Flashcards are not new. They’ve been around for as long as any of us can remember. In their original form, they were nothing more than a stack of blank cards. Later they came with a hole in the corner and a handy ring to keep them together. My early experiences learning languages revolved around these cards, which I faithfully filled in at my parents’ kitchen table. Wherever I went, I took a set with me, bringing them out to look at when I had a few spare moments.
Although paper flashcards have a special place in my heart, I accept that they have now been superseded by a new generation of digital flashcards that can be accessed from anywhere via a smartphone app. The move to digital has had considerable benefits. Digital cards cannot be accidentally lost or destroyed (and there is little chance of spilling coffee on them). In many cases they can be enhanced with pictures and audio. They can even be turned into games or quizzes. Read More »
As any good language teacher knows, learners cannot improve their speaking without abundant opportunities to practice. One-on-one, unrehearsed conversation is the best method for improving speaking across all levels of proficiency. However, most learners have limited opportunities for this. One-on-one instruction may take place once or twice a week (if at all), and so other methods are needed if learners are to improve fluency and accuracy in the new language.
Structured output activities are designed to encourage learners to use newly acquired vocabulary and sentence patterns productively (i.e., through speaking or writing). For the purposes of this article, we will focus on speaking. Structured output activities have two distinguishing characteristics: Read More »
I was recently speaking to a Korean friend of mine about how things have changed for him since COVID-19. As you can imagine, there was a long list of differences. Toward the end of it, he mentioned that his children were now getting their English lessons online. As someone intimately acquainted with online language teaching, my ears perked up.
“How’s that going?” I asked.
“Terrible!” I probed him for details. ‘All they do is talk,” he said. “The whole time. Nothing else. No teaching.”
I asked if it was important for his children to be able to speak English. “Of course,” he said. “Most important. But they need teaching. The talking they’re doing in the lesson is…” He trailed off. “It’s like friends.”
The expectations people have of teachers differs vastly from place to place, and there was definitely a cultural dimension to his argument, but I found myself wondering if he had a point. A lot of what goes on in online language lessons more closely resembles socializing than traditional teaching. Read More »