IATEFL 2018 Materials Writing PCE Session 1

Here I am again at a MaW SIG PCE, which no doubt, going on past experience, will not disappoint!

The theme of today is Writing for the World, based on the realisation that a lot of writers are writing for specific situations/populations with unique needs. Mainstream materials are not sufficient, so something else needs to be done. Tania gave the example of writing for aboriginal students in North America. Who are they? What do they need? How can we give them that? The PCE will be looking at situations where English is a lingua franca, writing for refugees, writing for ESOL learners (who have spiky profiles) and writing for students with special educational needs.

The first session of the PCE is by Marek Kiczkowiak, the founder of TEFLEquity Advocates:

ELF and materials writing

There is a huge problem when it comes to job ads, many still require native speakers only and tehre is a widespread belief that NS speak with the “correct accent”, have a feel for the language that NNS can’t have etc. Debatable. What is important for today’s talk is that these beliefs don’t just lead to discriminatory hiring policies but also influence how materials are written. When we write materials for EFL or ESL, we are quite likely to emphasise conformity with a standard model, there has also been emphasis on “target culture” (often British/American). This would be fine if it were like Polish, if you were learning Polish it would be because you wanted to learn about Polish culture and interact with Polish people. English however is now a global language so why would we focus on native speaker culture and norms? We need to prepare learners to use English as a lingua franca, which requires a different approach to materials writing. Such a change would help the profession move away from the damaging beliefs around NS-NNS and reflect the global nature of the language.

How can we make this transition from writing materials for EFL to writing materials for ELF?

  • What is ELF?
  • 7 assumptions behind writing materials (not an attack but a call for change, a suggestion for change, to move from writing materials for EFL to writing for ELF)
  • Three practical activities that could be included in coursebooks, could be used by materials writers.

Definition of ELF – a context where lots of people speaking different languages use English to communicate as the only common language between them. E.g. in business meetings. Business is primarily conducted in English. Also in conferences, lots of different L1’s, but English is the common language of communication. Higher education is another context, as well as tourism. ELF is a 3rd paradigm, distinct from EFL and ELF.

Assumptions:

The more native-like the pronunciation of a student, the more intelligible they will be. However: it is not proximity to NS model that makes a speaker intelligible in an international setting. It can actually make you less intelligible in a LF setting. A study took over 1300 people from 11 different countries and had to listen to recordings of different speakers, only one spoke a standard variety (American) and he was judged as least intelligible across the board (second only to one from Hong Kong).

Frequently focus on NS models of culture – British or American typical. Tomlinson and Masuhara (2013) concluded that materials predominantly focus on British or American culture. Another study found that when other cultures were introduced, it was done in a very simplistic way that resulted in stereotyping other cultures and critical reflection on other cultures was not encouraged.

The language that students were taught in coursebooks analysed by T and M, standard middle class British English was the target. However proximity to a standard model is not what makes ELF communication successful, it is particular communicative skills. A study looking at students from various countries studying in Italy, analysed 120 hours of communication, one of the communicative strategies that helped communication be most successful was paraphrasing.

We also need a wider variety of authentic non-native accents. Exposure to lots of accents helps students understand those accents. We do a good job of helping students understand standard native speaker accents, we need to extend this.

Authentic English examples are taken from corpora but they are native speaker corpora. What is authentic language for non- native speakers? Language used in multingual settings, between non-native speakers. We need to use ELF corpora e.g. VOICE, ACE, ELFA, to tap into authentic language.

If you are multilingual, you know that when you speak the language you will use words from other languages. That doesn’t mean you don’t necessarily know the word but you want to facilitate communication, or to signal identity, or it’s just easier. Marek uses Polish, English and Spanish interchangeably. At his hotel, speaking to a Polish speaker, the hotel clerk used words like checkout and checkin.

We also need to raise students’ awareness of all the issues talked about in this session, about the global nature of the English language. They don’t need to agree but it is important that they consider the issues critically.

Focus on 3 areas and 3 activities to use in materials writing

Intercultural skills

List three things that define you as an individual and three things that define the people in your country:

Me: Vegan, teacher, gay

People in this country: ???

We then had to discuss some questions which had us compare lists with a partner, see if there was anything surprising in the country lists and suchlike. The final question was: What does this tell us about culture and identity?

Promote multilingual English use

We looked at a dialogue with some code-switching in it – réunion vs meeting (building rapport?) – and parfait/buenìsmo (could be signalling identity). Shouldn’t assume they don’t know the English words.

  • In a course book in Germany – 25/29 interactions were only between native speakers of English.
  • When NNS appear in dialogues, often they are not successful ELF users, they are someone struggling to buy a ticket for example.

Marek has developed an easy to follow step by step guide for teaching and writing for ELF (see flyer – can also download the slides) – prerecorded sessions, reading suggestions, forum – with special offers for IATEFL week: plus free teaching ELF pronunciation course plus pronunciation interviews with experts plus teaching ELF interviews with experts.

 

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