Online language learning: fact of fake?

What works best for students learning a foreign language online?

It is a broadly well known fact that learners do not get enough exposure /opportunities to practice their new language skills and vocabulary, especially if they’re not located in the area where the language they’re learning is spoken/ used.

By going online foreign language students – Brazilians learning English, Spanish or French, for example, or anywhere else in the world, they can access a practically unlimited source of authentic materials – be they videos, audio, images or text, in addition to hundreds (if not, thousands) of hours of prerecorded lessons, vocabulary and grammar explanations. A notable example is the BBC Learning English app. Also, now there are different online platforms providing live online classes with native speakers or qualified teachers. Some of these platforms are iTalki (www.italki.com) and Soulphia (www.soulphia.com)

Moreover, students are more inclined to repeat tasks online or via an automated system.

However, digital users are reaching some sort of maturity, apps have lost their amazement appeal. Online classes will work well as long as the connection is good abut tends to drain the attention of students, with some anecdotal stories showing that both teacher and students get tired faster when having to focus on a screen for more than 30 minutes.

The best solution would be for students to try to reach a blended learning process, with “in-person lessons” combined with online support, that should speed up their own learning process.

Happy learning,

Cheers,

Mo

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Are There Any Bad Students?

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First and foremost, let’s cut that politically correctness crap that anyone can learn a second language and that there are no bad students. That’s not true. I’ve learned it the hard way.

I’m not talking about those individuals who are pure evil… What I’m just saying is that some people should focus their efforts on something attainable.

Let’s face it: some people are great learners. Others are average. Others suck at that. I was great at History/Geography and sucked at Math. Great at English and sucked at Portuguese literature. That depends on:

Personality

Commitment

Intellect

that is how your brain works. Image result for brain clipart

 

So… what makes a bad student?

1. Has No realistic goals – expects to be speaking and understanding everything in 6 hours/days/weeks.

2. Passively receives information and believes that the teacher will concoct a magic potion that will make them learn – doesn’t know why they’re learning.

3. Waits for the teacher to present interesting things for him to watch, read and listen to (during class time, of course)

4. Never reviews or records any lesson material

5. Displays weak learning skills – won’t take notes but doesn’t hav learns r-e-a-l-l-y slowly, if ever.

6.  Feels Forced to learn

The positive point is that bad learners can be converted into good learners.

First, find out what makes them tick. What motivates them (unless they’re clinically depressed – then advise them to seek medical and psychological care).

Assess their needs and their learning strengths and weaknesses – do they have a good memory? Are they slightly dyslexic? Do they need speech therapy? How’s their hearing?

Empathize

Provide opportunities for success.

Cheers,

Mo

Surviving a meeting in a foreign language

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Last week I brought a student to tears. Well, actually, I just happened to be in the same room, and you know what women are like. Wait, wait, y’all supporters of the #MeToo movement (moi aussi/ me too) … women are more emotionally intelligent than men and they know that tears clear the soul. But my point is: My student was so nervous about attending a meeting in English the following week that her vulnerability spilled over in her tears.

One thing she must remember is that a charming and intelligent woman can go monosyllabic during a meeting in English.

Native speakers must remember they may not be seeing all of a person because they are afraid they look ridiculous when speaking English. “I’ve seen people lose a job because of this issue. It’s a real problem.”

So I told my intermediate student to make the effort to speak English clearly. That’s it.

PREPARATION

Secondly, she had to prepare. Practice in front of a mirror, look up words and their pronunciation that might come up during the meeting.

Thirdly, I told her to have a glass of wine 🍷, yes I did. Why? Because if that would help her loosen up and relax that would be a plus. Yoga and other relaxation techniques also help.

In other words, her main concern was not the content of the meeting, not even the language barrier, but the fact that SHE would have to speak in English.

People hate meetings that waste time. Use these tips to be a time saver, not a time stealer.
  1. Research the attendees. … 
  2. Determine clear objectives. … 
  3. Plan a suggested agenda. … 
  4. Consider any obstacles. … 
  5. Remove any roadblocks. … 
  6. Decide on desirable outcomes. … 
  7. Think about follow-up activities.
I’ll let you know later how the meeting did go.
Cheers,
Mo

Motivating ESL Students

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Picture this:

It’s Monday morning.

First class at 7:30am.

Student A had an intense weekend, traveled, returned home late Sunday night and Monday morning he has to be ready for his class first thing in the morning. The teacher walks in and starts talking in English … the student who’s been speaking Portuguese all week hears the sounds but can’t make heads or tails of what’s being said past “how are you?”

Next, while correcting homework the teacher sees the student still having trouble expressing basic sentences – and can’t remember basic vocabulary he’s already seen before.

He can’t remember how to say in English:

Classe média (middle class)

Saudade (to be missing someone)

Poucas casas (a few houses)

Move on to the following student B – she is shown a 10 minute Ted Talk video on global population growth – and then says she’d fallen asleep half way through the clip.

Then student C waltz in. He has just had lunch and didn’t sleep very well last night… guess what happened?

So lessons to be learned:

1. Review, review, review! Grammar points and vocabulary.

2. Break video sessions into smaller chunks. Ask comprehension questions to help student remain focused.

3. Bring very strong black coffee in a thermos.

Cheers,

Mo

How much correction should language students receive?

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Correcting another human being is something that can’t be programmed into a computer or robot. It requires the sensitivity and sensibility of a teacher who, through experience, trial and error, will know when to correct his or her students.
When the student tries to speak in a language they’re learning, the teacher must make them aware that they will be making mistakes. Actually, they SHOULD be making mistakes.
You should be making mistakes – if you stay only in your comfort zone you’re not making progress. Don’t be afraid to speak.”
How much do you want people to correct you?
It depends on your level – depends on the kind of interaction you’re having. If the student needs their new language only for vacation purposes the demands will be QUITE different from the needs they have to make business presentations, attend meetings, negotiate on the phone. 5CFECD88-F493-41BE-BFE6-61D698CCB577
The teacher must point out mistakes that might impede their understanding. Some key mistakes should be pointed out immediately to make students aware of their importance.
Example:
Student: “ Yesterday night I seed a film in tv. It’s about a napkin.”
Ok, teachers, what would you do now?  Correct the verb tense, the preposition, right away? How about the mysterious show about napkins?
Again you have to consider the student at a pre-intermediate level. He knows the simple past tense and has already learned the past of the verb to see.
Teacher: “oh, so LAST night you…. (expecting student to self correct and remember and say “saw”). But was the film about paper napkins?”
Student: “No. when robbers take a person and ask money.”
Teacher: “Oh, it was about a KIDNAPPING. A person was TAKEN. Tell me more.” 
Other mistakes should be duly noted and at the end of the session presented as feedback and students encouraged to write them down. The next class it would be essential for the teacher the review those points again so that students are ready to move on. Two classes later repeat review. One month later present the mistakes and have students correct them.
When the student gains more confidence the teacher  will start correcting meanings and nuances – what better word / preposition to use / beyond just communication impediment.
The key is to reach a balance between accuracy and communication always being kind is way better than being right.
Cheers,
Mo
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Developing digital competence in ELT

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“As teachers, we are bombarded with the urge to use the latest, shiny technology,  we must keep our fingers on the pulse of technology.” Steve Taylor-Knowles

In other words, we must know how to use technology – not a choice anymore, but we need to know how to apply the necessary criteria to choose what to adopt or discard.

Teachers are a very complex sort of animal. On the one hand, we are open-minded and willing to learn. On the other hand, we’re afraid of change, including new technologies, feeling burdened by having to learn a new tool, which might result in more work, more time requirements,  more tasks and chores.

Our real challenge is to go digital.

laptop technology ipad tablet

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Digital course management

Teachers have to get familiar with different learning management systems (LSM).

We can build data on students. What’s been done? What scores? What new plans or strategies?

2. Course Content Delivery

Resources: digital content allows for more material than what would be possible in a physical context. Both teacher and students can and should use their mobile phones as great learning tools.

3. Digital Competence

Literacy – today (August 06, 2018), the Brazilian Newspaper O Estado de São Paulo published a poll informing that 3 out of 10 Brazilians are functionally illiterate. Now, how many teachers are  functionally  digitally illiterate today?

So… dear teachers, embrace technology and start learning.

box business celebrate celebration

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Cheers,

Mo

 

 

Can anyone learn a language online?

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Can anyone learn a foreign language online and free? Yes, you can!

“Wait a minute”, you might say … are you telling me I can learn any language online? For real? Yes, you can.

But …. of course, there had to be a BUT! The internet is full of free pages to learn a foreign language, but not all are reliable, either because they don’t offer a program structured to your level, or because the method presented doesn’t suit your learning personality. Moreover, online learning is not the ideal medium for everyone, let alone those who are not disciplined and organised.

As a teacher, of course I stand for classes with a teacher. That’s the best choice. But not always the feasible one.

How can you learn at home?

Firstly, find a way of motivating and organising yourself. Tell others what you’re doin; that should keep your accountable, at least initially. Secondly, set up a list of resources for your learning process.

1. Reading:

Google up easy reading texts in your target language. Read a paragraph of a news story. A fairy tale. A piece of the transcript of an interview of a politician, artist, footballer or any other you might fancy and find interesting. Check the pronunciation, the vocabulary.

2. Watching

YouTube has tons of videos in your target language, not necessarily about learning the language. But clips of news or documentaries are great starting points.

 

3. Listening 

Focus on listening to news and documentaries that have a clearer speech.  Podcasts are a great source of listening material that you can download and listen to anywhere, anytime.

 

4. Speaking

This requires some courage. Dare to speak. Skype provides a language exchange forum for you to connect with people around the world. 353E9122-4E78-498C-A9B5-720CF4C30F01

You see? As I told you before, free online language learning is posssible but no magical solution. You’ll have to apply yourself to it regularly, especially if your goal is to learn “fast”.

Cheers,

Mo

 

 

5 tips to learning/practicing a new language

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Many people complain that they’ve been stuck in the same language level for ages. What to do? Resign and move on?

How about losing weight without dieting and exercise? How about getting hydrated without having to drink any liquids? Or tv zapping using your brainwaves? No remote control necessary. Far fetched? The same goes to learning another language without taking time and effort into the calculation. So here are 5 fail-proof steps that will actually help you learn another language and move up to the next level.

WARNING – these steps may actually help you learn 🤪

  1. Expose yourself to the language – videos, listen to radio programs, leaf through magazines and newspapers in the target language, being in that country or not.
  2. Have language classes – get feedback – some learn by themselves but there is always room for improvement and a teacher or friend fluent in that language may be able to help you.
  3. Use Duolingo or Lingq apps  for practice
  4. Extensive reading – read a lot for fun and understanding. Yes books are still in. Don’t stop to look up every single word you don’t know. Choose a book that might have a vocabulary level a little higher than yours but not too difficult. Even the Bible. Choose a translation that is going to be easier for you.  Allow yourself to read every night/ morning for 15-20 minutes.
  5. a notebook – write down any key words meaningful to you.
Set yourself a goal: 5 words  a day,  for example – set a page per day – make flashcards – make the new vocabulary relevant and present to you – go over them  15 minutes every day – write the translation and the word in context – choose sentences or examples taken from what you heard, read or looked up on Linguee or any other source.
  There you go… ready for the next level.
Cheers,
Mo

Motivation – a mini-immersion concept

 

On April 27, 2018, I had the privilege to attend a mini-talk on Motivation presented by Vinicius Nobre (Vinnie).
Most of the attendees wanted to know about techniques to get their students or staff motivated. My agenda was way more selfish: “How can I get myself motivated?”Image result for motivation
Nobre started off giving us an overview of theories and highlighting the plurality of who we are is that what makes our life more interesting.
 Vinnie went on to say that there are no easy recipes on Motivation – subjectivity.
No ready-made solution.
Image result for motivation
The Motive – the reason why you do something
Rule 1 – you can bombard someone’s motivation and help someone’s motivation to blossom. But you CAN’T motivate others.  Motivation is not extrinsic. That concept is not supported by research.  It’s intrinsic. It’s the power that comes from within. The reward approach can backfire.
“I can be a tool for the person to discover motivation within him or her”.
  1. Locus of control  -how you relate to events in your life
INTERNAL X EXTERNAL
Internal locus of control – you’ve taken control of your life. How you perceive your role related to events. Develop your level of awareness / external locus of control – more likely to conform to social influences.
Take responsibility for your actions.
Image result for extrinsic intrinsic motivation
  1. Self-efficacy- Determining how you can perform – performance outcomes and vicarious experience
Students working with students of a higher or lower level can identify problem areas and learn . When you see someone doing something very well you can feel intimidated …  – high or low self efficacy – but if you believe you can do it… self-efficacy can be increased / raised,
When the teacher tells the student:
“Come on. That’s very easy.” 
Most often they’ll reply:
“Easy for you.” 
The student must believe he/she can do it.
People are looking for the source of the motivation when it is within you.
Demonstrate – there’s magic in showing how.
Develop a task for students to be feeling well – scaffolding – building student’s motivation – and subsequently you give the real task. Gradually building their feeling of competence.
Remind students that you believe that they can do it.
The body has a lot of power. Physically involved – writing something… – by physically connecting people they feel they can do more.
“As educators we HAVE to believe that people can do it.” 
When you see people performing well it can inspire us…
3. Learned helplessness – you need to help the students in their helplessness. Acknowledging the fact that students many times can’t see what you see.
Whip /stick and the carrot motivation
Image result for whip and carrot
People have different motivations.  How to discover the other person’s real motivation?  We base other people’s motivation based on our own. Wrong approach. They might be very different. You want students to love English… but their motivations would be really different…
Why will someone do something for free???? Intrinsic motivation. The most powerful reward is the one you assign to yourself.
The power of rewards
“SOMETIMES THE MOTIVATION IS IN THE ACTIVITY”
Great mistake – overcompensation – a sticker, a chocolate, a dictionary … we teachers have created the illusion that studying English is not fun, that students need extrinsic motivation.
We treat students as preschoolers.
Extrinsic motivators used in our classes: they work for a short period and a very simple task.
Funny games
Grades
Dictionary
Songs
Tests
Certificates
Threats
Engaging students in topics that they like.
The challenge is that you can’t create motivation, you have to help´students identify the different motivations that make them tick.Related image
Cheers,
Mo
#motivation
#ESL
#TEFL
#Teaching
#Tesol

Practice makes perfect, but …

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Since the late 1980s language drilling has been looked down upon as being bad. They’d say its mechanical, boring and irrelevant for the students. Students aren’t automatons to be repeating meaningless sentences or vocabulary.

And it’s true that too much of a thing (even if a good thing) can be its own death. But as the old saying goes “don’t throw the baby with the bathwater”. Language drills have their very good value: by repetition they can help students identify their questions and problem areas while leading them towards specific language goals and targets, therefore, drilling can help students focus.

In the not so distant past, language labs were the rage. All the “respectable” language schools had their laboratories with those sessions inserted in their lesson grid where students would be sent to a stuffy room (no air conditioning then) and they’d spend 40-50 minutes listening and repeating to an outdated audio recording, while a teacher dozed off (sorry, listened in and monitored the students).

idiomas

Language labs could resemble an industrial assembly line but production quality can vary widely

 With the ubiquitous presence of smartphones now students have a language school and lab in their hands but their needs are still the same, including the need to practice.

Spaced repetition – reviewing words over a sequence of days will work wonders on vocabulary retention, concentration, and patience.

Practice makes perfect,  but only if you practice in the right way.

“How you practice and what you do matters more than how long you practice”, Jeremy Harmer has said more than once. drilling

If you get your heart involved you will get better chances of learning.

Drilling should be genuinely communicative, psychologically authentic, focused, and follow a regular pattern.

Happy drills,

Cheers,

Mo