Voice-overs and Other Updates

voice over1

The one thing that has consistently made me curious about ESL textbooks is the homogenized voice actors on so many English learning tools and textbook audio companions. I understand the need to establish “standardized” English vernacular to model for students just starting to learn the language, but the reality is Americans have all sorts of accents, including those from other nations. Essentially, I believe, making simulated conversations without any ethnicity other than Caucasian is truly an unrealistic representation of the American melting pot ELLs face in work and community interactions. For this reason, I have enlisted the help of people with various backgrounds to help with creating the simulated conversations that go with the I Want To Learn English textbook in development. And not only do they vary in ethnicities and accents, but also in age. Some very young voice-over actors (including my 7 year old daughter) and members of our senior citizen community participate in this project. I like the idea of using some of these dialogues for the swing differentiation conversations and listening activities because they present more challenges for those students in the upper proficiency levels.

What is truly useful about having different people participate in the simulated conversations is the sense of “real” people. The nuances in speech are difficult to master when your first language is not English. Americans take this for granted, of course. This is one of the principle reasons it is essential to have a myriad of voices simulating conversations: to give adult ELLs a sense of being in a authentic conversation. Or at least, listen to them for the purpose of deciphering meaning and recalling details about the subjects being discussed. Perhaps this will be realized as students progress, not only in their overall test scores, but in their confidence level and English proficiency. This will ultimately pay major dividends for students working through general comprehension activities to improve their hold on the language, as well as in their improve their articulation skills.

Long and Short Vowels [Review Lesson]

The following video features part of a review lesson on long and short vowels. It demonstrates visual associations with auditory and articulated comprehension of distinct pronunciations of English sounds (specifically long and short vowels) in English words. The words used in the examples are one-syllable words so students may have the least amount of distractions (to avoid confusion) in focusing on the specific vowels sounds being targeted and studied.

Presenting at the Maryland TESOL Conference

It’s always an honor to be selected to present at a conference, since so many people from various backgrounds submit their proposals. However, the MD TESOL Conference 2014 is particularly exciting because Dr. Stephen Krashen, a well respected figure in the field of TESOL, is the keynote speaker at the event and also a presenter on Common Core. Although the excitement is evident, the primary focus for my presentation is to introduce colleagues in teaching English to adult ELLs to the crux of my research project: “Swing Differentiation.” It’s this concept that has lead me to begin creating a prototype textbook I call “I Want To Learn English,” or IWTLE. The birth of this concept came from the inherent need for adult learners to be able to acquire at least some understanding of the essential phonetic foundation of the English language. After some trials and error, I discovered just teaching adults the “bare bones” basic phonetic symbol representations of, say, long and short vowels, paid great dividends in their overall performance throughout the course. For this I needed to work almost exclusively with level 1 students to verify my conclusions. After two years of trials, I had the necessary data to submit to my supervisors at Baltimore City Community College’s Basic English Language Skills (or BELS) program. The number of students who were able to score higher on the CASAS exams and advance to the next level rose exponentially, which made the program director take serious notice of what I had been doing. It was because of their encouragement and support that I have been allowed to continue my methods and studies, which has only become more efficient with each new class. So, my findings, methods, theories and data are at the center of my presentation at the MD TESOL Conference, which I hope will generate more interest from my fellow colleagues and perhaps entice them to participate in my ongoing project. If you were not able to attend the conference, a video stream of my presentation will be made available both through the MD TESOL website (mdtesol.org) and on my channel on You Tube. Stay tuned.

The Dawn of “I Want To Learn English”

I Want To Learn English began as a research project aiming to improve adult ELLs’ scores on the CASAS exams in Baltimore, Maryland. What I discovered in over two years of implementing phonics intensive curriculum at the onset of beginners’ coursework was it not only improved their overall scores, but a greater number of students were retained throughout the semesters. Curiously, I looked deeper into this unexpected effect and learned adult students found the initial lessons on the phonetic foundation of the English language helped them, generally speaking, grasp the the language more analytically, which is something many students felt was very beneficial in the overall course. This added an intrinsic component to seemingly mechanical methods. This opened my eyes to the multi-faceted, complex miracle that is language acquisition in the adult years. There are so many angles to this phenomenon and much more research is needed to gain more of an understanding of the importance of establishing the basic fundamentals for acquiring English as an adult learner. IWTLE is both a tool and an ongoing research project, which is why I am actively seeking other adult ESL instructors to be a part of this project and put together a more efficient textbook for adult learners than what is currently available on the market. To inquire, please email  directly me at iwanttolearnenglish3@gmail.com.