Some Internet Resources Useful to Language Learners and Researchers
*Terry Doyle, Eugene, Oregon
The usefulness of internet resources for language learners and researchers is quite well known and has been discussed in some detail. (See Warschauer, 1999; Wilburg and Butler-Pascoe, 2002; Aydin, 2007 for general discussions about the usefulness of the internet. See also Sinclair, 2004 for articles specifically about using corpora in language teaching. Also, see the journal Computer Assisted Language Learning.) To this ever-increasing list of resources, I would like to add some which I have encountered recently and which I think might be helpful for readers of this article. The first two were suggested to me by two of my former co-teachers (traditionally called “student-teachers”), whom I worked with just before I retired from City College of San Francisco. The other three relate to NNEST issues, a sub-field of TESOL of particular interest to me, which I hope will be interesting to readers of this article.
In the fall of 2012, while she was my co-teacher, Eun Oh did her “capstone project”, the major research study for her MA TESOL degree at San Francisco State University, on using online corpus tools to study phrasal verbs. Using a corpus tool called AntConc (http://www.laurenceanthony.net/antconc_index.htmlin) several sessions after our Film ESL class, Oh taught our students (and me, too) how to make our own corpus from the 35 movie scripts I had used in the previous 20 or so semesters and how to use this corpus as a learning tool. For example, if students want to study a certain phrasal verb such as ‘get out of”, they could use AntConc to find quickly all the occurrences of this phrasal verb in the 35 movie scripts in the corpus just made. Oh also introduced students to COCA (The Corpus of Contemporary American English) (http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/), which contains 450 million words in context from various magazines and journals and also COCA Soap Opera (http://corpus.byu.edu/soap/overview_detailed.asp) which contains words in context from the scripts of 10 popular soap operas for the past 10 years. In her unpublished paper and graduation presentation entitled “Film, corpus, and phrasal verbs”, Oh explores the ways to teach students how to use corpus as another resource to study phrasal verbs they frequently encounter in movies and readings in English to raise their awareness of phrasal verbs and to enhance further their independent learning.
In the spring of 2013, while she was my co-teacher, Misung Lee did her “capstone project” on using online corpus tools as a writing support tool. Lee started with the observation that acquiring formulaic sequences contributes to L2 writers’ fluency in academic discourse, but the arbitrary nature and the huge amount of formulaic language requires learners to learn formulaic language independently and continually. When Lee learned about corpus linguistics in her MA TESOL classes, she got the idea that a corpus, which provides abundant contextual and linguistic information by showing concordance and frequency, could be an effective tool for prompting independent learning. In her unpublished paper and graduation presentation entitled “EAP learners as language researchers with an online corpus”, Lee describes how she implemented this corpus-based learning with COCA through two one-hour workshops. Results of her action research show how ten of her participants used COCA to improve their writing and their thoughts of how helpful they thought this use of COCA was to them. Since COCA enables users to get information about words, phrases, collocates, synonym sets, and grammatical constructions, using COCA was found to be very useful to the EAP (English of Academic Purposes) students while writing essays, especially in the areas of solving problems related to collocation and lexico-grammar.
The particularly valuable aspect of both of these studies is that they illustrate how students are encouraged to learn independently and actually carry out their own action research using corpora available to everybody free on the internet.
The other three uses of the internet are related to NNEST (non-native English speaking teachers) issues and to internet resources made available by the TESOL organization to people interested in NNEST and WE/EIL (Word English/English as an international language) issues. For the past several years, I have been a member of TESOL’s NNEST Interest Group and also of the NNLEI (non-native language educator’s issues) Interest Group of CATESOL (California’s chapter of TESOL). TESOL’s NNEST Interest Group has four online forums which might be of interest to English teachers and researchers in Nepal: (1) The NNEST Newsletter, (2) The NNEST of the Month blog, (3) TESOL’s EVOs, and (4) the NNEST listerve.
The NNEST Newsletter (http://nnest.asu.edu/NewNewsletter.html) is currently edited by BedrettinYazan and Ali FuadSelvi. Two issues of this newsletter appear online twice a year. The format of the NNEST Newsletter is quite similar to that of the NELTA ELT Forum; there are feature articles, personal accounts, book reviews, and announcements. All are related to NNEST issues or World English/EIL issues. Article titles in the most recent issues include “Beyond the Native Speaker: My Life as an NJS, NNES, and Bilingual User of Japanese and English” byAya Matsuda; “Editorial: Worldviews of (in)Equity and the NNEST movement” by BedrettinYazan and Nathanael Rudolph; and “Growing up as a global nomad: Problematizing nativeness in an era of World Englishes” by SarinaChugani Molina.
The NNEST of the Month blog (http://nnestofthemonth.wordpress.com) offers readers a chance to read interviews with researchers and scholars, graduate students, and English teachers related to their research or teaching practices related to NNEST issues or World English/EIL issues. An interview has been posted every month for the past nine years. At present there are five interviewers who were born in five different countries, though now three of them are living in the United States, while one is living and teaching in Nepal, and one is living and teaching in Brazil. One of them is Madhukar K.C. and I am another one. You can read more about this blog in my article entitled “The NNEST of the Month blog: After 9 years and 100 interviews, still going strong” in the most current NNEST Newsletter (http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolnnest/issues/2014-09-09/email.html) Well-known scholars interviewed over the years include Noam Chomsky, Henry Widdowson, Claire Kramsch, Bonnie Norton, George Braine, Robert Phillipson, Suresh Canagarajah, and Diane Larson-Freeman. But young graduate students and even ordinary ESL teachers like me have been interviewed. I was interviewed in 2006.
TESOL’s EVOs (Electronic Village Online) are online lectures and simultaneous discussion sessions organized by TESOL every January and February. After each online lecture, participants may ask the lecturers and the facilitators questions and make comments. Topics included NNEST issues and World English/EIL issues, the uses of technology, and any other TESOL-related topics which members propose.
Finally, The NNEST listerserve is an online discussion of NNEST and World English/EIL issues. Any member of the NNEST IG may post a topic, announcement, or request for information. The good thing about (1) to (3) is that they are open to and available to everyone; you don’t need to be a member of TESOL. Unfortunately, you need to be a TESOL member and a member of the NNEST-IS to participate in (4) the NNEST listserve.
I would also like to share some personal examples of how the internet has enabled me to make use of the above four resources and how they have led to new online relationships and friendships with people I have never met in person, and how this has led to my own professional development and hopefully the professional development of the people I met online. The first experience started in the NNEST EVO in 2009. In this EVO facilitated by Ana Wu and Aiden Yeh, I heard lectures by George Braine, Suresh Canagarajah, EnricLlurda, AhmarMahboob, and others, and I also was able to ask questions and make comments both orally after the lectures using my computer microphone and also through writing in follow up online discussions. In these discussions, I “met” ElisendaMaroOn, who is a high school Catalan teacher of English living in Barcelona. We have kept in touch since then, exchanging thoughts about teaching English and NNEST issues and also encouraging each other in times of professional, personal, and family difficulties. But we have never met in person. This summer I invited her to be interviewed for the NNEST of the Month blog; you can read this interview which I plan to post on September 30. In choosing Elisenda, I was inspired by the lead of George Braine in his book entitled Nonnative Speaker English Teachers: Research, Pedagogy, and Professional Growth published in 2010. In that book, he described two ESL teachers, one from Malaysia, an outer circle country and another from China, an expanding circle country. Braine explains his rationale for including these biographies in his book:“few biographies of individual teachers” revealing their socioeconomic background, levels of education and training,and day-to-day association with the English language.
While enriching the research base onNNS English teachers, such narratives would also provide essential data for curriculum design and teacher education” (p. xi)WhileElisenda’s biography is not in this interview, we do have a chance to hear the voice of a high school Catalan teacher, a person we do not have a chance to hear from often. I hope NNEST of the Month blog readers will enjoy “meeting” Elisenda online and hearing about her experiences of teaching English in Barcelona. Without the internet resource of EVO, I would never have been able to “meet” Elisenda, and without access to the NNEST of the Month blog, readers around the world would not be able to read her interview.
Another experience I want to share started in February of this year. Our NNEST of the Month blog sent out a call for new interviewers because three of our members decided to resign. We were fortunate that Madhukar K.C. and also GeetaAneja decided to respond to our call. Since then I have come to know and become friends with both Madhukar and Geeta, though I have not met them yet in person. I have never met anyone from Nepal before, so I was very curious about this country well known to Americans for its famous Mt. Everest, and I was also curious to know about how English is taught in Nepal and of course about what teachers and researchers in Nepal think about NNEST and NNEST issues or World English/EIL issues. And just recently Madhukar invited me to contribute to this newsletter, so I decided to share my thoughts on how internet resources such as the NNEST of the Month blog enable us to share ideas with colleagues and to make friends throughout the world. And I’d also like to advertise our NNEST of the Month blog, the NNEST Newsletter, and TESOL’s EVOs through this official blog of NELTA, which is an affiliate of TESOL.
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(*Terry Doyleis a retired ESL Instructor from City College of San Francisco, USA where he taught for almost 34 years. He is one of the interviewers of NNEST-of- the-Month blog team (www.nnestofthemonth.wordpress.com). )