Here’s another 8 minutes from Stephen van Vlack on how the brain works when we learn – or perceive – new things, including how learning a second language affects the native language.
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.
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.
I’m currently teaching at an intensive winter camp for adults. Each week there is an activity where the groups should break into teams and complete a series of activities, often in different locations on campus.
As this requires scores to be consolidated from different locations, I hit on the idea of how to do this in the most efficient way, whilst simultaneously keeping the students involved and excited.
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?
In the modern classroom, there can’t be many of us who only use the white/blackboard and the textbook for every lesson. To a greater or lesser extent, the convenience and liberating nature of the digital age has become part of our classroom workflow. For more than two years now, I have shunned the board and used Penultimate (since bought by Evernote) on an iPad, put through the VGA connection to the projector. It was great, basically like a digital board where I could write but have other media baked in too. I had all my textbook pages scanned in there, I could write on the scans and add new blank pages for corrections. It had this great ‘drift’ feature that allowed you to zoom in and the zoom focus would follow at the speed you wrote. Best of all, what was projected was just the page itself, so no one in class could see me changing pens/colours or zooming in for the drift. It wasn’t perfect, but it was easily the best of the ten-or-so note apps I’ve used. You notice I am using the past tense here. Unexpectedly, a few weeks ago, the app was updated. With the new changes, Evernote didn’t so much drop the ball as jettison it directly into the sun. Read the rest of this entry »