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To a monolingual, being bilingual or multilingual seems magical. More than one language in one head – no one can live at that speed! As a result, some unusual misconceptions have grown around linguistic phenomena that, globally, is far more common than speaking a single language.
Marilyin Vihman has significant experience in bilingualism both personally and academically. In this episode, recorded in her office at the University of York, we look at some of the myths about bilingual development and which are outright wrong and which lean closer to the truth than others.
The myths we bust – or, in some cases, bruise – are:
- Bilinguals are two monolinguals in one head
- Bilinguals start to speak later than monolinguals
- Babies soak up languages like sponges
- Some languages are more primitive than others, so are easier to learn
- English is widely spoken (as a second language) because it has less grammar
- Parents pass on mistakes and non-native accents to their children
- There’s one right way to raise a bilingual child
(Adapted from Pearson (2008))
[This episode follows up on issues first covered in episode 4 with Jennifer Jenkins.]
English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is a perplexing thing. It’s not an approach. It’s not a methodology. It’s a perspective. So there’s nothing for teachers to really get solid a grip on. This can get frustrating for teachers and can leave us more confused than enlightened.
In this episode, Martin Dewey of King’s College London towels off this slippery subject with a classroom perspective. Rethink how much attention we give certain language aspects in our classes, moving away from the native speaker norm, focusing on how students adapt their speech for the specific situation.
Due to the time difference, I was up at dawn for this Skype interview so I was a little sleepy and, yes, I do say “curriculums” at one point!
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V.O.I.C.E – Vienna Oxford International Corpus of English
In this episode we hear from TESOL methodology trainer Tom Randolph about some of the reasons ESL / EFL lessons don’t succeed, and how to avoid it happening. I chip in with my own experience as a teacher trainer based on the classes I have monitored that didn’t go well.
There’re plenty of solid tips and even activity ideas in this conversation, so there’s something for everyone, regardless of experience.
I’d love to hear your ideas too. Don’t be shy!
As teachers, we need to be aware of how students are learning. Different brain systems need to work together in order to retain information and, most importantly, integrate it into existing systems. So, what is the best approach for teachers to give the best chance for students to improve? Stephen van Vlack slices open the brain (metaphorically) to show us how the different brain systems interact and the most effective ways for students to improve.
This is one of the more difficult subjects we’ve tackled on MOT, but Stephen breaks it down into an understandable view of how information and perception affects language learning and retention. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most overlooked elements of teaching spoken language is intonation. Yet it’s extremely important for conveying meaning. Traditional methods of teaching intonation tended to be simple listen-and-repest drills.
Our guest for this episode, Prof. Dorothy Chun, has researched using visualisation to teach intonation, where students are able to see the contours of a native speaker and compare it to their own production.
I spoke to Dorothy Chun over Skype, defying the 16-hour time difference, to get the expert opinion on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of teaching intonation.
If you never do any intonation practice, this will be a useful guide for how to introduce it to your classes.
PRAAT Visualization software (free) (Windows and Mac)
English as a Lingua Franca – ELF – is English as a shared language (usually) between non-native speakers.
As English becomes more and more globalised, we question whether the Native Speaker model should be the goal in the classroom. Prof. Jennifer Jenkins first broached this idea back in 2000 and was met with excitement and resistance.
Hands up if you’ve been properly trained on giving feedback on students’ writing… Yep, not many of us.
Ahmar Mahboob gives a valuable insight into the most effective approach. Below are some links where you can get a more in depth look at his approaches. Is peer assessment any good? How and when should we focus on grammar?