jueves, 30 de noviembre de 2017

Is it Really Vital for a Teacher to Become an Innovator?

By Flor de María Vila A.


There usually comes a time when we ask ourselves: “Is teaching what I want to  do the rest of my life?” “Is this all I can do?” Our first answers could be: “Well, I studied to become a teacher,” “I wanted to be a teacher,” “This is what I set off to do because there was no other option,” “This is the job I found and I‘ve become accustomed to doing it.” The concern here resides neither on the questions nor on the answers we could give after granting it some thought. The main issue is why we are asking ourselves those questions! I may dare to think that possibly we are not happy, neither are we satisfied with the routine that our lives have espoused. This could be true if we found ourselves responding: “This is what I am paid for,” “There´s no need to do things differently,” “I do not need to run the extra mile, why would I?”
Resultado de imagen de images of thinking

In an effort to break the routine of those wonted days, weeks, months or even years, I started trying some new things, activities, or strategies. As many may have guessed by now, my resources soon uncovered the end of the tunnel. I found myself posing questions about the formula to innovate, to be creative, and to make my job more worthwhile and enjoyable. Eventually, I did find a way out.
Are people born gifted with creativity and the chip of innovation?
One of the mistakes I realized after talking to some people was precisely the belief that being innovative or creative is a trait you are born with. Crass error! Innovation is a capability and a closed system which needs to be developed. Process is a key word since innovation won´t happen overnight. We need to drop the idea that innovation is a tool or a single activity which can be done once in a while.

How can we self-generate some fuel to restart the engine?
         First of all, we need to convince ourselves that we need to find a reason to walk perhaps not the whole extra mile, but just an extra meter. This is not a joke, it is real! We need to find an incentive to move forward and leave behind the cycle that has engulfed us for so long. The answer could stand in the following five steps. I have tried them over and over and I can say now I feel I have found that my professional life is meaningful.
#1: Every beginning is always difficult, but I feel this one could not necessarily be so hard. Identify any possible problem or difficulty observed in any of your lessons. For instance, your students find it difficult to understand what two native speakers say in a conversation. You repeat the audio again and again and the results hardly provide significant improvement.
#2: Think of possible reasons why your students face this problem. Do not focus only on the problem. Try to determine what might go wrong in the process before playing the audio. This step is crucial! Do not cling yourself to what you already know even if you are knowledgeable. Be humble and explore other teachers’ ideas by asking your colleagues or by reviewing research in the subject. You will be surprised and able to connect-the–dots more easily. Once you have collected ample information, you will be ready for the next step!!
#3: Build up your archetype. At this point, you will be more aware of what the problem in the procedure is. Thus, you will be ready to design a solution to the problem identified in step #1. Do not worry; it doesn’t have to be perfect! It´s just your first attempt. The next one will surely be better. Don’t quit! Remember that you need to find an incentive to get rid of the routine that has wrapped you! Now, you are equipped for the next step!
#4: Test your solution. Here, you will need to put the newly found solution into practice. But, before that, keep the following in mind: remember the objective of the activity, give clear instructions and monitor the development of the exercise. For this, you need to be alert in order to identify the signs that will reveal the achievement of your goal: the solution of the problem or at least some form of improvement.
#5: Prepare your deliverable. Once you have tried the solution you will be ready to officially propose it as a good end result. If, by any chance, the proposed solution didn’t work, don’t worry. Remember this is just the first attempt and a way out may appear soon. Little by little, you will learn to adjust details. In either case, you will need to go back to step #1. Take into account that even if the solution is perfect for one group of students, it may not be the same with all students. For that reason, you will need to adjust or reformulate the remedy. Analyze the situation and try to find out what needs to be changed or what can be improved.


This cycle can be repeated as many times as needed, and it will always keep you rolling. 

Have you ever tried this cycle? How do you help your students to overcome the problems they face when learning?
Share your expertise with us and let us try new things. 

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, 24 de noviembre de 2017

Why Our English Doesn't Sound LIke Theirs?


By Enrique Rojas R.

You know the story. He was a very good English student; at the language center, he communicated effectively with his classmates and the teacher, he was quite vocal and he’d made individual and group presentations before his classmates in power point, prezi and you name it, and even participated in debates. But when he arrived in the States he found he couldn´t understand people very well, and was unable to make himself understood, to the point that he became mute for all practical purposes, at least in what the English language was related. What had happened?

And the educational institution where he studied advertised repeatedly and loudly that they used the Communicative Approach, the one that can’t fail, the very one we continue calling new and modern although it has been in use for over half a century. How could have gone wrong?

THE TOWER OF BABEL

Yet this occurrence keeps repeating in Great Britain, Canada, Australia and other places where the language of Shakespeare is common currency. There’s a communication gap for the new arrivals from our country. It would seem he learned a kind of English that is different to the one used in all these latitudes. What kind of English would that be? Perhaps a Peruvian or a Latin American version of it?

The truth to this dilemma is not based on a different type of English at all, Not dissimilar in terms of syntax, morphology or semantics. The problem is with pronunciation, a topic that usually escapes the diligence and frequently even the awareness of most English teachers. It’s the “spanglization” of English in terms of pronunciation. We can say that the majority of English teachers suffer from it and spread it to their students.

The main reason for this is the bogus assumption that English and Spanish share the same alphabet; therefore, educators don’t feel the need to teach it right from the beginning to their pupils like their colleagues from China, Japan, Egypt or Russia do. “English and Spanish use the Latin characters so we don’t need to learn them” they usually think.

The problem is that we tend to identify letters with graphemes, that is, with a visual form of representing them. But we forget that the graphic symbol also represents a sound, a phoneme. In the case of a Spanish speaker, each grapheme is correspondent with a phoneme. But in other languages, a grapheme can be representative of more than one phoneme. In English, a grapheme can be the visual clue that represents up to six different phonemes.

THE GOOD EARS OF CHILDREN
Furthermore, the way in which bigger children, teenagers and adults learn the English vocabulary is through the eyes not the ears. Students find it very hard to identify a word when they hear it from a native because it contains sounds they are not familiar with. Only when they see it written with the characters they know they can take it in and venture to repeat it. But then, they adapt it to the sounds they are used to utter, based on the phonemes they can associate with the letters they see. And abracadabra! The Spanglization process has taken place.

We have to ponder that, as Marta Bartolí, from the Rigol Laboratori de Fonètica  Aplicada – LFA, at Universitat de Barcelona, notices “…in the communicative approach, written language is still used as a support in the teaching of oral language and pronunciation. As we will see, the reading-writing base of teaching can damage phonic acquisition.”

And that is precisely the difference with children. One of the reasons why they pay more attention to the English utterances and learn how vocabulary sounds in this language is because they can’t read, they just imitate the sounds they hear. They are not restricted to a number of phonemes they have already learned.

Another reason for the small children noticeable prowess in terms of pronunciation is given by Steven Krashen who contends that babies are born with the capacity to hear and distinguish all phonetic speech sounds from all different languages in the world and that they lose that capability respect to the phonemes they never hear and keep it only for the phonemes employed in the language or languages they are normally exposed to.

In sum, we aren’t doing things right in teaching pronunciation and when trying to teach real English. Something needs to be done. I, for one, feel that we should go back to teach the alphabet, the whole alphabet. With graphemes as well as phonemes.


What do you think?
Why is real communication with locals so difficult?

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. 

miércoles, 15 de noviembre de 2017

Assess Writing so That Students Learn From the Experience


                                                              By Zarela Cruz
                                                                                                                                                    

As I pointed out in the workshop, first of all, we should ask ourselves: Why do we think our students should write?. Once we get our aim, the next question should be: What kinds of writings do our students usually do as a task? Why is that so?. Now we are ready to answer the following question: How do we correct our students’ writings?

I absolutely believe that giving our students the tools to write successfully is a must. Let’s start by knowing the names and uses of punctuation marks, then let’s give them functional phrases they can work with. Is that it? Not at all. Providing a model text would be very helpful as well as reviewing connectors. And last, but not least important, do share with them the correction rubric. That way, our students will be aware of what must be taken into account when performing the given task. The rubric must comprise a suitable assessment criteria for the level you are teaching.

Expanding sentences inserting extra information is a very useful way to teach students to write. It also helps when you provide a model text in your class to be corrected by everyone. Keep in mind that spotting somebody else’s mistakes is always simpler than spotting our own.

During the workshop at our congress, teachers were really cooperative and came up with interesting proposals; all of them were really valuable. One particular point they made was identifying all the mistakes, even the ones that were not penalized in that particular task. In their opinion, it works as an alarm clock, since students will be aware of them from then on.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you find these strategies useful?
Have you tried different ones?

Do let us know! Visit us on:


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 Assessment of Writing.



sábado, 4 de noviembre de 2017

The Language Teacher as Researcher: Practical Implications


By Mayra Yaranga

Research is sometimes understood as a task that is not easy to achieve, especially if it is conducted following traditional academic research methods. However, many teachers may be performing research in their areas even without being aware of it. Just by having a problem and wishing to look for a solution, we have the perfect scenario to start doing research.

What is Research?
Among the many definitions on research all of the authors agree on one thing: research involves having a problem we would like to solve.

Why doing Research?
When doing research in foreign language teaching and learning, teachers may pursue two aims: evaluating existing knowledge or analyzing the effectiveness of a proposal.

Research in foreign language?
When doing research, it is important to reflect on three aspects: The learning context, the pedagogical context and the policy context in terms of local and global issues. For instance, if a teacher wanted to find out what makes their students learn lexical phrases more easily, they would be working within the first context. They would analyse the literature related to lexical learning and then evaluate to what extent the existing information would suit their students’ needs. If, on the other hand, teachers were more interested in evaluating their pace of delivery in a kindergarten foreign language class, they would be working at the teaching level. They would probably need more hands-on work, like recording themselves and asking others for feedback. The third context seems to be the hardest one to work on but if we, for instance, think of the fact that in public Peruvian schools the extent of English language instruction has increased, we would be right to ask: what does the government expect by adding more hours for English lessons? What will students achieve when finishing the secondary level?

What to do to promote research in class?
Probably the easiest thing to do is to keep a kind of self-assessment system. By writing down some reflections based on the lessons taught, on the results students achieved, the problems which arose in class, and looking for answers in some way, we are carrying out Action Research.

Another very interesting method is peer observation. We may have an idea of why our lessons are effective or not but, when we receive the point of view from an outsider, we can have a richer assessment that can help us make more informed decisions and vary our approach to certain problem areas.

Now it is your turn:
Have you ever developed research in your class?
What did you find out? What was the impact?

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.

jueves, 26 de octubre de 2017

La Fórmula del Éxito para los Docentes de Idiomas: (H+E) x C




                                                                 Por Enrique Rojas R.

Hay abundantes oportunidades de empleo para los profesores de inglés, tanto en el sector privado como en el público, siempre que estén bien preparados”. Esta fue la conclusión a la que llegó la Mesa Redonda “Rutas de Empleabilidad”, con que se cerró el 11° Congreso Latinoamericano de la Enseñanza de Idiomas.

En el evento, que se celebró el viernes 20 y el sábado 21 de octubre en local miraflorino del Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico, se puso de manifiesto que el mercado de aprendizaje del inglés, de niños y adultos, mueve aproximadamente 70 millones de dólares, sólo en Lima.
El crecimiento económico del país durante los últimos años ha propiciado la proliferación  de colegios particulares, academias, institutos, así como centros de idiomas en universidades. 

POLÍTICAS PÚBLICAS
La difusión del inglés como lengua universal para el comercio, la diplomacia, la tecnología, los viajes y la actividad académica, entre otras, así como la globalización, han hecho que los países latinoamericanos, como también la mayoría del resto del orbe, desarrollen políticas públicas impulsando programas vigorosos para la enseñanza de este idioma de manera de poder interactuar mejor con el mundo.

En el Perú, en el gobierno pasado, se extendió considerablemente su instrucción en secundaria y se estableció en toda la primaria de los colegios públicos, política que ha sido continuada por el actual gobierno. Se pretende que para el bicentenario de la independencia, el Perú sea un país en que se hable normalmente el castellano y el inglés. Contribuyeron con esto las ´posibilidades generadas a través de programas de becas para estudios de postgrado en el extranjero.

Mientras tanto en los colegios particulares la enseñanza de esta lengua ha tomado precedencia en cuanto a la oferta educativa que ofrecen y es tomada muy en cuenta por los padres de familia. Los institutos de idiomas han proliferado y casi todas las universidades ya cuentan con su propio centro de idiomas. Todo esto ha incrementado marcadamente la demanda de docentes, aunque también ha determinado que éstos deban tener una mayor preparación, tanto en pedagogía como en el manejo del idioma.

Sin embargo vemos que sólo 27% de los actuales docentes de inglés cuentan con la acreditación necesaria para desempeñar adecuadamente este trabajo. Las ofertas de empleos a través de anuncios periodísticos, como por ejemplo en Aptitus, ponen de manifiesto que para los docentes de inglés el dominio del idioma ya no es sólo un requisito, sino parte inherente del puesto de trabajo. Entre los requisitos figuran: grado académico, experiencia y habilidades blandas. Existe pues un amplio campo que deberá ser llenado con docentes capaces e instruidos.
LA FORMULA DEL ÉXITO

Una de los panelistas propuso una fórmula para el éxito de los docentes en este campo: (H+E) x C  en donde H son habilidades blandas (capacidad de adaptación al cambio, especialmente) E entusiasmo  y C conocimiento. “Las habilidades blandas suman pero el conocimiento multiplica” --aseveró la profesora Flor de María Vila— “porque las habilidades blandas y el entusiasmo son positivos, pero no son suficientes sin el conocimiento. El saber va a ser un factor que va a permitir  multiplicar las oportunidades de obtener un buen empleo.


Se advirtió que cada persona debe diseñar su propia escalera que constituya su línea de carrera, puesto que en estos tiempos ya no es conveniente  simplemente conseguir un empleo y quedarse allí hasta su jubilación. Es necesario estar actualizándose constantemente y en la búsqueda de nuevas oportunidades. El mercado es muy dinámico y nosotros también debemos serlo.




 DATOS BIOGRAFICOS
Licenciado en Periodismo por la PUCP, Perú, Enrique Rojas R. tiene una maestría en Periodismo y maestría en Historia Inter Americana de la Southern Illinois University, EE.UU.; una maestría en Literatura de la Universidad de las Américas, Puebla, México, todos los cursos para una maestría en TEFL en la Universidad de Piura, Perú; Es Bachiller en Educación de la Universidad Federico Villarreal. También ha obtenido títulos de Optima Competencia en inglés de la Universidad de Cambridge y de la Universidad de Michigan y el Diploma de Profesores de Inglés como Lengua Extranjera de la Universidad del Pacífico. Es examinador oral para los exámenes de la Universidad de Cambridge y ha sido galardonado con el título de Experto en E-Learning por la Asociación Educativa del Mediterráneo y la Universidad Marcelino Champagnat. Ha trabajado como catedrático en universidades del Perú, México y Estados Unidos; como locutor y productor en estaciones de radio y televisión en los Estados Unidos y México y como escritor y editor en la prensa diaria de los mismos países. Ha sido parte del personal de CIDUP durante 17 años, dedicándose a la enseñanza de inglés y español, y se ha especializado en exámenes internacionales, Inglés para Negocios, ESP y formación de profesorado. Es miembro del Área de Investigación del Centro de Idiomas de la UP.

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 encourage English teachers to attend this event since it is a space to reflect on our teaching practice.

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.