Teaching English to Young Learners
Whether it teaching young children who are born and whose parents are native to the United States or another English-speaking country or whether it be a situation where either the parents and/or the child are not born in the United States, teaching English to younger learners can be a challenge and it needs to be done in certain ways to be as effective and efficient as it can and should be. This report will cover the subject of using context to teach unknown or unfamiliar words. Specifically, there will be a focus on the teachings and assertions of Nation when it comes that subject. The deliverable for this report will be the planning of a day where the desired concepts from Nation and other sources will be used to construct the general framework and habits that will be used to teach students unknown words as well as helping themselves through things like context. Examples will be given along the way. The general selected tactics will be described and then a summary about how precisely to proceed will come. While there are other ways to drill and teach unknown words, helping students to teach themselves will help optimize how much and how well they learn outside of a formal learning environment or even with a parent or older person present.
Tactics That Can Be Used & Relevant Facts
Nation's primary assertion was that context can be useful. However, Nation also asserted that a systematic framework and approach can and should be used in terms of teaching English in general (Nation, 1990). Pinter (2006) made sure to emphasize "communicative" and "content-based" language teaching. While she was in Canada and a lot of these other sources are in the United States or perhaps Europe, her points seem to true across international and cultural lines. As noted elsewhere in this report, those lines can exist within single countries (Pinter, 2006). Further, a lot of the concepts used for younger learners in this report can be used on older learners. AN example of an older English learner would be someone that is an adult but is just now learning English due to being new to the country or they simply have not taken the time to learn English and have spoken a different language for the earlier times in their life. However, the perspectives and tendencies of children are different and the learning methods used must and should reflect that (Curtain & Dahlberg, 2009).
Nunan authored a fairly controversial yet very exhaustive amount of research on the subject of teaching English, when is the optimal time to do it, how it should be done and so forth. The points he covered in his book included a defining of what a young learner is, the developmental stages that are passed through as one learns English or another language, the main challenges encountered while teaching English and so forth. In answering those questions, Nunan has some very specific things to say about younger learners. These include the following:
Young learners are typically in preschool or otherwise within their first year of learning (e.g. Kindergarten, Preschool or very early elementary school)
They approach language from a holistic point-of-view. This means that they understand meaningful messages but cannot yet put them in language format some or all of the time.
Their level of awareness is fairly low and the same is true regarding their understanding of learning and the process therein.
Their language and reading skills are limited across the board, first language or not They are generally more concerned about themselves rather than others
They tend to have very little knowledge about the broader world and environment in which we live
They engage in and enjoy fantasy, imagination and movement (Nunan, 2011).
One huge part to any system like that would be the use of formulaic sequences. Of course, English is very complex and those that learn it later in life or in a piecemeal fashion after they have mastered another language struggle with the syntax and format that most English speakers used. This, of course, is why it is fairly easy to tell if someone is new to speaking English even if they have the words down very well. A sub-topic of mastery when using the formulaic sequences is the formation of idiomatic language. This...
There was a ramping up of this focus starting around 2000 according to Wray (2000). To echo the above, there are phrases and sentences in the United States or other areas that can technically be said more than one way but are said a certain way because that is the expected cultural formatting and order of things. That can be a tough pill to swallow because it effectively says "that's just the way it is said" rather than explaining why it is said that way when it could be said other ways. Indeed, it often comes down to societal and cultural norms. Those norms can even very from culture to culture within the United States and in other countries that speak English (Wray, 2000). However, some cultures will take a very different approach. For example, people learning a language in China (even if it is English) will tend to rely on Confucianism and other Eastern-oriented methods and ideologies (Du, Yu & Li, 2014).
The concept of using formulas when teaching language is anything but new. However, it can sometimes be hard to define instances of formulaic language and when they just happen to occur naturally on their own. Indeed, they tend to look very much the same whether they are formulaic or not. Even so, it is beyond a doubt that putting things in formula form allows people to use the patterns as a means to gain mastery and to engage in practice. Over time, it becomes less of a chore and a drill and more of what naturally comes forth when a person is trying to communicate. Indeed, there are some general approaches or desirable results to formulaic sequences. These include the following:
Pattern practice drills using fixed routines. This allows and encourages a development of confidence and fluency
Controlled variation using substitution drills to demonstrating that chunks of learning completed are not just invariable routines but are instead sentences with open slots that can be filled with a choice of words or phrases
An increasing of the variation allows the learner to more fully analyze the pattern
An increased vocabulary, even if the person is unable to use all the words in sentences early on A pragmatic use of lexical terms including institutionalized utterances
There will tend to be a balance between lexical terms, institutionalized utterances and the patterns for the same
The research about this subject stretches back chronologically to at least 1975. The names of the researchers in question includes Aijmer (1996), Becker (1975), Bolinger (1976), Coulmas (1978, 1994), Hatch et al. (1979), Howarth (1998a and 1998b), Hudson (1998), Lattey (1986), Moon (1992, 1998a and 1998b), Nattinger & DeCarrico (1992), Van Lancker (1987) and Yorio (1980). Throughout that same research, there are terms that need to be defined and clarified and many sets go together. They are as follows:
Amalgams/Gambits -- Preassemble or prefabricated speech patterns or routines
Automatic/gestalt -- Ready-made expressions
Chunks/holistic -- Ready-made utterances
Cliches/holophrases -- Recurring utterances
Coordinate constructions/idiomatic -- Rote
Collocations/Idioms -- Routine Formulae
Composites/Irregular -- Schemata
Conventionalized Forms/Lexical Phrases -- Semi-pre-constructed phrases that constitute single choices
Fixed Expressions & Idioms/Lexicalized Sentence Stems -- Sentence Builders
Formulaic Language/non-compositional -- Stereotyped Phrases
Formulaic Speech/Non-Computational -- Stereotypes
Formulas/Formulae/Non-Productive -- Stock Utterances
Fossilized Forms/Non-Propositional -- Synthetic unanalyzed chunks of speech
Frozen/phrases/praxis (Wray, 2000).
Another major part to the English-learning equation is that "lexical knowledge is an important predictor of success" (Verhallen & Schoonen, 1998). Further, it is said in the same Verhallen study that "children from language minorities are often at a disadvantage educationally" (Verhallen & Schoonen, 1998). Moreover, there are several different explanations for all of being the case and this includes socioeconomic status. However, the general L2 status of students, regardless of background, is seen as the primary factor that should be focused on. Just one instance that proved that was seen through a study of forty students that were both Turkish and Dutch and that could speak both of the relevant languages. Indeed, it was found that "there are important differences between the available lexical knowledge in L1 and L2 children allot to L1 words less extensive and less varied meaning aspects than to L2 words, L2 being the language of education" (Verhallen & Schoonen, 1998). Further, it was said "the overall conclusion is that the L1 knowledge of the bilingual children cannot counterbalance their poor lexical knowledge in L2 (Verhallen & Schoonen, 1998).
When it comes to getting students to the proper level of L2 language learning, some people are apt to make a simple dichotomy between "learned" and "not…
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