ALL London June event

June 12, 2012

I’m looking forward to the ALL London branch June event this coming Saturday morning, June 16th.

As ever there are some terrific speakers.  Rachel Hawkes, a favourite of ALL London is back – her talks are always inspirational and full of practical ideas that can be used immediately in the classroom.  James Stubbs will also be there talking about “Sowing seeds for spontaneous speaking” – an aspect of language learning that is likely to be on the radar of any Ofsted inspector lurking near your classroom.

I am also particularly interested in hearing Jeremy Harmer, a renowned TESOL specialist;  having been trained in and taught some EFL myself I think there is a lot of common ground between the teaching of foreign languages and English as a foreign or second language particularly in the field of practical methodology, so it should be an interesting session.

Full details of the event to be held at the LSE are on the ALL London branch website.


ALL London June event

May 12, 2011

The ALL London summer event takes place this year on June 11th at the French Institute from 9.30 a.m.  This is just a month before Language World and will give you an opportunity to hear Rachel Hawkes speak.  She will be sharing some of her strategies to engage language learners of all ages and abilities.

Neil Jones will also be speaking and he will be focusing on how to develop students’ speaking, listening, writing, knowledge about language, language learning strategies and cultural awareness.

Finally Mark Reid, Head of Education at the British Film Institute will introduce us to some great ideas for using film to bring ‘the
authentic’  into the classroom of all age groups.

Full details are available on ALL June 2011 invitation which has a form for you to register for the event.

Pronunciation – does it matter?

January 18, 2011

“Does it matter?”

  If you are a teacher you’ve probably heard that question dozens of times;  does it matter if you don’t spell it right, does it matter if the grammar’s wrong, does it matter if you don’t say it right?  Of course the answer will depend on the context.  What are they trying to do?  Have they been able to communicate even if there are mistakes?  Are we trying to build their confidence and fluency,  in which case we might let a few errors pass. If our learners get too hung up on getting things right all the time they won’t experiment, take the risks and develop the skills of being creative language users.  If they are aiming for A* in their written controlled assessment at GCSE then it almost certainly will matter more – they will at least be expected to use their dictionary to get details such as spellings and genders. 

When it comes to speaking there used to be that concept of the “sympathetic native speaker”, but how sympathetic can we be?  Grammatical errors, the wrong words and mispronunciation can all get in the way of communication.  When teaching Chinese correct pronunciation takes on a whole new dimension because of the different tones, as we discovered in class yesterday when confronted with tāng and táng, the former meaning soup and the latter sugar or sweets – could make for an interesting meal if you get it wrong. 

For learners of Chinese there are a couple of useful sites that can help them work independently to  “tune” their ear into the different sounds of Chinese and learn to distinguish between the various tones.  New Concept Mandarin has an introduction to Pinyin with a table where you can click on any combination of initial and final and get the sound for each tone; this is also represented visually. 

There is something similar on Chinesepod, where they make the point that you can’t read Pinyin, just as you would English, something which learners find confusing at times.  Chinesepod also has all the sound files in downloadable form which can be useful if you are putting together resources. 

My learners often ask me the Chinese use Pinyin;  the answer is that they don’t, at least not apart from when they first start to learn to read.  Pinyin was developed as a way of increasing literacy amongst the Chinese population and certainly helps us non native speakers get into the language faster than we would do otherwise.  Another resource which I’ve just come across  is this song  (also accessible from the Chinese songs page) which groups the initials and finals together by similar sound; it then moves on to the tones.  I could envisage developing some actions to go along with it….

Actions associated with sounds is at the heart of Rachel Hawkes’ philosophy of teaching phonics early in the language learning process.  Her website has a wealth of resources for Spanish, German and French.