Секция "Лингводидактика". Доклад С. Проббер (США)

2-я научно-практическая интернет-конференция с международным участием

Moderator: Irina Tivyaeva

Irina Tivyaeva
Posts: 167
Joined: 01 Dec 2011, 12:53

Секция "Лингводидактика". Доклад С. Проббер (США)

Post by Irina Tivyaeva »

Sara Probber, Fullbright scholarship holder
sara@probber.com (USA, New York, Columbia University)

I stood in front of my first class, and started speaking. My students’ faces quickly changed; their expressions were familiar. Their faces mirrored my own face of late. Even after studying a language for an extended period of time, a conversation with a native speaker requires adjustment. As a new resident in the Russian Federation, I quickly discovered how difficult it could be to take your language skills from the classroom and apply them in a face-to-face conversation. I had grown accustomed to the calming cadences of my own Russian professor in New York. Although I now understood most of her speech, each introduction in Tula required an adjustment to a new pattern of speech, rate of speaking, and manner.

As an English language teacher, the reality of speaking a foreign language in an immersive environment is never far from my thoughts. After a month here, I realized that I could usually understand women’s speech more easily than men’s. This is not surprising, given that all of my native Russian instructors had been women. Once I realized the way adjusting to a certain voice impacted your ability to listen, I decided to supplement my own lessons with samples from other English speakers. I have found that lecture excerpts, available through the online instruction videos produced by many major universities, news clips, and debate coverage, when supplemented with a worksheet or script for guidance, challenge my students by requiring them to adjust to another native English speaker’s style.

Experts say that in order to retain a word, language learners must encounter it 6-15 times. As a language student, I recall being handed 200 word lists, being told to memorize them over the course of three days, cramming before an exam, and promptly forgetting the words after I no longer needed them to pass a test. Initially, I struggled to find novel ways to encourage students to improve their knowledge of vocabulary. Reflecting on my own experience, I realized that I had suffered from memorization burn out midway through my own senior year. However, I was still able to recall new vocabulary acquired in a novel way.

Instead of creating lists, asking students to memorize them, and testing them on the vocabulary the next day, I find creative ways to initially introduce students to the vocabulary. I now try to introduce new vocabulary through a game that reviews each of the new words at least three times, or encourage students to create their own vocabulary lists based on articles, videos, or clips I assign. I find that they are then better able to incorporate the new vocabulary into our in-class conversations, providing a richer discussion.

More challenging, perhaps, than coming up with creative ways to introduce new vocabulary to my classes, is breaking down the final barrier to open up a free conversation. Several of my students are still hesitant to speak with me despite the fact that we have already worked together for an extended period of time. My conversations with my students provide me with a unique opportunity to understand how Russian values, opinions, and culture compare to my own. Each class, I find myself challenged to understand a new perspective. Given how much I personally take away from each of my classes, I find it especially distressing when students are unwilling to communicate. In addition to organizing supplementary conversation groups, bringing in a variety of multimedia materials, asking students to prepare work beforehand, appointing students to moderate the group, and creating a less formal classroom setting, I was still facing difficulties. I decided, at that point, that in some instances it paid to be strict. Despite the fact that it was counter to my own nature, I learned to call on students who were unwilling to speak. Encouraging students to overcome this final barrier, and gain a certain level of comfort with the English language is an essential contribution I can make as a native speaker. Having never gone through the process of memorizing English vocabulary or grammatical structures, I cannot always offer the strongest explanation for foreign speakers. However, I can encourage my students to practice speaking with a degree of fluent accuracy.
Early on in my Russian experience, I went to a café to download videos for my classes. While I was working, a young woman approached me. “Hi!” She excitedly said. “You are the new American teaching at our university, right? I answered in the affirmative, and she asked me join her and her friend for lunch. Through our conversation I learned that, despite the fact that they were skipping class, they were highly dedicated students. A week later, we held our first unofficial language club. While my classroom experience has been invaluable, these less official opportunities to speak with students and the other citizens of Tula have also provided me with an incredible opportunity.
As a language teacher in a foreign country, English provides me with several unique opportunities to communicate. Teaching a foreign language has provided me with opportunities to meet a large variety of people. By hosting language clubs, lessons, and workshops that I either run or assist at weekly, I gain a unique perspective on Russian society. I hear about my peers’ experience growing up in the Russian Federation; professionals’ experience building their companies, growing up in the Soviet Union, and experiencing perestroika; and my high school students’ plans for their lives. Learning a language encourages an individual to explore the culture and society of the country that speaks it. In a globalizing world, this ability to reach out to other cultures, and negotiate the complex differences in cultures and values is a difficult still. Learning to navigate the complexities of a language is an essential first step in this process.
Posts: 14
Joined: 10 Apr 2012, 21:19

Re: Секция "Лингводидактика". Доклад С. Проббер (США)

Post by Olga »

Dear Sara,
Sharing your experience of introducing new vocabulary, applying language skills in a face-to-face conversation and helping second language learners adjust to native speakers' styles is very beneficial to teachers and self-learners.
Could you, please, give an example of games you use while introducing new vocabulary?

Return to “Актуальные проблемы лингвистики и лингводидактические аспекты профессиональной подготовки переводчиков”