Hi Sean! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.
Sean at one of his art gallery shows.
I’m a Kentucky native, but my interest in Chinese carried me away from there to spend a good chunk of my twenties studying in China, and eventually here in Oregon. I remember when I was a kid, I was fascinated by the idea that different people had different ways of speaking and writing, and longed to study foreign language. In high school, I was finally able to study my first foreign language which happened to be German. I enjoyed studying German, but it was only once I was able to study Chinese as an undergraduate that I truly fell in love with another language, and I’ve never looked back. Outside of school, art and in particular, painting, has been one of my life-long passions and I’ve been fortunate to have a couple gallery shows since I moved to Eugene.
You are quite the jack of all trades! So how did you end up in the LTS program?
I believe I first heard about it from the instructor for my Chinese linguistics course here at UO.
What has been your focus in the program?
In participating in this program, my aim has been to gain the tools and knowledge to effectively utilize my experiences learning Chinese as a second language to inform my teaching of the language. I believe my project represents a culmination of this effort, as it addresses a specific need of Chinese learners that’s not accounted for in current curriculum—bridging the gap between English reading and Chinese reading—which I recognized as a problem from my own experiences.
Sounds like a great project! And you mentioned you are a GE (graduate employee) for Japanese literature, how’s that experience been?
It’s been going great. While I’m normally a GE for the Chinese department, teaching in the Japanese department is always a refreshing change of pace, and through the works we read, I get to see the cultural and linguistic exchanges between the two countries throughout history.
Sean presenting at the LTS poster session.
Are you excited to start working on your MA project?
Yes, I really feel good about my project. I’ve received some really positive feedback from Chinese department faculty about the idea, and I think it’s possible it may lead to some serious consideration for adding a Chinese extensive reading course to the curriculum.
Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Best of luck in the completion of the program!
Hello Yuri! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Yuri at work
Dàjiā hǎo! 大家好！Hey everyone – this is Yuri speaking! Here comes a little story about myself!
Born in Shanghai China, I moved to the U.S. in 2010 for graduate studies at the University of Oregon. I started with a Master’s program in Educational Leadership at College of Education. After a year, I was fortunate enough to meet some friends from LTS and found that the program was a perfect continuation of my Bachelor’s study in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign language. Therefore, I decided to study two master’s programs concurrently in 2011 and was so lucky to be able to finish both by summer 2012. Generally speaking, a graduate like me can easily have wanderlust – where there’s a job, there’s a home.
Beijing Trip with Student
Not surprisingly, I moved to San Francisco for my first job, teaching Chinese in an elementary immersion program – the first one in the United States! It was a great year for me when I learned and accumulated a lot from my teaching experience. Yet, I must have became a secret Oregonian. Nostalgia brought me back to Portland in 2013. I started working for a newly established Chinese immersion program in Beaverton. It has been a good five years here. Thanks to all the useful study in LTS, I became the program director after two years of teaching at the school. Then recently I realized that wanderlust perhaps is the true me – just a month ago, I accepted a position at Singapore American School and am going to continue to devote myself to the field of Chinese immersion education. I am excited to realize that it is being a professional of foreign language education that makes us willing to ceaselessly wander the world…
My 1st Grade Science class
Can you tell us more about what you’ve been doing professionally since you graduated from LTS?
I first worked as an associate teacher at Chinese American International School (CAIS) in San Francisco, teaching Chinese in a 1st Grade and a 5th Grade classrooms. After a year, I joined Hope Chinese Charter School (HCCS) in Beaverton and worked as a Chinese immersion teacher as well as the Chinese curriculum coordinator. In addition to developing the Chinese program benchmarks and curriculum for HCCS, I taught students all subjects areas in Chinese from 1st – 4th Grade. In my 3rd year at HCCS, I became the director of the Chinese immersion program and the lead Chinese immersion teacher. My job responsibilities range from program and curriculum development to Chinese faculty mentoring. I also wrote the STARTALK grant and got accepted for two years to implement the student and teacher training programs in Portland, which definitely helped consolidate my skills in language program development.
My 1st Grade Math
So now you are off to your next adventure in Singapore – what will you be doing there, and how does it fit with your future career goals?
I will be teaching in their newly established Chinese immersion program and hopefully make my own contribution to their Chinese teacher professional learning community. Though it seems that it was a step-down move, it will be instrumental as I have never worked at an international school and it is always a field I’d love to explore on my career course. I am always interested in educational leadership at international schools. I believe this will be a necessary transition to lead me toward that goal.
With my LTS studymates
What did focus on while you were a graduate student at UO?
I actually had different yet later connected focuses in my two graduate programs. I focused more on comparative education in my educational leadership program, and teaching strategies for increasing language proficiency in my LTS MA project. With my post-research in Chinese immersion education after graduation, it is so apparent that language education should always be intertwined with cultural learning and studies. The teaching techniques could also be varied or fused between different educational systems. At least Chinese immersion education can speak to that – we teach American students with an American-based curriculum and certain Chinese schooling rituals. I will definitely continue with my research in this area and hope to extend my study into the impact of foreign language education on school systems.
What has ended up being most useful for you as a teacher from what you learned in LTS?
The second language teaching principles and the theories behind second language acquisition vs. language learning are really the essence to help me understand how language proficiency should be developed. I can never forget Celce-Murcia’s representation of communicative competence, which really became the theoretical basis I go by while developing my language teaching strategies. I was able to have a good understanding on the national standards for learning languages, thanks to what I have studied about Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in some of the LTS courses. In a nutshell, the learning in LTS helped me tremendously in my language teaching career. It was my first time to trust that college/graduate studies can actually greatly benefit the career practice.
Looking back, do you have any advice to current or future LTS students?
No. 1, study well, pay attention to what you are/will be learning with LTS, because whatever you have experienced with LTS could become very instrumental to your language teaching career (if that’s what you choose ultimately).
No. 2, better not neglect the study of the theories and always pilot any strategies that you create with a real class body. I am not an empiricist, neither a rationalist. I believe we should rely on both to reflect back and forth. Sometimes theories inspire a way. Sometimes practice finds the theory. Last but never the least, enjoy what you are learning and what you will be doing as a LTS fellow!
This week’s post highlights Emily Letcher, who graduated in 2016 from LTS. Emily began thinking about a future in language teaching as an undergraduate at UO, taking Second Language Acquisition and Teaching classes. She finished her MA degree with a project titled, “Teaching Interlanguage Pragmatics of Disagreement in a Secondary EFL Context Using Film and TV Shows”, and took off to Thailand to teach middle school before settling in Mexico at a university.
What is your life like now, almost 2 years after graduating from LTS?
From Eugene, Oregon to Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok to Miahuatlan, Mexico…I grew up in a city of 160,000 people, moved to another of over 8 million, and then decided to settle down in a relatively unknown, southern city in Mexico of about 45,000. I say “settle down” because I now live with my five adopted dogs. All of them are former street dogs here, each with their own story. It’s not always easy to care for them, but it’s definitely worth it.
One of Emily’s rescue dogs playing in the yard
What did you do in Thailand?
Emily with students in Bangkok
Through LTS internships with the US-Thai Distance Learning Organization, which had brought Thai high school students to Oregon several times, I was fortunate enough to make a strong connection with Thailand before even setting foot there. After graduation, I went to Assumption College Thonburi and taught for six months in their English program. Shortly after I arrived, the beloved King of Thailand, Rama IX, passed away. I witnessed an amazing movement of unity and mourning within the country. Bangkok was a whirlwind experience of culture and learning for me.
Traveling in Thailand
What has turned out to be most useful for you from SLAT/LTS?
I’ve just recently completed my first year as a professor at La Universidad de la Sierra Sur (UNSIS). Students here must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and a lot of what we do is to prepare students for that exam. It’s a good challenge for me as a teacher, one that I enjoy. In the LTS program, I focused on curriculum design, so I was extremely excited about, and grateful for, the opportunity here to dive right in and do meaningful curriculum work. I recently wrote a textbook for our first-year, accelerated graduate program. Now I am teaching the course. It’s amazing to me to go through the entire cycle, beginning with those lessons in LTS, to stepping out on my own and developing a full-fledged project, to putting it into practice in a classroom and seeing its results.
Centro de Idiomas at UNSIS -the English department
Do you have any advice or thoughts for current and future students?
Always be open to new opportunities. It may be a tired phrase, but it’s true. I could never have predicted moving to Miahuatlan de Porifirio Diaz, Mexico. It certainly wasn’t part of my ‘grand plan’. I came here with the idea of staying for a short time, but found so much more worth staying for.
A parade in Oaxaca – a city with a rich and artistic culture, two hours from Miahuatlan.
LTS 2016 – 2017 Cohort Final Presentation: A Brief Summary
As the 2016-2017 LTS program comes to a close, the presentations are finished and the finalized projects are rolling in! As this year’s cohort gets ready for their next big adventures in the wilds of language teaching around the globe, this final blog post for the Summer 2017 term will provide a brief glimpse of the hard work and dedication the graduates have put into bettering themselves as language educators, and into bettering the world of language education as a whole. If you missed out on the presentations this year, here is a small gallery of snapshots of each presenter’s work!
Women Teaching Women English: A Contemporary Women Writers Course for Female English Language and Literature Students in Egyptian Universities by Devon Hughes
Academic Writing Skills for International Students of Chemistry at a U.S. University by George Minchillo
Marching to Different Drummers: Teaching a Mixed Class of Heritage and Non-Heritage Learners of Russian with Motivation in Mind by Iryna Zagoruyko
Korean as a Second Language for English Speaking Husbands: a Multi-cultural Family Situation-based Curriculum by Jiyoon Lee
An Adaptive Place–Conscious Ichishkíin Materials Portfolio by Joliene Adams
Crafting a Brand in English for English Language Learning (ELL) College Athletes by Juli Accurso
Using TBLT to Address Locative Phrase Word Order Transfer Errors from English L1 to Chinese L2 by Lin Zhu
Deciphering the Cryptogram: A Word Puzzle Supplement to Traditional Lexicogrammatical Acquisition by Dan White
Using Literature to Develop Critical Thinking and Reading Skills in an EFL Class at University by SeungEun Kim
Integrating Service Learning into University Level Spanish Heritage Language Classes in the United States by Valeria Ochoa
A Career Exploration Course in Mandarin Chinese for Young Learners in East Asia by Reeya Zhao
Using Graphic Novels and Children’s Literature Books in U.S. 2nd year CFL University Courses by Yan Deng
Creative Writing in the Digital Age: A Course Design for Intermediate ELLs Majoring in English at an American University by Becky Lawrence
Using Podcasts to Teach Academic Listening for International Undergraduate Students through Metacognition: A Flipped Portfolio by Chris Meierotto
As a means of “paying forward” all of the help and support that we received from our professors, fellow classmates, and previous cohorts, the 2016-2017 cohort wrote up a short collection of thoughts and suggestions for future/prospective students regarding the final presentations:
How did it feel leading up to the presentations?
“I was able to learn a lot from the other presentations I saw. I learned how to make a good introduction to my project.” – Yan Deng
“It was definitely nerve wrecking at times. However, by this point in the program, I think us cohort members start viewing ourselves as a productive, contributing members of the field rather than students trying to play catch up, so I also viewed it as a chance to show what I could do as an educator.” – George Minchillo
“I felt great since it was a showcase of all my work, and I was happy to share my project with the cohort and faculty. It was a final milestone, and I tried to do my best for the audience to be interested and engaged in what I was presenting.” – Iryna Zagoruyko
How does it feel to know that you have the presentations behind you?
“I feel good because this was an opportunity to share what I have been engaged in for so long with the audience. After doing so many things during my time in LTS, I still felt supported when preparing for the presentations.” – Lin Zhu
“I feel free at last! However, I do think back to some parts of my presentation that I think could have gone better.” – Heidi Shi
“After doing the 2 year option and finally getting to the end of my final project and presentation, I feel exhilarated, excited, and exhausted! I’d been working on my project for a long time and it has morphed and evolved throughout my time in LTS. To present it in its final form in front of my peers, faculty, friends, and family was such an amazing feeling.” – Becky Lawrence
“It is always a bit sad to be done with anything in life. But, I feel that I did everything I could in my project, and hope very much that it could be useful in teaching mixed classes of Russian. I hope activities from my project will be implemented in the REEES curriculum here at the UO.” – Iryna Zagoruyko
What were the most difficult or the easiest parts of giving the presentations?
“I really tried to focus my presentation on entertaining the audience. I tried to leave out most of the minor details, and instead focus on showing the more ‘flashy’ parts of my project.” – Dan White
“The easiest part for me was making the draft of the slides, because I have so many things that I can pick and choose from my whole project to put in the presentation. The most difficult part was tackling audience questions, because some of them were unexpected!” – Lin Zhu
“The easiest part for me was actually having the chance to show my project! The hardest part was having a lot of information, and choosing which ones I should include in the presentation.” – Yan Deng
“For me, the most difficult part was having the confidence in the work I had done, and in portraying myself as an ‘expert’ in front of experts. The most useful part of the presentation was receiving additional feedback from peers and faculty that could be implemented in the final revisions of the project.” – George Minchillo
Any suggestions for future cohorts?
“For future cohorts, I would advise you to start thinking of project ideas early. Be creative, and try to combine your passions and interests with sound language teaching pedagogy. Take advantage of the built-in support of a cohort system, and ultimately just enjoy the process, because it will fly by before you know it!” – Becky Lawrence
“Prepare ahead of time, practice at least five times, and don’t make the slides too text-heavy! Be confident in yourself :)” – Heidi Shi
“Have confidence in the work you’ve done. You will undoubtedly be one of the most well-read and knowledgeable people about your context and materials in the room!” – George Minchillo
“Even though at this stage in the program, you will have completed 98% of your project. However, adequate time should be set aside to prepare for the presentation.” – Lin Zhu
“Enjoy the moment! Be nice to your cohort! They will be the greatest wealth in your academic life.” – Yan Deng
“Definitely be serious about your project! View it not only as an exercise, but strive to do everything possible to ‘break the ground’ in your field and context. Do not underestimate yourself – you have all the potential to create great activities/course designs for somebody to use in their teaching!” – Iryna Zagoruyko
A Fond Farewell
No matter where we go, and no matter what we do in the future, let’s always remember and think back to the knowledge, experience, and camaraderie we shared with one another as we grew into professional educators together. Even if we lose contact, or never find ourselves in a shared space again, we can always provide inspiration to one another to achieve our best, and to work hard to mold the world of academia as we see fit! For these reasons, I believe it is not necessary to say goodbye, but simply to say good luck to the 2016 – 2017 LTS cohort. I know we will all move on to do great things!
Thank you to my cohort members for all of their support! I hope to see you all again soon.
“Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt. The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done?
Hello, my name is Adam (天天). I come from a small city with over 2,500 years of history – Kaifeng, China.
Becoming a foreign language teacher has always been a dream I am enthusiastic about. Before coming to the US, I got my bachelor’s degree in Teaching Korean as a Foreign Language in South Korea. After graduation, I did different types of jobs including Chinese teacher in a Korean academy and liaison of international affairs in a Chinese college.
You are also completing a degree with the East Asian Languages and Literatures department. Can you tell us about what brought you to the LTS program?
I started my studies at the U of O in 2015, with my first major Korean Linguistics. Knowing that I have interests in language teaching, my advisor Professor Lucien Brown suggested me taking classes in the LTS program in order to fulfill my graduate requirements. However, what I learned from the first course – Curriculum and Teaching Material Development was way beyond my expectation. Realizing the tight connection between my first major department and LTS, I went on taking more courses in both programs. In summer 2016, with the help of the program director Professor Yerian, I got accepted by LTS as a concurrent degree student. Courses I took in the LTS program have strongly helped me to achieve my career goal. Those courses refreshed my mind with teaching methodologies, second language learning theories and other skills that I hadn’t thought about or been aware of.
Could you tell us a little bit about the ideas that you have for your Master’s project?
This summer, I am going to finish the draft of my Master’s Project for LTS. This research report shows evidence that what affects the judgement on accentedness of second language learners from Korean native speakers are the errors in applying “pitch pattern” of phrases.
Could you tell us about any internships or GE positions you’ve had at the UO?
In addition to my studies, I am also enjoying a couple of opportunities to apply the skills I have learned from the classes. During weekdays, I teach beginner level Korean as a Graduate Teaching Fellow. The class consists not only American students but also a large portion of international students who are also interested in Korean language and culture. Every Friday afternoon, I meet kids in the Edison Elementary school for a Chinese Language and Culture Club. This after-school club offers Grade 3-5 kids the chance to experience very authentic Chinese culture as well as tons of fun games. In both classes I feel rewarded for seeing students loving the activities I design and the language and culture I share with them.
Sarah Murphy with graduates from her Informatica English class
Sarah Murphy graduated from LTS in 2015 and traveled straight to a position she found as an English Professor in Mexico. Her MA Project was ‘An Open Educational Resources Portfolio for Adult Education ESL’.
Where are you working now and what are you teaching?
I’m working at the Universidad de la Sierra Sur in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Mexican college students are required to complete a foreign language requirement in order to graduate, so I teach a variety of college level EFL classes.
What do you like best about what you do?
I love this job. It’s not without its challenges. Oaxaca is the poorest state in Mexico, and it can really be a hustle to make things work well. Having said that, I love my work. Our students come from tiny pueblos all over the state. More than 80% of them are first generation university attendees here on scholarship. It means a lot to me to work with these determined young people who are making this massive life change and socioeconomic leap. It’s just exciting to be a part of what they’re doing.
Additionally, the students bring me salsa made from flying ants, so my life is not dull.
What is something you learned while in LTS that you use in your teaching now?
Everything! I mean it. From writing exams to structuring classes and designing curriculum, I’ve used it all so far. I can’t think of any course that hasn’t been useful to me.
Maybe the most valuable skill I learned was how to grow a language learning course based on the needs of the learner (thank you, Keli!). Since entering the world of EFL, I’ve worked with many seasoned profs who were just never exposed to the process of designing courses based on a needs analysis or problematizing a context to exploit its specific advantages and tackle those inevitable obstacles. I am so grateful to have been trained in context-specific instruction and course design. It has informed every good decision I’ve made as a teacher.
Sarah with her enfermerfia English class graduates
Looking back, what advice would you give to current or future LTS students?
Well, I would say that you just never know what skills you’ll need to use in your future contexts, so absorb as much as you can.
I also think that transition from grad school to actual instruction can be a little awkward for some new teachers, so I can offer my perspective on being a newbie. There are no ideal contexts out there! New teachers can be really keen to affect positive change, and that’s as it should be. But listening and learning is also an important part of the first years of teaching (or just teaching in a new context). The LTS gives grads an amazing toolbox; teaching is about learning how to apply them well.
Don’t rush the process. Experiment and pay attention to what works for you and what doesn’t. Collaborate with other teachers and participate in observations as much as possible. I’m such a different teacher than I thought I’d be, and that’s a good thing!
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What work have you done? Any hobbies?
I was born in Cheongju, South Korea, but when it was time to go to university, I moved to Seoul, and I lived there for almost ten years. I majored in Korean language and literature and journalism, and in my last year of university, I got the Korean language teaching version of a TEFL certificate at another university. After graduation, I started working teaching both Korean and English to speakers of other languages at a community welfare center and an NGO. I also worked in program administration managing language classes and tests at a university and at a couple foreign resource centers for the city of Seoul. During that time, I met my husband Chris, and we decided to move to America and apply for graduate schools. We spent almost nine months in Denver, Colorado before coming here to Eugene.
I have quite a few hobbies. I really enjoy going to see movies in the theater. My favorite movies are horror movies and thrillers like the Korean movie The Wailing(곡성) or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I like romantic comedies too. I also like baking and cooking. I always find baking to be a good stress relief when school gets too stressful. Recently, I’ve also started gardening. This is the second year in a row that we planted a vegetable garden in our backyard. I’m surprised how well we can grow tomatoes and other vegetables in our garden.
What was your experience being a Graduate Employee for the Korean department at the UO like?
Being a GE at UO was a great experience. This was the first time that I was able to teach Korean outside of Korea, so working with the undergraduate students was a lot of fun. But, I have to say that being a student and a teacher at the same time is pretty challenging. I think the biggest challenge was adapting to a new student culture. To be honest, it was a bit intimidating at first. However, if I look back at my experience, I can see how the LTS program helped me improve my teaching ability and build my confidence over the two terms I was a GE. I learned a lot about second language teaching in my LTS courses, and I was able to use that information to help improve my teaching. Also, the cohort and the faculty from both the LTS, and East Asian Languages and Literatures departments were really supportive and they gave me some good advice for some of the challenges I had while teaching. I still see my former students around campus or in Eugene, and they always politely say “hi (안녕하세요)” to me by bowing and speaking in Korean. I’m always impressed by their correct honorific usage and culturally appropriate behavior, so I can tell that they had a good GE teacher. 😉 I’m looking forward to teaching them in second year Korean this fall.
Could you tell us a little bit about what you are focusing on for your Master’s project?
Actually, I’m pretty busy right now because I’m working on both my MA project and a publication with Dr. Brown in the EALL department about Korean speech-style use in the marketplace. Luckily, I’ve been able to focus a lot of my LTS coursework on my MA project.
For my MA project, I’m designing a Korean as a second language course for English-speaking husbands of Koreans living in Korea. When I got married to Chris, I saw that the language that he was learning in the textbook and in his Korean academy wasn’t really helping him communicate with my family or to perform daily tasks in Korean society. I belong to a forum of Korean women who are married to foreign spouses, and they often say similar things about their husbands. So, I found a need, and I’m designing my project to fulfill the need of teaching functional survival language skills and sociocultural competence for English-speaking husbands of Koreans. It’s a lot of fun to think about new ways to help the husbands learn about Korean family communication using problem-based learning.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned since joining the LTS program?
I can’t really say that something is the most valuable because I’ve learned a lot of valuable things in this program. Of course I’ve learned a lot of practical aspects about teaching language and about developing assessments and language courses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the purpose of a cohort. I wasn’t familiar with the cohort system until I came to UO, but I think the cohort is a really amazing thing because everyone is very supportive of each other. I’m pretty shy and introverted in general, but I’m amazed at how many people help me by giving me feedback on projects or assignments, or when I give presentations. Their support has helped me to build confidence in myself as a non-native English-speaking graduate student. Graduate school is hard, and I think it’s even harder as an international student because of the linguistic and cultural differences, especially for someone who hasn’t had experience studying in an English-speaking university like me. However, just by being in classes with the cohort makes me feel like we are all in it together, and it helps to motivate me to continue to work hard in my studies. Also, the faculty has all been really kind and helpful, and I value how much they have supported my development as a Korean teacher, and in helping me find opportunities.
From Left to Right: Duong Hong Anh, Kainat Shaikh, Irene Njenga, Suparada Eak-in
This end-of-term Student Spotlight is a special “goodbye” to our dear friends, colleagues, and classmates from the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. The Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon has hosted these four lovely language teachers throughout the 2016-2017 school year, and the LTS cohort has had the wonderful opportunity to study along side them in the various Language Teaching courses they participated in. The YLC has been proud to welcome the FLTA’s without whom 4 of the 8 Self Study Program languages would not be available to the UO students and community. Now that Spring term is over, each scholar will soon be heading back to her home country, and the LTS program would like to recognize and remember the wonderful experiences we got to share with them!
Tell us about yourselves! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done? Any hobbies?
I am Anh Duong. I come from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. I am an English instructor at the University of Languages and International Studies back in my home country. I was granted the Fulbright scholarship last year and came to UO to study and work as an FLTA. About my personal life; I love music, movies, traveling, reading, and taking pictures. Since I came here, I have taken up cubing, basketball, and playing the guitar as my new hobbies.
I am from Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan. I work at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), so currently I am on leave as I am availing the Fulbright Fellowship. I teach graduates and undergraduates majoring in English Literature and Linguistics. I like reading books, and writing critical reviews. I enjoy traveling, especially to the places which have had a rich history.
My name is Irene Njenga, and I am from the central region of Kenya. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and a Master’s in Education, both from the University of Nairobi. Before coming to UO, I had worked in two places. My first job was at Dadaab Refugee Camp (Kenya) as the officer in-charge of the Accelerated Learning Program, and my second job was as an English teacher at Mukurwe High School (Kenya). I enjoy traveling and socializing with people from different cultures because it opens my mind to new ways of thinking and stimulates my creative problem-solving skills. I also enjoy swimming, cooking, reading novels, listening to music and watching movies.
My name is Suparada Eak-in. I am from Thailand. Back in Thailand, I worked as a lecturer of English in the Department of English and as a Deputy Director of the International Office at Mahanakorn University of Technology. My specialization is Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English for Specific Purposes. I taught EAP and ESP to non-English majors including Engineering, IT and Business students. In my free time, I like learning new languages, doing art and working out. Now, I am learning four languages: Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese by myself. I also draw and take pictures. My favorite exercises are jogging, Thai boxing and yoga.
Tell us about teaching at the UO as an FLTA! What is that like?
One of my key missions in the US is to teach Vietnamese to both students at UO and community members at the YLC. I appreciate the chance to teach my native language and share Vietnamese culture with American people as well as heritage students. Thanks to the Self Study Program at YLC, with small-size classes but extensive interaction with students, I have precious opportunities to listen to many individual stories, enabling better understanding of American culture as well as my own culture.
The YLC is the place to grow professionally, interdependently and culturally. I never taught Hindi/Urdu before coming to US, though it is the national language of Pakistan. I, being a native speaker, learned a lot about my culture, language and country by staying oceans away and that’s not only remarkable but a kind of liberating feeling.
Although I have been teaching for one year before becoming part of YLC, participating in the program has provided me an insight to see language teaching not as a way to show how languages are different from one another, but as a platform to let me explore how languages all around the world are spoken in their natural, cultural and raw forms. So, in order to completely imbibe in this language teaching experience, I myself decided to learn a new language. I attended classes of Turkish. New language gives a new lens to view the world. As such it may seem that speaking different languages actually makes us different from one another but actually learning a new language makes one feel connected to the wider community which is not one’s own. In one place, where creating borders may divide us, but learning new languages can unite us, this is my takeaway from YLC.
Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn! Although a biased view, it is true that Swahili is not a tonal language, has a fixed stress pattern, and words are spelled exactly how they are pronounced i.e. no silent letters! Teaching Swahili at the UO has been very rewarding. It has also been a great opportunity to interact with new cultures and incorporate Swahili culture into language teaching. I believe that my students enjoyed the lessons and gained competence in using the language. This has also helped me refine my teaching skills and familiarity with using the communicative approach in teaching grammar. I never discussed grammar in a tabular form and very rarely used grammar technical terminology.
Teaching Thai at YLC is different from teaching English at my university in Thailand. Firstly, YLC classes are small with no more than fifteen students. This provides me the opportunity to get to know my students more so I can facilitate their language learning more properly. Moreover, YLC offers the Self Study Program which places emphasis on the students’ needs. The challenge is to compromise/balance students’ individual needs and prepare the lessons to serve their needs efficiently. Lecture-based and commercial textbooks seem not to correspond with YLC students’ learning styles and goals. Thus, I mainly implemented a theme-based method in my classes. I set the themes according to the students’ needs and designed interactive activities to engage students in learning. I found that the students enjoyed learning and improved their skills proficiently.
What classes did you take during your time at UO? Did you have any other projects that you worked on? What was the most valuable thing you’ve gained from your experience here?
Apart from teaching Vietnamese, I also attended some classes, two of which were Teaching English Culture and Literature, and Testing and Assessment in the LTS Program. The most significant thing I took from these classes is the inspiration from my professors and classmates. I especially enjoy the lively and thought-provoking discussions with different points of view and practical projects in teaching that will benefit my own teaching in the future.
I enrolled myself in three courses, one course per term. My grant with Fulbright ensures that I grow strong academically by taking the classes that can serve my long term goals. Therefore, I took classes in LTS all three terms; Teaching Culture & Literature in Language Classrooms, Teaching Pronunciation, & Teaching and Assessment. My time with LTS cohort is worth treasuring as I met intelligent and creative people from various parts of the world.
From my entire year at UO, the most valuable asset that I have gained is to challenge the limits, and to outrun them.
I took classes in Language Teaching and International Studies. I worked on various projects like incorporating literature into English language teaching, education and culture in Kenya, as well as creating direct types of assessment. The most valuable thing I have gained is that language teaching can be fun. I have learned how to use different scaffolding activities in teaching language, classroom management techniques, key assessment principles, and skills in creating and/or adopting assessment tools and procedures for the language classroom.
I took two classes in LTS and one class in Linguistics. The classes in both programs provided me knowledge that I can apply in my teaching career. My favorite class was Teaching Pronunciation, which I took last term. I like this class most because I did not only learn the contents but also had opportunities to practice. Besides, I like observing the techniques that Dr. Patricia Pashby used in class. I found those techniques useful and worked well with my students.
Apart from teaching and learning, I worked as a cultural ambassador in the ICSP at UO. I presented Thailand and Thai culture to school students and senior communities in Eugene. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk with local people outside of the university and have productive cultural exchanges.
Any plans for the future, or final thoughts you would like to share?
My gratitude goes to the Fulbright program for giving me a chance to come to the US, meet amazing people, and share my story.
When I go back to Pakistan, I will resume my teaching, but there will be entirely different teaching methodologies. I will be working on making classes more student-centered where students should take responsibility of their learning. I learned a lot about testing and assessment this last term, and it has completely changed my perception towards language teaching. I am really looking forward to using the new teaching and testing trends which can ensure learning for not just a fleeting moment but for a life-time.
Irene leaves us with her favorite quote:
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe that despite the obstacles we face when pursuing our dreams, we should always be focused and keep working to realize them.
All of these experiences make me eager to go back and share them with my colleagues and students back home. I also want to better develop teaching methodology and education in my home country.
Reeya Zhao presenting a poster of her project titled, “A Career-Exploration Course in Mandarin Chinese for Young Learners,” at the UO 2016-2017 Graduate Research Forum
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Reeya Zhao, and I’m from Beijing, China, where I spent most of my life before turning 18. The city of Beijing is a mix of ancient, modern, domestic and overseas sites and cultures. People come and go since they can find both opportunities and challenges there. At the age of 18, I decided to leave to attend the East China Normal University in Shanghai, and that’s where I found the Disney summer internship and the OIIP programs in 2014. I worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for two months as a merchandise representative before OIIP. This was technically my first overseas job, and I had so much fun because we often stocked past midnight after the garden closed and I met many Disney characters backstage. OIIP is an international internship program at the University of Oregon. During that 5 months, I took two courses at the UO while working as an intern in the kindergarten department of Mt. Vernon elementary school, with two teachers and two teaching assistants. After that, I made my decision to be a language teacher and come back some day pursuing further education.
Has the LTS program brought you any extracurricular opportunities?
Now, it has been almost one year for me studying in the LTS program. As an international student, I feel it’s very intensive yet worthwhile. By following the suggestions of which courses to take from our coordinator Dr. Keli Yerian, I feel that each term is a little bit more intensive than the previous one. The Gaokao (China College Entrance Examination) was the first high pressure educational experience for me, and the LTS cohort and program are the first ones to push me to become more professional in various ways. In the Fall and Winter terms, I participated in the Edison Chinese Club Program. Two other Chinese cohort members (Yan and Adam) and I planned and taught Mandarin lessons together after school on every Friday, and were directed by Professors Keli Yerian and Lara Ravitch. This was challenging at the beginning because not only did we need to think of attractive activities and how to best sequence all of it, we also pre-planned for imagined classroom management problems, and sometimes dealt with unexpected situations. For example, with planned small group activities, some kids might feel like working alone on some days, and we would come up with an “emergency plan” to let him/her be out of the group for a while. However, we always reminded ourselves to encourage them to come back eventually, because cooperation is one of the essential skills we want the learners to develop further in our Chinese club.
Tell us a little bit about your Master’s project! What is the context of your project?
My Master’s project is a course design for young learners of ages 10-14 studying at international schools in China. I believe that students within this age range are developing their awareness of future careers, and they need the language as a bridge between them and the outside world in this foreign country. Due to these reasons, I’m thinking of a career-exploration course taught in Mandarin Chinese to formally develop their multi-language and multi–culture abilities.
What are the most valuable aspects of the LTS program as you’ve experienced it so far?
I also value the circumstances of discussing, sharing, and working together with all the cohort members in LTS. I also love the various connections provided by all my instructors and the courses they lead. For example, in the Talking with Ducks course led by Professor Laura Holland, we had three classes each week. On Tuesdays, all the TWD teachers carefully planned and discussed the chosen activities together. On Thursdays, we actually taught in an English conversation college course for international students. Then, on Fridays, all the LTS cohorts got into the class to debrief and reflect how we did on those Thursdays. Last but not least, I also like the LT 536 course design and the LT 549 testing and assessment classes where I was pushed to design a course and assessments. In doing so, I was given the motivation to research and look into the use of authentic materials.
Trish Pashby is a Senior Instructor II in the American English Institute and has been a teacher educator in LTS since the program began in 2004. She has taught many of the LTS courses over this time, and currently teaches her favorites, LT 541 Teaching Pronunciation and LT 528 Teaching Culture and Literature.
For me, pronunciation lessons are the most fun possible in the classroom. I love the whole process:
finding out who my students are, what they want, what they need;
creating opportunities for them to unveil simple yet hidden patterns of the English sound system;
observing as they compare how they had been previously producing a word (or phrase or text) to a variation that improves their intelligibility and confidence;
setting up practice drills followed by more communicative activities that allow them to work with the new pronunciation in various ways;
checking in with them about their progress and providing encouragement and guidance to keep going.
Sadly, only a handful of my colleagues share this passion. In fact, many English language teachers lack confidence in how to teach it at all (Baker, 2014; Murphy, 2014). This may be partly explained by the fact that “relatively few teacher education programs provide courses on how to teach L2 pronunciation” (Baker, 2014), which experts in the field (Derwing, 2010; Murphy, 2014) deem essential. The LTS program requires LT 541 (Teaching English Pronunciation) for students focusing on English. In this post, I will share some of the key areas we cover in the course. If you are a current or future language instructor who feels nervous about teaching pronunciation, I strongly encourage you to dabble and play with the following. Parts may lead to ways for you to build your confidence, and maybe even fall in love.
Intelligibility vs Comprehensibility vs Accent—and other “Big Picture” Issues
Munro and Derwing (1999) define intelligibility as how much a listener actually understands, comprehensibility as how difficult it is for the listener to understand, and accent as how the speech varies from the dialect of the listener. For example, substituting a “th” with /s/ in “think” or /d/ in “the” will probably fall under “accent” if the listener notices the substitution but has no trouble understanding. In diagnosing the pronunciation of their learners, teachers need to distinguish among the three, and prioritize the former.
Several key questions interact with this to create the “big picture.” What are the learners’ goals? Who will they be interacting with? What is possible? Reasonable? Desirable? (Don’t assume all of your learners want to acquire your particular pronunciation. Some may prefer another dialect of English. Or want to maintain a connection to their native language.) What about those seeking to sound native-like? What progress can they make and what role can you play in that? Can non-native speakers be good pronunciation teachers?
My answer to this last question: Yes, of course non-native speakers can be excellent pronunciation teachers as long as they understand the sound system of the target language and have the skills to communicate this to learners through effective practice activities. They can use their own voice to model the language but should also present a variety of models to their students, just as native speaker teachers should.
Advice: Keep your assumptions to a minimum and instead rely on (1) much communication with your learners and (2) current research in the field.
Suprasegmentals (Stress, Rhythm, Intonation)
For many teachers, especially those who are native speakers of English, suprasegmentals may present the most challenging aspect of pronunciation teaching and require considerable training of the ear. I clearly remember sitting in a phonology class years ago as a student unable to distinguish one syllable from another—to my ear, none sounded longer, clearer, higher. However, suprasegmentals can play a huge role in the intelligibility and comprehensibility of your learners and will thus need your attention.
Rising vs falling intonation might be a reasonable place to begin—for example, exploring American English patterns for differentiating wh-questions from yes/no questions. I tend to start off my pronunciation courses with a lesson on “tonic stress” (the main stress in a thought group), which is essential for the international graduate students and scholars I work with. This is then followed with a session on word stress, also key to their intelligibility and comprehensibility. Rhythm (stressing content words and reducing function words) is covered in many pronunciation texts for students, yet not all experts agree on how accurate/effective this is. Dickerson (2014) argues this approach should be replaced with finding the “anchor” among the content words to complement the tonic stress.
To consider: How does intonation affect meaning in English? Where does tonic stress usually occur? Why might it vary from this position? What are typical word stress patterns in English? Which of these might be most useful for students?
Advice: Teach yourself–with patience and kindness–to hear/notice stress, intonation, and rhythm (most of which may lurk below your consciousness, especially if you acquired English as a child) and become familiar with the fascinating role they play in English communication. I recommend getting your hands on one or more pronunciation textbooks for students and carefully studying the exercises. In my case, I finally learned to hear stress via the first edition of Marsha Chan’s (1987) Phrase by Phrase.
LT 541: Students George Minchillo (center) and Yan Deng (right) teaching pronunciation to an international visitor (March 8, 2017)
Segmentals (Consonants and Vowels)
Set a goal for yourself to learn the phonetic symbols and details of articulation for all the sounds of the target language. You probably won’t be creating lessons for all of them, but you’ll want to be ready in case a student needs some feedback or instruction. If IPA symbols intimidate you, look into alternative systems such as “the color vowel chart,” which provides a very accessible way to for teachers and students to understand and manage North American English vowels: https://elts.solutions/color-vowel-chart/.
To consider: Which sounds most strongly affect intelligibility and comprehensibility? How do sounds change depending on their place in a word and the sounds surrounding them? What is the best way to convey this information to learners? What kind of practice is most effective?
Advice: If mastering all of the vowels and consonants feels overwhelming, pace yourself and start with a few at a time. Consider which sounds are most connected to your learners’ intelligibility and comprehensibility issues. You can also explore information on “functional load”: the frequency of a sound’s occurrence and in how many instances this sound distinguishes one word from another.
As with any subject you teach, you will need a framework/approach for designing effective lessons. Learners will require access to information and opportunities for practice. In the LT 541 course, we use Celce-Murcia et al.’s (2010) “communicative framework.” Lessons begin with clear explanations and demonstrations in which students can experience the sound or pattern, often with visual, tactile, or kinesthetic accompaniment. Tools like the following can play a role:
mirrors to observe lip, teeth and jaw movements
feathers to test aspiration of of /p/, /t/, /k/ at the beginning of words
plastic teeth with puppet tongue to show articulation
coins or other small object to illustrate stressed and unstressed syllables
kazoos to focus on intonation (humming will work too)
Tools from Trish’s pronunciation “toy box”
Students will need plenty of production practice, moving from very controlled exercises (with limited focus on meaning to keep the attention on the new sounds) to gradually more meaningful contexts. They will also need strategies to continue building skills outside of the classroom.
Integrating Pronunciation across the Curriculum
English classes focusing primarily on pronunciation are rare. Thus teachers must find ways to bring pronunciation instruction into courses that focus on other skills. These lessons may be less elaborate than those in a pronunciation course but can certainly cover both segmental and suprasegmental aspects affecting intelligibility and comprehensibility. Char Heitman, a guest lecturer in LT 541, presents a variety of such activities to use in a reading/writing course including having students search texts for specific spelling/sound correspondence examples, chart new vocabulary according to word stress patterns, and practice thought groups and intonation before discussing key ideas [http://eflteachingresources.blogspot.com/2015/02/shaping-way-we-teach-english-webinar_15.html]. Additional ways for integrating pronunciation across the curriculum can be found in several chapters of Tamara Jones’ (2016) Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential.
Form a group with colleagues or classmates (or go solo, if you prefer) to tackle areas of pronunciation instruction most important and interesting for your teaching context. Resources might include the following.
Celce-Murcia, M. et al (2010). Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Reference Guide (2nd edition)
Grant, L. (2014). Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press
Jones, T. (2016). Pronunciation in the Classroom: The Overlooked Essential. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.
Meyers, C. & Holt, S. (1998). Pronunciation for Success. Aspen.
Dale, P. (2004). Pronunciation Made Simple. Pearson.
Lane, L. (2012). Focus on Pronunciation 3. Pearson.
Grant, L. (2016). Well Said. Cengage.
Miller, S. (2005) Targeting Pronunciation. Cengage.
Journals in the field, such as TESOL Quarterly, regularly publish research related to pronunciation teaching. TESOL’s “Speech, Pronunciation, Listening” interest section publishes a newsletter with practical ideas for teachers [http://www.tesol.org/connect/interest-sections/speech-pronunciation-and-listening/as-we-speak]. Conferences are an especially enjoyable way to build your pronunciation expertise. The annual TESOL conference always features a number of excellent pronunciation workshops and demonstrations, from which I have learned many of my favorite techniques and activities for pronunciation fun.
Baker, A. (2014). Exploring teachers’ knowledge of second language pronunciation techniques: Teacher cognitions, observed classroom practices, and student perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, 48, 136–163.
Derwing, T. (2010). Utopian goals for pronunciation teaching. In J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Iowa State University, Sept. 2009. (pp. 24-37).
Dickerson, W. (2014). A NAIL in the coffin of stress-timed rhythm. Proceedings of the 6th annual pronunciation in second language learning and teaching conference, UC Santa Barbara, Sept. 2014. ( pp 184-196).
Munro, M. & Derwing, T. (1999) Foreign Accent, Comprehensibility, and Intelligibility in the Speech of Second Language Learners. Language Learning, Vol. 49, Supplement 1, 285–310.
Murphy, J. (2014). Myth 7: Teacher training programs provide adequate preparation in how to teach pronunciation. In L. Grant (ed) Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching.pp188-224 Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.