SL Blog

Brian Rodrigues, Freshman English instructor and former Re-search INSET(1) participant at Sabancı University’s School of Languages, interviews Deniz Kurtoglu Eken who, in addition to her role as the director of the school, is actively involved in research, teacher development and trainer training.

Blogging, which could basically be defined as electronic self-publishing or a soapbox in cyberspace, is actually as easy as writing an email and having those emails stored in publicly accessible archives on your blog.

Advances in technology create new forms of communication tools for us (Kist, 2000). We increasingly interact with DVDs, blogs, digital books, databases and many other forms of communication and expression. The arrival of these into the language classroom means that what has usually been accepted as “text” is not limited to the printed page and what has usually been referred to as “the act of reading” cannot be limited to the reading of the printed page.

Teaching, like many other fields, is no stranger to persistent but misleading myths that have sprung from a certain, and at one time justificable reason or source, but have outlived the other conditions and theories that applied at the time of their inception.

Chomsky (1975) suggested that motivation is irrelevant in the context of first language acquisition as “learners can no more choose to learn languages than certain cells in an embryo can choose or fail to choose to become an arm or leg” (cited in Crookes and Schmidt, 1989: 26). However, in the context of SLA (Second Language Acquisition), many aspects of learning are determined by active choice (Crookes and Schmidt, 1989), such as whether to study at an English-medium university or not, and it is the association between these reasons of choice and the level of success or failure, which have caused the researchers and practitioners to attach such central importance to motivation.

In a research study I recently carried out on personal and professional development with over 100 professionals in 5 different contexts in Turkey, a teacher with 28 years of experience said, “You cannot develop or help trainees develop without developing your ‘SELF’! Personal development is key to professional development.”

When it comes to the assessment of speaking, a clear dichotomy exists. On the one hand, what assessors are hoping to see is a genuine, typical speaking performance from the learner. On the other lies the fact that any real expectation that the performance will be authentic is, quite frankly, ridiculous. As Underhill (1987:45) notes, ‘our inherited attitudes to tests, and the way they are usually conducted, hold learners away from (assessors) at arms length.’ For this reason, familiarity with the test format is essential and should be one of the main caveats of the practice activities. Never the less, where do we draw the line between facilitating fair and reasonable test preparation and maintaining a premise of authenticity and unrehearsed performance?

I say “lucky” in particular, because I was actually accepted as a freshman at the end of ELAE. Nevertheless I was not feeling self confident enough to start an English medium university education and somehow I thought I would miss a lot if I skipped this experience at SL. So I made an official request to the administration, and thanks to their understanding of my wish to improve my second language prior to university courses, I was accepted as an upper level class student for one semester.