Foreign teachers' impact
- "foreign teachers haven't made much of an impact on Chinese students'
Where did this come from? Is this from research or opinion? If it is
from research then all of us can pack up and go home, we have nothing to
do. It would be nice to understand how someone reached this conclusion.
Also, how is this impact determined, on the outcome of an exam measuring
discrete language points or communicative ability.
SEEING CHANGE - A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
I will make an argument that all teachers who teach Intermediate and
Upper-Intermediate levels of English do not "seem" to make much of an
impact. Progress always seems slower to the student and the teacher.
A thought experiment. Imagine an inverted pyramid which is a receptical
for all the language the student learns. Let's say the student receives
100 words in his pyramid after one month of study. That little point at
the bottom of the inverted pyramid is now occupied by the words. The
increase from zero to 100 would be striking. All of a sudden, a student
who could say nothing now can "speak English"! "Hello!" "My name is..."
"How much does it cost?" "blue, yellow, black" Wow.
Years later the student has accumulated a lot of English and we take a
look at his pyramid again. It has filled up quite a bit. The narrow
pointy part is at the bottom because our pyramid is inverted and the
wide part spreads as we gaze from the bottom up on our pyramid. He now
has a few thousand words in there.
After one more month of study let's say he got another 100 words. Can we
see the same kind of dramatic change as we did when the student began?
No. In fact, it has become very difficult to see any change. Why? At
this point in his studies he is not learning basic communication, a few
words that enables him to actually speak with foreigners.
He has not learned one word to use as a greeting like "Hello!" He has
learned "Hey, how is it going?" "Wow, it's really great to see you
again!" "Where have you been all these years?"
Now he has not learned "My name is..." but has learned "Just call me..."
"My name is...but you can call me..." "My mother used to call me...and
it always drove me nuts!"
Now he has not learned "How much does it cost?" but "How much will that
set me back?" "What's the damage?"
He doesn't speak of "blue, yellow, black" but now he talks about
"red-orange, turquoise, violet, yellow-ochre, yellow-orange, crimson,
burnt-sienna, burnt-amber, cadmium-red, cadmium-yellow" etc.
THE GROWING OF GEORGE
When my children were babies it was easier to see the change in their
growth from newborn to 3 months. George is now 11 years old and I can't
see any change during a three month period. We have a measuring chart in
the kids' school room and we can mark off George's hight at one date and
measure again after 3 months and maybe that would help. But I think it
would still be harder to see the change than at the period when he was a
newborn to 3 months. Even after a year it will not be easy to see how
much George would grow without the chart. Thus the "My, how have you
grown!" from friends and relatives when they visit your family after a
year or so. It's easier for outsiders to see the change if they have
been away from you.
A LANGUAGE TIME CAPSULE?
How can we really see change in language acquisition. I was trained as
an IELTS examiner but even the IELTS test is not so accurate.
I taught one of my students for 18 months. I had made a recording of his
English when we began. After 18 months we listened to it again. Wow,
what a difference. It was clear to him as he listened to himself stumble
over words and sentences and he could hardly believe his English was
that bad before.
So my argument is that anyone teaching beginners will "seem" to have a
higher impact on a student than anyone teaching more advanced students.
davekees@... - www.davekees.com - skype: davekees
Teach English in China - www.asiateacher.com