What is fluency and how do we develop it?

Brown-Fluency

“I want to speak English fluently.”

“I have to write reports in English.”

“I want to read English magazines, books and websites.”

“I’d like to understand movies in English.”

Whether expressed directly or indirectly, the need for fluency inherently exists within all of these commonly expressed goals and motivations for learning English. And, as teachers, we know that learners often have a number of obstacles to overcome to achieve them, whether they are learning in ESL contexts, such as Canada, or EFL contexts like Japan. Firstly, goals that students initially make may be unrealistic and are typically too vague, too big or long-term; and many students lack confidence in their English abilities,  Continue Reading →

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Teaching, Uncategorised
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What can L2 teachers do to assist L2 learners to develop listening fluency

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In my experience at many Asian conferences, some people in the audience laugh particularly loudly when they hear a native speaker of English saying something that might be funny. Strangely, they don’t laugh so loudly if a non-native speaker of English says the same thing. There may be multiple reasons but this one is for sure. They want to let other people know that they can understand what the native speaker is saying, and they are proud of themselves for being able to listen fluently.

Listening, unlike speaking, is usually an individual process. That is the reason why teachers give students a speaking or writing comprehension check after listening to a passage. Otherwise it is difficult to know to what extent their students comprehend.  Continue Reading →

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Uncategorised
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Pragmatics in the classroom: Don’t take it literally

Roberts&Kreuz-Fluency

Among the first phrases that English-speaking students of Japanese learn are the equivalents of “hello” (こんにちは konnichi-wa) and “how are you?” (お元気ですか o-genki desu-ka). With these two phrases under their belts, students may fearlessly run around Japan greeting everyone they meet with “hello, how are you?” in the same way they would greet people back home. However, if they do, they would be making a mistake. Although Japanese speakers will certainly understand what is meant by konnichi-wa, o-genki desu ka, the second phrase is not generally asked of people one meets every day—unless they really don’t look well. O-genki-desu-ka is also not used to greet strangers like cab drivers or the baristas at Starbucks.  Continue Reading →

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Pragmatics
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Raising and assessing second language vocabulary fluency

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The centrality of vocabulary knowledge cannot be overstated; it underlies the acquisition success of not only reading and listening skills, but also writing, speaking, and grammar learning (Alderson, 2005; Segalowitz, 2005). Linguists have proposed various definitions of vocabulary knowledge. Qian’s (2002) definition has generally been a cited gold standard. According to Qian, vocabulary knowledge consists of four facets:

  1. vocabulary size or breadth knowledge that refers to recognition of words,
  2. depth knowledge of all features of a word including its semantic, syntactic, phonemic, graphemic, morphemic, collocational and phraseological traits,
  3. lexical network of words that are stored, connected and represented in the lexicon, and
  4. fluency or speed of retrieval of word forms and their meanings.
  5.  Continue Reading →

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Language and the brain: What we have learned from 30 years of brain imaging

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With the advancement of cognitive neuroscience and the development of modern brain imaging methods in the 1990s, the field of language neurobiology—the study of the relationship between the brain and language functions—has grown immensely and rapidly over the past thirty years, and finds itself at a crossroad with respect to its theoretical underpinning. The main message of our recent article “Broca and Wernicke are Dead, or Moving Past the Classic Model of Language Neurobiology” (Tremblay & Dick, 2016) is that the most historically important model in the field, the Classic “Wernicke-Geschwind” Model, and associated terminology, is no longer useful to guide research and clinical intervention in the field.

A Brief History of the Classic Model

The Classic Model was the first major model of language neurobiology.  Continue Reading →

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Research
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Implementing Task-Based Language Teaching in Belgium: Lessons for Canada?

Desyatova-TBLT

Abstract1

Implementing Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) has been central to numerous policy initiatives around the world in the last few decades. The Belgian experience of TBLT implementation has been the focus of intensive empirical research, which makes it of particular interest to policy-makers and practitioners in other countries. Implementation of Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) in adult language learning programs in Canada assumes TBLT to be the dominant teaching approach, even though empirical research on TBLT manifestation in the context is limited. Considering the paucity of accounts on TBLT presence in adult language classrooms in Canada, and the increased demand for TBLT spearheaded by PBLA, this summary of Belgian studies can aid in identifying both promising and challenging aspects of TBLT implementation at various levels: individual teachers and learners,  Continue Reading →

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Assessment, Teaching
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Using reciprocal teaching to support strategy instruction and language use among second language learners

Palincsar-ReciprocalTeaching

Recently, a group of researchers (Ardasheva, Wang, Adesope & Valentine, 2017) conducted an analysis to determine whether, and under what conditions, strategy instruction was effective in supporting the learning of second language learners. The purpose of strategy instruction is to equip learners with the means to engage in the self-regulation of their own learning. When learners are self-regulated, they have control over their learning and are directing their cognitive activity and motivation toward their own learning goals. Self-regulated learners: (a) actively engage in learning tasks, (b) set goals for learning, (c) monitor their activity, thoughts, and feelings, and (d) make the adjustments necessary to achieve their goals (Loyens, Magda, & Rikers, 2008).

Ardasheva and colleagues determined that, in fact,  Continue Reading →

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Teaching
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Stage right at OCISO

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Can theatre help newcomers to learn English as a second language?

As volunteers with the weekly conversation groups for students attending the LINC program at the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO), we decided to put this question to the test. For the past two years, students have had the opportunity to join a weekly drama group, rehearse an original play and perform that play in front of an audience.

In theory, drama teaches speaking skills, such as articulation, volume, tone, and pronunciation together with some basic theatre knowledge such as staging, characterization, and direction. In reality, participants learn teamwork, gain self-confidence, and see how to bring creative ideas to life. While terms such as downstage or scene are hardly essential words for newcomers,  Continue Reading →

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Drama, Speaking
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Overcoming the theory and practice divide: A perspective from the TESOL Plus program

Freitas-TESOLPlus

Certificate programs such as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) have burgeoned in our globalized world. They are usually offered and/or accredited by reputable educational institutions, such as University of Cambridge, University College London, Michigan University, as well as sanctioned by government bodies (e.g., TESL Ontario and TESL Canada in Canada, National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS) in Australia, New Zealand Qualification Authorities (NZQA) in New Zealand, & Accreditation UK in the United Kingdom). These accredited programs vary enormously in their design, ranging from short certificate courses to higher education degrees. The former have historically been known as teacher training courses, with the British ELT industry as a pioneer in the field,  Continue Reading →

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OCELT Advances ESL teaching standards in Ontario

Serles-Townsend-OCELT

If you are a TESL Ontario member, you have a new designation to add to your name. The Ontario Certified English Language Teacher (OCELT) designation has been awarded to all TESL Ontario accredited members in good standing. It is intended to be a symbol of professionalism in adult language education. But what exactly does this mean for ESL teachers and their careers?

Professional licensure and any accompanying professional designations have two main purposes: first, those within the profession may be able to use them to extract economic rents (payment in excess of the minimum required to provide the service) by limiting the competition and increasing their perceived quality,1 and second, employers and consumers may be able to reduce search costs and risk.  Continue Reading →

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Smart phones, smart boards, and the student-centred approach: How and why we should incorporate technology in the l2 classroom

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Technology is at the heart of everything we do on a daily basis. At the click of a button, we can have an encyclopedia, map, clock, calculator, or mailbox. Technology has in fact rewired our brains; we are no longer as capable of deeply engaging with long pieces of prose (Carr 2008). It is astounding that with the literal rewiring of the way we read, think, and learn, schools have still not caught up to the technological age. This has negative consequences for L2 learners, as many do not have much experience with computers, and they are barred from learning authentic, technology-based communication used in workplace settings. However, we can easily change outdated teaching methods to suit the technological era with adequate teacher training,  Continue Reading →

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Technology, Training
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Suma Balagopal: The spark that keeps on shining

(If you would like to publish a profile of or interview with a teacher, please contact the editor.)

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A lot of the good things that have happened in Suma Balagopal’s life happened by chance. Becoming an ESL teacher was no exception. The marketing professional was working in the corporate world for many years but found that she missed meeting and interacting with people without a financial agenda. So when she immigrated to Canada, she wanted a career that married her love of working with people with her interest in English (she completed her Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature). She tried ESL “for fun” and found that it was a natural fit for her.  Continue Reading →

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