miércoles, 11 de octubre de 2017

Speakers at the Annual Latin American Language Teaching Congress


                                                                                                    By Zarela Cruz


We are pleased to introduce our guest speakers to you all: Lindsay Clandfield, Tracey Sinclair, Dennys Montaño and Maria de la Lama.
We are looking forward to this annual event, which in turn, is carefully planned to provide a space for exchanging new approaches, sharing insights and achieving our main goal: reflect on our own teaching practice to be the very best teacher we are capable of.

For more information, visis us on http://congresoidomas.pe/

Biodata
Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her master’s studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish. She has also completed a number of online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor. This article aims to reflect on the new tendencies of the Teaching of Grammar.

jueves, 5 de octubre de 2017

Welcome to the 11th Annual Latin American Language Teaching Congress!



By Mayra Yaranga


How much time do language teachers devote to reflect on their teaching? congresses, workshops, seminars and colloquiums are certainly the perfect setting for language teachers to discuss relevant pedagogical issues.

For the last 10 years, Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre has provided language educators with an opportunity to debate selected topics in foreign tongue teaching methodology. We are truly satisfied to see how this unique yearly academic event leads teachers towards reflection and, most importantly, action.

This year’s main topics go around the central theme “From Teaching to Leadership,” which means that for two days language teachers will be able to share their everyday experience and listen to colleagues from various regions in Peru and foreign guests. This enables us to learn about entirely different educational contexts: schools, language institutes and universities. In addition, this Congress is open to presenters dealing with languages other than English, such as Portuguese and Spanish; this year will be no exception.

Finally, the Research Area is pleased to invite you to a very significant presentation. This is the second year we will be organizing a Round Table on Language Teaching within the Peruvian Context. We believe that this is a valuable opportunity to see the impact of the broader domestic context --educational policy, market needs, employability, among others-- on our professional development. The audience is later invited to participate actively and generate debate.

We look forward to seeing you at this important academic event.

For more information, visit us on http://congresoidiomas.pe/
Biodata

Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ;Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London)  revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education - UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada - IPNM. Currently she works as IELTS trainer, Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacifico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ.

miércoles, 27 de septiembre de 2017

The Myths About Teaching Listening

By Flor de María Vila A.
One of the most difficult skills to improve is listening. This is true for both the teacher and the students. For the former, it is necessary to find a way to guide students to achieve their objective and, for the latter, they need to find a plan that suits their needs.  Definitely, everybody has tried to facilitate the task in class; however, so many times it has met with failure.
 “Why is it so difficult to teach listening comprehension? How can we teach it if that´s kind of a “personal” action? Why my students find it so hard to develop this skill?” These are some of the questions I have frequently heard from some of my colleagues. Here are some ideas that could help you to go through this journey.
First of all, we need to stop believing some myths that have been living with us for a long time, probably many years.

MYTH # 1
Listening is a task performed on your own. This is usually thought considering just the act of hearing. It is true; nobody can do that task for you. However, listening is not only hearing; this notion does not reveal the magic of the work involved. Did I say “work?” Yes! You understood well. Work implies a process and that´s the main subject matter here.
Many times we overlook several important facts. We hold the idea that we should provide a lot of material to practise. That´s good! Still, we usually provide a lot of links, exercises and so on to hear. But students are already able to hear without our help!


When listening, two types of processing take place: Top Down and Bottom Up.

Top-down processing happens when we use background information to predict the meaning of the language we are going to listen to or read. That means, that all our experience with the world, all our knowledge and, in this case, our prior knowledge of English and our own language are also used to hypothesize and infer. Metaphorically speaking, we use our “Spanish brain and its background data” to interpret what we listen to in English. Most of us take this processing into account when we have our students predict, do brainstorming, or give us the gist and specific information. Nevertheless, we fail to notice that when listening naturally our students will use any resources available, that is what they know in Spanish. They use their Spanish schemata to understand, to listen in English. This reality  takes us to instances in which students misinterpret one word for another.
For example: Real sentence: “We’re not gonna take it” from one of Twisted Sisters´s songs. People learnt the song as “Huevos con aceite.” Take a look at this video. https://youtu.be/35PocLHx534
If you need more examples, just take a look at this: https://youtu.be/_6DD1CU8ltE
Even though this may be hilarious, this is not so much when we, as teachers, do not consider this a fact.
We need to understand what problems arise when students do a listening comprehension exercise. Transferring their Spanish schemata without considering the differences between the two languages is one. We should help students become aware of the similarities as well as of the differences.

Bottom-up Processing: It happens when someone tries to understand language by looking at individual meanings or grammatical characteristics of the most basic unit of the text (e.g. sounds) and moves from this to trying to understand the whole text. We use our linguistic knowledge and ability to process acoustic signals, which we first decode into phonemes, then words, phrases, and finally sentences.
Unfortunately, bottom-up processing is hardly taken into consideration when “teaching” or working on the development of listening skills. We scarcely work with listening sub-skills. How frequently do we propose exercises that enable students to recognize and understand connected speech, word boundaries, weak forms, contractions and so on? For instance, have you ever taught how “of” is pronounced? Have you done that in different contexts? Check this and you will see if your answer is right:
We are so preoccupied about providing the “new vocabulary” that we forget these sub-skills. Again, we need to evaluate what happens (process) when a person tries to understand what they hear, that is, when they try to “listen.” Do you think they just “hear”?

MYTH #2
Listening is a receptive skill, but that does not mean it is passive. When we consider listening a process, we are aware that it involves work and that implies a productive activity. Many times we see ourselves presenting the exercise, giving the instructions and playing the audio until it is over. If we always do that, it will disgracefully be called a passive exercise.

Do brainstorming, for example, before the listening exercise, but do not stop there. It is necessary to help students find the connection of that information with the one they are about to listen to by creating a gap. To do so, make them produce hypotheses of what might happen for instance. Create the need for listening. While listening, students should be asked to show that they are in fact listening. Have them respond to the listening exercise by doing, drawing, choosing from a list, matching, following a route etc. Stop the audio and ask questions about it; you do not have to wait until the audio is over to have them “produce.” A listening exercise must not look like a test in which we want to know who has the right answer, right?
We need to monitor what is happening.
Is there another myth about teaching listening?

Share your expertise with us!


BIOGRAPHICAL DATA
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Teacher trainer, Pedagogic Consultant and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico. She is Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory) and relationship manager for American universities´ MBA admissions officers with International Contacts. She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS).

viernes, 22 de septiembre de 2017

Are we in Fact Teaching How to Write?

                                                              By Enrique Rojas R.




Teaching students to write graciously in a foreign language has always been very challenging since it is common that they strive to do it decorously even in their native language. Now, if we dared wonder how many of the foreign language teachers can manage to communicate at least with a certain grace in writing, wouldn’t we be shocked by the realization? Then, how can learners be taught to write acceptably in English?

If we, English teachers, examine ourselves candidly, could we say that we have been really teaching students how to write?

The order in which you take in the language abilities in your first language or in an additional one is quite different since your general knowledge and preparedness for receiving and transmitting information and other contents is quite dissimilar. When you learn your native language the first ability that you acquire and put to use is listening. But when you are already capable of reading in Spanish you are going first to adapt that knowledge in order to pick up English. But in all cases, the last capability to develop will be that of writing

.   And that is very logical since to be able to write with minimal correction you need to have moved on in the attainment of all the other capacities. You need to structure your utterances in a logical manner and, therefore, require an acceptable knowledge of grammar; you are in need of a sufficient vocabulary; you certainly know by then how to read and would be expected to speak.

As part of the grammatical knowledge that should be your baggage as a writing learner basic structural concepts like phrase, clause, sentence, subject, predicates must be present, you should be familiar with objects and complements and usage of verbs, you must have a good grasp of spelling and cope with the rules of punctuation, among other things.

Only then you are ready to be instructed on the specifics of writing like the topic sentence, the thesis statement, controlling idea, supporting sentences, paragraphing, coherence and cohesion, clarity, conciseness and the like. These are extremely important characteristics of good writing but we don’t teach them unless it is in a highly specialized writing course.

But we all usually evaluate those characteristics in our students because we do test writing. We look for clearness, fluency, good grammar and spelling, unity, coherence, focus, sentence variety and possibly other things we have never taught them.

The publishing houses in their textbook series adopt a practice of showing models of pieces of writing like an application, a letter, an email, etc., but neither instruct on the fundaments nor in the process of writing. And this is what the overwhelming majority of teachers undertake in their lessons. As a consequence, students learn about the characteristics of various types of documents but nobody really teaches them how to write. And we cannot ignore the reason for this deficiency. It is like walking on a treadmill.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
           Were you aware of the difficulties we encounter when Teaching Writing?
         If you are already familiar with them, let us know what your viewpoint is!

BIOGRAPHICAL DATA
Graduated in Journalism at the PUCP, Peru, Enrique Rojas R. holds a MA in Journalism and MA in Inter American History from Southern Illinois University, US. .He has also obtained Certificates of Proficiency in English both from Cambridge University and the University of Michigan and the Diploma for EFL Teachers from Universidad del Pacifico. He is an Oral Examiner for the Cambridge University exams. He has been in the staff of CIDUP for 18 years teaching English and Spanish specializing in International Exams, English for Business, ESP and Teacher Training. He is also a member of its Research Area.


miércoles, 13 de septiembre de 2017

GRAMMARING OR NOT GRAMMARING?



                                                            By Zarela Cruz

 

The questions above are reservations we all teachers lay to ourselves when preparing our classes. Providentially, there are new tendencies regarding this topic we should consider. Ready to revise some of them?

Let’s start with the definition of Grammaring which is a new word coined by Larsen-Freeman1” The ability to use grammar structures accurately, meaningfully, and appropriately”. According to her, we should stop teaching grammar just as a set of rules, and teach it in such a way that students learn how to use it.

This idea, is not totally new as you can see in the chart. Grammar can be taught either as a product, as a process and as a skill. Moreover, we have shifted from teaching exclusively a set of rules to teach absolutely no grammar at all. Why? The former method was the Grammar Translation Approach and the latter the Communicative approach, which has communication as its main aim.

Let’s take a look at the ways grammar has been taught so far:
-    -   As structured input activities (the focus should be in meaning)
-     -  As input enhacement activities  (using visual aids and  phonological    modifications)
-     -  Interactional feedback (reformulation, paraphasing a faulty statement, self-  correction)

The Communicative Approach is not new at all. After more than 50 years from its creation, it is clear now  the absence of grammar instruction has not helped to achieve language acquisition. Students do communicate and are fluent, but form is neglected in most cases.

So, what can we do now? What is the new approach? The new approach considers grammar as the fifth skill and adds a new dimension to language teaching: form, meaning (semantics)  and use (pragmatics.)

Let’s see an example to clarify what this means:
CAN=  a modal verb
FUNCTIONS: permission, ability, requests  and possibility
How can we teach all these functions: by contextualizing them.

WORD ORDER:  INTERROGATIVE: CAN+ SUBJECT+ MAIN VERB+
                                                                           OBJECT(S)
                          AFFIRMATIVE     : SUBJECT + CAN+ MAIN VERB+
                                                                             OBJECT(S)
Examples:
Situation 1: You need to answer an urgent call
Can I leave for a minute, please?

Situation 2: You are talking about skills you have
I can use Excel really well.

Situation 3: It is summer. It is very hot.
Can you open the window please?

Situation 4: You and your friend had a good time at a party.
Do you think you can drive? You have been drinking
at the party.

You see? The same structure with different meanings according to the situation. It is a must to facilitate learners to detect the pattern (using either a deductive or inductive approach) from authentic situations instead of teaching them in isolation. It is also a must to allow students to produce their own statements and to promote peer correction. This way, you will promote autonomy as well. Ready to give a try?

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are you ready to try out this Grammaring Approach? 
If you are already familiar with it, let us know what your most effective strategies are!

References
(1) Diane Larsen-Freeman, Teaching Language: From Grammar to Grammaring. Heinle.2003




Biodata
Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her master’s studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish. She has also completed a number of online certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a lecturer and online instructor. This article aims to reflect on the new tendencies of the Teaching of Grammar.






miércoles, 6 de septiembre de 2017

What Makes Reading Tough For Students?

By Mayra Yaranga


Reading skills are difficult to develop and students’ problems vary. Here is a list of factors that create some problems for many students and a few aspects to consider in order to tackle them:

Paraphrase
Many students are accustomed to providing in their response the information required using the same words as in the questions. This is a problem that they carry from L1 reading, which often causes a great deal of confusion, especially as the difficulty of texts and questions increases. Therefore, it is necessary to train learners, from the beginning, to recognise information given through different words or structures so that they focus on the meaning of the text, rather than only the words appearing in a text. Comparison of question text and reading passage is a good way to encourage this understanding of meaning.

Wanting to Know Every Word
Some students look up every word they do not understand from a text, presumably because this is going to help them understand the entire text. This bad habit is time-consuming and shifts the focus to words that might be irrelevant to the overall meaning of the reading passage, or even a specific section. Teachers have a key role to play in order to avoid this. Pre-teaching some important vocabulary may help students focus on relevant words only, as could also benefit building up skills for deducing meaning from context.

Lack of Strategies
Different types of questions will need application of different strategies. Many students are not aware of how to deal with reading texts, so intervention may be necessary. Introducing the concepts of strategies such as skimming or scanning is important to improve reading speed, and underlining/highlighting relevant sections of the passage can also help check that students have identified the words or phrases providing the correct answer.

Little Time to Answer
Learners facing reading comprehension examinations often find it difficult to answer questions confidently when time is very limited. Here, knowledge of the above-mentioned strategies and overall test technique training may help enormously reduce the time spent looking for answers. Encouraging extensive reading and working with small tasks with very strict timing may help students become familiar with such time constraints.

Teachers’ Planning
A factor that must not be overlooked is that of lesson planning. Sometimes, effective comprehension is hindered by factors such as irrelevant activities to engage students, poor timing or inadequate task choice. In consequence, teachers need to provide activities that will ease the reading process by quickly activating prior knowledge, language or create expectations about the text. In addition, suitable strategy work and careful timing will probably create much better conditions for learning how to deal with texts.

Now, it’s YOUR turn
What other challenges do you face when teaching reading?

Biodata
Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ;Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London)  revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education - UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada - IPNM. Currently she works as IELTS trainer, Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacifico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ.

viernes, 1 de septiembre de 2017

PHRASAL VERBS: WHY ARE THEY SO DIFFICULT?


                                                         By  María de la Lama



Without any doubt, the use of phrasal verbs when speaking can turn out to be a challenge for our Spanish-speaking students. These idiomatic collocations, which native talkers use so naturally in their discourse, are difficult for foreign learners to acquire and, therefore, to deal with. It’s worth then summarizing the reasons why our students find them so difficult and how our methodology could help them.

Usually we give our students lots of practice in understanding the form of phrasal verbs since their arrangement can be confusing if we consider that there are two-word phrasal verbs or three-word phrasal verbs. Compare: look up vs.  look up to. Also, if we match break into vs. break in, we’ll come up with another classification: transitive and intransitive verbs. Finally, there is another important aspect that has to do with the form affecting meaning. If we compare pick up (the noun) vs pick up (the verb) we’ll notice that the stress on the preposition will make the difference on whether we are using the noun or the verb.

Another source of difficulty lies in deducing the meaning of phrasal verbs as in the case of “keep up with” where the three words together are acting as a unit of meaning.

Finally, their use proves to be very challenging. We know that our students are reluctant to incorporating them in their oral production in spite of the fact that their use is a very natural trait of native speakers. Spanish-speaking students, in particular, would tend to select a single-word verb instead of a phrasal verb.
If the meaning and use of phrasal verbs are as difficult as their form, then our practice in class should go beyond intensive form practice such as determining whether phrasal verbs are transitive or intransitive. If we bear in mind that the meaning and use of phrasal verbs are as important as their form, then we would be leading a more communicative practice aiming to facilitate their acquisition.


What do YOU think?
Do you also find it  difficult to learn (and use) them?
How do you deal with incorporating them in your everyday speech?


BIODATA:

DE LA LAMA, MARIA, Bachelor in Education, has a master's degree in Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor's in Linguistics, both obtained at the University of California, Davis. She also holds an MBA from Universidad del Pacífico. She currently serves as the Director of the Language Center at Universidad del Pacífico.

martes, 22 de agosto de 2017

Cognates: Two-edged Swords

By Flor de María Vila


One of the main concerns and deep-rooted wishes we, as teachers, hang onto is for students to start talking as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the barrier most students encounter is their insecurity to communicate in the new language and their fear of losing face before their classmates. Students do not want to sound awkward or silly, so they wait until they feel safe to start speaking in English, a state of affairs which may take sometimes many months. Regrettably, few students try to do it from the very beginning, even though we always encourage them to do so. Many learners get overwhelmed by the scary process of acquiring so many words. But most students feel that they have found a lifesaver when they discover that Spanish and English possess many words which have similar meanings, spellings, and sometimes pronunciation. We call them cognates.
  
I love my job for many reasons; one of my favorites is that we are always learning from everything and everybody. I treasure the moments when I have the opportunity to see how my students manage to express themselves and one way they do it is by using cognates as a bridge to the new language. They take advantage of the fact that English and Spanish share a great deal of the same Latin roots and exploit that feature as an instrument to understand English, as well as to send their message across.  Unluckily,    students might run into some words that are false cognates, not surprisingly also referred to as “false friends”. These are words that look very much alike, or even exactly, but do not have the same meaning in English and Spanish. The students who are not aware of this fact mistakenly generalize the use of cognates causing comprehension problems for the people who listen to them.

We will find a student saying “my wife is embarrassed and didn´t feel well yesterday, that’s why I couldn’t come to class”. What he actually meant was that his wife is pregnant, and not ashamed or in debt. Thus, we, teachers, need to help them deal with this peculiarity of the language and maintain students motivated to use the language even if they confuse some words.





First of all, we need to find out how our students learn new vocabulary. It is necessary that we determine the strategies our students are using or if they are using any. You can have them share their strategies in small groups of three. Why do we need to do this? To begin with, we have to make sure that they are aware that it is essential to have a strategy to learn, especially new vocabulary. Learning does not happen miraculously. Another important reason is to avoid furnishing them the same strategies they already know. In fact, we might probably learn some tricks from them. One more aim, we need to get the students actively involved in the learning process and to abstain from making them feel as mere spectators. 
Secondly, we have to take into account that it is essential that learning takes place in every class. Taking in vocabulary must be an ant’s work. Let´s remember that learning a language means acquiring a skill and that does not happen in one day. Learning a language is an aptitude just like being trained to drive a car. Could you do that in one day? Can you pick it up just by reading about it? I am pretty sure your answers will be “no”. Thus, we need to nurture their minds every class with a couple of cognates and the following class go over them and present the new ones. You could always have a quiz disguised as a game to test some of them. Bingo, memory game, puzzles and other ones are appropriate. Learning is a process, and so is acquiring a language. And, as in all progressions, there are ups and downs. We need to review material previously presented when students are likely about to forget what they absorbed before. That is the only way of making sure that they will remember such important information as false cognates. Here is a list of some of them.

English
Spanish
globe
“globo” (balloon) mundo
pie
“pie” (foot) pastel
rope
“ropa” (clothes) soga
soap
“sopa” (soup) jabón
large
“largo” (long) grande
exit
“éxito” (success) salida
hay
“hay” (there is) paja
Now, it is your turn,
Do you know others? Can you share some strategies to teach them? Share with us your expertise.

REFERENCE


Biographical Data
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Pedagogic Advisor and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico and Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory). She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS