One Response to IPA: The theory and beyond. Is knowing the IPA essential? Do you use phonemic script in class? Why or why not? #ELTchat Summary 22/02/2012 (my comment to post at http://eltchat.com/2012/02/26/ipa-the-theory-and-beyond-is-knowing-the-ipa-essential-do-you-use-phonemic-script-in-class-why-or-why-not-eltchat-summary-22022012/
- Gregory Quinlivan says:February 27, 2012 at 5:55 amFor the half of the world’s population whose first language does not use a Latin script, IPA is a waste of time.
In my situation, I teach students in Taiwan 40 minutes per week. Their first language uses traditional Chinese script and its more than 10,000 characters take many years for them to master. As one of the speakers mentioned, IPA is just another level of complexity to impose on them, which is why we don’t do it.
Students are quite capable of learning to speak reasonable English without IPA. For example, the excellent Synthetic Phonics approach used widely in the U.K. (and increasingly in the USA) offers a more straightforward system linked closely to English spelling.
Once students know some reference sounds used within key words, they can use them to learn new words, rather than trying to recall isolated, decontextualised symbols.
Although I had to endure some IPA as part of my own formal training, I see it more as a tool for professional linguists than for second language learners.
It's been a tumultuous few months for me, so I apologise for not writing sooner.
As time is short, here are the highlights:
(1) After many broken promises and unreasonable treatment by my employer, I left Malaysia in disgust in April and returned home to Toowoomba in Queensland.
(2) I spent time catching up with my family - all of whom I'm very proud of - and looking for work. After a few non-events, I managed to snare an English teaching job at my local university - the same one at which I was studying. Unfortunately their positions are very short term (10 week sessions) with no guarantees of re-employment unless there are sufficient enrolments. While I enjoyed teaching there, I wanted something more secure.
(3) After spending several months looking for work, I decided to accept a teaching job back in Hsinchu with the same government school at which I'd worked the first time. At least this was a guaranteed 12 months with renewal options.
(4) The other productive (and satisfying) thing I managed to do, was to complete my Master of Applied Linguistics program, from which I've now graduated.
So now I'm comfortably back in a familiar city, making some new teaching friends and catching up with earlier ones, enjoying a lovely new apartment, riding a scooter again, and longing for some cooler weather now autumn is here.
If you go to this link Photos June to September 2011
you'll see some of the places I've been both back home and now here in Taiwan.
My next trip will be a long weekend in Toowoomba in mid-November to attend (Anthony) my son's wedding. It will pass very quickly, but I want to be there to wish him well.
Thanks, Jeff. If nothing else, I appreciate the discussion and the opportunity to do so provided by Tom on this blog.
There may well be anecdotal evidence to support your contention, however I would like to encourage those of us over 40 to be among the exceptions rather than to slide back into a comfortable stereotype.
What I would add is that it might be more accurate to say that both groups are comfortable with technologies, but not necessarily with the same ones. This can work in both directions. For example, an older teacher might be more comfortable with a manual typewriter or cassette player than a younger teacher, and these are still around.
I think we also need to be judicious with our use of all technologies. “New” doesn’t always mean “better” or “most appropriate”. If you saw my earlier comments yesterday, you will be aware of the many problems here (in Taiwan) of trying to include IT & other technologies in our teaching.
While IWB’s, wikis, m-teaching, etc are nice and new (for now), they don’t invalidate other approaches. I can still use flashcards, games, drama, songs, chants, cuisinaire rods, puppets, realia, drawing, TPR and any number of other tools to be effective.
If you have an illness and go to a doctor, you don’t always get a heart transplant operation. Sometimes, you get some plain old paracetamol and instructions for taking a rest. In the same way we should select the best tools for learning, whether high- or low-tech.
I think this article by you is spot on.
I am interested in making technology use more ubiquitous, but I also need ideas for solutions to my situation. (By the way, I teach EFL in a government elementary school in Taiwan.) Like other educators I am happy to engage in teaching and learning through technology when it enhances the subject. By following #edchat, other twitterers, a number of weblogs and by playing with some of the ideas suggested there, I do my best to keep current with developments and how they can fit my situation.
Also, when I come across something I think is useful to my colleagues, I usually tweet or re-tweet it and occasionally I blog it. I have no doubt that the quality of education can improve through wider use of new technologies, and that our students expect this.
At the same time I would have to say that it’s also appropriate to have some “unplugged” or “low-tech” lessons (or at least parts of lessons) to balance this out.
The lack of funds here tends to be more a misapplication of funds – that is, poor choices made with no consultation. For example, you walk in one morning and find a new Smart Board has been installed. It’s nice and shiny and all the students are waiting in anticipation that you will wow them out of their socks. Unfortunately, you won’t because (a) you’ve already prepared something else for the day, (b) you didn’t get any training in how to use it, (c) the software and computer operating system are in Chinese (which you don’t read), and (d) the program won’t run PowerPoint interactively, which was what you’d prepared.
I would have to agree wholeheartedly with you, Tom, about the local leadership being a major deterrent.
Here the government people, the Education Department people, the Principals, Academic Directors, General Services Directors and Head Teachers are all locals i.e. Taiwanese, and many speak limited English. There is no-one from Canada, the USA, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand in any position of authority – we are all at the bottom of the ladder. Inevitably this means we do not influence, nor have any input into, the decision-making process here. Even worse, our ideas are not sought, and they are not welcomed happily. I know personally of a number of teachers whose contracts have not been renewed because they have been outspoken on such matters.
Just to make our circumstances clearer, do you know how difficult it is to use technology when you have to move between 22 different classrooms per week, having unreliable Internet connections, some with IWB’s some without, some with poor speaker systems or only the computer’s speakers, computers with different software loaded or none loaded to run what you’ve prepared, some with layers of dust on their CD players or no CD players at all, some with projector remotes missing that are missing batteries, etc? At some point, you debate whether it’s even worth bothering with technology and spending extra time preparing such lessons, when there is such apathy at the school.
What can happen is that you end up looking like a clown in front of your class and any credibility you may have built up goes out the window.
Here, we don’t have to worry about PD from the IT staff. They are not necessarily qualified to tinker with the hardware and software. They may be IT teachers but not technicians. Of course, for us “foreigners” they speak little or no English anyway, so they don’t try to teach us any PD. This generally means, no one else does either. I’ve heard that at least some of the “local” teachers have had IWB training, but not us.
To complicate OUR incorporation of IT into lessons further, our students are taught computer use, etc, but in Chinese. This means they need basing typing lessons before they can even enter a web address, let alone read it in English anyway. I’m not saying I haven’t taught lessons in a computer lab – I have – but I’ve had to lead them very slowly and very carefully, and direct them to where they could go, which is rather limiting.
Taiwan isn’t exactly backward in terms of technology. In fact, most of the world’s leading IT companies do much of their research and development here. I’m also sure students are tech-savvy. Unfortunately there is a long way to go to integrate IT into our teaching and learning.
So, after all that, I’d like to say that I don’t feel all that guilty about my limited incorporation of IT into my classes. If someone can come up with a better approach that won’t risk my job security, I’m happy to hear any of their suggestions.