All posts by bayanassylbek

Age and foreign language learning

The importance of optimal age in acquiring foreign languages at school is discussed widely among researchers (Lambelet & Berthele, 2015).  Children are considered to be more capable in learning languages than adults, particularly, when they learn the languages on its natural settings and it has a long-term effect. There is a period when the human brain is most sensitive to acquire input and accept a certain language which is called “critical period” (Yule, 2010) and this term is often connected with the age factor. One of the most popular examples to demonstrate critical age is the case of a 13 year old girl, Genie, who was isolated from social communication by her father ” (Yule, 2010). This case has long been interpreted that after a certain period, human being is not able to develop the language (Lambelet &  Berthele  , 2015). As a result, the theory has been criticized due its insufficient findings on emotional, physical, and cognitive factors that affect the language development. According to Lambelet and  Berthele  (2015) the critical period is only a possible factor which affects the age, but other factors related to age discrepancy in language learning should be analyzed as well. In addition, according to Singleton (2003) and other scholars, various investigations on children’s linguistic development do not provide evidence that language competence is impossible after a particular age. However, it was stated that language learning takes place comparably slower in older age, equal to that of children who acquire their mother tongue under convenient conditions (p.7).  All these findings do not seem to provide enough evidence that human linguistic capacity is impossible after a certain period.

“Critical age” is discussed as the plausible impact in children’s acquiring languages, but due to the deficiency of research findings on other factors (emotional, physical, and cognitive factors) it cannot be considered as a good argument. Moreover, data above is less likely to provide reasons why human linguistic capacity cannot function appropriately after a particular age. So these findings suggest that human linguistic capacity is not limited to earlier ages, but can be developed throughout school time.

References:

Lambelet, A. Berthele, R. (2015). Age and foreign language learning in school. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Singleton, D. (2003). Critical period or general age. In Garcia Mayo, M. & Lecumberri, M. (eds.), Age and the Aquisition of English as a Foreign language. Clevedon; Buffalo; Toronto; Sydney; Multilingual Matters, 3-22.

Yule, G. (2010). The Study of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

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The importance of native language in a primary school student’s learning

The recent changes in the language policy triggered hot discussions among stakeholders, particularly Kazakh elite, who were against the trilingual education, stating how much role the mother tongue plays in children’s education and that this policy will disrupt their national(heritage) identity. This issue induced me to search for research studies which touched upon the advantages of the mother tongue education in students’ learning, some of them which are listed below.

The education in mother tongue has been the target of the many researchers (Iyamu & Ogiegbaen, 2007). Mother tongue or mother language is defined as the first language of a child and the language that acquired at home from older members of the child’s family (UNESCO, 2003, p.15).  In some cases the mother tongue may imply the home language, the language which is used at home by the members of the family in a regular basis (UNESCO, 2008). It can be called family or native language as well.

UNESCO has maintained mother tongue based education in primary schools (UNESCO, 1953), highlighting the importance of the first language from the beginning of their school life since 1953. Moreover, in 1953 UNICEF declared “We take it as axiomatic … that the best medium for teaching is the mother tongue of the child” (UNESCO, 1953, p.1). Other researchers also suggest the advantages of mother tongue in children’s learning. For example, Kosonen (2005) state that children enroll and succeed more in school if the medium of instruction is in their home language. Interacting in mother tongue enhances the cognitive abilities of children.  This statement was concurred by the socio-linguist, Thabo Ditsele (2009), he says  in the Daily Maverick “that teaching younger children in a language that is not their mother tongue appears to disrupt cognitive ability and interferes with the learning process”. Many linguists believe that mother tongue education also helps children to acquire L2 easier as two languages support mutually (Marnewick, 2015). The use of students’ mother tongue can build a bridge between parents and the school as well.  Parents feel more at home and will probably come to class when staff are open and can better help with homework when it is in their native language (De Jong, 2011, p. 34).

What is your opinion about this topic? What are the advantages of monolingual or bilingual education in primary school can you give from your experience or from readings?

 

 

Reference:
De Jong (2011). Foundations for multilingualism in education: From Principles to
Practice. Philadelphia, Caslon Publishing
Iyamu, O. Ogiegbaen, S. (2007). Parents and Teachers’ Perceptions of Mother-tongue
Medium of Instruction Policy in Nigerian Primary Schools. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 20 (2), 97-108.
Kosonen, K. (2005). Education in local languages: Policy and practice in Southeast Asia. First
languages first: Community-based literacy programmes for minority language contexts in Asia. Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok.
Marnewick, A. (2015 March 17). The Debate about mother tongue education: What you
should know. Worksheetcloud. Retrieved from http://www.worksheetcloud.com/the-debate-about-mother-tongue-education-what-you-should-know/
Thabo, D (2009, September 20). Suburban Schools don’t care about African tongues. Sunday
Times, p. 36.
UNESCO (1953). The use of the vernacular languages in education. Monographs on
Foundations of Education, No. 8. Paris: UNESCO.
UNESCO (2003). Education in a multilingual world. UNESCO Education Position Paper. Paris:
UNESCO.
UNESCO (2008). Mother Tongue Matters: Local Language as a Key to Effective
Learning. Paris: UNESCO.

“How to learn any language in six months?” – Chris Lonsdale (deconstruction)

Linguist, a psychologist and educator Chris Lonsdale in his TED speech persuades the audience that it is possible to acquire any language in 6 months. His talk would not be as engaging and straightforward if he did not use experiences and examples from his personal life connecting with the well-known inventions in the human development.  He points out that many barriers which hinder us in learning new language are due to limits that take place in our lives as social dislocation, wars and all sorts of things going on.

The thought provoking question at the beginning of his speech was a kind of technique to catch the audience attention followed by his personal question “How to speed up the learning?” made them even get involved in the topic. In order to assure that normal adults can learn a new language quickly, easily and effectively, he employs his own experience of learning the Chinese language, which is considered to be stereotypically one of the difficult languages in the world.  So this example enabled his speech to obtain more convincing, promising and exciting tone. He also indicated how it is important to observe people who are able to do it and situation where it is working and then determine the principles and utilize them.  To support his claim he includes the examples from history of human progress, which are common and diverse. It was even impressive when he showed the drawing that he learnt in five days. That urged the audience that they also can repeat his achievement if they are focused on something and for that they do not need talent and immersion per se. The principles and actions he stated are systematically connected and concise which make them easy to be remembered.

He impressed me with his strong persuasive presentation and topic which is relevant and popular nowadays since the world is becoming multilingual. And more and more people strive to be plurilingual due to its benefits. More importantly, this video might be valuable for teachers who are willing to learn English, but were afraid to make a first step. The principles and actions suggested by Chris Lonsdale seem truly feasible and effective as they emanated from his personal experience, observation and research.

 

 

Regarding Kazakh terminology …

Recently the president Nursultan Nazarbayev organized a meeting with local and international mass media journalists. In the interview, the president spoke about one of the burning topic in our society– the language issue. In particular, he pointed out terms translated into Kazakh in an irrelevant quantity which have already merged into Kazakh. The president stated “Instead of enhancing Kazakh by international terms, the linguistic committee created a number of words which are not used by people, e.g. ‘procent’ is translated as ‘paiyz (procent) in Kazakh, but I do not use this word in my speech’”.

Language is the soul of the nation and spiritual identity. After gaining the independence, the Kazakh language obtained the status of state language. At that period, other ethnicities started paying attention to our mother tongue, saying “Kazakh became an individual country, the language received state language, if we do not learn Kazakh, we will not survive”. However, we could not continue this process properly. By trying to translate new words into Kazakh we made the language so complicated, that even Kazakh folks are not able to understand themselves. It is surprising to hear from graduates of Kazakh mainstream schools saying “I prefer to read in Russian to Kazakh” or “It is easier to read in Russian”. It is not difficult to notice that one of the main reasons of why we came to this adverse circumstance is the fact that huge amount of terms which are used by the whole world translated into Kazakh. Compare the following words in six different languages:

English Spanish Italian French Russian Kazakh
Passport Pasaporte Passaporto passeport Пасспорт Төлқұжат
Piano Piano Piano Piano Пианино Күйсандық
Internet Internet Internet Internet Интернет Ғаламтор
competence Competencia Competenza Competence Компетенция Құзыреттілік
Focus Foco Fuoco concentrer Фокус, концентрация Шоғырлану
Crocodile Cocodrilo Coccordillo Crocodile Крокодил Қолтыруын

 

In fact, words in all these languages are written and pronounced almost the same, except Kazakh. In this respect my opinion corresponds to the president’s that we should not translate all the single word into Kazakh. I assume there are two advantages of using international terminologies unchanged. First, the original meaning of a word will be preserved, i.e. the meaning of items or actions will be conveyed accurately. The equivalent of any word can be found in any language, but it cannot accomplish in accordance to modern time necessity.  For example, expertise, inauguration, document, administration -these words do not replace precise meaning of the words, thus are not used in everyday life. Secondly, terminology has enormous international power to unite world population. As our president said if 1800 words enter our language without changes, then isn’t it wealth? (Is Kazakh tongue-tied to articulate the international words?) These terminologies can also enable us to learn English, one of the most important goals in present days. Thousands of words have merged into the Russian language, but we do not see they lose something because of that.

The problem here is that we do not only make Kazakh language difficult to learn for other ethnicities, but also for ourselves. If Kazakhs do not read and understand their own language, who on Earth will learn and maintain it?

 

 

Learning new vocabulary became easier with Quizlet

Learning the vocabulary and terms is the difficult task for any person. A big amount of new lexis is not kept in one’s head, thus, it is important words to be practiced and recalled. Obviously, limitless of exercises and ways exist in learning new vocabulary, e.g. by repeating the word for several times, hanging stickers with words on the walls, writing a word in one language on one side and another language on the another side, switching the language in a smartphone or a computer. A widespread strategy to divide a notebook into three columns is not effective because of the high possibility to lose or tear the notebook and less possibility and time is available to rewrite it. Therefore, I would like to suggest a new approach and website to learn vocabulary – Quizlet.

Quizlet is a free online service where you can create flashcards and teaching games and practice the vocabulary. The author of this online tool,15 years old American student Andrew Sutherland, invented it when they were asked to learn 111 names of animals in French. In order to make his life easier, the teenager created the mega project which is complement by 3 million users each day and in 100 languages. The idea of this service is not complex, all you need is to register in Quizlet.com, and add a translation or a definition of a word in the form of cards.

Quizlet offers to learn words though games by creating a list of vocabulary which is called ‘sets’. The words provided with translations might be presented as a list of definitions, images or photos with explanation. The sets created by other individuals might be changed or added into the list of your page. Making the list of words in English is not time-consuming as terms are already ready for use; you need to type the words in other languages though. Then, you may start the exercise. You can select the necessary set and learn it as it is, but it may bore a learner and is not always effective. Instead, the designers of the website propose several sorts of games for decreasing the time spend for learning and encouraging the word learning process. After practicing vocabulary, a test might be completed in order to know result. Four types of tasks are available (“multiple choice test”, “matching”, “write a word”, “true or false”), it is particularly effective when a teacher checks their learning. After having learnt each set, the statistics is constructed to trace the progress of learning. You may create a class, trace their result as well as see the record made by your students in games, which extremely advantageous in awakening students’ interest.

To sum up, this service offers a diverse range of functions: it is free and accessible, provides engaging exercises and games,  enables to trace students’ progess as well as to see the record made by students. Most importantly, it is simple and flexible tool in use which allows to learn new words easily and willingly.

 

Why should schools start later in the morning?

Two weeks ago we were asked to spend a couple of hours in one of Astana schools. The bus was already arranged at 8 in the morning to get us to school at 9 a.m. In order to be on time, I had to wake up at 7 o’clock. But you cannot imagine what torment I went through before getting up and was grateful for this program where classes start at 10 a.m. So while sitting in the bus and looking at my sleepy group mates, I was pity about children who had to come to school at 8 o’clock or even earlier every day. What about their parents? Definitely, mothers suffer most of all in this routine; they need to wake up the earliest, cook, dress up their children and themselves simultaneously. It is even harder, if parents are teachers…

All right, this blog is not about difficult time of teachers or teacher-parents, it is about the efficient morning time that schools should begin. So, in this blog I will attempt to find out the adequate time that classes should start referring to the recent studies.

The school start time varies around the world, ranging from 8 am to 9 am. For instance, in the UK the secondary schools start between 8.30-9.00, in Singapore at around 7.20-9.00, in the USA – 8.00-8.30, China – , South Korea – 8.30.  In public schools in Kazakhstan classes start at 8 a.m. and in private and/or independent at 8.30 a.m. But are all abovementioned periods appropriate for all ages of students? They are not, according to researchers.

“Everybody learns better when they’re awake” says Mary Carskadon, who led the study on the relationship between early school time and poor performance and test scores in 1998 (Puckett, 2016). The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends policymakers starting middle and high schools later in the morning, so teenagers obtain ample of sleep to succeed both academically and physically. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged to change schools to a later start times as children are required to get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of nightly sleep. According to pediatricians’ group and CDC, the lack of sleep leads to serious consequences such as depression, higher rates of obesity, car accidents and poorer quality of life (Richmond, 2015).

The recent studies conducted in eight high schools Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota with the participation of 9,000 students where school time was shifted later than 8.30, revealed staggering result. School attendance rates, grades and test scores in English, Math, and social sciences elevated highly. Moreover, research depicted a decline in substance abuse, depression, lateness and motor-vehicle crashes among adolescents (Walker, 2015).

As majority of scientists urge policy makers to start classes later than 8.30 a.m., the Harvard and Oxford experts suggest 10 a.m. as the most relevant time, because it corresponds to the “biological wake-up time” of teenagers. So they recommend schools to start classes in accordance with “biological wake-up time” of students as in the following (Walker, 2015):

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“The synchronization of education to adolescent biology enables immediate advances in educational attainment and can be achieved with a relatively simple step that does not require new teaching methods, new testing or large additional expenditure…Good policies should be based on good evidence, and the data show that children are currently placed at an enormous disadvantage by being forced to keep to inappropriate education times” (Walker, 2015).

Food for thought for my group mates, the future policy makers.

Reference:

Puckett, L. (2016, March 29). Science Says Your School Should Probably Start Classes Later in the Morning. Teenvogue. Retrieved from http://www.teenvogue.com/story/school-sleep-deprivation-dangerous-for-teens

Richmond, E. (2015, August 17). Why School Should Start Later in the Morning. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/why-school-should-start-later/401489/

Walker, T. (2015, September 20).Despite Proven Benefits, Starting School Later Remains a ‘Tough Sell’.Neatoday. Retrieved from http://neatoday.org/2015/09/20/despite-proven-benefits-starting-school-later-is-still-a-tough-sell/

[Online image]. Retrieved September 20 2015 from http://neatoday.org/2015/09/20/despite-proven-benefits-starting-school-later-is-still-a-tough-sell/

How living solo is beneficial for you

things-no-one-told-you-about-living-alone.jpg

I am certain majority of us, MA1 students experienced disappointment when we first entered our room in the dormitory. We had to encounter the fact that we would share a room for a single with somebody. No result followed up in sending letters and going to some people who are in charge of resolving this issue for number of times (I wish they could be as responsible as our security). In this blog I am not going to blame or complain about those unfavorable memories, because there is no meaning to do so. Rather I would like to highlight some significant benefits of living alone which may impact one’s performance overall (the idea appeared in the first semester though).

First of all, living by yourself increases productivity. Living solo means you are responsible for your timetable; you know when to wake up, to study, to sleep, and to do housework. When you are certain that no one will distract you in accomplishing your plan, there is more opportunity to adhere the tasks you put in front of you. The public relations professional Allie Artur in Philadelphia, claims productivity is an asset what she would return most about living alone. She says she is easily distracted when she lives with someone and she is more productive when she is alone. My opinion concurs with her, it is hard to concentrate on your study when your roommate is talking on the phone, singing, dancing or doing other things (Zawacki, 2015).

Another point is that recent research shows our loaded brains require more downtime. “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life,” wrote Ferris Jabr in Scientific American (Schocker, 2012).

Finally, living yourself decreases stress and responsibility. Many would agree how it is important not to worry about someone’s needs when they return their room at the end of the day.  No one will have made a mess (except you), thrown out papers around a room, or put their items on your place.

In conclusion, the advantages discoursed above were common among people who had both experiences: living with roommate or without. Benefits of sharing a room might exist as well, but I tend to believe it depends on an individual. What is your opinion? Are there any other positive sides in living solo or you are the person who does not care about it?

 

Reference:

Schocker, L. (2012, May 7). How Living Alone Can Be Good For You. The Huffington post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-schocker/why-i-love-living-alone_b_1324539.html

Zawacki, K. (2015, February 9). Science Has Great News for People Who Live Alone. Connections.Mic. Retrieved from  https://mic.com/articles/110046/why-living-alone-is-truly-awesome-according-to-science#.3fX3r17Bs

[Online image]. Retrieved October, 23 2015 from http://www.sheknows.com/home-and-gardening/articles/1094345/things-no-one-told-you-about-living-alone

Why reading at home is important?

Today new technatoz_earlyliteracy2ologies play significant role in human’s life. We cannot imagine our lives without the internet, computers, and smartphones. We send letters, communicate with people around the world, and search for information; but we are attracted by these gadgets so strongly that we do not feel that they affect our thinking negatively. In this post I will touch upon the approach that could substitute these problems, reading and tips elevating interest in reading to be exact.

It turned out that human’s interest in reading starts from their childhood. If parents do not start to read a book together with their children from their childhood and arouse concernment, it might become troublesome in later years. The school principal in England expresses her worries about the absence of understanding among parents that spending 10 minutes in reading is a window for education (Burns, 2013). She also suggests that reading together 6 days in a week means additional support for their children and it costs less than tutoring which parents pay for. According to the educational Centre research in London students who read books for pleasure frequently are more likely to be good at Math and foreign languages comparing to students who do not.

Parents are a model for their offspring indeed. A Number of research reported children’s attitude towards reading ameliorates when they see their parents reading. Thus, each parent should find time for reading a good book.

Suggestions for parents (Burns, 2013):

  • Spend 10 minutes for reading with your children each day
  • Select different books to introduce variety of language and style
  • Read each other loudly in turns, because they will learn from your eloquent reading and you may check if they do not struggle.
  • Ask questions regarding a book: what might happen next? What is the character’s motivation? etc.
  • Make sure if they are learning new words and phrases.
  • Indulge in reading; try to dive into a good story!

What are your ideas? Do you agree that parents are a trigger for children’s interest in reading?

Burns, J (2013 September 17).  Keep reading with your children, parents urged. BBC News.

Free time=creativity

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Most common characteristics and skills one can think of that the 21st century teacher should involve are critical thinking skills, good qualification, competence in at least two languages, creativeness, computer literacy, and many others. Majority of the listed skills can be acquired and developed during the university studies and work experience. However, there is one thing that a person is not capable to fulfill properly when he/she is overloaded with many tasks, often unnecessary. Here I would like to focus on the special ability that one cannot plough through without much free time, which is called “creativity”. I think “creativity” and “free time” go hand in hand and may produce positive results in many spheres, including education.

Unfortunately, teachers cannot fulfill their potential properly due to the deficiency in time in many schools in Kazakhstan based on my experience. They are busy with a great amount of tasks as paper works, preparing for classes, individual works with weak students, visiting children from low income family, indefinite quantity of meetings, and other additional non-class activities and hours which are not paid. Many would concur that it is not possible to allocate time for creativeness in such bulk of works. Thus, teachers’ responsibility should be considered adequately, so they can realize their capability fully.

To support this argument, it is beneficial to look at the example of countries which pay attention on free time for students as well as teachers. In the recent years Finland schools depict success in the education field by applying innovative ideas which led to keep being among top secondary education in the world. According to “Education at a Glance 2014”,  Finland teachers have comparably low teaching hours and the teacher-student ratio is one of the lowest among OECD countries (1:9).

Books on business and management also suggest in giving free time for employees for them to work on the projects they undertake. According to the evidence (David Burkus, 2012) employees are more willing and creative to work when they are provided with free time and can manage with their schedule by themselves. Therefore, free time and less teaching time should be provided for teachers, which will motivate them to give birth for new and creative ideas.

Reference:

  1. 1. Burkus, D. (2012). Why Free Time Frees Creativity. Retrieved from http://www.creativitypost.com/business/why_free_time_frees_creativity
  2. 2. Education at a Glance 2014, Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/edu/Finland-EAG2014-Country-Note.pdf
  3. [Online image]. Retrieved August 26 2012 from http://www.creativitypost.com/business/why_free_time_frees_creativity