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Had any interesting conversations with students lately?
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sixthchild



Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 276
Location: East of Eden

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 11:29 am    Post subject: Had any interesting conversations with students lately? Reply with quote

No, strangely enough I have to say the same!

I think that ıt has to be said that their ability to express themselves and generally communicate in what we laughingly label "the target language" is a pretty clear indication that language learning in this country is not working as well as it should or in more than a few cases is not working at all.

I would be interested to see how many people on this forum agree or disagree with that statement. All those registered users who look at a thread but never EVER bother to post a comment or even give an opinion perhaps just this once you may have the strength of your convictions to write something.
I will tell you why I agree with that statement.

I sat down for a bite to eat and noticed that the person sitting next to me had a book entitled "Power Systems Analysis", I was interested in the book and the reader and attempted to engage him in what I had hoped would be a "common" language.
After about 5 futile minutes of one sided conversation the "reader" got up and beat a hasty retreat leaving me with the notion that I had tried to discuss nuclear physics with a 5 year old. Apparently, it is his last year here,his 4th and he will soon go back to his native Mongolia where no doubt he will impress those too ignorant to know otherwise with his less than perfect linguistic ability.
So its not just this place, some small comfort in that then, still doesn't really address the problem, why is this country such a crap place to learn another language?
I would offer for consideration the fact that L1 just totally dominates and does not allow room or opportunity for another language to be used.
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Qaaolchoura



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 539
Location: 21 miles from the Syrian border

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I actually have had some interesting conversations with students, both about their own lives, and Turkey in general. Usually these students have either traveled extensively outside of Turkey, where they've used it to communicate with other non-natives who have a different L2, or their job requires English, but I've got a couple high school students who've never left the country and yet are surprisingly good, mostly because they put a lot of effort into it.

Mind you, most of my students have studied English for years and could barely speak it, but even those students generally make remarkable progress (well, compared to the progress I was able to observe in my Korean students), when they come to the school I work at.

I think a large part of it is that the school I work at has a "no Turkish" policy, which isn't always enforced with the staff and Turkish teachers, but is rigorously enforced with the native speakers (I'm not even allowed to say "nasılsınız" and though I sometimes translate a word for true beginner students, with other students I play dumb as to any knowledge of Turkish. This school has also had some natives who spoke fluent Turkish, and were likewise forbidden from speaking Turkish). Even when I can explain things in Turkish to students who are above beginner level, I don't. I make many attempts to explain in English and demonstrate through pictures and mime, and as a very last resort ask the Turkish teachers to explain it. This means that with me, they learn that they absolutely have to use English during English class.

This is in contrast to Turkish teachers at public schools, who often use the Arab method of teaching a language: a lot of explaining the rules in L1, but very little use of the target language in class. This is helped by the fact that schools often don't consider speaking the language you're teaching very important. I have one student who was laid off from her job teaching social studies, and was promptly offered a job teaching English, despite being barely able to communicate in the language, on account of she studied it in college. Fortunately she recognizes her limitations, and is making a serious effort to improve her English now, but there are plenty of English teachers in Turkish classrooms who can't speak English. Most of whom don't bother trying to learn it, and the schools don't make them.

I remember, when in Izmir, I went to one school that advertized English courses, and tried to give them my resume. It was a bit of trying to communicate before they told me, in halting English, that they only hired Turkish speakers. I remember another school in Sivas where the director couldn't speak English and made it clear through the Turkish teacher that he didn't really want to hire native teachers, and could see no benefit to it, but the company he'd franchised with was making him. I won't say that you have to be a native speaker to teach good English (Northern Europe is proof of this), but I will say that given how prone Turkish teachers are to using Turkish as a crutch to explain English, having a "bad cop" who can't or won't speak any Turkish is probably a good idea.

Regards,
~Q
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sixthchild



Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 276
Location: East of Eden

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Again
We seem to move and teach in different worlds, I have come across the same things that you mentioned, especially the "no Turkish zones" it usually is enforced only by the native speakers but then when it comes to one on one sessions those who can use it do so excessively in my opinion. It does of course, go a long way in terms of "cudos" if you can pull out a string 0f idioms of the mother tongue with your Turkish collegues, who seem to judge all foreign teachers by how well they intergrate into Turkish society rather than how well they actually do their job.
It does not surprise me one jot about your comments relating to trying to get hired when the school owner hasn't got a clue about English. In addition, the number of times I have attended English department meetings where the entire discourse was done in Turkish just reinforces the notion that English is just regarded as another subject like Maths or History.
Unbelieveably, I have worked with a number of Turkish English teachers who adamantly refuse to converse in any other language than their own outside the classroom, they also teach by translation and expect their students to translate every word they know, yes these people are living and breathing in the classrooms as I write this, they drive cars and they even have children, they are part of the educated elite.
They also own language schools! Frightening eh!
I take your point about the more able students who seem to have a bit more idea about communicating their opinions, almost 99% of them have travelled or lived abroad for at least 6 months and were immersed in the culture and the language of the country, it makes a big difference when L1 doesn't get in the way.
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cartago



Joined: 19 Oct 2005
Posts: 212
Location: Iraq

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've had some very advanced students but I find that most students I teach are low level. Actually I prefer this because I find it a lot easier to teach than having to read up on relative clauses or reported speech and try to explain that. Of course conversation classes are a different story.

I've even had some students who were complete beginners, they had absolutely no knowledge of English whatsoever. So far I've never had a successful student from that background. It seems to me an adult who has never studied a foreign language has an extremely difficult time learning it and some people seem to think they'll just walk in to a class and pick up the language without trying too hard and later they just give up.

I think a lot of the fault is in the education. My roommate's nephew asked me for help with his English exam. He's someone who if I asked him "Where are you from?" He wouldn't understand me. His exam was about the passive voice in all tenses. He said his whole class failed the exam and they were given another chance to take it.
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oipivo



Joined: 02 Jan 2012
Posts: 155
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nope!
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Qaaolchoura



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 539
Location: 21 miles from the Syrian border

PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally I like explaining grammar, but I only have a handful of students who can understand explanations in English. So if I can't teach it by demonstrating (which usually works, though possibly because they've already learned it), I shrug it off and have the Turkish teachers explain it.

I get the temptation to speak Turkish with co-workers, but couldn't you go out to dinner and speak it with coworkers then? (Of course when I do it, I end up completely lost, but hopefully that'll change as my Turkish improves.) And of course I can practice my Turkish the whole rest of my time in Turkey, where the most English I'm ever likely to encounter is "how are you?" and "where are you from."

While it's probably too much to expect that native Turkish speakers won't speak Turkish among themselves or with students outside of the actual class, it seems like it'd be far easier to make native English speakers stick to English. Like I said, my school strictly enforces the "no Turkish out of native English speakers during work hour rule" which means that I can simply tell my coworkers "sorry, I'm not allowed to speak Turkish here," something even the least proficient of my coworkers seem willing to go along with it.

That said, sixthchild: it sounds like you're teaching at a public school? If so, it would reinforce everything I've heard about Turkish public schools, and also explain how so many Turkish students can have studied a language since fifth or sixth grade (an amount of study which would usually indicate fluency in the United States), and still be barely able to communicate the most basic personal information (as you described with your roommate's nephew, and as I see with some of our newest students).

I used to complain about the state of language education in my home country, but the main complaint there is that it about quantity, not quality: it doesn't start early enough, classes don't happen often enough (in some schools three times a week for an hour), and that most schools only offer Spanish, French, and Latin. But in America, my college Arabic professor, who "taught" the target language in L1 was the glaring incompetent exception, whereas in Turkey the "Arab method of instruction" (as I've seen it described in the ME forums) seems to be the rule.

Regards,
~Q
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sixthchild



Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 276
Location: East of Eden

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Again

Qaaolchoura, you make some predictable and incorrect judgements. Firstly, I have never worked in a public or state school, I understand that the situation there is much worse there, only eclipsed by the worst pay scales you can imagine.
Secondly,I can see why explaining grammar can have its attractions, the learners feel comfortable with it and a lot of them know it fairly well, its how your host co-workers teach and they can only percieve the language through grammar labels and structures, just to make it even more demanding their pronunciation ranges from bad to just unintelligble. Thirdly,A lot of them are very wary of conversing with a "native" speaker as it will show up their shortcomings , blissfully unaware that by doing so would give them an opportunity to do sometying about it!
Therein the conundrum lies, without any model available in any teaching establishment that reflects correct usage and utterances there will always be that wide gulf between learners and those who may one day become proficient and fluent users of the language.
Finally, one of the most often asked questions I have been asked when I first set foot in the classroom is "Do you know Turkish?" in L1 of course, says it all really!
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9029
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting topic! However, I think the answer very much depends on where and whom you teach. Many classes that I taught in dershanes back in the day were quite low-level, and predictably the natural interest level on my part was fairly low. But not always. I had low-level Turkish learners who still managed to say something interesting, relevant and thought-provoking, despite quite limited restrictions on their language. In addition, I also taught students who had a really good level of English, and other languages, and were happy to discuss topics such as Tomas Aquinas and his relationship to Islamic thought, for example. Admittedly, these groups of students were very much the minority. But then the same minority would probably exist within the EFL teachers I knew too.
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Qaaolchoura



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 539
Location: 21 miles from the Syrian border

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sixthchild wrote:
Hi Again

Qaaolchoura, you make some predictable and incorrect judgements. Firstly, I have never worked in a public or state school, I understand that the situation there is much worse there, only eclipsed by the worst pay scales you can imagine.
Secondly,I can see why explaining grammar can have its attractions, the learners feel comfortable with it and a lot of them know it fairly well, its how your host co-workers teach and they can only percieve the language through grammar labels and structures, just to make it even more demanding their pronunciation ranges from bad to just unintelligble. Thirdly,A lot of them are very wary of conversing with a "native" speaker as it will show up their shortcomings , blissfully unaware that by doing so would give them an opportunity to do sometying about it!
Therein the conundrum lies, without any model available in any teaching establishment that reflects correct usage and utterances there will always be that wide gulf between learners and those who may one day become proficient and fluent users of the language.
Finally, one of the most often asked questions I have been asked when I first set foot in the classroom is "Do you know Turkish?" in L1 of course, says it all really!


Sorry sixthchild, I'm not clear which of my judgements are incorrect, aside from where you actually teach. Though I'll freely concede that you've been teaching Turks far longer than I and probably have a better overall feel for it.

It seems to me that everything you said more or less confirms my point, though you add the additional factor of being nervous around native speakers. I must say that even people who tell me they're nervous around a native speaker get over it very quickly, though of course I'm teaching mostly adults, and I'm not clear who you're teaching: I thought you were mostly kids and teenagers, which is a very different bucket of fish.

Regards,
~Q
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sixthchild



Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 276
Location: East of Eden

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Q

Indeed I teach younger learners at this time but have taught older levels in the past, basically they are all learners regardless of their ages. So many in the past have confirmed what you have already written, that they have had more than a decade of language learning under their belt and yet are unable to communicate with it, so, back to the starting point, how does this happen? Is it the teachers, the methods, or the instituition that allows this continue? Perhaps we might find some common ground here where we can at least agree that most language learners are been short changed regardless of their fish family!
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billy orr



Joined: 15 Jul 2009
Posts: 218

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I worked at a state university for 6 years in a faculty of education. I found the great majority of students to be excellent, intelligent, very enthusiastic and responsive to learning opportunities. They learned quickly and happily when they had the chance. I had many very interesting conversations with them.

I am certain that the main reason why the English language proficiency of students entering university is disappointing is because of poor teaching at high school. There are other factors too, such as the aim of education being more about control and obedience than about achievement.

However, I do not feel students in Turkey are much worse than those from many other countries. Most erasmus students from Italy, Spain and Portugal seemed comparable to the average Turkish student.
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sixthchild



Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 276
Location: East of Eden

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that it is generally accepted that the majority of more able students tend to end up in the state unis, they generally are more motivated and from my own personal experience would agree with most of what you've stated. However, seeing as you have mentioned the students from the Erasmus programme, in the conversations that I have had with them, they said that they came over here to continue their studies at an English medium university, only to find that the medium of instruction in the classroom was in fact, yes you've guessed it, Turkish!
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9029
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd have reservations about the whole notion of expecting students, any students, to come up with interesting conversations in the first place, but especially in a second language. It's great when they do have something genuinely interesting (to me) to say, but that is not really a prerequisite to learning.
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sixthchild



Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 276
Location: East of Eden

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes an "interesting" word that one and yet it seems too much to expect anyone to use it in a very well, what can I say, except "interesting" way how about entertaining or productive, thought provoking, what ever doesn't really matter, just wishful thinking on my part, in fact conversations of any kind would be welcome, period!
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it can be fairly disappointing when confronted with a classroom of blank faces. Yet, when I was a student, I'm not so sure that any of my teachers would have found anything my classmates had to say to be very thought-provoking or interesting. Didn't stop them teaching us.

Funnily enough, many language learners often complain about how boring the course materials are. 'Couldn't the teacher do better than this stuff?' is a typical comment. 'Why all this talk about the environment/ women's rights/ life in the UK or US/ extreme sports? - boring!'
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