Too MuchTime On My Hands

Me professional photo

I call this my ‘Newscaster’ look ~

Many of you peeps already know what has spurred me to begin a blog. But just in case you don’t, you can take a look at my profile here. 

“Corporate downsizing, and the reduction of middle management, along with the widespread use of contingency workers, contractors, consultants and part-timers has created a new reality in the workplace. These changes have had a major impact on all employees, but especially experienced workers who are facing a double-edged sword – a tough labor market and younger competition!”

 

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Review of Theory and Practice in Language Studies Journal Article

The judicial use of first language in second language writing? Maybe, not as bad as one would think.

  • Volume 6 Issue 4
  • April 2016
  • Monthly
  • Review by Kathy S Richards

For those who wish to delve into the murky waters of global English language learning, Theory and Practice in Language Studies (TPLS) will help clear the path. TPLS, a peer-reviewed international journal, promotes scholarly exchange among teachers and researchers in the area of English language learning [ELL]. The journal features full-length articles and research that reflect the latest developments and advances in both theory and practice (2016).  According to the official website, Academy Publication.com, editors of the journal are particularly interested in articles that combine two or more academic disciplines in research that will not only challenge established parameters but also think across them to create something new.  Dr. Catherine Wang, Senior Editor of TPLS, notes “ We are always looking for articles that bridge the gap between theory and practice, as well as for articles which explore new and emerging areas of research that reflect the challenges faced [in ELL] today”(Wang, 2015).

The journal’s April 2016 issues features an article that addresses such a gap in second language composition and challenges the longstanding theory and practice of banning native language in the  target language classroom. The article, “Improving the Quality of Second Language Writing by First Language Use” (Ahmadian, Pouromid, & Nickkhah), investigates how English language learners can benefit from using their first language (L1) in second language (L2) writing. The authors also explore a second gap in existing research – questioning in which areas will the use of L1 benefit most.  The authors note that research over the last several decades has overlooked a valuable aspect of how ELL writers compose. They claim that earlier research lacked an operational definition of what first language use is and merely compared how writing processes used in L1 and L2 are similar, rather than examining how the process used in each are different. Their research attempts to address these gaps.

Assumptions

Ahmadian et al. note that in recent research and pedagogical practices, the judicious use of L1 in the L2 classroom has become more accepted than in past decades.  They cite Vygotsky’s Socio-cultural Theory of Learning which states, “learning is mediated by cultural artifacts such as language”(1978), and assume that if learning is mediated by language then “the extensive background knowledge that ELL writers possess in their first language will be a valuable resource for composing in the second language”; thus, they further assume the use of L1 could possibly result in better quality writing (2016). To test their hypothesis, Ahmadin et al. design a study to investigate which aspects of L2 Writing are improved when L1 is used.

The Study, Methodology, Results & Critique

In this statistical study, 12 groups of 3 Iranian single gender groups of L1 students (N=36) identified as intermediate level English proficient volunteered for the study. Six of the groups (N=18) were named as the control group. They were instructed to use English only in a collaborative discussion of the assigned writing task, then were to each compose an argumentative essay over a given prompt. The remaining half of the participants were named the experimental groups (N=18). These students were directed to use their first language to collaboratively discuss the writing task , then to complete the argumentative composition on the same topic as the other group. The compositions were then collected and errors examined to collect information on “ organization/unity, development, cohesion/coherence, structure, vocabulary, mechanics to determine an overall score”(Ahmudian, 2016).

After examining their findings, the authors suggest that the use of L1 does indeed facilitate higher quality writing in L2 learners by improving their overall writing scores in the areas of organization, development, cohesion, structure, and mechanics. However, the researchers did not reveal if the participants were randomly selected, the type of admission test that identified them as intermediate, the testing conditions, or its scoring procedure. This may or may not be significant. However, if participants’ ELL proficiency was measured using an instrument created by the Iranian university’s admissions office, or even by a teacher without qualifications in program and ELL test design, rather than a standardized test of English Proficiency such as the TOEFL or ILETS, the instrument may not have measured what it was intended to measure. Therefore, it may not have concurrent validity. Moreover, if the participants were not randomly selected, does this sample reflect the general population?  In addition, do the ELL proficiency scores achieved by the students reflect the intermediate skill level in spoken, written, or reading ability, or all 3? These questions were not made clear by the authors.

Connections of this study to Previous and Current Research

As stated earlier, the questions regarding the effectiveness of the use of students’ L1 in the L2 classroom have been debated for many years. Linguist Steven Krashen developed the Natural Approach to language acquisition in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and argued, “Students best learn L2 through massive amounts of exposure to the language while avoiding the use of L1 (Tang, 2002). However, over the last two decades, focus has been shifting towards the use of L1 in the ELL classroom. Indeed, research has shown that the use of L1 by both students and teachers increases both comprehension and learning of L2 (Atkinson,1987;Tang, 2002). A number of researchers (Atkinson, 1993; Aurebach, 1993; Cook, 2014) have also suggested that L1 can be useful in a variety of functions in the language classroom, such as checking for comprehension, giving instructions, and explaining lexical items and grammatical concepts.

Moreover, the Ahmadian et al. study also supports recent (2015) research by Tamimi et al. who assert, “ a judicious, occasional and limited use of the L1 is a better approach to take in EFL classes than to include or exclude it totally”, as well as a quantitative and qualitative study by Yingqin and Zeng who suggest  that the use of L1 in L2 writing promotes a positive outlook  as well as forms “meaningful connections” between their L1 and L2, “especially in students understanding on tasks of  L2 grammar, culture, and syntax (especially at the beginning level)”(2015).

 Implications & Critique

Overall, the suggestions of Ahmadian et al. can be classified as positive. The findings of the original thesis were favorable and supportive that L1 use is beneficial to L2 Writing in organization, development, cohesion, structure, and mechanics. This implies that judicious use of L2 in the L1 classroom can be beneficial to students providing it is done so with limits and within specific parameters.

 

 

My Teaching Philosophy

me and saw

To foster communication with people of the global community and achieve all that we may be capable of, we must strive to connect with others beyond the limits of our native language. Our international students know this and that is why they are here. Our very astute students understand that it is through this process of learning other languages that we may begin to understand how those of other cultures think and benefit from this knowledge. Through my years of studying Arabic, I have come to love the study of language because it has given me a glimpse into another culture, taught me to consider diverse perspectives, and has granted me a connection to another culture and society that I would not have been able to achieve through the use of English alone.

As a teacher of the English language, I seek to help my students make this connection by helping them to improve their written and communicative abilities in English. To do this, I believe that it is important to be ready to adapt my instruction to meet the needs and the unique backgrounds of the international students in my classroom.   I draw on a variety of theories, approaches, and methodologies in order to meet these different needs.

Vygotsky (1962) suggests, “interaction is essential to the development of individual thought.”  I believe this. So, to encourage interaction among students in my classroom, I often create opportunities for small collaborative group work and discussions, which give each student the opportunity to speak. This can be very beneficial to students who are somewhat reluctant to speak in front of the class in fear of making a mistake.  Moreover, peers who work together gain valuable insight into the perspectives of others while they are learning. Classroom interaction also reinforces what they already know and provides valuable scaffolding to students who may need some extra assistance, but are not yet comfortable asking me.

Through this variation and collaboration in class, I hope to create an effective learning environment that is both interesting and energetic. It is my hope that this will motivate my students and build up their confidence.

In language learning, it is important that students believe they are free to express ideas to develop their self-confidence as English speakers and writers. Additionally, I hope that my students will feel that the course is interesting and teaches them how to be independent learners, creative thinkers, and confident speakers and writers.  I believe that students who find their courses to be interesting are also more likely to be motivated to reach their learning goals.  It is my job to help my students reach their goals, but my pleasure to help them do so not only in language learning but also in their academic careers and lives.

I have been teaching English to speakers of other languages for over twenty-five years now, and what I have come to know is that change is a constant. One of the biggest changes that students all over the world must learn to embrace is the ever-changing field of technology and its use in every field of study. Therefore, when possible, I like to incorporate technology such as Google Docs, Blackboard , You Tube, iMovies video maker, and Quizlet into the classroom to keep learning active and to help meet my teaching objectives.  I believe in order for my students to be effective in their academic careers and, “Be accepted as members of their academic discourse communities” (Bartholomae, 1985), they must be prepared in language and in technology. I strive to make them as comfortable writing essays online and posting to discussion boards as they are when writing them in the classroom. I also try to incorporate writing with social media, as it is a very trendy and essential communication device among the discourse communities of their peers. I realize that to some international students, who come from countries who do not use technology for academics, this may be a bit intimidating at first. But they seem to adapt to the change in no time.

While I believe it is important for my students to embrace change, I also acknowledge that it is essential that I do so as well. I must acknowledge that my beliefs and attitudes about teaching may evolve and adapt to suit the needs of my students. So, although this is my current philosophy of teaching, I expect that my philosophy of teaching will no doubt change and require some alteration as I gain experience and grow as a teacher.

 

Work Cited

Bartholomae, David “Inventing the University” When a Writer Can’t Write: Studies in Writer’s Block and Other Composing-Process Problems,Mike Rose,Ed. New York: Guilford, 1985. 134-165.

Vygotsky, L. (1962). Thought and language. In A. Nielson, Critical thinking and reading:  empowering learners to think and act. Illinois:  The National Council of Teachers of English.

Are You Too Competitive?

I borrowed this snippet of conversation from a friend who had posted it on her FB page (With her permission). It reminded me of something, and I think it makes an excellent point for those who enjoy their work and who like to be creative to present their best ability on the job but may be reluctant to do so in fear of offending coworkers who may not have time to ( or the desire to ) do as much as they do at work.

My friend, for the sake of argument we will call her ‘Bridget’, was explaining her working style,

” Let me be clear when I work somewhere, I plan and create, and I try to present my best work. That is what I am comfortable in doing, for two reasons. One, because I respect my job, and two, because I like what I am doing. Many of my colleagues are the same. They work very hard and are often complimented on their work ethic and tenacity to get the job done and done well. I admire them for this; they make me and everyone else in my department look good. I am lucky because most of the people I have worked with are like this and our styles really compliment each other’s.

There are also a few people who really are not invested. They are often absent, only do the minimal when they are there; always have an excuse for not doing more, not meeting deadlines, etc. They may have busy home lives and may not have the same interests. And that is okay if they are like that because that’s them. We all have different styles and bring different elements to the job. We don’t mind them or their work style because how they do their job will not affect how we do ours. And most of the time, they don’t mind us either. They are amused by our quirky, nerdy, over achiever efforts to put in more (in their minds) than we have to. They don’t even mind us displaying our work or recent projects, UNLESS by us doing so, it highlights that they are not doing much as we are, or at least not being as productive as they could be. That is when the problems arise.

When they notice that we are starting to gain praise or if management starts to compare, they will immediately begin to complain that those of us, who do the extra are doing so to make them look bad, They will complain that we are only doing more to show off, that we are too competitive and are always trying to prove that our work is best. ” One of my coworkers, ( for sake of clarity, we’ll call her ‘Jena’ because I have always liked that name) warned others not to work with me because she heard from a mutual friend who was frequently absent that I am too competitive at work. Competitive? Really? How could I begin to compete with someone who does not participate? Wouldn’t one have to take an active role in the competition to compete?  I do the extra, love the glitz and glitter because I think it is fun. It’s me. They are free to do anything that I am doing if they want; they just do not choose to, and that’s up to them. I don’t complain about what they don’t do. Some people only minimally engage on the job because they don’t want to feel pushed or ‘work shamed’ into doing more. But, if that is what they are happy doing, more power to them. When I am at work, I am there to do work. I do my best and give myself a pat on the back when I do something beneficial and creative. I will never complain that others are NOT doing as much as I am, nor is it my intention to be compared to anyone else. In my mind, my only competition is with myself”.

So, in your opinion, why do some people become so irritated when others around them work hard and take pride in what the do?