Category Archives: Multilingual Education

How School Makes Kids Less Intelligent

Deconstruction post of the TEDx video by Eddy Zhong https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yt6raj-S1M

Recently there have been many talks about the harming effect of contemporary schools on child development. The author of the above-mentioned video Eddy Zhong makes a very bold statement claiming that nowadays schools have an adverse effect on child development and actually make them less intelligent. Definitely, the current education system needs improvements in a number of aspects; however, I would not completely agree with the Zhong’s claim.
Eddy Zhong is a successful technology entrepreneur who found his own company Blanc which produces smart watches when he was a teenager. Also, established a summer camp Leangap where high school students can get professional support on how to open own company.
His main claim is that schools with their programs and certain requirements for all children deprive them of the opportunity to express themselves and kill creativity in them. Schools “preach” that there is only one path to success and it is completing school with good grades, graduating from a college or a university and getting a job somewhere in a bank. Zhong condemns this “ideology” and calls for a different way of thinking in youth.
The speaker supports his claim by narrating about his own life from being a typical kid who didn’t know what to do with his life and entirely relied upon his parents’ advice to becoming an establisher of a company. From the age of 14, he with his friends started to participate in business plan competitions the majority of which they won. He became very passionate about them and understood that he was really enjoying creating things. One distinctive feature of his team was that instead of presenting their business ideas in a primitive power point, they went to stores, bought supplies and built prototypes. During one of those competitions, they were offered to turn those prototypes into real products. Zhong also tells about a curious instance when they presented their idea at their school. While secondary school students accepted their presentation with complete indifference, primary school students became extremely curious and started to ask how they could buy it. Zhong was astonished by how these 5-6-year-old were so interested and full of curiosity, however, those who are 5-6 years older ones had no interest whatsoever. The author believes that school is to blame for this indifference.
Zhong concludes that education system should be tailored in a way to encourage students to be more creative and think out of the box. Students should not be confined to limits but be allowed to express their craziest ideas. Personally, I agree with the author, however, when making this type of claims, people should offer concrete steps on how to reach desired education system. Moreover, I believe the author should have chosen a different title for his speech because intelligence and creativity are different terms.

“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.

 

 

How can schools promote plurilingualism?

The pertinent and acute content of the article written C. Despagne “Promoting Multilingualism: Majority language in multilingual settings” (2009) convinced to choose this piece of writing for closer investigation in this blogpost. Despagne in her paper gives deployed answers on crucial questions “How can schools promote plurilingualism?” and “How plurilingual students should be treated at schools?”.

Most of the teachers use ‘monolingual paradigm’ while teaching, using only one majority language and neglecting students’ other languages (Igoudin, as cited in Despagne, 2009). This teaching paradigm hinders plurilingualism as a whole, since both minority language users and majority language speakers suffer from this. In order to solve this issue, European centre for modern languages aims to make a shift in teaching and offers to use ‘plurilingual paradigm’, which considers languages and culture of any individual as an important source and knowledge.

Despagne (2009) shows that monolingual teaching approach sees students’ languages as “the sum of separate competences, placing languages in unconnected “boxes” (p. 655), whereas practitioners of pluringual teaching approach believe that an individual’s languages may help him or her in learning a new language. In 1979, Cummins introduced the term “interdependence hypothesis”, which briefly says that all linguistic repertoire of any person is kept in one “box”.

Also, the author explains the project called MARRILE (Majority Language Instruction as a Basis for Plurilingual Education), which focuses on implementing plurilingualism in secondary schools with one medium of instruction. The given project is carefully designed to work with change agents of different levels, starting from school principles and ending by students. Moreover, MARRILE intends to produce the shift in teaching paradigms, school curricula and other documents.

Thorough analysis of linguistic situations given in this article, supported by policy documents, gives a general overview of how step by step the aim of being plurilingual society de jure and de facto may be achieved through changing teaching paradigms in secondary schools. I found this article extremely relevant to the Kazakhstani case, since European Council and Kazakhstan have the same goals of the knowledge of 2 languages additionally to a native language. Thus, the knowledge of reforms and their outcomes in Europe allows seeing the gaps in current schooling of Kazakhstan and making further improvements and changes in Kazakhstani educational system.

Reference

Despagne, C. (2009). Promoting plurilingualism: Majority language in multilingual settings.

Any change is possible with 3R…

I had a course called Managing change during my third year of bachelor’s study. Once, our professor showed us a book and explained the use of the 3R approach. The title of the book captured my attention…Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

The book starts with various studies showing that 9 out of 10 people don’t change their behaviors and lifestyles. The book focuses on three keys to change at work and in life and explains them giving different case studies, starting with companies and ending with prisoners. The author of the book proposes that an effective change is possible, but most people do not exactly know how to do it. Overall 101 changes are described in the form of case study. However, I will elaborate on one of them using the 3R of change.

The first key: relate

The first step of change forms a new, emotional relationship with a person or community. The leader should try to make an individual believe the ability that he or she can change. The Delancey Street Foundation is one of the top-rated companies (includes in itself a restaurant, bookstore, and print shop) in the US. It is also the place where criminals work and live together. Dr. Silbert, psychologist and criminologist started this program 35 years ago. As for the first step, she divided members into teams, which included new and old members. There were no any professionals in the beginning besides Dr. Silbert, no social workers, no psychologists, no officers. Every member of the team teaches each other to some skills. If one of them knows how to read, then he or she teaches other group members. Also, role-playing games are used so members could repeat the right behavior until it is learned naturally. New members look at old members as role-models, it gives them hope.

The second key: repeat

Member of the group practice and learn things day by day through training. First of all, they learn how to live without drugs, violence and etc.

The third key: reframe

Previously mentioned two steps helps individuals to learn new ways of thinking.  When criminals realize that they have lived without violence, drugs, alcohol for a year, they begin to have real feelings, followed by the sense of guilt. They try to think about the way how they treated people before.

In the end, I would like to say the power of community is important during any type of change. The author tells us to be purposeful in activities and approaches. You might ask me why do we need an example with prisoners and how is it related to education. These keys to change can also be applied in the educational sphere to cope with major changes. What if someone helped us believe in ourselves that trilingual education is possible. Then we could practice and learn new things day by day with the support of a community. In the end, we could acquire a new way of thinking, look back and smile with a positive attitude saying that we achieved it.

P.S. This book is not available in pdf, but if you are interested you can read the review or buy on Amazon.com

 

“What you’re doing, right now, at this very moment, is killing you…”

Stop by and watch this TED video. I bet it is worthy to waste your precious time on it, since the speaker, Nilofer Merchant, has a work experience of 20 years in leading big companies as Apple, Yahoo, HP and others, helping to grow businesses, consequently her words are trustworthy.

The TED video of Nilofer Merchant “Got a meeting? Have a walk” gives a great insight in leading active life at the workplace. She raises crucial and vital issue of sitting which is occurred to be a precursor of various illnesses. She makes a loud and strong claim calling sitting “a smoking of our generation”.

Merchant starts her speech from a bold statement “What you’re doing, right now, at this very moment, is killing you” which grasps the attention from the very first second. In her very short video, about three minutes with half, she gives very convincing and alarming statistic that people spend 9.3 hours a day sitting, which is even more than sleeping. This, of ‘course, could not be without consequences, especially health consequences. She draws on numbers such ten percent of breast cancer and colon cancer and “six percent for heart disease, seven percent for type 2 diabetes”are caused by sitting. All this leads to the realization of seriousness of the situation we are in and can be the impetus for changing our lifestyles.

Further in her speech, Merchant proposes the optimal solution for the given issue: taking walks instead of holding meeting in conference rooms. This idea came to her after one unpleasant situation: she came to the meeting where she could not fit a regular conference room and she was offered to meet in the open air. Since this time she was taking walk laps with her colleagues and refusing to meet in coffee rooms and other indoor places. This has changed her life significantly. Along with improving her health and losing weight, she transformed the way she thinks. Merchant claims that changing lifestyle is “getting out of the box” which leads to “out-of-the-box thinking”. This in its turn develops problem solving skills, since person starts to generate new ideas and ways of doing things.

So we see that “talk and walk” idea is truly beneficial in several dimensions as your health conditions and work performance, and now it became evident why this idea was often practiced by the business titans as Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

 

Some issues of the intercultural communication competence

The intercultural communication competence is closely connected with the value-laden practices based on real life experiences. Education system might provide creation of good professionals in different fields, but it is not enough if the population is not aware of the cultural peculiarities which should be taught to the population. European countries included studying cultures to the curriculum of educational establishments, i.e. education system introduces different cultures to learners.

The necessity of an appropriate education context for plurilingualism of individuals is well-written by Byram (2009). The author explains intercultural education and effective support which learners need for their plurilingual repertoire. In the same vein, COE (2009) comments about the absence of a unique model for all countries because “teaching in/of the mother tongue of minorities and the official/national language(s) will vary according to the situation of the languages concerned, the socio-political setting and the individual school context.” (p. 3). They raise the issues of well-qualified teachers and suitable textbooks in a particular socio-political context. Solving these issues would help to deal smoothly with sociopolitical structure and standards of the country. The authors mention the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages. I consider it to be well-organized policy documents which regulate and foster of the development and preservation of plurilingualism in a multilingual society.

According to Byram, “there is also a demotic discourse, the language of culture making, which is often used when people from different backgrounds interact in discussing issues of common concern or engaging in projects of mutual interest” (p. 5).  However, the important factor of this interaction is not only economic and financial benefits of both countries, but sensitive feature of language user’s linguistic repertoire which is mentioned by Kalliokoski (2011) “plurilingual competence serves interpersonal, emotional, poetic and textual functions.” It provides participants with necessary information interpretation from the socializing context. Thus, it functions as a powerful source for developing “(g)local identities in our changing globalized world” (p. 106).

Consequently, even plurilingual identities are considered to be endangered if there is no mutual understanding, respect to the other in an intercultural dialogue.

 

References

Byram, M. (2009). Multicultural societies, pluricultural people and the project of intercultural education. Council of Europe Publishing. Retrieved from www.coe.int/lang.

COE. (2009). Regional, minority and migration languages. Council of Europe Publishing. Retrieved from www.coe.int/lang.

Image credit:  http://www.lawpracticetoday.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/competence-e1401…

Promotion of plurilingualism in a multilingual society

Plurilingualism issues are natural today because every country in the world embraces more than one nationality whose language, culture, history, and education influence the development of the country and intercultural communication within the country.

The promotion of plurilingualism in a multilingual society is seen in two ways (Boeckmann et al., 2011). Firstly, they stress the attention on the secondary school education in which students are taught in the majority language as a medium of instruction. Secondly, they discuss the issues of plurilingualism and language hierarchy in teaching; how they are perceived by the representatives of school management and the necessity of students’ awareness about these serious questions. They urge to consider not only linguistic questions, but also the cultural diversity of a multilingual society. I see their point in teaching and directing the present generation to the right understanding of these serious issues in promoting plurilingualism, since, it is the core criteria in achieving future understanding and peace between different nations living in a country.

In the same vein, Boutillier (2012) suggests a bottom-up approach for plurilingualism. According to him, the population of a country plays an important role as well as the government of the country. It is the essential factor because citizens should understand their obligations in the society. He investigates the strengths and weaknesses of three countries’ past experiences (Canada, Kenya, and Kyrgyzstan) and comes to the conclusion that “The politics of accommodation begins at home (p. 11). I believe this is absolutely true because many outside factors might influence the stability of a country, but nothing is worse than inside misbalance and conflicts.

Finally, the population has some power which should be encouraged by the government and foster the citizens’ desire to support multilingualism. The policy makers should provide necessary resources, and, certainly, make every effort to achieve the goals together with its citizens. Although different obstacles are going to prevent a successful promotion of plurilingualism, there is a good saying by Boutillier (2012) “Learning to live together peaceably with disagreement is an achievement” (p. 14).

References

Boeckmann et al. (2011). Promoting Plurilingualism: Majority Language in Multilingual Settings. TESOL Quarterly. 654-657. doi: 10.1002/tesq.106

Boutillier (2012). Defining Plurilingualism. Pluralism Papers No. 1. 1-14. Global Centre for Pluralism.

Image credit: http://www.prezzooferta.mondow.com 

3 ways to spot a bad statistics by M. Chalabi (Deconstruction)

Statistics takes an important role in our life. It gives us information about the things and events we are interested in, it somehow directs us to make right decisions about social-political field, for instance, voting in elections, or everyday life like shopping for goods. A data journalist, Mona Chalabi, makes the TedTalk speech about statistics and three ways of identifying bad numbers. She claims that checking the statistics for accuracy about the issues we are interested is crucial nowadays because numbers might lie for someone’s private interests.

She brings a lot of examples of situations in which statistics might be biased. One of the important types of the data which influence population is the government statistics. She suggests to see the uncertainty in the visualized numbers and check them for accuracy. But I think that she should have mentioned that the majority of population not only believe in visualized numbers, they just do not care about anything else except their everyday life, work, and family issues because they do not have time for being so skeptical about numbers. Of course, that does not characterize them from the best site, but this is true for the developing countries.

I find this topic applicable for certain professionals who deal with numbers in their daily working lives. For instance, specialists of statistics agencies, information analytical centers, and scholars of different fields need figures to speculate about various issues of social and political life. However, I doubt about their frequent checking these numbers for accuracy. Most of the time they tend to use the information with certain figures to surprise or persuade somebody. More often it appears that they even exaggerate approximate numbers to influence people’s opinion. That is why, Chalabi three tips are right at hand when people need to check if private interests are hidden under the figures.

References

Maikel Akkermans. (2017, March 25). Mona Chalabi 3 ways to spot a bad statistic. Retrieved on April 20 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfJtMUXmllY

Image credit: http: http://www.riomarvillages.com 

Discourse analysis: Hochu seni polubit’

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Today the code switching in Kazakh society is the most frequent issue.  Especially youth Kazakhs used to mix Kazakh and Russian languages, hence they have integrated linguistic repertoire. Contemporary authors in this field try to announce about this issue and create songs to show how it looks in an ironical way. In this post, we will make deep discourse analysis of the song “Hochu seni…polubit”.

The author of the song “Hochu seni…polubit” (I want to love you) is the Kazakh Poet Almas Temirbay. He writes about contemporary issues in the social life of Kazakhs, as the language code mixing habits, the appearance of Kazakh girls, the behavior of authority in Kazakhstan etc. The song became popular 3 years ago and its purpose was to show how Kazakh youth used to code-switch and mix Kazakh and Russian words in their speech. Usually, Kazakh people from urban area speak in Russian and while talking in Kazakh they add Russian words in their discourse. Particularly in this song, we can observe crossing and style shifting of two singers.

In the plot of the song the singer Eltay (mail) plays the role of the man from aul (Kazakh village), who fall in love with city girl – Bota (female). She is from Kokshetau, the northern part of Kazakhstan, where Kazakhs assimilated to Russian ethnic group because of the large Russian population. There are 16 features of crossing (red lines highlighted by yellow color) in Bota’s text. In the first sentence “Ғашық болып походи” where gashik bolyp (Kazakh word) means being in love and походи ( the Russian word) means go ahead or with the meaning you can do that she builds the sentence with two predicates in two languages by using Kazakh language grammar. It demonstrates that she is bilingual and used to speak in two languages simultaneously. At the same time, er manner of speech shows her origin and style to switch from one language to another.

The author of the song attempts to add as many examples of crossing as it is possible. Moreover, by words “Не по теме сөйлемеші” (Do not speak beyond the theme) he distinguishes the age (youth), auditorium and language style. Usually, only 17-30 years old people may talk with their friends in such way, in other situation it perceived roughly and disrespectfully.

Turning to Eltay’s text (black lines) we may analyze that he speaks in Kazakh from the beginning, but starts to switch to the Russian language after Bota’s words. For instance “Хочу сені, хочу полюбить” ( I want to love you) may give the contextual understanding of the meaning without the Kazakh word сені, but he purposefully mixes two languages.The reason is to show that he knows the Russian language as well and for making his speech modern or prestigious he uses style shifting. Selting (1983) defines style-shifting as the switching of one speech style with another in the same communicative situation by the same person (Selting, 1983). Also, the example as “Че там говорить” (There is nothing to say) shows the way to display his belonging to Bota’s age and socio-cultural population group. In the song, there are 8 tokens of style shifting (black lines highlighted in green and yellow colors).

I found this song as a demonstrative example of style shifting and code switching. However, the limitation of the in-depth analysis is the preparation of the text by the author with the specific aim. It would be better to analyze impromptu conversation in different contexts for determining other different reasons and situations of language variations.

Overall, looking at the issue from the sight of future scholars we can realize that social phenomenon to switch languages deserves further research. At the same time, we will through the light on the issue of using the Russian language in daily conversations is more frequent than using Kazakh, as I discussed in the post “Why don’t Kazakhs speak in Kazakh as the native language”.

 

 

Reference:

Selting, M. (1983). Institutionelle kommunikation: Stilwechsel als mittel strategischer interaktion. Linguistische Berichte86, 29-48.

Temirbay, A. [Shaikenova B.]. (2013, July 13). “Hochu seni..polubit’” Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ar_VRftWZk

 

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