I recently watched an inspiring talk given as part of the TED 2008 conference by Dave Eggers, a philanthropist and teacher-at-large (as they describe him). The talk shows ways in which dedicated one-to-one teaching can be provided to pupils who would not normally have access to this sort of personal tuition. What's more, the students seem to lap it up.
The successful and growing network of professionals volunteering their time to shine their light on local students of all ages is only part of the story. His novel approach to teaching and the way he makes learning fun should be an inspiration to all of us.
As Time puts it: "Many writers, having written a first best-seller, might see it as a nice way to start a career. He started a movement instead."
There comes a point at which understanding and studying language from a top-down perspective is just about impossible without a good understanding of the details. In this way, a bottom-up approach to foreign language study is necessary. This is not easy, however. In some instances, it requires looking closely at grammatical forms that are used less frequently and that might be more complicated. It also requires learning and teaching vocabulary with a lexical approach. A bottom-up approach to ESL/EFL learning is further complicated by reduced forms, or reductions, which occur in the everyday speech of people whose first language is English. Students might feel that English is quite mysterious and complex. I think it is not often enough that a bottom-up approach is used in the ESL/EFL classroom. The opportunity for a bottom-up approach to learning and teaching English might not present itself in all its forms in the first place. One has to allow bottom-up to present itself. This will begin to assist students in unlocking the mystery. The ESL/EFL classroom can, at times, shelter students from the reality of how English is used. Guidance from an ESL/EFL teacher with an objective viewpoint and whose first language is English is, therefore, indispensable to the ESL/EFL learner.
Here are some pointers on public speaking I had put together for my junior high students to help them improve their public speaking skills.
The Pimsleur Method is heavily advertised on the internet at the moment. Many of the sites seem to have exactly the same information about the method and, while it may be an effective way of learning, many of the claims being made are suspect and or plain ridiculous. The history of language learning is littered with miracle ways of learning, none of which has ever amounted to much.
Code-switching refers to alternating between one or more languages or dialects. It also occurs within a particular language. We use different forms of expression depending on the person we are speaking to and where we are speaking to that person. There are different degrees of formality and informality. Would you say that the idea of code-switching exists in your first language? If so, would you consider yourself to be a "code switcher"?
It strikes me as very strange that the global language teaching community has not made use of the potential of computers and the Internet. I am continually amazed that so few examples of really good, well thought out language tools and applications actually exist. Sure, you have a number of very good teaching and learning aids out there to choose from, but they all seem to be using essentially the same old methodology.
It seems that yet again the standard of teaching, schooling and testing is being questioned. This time it is the test for 11-year-olds that has found itself in the cross-hairs.
On reflection, I couldn't be a worse host for an English language website.
As I was walking into work this morning, I heard a student say 'This is me talking.' Bizarrely, he didn't follow it up with anything. It seemed to me the ultimate in phatic speech- utterly meaningless.
It was recently announced that proposals for an English language test to be taken by people applying for UK citizenship are being considered. The proposals have already met with criticism and the benefits are likely to be hotly debated over the course of the coming months.