Teaching English as a second language in Ontario: The early aboriginal experience in 19th century residential schools

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Today when we think of teaching English as a Second Language in Ontario, we think in terms of teaching immigrants new to the province. But there is a long history of teaching English as a Second Language to people who are old to the province: 11,000-years-plus old.

The schools that first taught English as a Second Language to Aboriginal people were established in the first half of the 19th century. Their students spoke one of nine Aboriginal languages, all of which still have speakers today,
although in some cases there are very few left. These languages belong to two different language families: Algonquian and Iroquoian (see Figure 1,  and ). The Algonquian languages are Ojibwe,  Continue Reading →

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Framing LGBT issues and learning outcomes: A Canadian perspective

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Whether it is ESL, EAP, LINC, or any other form of TESL, our job is a big one. We are language teachers, and with that comes culture. There is no way to separate the two. Our students need social and cultural survival skills in order to be successful. These sociocultural competencies vary as far and wide as English grammar does, and just like grammar, sometimes those rules need to be explicitly taught. Our students are not trying to be successful in a language, they are trying to be successful in a culture, in a career, in a country. Unfortunately, sociocultural competence is not as well laid out as linguistic competence. There are no Canadian Cultural Benchmarks to act as a guide.  Continue Reading →

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Let’s go to Tim Horton’s: A sample of a task

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The goal of this paper is to discuss the concept of a task as a pedagogical activity used in the second language (L2) classroom for the purpose of developing the communicative competence of L2 learners. The term task has been widely used in the field of applied linguistics (see e.g., Bygate, Skehan & Swain, 2001; Lightbown & Spada, 2010; Long, 2014; Nunan, 2004; Willis & Willis, 2007). The Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLBs), a document that represents a Canadian language standard for teaching and assessment of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Canada, lists task-based instruction as one of its guiding principles (Center for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB), 2012, p. IX). In addition, Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA), a new type of assessment recently introduced in federally and provincially funded ESL classes in Canada,  Continue Reading →

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Speaking, Teaching, Theory, Writing
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Book Review: Formulaic language and second language speech fluency

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D. Wood. (2010). Formulaic language and second language speech fluency: Background, evidence, and classroom applications. London/New York: Continuum. Pp. 242, CAD$39.95 (paper).

Wood’s (2010) Formulaic language and second language speech fluency provides theoretical and practical accounts of speech fluency and pedagogical applications of formulaic sequences within classroom contexts. The book is divided into three parts including background, evidence, and applications. Through reviewing the commonly-cited literature, and with particular emphasis on longitudinal studies, the background section initially presents the reader with definition of fluency, associating it with temporal variables of rate (speech and articulation rates), quantity (mean length of runs), and pausing (silent/filled, locations, and length) as well as repair phenomena.  Continue Reading →

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Review
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Influences on emergent L2 writers

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As a grade-one teacher in a Toronto inner city elementary school for over 30 years, I have had the privilege of teaching a wide range of second language learners with a variety of different L1s. Most of these young learners were in the emergent writing stage. Emergent writing is a developmental stage of writing that all young L1 and L2 writers pass through. Emergent writers are beginning to understand that print carries a message and they may be familiar with many concepts about print simply from living in a print rich environment (Clay, 1988). These writers may use pictures, single letters to represent words, and inventive spelling to communicate their messages. Literacy acquisition in an L2 is a highly complex process,  Continue Reading →

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To correct or not correct? That is not the question

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For decades, writing and writing instruction have often been viewed from a learning-to-write perspective; within this perspective, writing should be taught when students’ second language (L2) development is sufficiently settled. Recent research, however, shows that writing has a major role in promoting L2 development; from this writing-to-learn perspective, writing is seen as a tool for language learning (Manchón, 2011) that allows L2 learners to integrate new knowledge, test hypotheses, and automatize knowledge (Williams, 2012). Also, within this perspective corrective feedback (CF) provided by teachers facilitates language learning (Bitchener & Ferris, 2012).

Corrective feedback is defined as any indication to the learners that their use of the target language is incorrect (Lightbown & Spada, 2013). In writing, CF is concerned with incorrect grammatical or lexical use of the target language,  Continue Reading →

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Writing effective CLB-aligned comprehension items

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“Understand that there is always one clearly best answer. My goal is not to trick students or require them to make difficult judgments about two options that are nearly equally correct. My goal is to design questions that students who understand will answer correctly and students who do not understand will answer incorrectly.”

John A. Johnson (in Clay, 2001)

In a report completed for the Canadian government, Makosky (2008) indicated that, at the time of writing, exit test results from LINC programs across the country were “deemed to be subjective/situational and not comparable to any common standard,” with the result that “exit rating and feedback to newcomers may be inconsistent and the results not as portable as newcomers,  Continue Reading →

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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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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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