Someone recently asked for recommendations of “reputable” schools which made me think about what how other teachers might rank the schools they know in Taiwan. From a language learning perspective, which schools do you think are best? Do you know any truly outstanding schools - ones with really awesome programs?
I think it would be important to categorise these schools rather than clumping them together.
examining schools (toefl, ielts, gre, etc)
corporate language training programmes
and many others
I too would be curious to know what the other schools out there offer, so please fill us in, guys.
My company, (we don’t usually call it a school) offers some of the most up-to-date instruction for ESP learners here in Taipei. That is, we’re currently in the process of revising our general approach to language instruction to incorporate lexical chunking. Many of our consultants are now creating lexical syllabuses in order to meet our clients needs and offer them more immediate take-away language value.
This may sound complicated, but as we get more familiar with the concordancing softwares and lexical methodologies, we will be able to individualise our instruction to fit our learners’ corporate environments and most materials will be created within the classrooms. Those students will end up with a retrospective lexical syllabus which they will be able to refer to throughout their business careers when English is needed. I call this a ‘Bank of English’, and my students save them on disks. Many of my colleagues are very excited about this chunking, concordancing, lexical clustering approach and have become rather creative with regards to its methodologies.
I doubt many other TESP programmes in Taipei offer this yet, but it’s a highly practical method for students to fine-tune their language needs.
It would be quite interesting to hear if kids schools are beginning to go the lexical route too, although I imagine that the examining schools are, as one of my study partners works for one and has been testing the waters there.
I don’t think the “lexical chunking” approach is going to be very practical for childrens’ English teaching. The focus should probably be on fluency of production and receptive skills, and the highest-frequency words, which are not likely to cluster in any area.
How does “lexical chunking” address student fluency and competency in the language? I know Taiwanese students are pleased to have a “specialized glossary”, but that is not tantamount to helping them toward fluency or a high level of competence in the language. If their command of the basic structures of the language is insufficient, all the dictionaries in the world won’t help (as we know from all the folks clutching dictionaries and wishing they could actually speak!) Perhaps your curriculum has other strong points that you have not mentioned, and “lexical chunking” and concordance use is the “hook” to get the students in?? I’d be curious to learn more.
I don’t think the “lexical chunking” approach is going to be very practicalfor childrens’ English teaching .
The focus should probably be on fluency of production and receptive skills, and the highest-frequency words, which are not likely to cluster in any area.
I’ve bolded just a few of your remarks above as common lexical chunks.
For corporate learners, their primary language needs are for meetings, presentation skills, negotiation, and writing. It is reasonable then, that chunking, and clusters would be important here in aiding fluency. Too many years of our students time has been spent worrying about grammar, and when they realise that the grammar is incorporated within the chunks, become familiar with looking for them, and collecting them, they should also be able to use these chunks more readily in their writing and speaking.
I believe it would be the same for children, in fact, when you mention above the highest frequency words, that is one area which can be consolidated by using concordancing software on their materials. But chunking, or strings of words stored together in the memory as a single item, can be retrieved and used either as single chunks as they stand, or with minimal adaptation.
Here’s the first line from The Alphabet Story:
The word AIRPLANE starts with the letter “A”. An AIRPLANE flies in the sky
Lexical chunks like these can be expanded upon, and also adapted:
our class starts with the role call
your name starts with a “T”, etc
the movie starts with a race
today, we’ll begin with a story
the bird flies in the air
the duck swims in the pond
we play in the park
I believe this method is a lot easier than trying to recall which preposition is used in which case. Many of my learners still struggle with that and have been learning English for twenty years!!
Most L1s learn these chunks by hearing them again and again and then incorporate them into our speech.
Some interesting notes, chunks are typically spoken without hesitation, and as one word:
the best thing is
the only way to go
if you ever
One study shown indicated that in job interviews, the most successful candidates, tended to use a higher percentage of chunks in their interviews.
Another study showed that academic writers who used higher proportions of clusters/chunks were assessed higher on their assignments.
I wouldn’t call it just a ‘hook’ that we have begun to focus on chunking, although it’s possible that it may be a fairly new angle used in Taiwan. I can only say that my experience in focusing on chunks pedagogically has had some amazing results! I won’t go into detail here, but if you’re interested, email me, and I’ll fill you in:
May I ask the name of the program you’re talking about?
Lado Management Consultants
4F-3, No. 51, Geelung Road, Section 2
Contact: Andy Ings
2377-6737 ext. 11
Classes are mainly offered in clients companies as corporate training.
I agree that teaching phrases instead of single words is definitely superior, but I question the value of including the article in the phrase, for example:
starts with the
I would think that using “starts with” is much more generalizable and usable, because you might have no article, an indefinite article or a definite article after this.
Another example: “flies in the”…?? Without the article, it’s a little better (you could have ‘flies in space’, ‘flies in the sky’, ‘flies in front of’" but I think linguistically you’re really talking about different animals here.
Could you give me some references as to whose research or results are driving the chunking program? What algorithms are being used? Does the program just identify “verb + preposition + article” (for example) and treat that as a chunk, or is there an algorithm that does finer tuning than this?? It seems somewhat counterintuitive to me, at least in the results you cited. Perhaps they were just examples and not formal results from the program, though…?
(Gosh, maybe we need another forum: “Esoteric Discussions on English Teaching Theory”?? )
Yeah, I can see where that would be the most popular forum on Oriented, hands down!
The chunk is what you see it as, and adaptation is what you’re talking about.
the start of the
the end of the
the beginning of the
the middle of the
the ? of the
So, yes, the grammar is embedded.
This is generally and widely known as Corpus Linguistics and computers have played the most crucial part in establishing it because it’s much easier to input data into a software programme and have it run clusters, lexical word counts, etc than counting by hand. I would guess this area is going on ten years of research, and gaining momentum more and more as it is put to pedagogic practice. Ach! Too much to type here, but…
Here’s loads of info, since you asked!
for an online concordancing tool.
Check outCorpus Concordance Sampler
and type in a word querry to get a concordance list taken from various corpora.(news, books, mags, etc)
Names>John Sinclair, and all involved in the Cobuild Project, Birmingham, UK.
Michael Lewis’s Lexical Approach
Tim Johns, Data Driven Learning
A list of titles:
Bibliography of Concordance, Collocation, Corpus and Vocabulary related Books
Or check any issue from the past few years of ELT Journal, Applied Linguistics, TESOL Q, TESOL journal, TESP, MET, etc, etc.
Just a ‘thank you’ to Alien for these most informative posts.
I am really interested in exloring how this approach could be used with my low-level kindy and children’s classes.
I now have something new to explore during those long boring lunch-breaks
Your welcome, John. Hope you find it useful.
Btw, the English library on the Shita campus is an excellent start, as is Cranes Booksellers across the way from there, on Hoping.
One of the other posts, ah yes, this one
Teacher’s resources in Taipei
should aid you in filling up your lunch hours.
Well, back to reputable schools…
We have Aliens’ vote for Lado for business English/corporate classes. Is there a minimun language requirement or do courses cover all levels? Anyone else have an opinion about it?
How about kindergarten programs? after school programs for children? I’ve heard through the grapevine that Andrew’s is good.
I would have to agree with alien about chunking, and i definately think that it is benificial in teaching children too. Surely thats why full time english kindergarten students have (in general) better english than bushibans students, because they naturally pick up phrases and therefore the students understand natural conversation rather than just standard grammar patterns that are memorized. I don’t have to think about how to phrase a sentance I can just talk.
I would also like to praise the kindergarten school that i work for as i have been so impressed by the way they work and are trying to improve their school. I used to work at a very large, nationwide school that was obviosly a money making business that happened to make its money by teaching english. I have been working for my new school since september and have found them very supportive. They are genuinely concerned about the children and the teachers. The school has a taiwanese manager and a foriegn head teacher who writes an incredibly well organised and well supported syllabse that is so much fun to teach. They encourage us to be flexible with our ideas and often praise our hard work. Its a really lovely working environment. Not only all that but if we ask for something (that might require the school to fork out financially) they are very accomadating, something that i haven’t always experienced in the past. In short I love working there, and as a teacher its a good place to work. Not only that i think that its a good school for students to attend (something i also haven’t always experienced!) I actually feel like a real teacher rather than just a foriegn face to convince parents to reach into their pockets!
Give it up, Howka Deeba (from Starwars?)
What’s your school’s name?
Is it a chain? You say it’s smaller than that other money grubbing buxiban. I’m guessing that you took no “JOY” from that job.
BTW, Lado’s teachers are what makes it good. They’re the ones who put their hearts and souls into educating the corporate masses.
They’re the creative factor, the whole throbbing pulse of the curriculum. If they were gone, there would be little else, and Lado would fall under the guise of just another buxiban offering classes to business people, kinda like that place named after Shakespeare.
I have a degree in applied linguistics. We called it “formulaic language” in syntax. More common and better examples would be “How are you?” “more or less” “what’s that?” or “If I were you…”. Most languages contain these formulas. They are nice for beginning level students because they can be thought of as units and can be “plugged and chugged” (example: giving advice “If I were you I would…”). Idioms are another example of formulaic language.