miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2018

Humans Wanted: Soft Skills in the English Classroom


By Mayra Yaranga Hernández


Tolerance, social perception, empathy, emotional intelligence, cultural awareness, critical thinking and others are part of a set of crucial skills we all need to survive in a world filled with materialism and vanity. We all know these skills are essential to adapt to a rapidly changing world but, are we born with them? Can we learn to develop them? Can they be taught? And if so, can they be measured somehow?

         The World Economic Forum, through its Future of Jobs Report 2018, suggests that by 2022 the top skills people must have will be: analytical thinking and innovation; active learning and active strategies; creativity, originality and initiative; technology design and programming; critical thinking and analysis. As we can see, most of them are soft skills. If the aim of education were to develop them, would it be possible to insert them in the context of a classroom? To be more precise, do they have a place in an EFL lesson?

         Current knowledge on soft skills tells us that they are not really teachable –-that we are somehow born with them-– and that they are common to all human activity. It is also agreed that they are not easily measured because they are of a more qualitative and subjective nature. Therefore, it may seem that their application in an English classroom is not feasible. On the other hand, if asked, teachers would probably say they all develop these skills to a certain extent when they promote leadership, tolerance or empathy. I would argue that this is true, though the key word here is “promote”, which is different from “teach” and sounds a lot less overwhelming! This could be done on a daily basis and without any explicit instruction: a hidden curriculum for the benefit of students.

         Given their importance, then, we should reflect on ways to promote soft skills in our daily work. An example could be how we encourage active listening: we could ask students to talk about something personal, and then ask their partners to report it to the whole class in as much detail as possible, including personal reactions to what they heard. It may sound rather obvious, but for some students this is quite challenging, as they are not used to paying too much attention to their peers. Furthermore, the next step would be to discuss ways to address soft skills with colleagues, in order to find common best practices and set criteria to assess them in a way as objective as possible. Perhaps, in our current world filled with emotionless technology, this could be the light at the end of the tunnel: a way to create the human beings the world needs.


Now it’s your turn
What do YOU think?
Do you promote soft skills in your lessons? How?
  

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 is Cambridge Oral Examiner and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and Pre-University Centre Director at UNIFÉ.

miércoles, 31 de octubre de 2018

¿Qué es innovar?



                                                                                                     Por Research Centre CIDUP

La innovación fue el tema central en la duodécima edición del Congreso Latinoamericano de la Enseñanza de Idiomas. Luego de haber sido parte de los numerosos talleres y semiplenarias quisiéramos resaltar la importancia de introducir nuevas estrategias y técnicas en nuestro diario quehacer pedagógico.

¿Qué implica innovar?
La innovación se puede generar desde diferentes perspectivas. Por ejemplo, desde aplicar una nueva técnica para el desarrollo de la comprensión auditiva hasta mirar desde una nueva óptica y por ende dar un nuevo uso a una técnica ya conocida a fin de atender a los nuevos estilos de aprendizaje. Sin embargo, para innovar es necesario conocer los nuevos propulsores de cambio para la enseñanza del idioma inglés como lengua extranjera. Temas como “habilidades blandas”…..cobran relevancia al convertirse en las fuentes de las corrientes innovadoras.

jueves, 11 de octubre de 2018


“Enrique, would you like to be a speaker  

               in the national congress we are organizing?”                                                                   

                                                           By Enrique Rojas R.
           
    It was a cold and habitually gray afternoon of August 2007 in Lima, and I heard this proposal from who was my boss at that time (and still is today), Marita de la Lama, Director of Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico. Naturally, I was dazzled and delighted to have been chosen since the speakers at that now historical happening were just a handful. Something that has varied substantially with time.

                  Many years have passed and many congresses have taken place with brilliant success, eleven to be exact. The event became a tradition in the environment of language learning; in fact, it acquired enormous importance and an international scope. And my participation in each one of them became customary as well, which demonstrated the bounteous tolerance of my superiors. As a matter of fact, I think I can proudly say that only Marita and I have been constant lecturers in each one of these renowned and splendid celebrations in the milieu of language teaching. And taking the risk of sounding stuck up I feel tempted to say that on the occasion of the coming 12th congress, I won’t only be in charge of a workshop but, for the third time, in addition to this, I’m going to dare to participate in one of the semi-plenaries, precisely the one with which the event closes, the round table. That makes me a happy man. My enthusiasm and passion are being recognized.

         Due to my professional mass media upbringing I don’t use the first person in my writings. But in this case I’m presenting a very personal account of something I have seen sprout, grow and bloom since its inception as a seed in my boss’ ever restless and innovative brain. She has always thought that we cannot be just “another language school.”  As part of a university we have the mission to shed light on the path, to lead the way in our endeavor of teaching languages, to steer the professional educators in the field toward the achievement of improvement, innovation and progress. And this is what we are trying to do. The annual congress is one of the ways to do it.
          
     That first assembly congregated just 80 enthusiasts. Now 330 people participate wholeheartedly in the event. They come from the whole nation and even from beyond our borders. Many more would like to attend but, we cannot accommodate them in our facilities and we wouldn’t like to make the event massive anyway. 
             
        Our first congresses took place in a major hotel facility. As a matter of fact, I remember when we arrived to prepare everything and found in horror that there had been a sweet fifteen party and the place hadn’t been cleaned and tidied. Marita and Karen, our Administrative Coordinator, were on the verge of having a heart attack. But I don’t exaggerate when I say that our CIDUP administrative team has always done miracles, through the years and since the very beginning. By the time the first guests began to arrive, everything was ready and perfect, nothing was out of place and the organization of our congresses’ has thus been characterized for being impeccable, from the first to the last of them.

         That is why I can foresee, with absolute confidence, that our 12th Congress this year is going to be equally successful and flawless. And I expect to see you there!

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, USA; an MA in Literature from University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico, all the coursework for a MA in TEFL at Universidad de Piura, Peru and BA in Education from Universidad Federico Villarreal. 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 and has been awarded the title Expert in E-Learning from Asociacion Educativa del Mediterraneo and Universidad Marcelino Champagnat. He has worked as a professor in universities in Peru, Mexico and the United States; as a newscaster and a producer in radio and television stations in the United States and Mexico, and as a writer and editor in daily newspapers of the same countries. He has been in the staff of CIDUP for 19 years teaching English and Spanish specializing in International Exams, English for Business, ESP and Teacher Training. He has been a speaker in every Congress of English for Special Purposes organized by Centro de Idiomas de la U.P. He is also a member of its Research Area. 

jueves, 27 de septiembre de 2018

12TH LATIN AMERICAN CONGRESS




To continue with the same things leads us to anachronism. Innovation leads us to progress. Renew your teaching attending our 12th Congress!


OUR MAIN SPEAKERS


SERGIO OSEJO
Sergio is an ELT Manager for National Geographic Learning, South America; MA in ELT, University of Southampton, United Kingdom; and Bachelor of Arts, Modern Languages, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia. Certified in ELTS and DELF.
Sergio has taught English to children, youngsters and adults for more than 10 years. He has also worked for different publishers, developing English programs and  classroom management strategies. Being a teacher trainer at several institutions allow him to share this experience and joy for teaching.


DOROTHY ZEMACH
Dorothy holds an MA in TEFL from the School for International Training in Vermont, USA. After teaching ESL for over 25 years, she now concentrates on writing and editing materials and conducting teacher-training workshops. Most recently she was a plenary speaker for IATEFL 2018 in the UK. Her areas of specialty an interest are teaching writing, teaching reading, business English, academic English, testing and humor. A prolific textbook author and editor, Dorothy is a co-author for Macmillan’s flagship course Open Mind and  the series consultant and co-author for the dual skills course Skillful. Website: http://dorothyzemach.com


MARIA DE LA LAMA EGGERSTEDT
María de la Lama holds a Maters’s degree in Applied Linguistics and Bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Linguistics both from the University of California. She also holds and MBA from Universidad del Pacifico. Currently she is the Director of Centro de Idiomas - Universidad del Pacífico.

miércoles, 12 de septiembre de 2018

Be Chained to the Textbook or be Creative?



By Flor de María Vila




When teaching English, we, teachers, always try to find the best way to help our students achieve their objective: to communicate in English. In this process, we need to take into account our students’ needs, their preferences, their interests as well as the reasons why they are studying. Furthermore, we should enable them to convey their message beyond the topics offered by the course. Thus, to offer the opportunity to express themselves regarding different themes is crucial because of the following:
1.  Students must have a real motivation. Sometimes, unfortunately, the only motivation is to pass their course, exams and so on. Probably this answer varies according to the place where English is taught. It might not be the same to learn English at school as it might be to learn it at a private institution. Nevertheless, in any of the cases, there are pupils who are studying this language because they “have to,” because of either work or studies requirements. The latter may be because they need to study abroad or they need to finish a school or university term successfully. Having further information about what engages students will definitely become a valuable asset.



2. Students must be able to use English in contexts beyond the ones presented in the coursebook. The idea is not necessarily to teach English through different contents as suggested in the article http://languageteachingblogger.blogspot.com/2018/08/teaching-foreign-language-are-we-on.htmlThe plan would be to use the same themes used in other subjects at school or propose themes that are relevant for the students who are not studying at school or university. In the first case, pupils may consider one of the themes worked in other courses. This is really advantageous because the student would have to deal only with the language (structure & vocabulary) and not the topic which many times inhibits participation. Since students would have already worked with the concept of the theme, they will find less threatening to try to communicate. In fact, they may feel more comfortable because not everything is new. For instance, if at school all courses are working with the topic of “drugs,” the English teacher can use this topic to help students communicate giving their opinions in a debate organized with students from different classes. Students from different levels and years could participate. Even more, if possible, the whole school could organize things in such a way that different places at school could display banners with information related to the topic.
Regarding our students of the second group, they will always find it more appealing and useful to exercise using English in contexts that are more meaningful for them.




3. This way of working adds variety to the lessons: Not following always the material presented in the texts makes our teaching less predictable and thus more stimulating for both students and teachers. Contemplating other themes whether they are transversal like the ones worked in schools or just different and relevant for students automatically generates a different environment in the lessons. Experience shows that students are more willing and engaged when they are challenged with useful and interesting issues they can use to communicate. 

Are there any other advantages? What about the disadvantages? Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?

BIODATA


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).

martes, 4 de septiembre de 2018

How we Teachers Use or Abuse of Evaluations


By Enrique Rojas R.
         An issue that has been discussed for a long time, without having a conciliatory answer been found, is whether class teachers should be the ones who create the exams for their students or if the tests should be drawn up by the educational institutions or someone else. There are even people who think that the evaluating tools should be produced at a supra school level and be used by the different schools.
         The problem is that assessment is necessary for different reasons and for different purposes. As professional educators, we know there exist placement, formative, diagnostic and summative evaluations. The first is to classify and place our students; the second, to ascertain the pupil-progress from time to time; the third tries to identify the learning impediments or drawback of pupils during instruction and the fourth is to assign grades to the students and determine whether they should or should not be promoted.

        So a class teacher can design a test to establish if his objectives had been accomplished, but a school may wish to know if the standards of a class are in accordance with the official program or the level of other institutions. Therefore they may be better with a standardized exam. For an educational organization which has several or many teachers delivering the same course a standard exam could just be the measuring stick to gauge teacher performance and results.
         The success of standardized international exams resides precisely in their capacity to determine the real level of learners’ proficiency in the language, something that the usual classifications of teaching institutions fail to do (Beginners, Intermediate, Advance, etc.)
         So, there is no formula to prepare efficient evaluation means without determining first what we wish to evaluate and with which purpose. The type of assessment and evaluative tool should be based on that. And different types of assessment may not be combinable but you can alternate them, although you should be careful not to overwhelm students with too many or too frequent evaluations.
         On the other hand, we cannot overlook that exams have a negative side
too. Since their outlook becomes so important for the future of students their whole learning activity becomes oriented towards achieving good grades rather than learning. Studies made in Great Britain revealed that students under pressure to perform well in tests obtained lower grades than others that were simply encouraged to learn. Another study showed that when teachers focused on their students' learning, the students became more analytical than when the teachers concentrated on their pupils' exam results. That some students get demoralized by bad exam performance and that provokes a bad attitude towards studying is also a reality witnessed by many teachers.
        In sum, evaluating should not be just considered a habit or something we have to live with or even abuse of, but when we prepare to do it we must be very clear why we do it and what we pretend to do with it and use the appropriate tools in accordance with that.

Now is your turn:
Your pupils study to learn or to get good grades?
Is taking test a positive experience for your students?

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, USA; an MA in Literature from University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico, all the coursework for a MA in TEFL at Universidad de Piura, Peru and BA in Education from Universidad Federico Villarreal. 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 and has been awarded the title Expert in E-Learning from Asociacion Educativa del Mediterraneo and Universidad Marcelino Champagnat. He has worked as a professor in universities in Peru, Mexico and the United States; as a newscaster and a producer in radio and television stations in the United States and Mexico, and as a writer and editor in daily newspapers of the same countries. He has been in the staff of CIDUP for 19 years teaching English and Spanish specializing in International Exams, English for Business, ESP and Teacher Training. He has been a speaker in every Congress of English for Special Purposes organized by Centro de Idiomas de la U.P. He is also a member of its Research Area. 

jueves, 23 de agosto de 2018

Teacher’s guide: a Guide or a Strait-Jacket?

                                                                          
                                                            By Zarela Cruz

When it comes to preparing our class, our main frame is the Teacher’s Guide. There is a point in which we wonder if it is helpful or if, eventually, it restricts our creativity.

Let’s analyze the facts.

Novice vs experienced teachers
For novice teachers, a Teacher’s Guide is like a bible: it contains all pedagogical aspects to be taken into account; it tells them what to do step by step so it is an excellent back up.

Tailor-made or ready to use?
The information in the Teacher’s Guide does not necessarily fit our institution’s goals. However, it may be helpful and supportive.

Below, a list of pros:
  •  It definitely saves time.    
  •  It explains how activities can be used since they   are suggested by their own authors.
  •  It describes the methodological approach of the textbook.
  •  It supplies extra materials such as exams, exercises, handouts, CDs and even an eZone!

And now, a list of cons:
  •  It restricts your creativity.
  • ·You may feel that the sequence of your class is imposed by what the           book states for a specific unit or chapter.
  •  You do not have the chance to create your own examples.
  •  You may not include your own experience or know-how.


Do any of these reasons sound familiar to you? There has always been a debate about the usefulness of such a guide: some teachers are convinced that they bring not only variety to class but also invaluable help. On the other hand, there is also a number of teachers that think it is a good start, but it should not be definite.

Your turn:
How do you see the teacher’s guide?
Has it always meant the same to you?



References
Retrieved from:
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 the Teaching of English and Spanish. She has also completed some 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 for more than 25 years. She is currently studying a master’s degree in Translation. This article aims to reflect on the convenience of using a Teacher’s Guide.

viernes, 17 de agosto de 2018

Teaching a foreign language: are we on the right track?

                                                                                                       
                                                                                               By María de la Lama

Technological developments, especially in the area of communications, have sped up the globalization process that we are all witnessing today. In the business world, in particular, it seems that technology has faded away the thousands of miles that set countries apart. However, when it comes to international communication conducted in English, the unmistakable lingua franca for business, difficulties in communication persist.    It becomes evident that Technology by itself then does not free us from the reality that without a good command of the language being used to interchange ideas in an international context, any attempt to communicate orally may end up as a frustrating experience.

 Globalization has not only affected the way business is conducted, but also the manner in which business professionals need to be prepared to face the challenge. New skills are required from the business professional, and the skill of being communicatively competent in English is on top of the list. It pertains then to educational institutions to devise different approaches and methodologies to endow future business professionals with the capacity to communicate in English fluently and accurately. 

Therefore, the question to be answered is how to improve the process to learn a foreign language.  To try to find an answer in the emergence of a new method or approach would be somehow simplistic.  It is however through the analysis of successful methodologies where accurate indicators of what works in any effective language program can be found. A recurring trend of effective methodologies seems to be the insertion of content in language programs, once students have reached a basic command of the foreign language. Content in this sense refers to the knowledge to be acquired in a given area such as history, science or administration, to name only a few.    Nowadays there is increasing evidence that learning something new through a second or foreign language will boost the students’ competence in that language.   Objectives of language programs seem to be switching from the learning of grammar or vocabulary to acquiring knowledge in an area of interest and relevance for the participants.  In the case of business professionals, the focus of a language training program could be, for instance, to employ English to deepen their knowledge of marketing or accounting.  

This content- based instruction model in the teaching of foreign languages has many advantages. First, students receive in English a great deal of input about a topic. This enables them to concentrate on the message rather than the form, i.e. what is being said instead of how it is being said, which is a much closer reflection of a real communication process. Second, in this natural acquisition of knowledge  students develop strategies to cope with the language such as asking for clarification, confirming or restating main points to mention only a few.  Finally, since the selection of the contents to be learnt is done according to the students’ interests, a high level of motivation will be sustained throughout the language program, furthering a quick acquisition of linguistic skills.  


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, 31 de julio de 2018

Listening: a Skill Difficult to Teach!

By Flor de María Vila A.



         You may have overheard your students say: “I love my English classes but when it comes to listening I feel terrified and frustrated!” In fact, this is what many language learners feel or express. But why does this happen?
          It could be argued that they frequently consider that improving their listening skills is like memorizing historical data. When they learn a number of dates, events and the like by heart, they can feel that they could take a test about that information and be successful.  
          Nevertheless, making progress in listening involves more than just memorizing some facts. Listening is a capacity and, because of that, its upgrading depends on a process. In case you want to have a better idea about this method, take a look at the following link from a previous article.
          At any rate, one of the implications your students need to consider is that an ability can only be developed in one way: by practicing. It sounds so simple and yet not so many people do it and if they do it, they don’t do it in the right manner.

          You may ask your students: “Do you practice listening outside your classroom? If the answer is “no”, you may present the following scenario to them: “You want to be a pilot, so you need to study, among other things, the safety rules. You learn them, and pass the test on that. However, you are not yet ready to fly an airplane. You need a certain number of hours of supervised flying experience to qualify for a pilot’s license. The safety rules are somehow like the vocabulary, grammar structure and knowledge of the topic that you need in order to build sentences; that’s the minimum you have to learn. But in spite of knowing that, you are not ready yet to understand all kinds of audio material. You need at least a certain number of hours of exposure to spoken English in order to begin feeling that you can grasp the meaning of what it is being said. Thus, provided that you practice on your own, additionally to what you do in class, your plane will probably never take off.

          If the answer is “yes,” but they still feel that they cannot fully understand or not comprehend enough to feel satisfied with their performance, have them check the following: They already have a schema of how language works in Spanish, a sort of pattern with all the characteristics that this tongue has. For example, Spanish is a syllable-timed language whereas English is a stress-timed language. In the former, every single sound is pronounced; in the latter though, that doesn’t happen. Then, Spanish speakers are expecting to hear every single word and sound and that causes a huge problem. When a native English speaker says: “My sister’s got a terrible teacher. She doesn´t teach her anything.”, a Spanish speaker might hear: “My sisters te robo a t-shirt. She doesn’t teacher anything.” In the first sentence “t-shirt” sounds more logically connected to the verb “steal” (robar) that the Spanish speaker thought he had heard. In the second sentence, a learner may not be aware of word boundaries and how connected speech works in English. Instead of saying “teach her” separately, a native connects the two words and makes them sound like one term, which may lead to confusion since the foreign speaker may not be aware of those differences between the two languages.

          Thus, in essence, what they need to do is to get familiar with those characteristics, especially become aware of the differences, so they can apprehend what they are hearing and comprehend the meaning of the message. The only way to do it is by listening to different kinds of audio material such as podcasts, YouTube videos (many of them come with the audio script on the screen), songs, lectures (Tedx, for example), watch films in English, TV shows, TV series, etc.

          But just “listening” is not enough, they need to listen to English audio every day and at least an average of two hours (might be more depending on their current level of English). Tell them they should take advantage of any spare time they have, or make the most of the moment when they are doing something else, for instance, driving, having lunch or waiting for something or somebody. It is convenient to listen to the same material as many times as possible, until they can recognize without much difficulty what is being said.  Remember, they need to familiarize with the language and build a new schema; and that won’t happen overnight. How many years have they been listening to Spanish? They should not expect to dramatically improve their listening just with an exposure to spoken English of only a few minutes per day. That won’t possibly work!  
          The type of material to be employed will depend on your students’ current level of English. If they are beginners or pre-intermediate learners, podcasts could be the best. For higher levels, the other sources mentioned above would work best. Deciding what type of material, they will listen to is the first step. The second one will be the amount of time they are going to devote to this endeavor. Third, if they are beginners or pre-intermediate students, they will need to try to match what they hear with what is actually being said. I always suggest listening to the audio material while reading the script to start sounding out the written words. Furthermore, that helps them to get familiar with the way people connect words or sounds, as well as rhythm, and intonation. You may even suggest reading after the speaker or shadowing him trying to imitate his pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm. Recording themselves wouldn’t hurt because that would enable them to recognize better how words, phrases and sentences are supposed to be uttered and how they are actually pronouncing them. Remember that they are sort of reconstructing their schemata, and that needs lots of practice. Moreover, input is a must! They need to become passionate about listening to make sure they can start flying! To the great blue yonder!

          Are there any other strategies you have tried to improve your students’ listening skills? Can you share them? Would you challenge them to do something different to find a different result? Let us know the results!


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).