Saturday, 24 May 2014

Corpus Linguistics One

I’ve been sick. My wife’s been sick. The kids have been sick. Even the fucking dog’s been sick.

(We don’t have a dog.)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Objectification of English and L1 Use in the Japanese Classroom

I’ve got a fair bit of training to deliver over the next few weeks and I need to get some ducks in a row, so here are some thoughts on the above (which is basically just a glorified way of describing the inevitable ‘Can we use Japanese in class?’ question). Imagine it’s addressed to an audience of new or minimally experienced ALTs, and also bear in mind that I might cut and/or tone down a fair bit of it – writing this is part of the process of whittling it back to the core message (still need to provide enough explanation to avoid training by diktat, however).

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


This Functional Grammar module is slowly killing me, however. It’s not that it’s a grind (though it is); it’s not that it’s difficult to grasp (though it is that too); it’s that there’s a small, nagging, instinctive part of me that can actually see the value of this, but I can’t get that bit to function properly.

So many of the ideas present in SFG chime with weaknesses I see in my students’ work time and time again, but I don’t know how to make it applicable. And here’s the thing: I’m a pretty smart, well-educated, native English speaker receiving specific tuition in this from a top-tier institution and yet I’m getting almost overwhelmed by the detail. How are my kids meant to cope? How, more to the point, can I make it work for them? I’ve been plugging away in the hope that it’ll all come together when I actually have to apply it wholescale for the assignment, but the expected epiphany remains stubbornly unepihanized.

Gyah. Back to the grindstone.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Functional Grammar Three

Again, a nicely practical unit so not too much to say. However, the claim that we can identify sets of items by ‘focusing on the similarities they share and ignoring the differences,’ seems to warrant a little discussion. The question is which differences, between which items?

Adverbs, for example, seem to be largely defined by what they are not (the ‘rag bag category’, and from what I can remember from the more psychologically orientated literature (cf. Lexis) and semiotics seems to suggest that we organize categories entirely in reference to other categories. Groups are not defined so much by internal similarities, but by their differences to externalities: by what they are not, in other words. Vive la diffarance!

Functional Grammar Two

16MB of RAM!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Functional Grammar One

This is either going to be utterly fascinating or massively grating, nothing in between.

I should probably say a little more than that, so let’s try this – is it just me, or does the tripartite conception of Experiential, Interpersonal, and Textual meanings not seem pretty similar to Peirce’s three elements of the sign (Object, Interpretant, and Representamen respectively)?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Efficiency and Redundancy in the L2 Classroom, Part II

Teacher Training Considerations

1.   Theory to Practice
It’s all very well for me to flippantly sign off with a line like ‘that requires thought,’ but what kind of thought, exactly? I’ve previously tried to express these ideas more colloquially on my other blog and that post got picked up by a JET messageboard, which was very gratifying. However, most commenters seemed to interpret what I was saying primarily as a call to speak more slowly, and that isn’t the main thrust at all. How, then, do we frame this in a way that inexperienced teachers can understand and apply? And, more to the point, why would we want to?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Efficiency and Redundancy in the L2 Classroom

1. Information Theory
This is the Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication –

It was originally developed (and is still incredibly influential) for mechanical and electronic communication: telegraphy, telephony, the internet and the like. We need to be very careful about taking it too completely as a metaphor for spoken communication. That said, it can still be a useful model. We can re-label it for L2 or lingua franca exchanges like this –

Monday, 9 December 2013

Spoken Discourse Eight

Gah. This has been such a frustrating module. It’s not just that I find the descriptive aspects tedious (though there is that). It’s that my gut tells me that this is, or at least should be, very significant, useful, and important for my work in the EFL classroom, and yet that significance has only threatened to emerge in brief spurts. I don’t mind grinding out the data analysis if it leads to something more tangible than just another description. More consistent examples of applicability is what I’m after, and it’s just very frustrating that it’s taken until the last unit to get there.

But get there we have, finally, and it’s reassuring to see a bit of research to back up my general approach to the classroom. Now to track down the references and work up from there. This is stuff I can use. Maybe.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Spoken Discourse Seven

I must confess that in direct opposition to the last unit, I found this one tedious as fuck. There is of course a difference between ‘interesting’ and ‘important’ or ‘useful’, so the boredom threshold is no excuse for not taking it seriously, but it does make it harder to pay attention. Some observations though, however disjointed –