A Journey in Education – An Interview with Annie Tsai

Annie Tsai

Annie Tsai

About a year ago, I connected online with a very talented young lady – a teacher in Taiwan who is well-known on social media for her sharing and passion for education. May I present: Annie Tsai!

Annie Tsai had worked for a few radio stations as a copywriter but later on changed her career as an EFL teacher. After being in the same position for 9 years at a public elementary school, she decided to make a change again and she’s currently a 3rd grade homeroom teacher. She’s based in Taiwan but always on the track of going somewhere overseas. Other than being involved in local teacher’s training program, she’s also passionate in backpacking and trying her best to bring the world to her class. She has won a scholarship from Cambridge Global Teacher’s Essay Competition and she was also the winner of 2011 Everybody Up Global Sing-along Competition sponsored by Oxford University Press.

Vicky: Annie, I am so happy you have accepted to be interviewed on my blog. We have never met in person, however, from our connection on social media I have seen all the great things you do in your teaching and that is a huge reason why I wanted you to share everything with us!

Annie:  Thank you! I have enjoyed seeing your side of the world via FB. I think this is one of the best parts of being connected via social media. A group of people, albeit never met in real life, share the same passion and profession, which is the living proof of why learning a foreign language makes us a better person in so many levels. We learn to share and communicate and our perspectives can be so much more versatile in this way. It helps to have a clear mind, especially for educators joggling between teaching and management.

Vicky: How true! Let’s start with something I ask everyone I interview – because it is so interesting to see their journeys entering education. How did you decide to join this field?

Annie: I had worked as a copywriter/planner at a couple of radio stations before changing lanes. In my last year at the media industry, I did some serious thinking of my future if I should continue to stay on the same path. That was the same year when the Taiwanese government decided to start the English education from elementary level. With my mom’s strong suggestion, I took the entrance exam they held and passed with flying colours. Thinking back now, it is a life-changing opportunity I hadn’t expected, considering my childhood memory with school wasn’t that rosy and shining. I have to admit that becoming a teacher is the most rewarding and best decision I’ve ever made in my life. It makes me learn more about my strength and weakness. It is the kind of profession that makes you examine your personality and rationale in fairly frequent bases. As a person who had spent the better half of her career life in the media industry, I think it is fair to say that I’ve seen the scenery from both sides. Teaching is a highly self-motivated trade and it is more than often being misunderstood or underestimated by the public. Teaching, however, also brings undescribed joy of reward for numerous people. The longer I stayed in this profession, the more I realized that teachers can play far more important roles in the mini-society they walk in every day. Changes that last for a lifetime may start from a classroom.

Vicky: Wow! What an interesting journey. And in your teaching career so far, you teach Young Learners. What do you enjoy the most about these ages, and what are the challenges?

Annie:  Ah, the possibilities there can be and the generosity they can offer is the most important present and privilege a teacher may receive! I love helping these little people to learn the world as I know and knowing that the world is so big that every one of us might see only a fraction of it. The only way to learn the world is to see it in your own eyes. Thus it is a joyful achievement if you get the key to communicate with people from other parts of the world.  Often times my young learners surprise me in cute yet awkward moments. Here’s an example, being neighbored with an Air Force base means we all get used to the helicopter noise. At the beginning of this semester, several days after we covered the word helicopter, my children shout the word a few times during the class whenever they heard the whirling noise. Now of course I was a bit annoyed with the interruptions, but at the same time, it was such a memorable moment to see how they were so proud of themselves and they’ve made such a positive and strong connection with the foreign language.

Annie's kids involved in projects

Annie’s kids involved in projects

The challenges are always there but they can be presents as well. Since Taiwan is an EFL country, it is almost impossible to have sufficient and positive English exposure once pupils leave English class. And the education policy in regards of foreign language often fails to meet the needs of real teaching scenes. During my prior 9-year stint as an EFL subject teacher, I see my students twice every week, with only a 40-minute block in each session. Without effective and extensive schemes to help these young children to review the content, the language material can hardly sank in their brains. To make things harder to manage, classes always come in diverse abilities and I usually have around 300 students to teach annually.

The English teaching industry has always been an issue in the spotlight in Taiwan.  It is true that most people found it difficult to master the language to the level of real communication. It is also true that most people still see English as a subject to learn rather than a tool to master. Thus it is common for people to simply give up and steer away from anything related to English once the pressure of tests and exams are out of the picture. So my hope in switching from an EFL subject teacher to a homeroom teacher is to expend the horizon of teaching a foreign language. I believe that by planting the seeds in the earlier stage can motivates them to make an effort of keeping the language. Eventually it may trigger their minds in exploring the world years later.

Finally, I’d like to share that the difficult teaching context may be inspirational sometimes.  You wouldn’t try so hard to adjust and adapt if all things are good. That’s also one of the things I love about teaching. It is a comparatively secured profession in making renovations.

Vicky: That’s a beautiful statement you just made. And thank you for sharing your experiences with your young learners, and giving us some insight into the EFL context in Taiwan as well! So interesting.

Would you ever consider teaching adults? Have you ever done it?

Annie: Oops, sorry, I have very limited experiences in teaching adults.

Vicky: That’s fine! Let’s move on to something different now. You share and interact a lot on social media, and that is how we actually got to know each other. Do you think social media help educators, and if yes, how?

Annie:  I found social media very helpful in regards to connecting and sharing. It’s also a great platform for information and subjective perspectives.  It is especially beneficial for EFL teachers as they often play the role as the ambassadors of each respective culture. Such characteristic broaden the room for thinking and the definition of better practice of teaching. Even in a country as petite as Taiwan, the resources and intel from different corners of the island can be quite diverse. I’ve learned so much information from my peer via FB and it works like therapy groups sometimes! Social networking helps closing the gap between teachers and at the same time it weaves in new threads of thinking to the existing concept.

Annie's kids planning to send materials to Aphro's kids!

Annie’s kids planning to send materials to Aphro’s kids!

To make things more exciting, platforms like Twitter, FB and Pinterest, involves teachers in different time zones and together we get to converse in the comfort of our own sofa. Additionally, professional and independent EFL FB pages such as iTDi also bring in the self-helped professional development courses that I can easily enrolled and learn in my own pace. The interactions performed in these virtual spaces, are more often than not effective and to the point. Perspectives and knowledge are no longer limited in geography. That’s the most fascinating part of all these virtual networking, just like the way I’m doing an interview with you now!

Vicky: Isn’t it great? I am thrilled about this! And in addition, you are part of a fantastic international programme – your kids are pen pals with another class in Greece, that of Aphrodite Giouris, who is in Larissa. How did this project start? What do you do?

Annie:  I came across Aphro via Facebook; I think we have mutual friends and after several chats back and forth, we decided to partner our classes and do a series of exchanges. For my students, Greece is just as ‘familiar’ and ‘exotic’ as those Greek gods and goddess they read in the books. The project enables my children to apply the language with a purpose. They no longer see Greece just another far-away country on the map. It has become very real and intriguing to understand that there are kids thousands of miles away learning the same language just like us.  Aphro and I also tried our best to match our kids from both sides and make sure each of them eventually receive something specifically for him or her. The experiences are phenomena as most of them have never received any hand-written letter before, let along anything from a foreign country!

I have personally learned and enjoy the process all the way as this project gives me a hands-on opportunity to design an integrated course just right for my class. It’s a great practice to test a teachers’ understanding of teaching material and how to best perform them in the making of the project.

Vicky: I look forward to seeing more and how it evolves! It truly caught my interest since day one and think it is a great opportunity for the kids to broaden their knowledge, both in culture and the language. Now to the future: what is one of your dreams about your teaching in the next few years?

Annie: As a rookie homeroom teacher, it means that I’ll have to be more familiar with other main subjects such as Mandarin and math. I’d like to take advantage of my new teaching context to build a more integrated curriculum. With more time and fewer pupils, I’m thinking about more shared reading experiences and eventually have at least a class drama annually. I’m also hoping for opportunities such as international competitions/networks to bring my children to the wider communities of the world.

As a senior EFL teacher, I’m hoping to organize or being involved in professional development for teachers. I’ve had a few experiences and hoping to continue the P1060572journey of sharing. I’m also looking forward to opportunities to brush up my language proficiency and hoping to be able to participate in International EFL conferences. Guess my wish list for Santa is a bit too long ; ) Still, being a teacher gives you the means to make your dream come true.

Vicky: It’s been such a pleasure hearing about everything you do! Thanks so much for this wonderful interview, Annie – I hope we meet in person some day!

Annie: As a passionate backpacker, I might actually hop on a plane and fly to the picturesque Switzerland some day!  Thank you so much for the heartwarming invitation. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Vicky: I will be so happy to show you around! Happy Holidays and all the best to you too : )

Interviews with Three New Bloggers for My Three Years of Blogging – Number One: Dinçer Demir

Dinçer Demir

Dinçer Demir in Bartın, his hometown

December 10th is my third blog birthday! I decided to pay a tribute to three new bloggers, to celebrate my three years of blogging! First of the three, Dinçer Demir – an educator from Turkey, that I was fortunate to meet in person last weekend at the YTU 1st ELT Conference.

Dinçer blogs at: http://www.dincerdemir.com/

Vicky: Dinçer, thanks so much for accepting to give me this interview for the celebration of three new bloggers and the third birthday of my blog!

Dinçer: You are welcome Vicky. Actually I want to thank you because it is an honor for me to have an interview on the special anniversary of your blog.

Vicky: It’s an honour to have you on the blog. Can you tell us a few things about yourself and your work?

Dinçer: I am a 27-year-old teacher, who has been teaching for more than 5 years. I am from Turkey and I live and work in İstanbul.  I am teaching English to both young learners and teenagers. In addition to these, I have had experiences of teaching English for communication to adult learners.

Vicky: How did you decide to pursue a career in education?

Dinçer: At the very early stages of my education career, I was not so sure if I wanted to be an educator. During university, I started to discover myself and my skills and I thought that this was my job. Today I see that I was right. I feel like I was born to be an educator, because I enjoy teaching, I like being part of a changing process, I like learning. So I can easily say that I don’t work, I do my hobby.

Vicky: That is great! You teach primary school children. What do you enjoy the most working with these ages?

Dinçer: In my opinion, teaching young learners is more difficult than teaching adults. What makes a teacher tired is classroom management and keeping students engaged.  However, my experience shows that young learners learn easier and faster. As a teacher, you can be more motivated with them when you get results quickly.

Vicky: You are active both on Twitter and Facebook, connecting to many educators. How does this reflect in your work?

Presenting in İstanbul

Presenting in İstanbul

Dinçer:  You are right. I am an active social media user. At the beginning of my social media life, I used to use it just to socialize. However, I use these tools to learn and share, especially Twitter. Thanks to Twitter, I have broadened my vision, I have realized different points of views, I have seen many best practices.  To sum up, it has changed my way of teaching and learning.

Vicky: There are several educators who would like to connect with other educators, but are a bit wary of social media. What would you advise them?

Dinçer:  It is impossible not to grant them right.  But every field may be a bit risky if it is not used accordingly. I want to highlight that especially Twitter (not Facebook, because it may include much private content) is a great tool to refresh themselves and enter into a huge sharing world. Maybe they can be more careful about who they follow and who follows them and they had better not share private information about themselves.

Vicky: Can you share one of the best moments in your teaching so far?

Dinçer's students in the play, in the town of Şanlıurfa

Dinçer’s students in the play, in the town of Şanlıurfa

Dinçer:  There are lots of them, of course. It is hard to choose. If I have to choose one, I prefer a theatre event in Şanlıurfa (in the south east of Turkey). I was doing my military service in Şanlıurfa as a teacher. I was teaching 4th grade. The city is not one of the most developed cities of Turkey. But we, me and my students, managed to perform Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (in English) in spite of inadequate opportunities. Their effort was unforgettable for me.

Vicky: You are a new blogger with new and fresh ideas. What inspired you to enter the world of blogging?

Dinçer: My first serious attempt at e-learning was an online TESOL Certificate Course.  After I had completed the course, I liked e-learning. Afterwards, I have started to search about this and I have found lots of great inspiring blogs. So I have been a blog reader and follower for a long while. Finally I thought that I was ready to make a start on blogging and I did.

As long as you keep blogging, that means you keep learning. The idea of learning forever inspired me for this.

Vicky: Thank you so much for sharing your insights, Dinçer and I wish you all the best!

Dinçer: Happy for this, thanks a lot, dear Vicky.

The Ideal Classroom – My Post for Tyson Seburn’s (@seburnt) Blog Challenge

A snap of the chalkboard I used last week

A couple of days ago, Tyson Seburn wrote about his experiences in his teaching environment in his post What classroom is perfect?

I decided to take up his blog challenge – here it is!

When we had our school in Greece, we had 11 classrooms – not to blow our own horn, but in each classroom the teachers had all the equipment they needed. The school also had a computer lab and a room with an interactive whiteboard. Therefore, the equipment could be moved easily if needed, or the teachers and their students could easily be moved to the room they wanted to use, easily. We did this out of respect to our teachers and students, to make everyone feel comfortable and content to teach and learn.

When I moved here in Switzerland, I started teaching at various places until I could get enough work – in schools, companies, banks – you name it. Some places, had the works as far as equipment was concerned, some were okay in some I had to teach in my coat and gloves (yes, you read correctly). Thankfully, only a couple of places match the last description.

An example of an excellent teaching environment is the public college I started teaching at here last year, the Kaufmännisches Bildungszentrum Zug – the admin people, secretaries and teachers are amazing to work with and the classrooms…wow, the classrooms!

- Whiteboards (three or four of them that you can shift on the walls)

- Chalkboards

- Poster paper (huge rolls of them!)

- Sinks

- Computers

….wait till you hear this…

- 3D projectors!!! I LOVE THEM!

A great place to teach – a place that respects its educators and students. Shouldn’t all schools be like this? Some aren’t, understandably due to their restricted budgets, some because the people who own them do not care.

Let’s hope we see lots of great working environments in this blog challenge set by Tyson!

An #ELTChat Summary – What do we do when a lesson goes horribly wrong? How do you cope and recover?

What if the students are not so concentrated – what if the lesson is not going well? (Image from #eltpics – taken by Laura Phelps @pterolaur)

Today’s lunchtime ELTChat was about yet another very interesting topic. It has happened to all of us – a lesson goes wrong, the opposite of what we expected. How do we handle it?

We started off with what kind of bad lessons there are:
- Losing the students; when they do not co-operate or understand
- A tech glitch that throws the planned lesson completely off track
- The lesson not meeting our expectations, leaving the students and ourselves confused
- When something exciting has happened before the lesson and the students find it difficult to concentrate
- In general, our lesson plan going completely awry

How do we know?
- The students have a confused / glazed over look
- The student in one case informed the teacher, quite rudely, that she did not want to do the task designated
- In another case, a student ran out of the class crying

And here came some really great replies:
What do we do in these cases?
- We reached a general consensus that it is better to switch activities and after the lesson, sit down and reflect on what went wrong. It is not advisable to do away with the said lesson plan, but it is even better to adjust/change it, in order to use it more effectively in the future.
- It was mentioned that it is a great idea to have fillers up our sleeves to manage in such situations, when something does not work.
- It is generally better to sometimes admit in class that something did not work / was not suitable and perhaps even discuss with the students what went wrong / what could be done better next time.
- Having the confidence to stop is a great thing; acknowledge an idea is not working and just move on. Keeping yourself calm is also important, as it can be a difficult moment.
- Leave space to customise for each student / group of stiudents. It is essential to be flexible with our lesson plans.

Lessons that do not work can leave inexperienced teachers lacking in confidence. What would we advise them?
- That it is okay when a lesson fails – it can prove to be a learning experience. What happened? What was the lesson plan like? Which group were you teaching on the given day?
- There was a very nice quote: “Making mistakes shows you are trying!”
- A bad day can happen to anyone.

Useful links that came up during the talk:
- Jane and Dave Willis’ ELT Website.
- Cybraryman’s Lesson Plans page.

Today’s super moderators were:
- Shaun Wilden (@ShaunWilden)
- James Taylor (@theteacherjames)

Today’s contributors were:
- Sue Lyon-Jones (@esolcourses)
- Naomi Epstein (@naomishema)
- Mike Griffin (@michaelegriffin)
- Evidence-Based EFL (@EBEFL)
- TtMadrid TEFL Course (@TtMadridTEFL)
- Amelie Silvert (@TeacherSilvert)
- Gisele Santos (@feedtheteacher)
- Julie Moore (@lexicojules)
- Leo Selivan (@leoselivan)and also introducing wonderful teachers in Azerbaijan to Twitter! @Samiratey, @FatimaFatima28, @Sevinc8996, @taira_akhundova, @OfeliyaG
- Stephanie McIntosh (@purple_steph)
- Tamas Lorincz (@tamaslorincz)
- M. Lincoln (@arrudamatos)
- Oksan Yagar (@OksanYagar)

English Language Teaching in Korea – Guest Post by Martin Sketchley (@ELTExperiences)

I would like to thank Martin Sketchley for sharing this fantastic blog post about his time teaching English in Korea. I have really enjoyed reading this – it is so interesting to see how things are teaching in another country. I love the extra reading list as well! Thank you so much, Martin!

Martin Sketchley has been teaching English as a foreign language for six years. He taught for three and a half years in South Korea for various private language institutes. During this period, he was a BULATS Examiner and assisted in introducing the exam to this region of Asia. Martin returned to the UK and recently completed an MA in English Language Teaching at the University of Sussex. Currently, he is a Cambridge ESOL Examiner for B1 and B2 CEF level examinations, works at a local language school in Eastbourne and maintains a blog (www.eltexperiences.com). Finally, Martin is now seeking for a publisher to assist his authoring of a book related to his experiences of language teaching and education in South Korea.

Personal Background to Teaching English in South Korea

Martin at the Wall Street Institute in South Korea

I started teaching English as a foreign language in South Korea in December 2005 unqualified, inexperienced and totally out of my depth. As is common in South Korea, all budding English teachers require a degree in any subject and the enthusiasm to teach young learners or adults in a variety of settings. I started my teaching career teaching young learners and teenagers in a small private school in a small rural Korean village. This provided the beginnings of what is now a rewarding and interesting career. After completing one year of teaching at this small private school, I decided to commence a four week CELTA Course at the British Council in Seoul in February 2007. The rest is, as they say, history.

ELT in South Korea

English was initially introduced to Korea with the use of Christianity between the mid-fourteenth and early twentieth century (1392-1910). After the Japanese colonisation period of Korea (1910-1945), English was reintroduced to South Korea due to the Korean War, directly from the US Army (Shin 2007: pg.77). English Language Teaching was firmly established in South Korea within the 1990s, and prior to this, English was taught predominately by grammar translation and rote memorisation methods. However, Kim Young-Sam (a previous President of South Korea), persuaded the Ministry of Education to adopt a more “communicative English curriculum” (Shin 2007: pg.77). There has been slow change to adopt the ‘communicative approach’ of English language teaching, now commonly referred to as Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), inasmuch that the current President, Lee Myoung-bak, when he first came into power, asserted that the teaching of English should be in English so that Koreans are able to “communicate with Americans” (Shim 2009: pg.106). Consequently, this has implications for not only Native English Teachers (NETs) but also Non-Native English Teachers (NNETs). There is an expectation, due to current political pressure and the recent educational reforms, which encourage NNETs to teach English in their L2. Furthermore, these recent changes urge the Ministry of Education to implement “a national English proficiency examination that concentrates on practical English” (Shim 2009: pg.107). Although educational reforms have been implemented by the Korean Government, a study in 2006 reported that South Koreans spent an annual $15.3bn on private English lessons and $752m on tests such as the TOEFL (Card, 2006). It is believed that “incompetence in English … is claimed to have cost South Korea important business opportunities” (Song 2011: pg.36) and that Koreans have no option but to focus their financial resources to English learning. There are claims that some “parents will spend the equivalent of a month’s salary … on monthly [English] tuition” (Demick, 2002), with some parents deciding on extreme ‘linguistic surgery’ for their children so that they are “better able to pronounce” (ibid.) particular words thereby giving them a more ‘competitive edge’ in English. So how come South Koreans spend so much money on English education? Park (2009) considers the current ‘English fever1’ within South Korea is due to a Korean’s belief that education, albeit English in this case, is regarded as “the most powerful means to achieve upward social mobility and economic prosperity” (ibid. pg.50). The ‘national religion’ of acquiring English in South Korea is a big industry, with many Korean mothers pressurising their children to learn English with the belief that it obviously would improve their future employment prospects (Park 2009: pg.50). However, English in Korea is “a language hardly or never used in everyday communication” (Song 2011: pg.36) but has become an integral measurement in Korean educational performance.

Martin teaching children in South Korea

The English Speaker Model in South Korea

The native speaker model is commonly implemented in South Korea, with Inner Circle teachers being recruited. Kirkpatrick (2007) noted that the Korean Government “decided to employ 1,000 native speaker English teachers in its schools” (ibid. pg.185), with advertisements in various Korean newspapers. There was an advertisement in the Korea Herald (www.koreaherald.com) which sought the following expected native speakers of English:

Type 1 teachers require a Certificate in TESOL or three years full-time teaching experience with a graduate degree in TESOL or experience and interest in Korean culture and language.

Type 2 teachers only have to be native speakers of English with a bachelor’s degree in any field.

(Kirkpatrick 2007: pg.185)

The above advertisement could require Type 1 prospective native teachers, at minimum, to have ‘experience and interest in Korean culture and language’, which was my situation late 2005. However, this raises one important matter whether native teachers, without any formal background or experience in teaching or education, are the best models for English education in the Expanding Circle. Nonetheless, what is and what defines a ‘native speaker’ of English? If English is now the lingua franca, are we not all ‘native speakers’ of a variety of English? A stereotypical ‘native’ speaker of English, in the opinion of South Koreans, is an individual who is considered from the Inner Circle. Kachru & Nelson (2001) refer to a ‘native speaker’ as “someone who learned a language in a natural setting childhood as first or sole language” (ibid. pg.15). However, Medgyes (1992) noted that there is a certain amount of ambiguity by defining the native and non-native speaker (ibid. pg. 340-341). Additionally, issues arise in relation to World Englishes which question “who can be labelled a NS or a NNS because a single norm for standard English no longer exists” (Higgins 2003: pg.616). Higgins (2003) also suggests that in an attempt to move away from the native and non-native speaker model, “scholars have employed a concept of ownership to investigate speakers’ ideological stances toward English” (pg.617). There are critics to the concept of native or non-native ‘ownership of English’, stating “things will fall apart and the [English] language will divide up into mutually unintelligible varieties” (Widdowson 1994: pg.383) if there is any diversification. However, there is some hegemonic assumption that Inner Circle speakers will be communicating with Outer or Expanding Circle speakers, or vice-versa, and, furthermore, to maintain some mutual understanding, Outer or Expanding Circle speakers must employ a normative variety of English to be intelligible with Inner Circle speakers. However, pedagogically, there is a suggestion for English professionals to expose varieties of English in the ESL or EFL classroom. It is noted “that being exposed to several varieties in the classroom can help learners become aware that the success of communication with other English speakers does not necessarily rely on the [expected normative] forms of English they produce” (Suzuki 2010: pg.146). Suzuki (2010) also highlights the lack of teacher awareness, during teacher training programmes, in relation to the diversity of English and the potential effects (ibid. pg.146-151) and she recommends that preparing teachers, as well as learners, for the diversity of English would encourage understanding and appreciation of non-standard varieties of English for both the teacher as well as the learner (Suzuki 2010: pg.152-153). There is additional ambiguity, within South Korea, in classifying a ‘native’ or ‘non-native’ speaker of English, as there could be some countries which use English as an official language, such as in India or Singapore, which may be perceived with less ‘prestige’ due to their ‘endonormative’ variety of English. A news article in early July 2008, from the Philippines, stated that those eligible for a Korean E2, Foreign Language Instructor, Visa to teach English in South Korea include “the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland” (GMA News 2008, www.gmanews.tv) due to their ‘exonormative’ English policy. However, a South Korean news article which was published at the end of 2008 stated that English speakers from the Outer Circle “from India and other countries that use English as an official language will be able to teach at public schools from the following year” (The Korea Times 2008, www.koreatimes.co.kr). This demonstrated that there was some recognition, from the South Korean government as well as parent groups, with particular English speakers from the Outer Circle becoming more acceptable to teach English. Does this demonstrate a greater awareness and acceptability for the diversity of English? Well it is a positive step in the right direction but, as Shin (2007) pointed out, “the NS as an ideal teacher legitimizes the substitution of language politics for racial politics in ELT” (ibid: pg.79). Shim (2002) recognised that within Korea, there was “a strong preference for American English and a unanimous unwillingness to participate in a programme that would introduce them to non-native English varieties” (in Jenkins 2007: pg.101).

Further Reading

Card, J. (2006) Appetite for language costs S Korea dear. London: The Guardian. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2006/dec/15/tefl (accessed 4 April 2011).

Demick, B. (2002) Some in S. Korea Opt for a Trim When English Trips the Tongue. LA: Los Angeles Times. Available from: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/mar/31/news/mn-35590 (accessed 20 April 2011).

GMA News (2008) RP to Korea: Let Pinoys teach English in schools. Manila: GMA News. Available from: http://www.gmanews.tv/print/106224 (accessed 28 April 2011).

Harris, R. (2005) Roadmap to Korea: Everything you ever wanted to know about the language 2nd Edition. Hollym: Seoul, Korea.

Higgins, C. (2003) ‘“Ownership” of English in the Outer Circle: An Alternative to NS-NNS Dichotomy’. TESOL Quarterly, 37(4), pp. 615-644.

Jenkins, J. (2007) English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kachru, B. B. & Nelson, C. L. (2001) ‘World English’ in Burns, A. & Coffin, C. (eds) Analysing English in a Global Context. London: Routledge, pp. 9-25.

Kang, S. W. (2008) Non-Natives Can Become English Teachers. Seoul: The Korean Times. Available from: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2008/12/117_36881.html (accessed 20 April 2011).

Kirkpatrick, A. (2007) World Englishes: Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Krashen, S. D. (2011) Stephen D Krashen: Dealing with English Fever. Available from: http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/fever/index.html (accessed 22 April 2011).

Medgyes, P. (1992) ‘Native or non-native: who’s worth more?’ ELT Journal, 46(4), pp. 340-349.

Park, J. K. (2009) ‘‘English fever’ in South Korea: its history and symptoms’. English Today 97, 25(1), pp. 50-57.

Shim, R. J. (2002) ‘Changing attitudes toward TEWOL in Korea’. Journal in Asian Pacific Studies. 12(1) in Jenkins, J. (2007) English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shim, R. J. (2009) Plenary: Empowering EFL students through teaching World Englishes in IATEFL 2008: Exeter Conference Selections edited by B. Beaven, April 7-11 2008. IATEFL: Kent.

Shin, H. (2007) ‘English Language Teaching in Korea: Toward Globalization or Glocalization?’, in Cummings, J. & Davison, C. (ed.) International Handbook of English Language Teaching. Springer: New York, pp. 75-86.

Song, J. J. (2011) ‘English as an official language in South Korea: Global English or social malady?’ Language Problems & Language Planning, 35(1), pp. 35-55.

Suzuki, A. (2010) ‘Introducing diversity of English in ELT: student teachers’ responses’. ELT Journal. 65(2), pp. 145-153.

Widdowson, H. G. (1994) ‘The Ownership of English’. TESOL Quarterly, 28(2), pp. 377-389.

1 ‘English fever’ was a term coined by Krashen in 2003. It is used to suggest an “overwhelming desire to (1) acquire English, (2) ensure that one’s children acquire English, as a second or foreign language” (http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/fever/index.html, 2011). English education in South Korea has also been referred to as a ‘national religion’, a ‘craze’ or has a ‘cult-like status’ (Harris 2005: pg.172).

TESOL France 30th Colloquium – Day Three (#TESOLFr)

And after two fantastic days of learning and connecting, the third day arrived which was equally super! There was only one difference though…we were all feeling sad at the end of it, because we would have to end a great conference and say goodbye to very good friends.

Willy Cardoso

The third day started off with a session by Willy Cardoso, Classroom Management – Who’s (Really) in Charge? It was the first time I had attended a talk by Willy. I am a big fan of his blog, Authentic Teaching - if you have not read his posts, I would highly recommend them!

I absolutely loved Willy’s talk. He shared his personal experiences in class with his students in London – Willy told us of how he gave his students ownership of the lessons. They felt comfortable enough to ask him to do something particular they liked in the next lesson and it worked – Willy had the greatest of lessons with them! They were still learning. He also spoke of seating arrangements that he changes all the time according to what he wants to do with students in class. I wish I could have seen one of Willy’s lessons!

Simon Greenall

After that, I had the privilege of attending the talk of a person I have admired for years for his work, and have had the good luck of meeting personally – and is a fantastic person as well – Simon Greenall! Simon talked about a subject very close to my heart, that of culutre and diversity, which I have mentioned many times in the past as an integral part of my teaching. In his talk Mind the Gap: Designing Materials and Activities for Intercultural Training, Simon spoke to us about how he has integrated culture in his books and materials – the sensitivity we should have towards people of various cultures in our teaching, in order to pass this on to our students and show them that these cultural differences are important in order to bring tolerance in our classes.

Arjana Blazič

Another one of my favourite people on Twitter was up next – Arjana Blazič and her workshop Testing, testing, 1 , 2, 3! Arjana is a multi-awarded educator from Croatia with two blogs: her own and one she has organised with her IT specialist at school to help students in their Matura exams.

Arjana, who integrates technology extensively in her classes, introduced us to a multitude of web tools in order to help our students with quizzes and online testing. The great thing was that on these websites teachers and students can be very flexible and create quizzes of their own. Arjana did a great job of pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of these web tools, which ones we could use free of charge and which we have paid versions of. You can see her presentation and all the slides including all the web tools on her blog.

Geoff Tranter

The conference closed with a fantastic plenary by Geoff Tranter, called That’s a Funny way to Learn a Language! Geoff has an amazing sense of humour (which he also showed us during the Open Mic night the evening before) and demonstrated how we can use it in class effectively – he showed us funny acronyms, riddles, funny signs and newspaper headlines we can use in our classes! I liked what Geoff said at one point: If your students are making humorous remarks in a foreign language, you have come a long way with them. I really enjoyed this closing plenary, as it was full of tips and also quite different.

After the conference, the BESIG weekly workshop, with Helen Strong this time, was broadcast in the amphitheatre – some watched it, some of us had to leave Paris unfortunately, and a great conference and very good friends behind.

As a closing treat to these three posts about the respective days of the TESOL France conference, I have some photos for you! I hope you enjoy them.

The Thevenin Amphitheatre filling up

With Sue Lyon-Jones and Sue Annan

With Ania Musielak

With Brad Patterson

With James Taylor

With Arjana Blazic

With Anna Loseva, in front of her poster presentation

With Elizabeth Anne

With Isil Boy

Mike Harrison, James Taylor, Sandy Millin and Sue Lyon-Jones before Ania Musielak's presentation

A restaurant full of tweeters!

Classroom Activities for Young Learners – Guest Post by Christina Markoulaki (@christina_mark)

I have the great honour to present my new guest blogger to you – a wonderful educator from Crete, Greece: Christina Markoulaki! I have connected with Christina on Twitter and hope one day to meet her face-to-face. She is an enthusiastic teacher and blogger and also an iTDi Associate.

Thank you so much for your fantastic post, Christina!

1) Alphabet cards

Proudly showing our carefully arranged cards!

The students who start their journey in the English language are always very happy to make their very own alphabet cards. All they need is some cardboard paper (or any colored paper) cut in small square pieces and their crayons. On one side of the card, they can write the letter in uppercase and lowercase, while on the other they can write the word that begins with that letter and draw a picture of the word. This activity does not take considerable classroom time and is always welcome by the children.

Mickey can join in the fun, too!

As soon as the cards are prepared, the games that can be played with them are endless! The ones that never fail to excite my students are ‘Find the letter/ word’, ‘Form the word’, You are the Teacher’ and, of course, ‘Letter Bingo’. Judging by the names, it can easily be understood that the first games are a product of my inspiration during a cheerful lesson with the juniors, while the last one is well-known worldwide.

 Students can be divided in groups before they have a go at these games and learn how to collaborate from an early age. Each group can win points for each correct answer it gives, which makes things even more suspenseful! 

‘Form the word’ game

In the first game I mentioned before, the teacher pronounces a word or a letter and the learners have to pick up the correct card as quickly as possible. In the second one, they need to form the word they hear using the cards in front of them and in the third case they are allocated the teacher’s role, now having the opportunity to test their classmates’ knowledge of the alphabet by asking them to raise the card of the letter or word they utter.

The final activity is exactly the same as the popular Bingo game, but involves the use of letters, not numbers. Based on that, the students have to choose their favorite six (that is the usual number of cards allowed in my classes) letters/ words and have the cards depicting them laid on the desk. While the teacher (or another student) pronounces random letters or words, the players remove the letter they hear in case this is depicted in one of the cards they decided to keep in front of them. The first player (pair/ team) that has no cards left can happily exclaim ‘Bingo’! Admittedly, this is everyone’s favorite part of the game and can be heard from time to time even from passionate players who have not won!   

2) Grammar train

Past Continuous: Affirmative

Are your students bored with grammar rules and formulas? Turn everything into a train and they will love it! The inspiration for such a venture came after attending a seminar, where a quite similar idea was presented, but I decided to develop it a bit further and design my own wagons on my computer. This allowed me to visualize any grammar rule I wanted as well as include some funny figures in each wagon (famous people, cartoons or colorful pictures) to give the learners something more to be excited about!

Past Simple vs Present Perfect Simple

The idea is rather straightforward: you can design a wagon on your screen on a Word or Pages document by placing a rectangular shape on top of several circles which serve as the ‘wheels’ of the train. Needless to say, you could simply use a readily made picture of a train and paste the grammar parts on it, as I have done in order to create the first, and most impressive, wagon; that which contains the subject of the clause! 

The whole activity can be extremely amusing, apart from educational, since the students need to change positions to rearrange the parts of each tense if they want to form the affirmative, interrogative and negative versions of it.  Once again, the students can be divided into groups which should coordinate to quickly form the tense the teacher dictates. 

 Imagination poses no limits! Feel free to apply these ideas in your classroom and let me know how the experience was.  

Christina Markoulaki

Christina Markoulaki is an EFL teacher in Greece, where she was also born.

She is fortunate enough to have been trusted with students of all ages and levels within her 5 working years, their ages ranging from 5 to 50 years old!

Using modern technology in the classroom to create new learning experiences is what fascinates her. All links concerning the school she works in can be found on this colourful glog!

Blog: Teaching and Learning English

Twitter: @christina_mark

 


If “Google” is Translating Then I’ll Start Revamping – Guest Post by Naomi Ganin Epstein

What a great honour for me to have Naomi Ganin-Epstein, a wonderful educator from Israel, write a guest post for the blog. Ever since I connected with Naomi on Twitter, I am always happy to see her online and exchange ideas and links – she is so enthusiastic and passionate about what she does and she does a fascinating job as well. Thank you so much, Naomi!

Naomi introduces herself:

Naomi Ganin-Epstein

For the past twenty-six years I have specialized in teaching English as a foreign language to deaf and hard of hearing pupils in Israel. I began my carreer as an elementary school teacher but have taught high-school for the last 22 years. I have a B.A. in Deaf Education, a B.E.D. in EFL and an M.A. in Curriculum Development. I’m the author of two textbooks for these pupils. I am both a teacher and a teacher’s counselor. I blog at: Visualising Ideas and on twitter: @naomishema. I live in Kiryat-Ono, Israel, with my husband and two sons.

“Google Translate” has been around for quite a while. Before that there were online bilingual dictionaries, which were, in turn, preceded by electronic dictionaries. Students have been using these to do their homework assignments for years. Therefore, I assume you are wondering why I am bringing up the impact of “Google Translate” on homework assignments at this time and whether or not I’ve been asleep till now!

photo by Gil Epshtein


In order to explain, let’s backtrack a bit.

When electronic bilingual dictionaries were first introduced many teachers were concerned that giving a student an electronic dictionary is akin to giving him /her all the answers! That is simply not true. The English language is complex, many words have multiple meanings, use of idioms is common and the grammatical structure of the language is very different from that of Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic (Israel’s official languages). A student needs a command of syntax and grammar in order to choose the right dictionary entry for a given context. In addition, he/she must be able to think in a flexible manner when translating and reorganizing words translated into meaningful chunks. Consider the following sentence:
When Dan arrived he found out that there was no room in the car left for him.
If a student chooses the first meaning appearing in the dictionary for every word in this sentence the result will be a totally incomprehensible sentence. The jumble of unrelated words would probably include “left” as a direction, “room” as something with four walls, and “found out” probably wouldn’t be found (in the electronic dictionary) at all!

Knowledge is required in order to use a dictionary efficiently and correctly–using it mechanically will not improve a student’s results. In addition, a student who hasn’t studied at all and looks up every single word in the dictionary will not finish the exam in the allotted time, even if that student is eligible for “extra time on exams”. An electronic dictionary (only a good quality one, of course!) is a very useful tool and I am delighted to have my students use it.

When computers became household items students began using online bilingual dictionaries to do their homework assignments. These were essentially the same as electronic dictionaries – both required the user to type in one word at a time.

However, “Google Translate” changed the rules of the game. Now students can type / paste entire chunks of text into it and get a translation. Regardless of what you may think of the quality of the resulting translation, we have passed the “point of no return”. The ease and speed of the translation process is too enticing. In addition, teachers cannot control which dictionary a student uses outside of class.


At first, I was not too concerned about students using “Google Translate” for homework. Until fairly recently I gave homework assignments on handouts. Students had to sit and type in the sentences they wanted to translate. Typing in the words forced them to actually look at the words and pay attention to their spelling. As that process is slow, some of the students would look at a word to see it they knew it before investing the effort to type it in.

photo by Omri Epstein

But recently I made the transition to giving online homework. I give short tasks which consist of activities usually centered on an unusual picture or video clip (more details about this can be found here). Sometimes the tasks deal with specific language points such as confusing words. No listening or speaking activities are used as my students are deaf and hard of hearing. The tasks are not based on the specific course books which the students use as I teach a myriad of levels and have divided all the pupils into four homework groups based on level (in order to preserve my own sanity!). I am very pleased with the transition – the number of students doing homework has risen dramatically and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the students feel more “noticed” since the change.

Every change is accompanied by new problems and this one is no exception to the rule. I have discovered the full impact “Google Translate” on online homework tasks. The vast majority of the students don’t even bother glancing at the reading comprehension activities – they simply copy and paste them into “Google Translate” and read them in their mother tongue.

Therefore, if “Google” is translating then I’ll start revamping (the structure of the homework assignments that is).

Here are some of the types of assignments I use and what their current status has become:

  1. Open ended questions – these are not seriously impacted by use of “Google Translate” mainly because if the student tries to use it as a shortcut to answering the questions (i.e. student writes answer in mother tongue and copies the resulting sentences in English) the result is very problematic. Example: Q: Why is this building shaped like a basket? The answer I would like to receive is: Because they produce baskets in this building. “Google Translate” ‘s answer is : “That this building produce baskets”. Google Translate DOES offer alternative translations for each word – if a student goes into details with that – I’m happy! However, giving open ended questions for every homework task is not suitable, especially for my really weak students.
  2. Sequencing sentences – one of my favorite reading comprehension homework assignments for weak learners was having them watch a short video clip and sequence the actions shown. With “copy and paste” the entire activity can now be done in mother tongue. This activity is now out!
  3. True / False sentences & Matching Pictures to Sentences– same problem! Out!
  4. Completing sentences with words and phrases from a word bank – this activity still works reasonably well if the word bank is at the bottom of the page, in a box. I’ve seen students working in class this way – they end up copying / pasting the word bank several times in order to complete the sentences. The more the students need to work with a word, the better. These students main exposure to the language is through their eyes, not their ears.
  5. Completing sentences without a word bank. I find this activity works well with the slightly stronger students. Even when the students are using “Google Tranlsator” to translate from both English and their mother tongue, completing a sentence demands demonstrating more of a command of syntax and grammar, yet is still easier (unless structured otherwise) than an open ended question. Once again I would like to emphasize that I am referring to tasks which are not centered on a text.
  6. Grammar tasks – they work well with the new translator as their focus is not on the vocabulary items in any case.

photo by Gil Epstein


Since I’m a firm believer in moving with the times, I’m turning to YOU, my online colleagues for more ideas regarding activities that actively encourage the student to use English while doing homework!

Interview with Timo Ilomäki

It is a great honour to have Timo Ilomaki on my blog. He is an educator and student counselor from Finland and Coordinator of Entrepreneurship and Social Media Network. He also writes a very interesting blog on the use of technology in education http://educationtechnology-theoryandpractice.blogspot.com/ Timo is very active on Twitter and is one of the people who started #finnedchat, a weekly discussion on Finnish education. He and his partner Aki Puustinen are doing amazing things for education, so stay tuned and follow them on Twitter and their blogs!

Kiitos, Timo!

Number Seventeen – Help Them Shine! – The 30 Goals Challenge

One of the books I remember reading for the course - Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society by Peter Trudgill

As a student, either in Canada or in Greece later on, or in university after that, I have been lucky in the fact that I have had a lot of teachers and professors whom I remember very fondly. This happened for the reason that they were great people and educators, and that they encouraged students to build on their inclinations and even in subjects where they sometimes struggled, to try hard and believe in themselves.

I remember in university having a tough time with Sociolinguistics. I really loved listening to our lecturer, and participating in class discussions (sometimes, as I usually hesitated to contribute, as I thought I would say something silly) and reading the material, but I still felt I was barely keeping my head above water.

One day, our professor asked us a question and I thought whether I should raise my hand and answer. Better not, I thought. You will probably say something and embarrass yourself in front of so many people (it was always a full house with this woman – she was such a great educator in many respects!). So some students were waiting to answer with hands raised. Suddenly I saw her turn to me. “You!” she said loudly. “You over there.” I was petrified with fear, I am sure I turned red as well. “I want you to answer.” And she came right in front of me (I always sat in the front row). “Well?” she said. So I answered in a low voice and she said: “Right. Look what you have done. First you don’t want to answer at all. Then you whisper your answer, you have deprived the class of a great opinion! And everyone’s opinion counts in here!” she boomed. (Even when she was praising us, she did it in a very loud tone.) “I learn from you too, you know!” and she gave us all big smile. “If you hesitate to anwer me once more”, she told me (in her loud tone again), “I’ll come over there and stand in front of you until you let it out! Got it?” and then she winked at me.

I cannot tell you that from that day on that Sociolinguistics became one of my favourite courses. I just loved studying it and yes, taking part in class conversations. I just had not given myself the chance up to then to see what I could do. I thought that I could not understand the complex notions. So what if I gave the wrong answer? I would learn from someone else. Needless to say, that was another day when I decided that if I ever became a teacher, I would never give up on any student of mine. And to this day, I have not.