Sunday, September 26, 2010

Learning Language

   Like most individuals I began learning language years before I entered into a formal classroom environment. The constant interaction between family members and the unconditional praise at every attempt to read or speak was all the motivation one needed to learn both English and Spanish. Upon entering into the classroom it became the role of the educator to build an awareness of print and its’ various forms and functions by encouraging students to guess what written language says, read to and with students while encouraging prediction of events, and encourage students to experiment with reading and writing as much as possible (Goodman, 1986).
   In order for a learner to succeed they must be placed in a comfortable environment designed to avoid affective filters. According to Krashen (1981) if a student’s affective filter is high it can cause a barrier and comprehensible input will cease to flow through. It was my experience that I became despondent or unconcerned when presented with incomprehensible learning materials within the classroom. When the structure of my teacher’s lesson plan was limited in scope focusing on the pragmatics of English it created frustration for both myself and the other learners. As a language learner I rarely worked in groups while reviewing the repetitive worksheets commonly assigned by the instructor. Throughout the analysis of the worksheets the instructor failed to utilize affective strategies aimed towards lowering class anxiety levels and did not encourage us to take additional risks in the creation of our language learning (Oxford, 1990a).
   Allowing us students to use language on our own terms would have made the language learning process a more enjoyable experience leaving everyone involved with a stronger sense of accomplishment. In adopting a pragmatic stance of this nature I feel my sense of agency was stripped away and the voices of the classroom were silenced by the instructor resulting in the acquisition of only one language; English.
Goodman, K.  (1986).  What’s Whole in Whole Language?  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann   Educational Books.
Krashen, S.D. (1981). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. English Language Teaching Series. London: Prentice-Hall International (UK) Ltd.
Oxford, R. (1990a) Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. In Brown, D.H. (2000) Principles of language learning and teaching 4th edition. Whiteplains, New York:  Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

CIP: Observing

   The instructor stood in front of the class writing on a dry erase board. The surrounding walls were bare with the succession of desks set up facing the front of the room. Each time students’ verbalized they were required to raise their hands and not allowed to confer with classmates in their L1. If they were not conscious of the correct words necessary to express themselves they were not to respond. The entire class was in complete silence while transcribing a story out of their books devoid of any cultural relevance because they had been unable to respond to the questions being asked.
   The instructor was unable to see the importance of making use of the L2 learners L1 and culture to help facilitate interaction amongst the students. The classroom may have been operating in such a manner due to a lack of training, interest, or teaching style. Whatever the cause the L2 learners were suffering and I felt as if a piece of my soul had died by being required to endure the fifty minutes of monotony.    
   Supporting EFL learners L1 within the classroom is of significant value to them and members of their surrounding communities. Showing support and expressing the importance of a L2 learner’s primary language and culture have profound effects on levels of success that are attained in acquiring a foreign language. By providing feelings of self-worth and empowerment EFL students’ realize their potential as L2 learners.  Educational environments that do not facilitate and encourage L2 learners L1 within school curriculums only serve to devalue students’ sense of being and encourage them to reject their own culture resulting in immeasurable effects upon society. 
   Communication between EFL educators, student’s families, and community members with regards to how L2 education programs are implemented is essential. Most language educators recognize the importance of their student’s L1, but do not realize the value of using culture and language as a primary foundation for future academic growth. Continuing education and becoming an informed teacher lessen similar situations amongst L2 educators. By doing so, L2 educators will better serve the needs of their EFL students and maintain positive relationships with members of the communities they teach in. 

Friday, September 3, 2010


   Reflecting upon my undergraduate education within the California State University system I have no recollection of any discussion of plagiaristic practices and how to avoid them. It seems a lot of educators in today’s society view such knowledge as an innate part of involvement within the world of academia. Simply being a native speaker of English educated within a Western academic context should not give way to the implication of understanding plagiarism and the appropriate writing practices imperative to it’s avoidance (Yamada, 2003). The word “plagiarism” when heard echoing through a classroom during the discussion of an upcoming research project automatically throws me into a state of panic. Sending visions of being pulled in front of an academic review board only to have its member’s direct accusation of intentionally stealing the thoughts of another racing through my mind. With the end result being a premature ejection from an academic career that has been a self-aspiration since childhood.
   Students attending tertiary levels of education from periphery discourses when entering into a western classroom face the significant challenge of adherence to a system they know little or nothing about. Since all types of learning takes place within a specific social context: the classroom, the teacher, school culture, and that of the surrounding community, influences what goes into an individual’s written work.  L2 learners coming from differing backgrounds and L1 learners alike may not possess or be aware of the systematic nuances required by Western styles of academic writing leaving them at a distinct disadvantage (Angelil-Carter, 2000 as cited in Yamada, 2003).
   When individuals feel supported they excel, when there is vested interest the desire to learn is wide spread. Self-reflection has to occur or pedagogical practices and attitudes towards the L2 and L1 writers, who lack the necessary training within the discourse of Western academia, will not change. Only through a systemic practice of self-reflection upon ones own pedagogic practices can educators be confident that the rules set forth by Western academia will be properly adhered to in cohesion with the current theoretical knowledge within the field of applied linguistics (Hole & McEntee, 1999; Posteguillo & Palmer 2000).
Angelil-Carter, S. (2000). Stolen language? Plagiarism in writing. In Yamada, K. (Eds). (2003). What prevents ESL/EFL writers from avoiding plagiarism?: Analysis of 10 North-American college websites. System, Vol. 31, pp. 247-258.   
Hole, S. & McEntree, G.H. (1999). Reflection is at the heart of practice. Educational Leadership, Vol.    56(8), pp. 34-37.                                                               
Posteguillo, S. & Palmer, J.C. (2000). Reflective teaching in EFL: Integrating theory and practice. TESL-EJ, Vol. 4(3), pp. CF 1-15.