Posts Tagged ‘language’

A suggested lesson for adults learning vocabulary in an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) lesson

June 7, 2012
‘Lesson’
Resource
Level 2: Pre-Intermediate >> Vocabulary Worksheets >>
http://www.esl-lounge.com/level2/lev2seasons.shtml
Comments on using lesson material for teaching adults vocabulary relating to the seasons as provided by the website above.
In the lesson material above, students are asked to place a list of words under seasonal headings.
This would be an excellent revision exercise after an extended lesson on the vocabulary.
Vocabulary is stored in our memories according to the particular sound and meaning of the words. That is why we often make mistakes by recalling words that sound very similar to those we are trying to retrieve from our memory. It is also easier to recall words that belong to the same topic area, such as ‘pins’ and ‘needles’. In addition, words that we are familiar with can be recalled more effectively than those we have never come across before. This knowledge can be used in a lesson by concentrating on the words in a series of concentrated stages so that the vocabulary is fully acquired and most likely be recalled quickly and effective becoming part of the student(s) fully acquired ‘automatically retrieved’ language.  
Stage 1 of a 60-minute lesson:
Ask the student(s) to name the four seasons. Once these have been named and written down for the students to see, the students add words associated with the seasons that they already know and these are written down under the respective headings. (Note, many adults need to see the written word to be able to acquire new vocabulary.)
This may appear to slow the learning process down. It would be much ‘quicker’ for students to simply list the words they know under the respective headings and then ask their friends, look up on the Internet or a dictionary to find out the meanings of unknown words and add them accordingly. However, if the aim of the lesson is for the students to acquire the new words for long-term usage, much more than mere listing is required.
Stage 2:
Depending on the ability/personality/academic capability of the adult, if they are already aware of teaching methods, the student(s) should be reminded of the way in which we store and recall words.
The students are offered the remaining words from the list. Then students try to relate as much vocabulary as possible to words from their first language. For example, if the student is Spanish, the word ‘la flor’ may sound similar to ‘flower’. (Note, with adults, making associations with new vocabulary is particularly important and/or effective).
Stage 3:
In this stage words that are completely new to the students and/or that do not sound similar to words in their own language are taught. Different methods for vocabulary memorization may be offered or one chosen according to the nature of the student(s). One of the most effective ways of memorizing vocabulary is using a method similar to the ‘Linkword’ method in which mental images are created that link the sound and meaning of the new words so that they will become memorable. For example, If a Spanish student were trying to remember ‘flower’ they could picture a person dressed as a flower speaking and hesitating within the speech by saying ‘ –er’ (Hence, a Spanish student may think of the following: ‘flor-er’ = flower).
Stage 4:
When the entire list has been ‘learnt’ students are then encouraged to explore these words further so that they continue to stimulate their previously acquired language and thus embed the new word(s) so that it/they can be quickly – even ‘automatically’ —  retrieved and used. Students try to name additional associated words or forms. For example, ‘sun’ could be extended to ‘sun cream’, ‘sunbathe’, ‘sunhat’, ‘sun bed’, ‘sunning oneself’ and/or ‘suntan’. In this way they reinforce the initial word while becoming familiar with a wider vocabulary than the lesson requires. This will aid full acquisition of newer words later.
Stage 5:
In this stage the student(s) practise recalling the words to use them in different situations or contexts. For example, students may be asked to interview a weather reporter. While concentrating on shaping the interview and also including as many of the new words as possible, they will be engaging their cognitive powers effectively. Any misunderstanding of the meaning of some of the words will come to light as they try to use them in different contexts, for example, the student(s) my need to have explained the difference between ‘sunshine’ in ‘I love sitting in the sunshine’ and ‘Just do it, will you ‘sunshine’! (Even though this is a ‘pre-intermediate’ level sometimes humour using a different tone of voice is readily understood in the early stages of learning, although the full meaning may not be wholly understood.)
Stage 6:
At the end of the lesson students are given a positive experience in the usage of the newly acquired vocabulary. The exercise such as the one initially provided above (in which students list the words associated with the different seasons) or a quick team quiz which the teacher knows should be easy for the students will achieve further, positive reinforcement of the new words.
Ideally, these new words would be visited a day or two later, then a week later continuing i.e. the words should be recalled after increasing lengths of time.
The inclusion and/or the length of the different stages of the lesson will depend on the nature of the student(s). Some may be able to acquire new words quickly without a great deal of help so these stages may not need to be extensive. However, there will be those student(s) who find language learning particularly difficult and the stages listed above would be the best way for him/her/them to acquire new vocabulary effectively.
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A quandary: What is the difference between ‘register’, ‘style’

September 20, 2011

What is the difference between register and style and what has ‘audience’ to do with them?

I am in a bit of a quandary. While preparing the teachers’ DIY kit of ideas worksheets and exercises to prepare students for the IGCSE in English as a Second Language for next year’s IATEFL Conference (I hope), it struck me that I don’t REALLY know the difference between ‘register’ and ‘style’. It is a good idea to know what you are talking about when writing a textbook, so I need to know: what IS the difference between ‘register’ and ‘style’?

I searched the web and read the books I could get my hands on and it seems to me the simple difference is ‘register’ is concerned more with specific language choices i.e. whether vocabulary and grammar is ‘formal’ or ‘informal’.

‘Style’, on the other hand, not only concerns register but looks at the way the words, sentences and paragraphs are put together. A particular author may have a preferred style – e.g. Jane Austen.  ‘Style’ also concerns the correct or conventional use of language e.g. is ending sentences with prepositions using a correct/appropriate style of English for the purpose intended?

When the examination specifications mention ‘audience’, I assume that when considering an appropriate register and style one is also considering the audience – the person/people for whom the language is written.

Sorted. I hope – DO correct me if I am wrong!

Flip flops and an identity crisis – (an item to tickle your sense of humour)

September 16, 2011

I’m a brilliant teacher. I’ve taught English for over 20 years. (Probably more, but I’d rather not count.) I know all there is to know about language acquisition – a posh way of saying language learning  – well, I’m supposed to – after all I spent 10 years writing a PhD thesis on the subject!

I have a bright idea that no one else has thought of – well, okay, maybe it is what teachers do anyway but my idea is better. I like to say it is more profound.

The theory is, you get students to follow a 4 step progamme:

First they ‘notice’ – meaning ‘look at’ the target language, then they relate it to what they know, they practise it and then they recall it later. Simple. This is obviously the best way to learn.

Okay then. I should be able to teach myself by following this method. I’ll be fluent in Spanish in no time. At the moment I speak a kind of Spanglish – a pigeon Spanish littered with the wrong nouns, words without endings and absolutely no verbs in the past or future.

My cleaning lady has moved my flip flops.  I know I should do my own cleaning – I have such a small flat — but she is Spanish and I want her to help me learn the language. Unfortunately, she has no teeth, speaks a dialect and yells so I am not doing very well. I cringe to think what the neighbours hear when we try to have a ‘conversation’. My favourite word is ‘que?’ So I’ll have to get the Spanish word for ‘flip-flops’ just right. It is not in the dictionary (surprise, surprise). In desperation I ask on Facebook – Maureen kindly gives me the word. It is ‘chancletas’. There, I’ve noticed my new word. Now how am I going to relate it to what I know? – simple – they are my flip-flops and I can picture them easily. I need more. Okay I’ll use the Linkword method – you know, you imagine silly interacting pictures that sound like the word. What does chancletas remind me of? I suppose the first bit is like ‘chunk’, the next ‘let’ and the last ‘us’. So I could imagine saying ‘Chunk let us …’ Who is Chunk? – Well Chunk sounds like ‘Hunk’ so I’ll imagine a hunk of a man. Mm. What would he ‘let us’ do? Something funny, or bizarre with flip- flops. Maybe he would let us have a flip-flop fight – boring. Maybe a flip-flop eating – no I feel sick. I know, I’ll imagine Chunk letting us cover his lovely body with flip-flops. Mm that’s better.

Okay, so what’s the word? My picture springs to mind. Mm What is the word? – something to do with flip flops and a good-looking man – oh Hunk, – I mean Chunk – ah yes Chunk let us Chancletas. Brilliant! See it works. Now I’ll try to remember the word for flip flops tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and I remembered a gorgeous looking man covered with flip-flops, but could I remember the word? No chance. I despair. I think I’ll just look up sandals in the dictionary when the cleaning lady comes.

(This piece was written in a similar style to the book ‘Out of a Learner’s Mouth’: the trials and tribulations of learning Spanish) …

It pays to ask people to comment about your writing. You learn a lot.

September 11, 2011

I have recently asked a number of different people to review my book ‘Teaching Language Learners’. The responses are so varied, that is is amazing that they are all talking about the same book. This latest review is by Jane Cronin, well-known teacher of Spanish in Torrevieja, Spain.

I have included the whole review and my response to the bit she did not like. What do you think?

Review:

Rosemary Westwell’s book “Teaching Language Learners” covers territory familiar to language teachers in an original way.  The main focus of the book is the need to adapt teaching methods to the individual needs of language learners, a concept which Rosemary has developed through her own experiences of learning Spanish.  The book focuses on the actual process of acquisition, recognizing that it is our “internal thinking” and personal ideas and points of view which must be addressed for learning to take place.

 

Given the obvious premise that no teacher can be familiar with the individual thought processes of all their students, Rosemary gives a number of pointers to help teachers become aware of the issue and to help learners to recognize their own learning patterns.  One of her key concepts is the focus on internal “needs” rather than external “goals” of language acquisition.  There is also a recognition that unconscious processes run alongside conscious processes, facilitating acquisition in unexpected ways outside the classroom environment.

 

“Teaching Language Learners” also contains a range of interesting and useful summaries and resources. There are lists of “false friends”, learning strategies, language teaching methods, summaries of grammar rules and definitions, spelling rules and topics for debate.  Each list stands on its own as a generic resource for both learning and teaching contexts.

 

The weakest point of the book for me are the examples of Rosemary’s own learning strategies using picture memory techniques, clearly because by their very nature they are individual, and as such do not coincide with methods useful to me in my learning.  Having said that, these personal examples abundantly illustrate the fact that when traditional methods fail we should not be afraid to look to our own internal thinking processes to advance our language learning.

Jane Cronin

 

Reply:

I am interested to learn that you do not find using pictures/images useful – Maybe you are one of these lucky ‘natural’ language learners who find learning languages easy…?

I have found using picturing/imagery very useful for me and for others – when teaching EFL and English on a number of different occasions and with different students. I plan this to be my next area of ‘study’. When I was studying for the MA in TESOL, our tutor demonstrated the ‘Linkword’ technique developed by Michael Gruneberg and the group of us was amazed at the speed with which we learned new words. However, for me, although this technique works well – I do not remember the words long-term. I need to practise recalling the words several times at different intervals.

Rosemary Westwell

Should carers be able to speak fluent English?

July 5, 2011

As our population includes more people needing fulltime care, it is harder for homes to get good staff, staff that will be efficient and effective so that patients are as healthy as they can be:  – well hydrated, fed and cleaned. A recent visit to a home brought out another vital asset that carers must have. A carer not only needs to be able to do the job efficiently, they need to show the right attitude and be able to reflect this in their language.

Consider this situation: The wife of a patient entered the home where her husband is a patient. The place was clean and the patients quiet, except for one voice – the voice of her husband. When she entered his room, he was obviously distressed; he was shedding tears. He looked as if he was in an uncomfortable position. No staff could be seen. Why were they not checking on him? The wife eventually found a carer writing on his clipboard. When she asked for help, he began to say in broken English that the patient would be attended to when the shift changed.  The wife stood her ground. Reluctantly, the carer found another member of staff and they moved the patient. The noise continued. There was still something wrong. Before the staff left the room the wife suggested they might check to see if her husband needed changing. He did. ‘You can go to the sitting room’ the carer said to the wife. Summarily dismissed, the wife stood in the sitting room a little nonplussed. She had come to see her husband, precious time was being wasted. When she was permitted to enter her husband’s room, he was no longer in tears although he was still shouting but automatically, the distress had gone from his cries. As the wife was leaving he commented to the carer.

‘He is not happy’

‘He will be happy,’ the carer seemed to dictate.

The wife left concerned for her husband’s welfare. If the carer was so completely unaware of her feelings how could he understand her husband’s needs? She expressed her concerns to the manager.

She visited her husband again and the same carer was on duty.

‘You upset me.’ he said to her while she was sitting next to her husband. ‘I say something to you. I said to you ‘You can go to the sitting room’. I am good carer.’ And in his imperfect English lectured the wife on how wrong she was.  His harsh language filled the room with tension and aggression.

The wife was now upset and her visit to see her husband ruined.

If the carer had been able to couch his messages with more appropriate and thoughtful language, none of the issues would have been raised. If he had been able to say, ‘You may stay while we are changing your husband if you want to but it could be unpleasant for you, so you could wait in the sitting room until we have finished if you like.’ This would have given the wife choice; this would not have been received as an unwelcome command.

Until homes insist on carers being able to express themselves well in English, patients will experience a new form of cruelty, cruelty that comes from those with limited English trying to cover their deficiency with defensive, aggressive and non-negotiable language, behaviour and attitudes. No matter how practically efficient a carer may be, no matter how good they are at attending to patients’ physical needs and to filling in clipboards, they will not be able to do their job properly until they can act according to their job title suggests: a carer needs to care and to express this care appropriately. Where the health of our families is concerned, a good command of English is a necessity, not a luxury.

good reasons for having your book reviewed

May 18, 2011

As part of my marketing plan for my newly published book: Teaching Language Learners, after presenting the book at the IATEFL Conference  (IATEFL = International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) I asked people that I thought knew something about the subject and who showed interest in the book to write a review for me.

Having someone else comment on your book, even if it is negatively, is much more helpful than I realized. Not only do you have plenty of scope for improving the book, you get advice on how to approach your next project and you are given greater insight into something you may have thought you knew well already. It is a very humbling, educative experience. I found that several people have expressed completely different ideas.

This review was written recently and I have included it to share with you how interesting someone else’s view can be and how new ideas can be generated from their different perspective.

Review of  the book by Rosemary Westwell: ‘Teaching language Learners’ by Jane Hayter (included with permission from Jane Hayter)

Dear Rosemary,

Thank you so much for sending me your book. I don’t think I am at all qualified to review it, but I enjoyed it very much indeed.

I never trained as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, but I had English up to degree level, but could not take up my place at university. I was given a whole box of text books for the course for TEFL by a friend in France. I spent over six months going through them in great detail before I had French children wanting to learn English. Over six years I taught about 20 from ages 7 – 16.

I have to say that I think your book is so good. It is the first book I have read of an account by the author, an English specialist, learning another language. I have read many books on English Grammar. Pinker’s ‘The Language Instinct’, several of Chomsky’s and others. I have always been very interested in how we learn our own language as very young children but your book goes further by drawing on your persona; experience of how you learn and the methods you used at different stages of your ability. Your book is very clear about these methods and how to make teaching interesting and enjoyable for both teachers and students. I thought the suggested tasks were excellent, as was the general layout. You gave plenty of scope for teachers to come up with examples of their own and perhaps, most importantly, to recognize what is needed at different stages. When I was learning French I never heard spoken English and so was immersed in the sounds of the language — its rhythms and pauses. This helped me a lot when I took lessons from a 75-year-old ex-Grammar teacher who spoke no English. Unlike some books, the author gave great importance to listening before conjugating verbs and dictations etc.

I’m afraid I don’t really have any negative things to say about the book. I thought it was well set out, with excellent content. I wish I had had it when I was in France! I liked very much your pronunciation conundrums. When I had my French students, I made 5 foolscap-size cards of them. They dreaded them and groaned each week. We did 10 old words and 10 new ones each lesson and always 5 sentences for homework along with other stuff!

I hope this has been useful. It is not very academic I afraid – just a personal view. Good luck with this excellent book Rosemary.

Best wishes      Jane Hayter

For further information about the book contact rjwestwell@hotmail.com

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)

Review of Trespass by Rose Tremain

March 28, 2011

Rose Tremain is undoubtedly a very good writer. Once you are immersed in her characters, and you are from the start, you want to know what happens. Trespass is the kind of book that you read and read, well into the early hours of the morning until you know how the dark threads of the plot are resolved.

Trespass is set in a valley in southern France, and has an ideal title – all kinds of trespassing goes on. Aramon Lunel, after a criminal past, degenerates into a self-seeking alcoholic completely insensitive to his sister, Audrun. He trespasses on her peace and quiet by threatening to make her homeless by selling his farmhouse on land that they share. Audrun lives in a tidy bungalow and is haunted by her ‘episodes’. She dwells on a final resolution for her brother and his threats.

Characters trespass on the each other in a web of mystery and soul-searching. Anthony Verey, a lover of boys, leaves his failed antiques business in the UK to be with the sister Veronica on whom he has always relied thereby trespassing on her relationship with her partner, Kitty a failing artist.  A young Parisian girl Mélodie, an outsider in the countryside, ruins a school picnic by her traumatizing find. Her teacher, Jeanne, tries to sooth Melodie’s fretfulness and as a solution offers to take Mélodie back into a city environment, an environment she misses so much.

With a web of dark clues we are led into a gradually evolving mystery trail that swerves and turns in unexpected directions. As the book moves towards an uneasy but satisfactory ending we are transported into the characters’ different worlds and anxieties that they endure and attempt to resolve.

However, above all, it is the style of the writing that captures you. Rose Tremain’s words are carefully crafted so that you are immediately inside the mind of each character. With powerful images that float into the characters’ thoughts, we share their inner most fears and uninhibited thoughts. We empathize with them and want to know what happens to them. We also revel in a vibrant sense of place that Rose evokes and we are disappointed when the book comes to an end and we have no more to read and discover.

 

 

 

 

 

A writer in the Ely area?

May 8, 2010

If you are a writer and you live in the Ely area, you might like to try Burrow’s Bookshop – address: Burrows Bookshop, 9 High Street Passage, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4NB tel: 01353 669 759

They are holding my book at the moment:  “Out of a Learner’s Mouth” – an amusing description of the difficulties of trying to integrate in a different culture in Spain and learn the language.

There is no harm in asking eh?

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.