Monday, 19 January 2015

Ursine sylvan defecation mystery solved

My attention was caught today by this tweet:

As the tweet suggested, the headline 'finding' was hardly surprising. But I wanted to know just how it had been reached. So I had a look at the survey here

The article introduces the survey like this:
Nearly seven out of 10 middle and high school students in South Korea are dissatisfied with English lessons at school because they are too focused on grammar, a study showed Wednesday. [Break for frankly pointless picture of SOMEONE'S HANDS IN THE ACT OF  WRITING SOMETHING] Based on a survey of 990 students attending middle and high schools in Seoul, the study showed 67.5 percent of them were discontented with the way English is taught at school.
My first impression [apart from 'Gosh – only two-thirds of  school kids don't like prescriptive rules; what a bunch of conformist drones' ] was that it could do with some images more eye-catching than the frankly pitiful ones supplied by the Korea Herald. So I knocked this one up without thinking too much [at first] about the message it conveys:

The first thing that leapt out of this picture was that the respondents (and, more importantly, the people asking the questions) saw only about two-thirds of language in terms of the four skills traditionally considered by language teachers  Speaking, Writing, Reading, and Listening (or, for lovers of mnemonics, SWhiRL). Personally, I can't conceive of teaching any of those skills without some vocabulary to start with, and without some way of choosing how to organize those words into meaning-bearing utterances (LS) or sentences (RW).

So it seems that this survey says more about pedagogy in S. Korea.  How do you learn vocabulary without any of the four productive/receptive skills? Presumably it is an entirely solitary and reflective process. And the same goes for grammar. How lucky I am not to have been exposed to that sort of regime.

There's a message here for language teachers: 


You won't get anywhere and your students will quickly side with the malcontents.

But I don't see what else can be gleaned from the survey. There seems to be a great deal of confusion over what was being asked – what students liked, what they valued, what they saw as being valued by some other stakeholder (parents, teachers, examination authorities, potential employers...). The article doesn't say, and I suspect I'd have to learn Korean to read the original.


Update 2015.01.21.18:20 – A  few cosmetic tweaks.

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
nearly 48,200 views  and over 6,500 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,400 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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