I’m making a Christmas episode of the podcast and I need your help. Yes, YOU. The person reading this right now. Don’t look around, I’m talking to you~!
As serious, devoted education professionals, we all love hearing about things going wrong or weird in a lesson, so the end-of-year episode is going to be a collection of funny stories from the classroom. I’ve already recorded a few with the recent interviewees. If you’d like to contribute, I’d love to have your story.
This episode, we start with a little experiment and get more interactive. Let us know what country you thought the music originated in at @MOTcast with the hashtag #motesol . I’ll put up the results on www.mastersoftesol.com
Andrew Ewan MacFarlane is a lecturer at University of York in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science and a sociolinguist. We spent a while flipping back and forth between accents and dialects, reminiscing about Margaret Thatcher, thinking about unobtrusive kiwis and kangaroos, gettin’ daaaan wit da yoof o’ London innit, and playing “Name That [Country of Origin] Tune”.
This was one of my favourite interviews so far and hopefully inspires more than a few listeners to get deeper into the subject.
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Once again, I got lost in the labyrinthian corridors of the University of York Language & Linguistic Science department, this time to speak to Tamar Keren-Portnoy about first language acquisition. There’s a lot of similarities between how we learn our first language and how we acquire our second language, so it’s a useful topic for ESL / EFL / second language teachers.
She gives us insights into such things as how babies develop syntax/grammar norms, why they learn some words earlier than others, how babies are not simply mimicking their caretakers and, through her own research with Rory DePaolis & Marilyn Vihman, how babies learn through listening and the sounds they themselves make.
You may remember Marilyn Vihman from episode 9 of MOT.
Later in the year, I’ll release a mini-episode about the developmental stages of babies.
Key words: baby, babies, acquisition, teaching, learning, babbling, language, babbling, cooing,
This episode, I speak to University of York’s Heather Marsden about the controversial Critical Period hypothesis. This theory suggests that there is a limited age at which we can learn a second language, after which it grows increasingly difficult. Anecdotally, we assume this to be true – kids are sponges for language while older people struggle – but what does the research say about this?
This episode is simply a bite-sized introduction to a much larger topic, so I encourage you to search around for other perspectives on this subject.
Heather Marsden @ University of York
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L1 – first/native language
L2 – second language
input – any exposure to the L2
interference – where the L1 grammar, vocab or pronunciation affects or negatively influences L2 production
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)
The whole “blue/black-white/gold” dress photo that’s been doing the rounds in the last week or so reminded me of a very interesting point about language and perception of color.
As the dress debate went global and multilingual, perhaps not all of the disagreement on the colours may be down to how an individual’s brain is interpreting light information from the eyes. For decades, linguists have gone back and forth over whether the names for colours affect how we perceive them.
Think about it: red wine, red hair, robin red breast – these are all colour-specific descriptions that are inaccurate at best. Or, at least, they’re inaccurate now. Just a few centuries ago, “orange” as a range on the colour spectrum was simply part of “red” without a named colour category of its own. White wine, black eye… there are many examples in everyday language where the description of colour clearly doesn’t match the reality.