Applied Linguistics and the teaching of English and Modern Languages (19 Jan 05)

Date: 19 January, 2005
Location: Abden House, Pollock Halls, University of Edinburgh
Event type: Seminar


workshop attendees

Past event summary

The Subject Centre, in conjunction with The University of Edinburgh and Scottish CILT, hosted a one-day seminar on Applied Linguistics and the teaching of English and Modern Languages.

Language teaching and learning have always been at the core of applied linguistics. Yet the two main audiences for the work applied linguists produce in this area, namely people in ELT and in Modern Languages, tend to inhabit distinct universes of discourse. This Seminar explored ways in which the overlap can be increased, so that shared problems can be attacked jointly and shared solutions developed.

The Seminar focussed on three areas:

1. Pedagogy (Anne Convery and Barbara Sinclair, University of Nottingham)

Teachers as Learners: a social-constructivist approach to language teacher education

Our aim as teacher trainers is to enable our students to become autonomous professionals, capable of reflective practice, who have an understanding of theoretical models and teaching strategies, and are able to match their teaching to the needs of their learners. In order to achieve this aim, we act as role models for our students, and employ a range of teaching strategies which allow them to develop at their own pace, by experiencing themselves the kinds of learning they can subsequently employ in their own classrooms.

The seminar will draw on video examples of, and research data concerning attitudes to:

  • collaborative group work
  • self-directed learning
  • metacognition
  • differentiated approaches

and others, in order to illustrate the approach we use, which is situated within a social-constructivist theoretical framework, based on the work of Vygotsky, Bruner, Wood and others.

2. Culture and Context (Alison Phipps and John Corbett, University of Glasgow)

Virtual Connections: Developing Intercultural approaches to Culture and (English) Language Teaching

Intercultural Connections' is an innovative project emerging from an established Senior Honours module in English Language, Culture and English Language Teaching'.

In the past the one-year module explored issues in the teaching of language and culture, for example, training techniques in observing and interpreting other cultures, principles of materials design and classroom methods used in teaching language and culture. The emphasis was on Teaching English as a Foreign Language and the course was popular both with final year English Language students and with Erasmus/Socrates students studying English in Glasgow.

In 2003-4 the course tutors established email and a videolink with students of English language teaching in Curitiba, Brazil, via the British Council. Following this, in 2004-5 the course has introduced a full virtual learning environment which registers students from Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan and Glasgow, following similar curricula, in which they can exchange and discuss aspects related to their course. This new approach to the project has transformed this course from a largely lecture-and-seminar based module by incorporating a much stronger experiential approach to learning.

In this workshop presentation the course tutors will chart the development of the intercultural connections' project, discuss some of the problems and pitfalls of this approach and present interim findings from the research to date.

3. Language and Discourse Descriptions (Hugh Trappes-Lomax, Joan Cutting and Lara Ryazanova-Clarke, University of Edinburgh)

Download: Critical Discourse Analysis in Modern Language Teaching (Powerpoint presentation, 38Kb)
by Lara Ryazanova-Clarke

This session will explore issues of language description for the teaching of modern languages and EFL, with particular emphasis on the use of (critical) discourse analysis and pragmatics. In making students aware of how language structures and rhetorical structures are combined in order to present information in particular ways often culturally or politically loaded' ways we give them real insider' insight into the target language and culture. Although the linguistic, discursive and rhetorical structures differ from language to language, the fundamental tools of description and analysis are the same, and dialogue among those using them in the teaching of different languages reveals features that are not so obvious when dealing with one language in isolation.

Following a brief overview by Hugh Trappes-Lomax of the place of discourse in our conceptualisation of language description for language teaching, Joan Cutting will look at the process of training TESOL teachers to evaluate the relevance of approaches to language description, to their teaching and assessment context. Outlining the practical objections raised by international teacher participants in her 'Text and Discourse for TESOL' module, she suggests ways of raising their awareness of discourse elements that they already teach, and discusses which other elements can be taken into the EFL classroom and which can remain cultural knowledge for the teacher. She ends by proposing ways to help EFL teachers design pragmatics-based materials and tasks to suit the particular needs of their own learners.

Lara Ryazanova-Clarke will explore the use of discourse analysis in teaching of modern languages, based on an example of Russian Text Analysis classes. Awareness of discourse as social interaction still receives less attention in the classroom than development of such traditional knowledge and skills as lexis and grammar. However the social aspects of discourse are especially vital in understanding the society and culture in question. Attention will be given to such concepts as power, ideology and identity in discourse and the discursive strategies that are employed to construct and implement them in the text. Examples will show how the theoretical issues, connecting discourse and society can be interpreted for students of Russian.


09.00 - 09.30 Coffee
09.30 - 09.45 Introductions and overview
09.45 - 11.30 Pedagogy session
11.30 - 01.00 Culture and context session
01.00 - 02.00 Lunch
02.00 - 03.30 Language and discourse descriptions session
03.30 - 04.00 Closing discussion and wrap-up

Event report: Applied Linguistics and the teaching of English and Modern Languages

By Marion Spöring

Participants had the opportunity to listen to nine speakers in three areas , approaching applied linguistics/ modern languages and English language teaching issues in joint presentations, a successful format judging by debate generated.

Anne Convery and Barbara Sinclair from Nottingham reported on their work with PGCE Modern Languages students and oversees ELT MA students , encouraging differentiation, autonomous, self directed learning and collaboration, based on a social constructivist course design. Video examples of classroom discussion and screen shots of Virtual Learning Environment discussion boards brought practice closer into the seminar room.

Alison Phipps and John Corbett from Glasgow explained how ELT Senior Honours students and English Language students from Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan were working together, using MOODLE, a free VLE tool and Videoconferencing, enriching traditional classroom teaching by direct intercultural experience.

Hugh Trappes Lomax, Joan Cutting and Lara Ryazanova-Clarke, Edinburgh gave examples on how Critical Discourse Analysis can be used in the classroom context , drawing on material in Russian and English, in the main.

Overall, the event brought staff and students from a range of institutions and in different fields together , demonstrating not only that collaboration between real or perceived subject boundaries is taking place, but also that there is scope for more interdepartmental and inter-university research and teaching.