All posts by khakimkenzhetayev

To learn, or not to learn? Or to acquire?!

Acquisition might take from several months to couple of years, whereas learning might last all life long. This assumption is fortified by the input hypothesis represented by linguist Stephen Krashen who made a distinction between language learning and language acquisition, claiming that acquisition is a subconscious process, while learning is a conscious one (Sole, 1994). Conversely, contemporary state school and university curriculum is mostly focused on so called “skill building” approach to language teaching which means that teachers have to teach students to pass through the tests by means of sufficient linguistic skills, therefore it is more likely to be called language learning rather than acquisition.

The language acquisition process often occurs unconsciously, instinctively, inadvertently, without purposeful assimilation. However, the process of language acquisition may be also a conscious, if you are, for example, taught a particular language with a particular purpose, or it can be intuitive when you already acquired a language and developed some speaking skills from your childhood.

To some extend second language acquisition can be similar to L1 acquisition process. This means that second language acquisition should be maximally alike, thereby this process will be effortless and efficient. Moreover, according to Krashen’s theory, the process of  L2 acquisition is similar to the acquisition of mother-tongue (Sole, 1994). Thereby, second language acquisition can be artificially imitated. There are a diversity of methods in L2 teaching that might provide the imitation of L1 acquisition process. For example, Total Physical Response (TPR) and Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) discussed in one of my previous blogs. Given methods empower the students to learn grammar and vocabulary through perception of comprehensible messages, so they acquire L2 subconsciously during listening and reading. Finally, L2 acquisition process might be expediently assimilated with L1 acquisition process.

I am personally convinced that language acquisition occurs beyond stressful memorization of grammar structures and loads of vocabulary. I started to make significant progress as I gave up on memorizing and writing mathematical formulas of tenses to learn using them automatically. Whereas relaxing and joyful activities such as following video blog channels of my interest, reading catchy news and articles, and watching my favourite movies for 101th time in English helped me to start understanding, writing, reading and speaking more fluently than ever before.

What sort of advice would you give to your friends or relatives in order to help them reduce their sufferance in foreign language learning?

References

Sole, Y. (1994). The Input Hypothesis and the Bilingual Learner. The Bilingual Review, 19(2), 99–110

Picture credits to: https://www.babbel.com/magazine/static/img/en/integrate-language-learning-700×394.png

Want kids to learn well? Feed them well | Sam Kass (Deconstruction)

Sam Kass is a chef and food policy maker whose family members and relatives mainly comprise teachers. Sam In his Ted speech claims that feeding children well leads to better educational attainments. Relying on the examples of his colleagues life experience and research study results he explains how school nutrition programs improved overall educational outcomes of children.

Sam Kass raises an important question of the correlation between child’s growing mind and their growing body. At the beginning of the speech the presenter mentions excessive consumption of sugar and  lack of nutrients in children’s diets. He also suggests that hunger and non nutrient food makes pupils think about food while learning.

To support his claims he provides the results of multiple studies. The first evidence is shown on the example of a girl he calls Allison who goes to a school that provides a nutritious breakfast with fruit and milk and lower sugar and salt. He says Allison in this case will have lower rate of obesity, less nurse visits, better behavior, less anxiety, better attendance and less tardiness in contrast to average school kid. Furthermore, Sam provides an opposite example of Tommy who is 12 as well as Allison. In case of Tommy there is no nutritious breakfast which raises the probability of repeated low academic performance and poor cognitive function throughout the kindergarten and school grades.

Another evidence provided by the presenter is about the program (Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010) which ensured breakfast and lunch to every kid in a school for free. The schools implemented this program registered an increase in math and reading scores by 17.5%. Sam also emphasizes the result of study which suggests that kids having a consistent and nutritious breakfast increase their chances of graduating by 20%.

Regarding the life experience of his colleagues, Sam narrates the case of Burke County school, one of the poorest district in Georgia. School nutrition director of the Burke County established new nutrition standards providing breakfast full of fruits and vegetables and implementing dinner program. The latter program was due to the absence of dinner for kids at home since they live at or below the line of poverty. As a result, kids reported positive responses on the program. However, the most important outcome he says was the breakthrough of the school football team in the state championship the coach of which credited that championship victory to the initiator of the food program at school.

Personally, I agree with the statement of the Sam Kass and believe that nutrition is one of the key factors to succeed in education since brain is the biggest energy consumer in human body. Moreover, I liked the way he presented his evidence and arguments. For instance, he illustrated boring numbers of study results in the form of characters, average schoolchildren to represent the benefits or and disadvantages of having or missing breakfast.

Linguistic interference: eliminate or ignore?

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Picture from: http://100lang.ru/wp-content/uploads/ECML.JPG.jpg

Proficiency in several languages tends to trigger the interaction of language repertoire units. This interaction of languages are ubiquitous and labelled variously depending on causing factors (e.g. code-mixing, code-switching, language loss, etc.). Thus, I am going to address the issue of linguistic interference (a.k.a. language transfer, L1 interference, and crosslinguistic influence) which occurs as a result of the influence of one language to another.

Linguistic interference is defined as a linguistic overlap when a particular linguistic unit refers to the systems of two languages simultaneously (Haugen, 2001). In other words, it is the transfer of linguistic units wether from L1 to L2, vice versa or many other relations (Jarvis & Pavlenko, 2008). Given theory is to some extent similar to the notion of code-mixing. The latter one however is a broad term describing the simultaneous use of two languages, whereas linguistic interference regards more specific layers of language such as grammar, syntax, stylistics, semantics, lexis, phonological and orthographic.

To make it clear, I will provide an example of linguistic interference occurring in the speech of English, Russian and Kazakh speakers. A word library in Kazakh (кітапхана) is sometimes replaced by a Russian equivalent causing lexical interference: Мен библиотекаға бара жатырмын (I am going to the library). In this case the Russian equivalent obtains underlined Kazakh suffix –ға so it kazakhizates this word. Another example between English and Russian forming grammar interference: Tourists visit our city rarely. Wrong position of the adverb of frequency is due to the peculiarity of its Russian equivalent. In Russian we can say both туристы редко (rarely) посещают наш город or туристы посещают наш город редко (rarely). This phenomenon is inherent in language learners and multilinguals and often considered as a deviation in speech construction or translation.

Linguistic interference taking place in classroom settings is often regarded by the teacher as a negative phenomenon, as a mistake. However, overemphasizing the importance of eliminating linguistic interference in student’s speech might in turn lead to language anxiety which will definitely aggravate the language acquisition process. Moreover, not knowing the necessary structure in target language might be compensated by the borrowing from L1 for instance. Of course it makes the speech sound ridiculous, but at least it enables a learner to try to speak in the target language and learn from mistakes at the beginning level.

What factors do you think trigger these transfers of linguistic structures? Do you agree that linguistic interference in language learners should be ignored and considered as a transition stage of language acquisition which helps a learner to fill the gaps in language proficiency through the use of elements from another language?

References

Haugen, E. (2001). The ecology of language. The ecolinguistics reader: Language, ecology and environment, 57-66.

Jarvis, S., & Pavlenko, A. (2008). Crosslinguistic influence in language and cognition. Routledge.

Analyzing quotes on Trilingual education policy

 

Trilingual education policy in Kazakhstan creates concerns in a number of individuals whose personal viewpoints are on par with the idea that Kazakh language will definitely suffer from the influence of equally prioritized Russian and English. However, supporters of the reform continue to claim that its implementation will not bring any harm to the country’s state language. Let us analyze three quotes from popular news website “Azattyq” [Freedom] representing commonly held beliefs on the given policy:

  • – In my opinion, the Kazakh language is being developed naturally. The Ministry [of Education] neither helps nor interferes this process. If we want to develop three languages, why not to develop the Kazakh-Turkish high schools? The people does not speak three languages. English is necessary, but studying it at the expense of Kazakh is not correct. [28.06.16. Quote from scientist mathematician – Askar Zhumadildayev] (Mukhankizy, 2016).
  • – The Kazakh language – is the main guarantee of national security. Therefore, it must be one of a kind, not just one of the three languages. There is no such equation in any country. Personally, I think trilingual education is a nonsense. [27.05.16. Quote from the Head of the Department of the Kazakh language and literature of the Kazakh National University named after Abai – Janat Dauletbekova] (Mamashuly, 2016).
  • – Not even one hour from the amount of hours devoted to Kazakh language will be reduced. Teaching the subjects in other languages in an elementary school is not planned. [28.06.16. Quote from the Director of Department of pre-school and secondary education of the Ministry of Education and Science – Janyl Zhontaeva] (Mukhankizy, 2016).

Excerpt (1) depicts the role of the Ministry of Education in terms of status of Kazakh language nowadays claiming that the government’s impact towards the development of Kazakh is minimal. Moreover, trilingual education is regarded as a practice not suitable for the state schools (“If we want to develop three languages, why not to develop the Kazakh-Turkish high schools?”), and therefore it is suggested to be implemented only in chosen range of institutions. Nevertheless, the need for mastering English is not denied (“English is necessary”), but there is also a context showing the vulnerability of Kazakh (“studying it at the expense of Kazakh is not correct”) which is obviously due to its slow pace of development (“the Kazakh language is being developed naturally”) that might be interupted if the priority of studying English will be equated to Kazakh.

The first excerpt in sum illustrates the negative attitude towards trilingualism, while excerpt(2) highlights a special status of Kazakh (“it must be one of a kind, not just one of the three languages”) for stability and national prosperity (“The Kazakh language – is the main guarantee of national security”). However, both excerpts (1) and (2) indicate the impossibility of equating Kazakh to Russian and English due to its vulnerability and significance of the former. If the excerpt (1) shows more tactful way of rejecting trilingual education (“If we want to develop three languages, why not to develop the Kazakh-Turkish high schools?”), the (2) excerpt demonstrates direct negative criticism (“I think trilingual education is a nonsense”). Such negative utterance is apparently a logical continuation of the unprecedented phenomenon of equating the state language to other two languages (“There is no such equation in any country”).

Conversely, excerpt (3) justifies the trilingual education by ensuring the security of the Kazakh language among two others (“Not even one hour from the amount of hours devoted the Kazakh language will be reduced”) in terms of the amount of hours. This excerpt illustrates rather positive regard towards trilingualism, since according to the quote, it does not disciminate Kazakh. Deliberate exaggeration of untouchability of the Kazakh language (“Not even one hour…”) shows a position of defense of the reform against negative criticism. In addition, the guarantee of safe state language acquisition is presented in excerpt (2) (“Teaching the subjects in other languages in an elementary school is not planned.”)

To sum up, first two excerpts (1) and (2) demonstrate negative attitude towards multlingual education in Kazakhstan containing a broad social multilingualism discourse in place depicting unique position of Kazakh in society in contrast to other languages, while excerpt (3) illustrates a positive regard providing the facts to reply to negative critique. Negative utterances generally position the Kazakh language as a cost for the implementation of multilingual education with equal positions on par with Russian and English. Two excerpts (1) and (2) comprise rather reasonable concerns and therefore these perspectives tend to be accepted by the majority of native Kazakh speakers. Concrning excerpt (2), this is likely to be a typical response of those holding governmental positions aimed at justification of the benefits of the trilimgual education reform. Which side of the debate do you support?

 

References

Mamashuly, A. (2016, June 29). Diskutiruya o trekh”yazychii, zayavili ob «unichtozhenii natsii» [Discussing about trilingualism, said about the “destruction of the nation”]. Retrieved from http://rus.azattyq.org/a/slushania-trekhyazychnoe-obrazovanie/27827432.html

Mukhankizy, M. (2016, May 27). Zayavleniye biznesmenov o «trekh”yazychii» vyzvalo spory [Statement of businessmen on “trilingualism” caused controversy]. Retrieved from http://rus.azattyq.org/a/kazakhstan-trekhjazychnoe-obrazovanie/27761450.html

That feeling when you start speaking English in a public place

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Retrieved from: http://reactiongifs.me/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/people-looking-at-me-on-the-bus-the-Graduate.gif

I would like to raise a commonly ignored issue in Kazakhstani society: foreign language anxiety in public places. If you are proficient enough to have a fluent conversation in English with your mate, you have probably felt those gazes of people in the bus or supermarket. If yes, have you ever thought about the reasons triggering this feeling?

In fact, anxiety refers to the emotional state of nervousness, worry and apprehension related to a stimulation of the autonomic nervous system (Speilberger, 1983, in Horwitz, 2001). This feeling is more known as a negative and destructive sort of emotion. However, in some cases our inner flash of anxiety before the deadline might  somehow help us to write more effectively and creatively. Anyway, it does not have the same trait during the speech.

Studies on language anxiety tend to focus on the educational process rather than everyday live experience (Horwitz, 2001; Portugal, 2007; Elaldı, 2016). Thus, Horwitz et al. (1986) identified three types of foreign language anxiety as following: 1) Communication anxiety (inability of a learner to express mature thoughts and ideas); 2) Fear of negative social perception (seeking for a positive evaluation from others); 3) Test anxiety (fear of academic evaluation). Thus, our case is more likely to be related to the second classification of foreign language anxiety.

Well, being more or less familiarized with the theoretical framework of given phenomena, let us discuss our live experience. Personally, I often feel foreign language anxiety when my friends unexpectedly to me start conversing with me in English especially in the bus. Some people tend to turn around and stare at me which makes me feel uncomfortable and stressed. Even though there is no any criticizm or disapproval towards those who speak foreign language in Kazakhstan, speaking English in public places is not commonly accepted by the majority and still is calls their attention. Frankly speaking, I myself and some of my friends perceive such odd reaction as people’s attitude to foreign language speakers’ attempt to blow their own trumpet, so to speak. Therefore, my feeling of anxiety is more about a possible negative attitude prescribed to me by arbitrary listeners staying next to me. Anyway, this feeling does not overpower my attemts to communicate in English outside the classrom in order to fix my current speaking skill and practise new words and expressions. Moreover, I noticed that this feeling depends on the current emotional state and mood.

Do you always feel comfortable to have a conversation in a foreign language in public places? To what extend do you think this feeling disturb language learners? And how would you suggest to cope with this feeling?

 

References

Elaldı, Ş. (2016). Foreign language anxiety of students studying English Language and Literature: A Sample from Turkey. Educational Research and Reviews11(6), 219-228.

Horwitz, E. (2001). Language anxiety and achievement. Annual review of applied linguistics21, 112-126.

Horwitz, E., Horwitz, M., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroom anxiety. Modern Lang. J. 70(2):125-132.

Portugal, M. K. (2007). Language anxiety: Creative or negative force in the language classroom. Humanizing language teaching7, 1-7.

A bit more about methodology in language teaching…

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Picture taken from: http://static.wixstatic.com/media/6b97d7_28ec83c8932e4351beff06c6dd1c07d0.png

When we hear about the implementation of tri-lingual policy reform in Kazakhstan, the methods of teaching that will ensure efficient acquisition of three languages tends to be ignored. From my perspective, the Ministry of Education mainly focuses on academic and organizational improvements in education. The role of the methods and approaches in the process of education is of paramount importance since this reform generally hinges upon a language proficiency.

Kazakhstani schools and universities are expected to use English as a language of instruction in chosen range of disciplines. The use of three languages equally in the classes is one of the key features of tri-lingual education policy, therefore its widespread establishment tends to be the most ambitious plans of the Ministry of Education. A relevant examples of the multilingual education practice are Nazarbayev intellectual schools (NIS) and Kazakh-Turkish high schools for gifted boys and girls where chosen subjects as math, physics and biology are conducted in English on par with Russian and Kazakh. Thereby, students are expected to obtain enough input in three languages as they have to perceive crucial information from a teacher which is planned to lead to the increment of their linguistic competence in target languages. However, shifting the language of instruction is not the only measure on the way to trilingualism since there is a need for powerful techniques and approaches.

In my opinion, current methods in language teaching occur to be not as effective as they were expected and need to be complemented by various tools, effective and effortless ones. Therefore, there is a need in diversifying the approaches in language teaching which can significantly increase the pace of multilingualism development. For instance, the Natural Approach in teaching recommended by American linguists Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell which is one of the efficient approaches to language teaching which helps beginners to become intermediate level speakers (Krashen &Terrell, 1995). Krashen & Terrell (1995) claim that the reason of unsuccessfulness of the majority of audiolingual approaches lies on the fact that these theories were not focused on language acquisition, but on language structure instead. Thereby, the lessons conducted in such approach are “about the language” instead of being “in”, so to speak. It is important to simplify and naturalize the process of language learning for students, because:

We acquire language when we obtain comprehensible input, when we understand what we hear or read in another language. This means that acquisition is based primarily on what we hear and understand, not what we say. The goal, then, of elementary language classes, according to this view, is to supply comprehensible input, the crucial ingredient in language acquisition, and to bring the student to point where he or she can understand language outside the classroom. When it happens, the acquirer can utilize the real world, as well as the classroom, for progress. (Krashen & Terrell, 1995, p. 1)

For decades, school students have been learning and memorizing conversations and collocations like “London is the capital of Great Britain” or “Hello! How are you? I’m fine, thanks, and you?” and as a result many students struggle with the structures, “mathematic formulas”, of tenses and can barely construct complicated sentences orally  because formation of speech through grammar rules create a mental obstacle in producing free and natural speech. Therefore, it is clear that audiolingual approaches in foreign languages teaching, currently practiced in the range of state universities and schools of Kazakhstan, should be rethought and reformed in favor of much more actionable ones such as Natural Approach to language teaching provided by experienced linguists.

Furthermore, the Natural Approach led to the formation of many efficient ways of teaching and learning languages. An appropriate example here is Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) method developed by Blaine Ray which is based on the combination of reading and storytelling aimed at foreign language learning. The supporters of TPRS method claim that the best way of increasing linguistic competence of the students is to provide as much comprehensible input as possible, founding their position on Krashen’s second language acquisition theories (Ray & Contee, 2004, pp. 137–138). In TPRS method, teacher tells a story and asks questions depending on the story’s plot; and the effectiveness of this method entirely depends on the teacher’s capability to motivate and affect the students through emotional narration creating positive psychological atmosphere which contributes to language acquisition. This approach is likely to the process of language acquisition of children when they listen to interesting and exciting content in tales and cartoons. For instance, my nephews sometimes pronounce new expressions and constructions in their speech obviously subcoinsciously acquired from a cartoon where they understand semantic basis of the words and utterances as they see a situative context.

The stories in TPRS contain necessary grammar “messages” which are present in every session, and this peculiarity of the method enables those students who missed previous class to perceive and acquire a grammar rule from the following ones. Even though TPRS tends to be considered as “for children” and beginners, it might also be an effective tool for more advanced language learners since the stories may present any grammar rule “message” of any level through telling and asking process where students develop both their listening and speaking skills and acquire the structures of sentence formation subcounsciously.

To conclude, I suggest that the use of such methods as TPRS must be encouraged in multilingual education on par with any other methods. Do you agree that the methods used in Kazakhstani schools need to be improved? In order to avoid unnatural and complicated use of “math formulas” in children’s speech, what kind of methods and approaches in teaching three languages would you suggest to use? And do you appreciate the use of TPRS in multilingual education?

References

Ray, B., Seely, C. (2004). Fluency Through TPR Storytelling: Achieving Real Language Acquisition in School (4th ed.). Command Performance Language Institute, Blaine Ray Workshops. ISBN 0-929724-21-6.

Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. D. (1995). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. Hayward, Calif: Alemany Press.

Should “Bolashakers” immediately come back after graduation?

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Photo taken from: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/90000/nahled/y-all-come-back-sign.jpg

Kazakhstani international scholarship program “Bolashak”, well known for its limitations and rigorious rules, still keeps being a bone of conception raising various issues in its practice.  Despite the strictness of the Program’s measures of preventing drop outs and brain drain through providing pledge from the applicant, outflow of the qualified specialists among students studying abroad has been successfully prevented. An obligation to work for 5 years in relevant profession by arrival is a great opportunity to “pay back” to the country for the study in the world class university abroad. However, there are also complications in terms of the application of acquired knowledge in the home country that need to be discussed and questioned.

I strongly believe that providing 2 or 3 years of work in the country of study or anywhere else  abroad would be vastly beneficial for both graduates and government. The justification of this approach lies on the fact that mostly foreign higher education programs provide knowledge and skills irrelevant to the Kazakhstani context. Moreover, the graduates are not capable of applying theoretical framework on practice as they do not have neither practical work experience abroad nor relevant workplace to employ innovative skills in Kazakhstan. Moreover, a meticulous empirical study on the Bolashak program (Perna, L., Orosz, K., & Jumakulov, Z., 2015) has shown that many employers were not satisfied by the graduates of the Program due to the lack of sufficient work experience in their fields. Therefore, a couple of years spent in foreign organization would be an appropriate complement to the CV’s of the graduates in order to meet the requirements of employers in Kazakhstan.

The challenges in the Bolashak program concerning employability and restrictions on working abroad and gaining foreign experience demands the suggestions on the alternative measures that could lead to better results in human capital development. In this case, the concept of Brain Circulation is one of the appropriate ones. The definition of this concept given by Johnson & Regets (1998) refers to the mobility of competent and experienced workers. Brain circulation is related to receiving and sending countries that obtain mutual benefits out of the exchange of human capital (Pan, 2010). Shortly speaking, Brain Circulation concept enables the educated personnel to be hired abroad for a certain period of time in order to implement acquired skills and experience by coming back to home country to soar local economy (Dawson, 2007). For instance, Chinese government made deliberate efforts to promote this concept in three directions: supporting the overseas studies, encouraging overseas students to return and abolishment of the restrictions on going and coming of students, and this reforms empowered returned graduates to establish 5000 organizations costing 30 billion dollars in total by 2003 (Pan, 2010). It is evident that this concept might enhance the quality of human resources with long-term benefits on the development in political, financial and societal aspects. Because staying abroad will form new work and business connections contributing to the establishment of corporate networks in cross-border scale.

To sum up, the Bolashak program still needs significant reformations in terms of the inner policies concerning further career progression of the graduates. Appearing absence of correlation between the knowledge gained abroad and demands of the employers in Kazakhstan depicts rather negative consequences of the current regulations within the program. Brain circulation concept, as an opposite approach towards the vision of decision-makers of the Bolashak program, may catalyze positive outcomes from grant holders.

References

Perna, L., Orosz, K., & Jumakulov, Z. (2015). Understanding the human capital benefits of a government-funded international scholarship program: An exploration of Kazakhstan’s Bolashak program. International Journal Of Educational Development, 85-97. doi:10.1016/j.ijedudev.2014.12.003

Johnson, J. M., & Regets, M. C. (1998). International mobility of scientists and engineers to the United States–Brain Drain or Brain Circulation?. SRS Issue Brief.

Pan, S. Y. (2010). Changes and challenges in the flow of international human capital China’s experience. Journal of Studies in International Education14(3), 259-288.

Dawson, L. R. (2007). Brain drain, brain circulation, remittances and development: Prospects for the Caribbean. The Caribbean Papers. Retrieved from: http://www.cigionline.org