While it is probably true that simple language structures are the easiest thing to teach and learn, we should look very carefully at what we consider to be simple.
Take for example English articles. There are only two of them: definite and indefinite — maybe three, if we count the allophonic variant of the indefinite article ‘an’. Unlike other languages, in English we don’t have to take into account gender or case when deciding which one to use. So, why are these items so difficult for English language learners? The answer to this question relates to the rules that govern articles, which are very complex, thus making their application somewhat difficult.
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” —John Dewey
I love this quote. It’s so simple but, at its core, it embodies the vastness of what it means to be “educated”. In its essence, education is so much more than desks or books or technology.
As the Winter/Spring term of my EAP classes at CultureWorks dashes to the finish line, I reflect on the ‘tidbits’ of wisdom that my students have imparted unto me. I “teach” mostly young adults mostly, from many parts of the globe. To be honest, teaching to an international audience is only part of what I do. The bulk of my days are spent amassing an “education”.
My vocation is unique in that it inspires an environment of ‘give and take’, conducive to the search for truth. Although there are countless aspects of my career that are fulfilling, I am most grateful that it allows me to be a lifelong learner, where the students are the teachers.
I’d like to share a couple of “truths” fashioned by two of my students recently.
Truth #1: Experiencing life requires a good sense of humour.
We’re human. We make mistakes. Foreign students like Lu will naturally commit a faux pas of the “cultural” kind. A simple task such as grocery shopping can prove to be incredibly confusing. For example, grocery carts in this city come in a few different sizes–small, large, and motorized. Generally speaking, loading a small or large grocery cart with newly purchased edible goodies out to the parking lot will attract little, if any, attention; however, climbing Continue reading →
Today wasn’t a great day in my EAP class. It was very definitely Monday and more than one student had spent the weekend battling non-stop computer games; World of Warcraft is apparently an indefatigable foe.
And, something had convinced my students that grammar class was the best time to catch up on lost sleep. Nothing was going to keep them from their rest, not even the most fascinating facts about the present progressive tense. So, I opened my bag of teacher tricks in hopes that I could lure them from Mr. Sandman. If they engaged, we could all go home content at the end of the day.
I had them write on chalk boards, scribble on the white board, role play, and question each other with today’s vocab. I commiserated over the Raptors’ loss, arranged Continue reading →
Fluency is a critical element of communication and is often a basis for how language levels are judged. Signposting is a technique which makes speech more fluent. Words or phrases that link speech together to make it coherent, and give the listener an indication of where our verbal communication is headed, are considered signposts.
Does receiving an indication of the direction that a conversation will take make a difference to the listener? Absolutely! When we have a good idea about what we will hear, we can process the meaning faster. Hearing something contrary to what we are expecting causes our brain waves to spike. The spike causes a diversion of energy which can contribute to longer processing time. Considering how fast a brain processes language, a matter of milliseconds can slow down comprehension. The delay in comprehending could cause a listener to completely misunderstand what was said. Continue reading →
I’ve always wondered how an adult who is learning a new language felt when surrounded by the unfamiliar. Although I’ve once experienced the difficulty and hardship of learning a new language and acclimating to a brand new environment as a child, it doesn’t compare to the emotions and experiences felt by an adult learner.
Having watched both my parents in the past try to interact with other fellow Canadians without the proper use of the English language was noteworthy. Though at times they were clearly frustrated, they seemed to get by. Today, my parents’ command of the English language is vast and they are both able to carry on conversations and express their wants and needs. Aside from their drive to want to learn and acclimate, they also had French to fall back on. But what about those who migrate from Continue reading →