domingo, 31 de octubre de 2010

Noam Chomsky and language acquisition revisited


Some posts ago, we talked about Stephen Krashen and the Natural Approach, video of Krashen included. Today, our post involves Noam Chomsky, the researcher and thinker who confronted B. F. Skinner´s book Verbal Behaviour where Skinner explained his theory of how languages were learned by stimulus-response-reinforcement.

Chomsky has been extremely influential in the study of language acquisition. Among his contributions, he posited the theory that all humans are born with the innate capacity for languages (Nativism) and that this born-skill works thanks to a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that we all possess. READ. The LAD is not an organ –like the heart or the stomach– that we can point out and study physically, but some kind of “wiring” that the brain has and explains, according to Chomsky, why humans (together with the physical characteristics of people) can pick up language from the environment and develop it creatively.

Another theory, credited to Ch

omsky but actually much older, is Universal Grammar. UG states that all grammar rules are already hard-wired in the pers

on´s brain at the moment of birth. For more information, read this article.

The video below (from YouTube, where else?) is a funny interview that the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Bruno) had with Chomsky for his TV show Da Ali G Show. Do not be shocked by the horrible and "soft" English Ali G speaks, that´s the character´s personality; on the contrary, enjoy the silly things he says, and watch Chomsky´s reactions. (BONUS: Watch this interview with David and Victoria Beckham for comic Relief –this one has nothing to do with ELT, by the way; it´s just a pointer for a good laugh).

Thanks for the comments and for reading this blog.

Cesar Klauer

Click here for the video on YouTube

miércoles, 27 de octubre de 2010

English accents




The first time I went to the UK, I stayed for many weeks in a college 30 minutes away from Cambridge. Mostly, we went to the pub in the evenings and played football on our free time. Almost every afternoon we practiced with the college coach and on the weekends we usually played other teams from nearby towns. The coach was a nice guy who liked to come in play in the team now and then but had a terrible accent to understand. Once during a game, I saw him shouting at me from the side of the pitch, since I could not hear well, I went near him to pick the instructions. All I heard was*: /séiza/ /nambaráit/ What? /nambaráit/ he repeated, angrily, and put up eight fingers in the air. Oh, I got it, he wants me to watch player number eight. So I did, but there a was a rough play involving me and this number eight guy. He got angry (let´s say I had no silk gloves on), turned to me and shouted /yiúdertawáinka/. I got “you dirty…” but that was it. Later I discovered what “wanker” was.
Accents are such an adventure, and an important part of language and culture. In our last post, American and British English were dealt with, in kind of a light hearted manner (with the help of Dr. House himself), but we must not forget that the English language does not restrict to those two variations. Regional pronunciations are a delight, they show how different the language we teach can be “out there,” away from the stiff pages of a textbook, the RP of the BBC, or the silk voices of VOA. Experiencing them makes you feel so alive… and how much you still have to learn. At least that´s how I feel, but I guess the point is not to remain static but to grow from the experience, improve.
For those of you, curious enough to devote some time to exploration, I have these web sites that will blow your minds off. Visit Sounds familiar? and listen to UK regional accent samples. For other accent samples, including many American variations, Australian and Canadian, go to the Audio Archive
Thanks to Giovanni Gonzales and AmigoBryan for their notes on my post of Sunday 24th. All of you out there are welcome to comment, that makes me feel I am not posting up all these for nobody!
Have fun.
Cesar Klauer
PS: Do not forget we are on Facebook too.


*This keyboard does not have symbols, so I used the regular script to symbolize speech... sorry, but, that´s all I could do.

domingo, 24 de octubre de 2010

American VS British English



Whenever I meet somebody and they know I am a teacher of English, they ask me if I teach American or British. I try to explain that those two are variations of basically the same language, but they looke at me with an expert air to which anybody can hardly find a good answer, I mean... people will believe whatever they want, won´t they? And they usually give me lines like: "But I´ve been told that British English is purer." Or: "They say that Americans´ speech is full of slang and contractions." When I ask them if they know that for sure (I make it a point to stare at them, just to give emphasis to the verb know), they come up with, "the weather is terrible these days, isn´t it?" and ran off to find somebody else to talk to.
This entry today is not here to discuss the validity or superiority of regional variations, accents, or the like, but to invite you to watch the video I found on YouTube... about American - British English differences!!!!!
It´s not known for sure who said "America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language." Some say it was George Bernad Shaw who coined the phrase, others blame Oscar Wilde, and even a minority propose Winston Churchill as the author. You might recall also the catchy song that went "You say potato and I potatoe..." The thing is, the video is a good laugh. It features a well-known British actor who plays an American character on a popular TV show: Hugh Laurie. Who on the face of earth is Hugh Laurie? Well, you might better recognise him by the name of Dr. Gregory House. You didn´t know he was a Briton, did you? Why, yeah, he was, he still is. When he auditioned for this part, he demonstrated that he could mimick the American accent well, and got the job. House has become famous for his witty and cinical remarks like "Everybody lies." In fact, two books about his "philosophy" are on sale now (find them at the Book Fair at Kennedy Park).
Enough talk (???) now. Enjoy the video of Hugh Laurie answering questions about vocabulary in the Ellen Degeneres show. Just one final suggestion (on behalf of our suffering students): Do not for Heavens´sake put these words in your quizzes.


WATCH VIDEO ON YOUTUBE


Cesar Klauer












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miércoles, 20 de octubre de 2010

Something to say about: The FCE exam



The season for Cambridge international exams is at our doorstep. As you know, there are several authorized centres for Cambridge exams: The ACPB, SENATI, some schools that examine their own students, and the Universidad de Piura, both in Piura and in Lima. This post will concentrate on FCE and some tips for the teachers who are preparing students for this exam.
FCE stands for First Certificate in English and is part of a complete suite of exams designed to test and certify the candidates´ competence in this language. Below is a table indicating the correlation of each exam with the Common European Framework of Reference, the levels they represent and the numbers of study hours needed to attain each level.

Common European
Framework/ UCLES - Guided Learning Hours

A2/ KET: Elementary - approximately 180–200
B1/ PET: Intermediate - approximately 350–400
B2/ FCE: Upper Intermediate - approximately 500–600
C1/ CAE: Advanced - approximately 700–800
C2/ CPE: Near Native - approximately 1,000–1,200

But what can successful FCE candidates do in English?

At B2 level, typical users can be expected to:

•understand the main ideas of complex pieces of writing
•keep up a conversation on a fairly wide range of topics, expressing opinions and presenting arguments
•produce clear, detailed writing, expressing opinions and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of different points of view.

The link below will take you to a webinar titled: Questions and Answers on the FCE Exam. It is given by Roy Norris, an ELT author for Macmillan.
I am sure it will very helpful, not only for FCE teachers but for all of us.

lunes, 18 de octubre de 2010

Something to say about: Stephen Krashen or the Natural Approach revisited

Back in the 1970´s, Stephen Krashen formulated his famous hypothesis that led, together with Tracy Terrel, to the Natural Approach. In this very short article Krashen´s five hypothesis are revisited with the intention of making teachers think a little bit about what he proposed and what we can do in class with his ideas. There is also a 15-minute video of Stephen Krashen explaining his theory of language acquisition, who better than the man himself.

The five hypothesis

The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis. There is a difference between acquiring a language and learning it. When we acquire it, we do it unconsciously, in natural settings; when we learn it, we do it consciously, in artificial settings.

The Monitor hypothesis. We can self-correct our language production provided we have the linguistic information in our mind.

The Natural Order hypothesis. We all acquire language in the same way; and in a specific order.

The Input hypothesis. In order to acquire a language, the language input has to be comprehensible, that is, we must understand what is being transmitted to us in order to acquire language.

The Affective Filter hypothesis. To acquire a language, anxiety must be zero; in other words, if we are stressed our mind will erect “walls” that will prevent us from taking in the input.

The video below (downloaded from YouTube) features Dr. Krashen explaining his theory in a very clear and convincing way. However, as an eclectic teacher myself, I must say to you: Keep an open mind, not everything about language acquisition (and teaching a language, of course) has been said yet.

So you want to know more about Krashen´s theory? Visit these links:

Stephen Krashen´s official web site: http://www.sdkrashen.com/

Other Krashe related sites:

http://www.languageimpact.com/articles/rw/krashenbk.htm

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/vivian.c/SLA/Krashen.htm

As always, comments are welcome.

Cesar Klauer


video

miércoles, 13 de octubre de 2010

Something to say about: Games in language teaching


A long time ago, I published an online article titled "Using games in TEFL." To my surprise, the article was linked by many foreign web sites including the Taiwan Teachers´ association and the Cataluña English Teachers´web.
You will the original article below, and after that, a link to a short video giving a demostration of how to use games in your classes. The demo is not mine, I have linked it from YouTube (it can be useful sometimes) and comes from
Bridge TEFL .





Using games in TEFL

· What is a game?

Let us take this situation: a little boy is kicking a ball in the house garden. Is this a game? The answer is no, what the boy is doing is play. Now, take this second situation: the little boy is now kicking the ball with the intention of putting it into a goal, his father has told him to use his feet only but never the hands. Is this a game? Yes, it is. What is the difference then? In the first example, the boy played without any given rule. In the second situation, the kicking was ordered by a set of clearly stated rules. Add more players, form teams and give points for successful achievement of the aim and you will have a competitive game.

A game is basically play governed by rules. A language game is exactly the same, but with clear linguistic rules to which all participants in the activity must conform.

· Characteristics of games

A game is governed by rules. Playing just to pass the time will not have the same effect. To make a simple activity into a game just give a couple of rules and that is all.

A game has objectives. One of the rules, and probably the main one, is the achievement of an objective. This objective can be something like making points for correctness or finishing an activity first.

A game is a closed activity. Games must have a beginning and an end. It must be easy for the players, or the teacher, to know who is about to reach the aim.

A game needs less supervision from the teacher. This must be understood as linguistic supervision. Sometimes the game is conducted by the teacher who acts as judge, scorer and/ or referee.

It is easier for students to keep going. Compared with pair or group work, a game has a ludic element that other interaction patterns do not have. This makes the activity more attractive.


· Types of games

Not all games are the same. More than one of the categories listed here may sometimes apply to a game.

Cooperative games. In this type of game, the main action is centred in trying to reach the aim in cooperation. This type of game is excellent to encourage the shy students, since it requires the participation of all the members of a team, group or pair. Some typical activities may include the completion of a drawing, putting things in order, grouping things, finding a pair or finding hidden things. Students are involved in the exchange of information to complete the task and in giving/ following instructions.

Competitive games. As the name indicates, in this type of game there is an overt competiton between teams, or sometimes of an individual against the rest of the class ( as in 20 Questions ). The competition may also be of individuals against other individuals. The object of this type of game is finishing or reaching the end before the other competetitors, making more points, surviving elimination, or avoiding penalties. The rules may require the players to produce correct language as part of the game and force students to draw conclussions more quickly.

Communication games. The main objective in this type of game is getting the message over to the other players and reacting appropriately to their messages. For example when giving instructions, the player giving them must be clear, and the player following them must do exactly what he is required to. The tasks are usually practical, like following instructions, drawing, persuading other players, etc. This means that players will concentrate on the task rather than on the language, besides, students can see the results of their use of language at once which will help to build students`confidence.

Code-control games. This type of game requires that students produce correct language: structures, spelling, pronunciation, etc. The production of correct language will make the players of the team win points.

· Patterns of interaction during games

During games a number of interaction patterns can be caused. Some of them are set up with a leader challenging a group, teams or individual members of the teams. In this pattern, the leader may be asked questions or he may ask questions to the team members. Also, the leader may give directions to perform actions, as in Simon Says. TPR activities are examples of this type of interaction pattern.

Other types of interaction involve pairs, either closed or variable ( as in Find Someone Who ), or groups working simultaneously. In this type of interaction the teacher does not normally participate actively in the game but acts as a consultant or encourager. The teacher must also note recurrent and common errors for delayed correction or remedial work.

· The teacher`s role in games

Depending on the type of interaction pattern caused by the game and the type of game played, the teacher`s roles are very different.

The teacher may be Master of Ceremonies and direct the game, or give that responsibility to a good student, in which case he will become the evaluator of the responses and occasionally the scorer of the game. Also the teacher might play the role of language consultant or informant. Other roles are those of monitor/ corrector and referee.

· Organising games in class

Before a game is played the teacher must make sure that he has all the necessary materials ready: Are worksheets necessary? Role cards? Boards? Dice? Pointers? Score cards?

The game rules must be made clear to the players, most of the times a demostration is the best thing to do. A round of questions about the rules is another good method to check that everything is clear. This is crucial for the success of the activity, so every effort should be made.

After rules are understood, the game itself is to be set up. In competitive games, the formation of the teams is extremely important. The teacher must try and put together groups where there are players with different abilities and levels of competence. In communication games, it is a good idea to write some useful phrases on the board to " signal " the target language.

During the game, the teacher must note down every recurrent mistake without interfering. A way to do this is by classifying the mistakes by vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and so on. It is also good to try and copy the exact words the student said. This information is to be used in two ways, either as the source for a delayed correction stage after the game is over or as the base for the planning of remedial work in the next lessons.

After the game finishes, a summary must be given. In this summary the teacher should be very careful to encourage students, highlight the good points that ocurred during the game and take the opportunity to motivate his students. Here the teacher might want to correct the mistakes he noted down during the game, but making sure no student is referred to directly as the " mistake maker ". Group corrections must refer only to identified mistakes in general giving corrections for the whole group and not for individuals. In this way all students will benefit from the correction.


Cesar Klauer




Demo class on video



lunes, 11 de octubre de 2010

A chronicle of the XII Prescott School ELT Conference 2010

The flight was on time, smooth, quiet and clean like a baby´s dream. The White City of Arequipa was just awakening from a night of proud sleep, one day after the announcement of the Nobel Prize for its most universal son. I came down the plane and breathed the cold but invigorating clearness of the air, ¿how many years had it been since my last visit? I didn´t remember but one thing was sure: I was happy to be here again. And I say this not only because of the trip to one of the most beautiful cities in Peru, but also because I had a feeling that the event at Prescott School was going to be a memorable one. Time proved me right.
The organization, from the point of view of a guest speaker –one side of the story that is seldom known– was pristine. I had gotten my itinerary on the email, my air tickets had been all arranged, the hotel reservations had been made, the transport between hotel and venue had been programmed to the minute, I even had a reception committee waiting for my arrival at Prescott School. I then remembered that old joke and smiled, ¿was I in Peru? Well, yes, I was.
The premises at Prescott were home to an enthusiastic group of committed professionals from the south of our country who engaged in the workshops and plenaries with an avid attitude, always ready to learn, always ready to improve. I hope that we, local and “foreign” speakers, gave the measure. They deserve it.
I had taken my little but effective camera with me; not only did I want to photograph but also catch on video some of the activities in the event, but (all my fault, I must confess shamefully) I discovered to my horror that the battery was almost dead and I had left the charger in the hotel. Happily, luck was on our side, the energy still stored in the battery was enough to grasp some minutes. You will be able to watch those segments on line and know what the event was about, at least in part. Do share them with your colleagues, write your comment, express your views. Participate.
I left Arequipa charged with good vibes and convinced that the future of ELT in the south is bright. We all have to work hard, though, but it is possible.

XII Prescott Conference: The voice of the participants

Three teachers tell us what they thought of the XII Prescott School ELT Conference 2010.

video

video

video

Plenary speakers in short

Majid Safaradan gave a plenay titled "Methodological approaches."
Read his bio and abstract HERE.

video

Maria Esther Linares talked about classroom management.

Read her bio HERE.

video

Julio Valladares´s presentation was on teaching portfolios.

Read his bio HERE.

video

Sixto Ramos explained what debate is about.

Read his bio and abstract HERE.

video

Norma Bustamante gave a plenary on CLIL.

Read her bio and abstract HERE.

video

Cesar Klauer talked about technology and the teacher of English.

Read his bio and abstract HERE.

video

What was the XII Prescott Conference about?

On this video, Giancarlo Castello, conference director, explains the event.


video

lunes, 4 de octubre de 2010

Somehting to say about: Conferences, congresses and the like

Now that we are close to the opening of the XII Prescott School ELT Conference in Arequipa (the most important convention for teachers of English out of Lima), I think it is time for us to ponder on how important it is to attend and/ or participate giving talks in these events.

Of course there are conferences and conferences. So it is always a good idea to check the quality of the speakers and organizers. Most events have a web page where you can read CVs and abstracts of workshops and talks. Another good idea is to ask around. Have your colleagues attended this event in past years? Will they recommend it? Usually, other teachers can tell us about the organization, timetabling, costs, and other etc´s we can´t see until we are “on the horse.”

Then, there is the question of usefulness, and that is a very personal issue. You´ll have to ask yourself if the event is really going to contribute to your professional development, if it is worth the effort not only paying a fee (normally affordable or free in the case of commercial talks) but also using your free time to be there. Academic meetings may not give us what we need, and commercial events might not be what we expect, since the bottom of them all is to try and sell their products: Are we ready to oversee this and attend anyway?

Finally, do we have anything to contribute, in other words, give a talk, present an experience, or disseminate some news? I must confess that I think that the ELT scene in Peru needs to refresh, new professionals have to come forward and share, take the relay, make the field progress and improve. That only depends on us all.

What do you think?

Cesar Klauer