Category Archives: Other

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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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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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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The leaves of the Canadian polycultural tree

It is a fact that the maple leaf is the ubiquitous symbol of Canada. At no time are you able to avoid its omnipresent inspirational influence being in Canada. Due to this fact, our class decided to choose creating a symbolic maple tree with our pictures on it, to celebrate ESL week. This project is to show that now we have the same roots, although we all came from different places.

The project was launched in the middle of the fall, when trees changed their colors into autumn tints from green, yellow to red. All of us were asked to collect these beautifully colored maple leaves and then we pressed them. It was essential that the leaves be flat. Also,  Continue Reading →

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Language is the key

She sets out in search of a better life
From her country of birth to her country of choice
Leaving behind her loved ones and her daily bread
“Do you even know what lies ahead?”
Asks that scared little voice in her head
But on she marches with a hopeful heart and a determined tread

It’s like breathing for the first time, again; her first lungful of Canadian air
A place more vast than she had imagined, more beautiful than she could bear
New language, new culture and a new country
A chance to make a new life, equal and free

But building that life is easier dreamed than done
There are so many doors,  Continue Reading →

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The least you should know about the Ojibwa language

Aanii “hello” or Boozhoo (adapted from the French bonjour), reader of this article. This is an article about a language that still has thousands of speakers across Canada, from Quebec west to Alberta. In the more northern of the Ojibwa communities there are still people who are more fluent in their native language than in English. This article concerns such people as students of English.

Perhaps the first important point to keep in mind about the Ojibwa language is that like the names of other Aboriginal peoples and their languages, Ojibwa is the name the settlers gave them, not what they called or call themselves. The people call themselves Anishinaabe (and this includes peoples otherwise often called Chippewa, Mississauga, Odawa, Algonquin and Saulteaux).  Continue Reading →

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Insights from cognitive psychology for the ESL classroom

Reflecting on the question of what recent findings or ideas ESL teaching might take from other fields, I suggest that recent insights on learning from the eld of cognitive psychology are worth exploring. Cognitive psychology is the study of the neural processes that underpin mental operations such as memory, attention, and creative problem-solving, among others. It is a broad, multi-disciplinary area of study, and its empirical findings have been drawn upon by a range of other fields. ESL teachers would do well to take notice of some of these findings.

My remarks here draw exclusively upon Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel’s (2014) fascinating book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. I highly recommend it to anyone curious about the vast body of research in cognitive psychology.  Continue Reading →

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Let’s remember

Years ago, while I still lived in Vancouver, I came across the Italian translation of Ehrmann’s “Desiderata” online and sent it to my father.

He called as soon as the mail arrived. “Thank you for the nice poesia you sending, so beautiful.”

For a moment, I considered letting him think I wrote the poem. I wondered how bad it would be for my karma to be so low as to claim authorship. This mistaken identity situation happened once before by accident, when my parents wrongly assumed I had written our graduating drama class production—a little known play called Oedipus Rex. I was a member of the chorus, dressed in a black, hooded cloak with my face painted to look skeletal. I crawled around the auditorium stage in this harbinger of doom costume with eleven other teenage girls,  Continue Reading →

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Language on the Orient Express: A Guide to Mandarin for English Teachers

Foreigners living in 1920s Shanghai apparently counselled new arrivals that “those who learn Chinese go mad” (Kane, 2006, p. 17). Certainly there has been a long tradition of outsiders looking on the Chinese language as a confusing mass of chicken-scratch writing and syncopated bursts of rhyming syllables. In turn, Chinese people themselves were often portrayed by Westerners as aloof, inscrutable and incomprehensible to outsiders. The reasons for surmounting such racist representations are pressing for both English- speaking students of Chinese and teachers of English to Chinese, particularly in light of the crucial role China will play on the global stage in the twenty-first century. With this in mind, this article provides a general overview of Mandarin Chinese geared towards teachers and students who have had limited exposure to the language.  Continue Reading →

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