Hi ESL Teachers,
My name is ED – English Dictionary – but most language learners call me “Oh, you again”. But I’m pretty sure that I’m one of your favorite things in life. For a while I’ve wanted to have a talk with you about something shocking I recently came across. It’s all about my casual talk with your students about my presence and role in their language learning. And believe me, that talk came out as a big surprise!
Here’s what happened:
One day when the Corona days were just a subject of some sci-fi movies, I developed the idea to meet with a number of ESL learners across the world and ask them about my standing in their learning endeavor. Right away, I knew that would be a perfect idea!
When we finally sat and started to talk, I asked “So, what’s new with you? Have you been keeping my fellows as busy as your teachers have been keeping me? I was expecting an answer like “Oh, ED your standing in the realm of second language learning is prominent. Oh ED, come and save us; come and save us when we’re drowning in Reading passages with all the words attacking us like sharks from every direction; Oh ED, only you can push us through keeping track of Listening recordings being played at the pace of an ostrich!”
I prepared myself for hearing such kind words and cries for help; like Batman, I’d charge in there and rescue those who needed me most. Hey, no worries. Have no fear – Ed’s here!
So, you can understand my sheer amount of shock when they said “Well, you know ED, the point is that you are in English! You know, you’re so time-consuming for us to use. Going over you line by line and then getting the definitions? Running into unknown words while reading the definition of our target words? No, thank you,” they said. “Yes, that’s what I am for: to give you the authentic context, to give you a chance to learn the words in their right context so your English becomes as natural and authentic as possible,” I said. “Oh ED, don’t get upset. We know you’re helpful, resourceful, accurate, and authentic. To be honest, when there’s Google Translate which does the job instantly and gives us the equivalent in our native language, why bother? Plus, with all due respect, you’re no longer that fun to use,” they said.
I heard them. I heard that “why” so loud and clear! It made me reflect on the ways to recast some light on why or how I could be of some effective help. I am fully aware that every one of you -teachers – can come up with many mind-blowing ways to fix this. But here are a few things I thought are worth sharing.
- I can be used as a way to improve learners’ speaking fluency. Why not ask them to define new words so that the concepts of the words get shaped in their mind? In fact, in some proficiency tests, word definitions are great indicators that the words uttered are actually learned and not memorized.
- I can be used to draw learners’ attention to the examples that I have meticulously and single-handedly provided for each word. Through these examples which can only be found in dictionaries and not Google Translate, learners make sure their language use is, in fact, authentic and natural.
- I can be used to design those vocabulary games for which learners need to browse me to get the answer! Here’s one I really like: Let’s say anyone or any group who can come up with four words that collocate with the word “request” wins. Hey, let’s face it – the best way for them to get the answers is to dig me!
And I can be used for lots of other things that you know better than I do. To this end, on behalf of all my fellows, I’d like to thank you for giving us a professional personality in second language teaching and learning.
All the best,
Post written by Setareh Dabbagh
Setareh Dabbagh is an ESL/ EFL teacher who has been working in this profession for more that six years. Setareh has a BA in English Language and Literature and an MS in TEFL. Setareh’s area of interest is Writing – be it translation, short story writing, or content writing.