Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ellis's Q2: What grammar should we teach?

(2) What grammar should we teach?

This question can be broken down into two separate questions:
1. What kind of grammar should we base teaching on?
2. Which grammar features should we teach?

grammatical models: structural grammars, generative grammars (based on a theory of universal grammar), functional grammars (p.86)

Modern syllabuses give more attention to the functions performed by grammatical forms. Less empahsis is placed on such aspects of grammar as sentence patterns or tense paradigms and more on the meanings conveyed by different grammatical forms in communication. (p.86)

Grammar Book (by Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, 1999) is a valuable resource of grammar. It identifies the kinds of errors that L2 learners are known to make with different grammatical structures. (p.87)

VanPatten, Williams, and Rott (2004) emphasize that establishing connections between form and meaning is a fundamental aspect of langauge acquisition. (p.87)

Which type of grammar to use as a basis for teaching is not a major source of controversy (descriptive grammar??); the choice of which grammatical structures to teach is controversial. (p.87) --> two ploar positions:
A. Krashen's minimalist position: Grammar teaching should be limited to a few simple and portable rules such as 3rd person -s and past tense -ed that can be used to monitor output from the acquired system. (p.87)

There is now ample evidence that many learners are capable of mastering a wide range of explicit grammar rules (Green & Hecht, 1992).

B. Course book writers such as Walter & Swan (1990), Murphy (1994): comprehensive position (Ellis's term)
Such a position would also seem unwarranted because learners are clearly capable of learning a substantial amount of the L2 grammar without instruction and because most teaching contexts have limited time available for teaching grammar so some selection is needed. (p.88)

Ellis's viewpoints:
1. The selection of grmmar teaching should be based on the inherent learning difficulty of different grammatical structures. (p.88) First, we should distinguish two different senses of learning difficulty.
A. the difficulty learners have in understanding a grammatical feature
B. the difficulty they have in internalizing a grammatical feature so that they are able to use it accurately in communication (p.88)
--> the distinction between learning grammar as explicit knowledge and as implicit knowledge
Most learners have no difficulty in grasping the rule for English third person -s but they have enormous difficulty in internalizing this structure so they can use it accurately. (speaking or writing??)

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Ellis's Q1: Should we teach grammar?

(1). Should we teach grammar?
Some researchers' findings: (p.85-86)
1. Krashen (1981) argued that grammar instruction could contribute to learning bu tthis was of limited value because communicative ability was dependent on acquisition.
2. Pica (1983), Long (1983), White, Spada, Lightbown, & Ranta (1991): These studies showed that, by and large, the order of acquisition was the same for instructed and naturalistic learners. Instructed learners generally achieved higher levels of grammatical competence than naturalistic learners.
3. Long (1988) concluded that teaching grammar was beneficial but that to be effective grammar had to be taught in a way that was compatible with the natural processes of acquisition.
4. There is also increasing evidence that naturalistic learning in the classroom (as, e.g., in immersion programs) does not typically result in high levels of grammatical competence (Genesee, 1987).

Rod Ellis's conclusion:
1. There is convincing indirect and direct evidence to support the teaching of grammar. Nevertheless, doubts remain about the nature of the research evidence. (p.86)
2. The grammar taught should be one that emphasises not just form but also the meanings and uses of different grammatical structures. (p.102)

Rod Ellis's conerns:
1. How do we measure grammar learning and teaching? constrained constructed responses (e.g., fill in the blanks, sentence joining, or sentence transformation) or free constructed responses (e.g., communicative tasks) (p.86)
2. Learners do not always acquire what they have been taught and that for grammar instruction to be effective it needs to take account of how learners develop their interlanguages. (p.86)

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Summary of Rod Ellis's article on TESOL Quarterly 2006

Ellis, R. (2006). Current issues in the teaching of grammar: An SLA perspective. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), 83-107.

Rod Ellis addressed 8 questions about grammar teaching and learning:
(1) Should we teach grammar, or should we simple create the conditions by which learners learn naturally?
(2) What grammar should we teach?
(3) When should we teach grammar? Is it best to teach grammar when learners first start to learn an L2 or to wait until later when learners have already acquired some linguistic competence?
(4) Should grammar instruction be massed (i.e., the available teaching time be concentrated into a short period) or distributed (i.e., the available teaching time spread over a longer period)?
(5) Should grammar instruction be intensive (e.g., cover a single grammatical structure in a single lesson) or extensive (e.g., cover many grammatical structures in a single lesson)?
(6) Is there any value in teaching explicit grammatical knowledge?
(7) Is there a best way to teach grammar for implicit knowledge?
(8) Should grammar be taught in separate lessons or integrated into communicative activities?

My teacher at TKU Dr Wible also brought up 7 questions in the first class of our class (pedagogical grammar).
(1) Can grammar be taught?
(2) Is grammar a coherent notion? That is, can grammar be carefully isolated as a body of knowledge or is language somehow distorted when this is attempted?
(3) Is there a different kind of grammar knowledge needed for reading than for writing, for speaking than for listening, etc.?
(4) Is there some order in which the rules or generalizations of grammar should be learned/acquired/taught?
(5) What are the ideal conditions under which learners can master the grammar of a target language?
(6) Of what value is explicit grammar knowledge to a language learner?
(7) Of what value is explicit grammar knowledge to a language teacher?

I will summarize Rod Ellis's opinions about grammar teaching one by one in the following postings.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ch#2 Language choice in multilingual communities

Here are some key points that I learned from reading chapter 2 of my sociolinguistics textbook (An introduction to sociolinguistics by Janet Holmes, second edition, 2001).
linguistic repertories: all the languages that one can use fluently
domains (a term popularized by an American sociolinguist Joshu Fishman): A domain involves typical interactions between typical participants in typical settings. Some examples of domain include 'family', 'friendship', 'religion', 'education', 'employment', etc.
If your community is monolingual, the term variety includes different dialects and styles of language.
Domain is clearly a very general concept which draws on three important social factors in code choice -- participants, setting, and topic.
People may select a particular variety or code because it makes it easier to discuss a particular topic, regardless of where they are speaking.
leakage: At home, people often discuss work or school, for instance, using the language associated with those domains, rather than the language of the family domain. Some describe this as 'leakage', suggesting it is in some way irregular -- the code associated with one domain is 'leaking' into another.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sociolinguistics - cultural differences

Today, we saw part of a comedy entitled "Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (芭樂特:哈薩克青年必修(理)美國文化), which will be released on March 23, 2007 here in Taiwan. You can veiw a short trailer from Apple's website.

It's a hilarious movie in which much fun resulted from the misunderstanding of cross-cultural communuication and cultural differences. We use different styles in different social contexts. We should also notice that what is linguistically appropriate in one country may be treated inappropriate, unacceptable, or even rude in another country. Greetings and ways of addressing people, for example, are two basic social skills we should learn while we are learning a new language.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tamkang International Conference on Second Language Writing

Tamkang University is going to hold an International Conference on Second Language Writing on Dec 1st and 2nd of 2006. As far as I know, this is the only conference in Taiwan that is focused specifically on L2 writing. Important dates for this conference:

Abstract due: July 10, 2006
Camear-ready paper due: September 30, 2006
Conference dates: December 1st and 2nd, 2006

Two of the invited speakers in the plenary session are:
1. Dr. Paul Kei Matsuda (University of New Hampshire)
2. Prof. John Flowerdew (City University of Hong Kong)

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

2005 International Conference on TEFL and Applied Linguistics

2005 International Conference on TEFL and Applied Linguistics held by Ming Chuan University is scheduled to be unveiled tomorrow. Invited keynote speakers include Prof. James Dean Brown (topic: Language testing policy: The needs of students, teachers, and administrators) and Prof. Richard Day (topic: Why EFL students can't read). In addition, there are a couple of pannel discussions such as (1) Issues in Computer-Assisted Language Learning, (2) Language Policy and Teacher Needs/Training, (3) Implementing Extensive Reading, and (4) College English Programs: Curriculum Design & Perceived Effects. There are more than 90 papers to be presented.

I am also going to present a paper titled "Using blogs in an EFL writing class" at 1:00 p.m. in P502, Tourism and Languages Building of Ming Chuan University. You are welcome to come this session and give me any comments and suggestions.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Should we teach our students English grammar?

According to an article published on Jan. 19, 2005 Times Newspapers in Britian, teaching grammar to our students is not whorthwhile in terms of improving their English writing ability. However, it also reported that some scholars disagree with the results of this research.

I strongly believe that in an EFL environment teaching our students important and practical grammar is extremely essential. "Sentence combining", as the news story mentioned, is an alternative to grammar teaching in the classroom if the purpose of teaching grammar is to improve students' writing ability. Probably I should give my students more sentence combination practice in the future.

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

2005 EFL conferences in Taiwan - ver. 1

Happy Chinese New Year. If you are interested in English teaching-related conferences here in Taiwan in 2005, here are some of them:
1. 2005 Conference and Workshop on TEFL and Applied Linguistics,Department of Applied English, Ming Chuan University (Date: March 12 ~ March 13) (abstract deadline past already). Details about the conference can be found at the Department of Applied English at Ming Chuan University.
2. Freshman English Conference, Department of English Language and Literature, Soochow Univeristy (Date: May 7) (abstract deadline: Feb. 20). Details about the conference can be referred at the Department of English Language and Literature at Soochow University.
3. The 22nd International Conference on English Teaching and Learning in the Republic of China (ROC-TEFL), National Taiwan Normal University. (Date: June 4 ~ June 5) (abstract deadline past already). Details about the conference can be found at the Department of English at National Taiwan Normal University.
4. The Fourteenth International Symposium and Book Fair on English Teaching hedl at Chien Tan Overseas Youth Activity Center, Taipei. (Date: Nov. 11 ~ Nov. 13) (abstract deadline: Feb. 15) Details about this conference can be found at English Teachers' Association, Repbulic of China.