When we are born our perceptual systems are capable of discriminating sounds that occur in English, Spanish, Hindi, or any other language. During the first year, our perception begins to zero in on the particular set of sounds that are contrastive in our native language(s) (L1s) (Kuhl et al., 2006). For example, a child whose parents are L1 English speakers will pick up on the fact that /b/ and /p/ are contrastive in English (e.g., “bet” vs. “pet”) and that the major difference is in the burst of air that occurs when the stop is released (i.e., there is a stronger burst of air, or more aspiration, on /p/ than /b/). A child whose parents are L1 Hindi speakers will pick up on this contrast, Continue Reading →
Listening is the skill that most of our students feel the least confident about and the least control over in terms of what they can do to improve. It is also the skill that is the most widely used, both in academic and non-academic contexts. For these reasons, we owe it to our students to show them how to become successful English language listeners.
Second-language listening is difficult for several reasons, most of which stem from the differences between oral and written channels (Brown, 2011). These include perception problems, issues of memory and attention, and strategy choice.
Perception problems arise because speech is fast and transient; utterances are spoken quickly, and they disappear. We don’t pause to separate speech into distinct words; Continue Reading →
In the past decades, shadowing has become quite popular in Japan and in other Asian countries. Recently it has finally caught the attention of researchers and language teachers in North America. The overarching purpose of this paper is to introduce shadowing for the sake of effective teaching. First, the basic idea of what shadowing is is explained. Then, shadowing in terms of listening practice will be discussed with its theoretical background, examples, and teaching tips. Next, shadowing as speaking practice, mainly for pronunciation development, will be discussed.
What is Shadowing?
The basic definition of shadowing is “a paced, auditory tracking task which involves the immediate vocalization of auditorily presented stimuli” (Lambert, 1992, p. 266). The metaphor of shadowing is the shadow that follows you on a street late in the afternoon, Continue Reading →
Enhancing English language learners’ speech fluency is often a key learning outcome in communicative language classrooms. Notably, how fluent a learner’s speech is has been shown to affect how comprehensible it is (Derwing, Rossiter, Munro, & Thomson, 2004). For this reason, it is not surprising that fluency has long been an integral component of both high-stakes and low-stakes oral proficiency assessment rubrics (Fulcher, 2003). Decisions that are made based on the results of these assessments may have real-world implications on test-takers’ lives. Thus, it is important to understand which features of speech influence how fluency is perceived in order to enhance the validity of fluency assessments. In this study, although the participants reported that a wide range of temporal, Continue Reading →
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 →
“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 →
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 →
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:
- vocabulary size or breadth knowledge that refers to recognition of words,
- depth knowledge of all features of a word including its semantic, syntactic, phonemic, graphemic, morphemic, collocational and phraseological traits,
- lexical network of words that are stored, connected and represented in the lexicon, and
- fluency or speed of retrieval of word forms and their meanings.