quarta-feira, 31 de agosto de 2011

Oxymoron! What's that?

Sayings: Less is more
Por Mary Ziller

“Less is more” is a saying that was first heard when talking about architecture and furniture design. It refers to simplicity of style.
“Less is more” sounds like an oxymoron.
But it is actually (na verdade) a popular way of thinking in education nowadays (atualmente).
When writing, it is tempting for students to be verbose and use a lot of fancy words to try to impress the teacher.
But actually (na verdade), it is better to write clearly and simply in order to communicate effectively.



Source: English Experts

terça-feira, 30 de agosto de 2011

Sons emitidos por Animais

Hi, everybody!

Hoje preparei para vocês uma lista de sons emitidos por animais com exemplos de uso. Confiram a seguir.

1. Buzz: zumbir
Ex.: The bees were buzzing near the tree. (As abelhas estavam zumbindo perto da árvore.)
2. Growl: rosnar
Ex.: The bear growled at me. (O urso rosnou para mim.)
3. Sing: cantar
Ex.: Can you hear the birds singing? (Você está ouvindo os pássaros cantarem?)
4. Whistle: assobiar
Ex.: Did that bird whistle? (Aquele pássaro assobiou?)
5. Meow: miar
Ex.: I went to the garage to see why the cat was meowing. (Eu fui até a garagem para ver porque o gato estava miando.)
6. Moo: mugir
Ex.: Our cows moo when they see us. (Nossas vacas mugem quando nos vêem.)
7. Cheep: piar
Ex.: The chicks cheep. (Os pintinhos piam.)
8. Cluck: cacarejar
Ex.: Many hens cluck when they lay an egg. (Muitas galinhas cacarejam quando põem um ovo.)
9. Bark: latir
Ex.: The dog always barks at strangers. (O cachorro sempre late com estranhos.)
10. Howl: uivar
Ex.: The lonely wolf howls at night. (O lobo solitário uiva à noite.)
11. Neigh: relinchar
Ex.: The horse was neighing loudly. (O cavalo estava relinchando alto.)
12. Bellow: berrar
Ex.: The calf bellowed and scared the mom. (O bezerro berrou e assustou a mamãe.)
13. Roar: rugir
Ex.: We heard a lion roar. (Ouvimos um leão rugir.)

From: English Experts

segunda-feira, 29 de agosto de 2011

Don't be ashamed to speak English!

In my personal encounters with Brazilians in the United States and especially in my travels to Brazil, I have noticed an apparent reluctance to conversationally engage in English with native speakers of English. While this phenomenon is common with many other nationalities, I am going to focus on Brazilians because this forum is primarily directed at Brazilians and my most recent experiences are with Brazilians.

I will expound on several examples of this perceived reluctance or fear that I have personally been involved with, starting with Junior, my brother in law. Junior is a well educated man who has a degree in computer engineering, but when I first met Junior and asked him “Voce fala Ingles?”, he replied with the very common “So so.”. Upon meeting one of my nieces, who is a medical doctor I received the same reply. A friend of my wife, who teaches English, gave a better, but still confusing reply of “A little.”. I was beginning to think that I was not from the United States and speaking English, but that I was from Mars and speaking Martian gibberish.

After a ruminating on this problem for a considerable amount of time I realized that I was actually intimidating all of these people with what they erroneously perceived as perfect English. Upon reaching this conclusion I rapidly developed the theory that my new friends and relatives were afraid of being embarrassed by their; accent, poor pronunciation, improper construction, or poor selection of words. I then vowed to try and understand what they meant rather than what they were literally saying, to never ridicule or laugh at them for errors in English, offer gentle suggestions to improve their English and most importantly to always to emphasize that their English is much better than my Portuguese. To my surprise it worked and all of them opened up and started to speak English to me, even with an English class that I was invited to talk to, by my wife’s friend.

In my humble opinion the only way to correct this problem is to speak English at every opportunity, especially with a native English speaker. In order to accomplish this, one must seek out places and times to practice your English while; never becoming discouraged, accepting any criticism gracefully, and learning from any suggestions. Remember, a non native speaker will probably always have at least a slight accent, which most Americans will find exotic and delightfully fascinating, therefore you have little to worry about.

If any of my friends on English Experts feel uneasy about speaking English to an American native English speaker you need to put away your fears, then go ahead and talk. My professor of public speaking taught me a humorous aside and a secret tool; if one is speaking to a group you can imagine that the individuals (Americans in this case) are nude, and in your mind, but never out loud, laugh at them, because it is impossible to be intimidated by someone who you are laughing at. Above all do not let fear dictate any of your actions.

Words to improve your vocabulary:
Encounter
Reluctant
Conversationally
Phenomenon
Perceived
Gibberish
Ruminate
Intimidate

Sobre o Autor: Bill Slayman tem 66 anos é americano e mora em Pensacola, Florida, USA. Ele atuou no exército americano e hoje está aposentado. Suas paixões são: andar de Harley Davidson, motocicletas, fotografia e qualquer coisa brasileira. Bill é um dos maiores colaboradores do EE.

Source: http://jpiantavinha-centroidiomas.blogspot.com

quinta-feira, 25 de agosto de 2011

We are losing our listening

In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, "We are losing our listening."

In this short, fascinating talk, Treasure shares several ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening -- to other people and the world around you.

First he says, reclaim silence. For at least a few minutes every day go to a room or a completely quiet place and listen to nothing, nothing at all. You need this to recalibrate.

Second, start consciously filtering noise. At a cocktail party hear the blender, the music, maybe in strain for the strings versus the guitar, and the hum of conversation.

And thirdly he offers an acronum for conscious listening with others…which Julian believes is the only way we’ll ever understand one another.

quarta-feira, 24 de agosto de 2011

Como posso melhorar a minha listening comprehension? – Parte 2

Por Michael Jacobs

Na primeira semana, um amigo – bem, ainda não era de fato um amigo, mas viria a ser –testou as suas habilidades de professor e começou a me ensinar os dias da semana. You know, segunda-feira, terça-feira… acho que não preciso dizê-los todos. Ai, que sofrimento! Não conseguia decorá-los, e os misturava, também. Não acertava a seqüência correta. “Sábado” e “domingo” não foram um problema tão grande, mas as duas palavras juntas dos dias da semana me atormentavam muito. Mas persisti e, dentro de umas duas semanas, estava pronto para maiores desafios. Não quero dizer com isso que, naquele ínterim, não tenha tentado outros lances, do tipo “quente”, “frio”, o verbo “gostar (de)” – este, sim, uma grande dor de cabeça, porque para nós, gringos, é um verbo bastante complexo. Ao aprender “gostar (de)”, tinha a tendência de omitir o “de”, o “da” e o “do” que viriam depois do verbo. O interessante é que o verbo correspondente em inglês, like, também é muito complicado. E não é que é um dos primeiros que queremos aprender na nova língua?

Onde eu estava? Ah, sim, falando das palavras que aprendi nas minhas primeiras duas semanas por aqui. Claro, não me lembro de todas elas, mas uma ocasião é nítida na minha memória: eu tentava obter instruções em São Paulo de como e onde pegar um ônibus para Santos. Acho que eu estava no bairro do Ipiranga. O meu vocabulário referente ao assunto estava limitado a “Eu vou para Santos” e “ônibus”. “Onde” era uma palavra que já conhecia, mas que tinha esquecido naquele momento. Com o verbo “pegar”, era pior: ele nem sequer havia entrado no meu vocabulário. A propósito: dizer “Eu vou para Santos”, a primeira frase inteira que consegui articular, me enchia de orgulho.

Como era gostoso poder me comunicar, mesmo parcialmente! Apanhei pra caramba pra achar onde deveria pegar o ônibus. Mas, de qualquer maneira, cheguei a Santos e, pelo que me lembro, foi naquele mesmo dia!

Outro fator que creio ser importante para melhorar a listening comprehension é fazer a distinção entre os verbos to listen e to hear, que, como você já deve saber, funcionam de maneira diferente daquela que ocorre em português. Se você pensa em “ouvir” apenas como to hear, e em to listen apenas como “escutar”, já começa com certa desvantagem. Pois, para melhorar, você precisará listen carefully, ou seja, “ouvir”, mas prestando bastante atenção. Concentrar-se bastante nos sons ao seu redor – e não é que ouvir os outros é uma habilidade, uma qualidade que muitos de nós precisamos desenvolver bastante? Realmente, ouvir os outros prestando bastante atenção no que estão dizendo é uma arte. Afinal, muitos de nós parecem ficar de boca fechada apenas o tempo suficiente para esperar uma brecha e, nisto, introduzir uma opinião própria.

Bom, vamos voltar ao que interessa. Como se desenvolve a listening comprehension para acelerar o aprendizado do inglês? A resposta mais óbvia é, claro, by listening, uai! Mas, se fosse tão simples, bastaria deixar a TV ligada na CNN ou na BBC e pronto. Após horas e horas de listening to the world’s news, você já estaria tinindo. Concorda?

Só que as coisas não funcionam assim. Você não vai chegar a lugar nenhum assistindo à TV passivamente. Aliás, não irá longe fazendo o que quer que seja de maneira passiva – isso até parece uma contradição. Se é de modo passivo, como se pode aplicar o verbo “fazer”? Não pode mesmo trazer bons resultados. Aliás, não traz resultado nenhum.

E é aí que reside o segredo de como melhorar. Praticando a língua, em toda a sua plenitude. Ouvindo, sim, mas falando também, tentando se comunicar. Trial and error, ou seja, por tentativa e erro. Tente, erre, tente de novo até acertar. Faça perguntas; repita-as; peça esclarecimentos; tente entender; cerre os dentes; enfim, tente! Vá em frente. Só assim você irá melhorar, um pouco de cada vez. Mas que a melhora irá acontecer, irá. Desde que você faça a sua parte.

Lamento informar a meus queridos leitores que não tenho fórmulas mágicas para resolver a questão. Não disponho de “regras” nem de segredos para fazer acontecer a tão desejada e crucial melhoria na sua listening comprehension. (E aqui vai uma resposta àqueles que fazem a mesmíssima pergunta para saber como melhorar o vocabulário: será só trocar o termo listening comprehension por vocabulary ao longo desta crônica, e terão a sua resposta também.)

Não é por ser alguém que publicou alguns livros e artigos sobre como melhorar o inglês que, automaticamente, eu possuo os segredos de Estado, guardados a sete chaves, que só digo aos interessados a preço de ouro. Não é por ser professor e autor que tenho o dom divino de saber métodos alternativos de como aprender inglês, nem de como “melhorar” a listening comprehension com facilidade. Acho que, no fundo, o que os meus leitores estão querendo saber é como facilitar o aprendizado, como melhorar a listening comprehension através de algum atalho; se é possível dar algum “jeitinho” para obter resultados rápidos. Basicamente, querem descobrir uma maneira de aprender sem fazer a parte deles, como se quisessem que alguém entrasse com o trabalho para só depois colher os frutos que outra pessoa plantou. (“Como ficar milionário sem trabalhar” também seria uma indagação do mesmo naipe.) Como diz uma leitora num e-mail para mim: Learning English is simple. But not effortless. (“Aprender inglês é simples. Mas não é sem esforço)”.

E eu ainda acrescentaria uma máxima de que uso e abuso. Melhorar a listening comprehension é realmente muito simples. Só que simples não é sinônimo de fácil.

Assim como com tantas outras coisas boas, é preciso um esforço do interessado – às vezes um esforço descomunal, é verdade – para progredir. Com uma única certeza: fazendo esse esforço, os resultados virão. Blood, sweat and tears são a ordem do dia. Foi com sangue, suor e lágrimas que comecei a aprender português. Bom, eu me empolguei e acabei exagerando um pouco. De sangue quase não precisei…

Claro, nestas linhas estou apenas expressando a minha própria opinião. Pode ser que existam na praça métodos milagrosos que provem que estou falando bobagem. Se você os encontrar, peço encarecidamente que me avise e farei o possível e o impossível para divulgá-los. Mas, até lá não tenho muito mais a acrescentar.

Fonte: http://www.teclasap.com.br/blog

terça-feira, 23 de agosto de 2011

How to Understand American Terms

1. Be aware that certain food items are called by American names:

French fries or simply Fries are sliced and fried potatoes,
Chips are crisps.
Cookie is a Biscuit.
Biscuit is a small piece of soft bread.

2. Learn the different terms for parts of a building:

The First floor is the Ground Floor.
The Second floor is the First Floor.
Elevator is the Lift.
Apartment is the general word for a Flat.

3. Study these terms for when you are on the move:

The Trunk is the Boot of the car.
The Hood is the Bonnet.
A Traffic Circle is a Roundabout. Some Americans may use roundabout as well, though. Also, in the Northeast, the same might be called a "Rotary".
The colours of traffic lights are called red, yellow and green (not amber).
Truck is a Lorry.
Sidewalk is the Pavement. "Pavement" is commonly referred to as the street.
Gasoline or Gas is Petrol.
Airplane is used instead of Aeroplane.

4. Avoid embarrassment by understanding these differences:

Bathroom, Restroom or Washroom are used for the Toilet.
"Restroom" is always in a public places. A 'bathroom' usually means there's also a tub, but it can refer to a public toilet. 'Washroom' can refer to either.
An Eraser is a Rubber. Most Americans think of a Rubber as a condom, so this is an important one.

5. Remember when throwing something away that:

Garbage or trash is Rubbish.
Garbage goes in the Trash Can or Garbage Can. In both senses, it is acceptable to omit the "can" (just put in the trash).
"Trash Bag" is a Bin Liner.
A Dumpster is the colloquial term for a large trash container, or a dust bin.

6. Use these terms when talking about clothing:

Pants are Trousers. American "Trousers" is commonly referring to nice or formal pants.
Panties are women's undergarments, and Underwear refers to either women's or men's undergarments. Often, men's long underwear are called "boxers".
Sneakers or tennis shoes are Trainers. Trainers are generally personal fitness coaches.

7. Finally, study these terms which can cause confusion:

Baby Stroller or Buggy is a Pram ('Baby stroller' or simply 'stroller' is most common).
Vacation is a Holiday or a trip to get away from ordinary life. This is quite important, because Holiday only means a special day, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Flashlight is a Torch.
Dish Detergent is Washing-up liquid or liquid to wash dishes.
Next ___day is ___day next (ex. we are going on vacation next Thursday)
Football refers to American football in America. Soccer is used to describe what people in most other parts of the world know as football.

Others
Different areas of America have different terms, just as they do in Britain. A popular debate is "soda" or "pop." It means the same thing, but depending on where you are, it can be called either. Also, if you are in the South-East US and you ask for a "Coke," you might well be asked what kind, because they often use that in place of soda or pop.

Some language you have to be more careful of than others. If you ask about the lift, most people would know what you were talking about. However, if you ask for the third floor, you will be taken to the second. If you ask for a rubber or a fag (or worse, both), you will get dirty looks, because you're asking for a condom and (derogatorily) a homosexual, respectively.

If you go to a gym and ask for trainers and get an interesting answer or a ridiculous price, it's probably because they think you're talking about a coach.

Some words are less acceptable in America than in the UK e.g. do not ask for a fag when you want a cigarette -- You'll be asking for (quite derogatorily) a Homosexual, and most people will not be thrilled one bit.

This article was copied from Understand British Terms
There are very few cowboys in America today. In fact, referring to someone as a cowboy can often be taken as a demeaning term. Take care to avoid calling someone this directly.

Some Americans (such as myself) are very ethnocentric, so we don't bother to learn British slang, so try to only use literal terms. You might be ok with some that do enjoy your culture, but choose your rhetoric carefully.

Knock Up is a derogatory term for getting someone pregnant. Do not ever use that term in America unless you are in impolite company talking about pregnancy. For example, NEVER say "I'll knock you up tomorrow" unless you intend to impregnate the person to whom you are speaking.

Refrain from using American slang that is not in common use in other parts of the world so you can "fit in." Americans love visitors from other countries but often think non-Americans who use American slang sound ridiculous. Just be careful not to say words that they might not understand and may find offensive.

Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Understand-American-Terms

segunda-feira, 22 de agosto de 2011

Pré (dis) posição

Tenho muitos estudantes, que assim como as "preposições", sozinhos, não conseguem fazer verão. Eles são chamados "Estudantes Preposições". Vamos estudar alguns deles, shall we?

- Professor, já aprendi que eu preciso estudar por conta, mas não tenho tempo - diz o estudante "at".

O estudante AT é o tipo de estudante que nunca consegue estudar. De acordo com ele, vontade não lhe falta, mas "at the time" de dedicar algum tempo para o inglês dele, algo sempre mais importante precisa ser feito.

- Teacher, sei que preciso praticar o self-study, mas toda vez que começo, dá um sono!!! - diz o estudante "on".

O estudante ON é especialista em preguiça, apesar de passar um tempo considerável assistindo TV, com o traseiro "on the sofa" - Pelo menos estou sendo honesto - ele justifica, o quê não diz nada para mim, exceto que ele é apenas fluente em cama.

- Professor, tenho tentado estudar, mas a minha vida está um caos, tou passando por tantos problemas -diz o estudante "in".

O estudante IN está sempre dentro de alguma enrascada, problema de saúde, morte de alguém da família, enfIN, são tantos problemas, que dá uma pena do sujeito, pois só ele não enxerga que os outros também tem problemas, porém, a maioria caminha assim mesmo, enquanto ele vive "in trouble" e permanece sempre sem sair do lugar.

- Teacher, é tão difícil compreender tudo isso. Eu estudo por conta própria, faço minhas lições, mas não entendo nada - diz o estudante "off".

O estudante OFF é o rei da distração. Passa boa parte da aula dormindo, durante as lições está mais preocupado com o celular e ainda reclama que o seu entendimento vive OFF. Ora, se ele conseguisse prestar mais atenção e manter o foco no que está aprendendo, compreenderia que as dificuldades deveriam ser desafios para serem superados e não uma assinatura escrita em sua testa que ele vive OFF line.

- Professor, você poderia me indicar uns sites para eu estudar em casa?- diz o estudante "out".

O estudante OUT quase nunca aparece na aula. Também chamado pelos colegas de "turista", ele quando vem para as classes, chega atrasado ou "go out" antes da aula acabar, ou mesmo no meio. No mínimo, o seu curso é pago pela empresa ou por outra pessoa, só assim para explicar porque o sujeito continua aparecendo. -Teacher, não leva a mal, mas acho que não estou aprendendo nada de novo- o estudante OUT reclama, achando que os mil "sites" que eu recomendaria ou alguma formula mágica o ajudaria a recuperar tudo aquilo que ele perdeu por simplesmente não querer aprender.

São muitos os estudantes "preposições"; estudantes que sempre estão prestes a alcançar algo, a expressar qualquer coisa, mas nunca conseguem.

Os estudantes "preposições" serão estudantes o resto da vida, e isso não é elogio, pois eles só adquirem conhecimento superficial, ao invés de ir further em seu aprendizado. Se eles quiserem, um dia, se tornar Learners da vida, eles precisarão aprender a cultivar a predisposição para correr atrás do que desejam e compreender que as preposições ( desculpas) por si, não dizem nada, somente quando as ligamos com os verbos ( ações), adjetivos (atitude) e a colocamos na frase (prática) é que elas assumem a função de ser pontes entre o inglês que você já possui e o inglês que lhe falta para se comunicar de fato.


Professor Frank Oliveira

quinta-feira, 18 de agosto de 2011

Como posso melhorar a minha listening comprehension? – Parte 1/2

Michael Jacobs


Recebo um montão de e-mails com a mesma pergunta, que, embora colocada de várias formas, se resume a How can I improve my listening comprehension?. Outros leitores ainda usam, erroneamente, hearing: How can I improve my hearing?

Antes de mais nada, este é um bom momento para corrigir essa última frase. O inglês está perfeito – desde que você queira saber como melhorar a audição. Pois hearing é justamente isto: audição. A minha sugestão inicial, portanto, seria o uso de cotonetes. Se estes não surtirem efeito, talvez seja indicada aquela lavagem horrível, uma cirurgia ou, no limite, um aparelho (a hearing aid), daqueles com fone de ouvido e pilha. Afinal, quem tem problemas com sua hearing possivelmente está sofrendo de algum distúrbio físico – uma deficiência auditiva –, cujo final triste poderia ser a surdez. Claro, não recebo correspondências que seriam mais bem dirigidas aos médicos; digo isso apenas no intuito de corrigir o inglês.

Cf. Falsas Gêmeas: HEAR x LISTEN

Também acho interessantes as tentativas de verter listening comprehension para o português. Bem que a maioria tenta, e é por isso que a palavra hearing surge. Pessoalmente, também nunca achei uma palavra ou frase adequada. Então, de agora em diante, vou tratar sempre de listening comprehension, e fim de papo. Afinal, listening comprehension significa a compreensão daquilo que se ouve. Bom, o que eu – um simples professor de inglês – posso sugerir para ajudar? Além de dizer “Preste mais atenção, e a melhora virá com o tempo”, que é a minha tendência (ou tem sido até o momento, pelo menos), não tenho muito a acrescentar. Ou será que tenho?

Primeiro, precisamos lembrar que cada pessoa aprende de maneira diferente. Eu, por exemplo, sou muito mais visual. Com freqüência, preciso ver a palavra escrita antes de conseguir decorá-la. Outros são mais auditivos, memorizando tudo só de ouvir. O assunto é tão complexo que acredito não existirem respostas simples. (Talvez nem mesmo respostas complexas! Será que existem respostas para uma pergunta assim?)

Entretanto, neste livro acho que devo enfrentar a questão. Mas por onde começar? Penso naqueles que, nesta altura, poderiam estar quererendo entrar no campo das ciências que estudam e tratam do sistema límbico do córtex do hemisfério direito do cérebro, que comanda as funções do lado esquerdo do corpo, e vice-versa, mas, sinceramente, não é a minha praia (e nem sei se acertei no vocabulário). Honestamente, não sei o que recomendar, além de mais treino e mais treino e mais treino. Fitas, filmes, leitura (para adquirir vocabulário), aulas e conversação. O que mais posso dizer?

E se alguém exigisse de você uma resposta? O que você diria? Quem sabe você poderia começar listando atividades como as que mencionei acima? Assistir a vídeos em inglês com as legendas escondidas, ou mesmo a fitas sem legenda. Ouvir a suas músicas favoritas, tentando entender a letra, para depois checar a sua compreensão e repetir as palavras. Existem ótimas publicações que vêm com diálogos gravados em fita, para você treinar. Poderia até usar aquele velho recurso – o livro! E agora vou usar uma palavra que tento evitar nas coisas que escrevo: etcétera, abreviada para etc. Livros, vídeos, fitas, música, aulas, conversação etc.

Há tanto material disponível no mercado para ajudar o aluno a melhorar a sua listening comprehension que está longe de mim querer reinventar a roda. Acredito que as editoras sabem o que fazem, e, se existisse algo revolucionário para lançar, elas com certeza estariam fazendo exatamente isso. O fato de não o fazerem parece transmitir uma mensagem clara e objetiva, não acha?

Talvez ajude se eu me lembrar de como foi o meu processo de aprendizagem do português. Vamos tentar juntos? OK. No início, tudo parecia que eram sons estranhos – eu não entendia nada! Frustrante? You bet. No meu primeiro dia de Brasil, lembro-me de que, ao ser apresentado a uma pessoa que me disse “Muito prazer”, respondi “Mootu pléja”. Havia entendido pleasure! Viu só? Não estava tão longe assim. Mas olha só o que aconteceu: repeti o som que ouvi, e a pessoa deve ter pensado que eu era um nativo, um brasileiro de fato. Vá, concorde comigo… Senão, vou parar por aqui.

OK. Concordou. Ainda bem. Vou continuar...

_______________________________________

Veja amanhã, o resto do artigo

Fonte: http://www.teclasap.com.br

quarta-feira, 17 de agosto de 2011

A Psycholinguistic Teaching Approach


Ricardo Schütz

At S&K we implement Stephen Krashen's Natural Approach and acquisition theory. As such, we do not follow any specific plan or course of lessons and books, but promote language and culture exchange in communicative activities. As language is a result of human interaction, our school becomes a bilingual living and learning center with groups led by a native in the target culture. The instructor functions as a language counselor and facilitator. We respect each instructor's style and rely on their ability to build relationships within the group and create a natural need for communication.We also offer language learning through the study of grammar as a complement, but the emphasis is on language acquisition through communication, in which the role of the native speaker is essential.

THE PSYCHOLINGUISTIC APPROACH: The ability to carry out creative and effective communication is the main goal of all learners. Proficiency does not depend on linguistic knowledge. Language knowledge is secondary when compared to the functional ability of understanding and speaking, and reading and writing as a result. Therefore, while a structured syllabus can provide some basic language knowledge, it is only through the creative effort to communicate that complete communicative competence is acquired. The full process, from passive listening to understanding and from active thinking to speaking, needs to be thoroughly exercised. This can be achieved only through real human interaction.

O processo completo de ouvir e entender, e de pensar e expressar estes pensamentos tem que ser exercitado continuamente. Isto só é possível através do uso da língua em situações reais de convívio e autêntico relacionamento humano.

In other words, nobody fully acquires language ability with only books, tapes, VCRs, CD-ROMs or on-line exercises. Although such materials are helpful when designed according to contrastive linguistics, a brain needs another brain to interact with. Like Stephen Krashen, I also believe in language acquisition rather than language learning as an effective way. But an enlightened combination of methods can still provide a good language teaching design. For this reason I believe that natural acquisition through real-life communicative experience can be complemented with audiolingual exercises and even with grammar study. Our unique teaching materials based on contrastive analysis play here an important role.

Whenever possible, the student should have a living experience in a country that represents well the target language and culture - for example: the United States, Canada or England for English. Along with the traveling and the living experience, and especially when this is not possible, I also support an approach like Charles Curran's CLL (Communicative Language Learning).

Curran believes that psychological counseling and foreign language tutoring are closely related. He advocates a unified concept of man and says that physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional factors can all influence language acquisition. Affection and an intimate relationship between the instructor and the learner, with both on the same level, provide the necessary framework. The instructor plays a non-authoritarian and non-directive role and activities are student-centered. The focus shifts from grammar and sentence formation to a deep sense of personal communication. When language is used to satisfy a strong desire to communicate, results can be impressive.

Taking into consideration the predominant characteristic of the Brazilian people - open, communicative, and good at improvising - I support a psychological-communicative approach as conducive to optimal language acquisition.

Levando-se em consideração a característica predominante do brasileiro, aberto, comunicativo, criativo e talentoso na improvisação, defendemos com maior convicção ainda uma abordagem psicológico-comunicativa para melhor explorar esse talento.

In this psycholinguistic approach, the counselor-teacher needs to try to build a personal relationship with the learner. Of course, this psychological involvement depends greatly on the student's personality. Therefore, the teacher must be constantly alert and able to recognize the communicative moments and opportunities and to explore them when they arise.

O instrutor deve estar constantemente alerta para saber reconhecer e aproveitar os momentos de abertura do aluno.

The key element of a psycholinguistic approach is the personal and intimate contact between learner and counselor. The learner's interests are explored and his own ideas are used as teaching materials. As in psychoanalysis, learner and counselor immerse in each other's mind. Instead of texts or tapes the thoughts of the learner, even the ones of neurotic origin, are discussed and brought to light in clear and appropriate language. The goal is to increase the emotional load of the conversation, making the sessions more appealing and engaging. Resorting to the same resources used in psychoanalysis, the counselor-instructor plays the role of confidant and brings the conversation (always in the target language) to the center of the learner's interest. The instructor adapts himself to the learner. If the learner is introverted, the instructor takes a leading role talking about himself, about his experience with the foreign culture, his difficulties and his weaknesses, opening his own heart, thus improving the mutual trust and creating an atmosphere for the learner to get ready. If the learner is extroverted, the instructor understands with empathy the learner's points of view encouraging him to express himself confidently. At this point the instructor helps the learner to reaffirm his opinions giving the precise language, just a little beyond the learner's capability (Krashen's comprehensible input). The learner will then see his convictions in convincing language, with good power of communication.

Em vez de livros e fitas, os próprios pensamentos do aluno-paciente, mesmo os mais íntimos e até os de fundo neurótico, são discutidos e traduzidos em linguagem correta, convincente e elegante.

We do not emphasize error correction but communicative ability with beginners because psychological obstacles must be overcome before linguistic accuracy can be attained. Self-confidence and independence are the first steps. Still, linguistic forms like pronunciation and sentence patterns are not completely overlooked. These are discussed whenever necessary to address the learner's specific deviations. Again, the instructor needs to adjust his interventions to the learner. Introverts normally lack self-confidence and therefore should be less frequently interrupted and corrected than extroverts.

Não enfatizamos a correção dos erros de alunos iniciantes porque os obstáculos de natureza psicológica devem ser vencidos antes que o aluno possa alcançar precisão gramatical.

Alunos introvertidos normalmente carecem de autoconfiança e não devem ser interrompidos e corrigidos com a mesma freqüência que extrovertidos.


This communicative-psychological approach we recommend is ideal for intermediate and advanced students and requires a skillful instructor. If not thoroughly bilingual, the person should be a native speaker of the target language with some command of the learners' native language. Besides the instructor's qualification the language therapy groups must be very small and homogeneous, with affinity between group members being very important.

Source: http://www.aprendapnl.com.br/php/conteudos/textos/psycholinguistic.php

terça-feira, 16 de agosto de 2011

Listening - The Teacher Side



Teaching Listening Better: Is Listening being taught as well as it could be?

In Listening classes, students are usually given practice in listening but they are not actually taught listening. Practice is not enough.

Research and case studies have told us many things about how listening should be taught. But often, this knowledge has not made the jump into classroom practice. While many classes are based on the idea of giving students lots of practice with English, research tells us that we also need to teach listening.

In addition to giving students plenty of listening practice. We should also break the skill of listening into micro-skill components and make sure that our students are aware of what they need to know to understand how to listen to English.

A Teacher's Checklist
Students need to know and understand:

• how words link together (liaison)
• how vowels weaken (the central vowel)
• how sounds mix together (assimilation)
• how sounds disappear (elision)
• how syllables disappear (ellipsis)
• how helping sounds are used between vowel sounds (intrusion)
• how intonation helps with conversational turn taking (intonation)
• how stress signals new information (prominence)
• how to use grammar to help guess meaning (strategies)
• how to use discourse knowledge to help guess meaning (strategies)
• how to use knowledge of intonation and stress to guess meaning (strategies)

Do your students know all these features of natural English? They should.

Everyone knows that many Japanese say that 'listening' is their weak point with English. There is a very simple reason for this. Most Japanese students have never been taught how to listen to English. They have had practice but they have never actually been taught or given guidance about how to listen to English.

We, along with many of you, want to change this

What do we teach when we teach Listening?
When we teach listening we need to teach not only English, but we also need to teach how it is used. We need to teach both:

1. the language system, (our knowledge of language: grammar and vocabulary etc.) and
2. the use of the language system, (the skills of language use)

The problem with most listening classes, is that they get stuck at number 1. Too many classes concentrate on teaching the language system and miss the skills of language, in this case listening.

Our knowledge of the language system includes our knowledge of words, how these words are properly put in order (syntax or grammar), how these words are said in connected streams (phonology), how these words are strung together in longer texts (discourse) and so on.

Using the language system involves how we apply this knowledge of the language system to understand or convey meaning and how we apply particular skills to understanding and conveying meaning.

The Listening Skills (an all too often forgotten skill set)
Listening skills are often divided into two groups:

• bottom up listening skills and
• top down listening skills

Bottom up listening skills, or bottom up processing, refers to the decoding process, the direct decoding of language into meaningful units, from sound waves through the air, in through our ears and into our brain where meaning is decoded. To do this students need to know the code. How the sounds work and how they string together and how the codes can change in different ways when they're strung together. And most students have never been taught how English changes when it's strung together in sentences.

Top-down processing refers to how we use our world knowledge to attribute meaning to language input; how our knowledge of social convention helps us understand meaning.

These are the skills that listening teachers should be teaching in their classes but all too often are not. (Unless of course you are already using our listening textbook!!!) To offer a quote: "An understanding of the role of bottom-up and top-down processes in listening is central to any theory of listening comprehension" (Richards, 1990:50). We agree.

The Default Method
In most classrooms around Japan, the common way to teach listening is to have students listen to some language tape, then the teacher asks a few comprehension questions. Did the students understand? No? Well ok, play the tape again. Ask the question again. Did they understand? No. Ok, well . . . tell them to practice and one day they'll get used to English and will be able to understand. Practice practice! Practice makes perfect.

Or you might pick out a particular grammar point. This passage uses the present perfect quite a bit, so you might go over some of the differences between the simple past and the present perfect. Maybe write a formula or two up on the board. This is the approach taken by most teachers and it is insufficient.

This might very well be a good grammar lesson but it's not listening. Students need to be told how English works and also how to use their knowledge to improve their skills. Yes practice makes perfect. But instruction can make this process happen much more efficiently. We need to teach our students.

Well known SLA (Second Language Acquisition) expert Richard Schmidt, has put forward a theory called the "Noticing Hypothesis", which states that learners have to notice something before they can learn it. And as such, we need to help our students notice language points. Teachers need to teach.

"There is support in the literature for the hypothesis that attention is required for all learning. Learners need to pay attention to input and pay particular attention to whatever aspect of the input (phonology, morphology, pragmatics, discourse, etc) that you are concerned to learn" (Schmidt: 1995)

An ideal listening class should thus provide both practice and instruction. Students need practice in listening for meaning and also some instruction about how to do so effectively.

"Classroom data from a number of studies offer support for the view that form focused instruction and corrective feedback provided within the context of communicative programs are more effective in promoting second language learning than programs which are limited to a virtually exclusive emphasis on either accuracy or fluency". (Lightbrown & Spada)

What Listening Teachers Need to Do
Give students practice in listenings which ask students to interpret and understand meaning, together with listenings which teach learners about how English is actually spoken. That is, students need practice in listening for meaning and instruction about how to do this, (a focus on form).

Such an approach has been the recommended method for teaching listening for years and yet the "Practice makes perfect plus a little grammar" approach is still common. We want to change this!

You've read our views. We'd now like to hear your views. Send us your comments and we'll post them here. Let's start a dialog and move our teaching forward. Help us to make things better.

A Teaching Method Supported by Second Language Acquisition Research
We've put together an annotated bibliography on teaching methods for listening. A read through these books and articles would certainly give the listening teacher a sound awareness of many of the issues facing them when teaching in the classroom. Another suggestion might be to use our textbook, Top-Up Listening. This is a book written by teachers, all with advanced qualifications in education and years of experience. Furthermore this book has been edited and tested by editors with advanced teaching qualifications in and years of experience. Top-Up Listening teaches listening in accordance with all that we know about teaching listening. In short this book teaches listening they way listening is supposed to be taught!

Source:
http://www.abax.co.jp

segunda-feira, 15 de agosto de 2011

Como melhorar o Listening

Por Denilson de Lima


- "Denilso, pelo amor de Deus, o que eu faço para melhorar o meu listening? Eu estudo inglês a tanto tempo e até agora não consigo entender o que estes caras falam. Tem alguma dica aí pra mim, pleeeeeeeeeeeeease?"

Após uma rápida olhada pela internet notei que há um grande número de sites com dicas para melhorar o tal do listening (audição). Há sites com um número enorme de arquivos de aúdios e tudo mais! Os blogueiros também têm lá suas dicas e por ai vai!

Pergunto eu: o problema está onde? O que será que faz com muitos - ou a grande maioria - simplesmente ainda tenha dificuldades com o aterrorizante listening. Vejamos alguns dos problemas que eu acredito serem os possíveis causadores de tais dificuldades.

01) ANSIEDADE - Na maioria das vezes você como aluno fica ansioso demais. Está sua ansiedade cria certo bloqueio no cérebro. Geralmente, ocorre o seguinte diálogo interno "vixi, vou ter de ouvir isto mesmo? Mas, eu nunco entendo nada! Então, me lasquei!" Este modo de pensar já registra no seu inconsciente que você é incapaz de ouvir bem em inglês. Procure quebrar está ansiedade, relaxe, escute o texto naturalmente, não se afobe, não se desespere. Simplesmente, deixa o CD tocar, o filme passar, a pessoa falar. Você está aprendendo! Você ainda não é um expert! Acredite, até memso os experts cometem erros vez ou outra!

02) DESESPERO - Parece o mesmo tema de antes mas não é! Ao ouvir um texto, diálogo o que seja, você talvez se desespere ao achar que o cara fala rápido demais ou talvez por que não entendeu uma palavra, sei lá! Isto é normal no aprendizado. Mais uma vez relaxe! O que seu professor quer é que você identifique algumas informações aqui e ali! Principalmente aquelas que ele está trabalhando na sala de aula! Ele não quer que você no final da atividade faça um relatório detalhado sobre o que ouviu! Apenas as informações necessárias, solicitadas em uma atividade.

03) PÉSSIMO HÁBITO - Você talvez tenha o péssimo hábito de querer traduzir palavra por palavra. Aí, ao ouvir quer também ouvir palavra por palavra. Mas as coisas não são bem assim! Você precisa acostumar-se a ouvir expressões, combinações de palavras, sentenças freqüentemente usadas, etc. Claro que aprender palavras isoladas ajuda; porém, não é assim que a comunicação real ocorre. Acostume-se, portanto, a aprender e a ouvir expressões, collocations, sentenças comuns e completas. Isto fará com que você se acostume a ouvir e a falar mais rápido! Mas lembre-se, isto não vai acontecer de uma hora para outra. Você precisa pratica, praticar, praticar, praticar...

04) PREGUIÇA - Como eu disse antes a internet está repleta de recursos para ajudar você a ouvir inglês: podcasts, YouTube, arquivos para dowload, sites de rádios e televisão... Tudo isto repleto com entrevistas, bate-papo informal, programas sérios, etc, etc. O problema é que as pessoas têm preguiça de procurar por isto, têm preguiça de entrar em um site ou blog brasileiro que pode ajudá-lo a se organizar. Ou seja, esperam ir para cama um dia e acordar no próximo já ouvindo inglês perfeitamente bem! Isto simplesmente não vai acontecer! Só em sonho! É preciso arregaçar as mangas e meter a mão na massa!

05) DESPERDÍCIO DE TEMPO - A internet está aí para nos ajudar e não para roubar o nosso tempo! Então, é bom começar fazendo melhor uso desta ferramenta excepcional! Você está aqui agora lendo este post, isto significa que você está aproveitando seu tempo com algo útil! Aproveite também o tempo para ouvir inglês. Enquanto está ai conectado, baixe um aquivo de aúdio e fique ouvindo-o mesmo que você nada entenda. Fique ouvindo apenas, isto faz com que seus neurônios vão se acostumando com os sons da língua inglesa! Acredite!

Take care... and have a wonderful day!

(((((>>>>))))

Para mais artigos e dicas do autor, acesse:
http://denilsodelima.blogspot.com

sexta-feira, 12 de agosto de 2011

The Right to be Wrong


Ser corrigido é um dos grandes males do ensino da língua inglesa, especialmente, se o estudante for um adulto. Explico: crianças e (pasmem) até adolescentes, são mais abertos para serem corrigidos; adultos, on the other hand, quando começam a ser corrigidos o tempo todo pelo professor ou por seus colegas de classes, acabam criando uma espécie de bloqueio (blockage) na fala que dificultará a sua comunicação, talvez pela vida inteira. Por isso e por ter sido um desses “bloqueados”, que costumo dizer aos meus Learners: “You’ve got the right to be wrong”, - você tem todo o direito de errar!




I've got a right to be wrong

My mistakes will make me strong

I'm stepping out into the great unknown

I'm feeling wings though I've never flown”

Joss Stone

Ao falar isso, acabo quebrando um dos grandes paradigmas das escolas de idioma, que em suas regras, exigem que os professores não deixem os alunos falarem errado, pois de acordo com as escolas, o aprendizado de uma língua estrangeira precisa ser baseado sempre na gramática correta e na pronúncia perfeita; ora, isso é uma bobagem, principalmente se levarmos em conta que essas escolas utilizam a gramática e a pronúncia americana como padrão.

Hellooo!!!

Os tempos são outros, o mundo fala inglês, therefore, temos um caldeirão de sotaques e formas de comunicação que deixariam qualquer professor tradicional de book na mão.

Temos o direito de errar quando começamos a nos comunicar em inglês porque essa é a única forma de ganharmos confidence, aquela confiança que nos trará controle sobre o que falamos, como dizemos o que queremos contar e quando nos comunicarmos.

You have got all the right to be wrong porque até mesmo os falantes nativos erram também e não ficam com medo de se comunicar.

Isso, of course, não quer dizer que você tem que parar de aprender as formas cultas do idioma ou como as palavras são escritas e pronunciadas “corretamente”, quite the opposite, os estudos para um Learner são essenciais para que ele, step by step, possa dominar ainda mais a sua comunicação e conseguir se destacar como falante de um segundo idioma. Para tanto, é preciso que ele, first of all, se sinta confortável falando e usando o inglês sempre que ele pode, sem ficar bloqueado por uma tentativa inútil de estar correto o tempo todo.

Sim, para aprender inglês é preciso também enjoyment, aquele tipo de alegria que temos quando estamos fazendo algo que gostamos, sem termos a obrigação de ser assim ou assado. E como podemos ter esse enjoyment, sendo corrigidos o tempo inteiro?
Quanto mais divertido se tornar falar inglês para você, mais fácil ficará para você se comunicar em todos os níveis e mais confortável você se sentirá para praticar ainda mais.
Uma vez que você der esse salto para vencer o seu bloqueio, você passará a tercontrol sobre o seu aprendizado e perceberá quando e how corrigir a si mesmo (self-correction). Tendo conquistado isso, o caminho para a fluência do idioma estará aberto e você economizará todo o dinheiro que você pagaria para as escolas de inglês para continuar tentando se comunicar e vencer esse bloqueio.

Pensem no quanto vocês já gastaram e no quanto vocês gastariam... agora, tentem imaginar usando esse mesmo dinheiro para viajar e praticar output, comprar material bacana para aumentar o seu input e, why not, contratar um private tutorpara lhe ensinar seja lá o que você quiser aprender em inglês, just for the sake of it.

Espero que vocês tenham gostado da dica dessa semana, mas apenas façam um favor para mim: não digam as escolas que eu revelei isso, otherwise, I will be in trouble!!!

“I've got a mind of my own

I'm flesh and blood to the bone

I'm not made of stone

Got a right to be wrong

So just leave me alone”

Joss Stone

Professor Frank Oliveira

quinta-feira, 11 de agosto de 2011

The power of reading — two cases

© Tomasz P. Szynalski, Antimoon.com

In his article The comprehension hypothesis and second language acquisition, Stephen Krashen (University of Southern California) describes two cases of students who completely changed their English because of reading:

The case of L.
This case was described in a paper by J. Segal (Summer Daze, written in 1997), and then by Stephen Krashen. We have shortened and simplified the original text.

L. was a 17 year old student in Israel. She spoke English at home with her parents, who were from South Africa. But she had serious problems in English writing, especially in spelling, vocabulary and writing style. Segal, who was L.'s teacher in grade 10, tried to help her in many ways:

"Error correction was a total failure. L. tried correcting her own mistakes, tried process writing, and tried copying words correctly in her notebook. Nothing worked. L.'s compositions were poorly written and her vocabulary was small. We discussed the format and ideas before writing. We made little progress. I gave L. a list of five useful words to spell each week for 6 weeks and tested her in a friendly way between classes. L. did well in the tests in the beginning, but after six weeks she started misspelling the words again." L.'s mother also got her a private teacher, but there was little improvement.

Segal also taught L. in grade 11. At the beginning of the year, she assigned an essay. "When I came to L.'s composition I stopped still. I was looking at an almost perfect essay. There were no spelling mistakes. The structure was clear. It was interesting and well-written. Her vocabulary had improved. I was surprised but at the same time uneasy ..."

Segal discovered why L.'s English improved so much: She had started reading books in the summer. L. told her, "I never read much before but this summer I went to the library and I started reading and I just couldn't stop." L.'s English in grade 11 was excellent and she kept reading.

The case of Cohen
This case was first described by Y. Cohen in a paper titled How reading got me into trouble (1997).

Beginning at age 12, Cohen went to an English-language school in Turkey. During the first two years, there were intensive English classes, and after only two months, Cohen started to read in English. "...as many books in English as I could get. I had a large library of English books at home ... I became a member of the local British Council's library and sometimes bought English books in bookstores ... By the first year of middle school I had become an enthusiastic reader of English."

Because of her reading, an unpleasant thing happened to her in middle school: "I had a new English teacher who assigned us two compositions for homework. The teacher returned them to me. She was angry and she wanted to know who had helped me to write them. They were my work. I had not even used the dictionary. She would not believe me. She showed me a few underlined sentences and some vocabulary and asked me how I knew them; they were more advanced than the level of the class. (...) I felt sad. I could not explain how I knew them. I just did."

quarta-feira, 10 de agosto de 2011

Why your input should be fun


© Tomasz P. Szynalski, Antimoon.com

Regularity
Reading a boring text for the sake of learning English is not a good idea. When you do so, you're not just reading a boring text — you're reading a boring text that's hard to understand. Nobody's going to put up with that sort of torture for very long. You can go like that for a few days, if you're highly motivated, but not for a month.

And you don't need a way to learn English for just a few days. You've already studied English for a few days on a couple occasions and you probably know these irregular, one-time efforts don't work. You need to make a permanent change to your lifestyle to ensure steady improvement.

That is why you need super-fun, thrilling and funny sources of English. Your sources should be so cool that you will look forward to reading, watching or listening to them. You need something that will make you get your English input and develop your English every day.

Which sources of English are super-fun? The answer will be different for every learner. For example, I like watching Futurama and Desperate Housewives, movies by the Coen brothers and Alejandro González Iñárritu, the music of Radiohead and Pink Floyd, LucasArts adventure games, TED, and The Onion, among other things.

Dedication
Suppose you're a big fan of The Matrix. (If you're not a big fan of The Matrix, insert the name of your favorite movie.) When watching The Matrix, you can learn much more English than if you watched some random movie you don't care about.

You are more likely to watch the movie scene-by-scene, listening carefully to every line (or reading it, if you have a version with subtitles) and thinking about how it is phrased.
You are more likely to look up difficult phrases in a dictionary and add them to your SuperMemo collection.
You are more likely to practice your pronunciation by imitating lines said by your favorite characters (for example, Morpheus's "Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is.")
You are more likely to repeat your favorite lines to yourself, which means you'll be constantly reviewing the grammar and vocabulary contained in those lines.
Attitude to English
Finally, fun input lets you change your attitude to English. At first, you may think of learning English as a necessary evil — sort of like getting up and going to work every morning. But when you find enjoyable English-language books, movies, TV shows, websites, etc., learning English will become a way to have fun every day by reading a funny book, watching a cool movie, or communicating with someone you like.

When this happens, you will find it easy to study English, even in ways which are not strictly "fun", such as reading about English grammar.

Content or form?
Now you may have noticed that elsewhere on Antimoon I tell you to read with the goal of learning grammar and vocabulary. I tell you to analyze the grammar in the sentences you read. And now I seem to be telling you to read stuff because it is cool.

Of course, what I'm actually telling you is that you should read with both goals in mind. More precisely, when starting reading, concentrate on how fun the content is (e.g. how much you like the book). Starting is always the hardest part, which is why you will need compelling content to overcome your laziness.

However, once you start reading, do your best to read for form. Don't turn page after page in order to find out what happens next. Instead, read as slowly as you can, thinking about the phrases and grammatical structures used. Repeat them to yourself. You want to learn some English, remember?

What if you're a beginner?
When you are a beginner, you have a small vocabulary. In this state, reading books or watching movies is too difficult. Even if your content is extremely fun, the number of unknown words may make it impossible to enjoy it. You need input which will teach you new things, but not input in which everything is new.

Being a beginner, how can you take advantage of the benefits of fun input — regularity, dedication and improved attitude to English? The answer is "simplified books". These are popular books re-written in simple English especially for English learners. Thousands of titles are available at various difficulty levels. A well-known series is the Penguin Readers, available in bookstores worldwide.

I believe these books are the best way for a beginner to quickly develop his/her vocabulary and grammar skills. First, you can choose something you will love, because thousands of titles are available. Second, you will not get frustrated, because the number of new words and phrases will be limited. If you read these books regularly using the "pause and think" method, the progress you can make is amazing.

Some fun input ideas
English-language culture is extremely rich and very expansive, which, luckily for you, means that you should find it relatively easy to find enjoyable sources of input.

Here are some examples of content that you might possibly enjoy:

Simplified books (see above)
E-mail messages from a native speaker you know
Books: Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Lord of the Rings, current bestsellers ...
Movies: The Matrix, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, current DVD bestsellers ...
News: Google News, BBC, CNN, The Independent ...
Encyclopedias: English Wikipedia, Simple English Wikipedia
Movie reviews: Roger Ebert, IMDB ...
Internet discussion: Reddit, Digg, Antimoon Forum ...
Video games with a lot of dialogue: Grand Theft Auto, The Secret of Monkey Island, Sam & Max Half-Life, Mass Effect, Fallout ...
TV shows: talk shows (Leno, Letterman, Conan O'Brien), Top Gear, The Colbert Report, Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live ...
TV series: Desperate Housewives, House MD, Dexter, Futurama, The Simpsons, Californication, South Park ...
The Good News Bible (written in simple English)
Technology sites: Joel on Software, Tom's Hardware, Wired News, Engadget, Ars Technica, Eurogamer ...
Humor sites: The Onion, Dilbert, Something Awful ...

terça-feira, 9 de agosto de 2011

Why you need to take charge of your English learning


@ Tomasz P. Szynalski, Antimoon.com

Before you can start speaking and writing in English, you have to learn how things are said in English. You do this by getting input — reading and listening to the correct English sentences of other people (ideally, native speakers).

Most English learners get their input from English classes. In this article, I will argue that English classes simply do not give you enough input to speak English fluently, and that you need to get English input outside of the classroom if you want to be fluent. I will also give two other reasons to take things into your own hands and get English input on your own.

Amount of input
To speak English fluently1, you need a lot of input. I needed about 1,000,000 sentences over 3 years — on average, 6400 sentences per week — to get from basic reading skills and very poor speaking/writing skills to fluency. That's the equivalent of 60 pages2 and 6 hours of audio3 per week.

1 What do I mean by fluency? I mean being able to write and speak almost as easily — and almost as correctly — as in your native language. To be fluent, you don't need to speak with a native-like accent and you don't need to always choose the most natural way to say something.
2 By pages, I mean typical pages in a paperback book.
3 By hours of audio, I mean hours of non-stop talking, as in a radio interview.

If you want to become fluent, the question you need to ask yourself is: can English classes give me 60 pages and 6 hours of input per week? A typical English course consists of 2 lessons a week, 1.5 hours each. But let's assume you have the time and money to attend an intensive course — 4 times a week, 1.5 hours each.

In such a course, you spend 6 hours per week in class. How much input are you getting? Let's see:

Teachers provide little input. Most of them try to keep quiet and let the students talk. (This is supposed to help students speak sooner, but has the opposite effect.) When they speak, they speak quite slowly, with frequent pauses. 10 minutes of listening to a teacher gives you perhaps 5 minutes of "non-stop" input. In addition, some teachers like to switch to their native language instead of speaking English.
Other students also provide little input because they talk even more slowly than the teacher and they often make mistakes.
A lot of time is wasted on exercises that give you almost no input, for example: "divide these adjectives into two groups", "rearrange the words to make a sentence" or "answer these questions about the text above". There are also breaks, during which nothing happens.
If a text is read in class, it is typically very short (< 3 pages). If a recording is played, it is short as well (< 10 minutes).
If you consider all of the above, it becomes obvious that no more than 1/3 of the total lesson time is spent listening to correct English sentences. This includes recordings played by the teacher and correct sentences spoken by the teacher and other students. What about reading? The average amount of text that you read in an English class is probably no more than 3 pages per 45-minute lesson (including texts in the textbook and teacher handouts).

If you do the math, an intensive English course gives you no more than 2 hours of spoken input and 24 pages of written input per week. That's about 2,000 sentences per week. This means that it would take 9 years (with no breaks!) of intensive English courses to get 1,000,000 sentences. (With normal, twice-a-week courses it would take 18 years.)

Rate of input
Some of you may be thinking: "Great! So I will just take intensive courses for 9 years and become fluent in English!" Not so fast. You see, the total amount of input is not everything. You also need the right rate of input. A 100-meter walk is not the same as a 100-meter dash.

Why can't you get your input slowly? Because of forgetting. Here's how it works:

When you learn a new word, it stays in your memory for some time (usually 1-30 days) and then you forget it. For example, let's say the word is genuine and it will stay in your memory for 14 days.
How can you remember the word for more than 14 days? You need to review it. If you see another sentence with the word genuine in the next 14 days, your memory of the word will become stronger and you will remember it for a much longer time.
What is the chance that you will see another sentence with the word genuine in the next 30 days? It depends on how many English sentences you will see in that period. If you get 8,000 sentences (intensive English course), the chance of coming across genuine is about 3 times smaller than if you get 25,000 sentences (as I did).
Therefore, with less input, you are making it much more likely that the new word will be gone after 1-30 days.
So if you're getting your input slowly, you are hurting your progress in two completely separate ways:

You're learning new things more slowly.
You're accelerating forgetting. You're losing "old things" more quickly because you're not reviewing them often enough.
That is why a learner who gets 1,000,000 sentences over 9 years will achieve much less than a learner who gets 1,000,000 sentences over 3 years. The first learner will keep forgetting a large part of his knowledge because of insufficient reviews. The second learner will be getting more frequent reviews, so he will be losing less knowledge.

The bottom line is that English courses — even intensive ones — simply give you input too slowly to achieve fluency in a reasonable time (if at all). If you want to speak fluent English, you have to take things into your own hands and immerse yourself in input — podcasts and audiobooks, videos and movies, websites and books.

Fun
As I've explained above, I believe that getting input outside of the classroom is the only road to fluency. But there are reasons to get input on your own even if fluency is not your goal.

One such reason is fun. When you choose your own sources of input, you can choose things that you really care about. Instead of reading some random article in your English textbook, you can read a Harry Potter book, an e-mail message from a friend, an Internet forum with relationship advice, or perhaps news about your favorite football club. Instead of listening to a boring recording in class, you can watch your favorite TV series or a video podcast about computer technology.

Now, of course, fun is good in itself; but it also has beneficial effects:

If your input is fun, you get it much more willingly and spend more time on it. In fact, once you get a taste of all the amazing content you can get in English, it may be difficult to tear yourself away!
Fun leads to stronger memories. When you see or hear something that matters to you, you can remember much more. For example, if you're reading some article that your teacher gave you, you usually want to read it quickly and be done with it. But suppose you're reading the lyrics of a new song by your favorite band. You are much more likely to repeat them to yourself and keep them in your memory — together with all the grammar and vocabulary!
Authenticity
The final — and the least important — reason to take charge of your English learning is authenticity. I believe it is important to learn from real American and British content instead of resources prepared especially for English learners. If you hear something in a podcast or read it on a blog, you know it is really used in the English-speaking world.

By contrast, textbooks used in English classes often try to teach "proper" English, stripped of any informal expressions, such as crap, sucks or stuff. Their authors probably disapprove of such phrases and believe that learners don't need them. But most learners would choose relaxed, natural language — the language of regular educated Americans and Britons — over the artificial language of English textbooks.

A related problem is that English teaching is dominated by British English, while the real world is dominated by American English. Although in recent years British textbooks (and teachers) have started teaching American vocabulary, they still treat American English as a second-class citizen. If you want to get an accurate picture of the language used in the English-speaking world, you will need to go beyond English classes and start getting real-life input on your own.

segunda-feira, 8 de agosto de 2011

What is input and why you need it


© Tomasz P. Szynalski, Antimoon.com

What is input?
Input is a short word for "sentences that you read or listen to". Input is the opposite of output, which means "sentences that you speak or write".

The model of language learning
Have you ever wondered how it is possible that you can speak your native language so easily? You want to say something (express some meaning) and correct phrases and sentences just come to you. Most of this process is unconscious: something just appears in your head. You can say it or not, but you don't know where it came from. This model explains how this is possible:

You get input — you read and listen to sentences in some language. If you understand these sentences, they are stored in your brain. More specifically, they are stored in the part of your brain responsible for language.
When you want to say or write something in that language (when you want to produce output), your brain can look for a sentence that you have heard or read before — a sentence that matches the meaning you want to express. Then, it imitates the sentence (produces the same sentence or a similar one) and you say your "own" sentence in the language. This process is unconscious: the brain does it automatically.
Comments on the model
Of course, this model is very simple. The brain doesn't really look for whole sentences, but rather for parts of sentences (phrases). It can build very complicated and long sentences from these parts. So it doesn't just "imitate" one sentence at a time. It uses many sentences at the same time to build original sentences.

For example, it "knows" that it can take one word in a sentence it has heard and substitute another word (an equivalent one) for it. For example, if it has heard "The cat is under the table", it can easily produce "The dog is under the table" or "The book is under the chair." (if it has also heard and understood the nouns dog, book, and chair). It can substitute more than one word, as in "The cat is under the big black table".

The brain can also do more advanced transformations. If you give the brain these three sentences,

I like golf.
I like fishing for salmon.
Golf is relaxing.
it can produce this:

Fishing for salmon is relaxing.
Here, a noun phrase with a gerund ("fishing for salmon") was substituted for a regular noun (golf). As a result, we got an original sentence which doesn't look too similar to any of the three input sentences.

But these considerations don't change the most important fact: The brain needs input. The more correct and understandable sentences it gets, the more sentences it can imitate and the better it gets at making its own sentences.

By the way, the language learning model described above is basically the "comprehension hypothesis" (or "input hypothesis") by professor Stephen Krashen (University of Southern California) and is part of his "natural approach" to language learning.

The model describes the process of a child learning its first (native) language. The child listens to its parents and other people. The child's brain collects sentences and gets better and better at producing its own sentences. By the age of 5, the child can already speak quite fluently.

But the same model works for learning a foreign language. In fact, we think it is the only way to learn a language well.

What the model means for language learners
Here's what's important in the model from the point of view of foreign language learning:

The brain produces sentences based on the sentences it has seen or heard (input). So the way to improve is to feed your brain with a lot of input — correct and understandable sentences (written or spoken). Before you can start speaking and writing in a foreign language, your brain must get enough correct sentences in that language.
Output (speaking and writing) is less important. It is not the way to improve your language skills. In fact, you should remember that you can damage your English through early and careless output.
You don't need grammar rules. You learned your first language without studying tenses or prepositions. You can learn a foreign language in that way, too.
How input can change your English
If you read a few books in English, you will see that your English has become better. You will start using new vocabulary and grammar in your school compositions and e-mail messages. You will be surprised, but English phrases will just come to you when you are writing or speaking! Things like the past simple tense and how to use the word since will become part of you. You will use them automatically, without thinking. Correct phrases will just appear in your head.

It will be easy to use English, because your brain will only be repeating the things that it has seen many times. By reading a book in English, you have given your brain thousands of English sentences. They are part of you now. How can you make a mistake and say feeled, if you have seen the correct phrase (felt) 50 times in the last book you've read? You simply cannot make that mistake anymore.

You will surely notice an improvement at your next English test. For example, in multiple choice questions, you will "feel" which is the correct answer. You may not know "why" it is correct (you will not be able to give a rule for it), but you will know it is correct. You will know because you will have read it many times.

This is true for all words and grammar structures. If you read in English, you can forget about grammar rules. Throw away your grammar book! You don't need to know the rules for the present perfect tense. You don't even have to know the name "present perfect tense". Instead, read a few books in English, and soon you will feel that "I have seen Paul yesterday" is wrong, and "I saw Paul yesterday" is correct. The first sentence will simply sound wrong. How? Simple. Your brain has seen the second kind of sentence 192 times, and the first kind 0 times.

Do you know what is the difference between a learner and a native speaker? The native speaker "feels" what is correct. He can tell that a sentence sounds either good or bad (unnatural) and he doesn't need to use grammar rules for that. He can do it because he has heard and read lots of English sentences in his life. This is the only difference between a learner and a native speaker — the amount of input. You can be like a native speaker if you get lots of input, too.

How I realized I was a native speaker
I'll never forget the first time that I opened Michael Swan's Practical English Usage (an excellent English grammar/usage reference book). It was at the end of high school and I was already very good at English. The book was full of English grammar and usage problems like "when should you use below and when under?" and "what sort of things can you express with the word must?". For each problem, there were example sentences (showing the correct and incorrect way to say something) and rules such as "Use under when something is covered or hidden by what is over it, and when things are touching".

I browsed through the book, looking at page after page. When looking at an incorrect example, I'd think "Of course that's wrong; it sounds awful". When looking at a rule, I'd think "Oh, I didn't know there was a rule for that". Page after page, I had the impression that I didn't know any of the rules in the book, and... I didn't need them! (And I couldn't learn all of them even if I wanted to.) I could just look at a sentence and tell if it sounded good or not.

I was like a native speaker of English. By reading books, watching TV, listening to recordings, etc. I had gotten lots of input and developed an intuition for English.

There are many examples of people who have become close to native speakers because of intensive input — for example, Michal, me, and the other authors in the Successful English learners section. You can also read about two interesting cases from a scientific article by Stephen Krashen.

sexta-feira, 5 de agosto de 2011

Input x Ouput


" A challenge turns into a leisure
When you do it with pleasure"
Daniela Ono (An English Learner)



Há quatro habilidades importantes que todo estudante precisa treinar quando começa a aprender inglês: listening e reading ( input), speaking e writing ( output).

Todos os cursos de idiomas incluem em seus exercícios nos livros didáticos, oportunidades para que o aluno passe a treinar essas habilidades, afim de proporcionar ao aluno, o domínio da língua estrangeira e junto com o livro e as aulas, o estudante é orientado a exercitar o seu inglês não somente nas aulas ( input), mas principalmente a produzir trabalho: os famosos " homeworks" ( output). O único problema é que os coordenadores das escolas de idioma acabam se esquecendo que o entusiasmo inicial do aluno que começa o curso passa logo e com o entusiasmo passa também o interesse que os alunos possuíam para pesquisar e continuar fazendo seus homeworks para reforçar o que aprenderam.

Como esse processo é natural, os estudantes começam a depender exclusivamente das aulas e da presença do professor em sala, para obter o seu avanço nos estudos. E com essa dependência cria-se um vício de ensino, onde o único estímulo do aluno é aguardar passivamente instruções ( input), ao invés de colocar em prática, aquilo que aprendeu ( output).

Consequentemente, com o acúmulo de " inputs", a compreensão do estudante aumenta, dando-lhe a impressão de avanço no idioma:
- Nossa, já consigo entender e ler! - diz o aluno entusiasmado.

Contudo, assim que ele tenta falar ou escrever, ele descobre que há algum tipo de bloqueio:
- Como assim? Eu consigo entender, mas não consigo falar nem escrever direito. O que houve?

Ora, se nos últimos meses ( em alguns casos, anos), o aluno só recebeu input, como ele espera produzir output?

Sim, é simples assim.

Se nos últimos tempos, você só leu livros e assistiu filmes em inglês, essas habilidades ( reading and listening) estão bem treinadas, e como todo treino, essas práticas estão cada vez mais naturais e expontâneas. Porém, se pudéssemos aprender inglês somente lendo e ouvindo, os cursos de inglês não precisariam gastar tanto tempo, tentando te ensinar as outras duas habilidades ( speaking and writing), isn't it?

Sabendo isso, o que você pretende fazer para aumentar o seu output?

Alguns vão querer largar os livros e filmes, e tentar obter uma enxurrada de output ( viajar para outros países, ter dez aulas de conversação por semana, escrever um livro e por aí vai...); outros dirão que não tem tempo, que precisam aprender mais vocabulário e so on e tal!

Se vocês querem um conselho ( e se ainda estão lendo até aqui, deve ser porque esperam instruções) o que posso indicar é justamente isso: parem de depender tão passivamente de seus professores e comecem a buscar qualquer output que lhe interessem. No começo é mesmo confuso, mas com a devida instrução sobre como começar ( para isso, serve o seu " teacher"), o que parece desafio começa a se transformar em prazer.

Continuem com os seus livros e filmes, mas não só isso! Transforme essas atividades de input em output, fazendo notas em inglês do que vocês estão lendo ou assistindo; colecionando novas expressões, ou seja, have fun!!!

Lembre-se: a diferença entre um estudante e um learner não é apenas duas preposições: in e out! E sim, a junção das duas: " information coming in and communication getting out". Daí, a importância de saber se você apenas consome informação ( passive consummer) ou também produz comunicação ( active learner).

Frank Oliveira