Liatris Myers is a member of the Language Teaching Specialization program from the western U.S. Her MA project’s working title is: Integrating instruction on pragmatically appropriate English oral requests into IEP courses.
My project is about teaching pragmatically (culturally) appropriate English oral requests to learners of English as a second language by inserting bits of instruction on requests into their IEP (Intensive English Program) courses. Making appropriate requests is something that many ESL learners struggle with at all levels, and it also tends not to be prioritized in language learning courses, especially academically focused IEP programs that already have packed curriculums aimed at helping learners develop the linguistic skills they need for university level classes. That’s why I’m working on ways to work instruction on requests into IEP courses.
What inspired you to choose this topic?
Working with ESL learners, I became accustomed to them making requests using the imperative, such as, “Give me the pencil”. I knew they didn’t mean to be rude, and so I just paid attention what they were saying and ignored how they said it. Then a girl told me a story about a traumatic experience she’d had when she first came to the U.S. and, knowing very little English and nothing of polite requests, had used the imperative to ask an American woman for something and the woman had gotten angry with her. Then I thought, oh, maybe I shouldn’t be letting this go, because sooner or later they’re going to meet people who don’t understand and get upset.
What has been most challenging about doing the project (or what advice would you give new LTS students about the project)?
For me the most challenging things about the project are the way it’s always shifting and how nothing ever seems to end. As you work on it, you find you need to adjust or add or dispose of a lot of things, and partly because of this, it seems like there’s always more literature to look up, more information to collect for the needs analysis, etc. So I would tell new LTS students to be prepared for and open to the ever-evolving nature of the project, but also to know where to draw the line, because you can’t include everything in the universe on your topic.
What do you like best about your project?
There are many things I like about my project. In doing research for it I’ve gotten to learn many interesting things from the literature, people, and the IEP. I like that it doesn’t focus on just one skill, but gathers together many things like grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and cultural knowledge. I feel like there’s a real need for my topic and what I learn now will help me in my future teaching. And I’ve been surprised and thrilled by the enthusiasm and support I’ve received on the project from everyone – language teaching professionals, non-teaching ESL program employees, and the learners themselves.