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

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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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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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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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Stage right at OCISO

Broad-Kennedy-Theatre

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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Cognitive load theory and teaching English as a second language to adult learners

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Most second language teaching recommendations place a considerable emphasis on “naturalistic” procedures such as immersion within a second language environment. Immersion means exposing learners to the second language in many of their daily activities, including other educational activities ostensibly unrelated to learning the second language. While immersion may assist in learning a second language, anyone who has lived in an immigrant society cannot fail to have noticed the many adults who learn almost nothing of the second language despite years or even decades of immersion. Furthermore, within an academic environment, even if immersion assists in learning the second language, it is likely to be associated with a considerable decline in learning the associated academic subjects. Simple immersion is unlikely to be effective.  Continue Reading →

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Other, Teaching
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The art of conversation: Why it’s harder than you might think

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Most people like to chat. It’s pleasant to talk to your family over breakfast, and at work, you might go to the coffee room or water cooler mainly because you hope to bump into someone and have a little chat. These observations are consistent with scientific findings: As far as we know, conversation exists in all cultures (Levinson & Torreira, 2015). It is the most common form of using language and it is, of course, where children acquire their language.

What are conversations? A defining feature is that they consist of turns. As Levinson et al. put it, speakers adhere to a “one-at-a-time” principle: Speaker A says something and then B, then A again, or perhaps C,  Continue Reading →

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Learning the “tough” constructions

Becker-ToughConstructions

Tough constructions are a special case of constructions where we find unusual relationships between the form of a sentence and its meaning. These include examples like John is tough to please. Although this might seem quite unremarkable to you, it’s actually been extensively discussed by linguists and others. To understand why, we may need to take a few steps back.

When children begin speaking in multi-word sentences in their native language, they typically start out by producing semantically simple messages: their words are nouns, verbs and adjectives, and the meanings of phrases are built up in a straightforward way by combining the meanings of adjacent words. For example, toddlers say things like Mommy go (mommy is the agent of going),  Continue Reading →

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Grammar
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Indigenization in the ESL classroom

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Whenever I talk about Indigenization, I recognize that it’s often customary, in an Indigenous paradigm, to ‘situate’ myself in the work (Wilson, 2009)—I might talk about where I’m from, or my family, but I’ll give you the Coles Notes version. I’m originally from Newfoundland, traditional territory of the extinct Beothuk people. I grew up in Nova Scotia on the edge of a Mi’kmaq community; the Mi’kmaq are considered the founding people of Nova Scotia and are one of the signatory nations to the Peace and Friendship Treaties of that area. I’m living in Treaty 6 territory, which is a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples; the Indigenous peoples of the Cree, Nakota Sioux, Dene, Blackfoot, Tsuu-t’ina, Iroquois, Ojibway,  Continue Reading →

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