Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Activity


Here's a nice website where you and your students can create Valentine's Day e-cards. This can be a nice end-of-lesson activity


Monday, February 13, 2012

One click corpora heaven....

Below is a copy of a message circulated to users of Mark Davies' CORPORA sites.  This was a feature that I mentioned last month, when describing the new http://www.wordandprhase.info site.  True to his word, the 'upcoming' feature is now live.

Here is a really quick SCREENRcast to introduce the nuts and bolts of the feature.  At the time of writing, the feature still has some bugs.  Please have some patience as the bugs are ironed out.  It will be well worth it!



God bless you Mr Davies!

========================================


We've added a new feature at www.wordandphrase.info -- the alternative interface for COCA. You can now input an entire text -- maybe a newspaper article that you've copied from a website, or something you've written -- and it will then give you detailed information about the words and phrases in the text. There's now no need to copy and paste individual words and phrases into the regular COCA interface -- just work seamlessly from your original text.

First, it will highlight all of the medium and lower-frequency words in your text (based on frequency data from COCA), and create lists of these words that you can use offline. This frequency data can help language learners focus on new words, and it can allow you to see "what the text is about" (i.e. text-specific words). You can also have it show you the "academic" words in your text (again, based on COCA data).

Second, you can click on any word in your text to get detailed information about the word (all on one screen) -- its overall frequency in COCA, its frequency in each genre (spoken, fiction, magazine, newspaper, and academic), the 20-30 most frequent collocates (nearby words), up to 200 sample concordance lines, synonyms, and related words from WordNet. There's no need to go consult other dictionaries or thesauruses or online-resources -- it's all right there, with just one click for each and every word in your text.

Finally, you can also see detailed information about phrases in your text. Just click on a phrase in the text, and it will show you related phrases from COCA. For example, if you're writing a paper and have used the phrase potent argument, you could click on that phrase and then have it suggest related phrases based on COCA data -- in this case, where there is a synonym of potent followed by argument. For example, it would list strong / persuasive / convincing argument (all of which are more common in COCA). It will show you the frequency of each phrase in COCA and you can click on any of these to see them in context in the corpus. In this way, it serves as a sort of "grammatical thesaurus" to find just the right phrase in English.

All of this is now available at http://www.wordandphrase.info/, along with the features that were there before, including the ability to browse through and search a huge frequency dictionary of English and see detailed information about any word. If you are interested in English words and phrases, their meaning, their frequency, and their distribution in different genres, we believe that this will be an exciting new resource. And as with all of our corpora, it is available for free.

Best,

Mark Davies
Brigham Young University

Instructors’ Attitudes towards Pronunciation Teaching


by Meral Çınar

As part of my EFL311 course work for Asst. Prof. Dr. A.Cendel Karaman in the METU.NCC Teaching English as a Foreign Language programme, I explored the attitudes of  language instructors  towards  teaching pronunciation  as well as the pronunciation teaching  techniques  they prefer to use  in their instruction  in an English preparatory school in North Cyprus.

The study

In my study the following questions were investigated with regard to university preparatory school English language instructors:

  1. What are their attitudes of towards teaching pronunciation? 
  2. What are the techniques they use in their instruction? 


To achieve the purpose of the study, a questionnaire, which contained six multiple
choice-types of questions  and some open ended questions, was prepared to elicit the attitudes and preferences of the instructors. (If you would like a copy of the questions, please leave a comment below.)

  1. Twenty instructors were selected by using convenience sampling. 
  2. All the respondents who participated in the survey were experienced instructors and non-native speakers of English. 

The major outcomes of this study are:

  • Four out of five instructors do not work on pronunciation as a separate and distinct language skill, but instead highlight pronunciation issues that pop up during the flow of the lesson. 
    • The lack of time was declared as a problem in  teaching pronunciation  by 44% of the participants. 
    • Three out of five instructors detect students' wrong pronunciation in class and correct them immediately. 
  • As for the material used in teaching pronunciation, it was found that that  three out of five instructors used a particular textbook  as a material in  teaching pronunciation (most probably the course textbook itself). 
    • Only  39% of them used other resources, mainly audio-video materials. 
    • About 72% of the participants use imitation of sounds and repetition of drills  as  an activity in  teaching pronunciation. 
  • Finally, for the last question  four out of five instructors stated that they thought the time they allocated to work on pronunciation was insufficient.

From the above results, it can be seen that four of out five of the teachers do not work on
pronunciation as a separate and distinct language skill.
  • This shows that pronunciation teaching is not one of the focus areas in the preparatory school surveyed. 
  • If we recall that the main purpose of the preparatory school is to bring the students to the level where they can follow the courses in their departments within a single year, then the lack of focus on pronunciation can be understood.
It is very interesting to see that the same ratio of four teachers out of five stated that they were not satisfied with the time they  allocated to teaching  pronunciation.

  • This suggests that the instructors think that pronunciation teaching needs more emphasis.

Techniques used in teaching pronunciation

Obviously, the finding that the vast majority of the instructors do not workon pronunciation as a separate and distinct language skill seems to make most of the questions related to the techniques used in teaching pronunciation  irrelevant.  But still, some information about a couple of issues can still be illuminating. For example, we  see that when instructors work on pronunciation, they tend to follow traditional tendencies in terms of activity type and material. For instance:
  • 72% of teachers use imitation of sounds
  • 61% of them use text books. 

Moreover, it can be understood that when the instructors work on pronunciation, three out of five apply  immediate error correction techniques. Nevertheless, a tendency to use video and audio materials is also seen in one out of five instructors.

Discussion

In my opinion and experience as a language learner, pronunciation teaching should indeed receive more focus because poor pronunciation is a problem that seriously limits the communication abilities of the students.
  • This also negatively affects their academic and professional success. 
  • A reasonably good pronunciation will really make the user of the  language more confident and encourage him/her to communicate more.

The fact that all of the participants stated that they did work on pronunciation in one way or another, albeit not as a separate and distinct skill focus, suggests that if necessary material and time is provided to the participants, much better results can be obtained with a relatively small effort. However, this is an issue that needs further investigation.