How did English become the Global Language?

One of the things I did today was comment on Scott Thornbury's blog post, O is for Ownership... and in my ramblings I talked about how sometimes ideas are out there, floating about in the greater Universe, simply lurking, waiting to be captured by he who listens and is prepared to act.  (It's that sort of day).

Those sorts of thoughts come, I guess though, from my youth when I was a NewAger and instead of being a reflective English teacher and practitioner or even a student,  I wrote NewAge articles philosophizing on the questions of one's path through life - instead of

"How do we learn?" "What is motivation?"
"How can the new technologies help us teach Speaking?' I wondered how we transformed from monkeys to... well, whatever we are now.



 
Even though it was a long, long, long, long time ago and many years have passed since those days of adventure, climbing up into volcanoes and knocking back beers while lying on Asian sandy beaches, curled up around men with long wise beards in front of dimming fires while arguing over the very nature of our beingness, the story, no matter how fantastical, of the 100th Monkey never really left me.

So today, through the rambling stroll of a streaming mind, the philosophy that we learn from those around us, consciously, subconsciously and through the trawling of multi-dimensional layered communications recorded in the shared higher consciousness, I am led to only this question:

How did English become today's one Global Language?

Okay, it's not completely, yet it surely is on the way.  By 2020, a prediction not a fact, a greater majority will speak it than those who don't, right?  It isn't the easiest language.  Nor the prettiest.  It is instead a messy code, made up of archaic irregularities, tortuous, nonsensical rules and ridiculous tongue-defying pronunciations.

So what on earth, or beyond earth, happened to set this particular meme into play?

When did the Tipping Point occur?

Who were the players, who washed the first sweet potato, who made washing it important? Who decided that English should take the place of Esperanto?  Was it life itself?  Was it a bunch of academics studying applied linguistics unraveling the codices of the brain and because they happened to be English speaking, while sharing the nature of our brains ability to learn, the onus was on English to prove the hypotheses... or was it the availability of native English speakers racing across a globe to have an adventure while earning a little cash?

Was it a curtain coming down or a wall falling down?  Was it the Almighty Dollar or Nike's abuse of children in factories? Was it Coca-cola's fault or a legion of British soldiers conquering a New World?

How did it all happen so fast?

We talk about our students' needs to learn English but somehow we don't ask how that need arose in the first place.

Does anyone have thoughts or theories?


Best,
Karenne
image credit: colobus monkey by garthimage

Does Gender-Segregation in Classroom Lower Second Language Acquisition?

(Guest post by Brittany Lyons)


For decades, proponents of gender-segregation in classrooms have argued that separation of children by gender fosters a successful learning atmosphere. However, recent studies have shown that segregating classrooms by gender impacts student learning negatively.

The negative effects of separate classrooms are apparent in linguistics especially, where girls tend to develop strong academic abilities earlier than boys. Establishing gender-segregated classrooms denies boys and girls the opportunity to learn from each other, and reinforces the long-ago debunked idea that "separate but equal" is effective in institutions of learning.

Research conducted at Tel Aviv University suggests that girls help foster a stronger learning atmosphere in classrooms, and that both boys and girls benefit from being in mixed gender classes. The study found that test scores were higher overall in many areas, including reading comprehension, science and math, when boys and girls were in mixed classes. Test scores increased for both genders, and a high ratio of girls was linked to enhanced learning.

This data is supported by older education studies, which found that girls tend to excel in language arts as young children, while boys consistently develop later. This difference is true of children in many countries, and from many different linguistic backgrounds—not just in English-speaking high-income families with parents who can afford the cost of further education, be this at home, sending their children abroad or even via a distance learning program such as an online PhD education.

Whether the disparities in language acquisition are based in the brain or in upbringing, marked differences do exist between boys and girls, especially in elementary school classrooms. Listening to their female peers speak and interacting with them during classroom and playground activities helps boys to develop stronger language arts skills.

Schools who have attempted to institute gender-segregated classrooms have often seen an overall decrease in test scores, which shows that gender-segregation in schools is not effective for either boys or girls.

Another chief drawback of segregated classrooms is that they do not allow children to share their knowledge and experience with each other, but rather perpetuate gender-based cultural disparities. Learning how to interact with different people is seen as a key goal of education, especially in early childhood. Children who are deprived of the chance to interact with peers of different genders may have trouble relating to or communicating with individuals of the opposite gender later in life.

Many psychologists who focus on child and adolescent development have voiced concern that gender-segregated classrooms impact the social skills of students well into adulthood. They perpetuate unfounded stereotypes about how men and women are different, and contribute to gender-based prejudice.

The effects of gender-segregated teaching can have an impact on older students as well. Decreases in test scores occur in single-gender classrooms in both middle and high school, and grade point averages in general fall. This decrease in GPA can adversely affect students as they apply for college and scholarship opportunities. Depriving students of their best chances to enter excellent colleges and secure funding does them a disservice. The goal of public education should be to prepare individuals for successful careers and successful relationships, both of which are harmed by gender segregation.

Many of the ideas that proponents of gender-segregated classrooms have introduced into public discourse are nothing but old prejudices in new forms. These individuals argue that boys and girls are inherently different, and that they should thus be separated in classrooms. They argue that boys are more aggressive than girls, and that girls can only learn in cooperative environments. As the American Civil Liberties Union has noted in lawsuits against school districts with sex-segregated classrooms, none of these beliefs have been substantiated by science.

  • But what do you think - should boys and girls be separated? Why or why not?
  •  Have you noticed any differences in the way that males and females learn languages?


Blog post author
Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog. 

Image credit
Wikimedia commons, Daytona School

#Twitterspam works because...



most people are actually,
                                                  deep-down, 

narcissists?




To be a spammer in 2011, you have to major in Human Psychology?

Practice makes perfect?

I mean there is a sort of cleverness in their approach, isn't there?





I seen a real bad blog about you. http://link2avirus

Have you seen this photo of you? http://going2wreckhavoconURcomputer

Check out this video with you in it! http://love2spam

Given the amount of people who spam me each week, because their accounts have been hacked BECAUSE they were silly enough to click through on one of these..  I think I've got to stop wondering how/why people are silly enough to fall for this trap and got to start slapping some kudos on the devious as they definitely know how to get folks caught in their webs.

If I can apply this to anything in terms of my professional development as an educator, then I'd have to say it really emphasizes my belief that learning has to be personal to prick, to stick.  

But anyway, folks, seriously, read and take note:

If you get this sort of message from someone you don't know, don't click on it.  

Wise up!

Karenne


Imagecredit
Narcissus by Archimadrill

Fossilization and then some Krashen

This morning's walk to classes was a half-hour battle with an umbrella against icy rain and I can safely say that winter is now upon us here in Manchester but at the moment, as the night closes in, I'm sitting in front of my computer with a nice hot-water bottle on my lap, my toes firmly ensconced in last year's Christmas present of sheepskin bed slipper boots. 

I hate cold so it's a good thing with all the articles the professors cook up for us to read that the heating's been turned up in my brain.
 

One of the tasks last week, for this week, was to think of what makes "a good speaker of a foreign language" and then to think of a particular challenge that you currently face or have faced when teaching Speaking.

We had to research the issue, select an article from Google Scholar and then come back into class to share what we learned.

I chose to look at fossilized errors, a subject I've written about before (but one also swallowed into the

because it's a subject that utterly fascinates me.


I mean why do some learners, despite a significant amount of comprehensible input, say the wrong thing over and over again, even when they are corrected over and over again?   Even when they are repeatedly exposed to the correct form via media, conversations with native speakers.  

You know the sort of errors I mean?  

e.g
"I stand up" instead of "I wake up"
The a - e - i mix up
 Trouble with filler words like, "well"
I suppose, at the end of the day, it comes down to L1 interference (first language getting in the way when producing speech in the second language) but why do some of our learners never go through this while others hit major stumbling blocks?  It isn't an age thing, if we're honest, now is it?  It isn't a gender thing... and sometimes, though not always, they are undoable...

e.g.

a) placing a picture of the difference between standing up and waking up on the table as a cue card

b) teaching a mnemonic device, Send Emails with your iPad from Apple

with others, only practice seems to do the trick, with others it doesn't matter what you do, that error has been fossilized like an insect stuck in amber.


So, thus with my interest pricked, I set off on a trawl through Google scholar.   The first article I came to was by a young lady in China who pretty much put it down to not enough concentration on form in the beginner levels of classes.  I pretty much agreed with her so moved on to see if I could get something juicier.   

This one led to one of those 

"oh.my.goodness.how.come.I.never.thought.about.this?"  
experiences.

Dr Han has compiled a list of the Five Central Issues in Fossilization in an article for the International Journal of Applied Linguistics and in it, along with discussing the sort of errors I'd been noticing, she also discussed the fossilization of level.  When the student ceases to make any further progress in the level attained.

Have you ever come across this sort of thing in your classes - when your learners, week upon week, year upon year, stay at more or less the exact same level?  

To be honest, I would probably name this state "stagnation" because I don't think it's necessarily permanent, it is very contextually and situationally dependent, don't you think?

Her article was a really good overview and a really good springboard to digging deeper, but like so many scholarly articles, there aren't concrete suggestions on how to deal with these issues.


Which brings me to the psychology module, where we had to read some Krashen.  For all you die-hard-the-man-is-a-god-folks, sorry... the article we had to read was, sorry-to-say-out-loud, rubbish.

Obviously he's contributed greatly, enormously, to the field of Second Language Acquisition, but in Comprehensible Output? for System in 1998, he seemed to suggest that Comprehensible Output (CO) is too rare to make any real contribution to linguistic competence...  (CO is when learners notice that they don't know how to say something correctly in the L2 or they've tried to say something meaningful but it all went pear-shaped and no one knew what they were saying, so they change it - make it simple/ ask for help and in modifying the intended phrase/structure learn something new about the language).. 

In this article, Krashen suggested that students don't enjoy being pushed to speak (hogwash, mine did... the issue is so level dependent - so culturally dependent - so classroom dynamically dependent -so why-they're-learning-English dependent - so how-did-they-learn-English-before-influenced etc) and then he went on to say that high levels of linguistic competence are possible without output - that basically, input is all a language learner needs!

Raised my blood pressure that article did - I mean - by golly, at least a million students all across the world who've studied languages, whatever language, were made to do so through readings and listening, year upon year, but did not get the opportunity to speak and, blanket statement of mine, they would disagree with this viewpoint.   I wonder, is it Krashen's fault that they are now mute because some textbooks authors thought he was right?   Hmm...

Also, I think I'd even go so far as to say: if fossilization occurs at any one particular stage in the learning process, then I'd be very tempted to pick a time when new language is obviously received, in that moment, the brain makes a use-it-or-lose-it-decision... and I'd lay the blame of error/level fossilization at not having enough freedom moments in class - at not being able to say things wrong in order to learn how to say them right.

But then, whadda-I-kno',


Best,
Karenne

Useful links
Scott Thornbury's written a cracking post with rich comments on F is Focus on Form

References (because I have to work out how to do them and even though this is not an academic paper, and merely just an opinion based personal blog post, I'm trying to be a good girl now and should...)

Han, Z. (2004) Fossilization: five central issues, International Journal of Applied Linguistics Vol14 no.2 pp. 212-239
Krashen, S. (1998) Comprehensible Output? System 26, pp 175-182

ImageCredit
Insects in Amber by Mila Zinkova

"The Dog Ate My Internet"

...was the smart retort from one of my professors, Gary, today when I gave a reason for not being able to do my required Blackboard discussion homework on top of the articles we had to read. 


In the last few weeks I've been using a pay-as-you-go-dongle and its bytes were being chewed up at a very costly rate... which, on top of the life-changing move, is why I've not been around much in the last couple of weeks: not on the 'net, not writing emails, not FBing and all that.   It was all quick in and quick out.  Also, alas, my grandfather died recently and I'll be heading to his funeral on Friday.

But anyway, yay! The Internet is now installed at home, I have finally got my bed from Ikea although I haven't put it together yet, I have curtains up instead of propped up pieces of cardboard, I have a schedule, I have lightbulbs...  I know where my highlighter pens are although I think I may have lost my glasses.

The course tutors have been piling on the work, reams and reams of articles, 25 - 50 pages long plus book chapters to read and I swear that when they list out what else they recommend reading that there could well be an evil-grin-glint in their eyes.

That part, because I'm so keen :-) you know, trying to read it all, (even some referenced articles mentioned at the bottom of assigned) ...  all wound up becoming a bit overwhelming and on Monday I ran on over to the disability office (I'm dyslexic) to say I was freaking out.  

Nice counselor there told me it was normal to freak out and I instantly stopped freaking out.

I think I need to take a more eclectic approach - but oh,oh,  it's so hard to choose - what if I miss out on something truly groundbreaking... complain as I might about pages of stuff to read, the truth is by golly, even with the articles I don't really like, that I want to simplify and break down into you know, English, teach so much.   

This old dog is definitely picking up some new tricks.


Beyond Approaches, Methods and Techniques

The most interesting work for this module that I read last week was perhaps Diane Larsen Freeman's concluding chapter of Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching.  She has a really good voice - easy and clear, and warming - she's a really-have-been-there-and-done-that-author.   In this chapter she discussed the changes in methodology over the years and provided a really good overview of the different approaches.

I found this particularly interesting laid out, like this, as I can't say that before now I have never actually thought about how much the way that an adult learner might have been taught previously might well affect the way he learns now or how he wants to learn now.  

I thought her statement "What makes a method successful for some teachers is their investment in it" particularly interesting - I wonder if dogme works in my classroom because I simply believe it does.  

Two other phrases which really caught my eye were "learners are very versatile and can learn well sometimes despite a given method rather than because of it" and "teachers who teach as if their practice causes learning, while recognizing that they are not in control of all the relevant factors, and that at the least they are in partnership with their students in this enterprise, can be true managers of learning."

I am not fond of the term, managers, managers are a little too much like a throw-back to the top-down boss effect.  I like coaches better.  I wonder if that's a sign of the times, of these times, 2011 influenced as we are by the Business gurus and their pop psychology.  But, I tend to think that a coach encourages, motivates, builds his team.  And a classroom pulling together needs a strong, warm lead.



Psychology of Language Learning

I'm auditing this class which means I participate as a guest and have to do the assignments but won't get assessed at the end.

I really would wish it could be one of my core modules but I'm planning on doing an ISS in year two and I need to save the credits.   Our Dutch professor is a very interesting character... a coach.  

He gave us an article by Susana V. Rivera Mills and Luke Plonsky called Empowering students with language learning strategies.  This is probably the most marked up of all the texts I had to read last week and the only one I read through more than once and then reread the comments in the margins again, prior to class. 

In class this morning, Juup had us critique and analyze some of her core points and terminology  and it was jolly good fun to give it a (respectful) bashing.  I highly recommend reading it, looking out for phrases like "instructors whose students posses misconstrued notions about language learning need to provide guidance to avoid their tendency to use less effective strategies" but don't expect any real practical advice on how to do that.

In her introduction she repeated a vital question raised by Dick Allwright in 1984 - a question I have been asking for years "Why don't learners learn what teachers teach?"  But her article was pretty theoretical, so I didn't walk away with any 'a-ha' moments.

Still it discussed things like how good strategies affect motivation and wound up reminding me of my own questionings on whether or not, the term I probably incorrectly refer to as "peer-induced-motivation," has any influence over the end-"product."




Evaluation and Design of Educational Courseware

I thought I was going to wind up in the quagmire... blinded by statistics and non-educational examples and too-much-for-the-brain-to-take-in-lists of principles, on printer-costly chapters from Dix and Norman, in the random pursuit of a main point or two.

However, the briefer Wilson, in Raising the bar for instructional outcomes, did serve one up and that is this: 

e-materials need to be 

efficient, 

effective 

and engaging.

He also talked about mythic story structure in e-design, referencing Joseph Campbell's journey of the hero (usually used in Hollywood -see my dogme post).

I really suspect I'll be reading more of his work and that I may well have more to say on this subject in the coming weeks/months.


Best,
Karenne

p.s.  For the next two years, Tuesdays are now going to be taken up with my self-reflective, what did I learn on my MA-EdTech&TESOL.  I hope you don't mind the diary style sort of entries and I might well waffle on a bit...  if you want to skip these, then Thursdays will be for the more lesson oriented stuff and Sundays will be the EdTech-SocialMedia comments/tips posts.  

p.p.s. For all you amazing folk who've sent your good wishes via blog and FB and Twitter and for your interesting comments here on the blog last week, so sorry - the dog ate my internet - I'll respond this week :-).


References
Freeman-Larsen, D.  (2000) Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Ch.12.
Rivera-Mills, S.V & Plonsky, L. (2007) Empowering students with language learning strategies: a critical review of current issues.  Foreign Language Annals, 40(3):535-548 
Wilson, B. Parrish, P. & Veletsianos, G (2008).  Raising the bar for instructional outcomes: Towards transformative learning experiences. Educational Technology. 48(3), 39-44

Image credit
Caught surfing flickr by derekGavey on Flickr.com
 

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