Issues in ELT / Issues in SLA

I haven’t written much about language recently but I’m definitely always thinking about it. It is itself a jailer, something I can’t get away from and like the adage goes “I am language”.

But been thinking about language as it relates to what we teachers do – teaching it.  I think teachers both need to be aware of the issues surrounding the teaching aspect of their profession but at the same time, the issues surrounding how students learn a language.  Lets call them the practical vs the theoretical ( the house (visible) and the foundation (invisible) ).

So here is a list with a few notes I made along the way, outlining off the top of my head, the main issues in English language teaching (the practical) and Second language acquisition (the theoretical).  Please comment and add your own but I think this list will be helpful to a lot of beginning teachers and help them see the breadth of our profession.

Issues in ELT

1.  Native speaking teachers vs Non-native speaking teachers  – pay / power / role?

2.  The backpacking teacher vs the certified teacher.  Is accreditation needed/useful?

3.  The role of technology.  Problems.  Eteaching boon or bane?.  Teacher training – how?.  Digital literacy.

4.  Textbooks.  Are they necessary?  Are any materials necessary (Dogme)?

5.  Edutainment.  Do students learn through games, being entertained? How much is too much?

6.  Edubusiness.  Does the profit motive hurt / hinder student learning? Are there low cost / no cost alternatives?

7.  Prof. Development.  Does it always mean conferences/workshops? Online PLNs, sharing.

8.   Education vs  Applied Linguistics.  Which orientation should drive the profession and be given importance?  Following good pedagogical practices or the research driven findings of linguists?

9. Proficiency.  What is a fluent speaker?  Can a learner attain native fluency? How do we know what a student knows?

10. Methods.  Is methodology important? Is there a magic bullet/pill? What works best?

Issues in SLA

1.  Poverty of stimulus.  How do we produce language in such unique ways (know and use grammar rules ) without very much input. What’s at work here?

2.  Order of Acquisition.  Does this apply to learning a second langauge?  What are the stages of learning a second language – grammar / words?  What are the differences between L1 and L2 learning?   Interlanguage – does it exist?

3.   Age. Critical period hypothesis.  Are young learners better language learners or just different?

4.  Cognitive Issues.  How does the brain store and process language? How are the brain and language linked. Do we think in words? Can we feel language? How is memory related to a second language.  Does the language we speak change the brain (Whorf)?  What mechanisms drive acquisition?  Innate vs learned behavior.

5. Identity and Culture.  Do we become different when we speak another language?  Culture.  Is language culture specific – how? Is it important to save languages and have many languages spoken in the world?

6. Form vs Function   /   Input vs  Output   /     Skills Focus  vs Immersion 

— do we learn a language best through an inductive nature or by deductive explanation and then application? Do we learn the rules informally or formally?  Can be break up language into discrete skills/units to study or is it too messy an affair?

7.  What is a word?  What is the basis of meaning and upon which communication is built? Semiology – how do things have meanings and what is the relationship? Why can’t a wink be as good as a nudge?

8.  Social factors.  The affective filter. How do factors like intelligence, affluence/poverty, peer grouping,  development, motivation affect learning? Are they critical? Personality – how does it effect learning a language (risk taking).

9.  Aptitude.  Why are some people better at learning languages? Why are females better? What factors drive this success – innate /  learned?

10.  Error correction.  How? Should it be done at all?  What makes a self correcting learner?

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy “Insights Into SLA”

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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