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Second Language Learning:
At a recent teachers' meeting, we had an interesting discussion about class issues, questions, and things that we would want to explore more in our instructions.   Several topics were brought up-homework, group work, meta-cognition, problem solving, students' behaviors, pronunciation and so on; all points taken. 

Pronunciation:One of the ESL issues that kept resonating was the issue of pronunciation. Some teachers would want to focus more on this part.  In one class, students would complain about other students' pronunciation, that they couldn't understand what they were saying. One of the teachers asked, "But they all have accents?" The teacher who had mentioned the class said, "Yes."

Teachers have dealt and managed with pronunciation practice in their classes in different ways, may it be non-traditional or traditional, whichever works for their classes and their sets of students. And there is a wide scope of software and materials that are available. The question is how do we talk and discuss thepronunciation issue with our students?

In an adult second language learning, it's almost impossible to perfect one's accent in any language learning.  "There is little doubt that native-like mastery of a second a language (L2) by adult non-native speakers is hard to attain (Schachter, 1988).Some adult second language learners are fossilized, a cognitive issue that affects the acquisition of a second language (Selinker, 1972)." This phenomenon has been discussed and learned in studies and research.

Age may also play a part in second language learning issues and this.  This applies in my case. Having learned other languages at a late age, I have come to a realization that I can never master German or French even in reading and writing...Just simply impossible! But age should not stop language learners from learning and attaining their goals to function in a second language. "It's never too late to learn anything."

In cosmopolitan cities, you expect people with different accents and different ways of speaking.  I've had students from all parts of the globe, so I'm familiar with varied verbal communication, even mixed with gestures for more clarification. And that adds richness to my teaching because I can work with different students, without being shocked or frustrated all the time. Students and instructors must know that it is normal to hear different ways of speaking, especially in an ESL class setting environment.

In class interactions, the main concern is on the clarity of expression.  Students need not to speak fast.  When students are called to read out loud or talk, some of them may express words in a fast manner; perhaps, they're nervous, or the manner is carried off from their own speaking style or they don't want to be put on the spot and so they want to finish as soon as they can.   In any case, it may help students to know to listen to themselves as they convey their  message. Clarity is important.   Keep it simple, specific and direct to the point, as we also say in writing.

Any classroom issues that need to be discussed in class, be it about homework, group work, behavioral problem, pronunciation and so on, teachers need to communicate about it openly and not set them aside for fear of being disliked or not heard. There's always a room for acceptance...

3/2006

Post script:

Meta-cognition:Another topic that caught my attention was meta-cognition.   Teachers provide students cognitive skills/strategies to meet their objectives like understanding a reading material.

"Knowledge is considered to be metacognitive if it is actively used in a strategic manner to ensure that a goal is met. For example, a student may use knowledge in planning how to approach a math exam: 'I know that I (person variable) have difficulty with word problems (task variable), so I will answer the computational problems first and save the word problems for last (strategy variable).' Simply possessing knowledge about one's cognitive strengths or weaknesses and the nature of the task without actively utilizing this information to oversee learning is not metacognitive."(Livingston, 1997).

I'll read more on this subject as I constantly exploring how to provide students with strategies to acquire language skills in different ways. Simply providing information (e.g. about verb forms) without practice is not sufficient. Meta cognition is more work, but it is crucial in teaching/language learning.


 

 

 

 

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