A Tale of Two Teachers: Technology-Supported Language Learning for Japanese

This month we published Technology-Supported Learning In and Out of the Japanese Language Classroom edited by Erica Zimmerman and Abigail McMeekin. In this post the editors explain what inspired them to put the book together.

Erica’s journey

Over the past 25 years, I have participated as a learner/teacher in the changes in technology for learning Japanese. When I started studying Japanese in 1992, I did not own a computer. My sensei (teacher) painstakingly wrote our textbook, worksheets, tests, and quizzes by hand. In 1998, when I needed to produce handouts in Japanese for my pedagogy classes, I installed the Japanese Windows operating system on my laptop. In 2001, with the use of the new Windows IME (Input Method Editor), I conducted a semester-long project with two colleagues examining the use of visual input (chat, MSN Messenger) with the use of voice CMC (PalTalk) for learning Korean. Many of our sessions were fraught with technical issues such as poor connections (it was dial-up then). More recently, with the proliferation of technology, it is increasingly more challenging to determine the effectiveness of apps, online websites, social media, etc. on language learning and acquisition.

Abby’s journey

Like my co-editor, I have many stories over the years of trying to incorporate technology into my teaching. It was never very easy. In the last ten years, however, it has become commonplace to type in Japanese and Japanese websites are now easily accessible along with internet tools to aid in deciphering them. In 2014, a conference presentation on the importance of digital literacy skills in second languages motivated me to design a project that involved using web-based activities to facilitate learning in Japanese. It was at this point that I began researching the topic but was unable to find anything on how to do this or what the possible learning outcomes might be…

 

Thus, we both found ourselves wanting to incorporate the latest technologies (e.g., WEB 2.0, web-based tools) using methodologies that addressed more communicative and integrative aspects of learning (versus rote) but could find little information on what that would look like for Japanese. The last review volume published for Japanese CALL was in 2002, considered ancient by today’s technological standards. What we really wanted was a book that synthesized advice on using newer SLA theories and methodologies with the latest technology while offering information on learning outcomes and best practices. As the saying goes, what does not exist, one creates.

This is why everything we wanted to know about Japanese CALL we included in our volume. For instance, the introduction chapter gives an overview of Japanese CALL, offering insights into where the field has been and where it is now, using Warschauer and Healey’s different CALL genres (Behaviorist/structural, communicative, integrative, and ecological).

For the individual chapters, we aimed for including a variety of technologies (e.g. virtual games, computer-mediated communication, corpus software), examined through different theoretical lenses and methodologies in various learning environments (e.g. flipped, online, blended, distance). We wanted each chapter to provide readers not only with a description of how to use the technology being investigated but also to offer findings on potential/actual learning outcomes and best practices. So to give readers an idea of the future trajectory of Japanese CALL research, the epilogue gives specific suggestions on where to go from here.

Thus each chapter offers a combination of experimental, empirical and practical aspects of CALL. Every author who contributed to this volume started from scratch. We hope that readers will find something useful in every chapter.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Computer Assisted Language Learning edited by Judith Buendgens-Kosten and Daniela Elsner.

Language Learning Strategy Instruction

This month we are publishing Learning Strategy Instruction in the Language Classroom edited by Anna Uhl Chamot and Vee Harris. In this post Vee explains the inspiration behind the book.

The inspiration for this book emerged from a chat with some colleagues at the end of a busy day. The discussion centred around research into language learner strategies: those internal tactics that people use to help them memorise vocabulary in another language or to make themselves understood, for example. Thinking perhaps there was something we both had missed, we tentatively suggested that there was a lack of research into how to actually teach these strategies. In the course of our classroom-based research, we had been struck by the way studies into Language Learning Strategy Instruction (LLSI) described in detail research methods and results but said little about the rationale underlying the teaching activities and approaches used. To our surprise, our colleagues shared our concern and we agreed that a book devoted uniquely to this area would be a valuable resource for both researchers and teachers alike. We decided to widen our enquiry to colleagues in a range of other countries and contexts, inviting them also to contribute a chapter on a topic of their choice. Committed to bridging the gap between research and practice, we stressed that their chapters could deal with the theoretical issues LLSI raised but could equally well describe concrete materials for teaching strategies to different age groups.

We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm to participate whether from colleagues in the USA, New Zealand, Canada, or the UK. However two further areas emerged from their suggestions. The first was to have a section on those strategies that have been under-researched and therefore not frequently taught, such as strategies for learning grammar or developing Critical Cultural Awareness. The second would address the lack of guidance on integrating LLSI into pre- and in-service teacher education. Hence there are four parts to the book: parts 1 and 2 deal with issues such as the range of approaches to LLSI, and identifying and teaching the under-researched strategies. Parts 3 and 4 focus on the implementation of LLSI whether through the use of technology and the coursebook or through engaging with teachers.

Our book draws on scholars with a long-established, international reputation such as Andrew Cohen, Rebecca Oxford and Joan Rubin as well as new researchers and practising teachers. The contributors use their extensive knowledge and experience to present a ‘state of the art’ picture of Language Learning Strategy Instruction. However the book also looks to the future; so each chapter ends with key questions to be resolved within that topic area and the book concludes with a chapter that offers a map for future research directions.

The book will be an important resource for researchers both for its critical perspectives and for supporting them in designing interventions to implement LLSI. It should prove equally valuable to all informed languages teachers and students studying to become languages teachers, since it is one of a very small number of publications to include detailed teaching materials and activities. Although many of the illustrations are for ESL/EFL students, some are in French and German.

Finally it should also be relevant to all those with an interest in Second Language Acquisition since the mental and social processes of language learning, the reasons for differences in the rate and route learners take, and why some learners do so much better than others lie at the heart of our understanding of language learning strategies.

Vee Harris

This book is published in memory of Anna Uhl Chamot, who sadly passed away during the publication process.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting you might also like Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen.

L2 Writing Practices in Non-English Languages

This month we published L2 Writing Beyond English edited by Nur Yiğitoğlu and Melinda Reichelt. In this post the editors discuss the differences and similarities between L2 writing in English and in non-English languages.

Much of the published literature on second language (L2) writing focuses on writing in English as a Second Language (ESL) contexts, that is, in contexts where English is the dominant surrounding language. As a result, much of what we know about L2 writing is based on conclusions drawn from research on writing in the English language. However, as a great deal of L2 writing and writing instruction is undertaken in various languages other than English, it is necessary to look at L2 writing practices in non-English languages in order to have a more comprehensive understanding of L2 writing.

This special volume aims to address an imbalance in the literature by focusing on L2 writing in non-English languages and discusses the following issues:

  1. Writers of all L2s face some similar challenges. However, writers of non-English L2s face distinct challenges, often stemming from the fact that they are writing in a range of contexts and are not writing in the world’s most dominant language.
  2. In some non-English L2s (e.g. Japanese and Chinese), L2 writers need to learn new writing systems. This challenge, in turn, requires teachers to implement some instructional practices such as such as sparking learners’ cultural curiosity in the writing system and raising students’ awareness regarding strategies that are salient to their own needs.
  3. Compared to L2 writers in English classrooms, L2 writers in non-English classrooms may have more distinct goals and needs.
  4. Teachers of non-English L2 writing may implement different pedagogical practices related to teaching various genres of writing – genres that are suitable for their particular contexts and learners.
  5. Some of the instructional practices described for teaching of non-English languages in non-English dominant settings can be applied to the teaching of English writing. Such approaches can enrich the teaching of English language writing as well.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Second Language Creative Writers by Yan Zhao.

Using a Narrative Approach to Explore Teaching Practice

This month we are publishing Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers by Clarena Larrotta. In this post the author discusses her choice to use narratives to present a picture of adult language learning.

Working as a university professor of adult education and TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), I came to realize there was not a book that could help the graduate students in my classes to grasp the reality of teaching English and literacy related subjects to adult learners. Similarly, interacting with volunteer adult educators who did not have language/pedagogy training and who volunteer as ESL instructors because they know the language and have time to do so, I realized there was not a book I could recommend for them to read and that captured the voices of both adult language learners and teachers. Therefore, this book was born as a response to these two groups of people when they asked, ‘what can I read to get a good picture of what is going on with regards to teaching adult language learners and non-traditional adult learners?’

Considering this audience, narratives and storytelling seemed to be the perfect medium to transmit a powerful and memorable message to them. I wanted them to understand that we need to go beyond theory and outside the classroom walls to include community and envision adult learners as whole human beings. Older learners are among the least studied groups in the literature and many of them take on new challenges as they migrate to a new country, and as they face the need to learn a new language-culture.

Providing an account of both narratives (adult learners’ and teachers’) aimed to inspire trainee teachers and practitioners in the field of adult education to become better and more reflective teachers. The book supports the idea of preparing trainee teachers for actual scenarios they are likely to encounter with adult language learners and colleagues in adult education programs. Likewise, the volume invites actual adult educators to reflect on their practices and contemplate the realities of the learners they serve. In summary, the book aims to honor the work of language learners and TESOL practitioners and to share highlights from their learning/teaching journeys.

The narratives in this book make accessible the stories shared by learners and teachers as they lived them in real-life settings. The book chapters and their respective stories contain a beginning, middle and end. The beginning provides the context and supporting theory, the middle presents the main issues to be considered and the end gives clo­sure to the reader. As a result, each chapter introduces (1) the participants in the story – teachers’ and learners’ experiences and their interactions; (2) the context, socio-political, and socio-cultural dimensions; and (3) the physical settings where the story is located -the program, the course, the language-culture and country of origin. The learners’ stories allow teachers to gain empathy and cultural knowledge. A narrative approach to exploring one’s teaching practice leads to a better understanding of that context and hopefully sharing this learning will promote change and encourage other teachers to make sense of and reflect on their personal teaching stories as well.

Clarena Larrotta, PhD
Texas State University
CL24@txstate.edu

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry.

10 Tips for Teaching Multilingual Learners

This month we published Language Learning and Teaching in a Multilingual World by Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, Julie McAllister, Malory Leclère and Grégory Miras. In this post the authors give us some advice for teaching multilingual learners.Teaching a language or content in a multilingual classroom (or any type of learning environment, such as telecollaboration or distance learning) is becoming the norm as well as a challenge faced by more and more teachers. But it is also an asset, as learners have opportunities to communicate with peers of different origins, cultures and backgrounds and thus develop tolerance and respect for others. To maximise the benefits of these opportunities while minimising the potential threats, here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Take each learner as he/she is, as a unique, complex and multifaceted individual who brings their knowledge, skills and cultural understandings to the learning situation. A one-size-fits-all approach is likely to prove ineffective in a multilingual environment (and in other environments too).
  2. As a teacher, always be kind and supportive and learn why you should be.
  3. Value (and use) all the languages of each learner in the classroom equally. No language should be ruled out.
  4. Propose clear and realistic learning goals and ensure that learners understand them. To that effect, use the language resources available (virtual or physical).
  5. Adapt the work to the needs which emerge as the project moves forward instead of following a predefined sequence. However, never lose sight of the initial goal: it can be reached in many different ways.
  6. Propose meaningful tasks that are connected to the world outside school. By doing so, the learners will get involved in the activities, which in turn will foster learning.
  7. Arrange for the learners to communicate and interact in the target language with people from other countries, as a meaningful way to use and practise the language they need for their schooling.
  8. Identify all the tools that can be made available to students to help them become independent language learners and users. A teacher does not have all the solutions, but learners can be resourceful and incredibly helpful when trusted. Resources can be available in the learners’ original language and connected to their culture.
  9. Encourage peer collaboration and interaction: see number 7. Interaction helps students make meaning and learners’ explanations are often more understandable to their peers than the teacher’s. In a multilingual class, learners who have the same original language could work together.
  10. Work to foster learner creativity and engagement by providing stimulating learning environments.

Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, University of Nantes
Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle
Julie McAllister, University of Nantes
Gregory Miras, University of Rouen
Malory Leclère, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle

Contacts

mf.narcycombes@wanadoo.fr

julie.mcallister1@univ-nantes.fr

 

For more information about the book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Multilingual Reality by Ajit K. Mohanty.

Taiwan’s Gendered Language Learning Ideologies

This month we published Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital by Mark Fifer Seilhamer. In this post the author talks about the research that informed the book.

The title of my new book just out this month is Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital: Taiwanese Narratives of Struggle and Strategy, with ‘Gender’ prominently foregrounded as the first element of this title. But while ‘Neoliberalism’ and ‘Distinction through Linguistic Capital’ had been dominant themes since the very beginning of the manuscript’s preparation, the extent to which my focal participants’ (female) gender impacted their experiences is an issue that was addressed only fleetingly in the manuscript I originally submitted to Multilingual Matters back in 2016. This early version featured a fairly straightforward class-focused Bourdieusian analysis of my participants’ narrated experiences, seemingly (in retrospect) oblivious to the fact that gender does indeed play an outsized role in my participants’ stories, as well as in the dynamics of multilingualism in Taiwan more generally.

The centrality of gender to my participants’ experiences as language learners was pointed out by a reviewer, who asked what I made “of the fact that some students are quite successful at making friends with foreigners, getting free language practice, lining up Skype partners, having boyfriends to talk English with and to pay for trips abroad”. This reviewer went on to pose other questions that served to guide my radical overhaul of the manuscript: “Are young women considered ideal candidates for the sorts of international marketing/public relations/sales jobs many of the women get? How are ideologies of language acquisition gendered in Taiwan, and are these women seen as compromised in terms of their relationships and friendships with foreigners?”

Ideologies of language acquisition are indeed highly gendered in Taiwan, with the idea that males are simply no good at learning languages regarded by many as a commonsensical notion. This common belief results, of course, in language study beyond minimum requirements being almost exclusively the preserve of females. At the start of this research, I did not set out to include only female participants. In the junior college program specializing in languages that I was recruiting participants from, male students were, however, very much in the minority and my pool of possible participants consisted almost entirely of female students. Because it is commonly believed that female brains are specifically wired for learning languages, young women are encouraged to study foreign languages and pursue careers in international marketing, public relations, and interpreting – the sorts of occupations that my participants did, in fact, wind up in. My participants, in their interviews, had indeed addressed Taiwan’s gendered language learning ideologies and the notion of gendered language work, as well as positioning by others due to their relationships with foreigners. In my revisions, the focus on gender and the intersectional questioning that this focus necessitated really did change the fundamental character of the book.

In what now seems to be a glaring omission, I neglected to include an ‘Acknowledgements’ page for this book. This can be attributed to the extreme sense of relief I felt when the editors allowed me to go over the stipulated word limit with my final revised manuscript. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure they would have had no problem with my adding an ‘Acknowledgements’ page, but at the time, I was reluctant to request any more words for anything. I will take this opportunity now then to acknowledge the assistance and contributions of numerous individuals: my study’s participants, without whom the research and book would not have been at all possible; my doctoral thesis supervisors, Lionel Wee, Joseph Sung-Yul Park, and Mie Hiramoto; and everyone at Multilingual Matters, who were all incredibly patient with me, granting me extension after extension as I struggled to address reviewer concerns. And I am also immensely grateful to the anonymous reviewer who alerted me to the inadequacies of the earlier version of my manuscript – before gender was prominently brought to the fore.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio.

A Tour of English Learning and Teaching Around the World

We recently published Conversation Analytic Perspectives on English Language Learning, Teaching and Testing in Global Contexts edited by Hanh thi Nguyen and Taiane Malabarba. In this post the editors take us on a world tour of English learning and teaching…

This book offers a tour around the world, but unlike the casual tourist, you will get right into the scenes that take place daily at each stop. So, put yourself in the shoes of the people there to appreciate for a moment the constraints they are under, and the possibilities they find.

In Denmark, you are a child in an integrated-grade class of first- and second-graders. Your government has just mandated that students must learn English from first grade. First grade! You’re barely finding your way around in class, and now you’re learning a foreign language. But your teacher is creative – she has a game for the children. You and a classmate walk outside while the other kids stay inside and each chooses a clothing item drawn on the board (later you hear that some kids try to choose a diaper and a jockstrap, but the teacher doesn’t allow those!). When you and your partner come back in, you have to name two clothing items on the board, in English, and the two kids who chose those items are supposed to swap seats. It turns out that you mostly learn “swap seats,” and how you acquire this phrase reveals quite a lot about how language is learned.

In Vietnam, you are a hotel staff member in charge of escorting guests to their rooms. You need to tell them about the WiFi in the hotel, but the problem is, every time you pronounce “password,” people seem really confused! How you ‘crack the code’ here shows the creativity that users of English as a lingua franca exhibit on a daily basis as they learn language ‘in the wild.’

In China, you’re teaching a large high-school class of 70 students. Keeping them focused and engaged requires clear routines. Yet, you need to encourage their participation as well. How you approach this dilemma exemplifies the tricky balance between structure and expansion.

In Turkey, you are a teacher in training. You have your lesson plan all laid out and you have prepared your instructions in advance. But what to do when your students say, “Sorry, what are we doing?” or “We don’t understand!”? You soon realize that the lesson’s success depends more on how you respond in these moments than on the lesson plan in your mind.

Image derives from original world map in acrylic by Lara Mukahirn, photograph by Nicolas Raymond, http://www.freestock.ca

In Japan, you teach engineering students, and you need to assess their speaking abilities. So you ask your students to tell you how to draw geometric shapes in English, step by step. What you then wonder is, whose competence is being assessed? Yours or theirs? In another class, also to assess speaking abilities, you ask your students to talk in pairs. To be fair and to manage your class time, you put a timer in front of them. It turns out that they pay a lot of attention to the timer, and you are surprised to notice how the timer has become an integrated part of their interaction.

In South Korea, you are an American co-teacher assigned to assist a Korean host co-teacher. This co-teaching business is tricky since there are no clear rules about who’s supposed to do what. One moment you are giving out heart sticker awards to student groups and the host teacher says something. Another time you tap a student on the head with a folder and the host teacher says something (well, maybe he has a point there, but you are a teacher, too!). You soon learn that co-teaching, in practice, often involves a lot of tension and negotiation.

In Iran, you teach a college-level class, and you want students to participate in open discussions about controversial issues, such as capital punishment, body piercing and charity donation. The problem is, sometimes what the students say resonates with your beliefs and fits with your lesson plan, but sometimes it doesn’t. Now, you must face a fundamental problem: how much control do you want and how much freedom do you give?

In Brazil, you’re teaching a beginner-level class, and your students can’t speak a lot of English yet. However, the school promotes an unspoken ‘English-only’ policy in the classroom. How do you stick to English when explaining new words or when students talk to each other in Portuguese? It turns out that even the constraints of the rule can sometimes open up opportunities.

In Mexico, you teach English at a boarding school to indigenous children of Mixe (ayüük) ethnicity. What this means is that your students are learning English as a third language, besides Spanish. Furthermore, what is the relevance of English in this remote, rural village? The adolescent students are a lively bunch (they don’t call you ‘Teacher Bikwahet’ for no reason!) and you are devoted to bettering their lives through education.

Reading this book, you will leave your tourist binoculars behind and join the authors to look at these scenes through the lens of Conversation Analysis. Your close-up observations will connect to concepts such as interactional competence, centrifugal and centripetal forces, embodied actions, power relationship and social relevance, which are at work in many other global contexts.

So welcome on board!

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy English as a Lingua Franca for EFL Contexts edited by Nicos C. Sifakis and Natasha Tsantila.

Mother Tongue – The Most Beautiful Gift We Have

Today is International Mother Language Day. To celebrate it, we have a blog post from one of the editors of our book, New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education, Boglárka Straszer. In this post she reflects on the importance of our mother tongues.

Many years ago, I took the bus every morning to my office at the university in my home town Uppsala. One sunny spring morning I noticed unusual graffiti on the ground in front of my feet at the bus stop. It was a mysterious statement in Swedish: “Jag gav den orden” – “I gave words to it”. I was mesmerized. After that day, I found myself studying this graffiti on the concrete every morning for a long time, enormously fascinated. My thoughts always seemed to roam wildly when I stood there at the bus stop waiting for my bus. What did the scribbler mean? What was he/she thinking? What were the words? A linguistic act was suggested; and it was something that made me reflect on the power of words and language, the strength of this short sentence in front of my feet in this public space. A little graffiti that we can interpret in many ways. Words we give to each other, words we get and take from each other, and words we use are significant. They transform people into thinking and communicating beings.

Language deserves attention and especially today on International Mother Language Day.

30 years ago I got the opportunity to learn Finnish. In this picture I am with my host and good friend Ilpo in Riihimäki, Finland, in July 1992 at the end of my year as Rotary Exchange Student.

Many writers have tried to describe mother tongue with beautiful words and emotional expressions. Therefore, there is no point for me to try to describe mother tongue more exquisitely. Instead, I will simply allow myself to state that for me, the mother tongue is intimate – one of the most beautiful gifts an individual can have, and also the most important tool for communication and the way to the soul. Our mother tongues and languages are our treasures that no one can take away from us, as long as we care about and use them. But, is the mother tongue really the most important tool for communication and the most important key to the soul for everyone and in every circumstance?

I think that there is no one truth about languages and there is no single way to define mother tongue, although in my own case it is quite simple to argue that I have Hungarian as my mother tongue. Hungarian was the only language that my family used during my childhood and it was the only language that everybody used in my surroundings. It was also the majority language in Hungary, even though some other languages were visible in various contexts in Hungarian society.

Today, however, I can and want to add that happily enough I have two other named languages with me in my everyday life as well as in my heart. These two languages, my first second language Finnish and my second second language Swedish, which I learned later on in my life, are as equally close to my mind and heart as my Hungarian. I love them each just as much and they are equally important for me for to be able to express all my thoughts and all my feelings. In some situations it can be easier to choose and use one of my languages. Sometimes I benefit more from using one, while in other situations I benefit more from another one. And this is the joy with multilingualism! Also, these three languages – Hungarian, Finnish and Swedish – are my children’s first languages, which they have been socialized in since birth. I hope with all my heart that they feel that all three languages are their own mother tongue.

Most of the people around the world use more than one named language in their everyday life and many of them have more than one mother tongue, making them all the richer. In my research, I have met, among others, many second generation Hungarians in Finland and Sweden, people who were born and grew up in another country and in another linguistic environment than their parents did. I also have friends with Sámi origin, who speak or have connections with South, North or another Sámi language. All these people have varied attitudes towards languages, defining mother tongue not only as a language they know best in all kinds of situations and not either as the language of their childhood. Instead, many of them argue that Sámi is their mother tongue, regardless if only their parents or grandparents used it and they themselves do not have skills in the language at all. They do so because of strong emotional ties to the language and the associated culture. Their relationships to their parents, relatives and roots play an important role.

Today Boglárka has a multilingual repertoire and is Assistant Professor in Swedish as a Second Language at Dalarna University in Sweden

Roots, however, are not always the most crucial aspect when you define mother tongue, as every individual who has some kind of connection to one or more languages has the right to determine what to call that language or these languages. For example, some years ago I carried out a study where I interviewed elderly Hungarians who had moved to Finland or Sweden as young adults more than 40 years ago. Some of them have a purist view of language and have clear opinions on mother tongue, such as “the mother tongue is the language you are born with” or “the language you use without any obstacles in all domains”. However, these people could also contradict themselves and say that Finnish or Swedish was already or “almost” like their mother tongue – despite the fact that they had not learned these languages since birth nor did they use these languages in every situation. Many of these people do not draw boundaries between their languages. Rather, their languages are natural parts of their life and they use them unhindered in different situations and in different contexts. All of their languages are integrated in their repertoire.

I share the same feelings with them. I want to emphasise that it is wonderful to celebrate mother tongues and every mother tongue today, delighting in the fact that we all have right to determine which languages we want to celebrate as our own mother tongues. I personally do not want to only celebrate my Hungarian, but also my Finnish and my Swedish, too.

Finally, these words are for my beloved, old, and always wise close friend in Finland, who unfortunately does not have much time left to share with us in this life. This is for you who opened a way for me to find new linguistic and cultural spaces and gave me many wonderful years to speak about languages and enjoy the bilingual and, nowadays, multilingual lifestyle. With you, I started to understand the meaning with my mother tongue. And with you, I learned to love both Hungarian and Finnish deep in my heart. With more languages than one mother tongue, I am stronger and have more self-confidence than ever before. This happiness with languages is the most valuable thing individuals can give to each other. Your work, my friend, to give me a new language gives pleasure and joy forever. Mitä lämpimimmät kiitokseni siitä! / Thank you with all my love!

Boglárka Straszer, Uppsala, Sweden

Can Adult Language Learners Acquire a Native-speaker Accent Just by Listening?

This month we published English-Medium Instruction and Pronunciation by Karin Richter. In this post the author talks about what led her to study L2 pronunciation in adults and what we can expect to learn from the book.

Do university students who listen to regular lectures with native speakers improve their pronunciation skills?

Can adult language learners pick up a native-speaker accent just by listening? Or is there little hope because they are probably too old for acquiring a native-like accent? This book presents a longitudinal research project exploring exactly these questions. My interest in the topic arose out of my involvement in two core areas of educational linguistics, namely the current spread of English-medium instruction (EMI) at European universities and the development of L2 pronunciation skills in adult learners. Let me tell you how and why I set out on this exciting journey.

Why study adult pronunciation?

In 2003, the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Vienna, where I was teaching ESP courses at the time, pioneered a new programme – part of a growing wave across Europe: EMI. The UAS jumped on the bandwagon and was one of the first in the country to offer a bilingual (English/German) Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship with up to 50% of the classes taught in English mostly by native speakers. In those early days of the EMI movement, it was hoped that the use of English to teach content courses would simultaneously enhance students’ content and language competence, based on the assumption that the learners benefit from ‘two for the price of one’. However, there was – and still is today – little research yet conducted to confirm this hope.

Interestingly, at the time, I was not only teaching a wide range of Business English courses at the UAS but also Practical Phonetics at another educational institution, namely the University of Vienna. Questions began to rise in my mind and I wondered how the EMI students’ increased exposure to English through their native-speaker teachers impacted on their foreign (Austrian) accent in English. I was curious what was going on implicitly, without any specific effort or attention. Essentially want I wanted to find out was: Do the students simply pick up the teacher’s accent without studying pronunciation or is it irrelevant what accent (foreign or native) the teacher has because adult learners at this stage have already passed the critical period for acquiring a native-like accent? As an experienced pronunciation teacher, these questions spurred me to embark on an empirical study in which I monitored the EMI students’ pronunciation for three years, looking in detail to see if they were making any gains or if they were hitting a wall because of their age.

What’s in the book?

The book begins with a comprehensive account of the rise of English-medium instruction in European higher education, examining the role of English as a Lingua Franca and exploring further questions about native-speaker norms. Then it goes on to discuss how languages in general and pronunciation in particular are learned in the EMI classroom and which factors (such as age, gender, musicality, attitude or motivation) influence L2 pronunciation mastery. Each chapter provides a thorough review of the literature, which then serves as the basis for the presentation and interpretation of the findings of my own study of Austrian business students at the UAS, whose pronunciation development I tracked over the entire duration of their Bachelor studies.

What did I find?

  • Do university students who listen to regular lectures with native speakers improve their pronunciation skills?
  • At their age (most of them were in their early 20s) can they make any significant gains with pronunciation at all?
  • Do EMI programmes result in considerable language development despite little to no explicit language instruction?
  • Do additional activities within and outside the programme influence their pronunciation more than just sitting in on lectures with the content area professors?
  • What are the main features of the Austrian learners’ accent in English which they were struggling with the most?

You’ll have to read the book to find out….

What contribution does this book make?

This book goes beyond the context of the particular case here. It addresses the burning issue of linguistic gains in tertiary EMI classrooms and also provides longitudinal data on L2 phonological changes in adult learners. Hence my purpose in embarking on the study and writing this book was to offer a valuable contribution to both the field of bilingual education as well as second language acquisition. I hope that the findings presented in this volume will spark new ideas for future studies in a fascinating field and that researchers as well as programme designers, teachers and students interested in English-medium instruction and second language phonology will find it a worthwhile and inspirational read.

Karin Richter

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like English-Medium Instruction in Japanese Higher Education edited by Annette Bradford and Howard Brown.

 

The World is a Handkerchief: Our Favourite Idioms from Different Languages

Earlier this week we published a post by the author of our new book, Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language, Monica Karlsson. This got us thinking about the idioms we’ve come across in different languages. Here are some of our favourites…

Laura

I like this one from German, which I think means that you’re mad. It is particularly poignant here as we do have all our cups in the cupboard! We must be a very sane office 😊

“Sie hat nicht alle Tassen im Schrank.” – She doesn’t have all her cups in the cupboard.

I also like “Être gourmand comme un chat” as it roughly translates as to eat like a pig, but has the added element of having high standards about what you eat, possibly reflecting the more stereotypical French appetite compared with the English one!

 

 

Flo

The French idiom “Poser un lapin à quelqu’un”, literally “To put a rabbit to someone”, or “Stand someone up” has always stuck with me… it makes something mean sound a lot cuter!

I like it when idioms reflect the culture of the country that language is spoken in, like the Russian “Любишь кататься – люби и саночки возить” – “If you like sledging, you’ve got to like pulling the sledge”, the idea that in order to do something we love, we have to do things we don’t – there is no pleasure without pain!

Another one is “Ни пуха, ни пера.” – “К чёрту!” This is like the English “Break a leg” whereby you wish someone bad luck in the hope it will bring them good luck, but in Russian it’s a hunting metaphor – you say “Neither down, nor feather” and they respond “To hell!”

 

Tommi

Finnish is rich with idioms…

Like “Katosi kuin pieru saharassa” – “Disappeared like a fart in the Sahara”…. Most recently used by film director Aki Kaurismäki to describe the leaders of the Brexit leave campaign who, when faced with any real responsibility, “disappeared like a fart in the Sahara”….

Or “Ei oo kaikki muumit laaksossa” – “To not have all the Moomins in the valley” – i.e. “One can short of a six pack”

Or “Juosta pää kolmantena jalkana” – “To run with your head as a third leg” – or to be in a massive rush but not really be very effective at it…

 

Rose

My favourite Somalian phrase, which I feel is my life’s motto:

“Canjeelo siday u kala korreyso ayaa loo cunaa” – As the pancakes are piled, so they should be eaten.

 

Elinor

My favourite Spanish idiom is: “El mundo es un pañuelo” which literally means “The world is a handkerchief” meaning “It’s a small world”.

In German, I like the phrase: “Man kann nicht auf zwei Hochzeiten tanzen” which literally means “You can’t dance at two weddings” or “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

 

 

 

For more information about Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language please see our website.