Author Archive

Brown identifies four themes in his article published in TESOL Quarterly in 1991 examining the current trends or state of art and providing an insightful map of the developments in teaching English to speakers of other languages. These could be outlined as;

a)      Learners

In this first theme, Brown tries to analyze some learner-related issues and answer questions such as “Why are our students learning English? What are their ultimate goals? What can knowledge of the English language do for them?” Therefore, learner motivation and empowerment get their share in Brown’s analysis. In the case of motivation, Brown prefers intrinsic vs. extrinsic dichotomy for pedagogical reasons instead of adopting Gardner’s integrative vs. instrumental dichotomy, and pays attention to the superiority of intrinsic motivation in the success of a language learner.

Empowerment, which refers to increasing the economic, political, social, educational, gender, or spiritual strength of individuals and communities according to Wikipedia, is the another case Brown looks at in this theme. Brown suggests that language teachers should work against the powerlessness of students and get them involved in the process of learning so that they could gain control over their lives.

b)     Sociopolitical and geographical issues

In this part, Brown illustrates the importance of English as an international language or which might be now called as Lingua Franca. As English becomes more dominant in every aspect of our lives especially in nonnative-English-speaking countries, the recognition of varieties of English gets much more important. Thus, including these varieties in the curriculum might cater to the immediate needs of learners. Brown also takes the expanding international range of language policy issues into account.

c)      Subject matter

Brown states that content-centered education presents both opportunities and challenges. In terms of opportunities, an increase in intrinsic motivation and empowerment could be observed in students. As for the challenges, they range from appropriate course books to other curricular activities. In addition, Brown suggests that task-based curricula could be helpful to organize content. Furthermore, he believes peace and environmental education might focus students on some human survival issues and empower them with consciousness. Hence, teachers should also play a different role as “transformative intellectuals”, helping learners to become aware about many earthly issues.

d)     Method

In this last but not least theme, Brown describes the change in the pedagogy, reminding the past, and highlights cooperative, learner-centered teaching. He sees learner strategy as an important factor in the ultimate attainment of language learning and urges teachers to help learners “to learn how to learn” so that they could easily adopt their own strategies.

Though Brown talked about these issues twenty three years ago, sounding like a really long time, these issues still hold their positions in TESOL at present time.

As English becomes the Lingua Franca around the world (Seidlhofer, 2005), English teaching profession becomes more than a necessity together with creating a huge market for both teachers and publishers. In the case of publishers, they claim to have books that are all based on authentic materials for students to help them get grasp of English easily. However, what is authenticity? Authenticity, a catchy word among English Language Teaching practitioners though it has some problems, is described as “the use of conversations or written texts which have been produced for purposes other than to teach language” (Nunan, 1988). Throughout the history of ELT, authenticity is taken as being synonymous with genuineness, realness, truthfulness, validity, reliability,  undisputed  credibility,  and legitimacy  of materials  or practices (Tatsuki,  2006). And when it is put that way, it seems impossible to claim anything against it.

However, Kramsch and Sullivan (1996) attract attention to the discussion of the appropriate pedagogy by stating that the interpretation of authenticity in this way could be fine for ELT in the UK or USA, but the moment English texts are used in real-life contexts other than those of their original producers, authenticity of language use becomes problematic, that is what is authentic in London might not be authentic in Hanoi.They suggest that instead of authentic language, an ‘appropriate’ pedagogy that takes into account both the global and local needs of learners of English might be better.

As the they put it, appropriate pedagogy must be a pedagogy of appropriation and it should prepare learners for both local and global contexts. The English language will enable students of English to do business with native and non-native speakers of English in the global world market and for that they need to master the grammar and vocabulary of standard English. But they also need to retain control of its use. Appropriate pedagogy considers the way to prepare learners to be both global and local speakers of English and to feel at home in both international and national cultures

For them, such a view of an appropriate pedagogy is in keeping with the political motto “think globally, act locally”, which translated into a language pedagogy might be “global thinking, local teaching”, which may be by far the best interpretation of culture-sensitive pedagogy. They use the metaphor of a market place. They state that “Marketplaces fulfill several functions. They can be places where economic wars are waged, stocks and bonds are exchanged, companies boom or bust, or entrepreneurs invest and make a profit. They can also be places that bring people together to talk and exchange life experiences. … the potential of market places may lie not only in industry but also in the discovery of potentialities in the self that have been brought to light through encounters with the other. There is a complete emphasis on the local market, local needs and therefore local methodology.

 

References

Kramsch, C., & Sullivan, P. (1996). “Appropriate pedagogy”. ELT Journal 50 (3), 199-212.

Nunan, D. (1988). The learner-centered curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Seidlhofer, B. (2005). “English as a lingua franca”. ELT Journal 59 (4), 339-341.

Tatsuki, D. (2006). “What is  authenticity?” The Language Teacher, 16(5), 17–21.

 

In English, there is a cliche saying “It is easier said than done”.  This is what Peter Medgyes is talking about in his article “Queries from a communicative teacher”, criticizing the proponents of Communicate Approach from different perspectives they tend to ignore.

The theory behind the Communicative Approach sounds great when a newbie teacher first meets with it; it talks about how a communicative teacher should be, about the importance of taking into account the needs of the group but also the learner himself at the same time in addition to how teachers should pay attention to meaning and form simultaneously, how their role should be in relation to their students and the use of text book. CA places a heavy burden on teachers and expects them to meet all the requirements of the approach while also dealing with the everyday problems of their job routine such as preparing lessons plans, finding suitable materials for the appropriate level and so forth.

But there is a big difference between the theory and the practice because the reality in a classroom is completely different from what the proponents of the approach may have dreamed of, though it may be true for the some selected few with fewer lessons, brighter students, and smaller groups. Medgyes even makes a comparison of this situation when he is describing a communicative teacher as “Wizard of Oz like superperson yet of flesh and blood”. As the author mentions, being a Communicative teacher requires to have “super-powers”; they must cope with a plethora of things, and also with their own deficiency as a non-native language teacher. This leads me to think that the proponents of CA may have read so many comic books in their free time from either DC Comics or Marvel, thus having some confusions in their theory and mixing the teachers with the invincible characters with superpowers in Ultimate Avengers or X-Men .

I definitely agree with the author in all the aspects he mentions. It is easy to theorize about something while sipping your coffee in the comfort of your house and office room if you are not in a real classroom and not coping with the difficult situations real teachers struggle everyday. Of course every newly graduated teacher would aspire to be Communicative teacher, but, in real life, only the selected few could actually teach by following a Communicative Methodology.

The Schizophrenic Teacher by Peter Medyges

Posted: April 1, 2014 by ozgurefl in Uncategorized

The first thing that caught my attention in this article was the author’s choice of title: The Schizophrenic Teacher. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, a schizophrenic issomeone suffering from a major mental disorder of unknown cause typically characterized by a separation between the thought processes and the emotions, a distortion of reality accompanied by delusions and hallucinations. And in the same dictionary, a teacher is defined as “a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects”. How come did these two words come together and what was the author trying to communicate? These were the two questions that intrigued my mind while reading the article.

In the article, the author shares some of his own experiences as a Non-native speaking English teacher (NNSET) and states that most NNSETs feel unsafe about using the language they have to teach and therefore they might tend to have either a deeply pessimistic or an aggressive attitude to ELT. The author states that by being both teacher and learner simultaneously, NNSETs are driven into “schizophrenia”. He also points out that sooner or later NNSETs might tend to regret having chosen this career because there are not many options apart from having a nervous breakdown. One of the options is total resignation, and another is restricting the language to those rules which he or she has learned or mislearned. He argues that NNSETs should admit that they are students of English too. This would be the best way to take a more confident stance in the classroom.

He also claims that NNSETs are more commonly grammar centered teachers believing the language to be equal to knowing its grammar. However, sometimes they might ignore a rule or might have learned it incorrectly when they were students and then they might make errors which could be afterwards transmitted to their students.

In the article, NNSETs are said to be indifferent to pronunciation or vocabulary. He points out that NNSETs avoid using alternative teaching sources to teach pronunciation such as radio, video, cassette recorder, etc. The reason might be that they try to hide their inadequacies, such as their foreign accent, from their students. Pronunciation is not their only Achilles’ heel: their lexicon is another burden. According to the estimate by the Global Language Monitor on January 1, 2014, the number of words in the English Language is 1,025,109.8 and there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day. This is of course something neither NSETs nor NNSETs could fully master; nevertheless, this is one of the areas where NNSETs feel uncomfortable when it comes to teaching vocabulary as NSETs have an intrinsic tool called “Language Feeling” that can often help them to know if a word used by a student is right or not.

Overall, though Medyges is a NNSET himself, he accepts the psychological defeat of being an NNSET.

Reviewed Article:

Medgyes, P. (1983). The schizophrenic teacher. ELT Journal, 37(1), 2-6