31 jan 2018 Language Awareness – an article summary II
January is already over, and I hope you have managed to soldier on with your resolutions through this first month. In December, I set myself the goal of learning more about language development and shared the first part of an article summary on language awareness (LA) for teachers. In this post, I summarise more content from the article and briefly reflect on some of my personal experience tackling language awareness.
A methodological framework for LA activities
Based on the set of LA activities mentioned in the first part of this summary, the authors propose a methodological framework which illustrates the principles underlying such activities. They explain that their understanding of LA was based on three competences an English language teacher needs: i) as a learner user; ii) as a language analyst, and iii) as a language teacher. These three competences are expected to be continuously developed since they are linked, and none of them is seen as predominant. The sequence of activities they analysed offers chances to work on each of the three competences.
Write and Bolitho also present their views on the process of awareness-raising and remind us of the need to come to terms with the uncomfortable as well as comfortable discoveries. They claim LA often challenges deeply-held beliefs of language, which are developed both in training and over years of experience. As a result, one should expect that attitudes and views will change slowly, as part of a gradual process. Furthermore, they stress that the main concern lies in behavioural outcomes as opposed to products. These outcomes are related to changes of attitude, greater insight, and the foundations for future courses of action.
In a nutshell, the authors promote LA as a methodology with which to explore language and language use, and its connections and implications for classroom practice.
The take-home message for me is that talking about language is extremely valuable since it can boost our confidence as teachers to make decisions while planning a lesson, teaching, and assessing our students’ performance as well as our own performance. Language awareness is a process which can be challenging and even frustrating at times. By developing our skills as language analysts and relying on our colleagues for guidance and support we can reap all the benefits of this process.
While reading the article, I couldn’t help but think of a few LA courses and workshops I have attended. I remember they followed a very similar approach, and there were times when the speaker or tutor perceived a few heads shaking in disbelief, which now I gather were the ones challenging deeply-held beliefs of language and probably facing uncomfortable discoveries. In the end, however, the insights gained from each activity would unfailingly result in astonished expressions on the faces of teachers who would never teach a grammar lesson the same way.
In order to provide you with more inspiring ideas on the topic, I’d like to link to two other discussions on language awareness for teachers that have also inspired me to learn more about it: a post by Marcela Cintra on teachers as language learners, and a talk by Bruna Caltabiano on grammar and language awareness: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Write, T. and Bolitho, R. (1993) Language awareness: a missing link in language teacher education? ELT Journal, Volume 47 (Issue 4), 292-304.