Friday, July 5, 2013

TESOL Class Week 1

I am starting a new adventure this week.  I have a high population of ELL students at my school (about 30%).  I happened to mention to someone at my church that I love working with them. They are often the high point of my day. She quickly said that a local university was just starting a grant funded program for current teachers, especially urban teachers to add TESOL certification. She suggested that I apply. I did. To make a long story short, I started my first class yesterday.

I will take one class a semester, observation next summer, and student teach (and complete the program) the following summer. 

My first class is Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism.  It is a very intense 5 week class. It
meets twice a week for 3 hours and 20 minutes. 

So far, in the first week, we are learning about our own language backgrounds and those of our classmates, some of the terms in the field of second language acquisition, and some of the cultural and environmental factors that go into learning a second language. 

I was struck by the following:
- I am out of practice reading dense journal articles and writing reflections
- technology has changed since I was in school (blackboard, not printing articles but reading and highlighting them on the iPad) 


In terms of content, the common thread this week was the varied factors that play into people learning and using multiple languages. In many cases these made sense, in a common sense way, but were laid out in much more detail. For example, people are successful at learning languages because of factors in their environment, such as their intrinsic motivation and analysis/attention to detail, the level and types of language that they are exposed to, the interactions that they have with other speakers, the amount of language that they are producing, and the amount and type of explicit and implicit correction that happen as they are learning the language.

The other readings discussed social factors that play into language learning and language use, such as gender, social power structures and expectations, etc. By putting these together, it becomes clear that each individual student, and each cultural group, may have different abilities and affinities for learning a language, and different cultural backgrounds that play into their motivation to learn a language, even when placed in the same setting. 


As I read this, I thought of a few connections to my students. First of all, I think that code switching (or switching between languages, and dialects, based on situation)  happens often, even with our native English speakers. For many African American students, the language that they speak at home, with parents, and with friends, is very different than the academic language that we ask of them in the classroom. I have been part of situations where I hear native English speakers speaking in one way to peers or parents before class, and very quickly changing their "code" for class. Additionally, this is also true of many of the parents of students. Those that cannot switch codes to a more appropriate code for school and business places often find themselves at a disadvantage, or not to be taken as seriously. They do not represent themselves the way that they want. On the other hand, people can be accused to "acting white." Teachers also practice code switching when developing a "teacher voice." Finally, I think electronics have led to a new type of code switching between texting and other written communication. I am curious if these fall under the same umbrella.

As I read, I was also struck (again) by how multilingual most other countries and cultures are compared to the U.S. most of the dilemmas being discussed are foreign to us, where so many people only speak one language. I found some of the article on code switching, particularly the discussion of studies of type a of code switching confusing.


The most interesting reading was about these people who marry people of different tribes who speak different languages.  The children learn to speak the mother's language first, but are corrected and re-directed to speak the father's language.  The official language is the father's language, and it is shameful to speak the mother's language.  However, most people speak several languages.  The language they use depends upon the circumstances.  There are some great pictures of these people on this blog
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