book (about the book).

I did my best, but felt very uneasy because it had not been through the hands of a copy editor. I asked the publisher to edit, please – and he did. It was clear editing was needed. This is proof that you really should get others to edit your work. Hopefully I will continue to learn from this experience.

I am even tempte4d to contemplate going on a copy-editing course. Does anyone know any good, reliable copy-editing courses I could sign up to?

Here are the finished blurbs. What do you think?

Blurb about the book for the back cover:

Picking up a stranger in a pub in Spain and buying a flat from him is an unusual way of starting a new relationship with the country and its language. However, this mature lady casts caution aside and gives the stranger her credit card to pay a deposit for her dream flat by the Mediterranean Sea. When the contract is signed and she first enters the building, she is unable to communicate with the electrician who is still fixing the wiring. She realizes she has to learn Spanish.

In a series of hilarious anecdotes she records her feelings about the language and the Spanish way of life. She struggles with new vocabulary and with interference from school French. As her exposure to the language increases, her attitude alters; she makes drastic changes to her approach when teaching English as a Foreign Language to students in the UK.  

She describes the new Spanish words she acquires and shares the trials and tribulations that all language learners have with concentration, memory, personality differences and interfering life events. 

A developing awareness of the benefits of image, humour, other language associations and her past learning and teaching experiences give insight into the nature of the process.        

The book is an essential companion for those contemplating learning Spanish, or planning a holiday in a Spanish-speaking country, and for those in the language learning, researching, teaching and teacher-training businesses. 

 and the final blurb about the author:

Teacher, writer and adventurer Dr Rosemary Westwell made her first move overseas from Tasmania when she flew across the Bass Strait to study School Music at Melbourne University. After returning for a short bout of teaching in Tasmania, she sailed to England and eventually settled in a Cambridgeshire village where she acquired successively an English husband, two daughters and a number of grandchildren.

As she neared retirement, she inherited a house in Tasmania – rather a long way to go for holidays, so she exchanged it for a flat in Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Learning Spanish from scratch, she recorded her learning experiences as the data for her PhD research thesis. Out of a Learner’s Mouth is a frank and humorous account of her experiences.

In the UK, she reviews concerts, teaches Piano, Singing and English, and entertains local societies with talks about her life in Tasmania. She runs The Isle Singers, a ladies’ choir which gives regular concerts, and may be found carolling at Ely Station at Christmas. .

She has had a number of articles, short stories and poems published. Her book Spontaneous Survival Lessons in English is published by Zigzag Education. Future books in the pipeline include her first novel Tassie Rebel, and its sequel Teaching Language Learners, and a course for IGCSE.

Contact: rjwestwell@hotmail.com 

www.elyforlangauge.wordpress.com

What do you think?

Publishing your own book 4

January 30, 2010

One of the major problems with publishing your own book is finishing it.  

I set aside three weeks for that purpose and the book was written. It is called “Out of the Learner’s Mouth” to accompany a presentation I will be making at the IATEFL Conference at Harrogate on April 8th. I am still trying to think of an addition to the title. At the moment it is “Out of the Learner’s Mouth: the diary of a mature language learner learning Spanish as a beginner”- which is not very catchy or impressionable. Your suggestions would be most welcome.

 After finishing writing the book you have to do the boring bit: checking it through. I believed that I had checked my work thoroughly and that I had corrected every mistake.

 I asked around for a recommended copy editor.  I contacted her and we agreed on a tight schedule of completing within three weeks.

In the first week, I wrote the first section and sent it to her as agreed. She then said she had another project she had to finish first – the agreed schedule went out the window right at the beginning!

The copy-editor sent me the corrected version of the first section. I was completely amazed that I had made so many mistakes. When I combed through the corrected text, the copy editor was right.

I am now convinced, you cannot produce a book without a copy-editor. The current rate for work corrected online is £22 per hour (in January 2010) which makes it difficult to know how you will be able to recoup the costs. One thing is certain, schedules are made to be broken, so more time should be allowed for this to happen.

How careful should we be with our speech?

August 24, 2009

I was having lunch with local publisher Rodney Dale recently when he picked up on a phrase I used. He asked if it was a special Tasmanian phrase, or had I picked it up while in England. It’s the phrase “aren’t I?” instead of “am I not? “. I had never noticed it before and then realized that when teaching EFL, we teach tag questions e.g. “You like reading, don’t you?” – but do we teach “I’m late, aren’t I?” I’ll have to scramble for my textbooks.

to correct or not to correct

August 7, 2009

In a restaurant today, the waiter said to us “Finnish?” and I had to stop myself before I rudely corrected him with “Have you finished?” However, perhaps I should have corrected him and offered him a more appropriate phrase. What do you think? Maybe he would have appreciated it. I will never know. I guess it depends on the learner. Some learners really seem to appreciate being corrected and appear to learn from the correction. Many do not want to be corrected or even though they say they want correction, receive the correction gratefully but then do nothing to try to change their language output as a result.

While learning Spanish I appreciated the teacher when she refused to accept anything that was wrong. With the mere raising of the eyebrow she indicated that what I had said was wrong. I immediately tried to correct myself. It made my brain hurt, but I could see that  it was the only way forward if I was going to make any progress with my language learning. When I did not know the correct form, I simply asked her and she would provide it. We both knew that I would not be able to adopt the correct form immediately, but with practice and gradually increased familiarity with the phrase I would probably pick it up later.