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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
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I’m alive! Back after five months with a quickie that (hopefully) gives us a foundation for a deeper look at this topic later this year with a real expert.
We’re looking at TESTING & EVALUATION – The main priciples in this episode:
Lots of info comes from this excellent book:
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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 »