Event announcement: IATEFL PronSIG/GISIG event

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Next month (14 October 2017), Laura will be giving a workshop at the joint IATEFL Pronunciation SIG/Global Issues SIG event in London, UK, about developing learners’ ability to understand different accents of English.

Here are the full details:

How to help learners understand the world’s accents

The use of English as an international lingua franca means learners need to understand a wide variety of accents, both native and non-native. How can teachers prepare them for such diversity? In this practical workshop we’ll demo a 5-step lesson plan, informed by the latest research into ELF and pronunciation.

Click here to register to attend. Online booking closes on 1 October 2017.

Hope to see you there!

 

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My English Voice

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The fifth in a series of lesson materials

If you’re looking for audio resources featuring a wider variety of accents than is offered in most coursebooks, then YouTube is the place to go. This is the last in our series of five free downloadable lesson plans and worksheets based on YouTube clips, aimed at inspiring teachers to expose students to the full range of English accents in the world.

The four previous posts have all featured individual lesson plans for teachers to take into class. I would like to complete the series with something a bit different, by sharing details of my new ‘online school’ based almost entirely on… YouTube.

Self-study worksheets

There are so many interesting videos on YouTube featuring speakers from around the world that I decided it is time to create a YouTube channel of my own, to put these videos in one place. I have created self-study worksheets and answer keys for each one, with listening comprehension and vocabulary exercises, and a section aimed at raising students’ awareness of the range of accents they might hear when using English as a Lingua Franca (which I have called International English on the videos because I think this is easier for students to understand). The lessons include a sub-titled extract from each video, with a transcript of the extract on the worksheet, and students are asked to repeat what the speaker says to try and notice any differences between their own pronunciation and the pronunciation of the speaker on the video. The My English Voice website is still in the final stages of design, but should be live in a few weeks, and this will be a place for students to search lessons by topic, level, and speakers’ first language backgrounds.

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Example lesson

The lessons are aimed at learners, i.e. they are self-study materials for people to do at home, alone. However, teachers are most welcome to use them in class, and it would be great if you could show the site to any students who might be interested, even if you feel the worksheets are not appropriate for use in class. You can encourage people to join the My English Voice ‘community’ by liking the Facebook page, subscribing to the YouTube channel, and signing up to the newsletter for updates of new lessons here. And if they subscribe (for free) this is the kind of lesson they will receive:

  • A worksheet like this
  • …which goes with a video like this
  • …and when they finish, they can check their answers with an answer key like this.

YouTube live broadcast

Feedback from students who have used the worksheets suggests that they need more motivation to actually complete them! For example, some kind of deadline. So, on Saturdays at 9.00 GMT, I am hosting YouTube live broadcast ‘chats’ where students can answer the discussion question at the end of the worksheets by typing their ideas into the chatbox.

I am also experimenting with ways to make English language learning more accessible, i.e. more affordable, by hosting speaking ‘lessons’ via Skype and YouTube live broadcast on Sundays at 9.00 GMT. The idea is that students pay the price of a cup of coffee in their country, so people pay different rates based on their currency. It works like this…

  • Students message me through the Facebook page with their email address, Skype ID, and their first language (e.g. French, Farsi, Japanese, etc.).
  • After they have paid, via PayPal, I match them with another student and send them the Skype ID of their ‘speaking partner’ (of a different first language background).
  • They also receive an email with the lesson materials and a link to the YouTube live broadcast event.
  • During the lesson, students can type questions and messages into the chat box on YouTube live broadcast to communicate with the whole class, but the speaking is done just with their partner via Skype.
  • After I have demonstrated the communication exercise (i.e. an information gap activity), students call their speaking partner on Skype while I countdown the time in the YouTube chatroom.
  • When the time for the speaking activity has finished, students come back to the chatroom to share their experiences of doing the activity and reflect about how successfully they communicated. We work together as a group to think of ways they could improve.
  • Then there is another speaking exercise in the same way again, using Skype, and then feedback via the YouTube chat box.

The My English Voice course

As well as the YouTube lessons, My English Voice will also soon be launched as an ‘online school’ by offering a four-week Skype course in groups of three learners, all of different first language backgrounds. The first pilot course has just been completed, with a Russian speaker, Japanese speaker, and Farsi speaker. Here are a few details…

My English Voice course details infographic

 

The course aims to develop learners’ speaking and listening skills in an ELF context and, as you might expect coming from one half of ELFpron, there is a strong pronunciation focus:

Course outline

I would love to hear any suggestions or feedback, and watch this space for the launch of the website in the next few weeks. Happy YouTubing!

katybannernew

Choosing a university

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The fourth in a series of lesson materials

If you’re looking for audio resources featuring a wider variety of accents than is offered in most coursebooks, then YouTube is the place to go. This is the fourth in our series of five free downloadable lesson plans and worksheets based on YouTube clips, aimed at inspiring teachers to expose students to the full range of English accents in the world.

The lessons are suitable for Pre-intermediate level classes and above, although the audio materials could be used with Elementary classes by adapting the tasks. The discussion questions related to accents and pronunciation could also be done in students’ first language if these are too challenging at their level. The materials could be used with adult or teen classes.

Choosing a university

This one-and-a-half-minute video advertises Birkbeck, University of London, which specialises in evening university study, both part-time and full-time courses. There are five speakers who all answer the same question: “Why did you choose Birkbeck?”. The speakers’ L1 backgrounds are not given, but universities are often international environments*, and there are a range of accents in the clip.

*See Jenkins, J. (2014). English as a Lingua Franca in the International University: The politics of academic English language policy Routledge

The lesson outline

  1. Students predict the reasons someone might give for choosing a particular university.
  2. Students listen and compare their predictions to what the speakers say. Then they listen again to match photos of the speakers to sentences explaining reasons for choosing Birkbeck.
  3. Students complete a dictation exercise by listening closely to just one of the speakers. They order sentences based on what they hear.
  4. Students imagine they are going (back) to university and visiting an open day. They brainstorm ten questions they would ask to help them choose which university to attend.
  5. Finally, students focus on the range of accents in the video and brainstorm ways to avoid / deal with communication breakdown.

You can download the student worksheet here and the teacher’s notes here.

More links

Here are other YouTube clips featuring university students with a range of accents:

Durham University’s business school

Foreign students in Germany

International students at the University of Bristol

International students at Michigan State University

katybannernew

Visiting students’ perspectives on China and India

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The second in a series of lesson materials

If you’re looking for audio resources featuring a wider variety of accents than is offered in most coursebooks, then YouTube is the place to go. This is the second in our series of five free downloadable lesson plans and worksheets based on YouTube clips, aimed at inspiring teachers to expose students to the full range of English accents in the world.

The lessons are suitable for Pre-intermediate level classes and above, although the audio materials could be used with Elementary classes by adapting the tasks. The discussion questions related to accents and pronunciation could also be done in students’ first language if these are too challenging at their level. The materials could be used with adult or teen classes.

Visiting students’ perspectives on China and India

In this 2 minute BBC video, Chinese students talk about living in India, and Indian students talk about living in China.

The Chinese students say that:

  • Indian people help each other a lot.
  • Indian people don’t worry about being late.
  • Indian cities are less developed than they imagined.

The Indian students say that:

  • China is safe for travelling.
  • Chinese food is oily.
  • China’s economic growth is amazing.
  • There are a lot of skyscrapers in China.

The lesson outline

  1. Students discuss what they know about China and India.
  2. Students listen and answer a gist question.
  3. Students listen again and complete gapped sentences.
  4. Students discuss their own experiences and preferences related to travel.
  5. Finally, students listen again and focus on the students’ accents. They discuss questions aimed at raising their awareness of: a) the variety of different accents in the world, and b) the responsibility of the listener to develop their ability to understand different accents.

You can download the student worksheet here and the teacher’s notes here.

More links

Other videos on YouTube featuring Chinese or Indian speakers:

katybannernew

ASEAN school exchange

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When I heard that a small group of teens from my school in Thailand were going on an ASEAN exchange to Indonesia and wanted help preparing to use English in that context, I jumped at the chance to talk to them about ELF.

What is ASEAN?

ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The member states are Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. There has been increasing focus on teaching children about ASEAN because the countries have forged closer ties in 2015 with preparations for a common market (the ASEAN Economic Community, or AEC).

ASEAN-member-countries

What was the aim of the workshop?

To raise students’ awareness of the main differences between their own accents and the accents they might hear in Indonesia, and to build confidence interrupting and asking for clarification in the event of not understanding someone.

What materials were used?

I came across the Tumblr Accent Challenge while hunting for clips on YouTube of Indonesian teenagers speaking English. People from all over the world have uploaded videos of themselves pronouncing a set list of words and answering the following questions:

  • Pronounce the following words: Aunt, Roof, Route, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Pajamas, Caught, Naturally, Aluminium, GIF, Tumblr, Crackerjack, Doorknob, Envelope, GPOY.
  • What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
  • What is a bubbly carbonated drink called?
  • What do you call gym shoes?
  • What do you call your grandparents?
  • What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
  • What is the thing you change the TV channel with?
  • Choose a book and read a passage from it.
  • Do you think you have an accent?
  • Would you like to be a wizard or a vampire?
  • Do you know anyone on Tumblr in real life?
  • End the audio post by saying any THREE words you want.

I used this particular clip and this handout of the Tumblr Accent Challenge.

How was this used in the workshop?

  1. As you can see, the language level is quite high, so we went through the list of words and questions before listening. It was also useful for the students to try saying the words in the list to prepare for their task while listening, which was to think about the following question: “Do the people in the video say any sounds differently to you?”

  2. After watching the video, the students picked up on some quite specific points, e.g. the use of /d/ in ‘the’,  and other comments were more general like ‘they go up and down a lot’. It was also interesting because the speakers in the video answer the question ‘Do you think you have an accent?’ with ‘No’, which the students thought was funny, because to them the Indonesia teenagers had quite distinctive accents. They said they’d never heard Indonesian accents before.

  3. This was a useful springboard into talking about the students’ own pronunciation because it helped them to appreciate how people in Indonesia might feel about their Thai accents. I gave them a list of pronunciation features from the Lingua Franca Core that often affects the intelligibility of Thai L1 speakers’ English. You can download the handout here and adapt it as necessary. I asked the students to rate how clearly they think they can pronounce each of the features. In doing so, they were saying the words aloud and practicing them at the same time. Then we focused on the areas they felt they wanted more help with. We also talked about the importance of being aware that these features could lead to breakdown in communication, so you can choose different words if it seems that one particular word is not clear to your listener.

  4. Then we worked on interrupting people to say you don’t understand. First, we brainstormed phrases you could use (there’s space to do this at the bottom of the handout). This was unproblematic because knowing what to say is not the problem – actually saying it is another thing! Interrupting someone is culturally quite uncomfortable for Thai people to do, so it took a lot of practice. I spoke too quickly and the nominated student had to interrupt and ask me to speak slower. Then we also tried asking someone to explain one specific word they couldn’t understand. So I deliberately spoke about a topic they understood but inserted one difficult word.

The students responded very enthusiastically and I could see some real ‘lightbulb’ moments. These students were aged 16 and 17, so much older than I currently teach, and therefore able to discuss language variation and issues surrounding accents in a mature way. There were only seven of them and they had been selected to go on the trip. This was quite a different experience to my usual teaching, which is far more limited by time, large numbers of students, and exams. Still, it was an exciting project to be a part of, very briefly, because this is ELF in action. Maybe next time they’ll take me with them… !

katybannernew

Chinese New Year – young learner lesson

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People around the world are preparing to welcome in the Year of the Goat on Thursday. We’ll be celebrating Chinese New Year in my YL classes this weekend by making paper lanterns. And thanks to the British Council Learn English Kids site, it’ll also be a chance to raise the children’s awareness of accent variation. The craft section of the website features a video of a Chinese boy explaining, step by step, how to make a paper lantern. Since most coursebooks still feature mostly native speaker accents, this video provides a useful opportunity to focus students on a potentially unfamiliar accent. It also serves as a springboard for discussion to encourage students to reflect on how they can respond to unfamiliar accents. So here’s what I’m planning to do with the video…

Chinese lanterns for sale in Chiang Mai, Thailand, ahead of Chinese New Year.

Chinese lanterns for sale in Chiang Mai, Thailand, ahead of Chinese New Year.

1) Show pictures related to Chinese New Year and elicit what students already know about it. Show them a completed lantern and explain that this is what we’re going to make.

2) In groups, students order screenshots of the video showing the process of making a lantern. Then they match sentences to the screenshots. Download the images and sentences here and cut up one set per group.

3) Students watch the video and check their answers.

4) Students complete a worksheet, matching verbs to screenshots. Download it here.

5) Practice making an imaginary lantern as a whole class, using actions and drilling each verb.

6) Hand out the paper, glue and scissors, and print out one set of instructions per group from the BC Learn English Kids website. Students make their lanterns.

7) Come together as a whole class and reflect on accent variation using the three questions on the worksheet from step 4. This is an opportunity to promote tolerance of variation and encourage students to take responsibility as a listener to ensure that communication does not break down.

The questions:

  •  Does Ryan sound the same as you when he speaks English?
  • Why don’t people all sound the same when they speak English?
  • If you don’t understand someone when they are speaking, what can you say?

8) Drill the chant, also on the worksheet, and parade around the room swinging the completed lanterns in time to the chant!

The chant (which I’ve recorded here):

China, India, France (x2) China, India. (x2) China, India, France

Do we speak the same way? Do we speak the same way?

No, of course we don’t! No of course we don’t! No, we speak our own way.

Thailand, Singapore, Spain (x2) Thailand, Singapore (x2) Thailand, Singapore, Spain

We all speak our own way (x2) We try to understand (x2) When you speak your own way.

katybannernew

English is everywhere

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This is the third and last in a series of posts about the Learning English Video Project. Read on to find out what the project is about, but if you’ve already read our other two posts then just scroll down to the ‘materials’ section.

What is the Learning English Video Project?

It’s a series of seven videos on the English Club website, each focusing on a different country – Brazil, China, Spain, Romania, Morocco, America, and the UK. The videos feature interviews with students and teachers talking about their own experiences of learning English. For teachers, they provide fascinating insight into different classroom approaches. For learners, the videos provide useful tips on how to improve outside the classroom and can help learners to reflect on their own motivation and attitude towards English . For anyone interested in ELF, the series is a goldmine of audio featuring proficient non-native speakers of English – something that most coursebooks do not provide.

English Club screenshot

The videos are quite long at around 16 minutes each. They’re all worth watching but if you’re short on time, our favourites were Thoughts from Brazil and Insights from China. If you have the luxury of time in class to watch these videos with students, then check out the accompanying classroom materials under each video. There are self-study materials too, with comprehension and vocabulary exercises,  so you could even set them for homework. But here’s what you could do if you don’t have time to use the full video in class…

Explore the theme ‘English is everywhere’

We watched all the videos and found some recurring themes pertinent to ELF, which we grouped under three titles: English outside the classroom, English experiences, and English is everywhere. In each blog post we’ve included YouTube links which open at the relevant parts of the different videos, with notes on when to stop each clip. We’ve also designed a student worksheet with some comprehension questions and discussion questions based on those extracts, and accompanying teacher’s notes / answer key, both of which can be downloaded in the materials section below. The worksheets are designed for Pre-intermediate groups and above, although classes at the lower end of Pre-intermediate might need extra support understanding some of the questions.

Materials

Clip for exercises 1 and 2:  Beatriz (Brazilian student)

Note: The link should start at the correct place (8 minutes 5 seconds), but you need to stop it at the end of Beatriz’s talk (at 9 minutes 49 seconds).

Clip for exercise 4: Madihaaziz (Pakistani technician in Morocco)

Note: The link for exercise 4 should start at the correct place (3 minutes 27 seconds), but you need to stop it at the end of Madihaadiz’s talk (at 4 minutes 16 seconds).

Clip for exercise 5: Second interview with Madihaaziz (Pakistani technician in Morocco)

Note: The link for exercise 5 should start at the correct place (2 minutes 13 seconds), but you need to stop it at the end of Madihaadiz’s talk (at 2 minutes 44 seconds).

Download the student worksheet here.

Download the teacher’s notes and answer key here.

 

katybannernew