My main goal is to give my students tools that they can use to continue learning after my class has finished.
Too often English classes are focused on following structures or filling up the exact hours listed on the schedule with activities and worksheets and rule-following. But those kinds of classes ignore an important truth: learning and classrooms are different things. A successful teacher shows students how to keep learning after the class is over. One tool I’ve tried to give my students is the ability to listen to themselves speaking.
Improving writing is usually simpler than improving speaking for a simple reason: you can look at what you’ve written and think about it but you can’t look at what you’ve said. However, if you record yourself while you’re speaking, you can listen to it later and write what you said. This is called transcription and it is a very powerful tool for improving speaking. Most people hate listening to their own voices, but forcing yourself to do it will give you a more accurate understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a second language speaker. I recommend you record yourself using your phone while you are talking with your classmates in English class. Then transcribe those recordings as soon as you can so you can easily remember what you were thinking about when you were talking. Reflecting on your speech will use different parts of your brain, helping you learn faster and remember longer.
Another tool that I have tried to give my students is the power of student concordancing. Student concordancing makes the student a language researcher, and the teacher becomes a research partner. Student researchers use free websites like wordandphrase.info to find thousands of examples of real language use. In a country like South Korea, using the internet to help study language should be obvious, but there are too many choices and most of them are expensive. Wordandphrase.info costs nothing and is very easy to use. These language examples produced by this website show how English has patterns that can be recognized and digested, not just rules to memorize and repeat. And every student knows that memorizing rules will drive you crazy because almost every rule in English has several exceptions that must also be memorized. Patterns and chunks of language are much easier and more practical for language learners.
One of the best ways to learn these patterns is to compare student language with native speaker language. Wordandphrase.info has an incredibly powerful way to do this. You can simply paste text directly into the website and with one click that text will be compared to millions of texts gathered from native speakers’ radio broadcasts, newspaper articles, academic papers, etc. If you paste a transcription of your own speech, you can see how your spoken language truly compares to native speakers’. Within the webpage you can then just click on words to see hundreds of examples of those words used by native speakers. You can also create phrases by clicking on several words. This can help you see which words you might be using awkwardly. As most students know, you can create phrases that are grammatically perfect and still not be understood by a native speaker because the words you use do not match each other, or collocate.
Eventually you will graduate from Gachon and you will not have your language instructors to help you anymore. If we do our jobs well, however, you will know how to learn by yourselves. You will have tools that you can use to continue to explore language without us. You will need that more than new vocabulary words to memorize or more quizzes or someone watching clocks. So go record yourselves, check out that website, and start exploring.
< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
|Professor Brian Carlstrom