Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Hasty Link Post
I have stuff to say, but no time to type it up, as it is the last week of classes and I need to grade stacks of final essays and final exams and then tabulate all the grades to turn in on Monday, oh, and I get to proctor another funfunfun MSUELT exam on Friday at 8am, my most favoritest way to start the day. ("Please make sure you are using the blue side of your answer sheet. Make sure you fill in the circles completely. Do not blatantly cheat off the person next to you.") So instead, people get a cheap post of links to entertain.

First an Important Announcement for all members of my family and other ice cream addicts out there:
Today is Free Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins, from 6-10pm! Every free scoop given away also give a donation to a literacy campaign. Yay!

How to curse around the world.

John McWhorter gives the most hilarious analysis of the linguistic functions of the word "yo" ever.

Firewire Dino hub. Doesn't bite. Rarely eats. You must read the disclaimers.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Conversation Class
And with one big final explosion of an international potluck, the practicum class is finished. No more teaching until 8:30pm! No more having to teach one-shot lessons on whatever topic seems good at the time to people who don't really need it! No more wondering if people ever bother to proofread anymore, especially when making worksheets and overheads!

I don't mean to sound critical, but, well, I am. Let me just take a moment here to reflect on the whole practicum experience. I know that it is important for people in a TESOL program to get supervised teaching experience, so they can begin to apply some of the theory they've been learning in class. Wonderful, great, excellent. But I really have to wonder if the practicum class, in the way we teach it, is useful to our students. Every class is a one-shot session, in which the teacher has to provide the students with enough background knowledge and content to then be able to participate in communicative activities. While the importance of continuity is stressed, it's a little hard to actually put into practice when each class is being taught by 3 teachers, and each class session is often split into two unrelated hours taught by different people. In my particular class, level 5, we didn't do that, so each two-hour session was taught by the same person, but there was still basically only incidental continuity from one session to the next.

My biggest problem is probably that I have never seen the use of conversation classes. I mean, the idea is that you get a bunch of people who don't know each other together in a room and tell them to talk to each other in a foreign language about some random topic that has been arbitrarily chosen. Have you ever tried this? Have you ever had someone find out that you speak some other language and command you to "Say something!"? Generally, the mind goes blank at this point.

The practicum classes are more structured than that, certainly, but it still seems like too much of the class is taken up by the teacher having to introduce all the relevant vocabulary for the night's imposed conversation. Especially at the upper levels, I wonder why the students even bother to come. The students at levels 5 and 6 are quite proficient speakers already, presumably just looking for a place with more people to talk to in English about issues other than their major field of study. Why don't they just go to International Coffee Hour? Why don't they just join a club? Why don't we just make the upper levels into a book club, so they have some kind of continuous content that they're always prepared beforehand to talk about? Making them do all these cute "communicative activities" sometimes seems like an insult to their intelligence.

For the lower levels, I'm not really in favor of conversation classes either. If their level is low enough that they have real trouble formulating simple sentences in English, they should be taking an actual ESL class that teaches them all the parts of the language. Language should be treated as a holistic skill, because knowing how to read and write affects the abilities of listening and speaking, and certainly an understanding of the grammatical structures aids one's understanding and abilities overall.

Maybe there are teachers out there who excell at teaching conversation classes and getting their students to carry on lively and involved conversations about any topic that comes up. Maybe there are people who think that concentrating on listening and speaking exclusively is truly important. I am not one of those people. If I ever end up teaching ESL/EFL as my career, it will not be like this.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Entries of Interest
I have recently been having a lot of fun reading all the posts over at Language Log. Here are some of the ones I've found the most interesting or amusing.

On multilingualism in the US:

No French Please, People Are Watching - about Kerry's unwillingness to demostrate his French ability in public

Mere knowledge of the German language cannot reasonably be regarded as harmful - more information on the Nebraska law outlawing foreign language instruction mentioned in the post above

On the apparent decline of reading in today's youth:

Balm in Gilead - blasting Camille Paglia's assertion that students no longer wish to read as being anecdotal and unscientific

O tempora, O mores - responses to the above, offering perhaps insight as to where Paglia is confused

Generational Differences: Decline or Progress? - attempting to find some scientific backing for Paglia's assertions

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

We Love Punctuation
By and large, Grinnellians tend to be a loyal bunch. We all went to a tiny, extra-liberal arts school in the middle of Iowa that no one has ever heard of, and we got to take whatever classes we wanted to outside our majors, which usually means that we were generally happier with our overall academic experience than we would have been elsewhere. But occasionally I see something that reminds me particularly of why I love Grinnell.

Last week, a CS professor posted the following on the Grinnell Plans system in response to some other students' complaints about the vagaries of the English written punctuation system. I never took a class from him, as I stayed out of the science building as much as possible, but John Stone is becoming one of my heroes for being able to explain stuff like this in such detail:

23:49 April 14, 2004

Under the traditional American rules for non-technical prose, which American writers should follow unless they are sure they know what they are doing, a period or a comma is always placed inside the close-quotation mark, even when it is not part of the quoted material. An exclamation point, a question mark, or a dash is placed inside the close-quotation mark when it is part of the quotation (in which case any external punctuation is usually suppressed) and outside when it is part of the enclosing sentence. In all other cases, it is usually possible and desirable not to include any trailing punctuation at the end of the quoted material; thus, for instance, a semicolon at the end of quoted material should be suppressed.

Twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophers and logicians found it helpful to supplement these traditional rules with a second set, derived partly from British practice, and confined to cases in which one is talking about the literal text string that appears between the quotation marks (and not using that string's meaning as part of the meaning of the surrounding sentence). The supplementary rule is to enclose the quoted material, including any punctuation marks that are part of the text string that one is referring to, in single quotation marks. Punctuation for the surrounding sentence is then never suppressed: typographical purists are just supposed to put up with the unsightly piles of trailing punctuation, in the interest of accuracy on the occasions when it is particularly necessary.

From the entry below for the William Saletan article, you'll see that I use both sets of rules. In the first sentence of my summary, I'm talking about the word `credible', and so I use single quotes and put the period outside the close-quotation mark. In the third sentence, I'm using that word as a descriptive adjective, and the quotation marks simply mean that I'm borrowing that word from Bush. Accordingly, I use the traditional rules -- double quotes, with the comma tucked inside the close-quotation mark.

The down side of using both sets of rules in the same context is that people sometimes assume that I'm being inconsistent or don't know the difference. I can live with this.

15:14 April 14, 2004

Saletan, William. ``Trust, don't verify: Bush's incredible definition of credibility''. Slate, April 14, 2004.

The gist: President Bush has a misconception about the word `credible'. He thinks that it means ``consistent in words and deeds.'' So, in order to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States is ``credible,'' he thinks that he has to make it internally consistent. This is a serious error when the internally consistent policy does not correspond to external reality, as in Iraq.

For more on written English punctuation, its wonders and usefulness, as well as heinous abuses it has undergone, you can read this article about the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I can't wait to start reading it.

And yes, I do own this poster. It hangs in the home office, so I can look at it while I'm grading papers.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

My brain made an interesting connection this morning at karate. I was watching the main instructor correct some of the other students' kata. All of the kata in Ryu Te, the style I'm practicing now, are the same kata I know from my previous 13 years of Shotokan, but, of course, slightly different. It occured to me today what the difference is, as I watched Shihan show the others exactly what all the little movements are supposed to be in what eventually becomes a very fast series. Here's my analogy:

Ryu Te : classical Chinese calligraphy :: Shotokan : simplified Chinese/Japanese characters

In Ryu Te, all the movements flow and build on one another, so it all looks effortless and easy, but when you try to do it, the order has a huge effect on the end outcome, much like trying to learn to write characters. In Shotokan, (and Shorin Ryu, and no doubt a bunch of other very similar styles,) all of the extra curlicues, finesses, and flowing connectors got stripped out, leaving one with a very basic, straightforward movement with the same basic core. To go back to the character-writing analogy, the meaning doesn't change, but somehow, the precise flowing order doesn't matter as much to get to the end result.

There are certainly good things and bad things about each of these approaches. Shotokan is very much based on being straightforward and direct, and it is certainly effective. Ryu Te is much more circular and flowing, and to watch a truly proficient practicioner is awing, because it is nearly impossible to catch all of the changes of direction. It looks effortless. Now that I'm thinking of it this way, it has strong connections with how I got started in my fascination with controlled body movements, ballet. We were told over and over in ballet that the key, the ultimate goal, was to make all of this difficult stuff look easy. The audience should never know how much effort it really took.

This is an idea that has pervaded my thoughts and actions ever since. Grace under pressure. Perfection is not just doing something well, but doing it so well that it looks like it was nothing.

Friday, April 16, 2004

On the Nightstand
I finally received the batch of books I ordered for my birthday nearly a month ago. In case you want some forewarning of what might be inspiring future linguistic ramblings, I will soon (as soon as the semester is over) be reading:Books which have also been waiting in the wings for a time when I had, um, time are:It's going to be a fun summer!

Mystic Connection
I can only blame it on the fact that I have known Will for so many years, but he just wrote in his journal about the exact same thing that I was warming up my typing fingers to write about myself. I'm going to write about it anyway, because it is just that cool.

You can custom-order your own M&M color combinations! I just noticed this on the back of the package of M&Ms I bought last weekend to make trail mix. I find this exceptionally amusing, because one of the other TAs was lamenting earlier this semester that she had to count out the exact number of each color of M&M that she wanted to use for an activity. If only we had known! Oh, the wonder of commerce and the internet.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

In Which Our Hero Returns a Wayward Shopping Cart
It is finally, finally really starting to feel like spring in Michigan. No matter how long I end up living here, I will never think this is normal weather. Spring is supposed to start in March, darn it. At my birthday. That is the rule. The state of Michigan is apparently unaware of this, and I disapprove.

But today was actually nice and sunny and above 50 degrees. Since Thursday is one of my free afternoons, when it got to be 5:00 and Mark was officially done working, I suggested/demanded that we go outside to be active. So for the first time in about 6 months, I got out my bike, Mark got out his skates, and away we went on the recreation path that runs right past our apartment complex.

I had promised Mark, who was working much harder on his skates than I on my bike, that we would only be out for about half an hour. When we started retracing our path back towards home, though, we came upon a shopping cart, sitting in the middle of an intersection on the path. How it got there we have no idea. The handle proclaimed it to be from Meijer, though, which is only a few blocks away.*

There's something you have to understand about Mark. He hates seeing shopping carts not put away. Really hates it. So he decided he would push the shopping cart while on his rollerblades. He pushed it all the way to the end of the paved part of the path, only to discover that the path didn't curve the direction he thought it would, so he had to turn around and push it all the way back out to the main street, whereupon we immediately set off for Meijer. I have no doubt that we, or rather, Mark, attracted all kinds of odd looks rolling down the sidewalk that way. Mark skated directly up to the door of Meijer, deposited his cart, and skated off, much to the confusion of the employee standing there.

When I inquired as to whether he felt exercised after our outing, he proclaimed that next time, I could skate and push the cart while he rode the bike. I pointed out that his skates wouldn't fit me, and he said he didn't want to have to ride my bike in his socks, so I think we're both just hoping that we don't encounter any more wayward shopping carts out galivanting about the neighborhood.

*Mark would like to add that, though Meijer is only "a few blocks away," he pushed the cart for 3 miles.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Culture Bumps
It's always interesting to me when the students in my ESL class react just as I knew they would.

I have one particular student in my class who has lately been offering up little gems of anecdotal evidence to support how different Asian and American pedagogical styles can be. To give you some background, for the past 2.5 weeks, I've been doing a primarily content-based section using The Green Book. Each day, they had to read the next chapter, each about 10 pages, and answer some discussion questions to prepare for class.

One of the discussion questions was a thought/opinion question: "Do you think the valley of boulders will be important? Why do you think the author mentions it?" This did not strike me as a particularly unusual "thinking ahead" type of question. I remember answering lots of them in 7th grade. So we begin to discuss it in class, and the one student gives his idea, listens to the other answers, and then... the horror. I never told them what the right answer was! He raised his hand and asked, "What is the answer?" I gently replied that there was no right answer, because each person would have their own ideas. He looked kind of panicked and tried again. "What is your opinion, then?" Clever lad, but that didn't work either, since I just said that my opinion was probably different from everyone else's, and I wanted him to answer about his own idea. He could tell that was all the answer he was going to get, but he still looked like this was the most foreign idea he'd ever encountered in a classroom.

Yesterday, we finished discussing the book, and I decided to have them write an analytical essay, just the way a normal US college literature class would. I explained to them that this is the way most classes would be run if they were taking regular academic classes, and they perked up. I added that most professors in the US don't base class grades on multiple choice tests, but on the student's ability to show they understood the material by using it to support their own arguments. I gave them a choice between three topics. Then I explained how I wanted them to write the essay: 5-paragraph style, 3 reasons to support their argument, each reason supported with evidence from the text, so everything gets related to back to the book.

There was silence for few seconds, and then someone said, "But... that means we actually have to have understood the entire book."


I think they're beginning to see why they are not allowed to simply take whatever regular MSU class they want to. This also lends weight to my argument, though, that our ESL classes should be more academically oriented, so our students actually feel like they're learning something, not just about language (which they sometimes doubt, in the "fun and games" atmosphere), but also about taking classes in a US university, which is what many of them thought they were coming here to do.

Our students are fully capable of doing this work, they just need to be challenged to do it with texts appropriate to their level. One of the most frustrating things to me when I was learning foreign languages was feeling like I could only express myself like a child. Our students should be treated like the university students that they are. If they feel like their minds are being challenged along with their language abilities, they will be more engaged. We'll see how their essays turn out. I think they'll find that they understood more of the book than they thought.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

TOEFL Changes!
Last week, (or, as it is Sunday, perhaps I should say the week before last,) most of the staff in the ELC were at this year's TESOL conference in California. On Thursday, we had a meeting so everyone could share handouts, information, insights, and anecdotes. There was a lot of interesting stuff, but one thing made me positively gleeful.

They're changing the TOEFL! *happy dance, happy dance*

Why should this make me gleeful? Because they're completely taking out the grammar section, the bane of a native-English-speaking teacher's existence. No longer will I have to spend time teaching two types of grammar: the rules required on the TOEFL and the language students will actually hear English speakers use. The new TOEFL is going to require students to write a standard essay, but also write an essay synthesizing information from first a reading and then a lecture on the same subject, which is *gasp* what learners would actually be expected to do in an actual English-speaking learning environment. There will also be a speaking section.

A telling quotation from the "Skills" section of the introductory video:
"In the speaking and writing sections, the tasks require test takers to employ more than one skill, which reflects how we use language in real life."

I told my students about the changes that the TOEFL will have, and they all responded with dismay. The ELC has a notorious problem, especially at the upper levels, with students not coming to class because they're studying for the TOEFL. They definitely have a feeling that what they are learning in class doesn't help them pass the test that serves as the hurdle they have to pass to get into mainstream academic classes. While this is something of a reflection on ELC classes, it is certainly also a reflection on the relevance of the TOEFL, in its current form, to actually learning English. Our students, when asked, respond that they want to learn the rules of English, they want more grammar, they want to pass the TOEFL, oh, and yeah, they want to learn that speaking and listening stuff, too. All their lives, they've lived in test-driven academic settings, and they do not perceive our classes as being useful unless it will help them pass the test. For once, the test is actually conforming to how classes should be effectively taught, and not the other way around.

I'd like to think that the changes in the TOEFL might also effect the testing standards in the countries our students are coming from (primarily Asian, do keep in mind,) but I don't think I hold a lot of hope for that. As one of my students said, "It doesn't really matter; in our country, it's the TOEIC that counts more anyway."

I can still dream.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

News Flash
This article from the BBC says that a mudslide hit Machu Picchu. What's more, it hit the town of Aguas Calientes, where 6 people were killed. Aguas Calientes is where I spent the night before going to see Machu Picchu. It is a tiny town built on either side of the railroad tracks that run straight through the middle of it at the lowest part of the ground. The rest of the town is built on the two steep mountainsides facing one another. All along the railroad tracks, there is an outdoor bazaar of textile shops, as at every tourist attraction in Peru, and if I am not mistaken, it is where I bought my alpaca sweater.

We stayed at an international hostel there. All of the hostels in town send representatives down to the train tracks when the train is due in to hand out business cards and advertise their rates to attract customers. The guys in charge of this hostel were all the typical young cheerful backpackers, both Peruvian and either British or Australian, and they just seemed to do it because it was fun. The hostel was up a very steep street, with steep stairs going up to the door, and was itself a narrow building a couple of stories high, which was my overall impression of the architecture of all of Aguas Calientes. Our rooms had bunk beds and were very pleasant, which isn't always a given in youth hostels.

My favorite memory is from the next morning, when we got up for breakfast at about 5am, because we wanted to see dawn at Machu Picchu. Breakfast was served on the top floor, on the balcony-porch looking down at the rest of the town and out at the other mountains. The ceiling was decorated with a multitude of scarves and other textiles, tacked at their corners to make a kind of colorful tent atmosphere. We had oatmeal with fruit in it, and some of that fresh-baked bread that I frequently lamented the lack of in Japan, and still do even back in the US. The backpacker hosts were quite happy to be up that early, and I wished we had longer to stay there. I snapped a picture of the mist coming through the narrow opening between two of the other mountains, where the railroad tracks went, just before we left.

We didn't see dawn at Machu Picchu, because that mist stayed around all day and eventually turned into rain, but it didn't matter. I thank the people of Aguas Calientes for playing such a large part in my fond memories of Peru. My thoughts are with them.

The Calculus Song
It's time for another Quote from Mark!

This morning, I was playing a tape that I made a while ago. When I walked back into the room where Mark was reading, it happened to be playing the chorus of a cover of The Eagles' "Take It to the Limit." He looked up and said, (wait for it,) "Oh, you're playing the calculus song."

Get it? If so, you too may be a geek. Welcome to our amusing world. It's okay to laugh.

Also, let's give the boy some props for single-handedly changing all the colors on this site. Yay, purple!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Student Blogging Update
*You*, yes, you are what makes the internet the amazing place it can sometimes be. One of my students has groupies for her blog. Check out the comments. They are guaranteed to make you go, "Awwww."

Do make comments on any of their blogs if you feel moved. It helps give them a sense of audience.

Comic Engrish
A great big thanks to Will, who sent me the Slashdot link to this. Behold what happens when you turn Japanese high school students loose with blank comic strips and their own knowledge of English.

The Penny Arcade Remix Project

Ah, those were the days.

Breaking Chocolate News
As a bonus, this just in from the BBC:

Eating chocolate makes healthier babies

Monday, April 05, 2004

Bow Before Me
Want to challenge your knowledge of English grammar? Alternatively, you can get a taste of what I get to answer in my "Grammar for English Teachers" class all the time. Thrilling, I assure you.

How grammatically sound are you?

I, by the way, am a Grammar God(dess).

Sunday, April 04, 2004

If I were the teacher...
I kind of find it depressing that everything I've seen fit to write about during this, my long weekend, 4 blissfully free days, has all been about work. On the other hand, it's all been work-related stuff that I actually care about, so it was fun. What does this indicate about my brain?

It's strange how teaching can come to take over so much of a person's cognitive processes. I find myself becoming hyper-aware of the constructions I use when I speak, of all these amazing people around me who can just *use* the conditional like it's nothing, who can switch tenses and from first to third person without great thought, who know how to use the general "you" properly, who, and this is the most amazing thing of all, can use articles, sprinkling them liberally, willy-nilly, appropriately through their everyday conversations! When I was in Japan, I once found myself listening to some cheesy Japanese pop song with English in the chorus, and realizing that the chorus was actually the singers going through all the conjugations of "like," from first person to third person plural, just as they had learned in school.

On Friday, I was watching a rerun of MacGyver to fulfill my quota of silly TV during vacation, and at the end there was an ad for the website for the Lewis & Clark bicentennial. I picked up the computer to check it out, and in the next hour of surfing related links, I had ideas for the whole next unit I now plan to do with my ELC class after we finish the current book about living on another planet. What's more, the two units can dovetail nicely to link the hypothetical and future conditional, which I just taught them for the space unit, with the past conditional. ("If I had been in Lewis & Clark's company, I would have taken...) Everything I read, I end up evaluating its merit as authentic reading material for my classes. Could I turn this into a lesson? What parts of it would be hard for them to understand? Wow, I never realized how culturally-laden all the images in that song are, etc., etc.

Lest you start to feel sorry for me, I admit that I started working on the final project for my methods class for fun. I'm going to be developing content-based materials for use in an ESL setting. I will never get to teach this class; it's all just a speculative exercise. But do I care? No. I spent $80 on books for this class I'll never get to teach. I have enough material to write 4 semester's worth of curricula, all based around mystery stories. Did you ever realize how much study and analysis there has been of Nancy Drew? Certainly a lot more than I would have thought. And now several books' worth is mine, all mine. Mwahahaha...

My mom says I should try to write up my curriculum fully and get it published. I even have a truly corny - I mean, catchy name for it. I won't tell you, though, because you might steal my idea. My own, my precioussss... *snaps back to reality* Right, I'm not obsessed with this at the moment, not at all. Nope, not me.

All you people who have talked to me in the past week may just be quiet now. Thank you.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

TV Nation Hides Bibliophiles!
Recently, I was asked how I inspire my ESL students to read. The other teacher was saying that she heard from her students over and over that they really don't like to read, and she couldn't really understand why. While I didn't have a very good answer about how I inspire them, I think I might have an explanation as to why our students don't like reading. It pretty much comes down to a cultural difference.

The difference is in book culture. We in the US have little conception of how easy we have it. Books are easily available, in a multitude of forms, from mass market paperbacks to collector's editions. They are also cheap. Oh, sure, I like to complain about how when I started reading the Babysitter's Club books back in first grade they were only $1.95, and by the time I stopped reading them a few years later, they were over $3, but compared to other countries, that's just so much priviledged whining. In most parts of the world, books are expensive. Books I bought in both Chile and Japan, paperbacks, mind you, were over $10, and that was a quite reasonable price. Books are actually luxury items, and people don't buy them as often, or in such quantity.

When I was in Japan for break, I mentioned that my friend Chris wanted to visit Book Off while he was visiting Sendai. While the easiest way to explain Book Off is to say it's a used bookstore, that's also a misnomer. It's a used *manga* store. In Japan certainly, and perhaps other parts of Asia, comics and graphic novels are written for all ages and demographics, and fill the niche that books occupy in the US. As ESL teachers, we love to tell the students that they can learn so much more English by reading in their free time, and blithely assume they'll go out and find some English version of whatever their favorite books were in their home countries. We are working on flawed assumptions.

A fellow MATESOL student from Taiwan told me yesterday that when she came to the US, she was shocked by the number of people she saw carrying books around with them. They read in coffee shops, on planes, on trains, on the bus, everywhere. It seemed very alien to her. For all that the media, teachers, parents, and people in general like to bemoan the decline of reading in the youth of America, by the standards of other countries, our TV nation is actually hiding a nation of bibliophiles. Even my brother, the original athletic, hyperactive, "I hate reading" kid, has been known to pick up a book for fun every now and then, from Chicken Soup for the Soul to Bill Bryson's Appalachain Woods. What's more, he then talks about them as having been enjoyable. Amazing.

Our ESL students, by and large, are not from this kind of book culture. They're not even from the same pedagogical background. By the time the average American student gets to college, he or she is well-versed in how to read and analyze literature. We've been gradually taught how to appropriately read in an academic setting since elementary school. In middle school, we start learning how to read analytically, and by high school we're expected to use outside literary criticism to uphold our personal opinions and insights in 3-page essays of comparitive analysis. And that's just for fiction. We learned it so gradually, it no longer really registers as something we learned. When we get to college, we've got literary analysis down cold, if not always well, as some professors of freshman composition would no doubt argue. We use this as a basis to start applying our analytical style to non-fiction articles, books, and researches. That famous five paragraph essay we learned back in 5th grade is back there in the depths of our minds, influencing us still. It's a solid educational foundation, and the basis of our university system.

My ESL students don't know how to do this. They've never read anything in English longer than an article, in many cases. They've never written an analytical paper. They come from a test-driven, passive intake system of education. The idea that they would be asked to write about their own opinions in class seems laughable. To express your own opinion in class is disrespectful; it might show disagreement with the teacher, who is the font of all knowledge. There is no possible way that university professors would expect individual, original analysis as evidence of learning. They can't possibly base course grades on such a frivolous approach. Right?

Wrong. And we are doing our students in the ESL environment a disservice by not exposing them to and preparing them for the actual American university learning system. They didn't expect to travel all the way to the US to be put in a class full of people from their own country, in classes that still have them playing silly little games and performing silly little dialogues in an effort to get them to just concentrate on the isolated elements and "skills" of English, only barely contextualized. Many of my students are here for a semester or year abroad, it's true, but all the rest of them are here because they're trying to get into a masters' or PhD program. It is true that they are in the IEP program because their English proficiency scores weren't high enough, but that doesn't mean they should be kept in such an isolated environment within the university they might as well not be at a university at all. They need teachers who will teach them university-style classes full of language they can understand, which often means simply slowing things down and giving them extra explanations. They do not need teachers who make them review overly simplified vocabulary and constructions on the same overgeneralized and irrelevant topics they've been learning for upwards of 7 years previously. If we teach ESL at a university, we need to do so, rather than teaching decontextualized ESL classes that happen to be using university classrooms. If our students start to have a feeling that what they're learning might actually be relevant, they might actually start to like reading.

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