This paper discusses a phenomenon often discussed under the umbrella term “formulaic sequences” (FS) and used to refer to chunks, clusters, collocations, idiomatic expressions, multi-word expressions, lexicogrammatical patterns, or processing units in different areas of psycholinguistics, systemic-functional linguistics, second language research and corpus linguistics, to name but these fields. With respect to the teaching and learning of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), formulaic sequences are of interest from two contrasting perspectives. The first, more traditional approach in ESP, has been to treat FS from a speaker-external perspective, defining FS as “the use of idioms, idiomatic expressions, and collocations used by NSs and L2 learners, that is, what is formulaic in a given language” (Myles & Cordier, 2016). In phraseological terms, FS may be viewed as “the preferred way of saying things in a particular discourse” (Gledhill, 2000). A second approach is favoured in second language acquisition research, and involves a speaker-internal or psycholinguistic definition of FS as “multiword units which present a processing advantage for a given speaker, either because they are stored whole in his/her mental lexicon (Wray 2002) or because they are highly automatised” (Cordier, 2013). Each approach is appropriate to the research questions of interest. Thus in second language research, objectives include the characterisation of FS in L2 speech production and their role in L2 development. Studies thus compare learners’ use of strings retrieved holistically with those generated online, using distinguishing criteria such as fluency, form-function mapping, and frequency in input and output (Myles & Cordier, 2016). In ESP research, on the other hand, one goal is to improve the efficiency of ESP teaching by focusing on particular FS. Give the importance of FS in fluent processing, and high frequency of such “semi-preconstructed phrases” (Sinclair, 1991), it is argued that “the more frequent items have the highest utility and should therefore be taught and tested earlier” (Nation, 2001, cited in Simpson-Vlach & Ellis, 2010). To this end, Simpson-Vlach and Ellis (2010) applied a number of frequency, collocational and pedagogical criteria to FS in spoken and written corpora of academic and general English to generate an academic formulas list of 200 FS deemed most worth teaching. It remains to be shown, however, how L2 acquisition of such externally defined FS proceeds, or how pedagogical intervention can encourage this process. This paper reviews definitions of FS from these two contrasting perspectives, highlighting problems at the intersection of the two approaches identified by Myles and Cordier (2016). It discusses the design of research instruments to replicate an empirical study by Lindstrom et al (2016) in order to address the question of how FS can best be taught and learned in English for Academic Purposes.
- practical help in making contact with their host schools, and
- pedagogical support for making the most of this opportunity to develop teaching and intercultural competences.
In each of the three years of the project’s lifetime, 30 pre-service primary teachers (6 from each partner country) make 2-week school visits to another project country. Where possible, the mobility is organised as part of regular teacher training courses.
The learning platform
- a survey tool
- a built-in video/audio recorder, and
- an ePortfolio.
The platform offers a structured sequence of 17 activities designed to help learners before, during, and after their mobility along three dimensions labelled research, practice, and language. Following a self-assessment activity, where participants complete can-do statements related to a common reference framework developed by the project, the primary student-teachers work on the activities with support from a tutor in their home country.
Examples of activities designed for the three dimensions at each stage of the mobility are shown below:
read articles on intercultural competence (ICC)
find out about education system in host country
record a video CV for host school
explore four Competence Cards (intercultural competences) selected for special emphasis
|keep classroom observation notes in relation to each competence||
monitor own language and teaching experiences where appropriate
relate own experience to previous ICC reading
write a reflective paper
record a short oral reaction to experience
SPIRAL in teacher education
Supporting (language) teacher education with mobility
Closed versus open platforms
- an uninviting interface where I see only enclosing folder upon enclosing folder containing information to be downloaded and assignments to be completed. The internet’s answer to brutalist architecture;
- the top-down pedagogical framework: the user cannot take an initiatives, only respond to activities already defined and timetabled in advance;
- the lack of ownership of any resources added: neither students nor instructors are assured of being able to retrieve work accomplished on the platform, either for their records or to use/share for other purposes.
Tutor-trainee exchange versus group interaction
Intercultural learning versus foreign language focus
My third point concerns the relative importance of intercultural versus foreign language competences. I understand that particularly in primary education, where teachers are responsible for a general curriculum comprising all the core subjects, it is unrealistic to expect very high foreign language proficiency from participants (e.g., CER level C). I also concede that my own linguistic training disposes me to place high value on both language proficiency and linguistic knowledge. But I do feel that to improve the language skills of tomorrow’s citizens we need teachers able to teach foreign languages well, which would imply both having good language skills and knowing how to support classroom foreign language learning. (See recent research by de Bot and colleagues on instructional time and teacher proficiency with very young learners in Dutch schools, references below.)
Much language teaching is diverted towards culture, to the detriment of actual language learning.
Intercultural competence is a natural consequence of learning a foreign language, and need not be a specific focus of study.
The culture of target language speakers can be studied separately, once the language has been acquired to an appropriate level.
Collecting teaching resources
Continuing professional development
Unsworth, S., Persson, L., Prins, T., & De Bot, K. (2014). An investigation of factors affecting early foreign language learning in the Netherlands. Applied Linguistics.
Many language teachers are interested in the question of what makes a task a task. Pre-service teachers are often under pressure to conform to some see as the hegemony of task-based language teaching (TBLT) which they feel is imposed on teachers by the Common European Reference framework (CER). They want to know whether their textbook which claim to follow CER principles offer genuinely task-based teaching activities. Or they wonder how the demands of “authentic” language use associated with TBLT can be squared with the seemingly artificial language used in the foreign language classroom where everyone shares a native language.
Teacher educators, too, struggle with strong versions of a task-based approach, as opposed to weaker, task-supported incarnations, which often seem to overlap with the production phase of the PPP approach, where structures are Presented and Practiced with the teacher before learners are encourage to Produce their own contributions. Does this seem a reasonable compromise, or does it mean abandoning the principles of TBLT?
In the slides above I summarise two articles, one by Jason Anderson in defence of PPP, and another by Rod Ellis, one of the main proponents of TBLT. Anderson argues that PPP has admirably stood the test of time and is suited to a wider range of teaching contexts than TBLT. Ellis, on the other hand, defends TBLT against a number of misconceptions about this approach, and to my mind invalidates many of Anderson’s points. My own view is that TBLT is quite different from PPP, and that there are good reasons, related to how languages are learned, to favour TBLT (see Jordan for instance).
Update 15/03/17: more from Jordan on Two versions of task-based language teaching, drawing in Long’s book on TBLT and SLA, and Breen’s process syllabus.
Anderson, J. (2016). Why practice makes perfect sense: the past, present and potential future of the PPP paradigm in language teacher education. Practice, 19.
Ellis, R. (2013). Task-based language teaching: Responding to the critics. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 8(1), 1-27.
Jordan, G. Principles and practice. Critical EFL.
Open educational practice: taking care in the design and creation of digital materials with a view to future sharing and repurposing, working towards a goal of sustainable development for (language) teachers.
- How can teachers best select teaching and learning materials and adapt them to their own particular needs?
- Which digital tools are most versatile, and how can they be integrated into learning activities?
- And what can teachers do as their careers progress to try and keep up with technological innovation?
From open resources to open practices
We talked about the Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources, and how open resources lead to open practices. My own epiphany about openness came when teaching a course on technology in language education to a group of teachers of several European languages. The course encouraged participants to share teaching resources publicly, and some of my students’ selections – for languages I don’t speak – were picked up by colleagues at other universities.
work that would otherwise be invisible or lost to the wider community once a course assignment is completed here can be recovered and exploited by others
Read the full paper
I used Google forms for a background questionnaire to gauge participants’ interests and knowledge, then we used Padlet to share open resources collected by myself and others using the curation platform Scoop.it. (See the resources.)
One of the difficulties in supporting language teachers in integrating technology is the vast array of digital tools at our disposal. Conventional wisdom suggests focusing on pedagogical objectives rather than the affordances of tools, so we looked at a task I used with one of my undergraduate EFL students: a story slam based on the Moth format.
A storytelling task
In my university EFL class, I used the open resources from the Moth website to set the task and provide examples for my students. I think this makes a decent task because it meets most of the criteria for task-based language teaching: it’s a real-world activity (target language speakers do it), there’s a clear outcome (a story that meets certain pre-determined standards), and learners have freedom in the language they choose to use.
There are also opportunities for reflection and collaboration, because the Moth also has a transcription system where volunteers can check and correct automatic transcriptions of existing stories. Students used the audio platform SoundCloud and Google forms to allow students to record their own stories as they performed in class, upload and safeguard their recordings, and share with the teacher. I used the canned response gadget in the Labs section of Gmail to provide individual feedback to students, together with a link to a blogpost with ideas for work on pronunciation. I tried to encourage reflection with a post-task activity where students were asked to react to this feedback.
Incidentally, as I prepared my introductory lesson for my students using a specific Moth story, I cleaned up the machine transcription of the story so that my students could analyse the storyteller’s technique and language. In so doing, I made my own small contribution to the Moth project by leaving a full, correct transcription for others to use (either native-speaking storytellers or L2 learners). This provides an argument for openness in itself, and one which also suggests another type of task where learners perform this transcription checking task themselves, to work on listening and writing skills.
Most of the links to the activities and tools for this storytelling task are here.
Playing safe and playing fair
Of course, open education also imposes some particular requirements on teachers and learners. It’s important to respect learners’ privacy and make sure we have permission to share their work. With adults this can often be done simply using the following suggestions:
- ask learners to create their own accounts on free platforms
- allow learners to choose pseudonyms if work is shared publicly
- offer the chance to share only with specific individuals (e.g., the teacher) or a restricted group of learners
- remind learners to hide or remove files, or delete their accounts once the course is completed.
Similarly, both teachers and learners need to respect the intellectual property of others. Gosia Kurek and Anna Skowron produced a very useful guide to help language teachers understand what can be shared and how, as part of the LangOER project. This guide also has up-to-date references to places to find images that can be used freely without attribution, for example.
Going further for language teachers
The last section of my presentation (see slides above) includes telecollaborative platforms and some reflection on my experience in teacher education in this area. We didn’t get that far in Limerick, but in the interests of openness it’s still there.
It was great to hear about work in languages at the University of Limerick with Catherine Jeanneau, including a French-language debating team (another real-world task) and a very active Facebook page.
And as a quick coda to the session, we looked at Plickers, a paper-based clicker app that allows learners to respond to multiple choice questions by holding up QR codes which the teacher records using the app on their phone. Results can be displayed in a browser at plickers.com and projected for the class to see. I like this tool for myself because I don’t always have internet access in class. For the secondary school teachers I train, it can be used in schools where pupils are not allowed to use phones in class. In Limerick, however, the teachers were working with adult learners who all had smartphones with wifi access: they showed me Kahoot, which offers similar opportunities for their teaching context.
Kurek, M. & Skowron, A. (2015). Going open with LangOER. PDF
Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources PDF
Whyte, S. (2014). Bridging gaps : Using social media to develop techno-pedagogical competences in pre-service language teacher education. Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité – Cahiers de l’APLIUT, 33(2):143-169.
This post is my response to the first assignment of the open teacher education course identified below.
Pronunciation: text to speech
Open Educational Resources (OER) and Automatic Language Processing for Language Learning
In up to 500 words, write down your experience with the OERs proposed. Have they been useful? Do you think they will help your students learn more successfully? Why?
The OERs are these:
http://text-to-speech.imtranslator.net (available in multiple languages) http://www.fromtexttospeech.com (available in multiple languages)
https://text-to-speech-demo.mybluemix.net (with expressive SSML)
1. Natural readers https://www.naturalreaders.com/index.html
I put in this text from Google news and tried various accents.
A surprise victory for the government at this late stage seems unlikely and would be met with head-scratching in No 10, which has already conceded that parliament should be consulted at the end of the Brexit process.
Mike (US) and Graham (UK) miss No 10 (“no ten” instead of “number ten”) and intonation on head-scratching is off (head SCRATCHing instead of HEAD scratching).
I’m not sure I understand why we would want to hear it read by French or Italian speakers. How is this engineered? Is it sampled from French speakers reading English text, or does it just apply algorithms for machine reading of French to English text? I suspect the second. I teach English to French speakers so am certainly used to French-accented English, but nothing like “Alain” reading about Brexit (to hear him, paste my inset text above here and choose “Alain”). I defy anyone to understand “Juliette’s” version without a transcript.
I teach mainly French learners of English in higher education contexts in France. Some of them are future secondary school teachers of English facing national teacher entrance examinations which place high value on phonological and morphosyntactic accuracy in planned monologues. I have discussed some of the pronunciation problems I see in this post Improving spoken English: intermediate/advanced. I’m not at all sure how I would exploit text-to-speech tools with these students. They can get better information on phonemes and word stress from online dictionaries, and the suprasegmental information in the samples I’ve heard here don’t seem reliable enough to be useful.
2. IMtranslator http://text-to-speech.imtranslator.net/
I thought this was quite impressive. I typed in conversational French and the translation was pretty accurate, intonational contours less so perhaps.
3. Text to speech http://www.fromtexttospeech.com/
Next, another resource from text to speech, using the first paragraph of a CALL article (Gonzalez-Lloret, 2011):
The potential of CMC for L2 development resides mainly in the possibility that learners have to engage with other speakers of the language, including L1 speakers, which is especially important for the acquisition of not only linguistic resources but also social and pragmatic competence. As Thorne (2006) states “the use of Internet technologies to encourage dialogue between distributed individuals and partner classes proposes a compelling shift in second (L2) and foreign language (FL) education, one that ideally moves learners from simulated classroom-based contexts towards actual interaction with expert speakers of the language they are studying” (p. 3).
Of course you can just visit from text to speech and do your own cut-and-paste with choice of speaker (that was British “Emma”). Or try French “Gabriel” (set to fast; there are 4 speeds) for another surreal experience.
To my ear “Emma’s” is a pretty good rendering – no obvious errors in intonation that would mislead the listener. But I’m struggling to imagine uses in the language classroom. I might use it if I wanted to have an article read to me during a commute, for example, though the time and planning required to convert and save the file to a device might not be worthwhile. If learners wanted more aural input, better to use authentic sources, surely, of which there is no lack.
In our course assignment, we were encouraged to experiment with different versions of sentences “to see how grammar affects voice outputs.” Here we see that the US voice distinguishes between the lexical verb have and the modal have to /hæftə/
- learners have the possibility to engage with other speakers of the language mp3
- learners have to engage with other speakers of the language mp3
You don’t seem to be able to retrieve this information from the Collins dictionary (have) so this gives the tool an advantage over a traditional learner dictionary in this case.
(On another note, you need to refresh the page (click the banner icon) for each new query; you can’t just cut and paste new text in the window.)
4. My blue mix
The tool was developed by IBM presumably for commercial purposes (see description). Here I listened to British and American voices reading English, and a French voice for French. I thought the French sounded better; is French intonation easier to imitate, or is my ear for French less discriminating?
There’s a feature called “expressive SSML” that tweaks the output in prosodic terms, in the example for customer service ends:
The Apology mode seems to place more emphasis (volume, length, pausing). Uncertainty has more pausing, Good News more pitch variation.
Another Voice Transformation features shows variation along different parameters: glottal tension, breathiness, strength, pitch range. Eleven of the 13 voices are female, and only two (female) are transformable in this way. It feels a bit Ex Machina.
Developers can use the tools to customise their own voices and specific texts.
Again, it’s not obvious to me how either the demo or the tool could be used for language teaching and learning beyond awareness-raising. I suppose lower proficiency learners could compare intonation in native and target languages, and more advanced ones could record themselves and compare with the synthetic voices. The tools seems to be ranked in order of sophistication, with perhaps the IBM demo the most convincing. It’s certainly interesting to see how these tools have developed in the past decade or so.
I signed up for an open course run by TELL-OP, an Erasmus+ strategic partnership, which seeks to exploit corpus expertise and digital affordances to encourage e-learning of languages. The website puts it thus:
TELL-OP is a Strategic Partnership that seeks to promote the take-up of innovative practices in European language learning (Data Driven Learning, DDL) by supporting personalised learning approaches that rely on the use of ICT & OER by bringing together the knowledge & expertise of European stakeholders in the fields of language education, corpus & applied linguistics, e-learning & knowledge engineering in order to promote cooperation & contribute to unleash the potential behind already available web 2.0 services to promote the personalized e-learning of languages in the contexts of higher & adult education, in particular, through mobile devices.
TELL-OP partners include these people and institutions, and – fittingly, I think – I found the course via Pascual Pérez-Paredes on Twitter.
The course is taught by Dana Ruggiero (@Dana_Ruggiero) on Moodle and covers
- introduction and pronunciation
- vocabulary acquisition
- writing skills
- reading skills
In a spirit of openness, and because the first assignment seems to cry out for what we used to call Web 2.0 tools, I’ll try to blog my course participation.
I am already behind.
From an online discussion of the history of ELT with Friederike Klippel
Over the last week, Friederike Klippel and I have been leading an online discussion for IATEFL’s Research SIG on ‘Views of ELT history’. It’s not too late to join in! This discussion is a kind of preview or taster (an advertisement, basically!) for the Pre-Conference Event we’re facilitating for ReSIG in Glasgow on 3 April: ‘Researching ELT history: A hands-on workshop’:
Our online discussion began with us swapping stories of how we got interested in ELT history. Here’s the story I shared, slightly edited, followed by some reflections on it:
So, how and why did I personally first get interested in looking into the history of ELT? It’s not a kind of research that many people are engaging in, still. My interest was first stimulated around 1993, after I’d been teaching English in Japan for around seven years, and at a particular university in Tokyo for the…
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