English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal 27.2
English Australia Journal Volume 27 No 2 63 What has your experience as a learner taught you about teaching? When I was a schoolboy in ‘Old’ South Wales, we had to do Welsh as a compulsory language. We learnt it in the same way as we learnt Latin or even maths, in that it was presented as a system of rules and abstract principles, not related to real communication, even though there were native speakers just ten miles outside the city of Cardiff where I lived. I also did Spanish, with a teacher who brought the language to life with lots of oral practice, songs, poems, and general good fun. I know which experience has informed my ideas about teaching ever since . . . Which area of typical teaching practice would you most like to see change in, and why? Grammar. It is still presented in so many textbooks as if it is a set of rules divorced from meanings and actual communication. Grammar has meanings, just as vocabulary does, and many of the meanings are interpersonal and contribute to the success (or failure) of interaction, whether in writing or speaking. Do you think current teacher training needs to evolve, and in what way? When I look at teacher training programmes I am often surprised at the lack of training about corpus linguistics and how the corpus revolution has changed so much of our teaching resources, from dictionaries to grammars, vocabulary materials and whole course syllabuses. What are you excited about in terms of current research? At the moment I am excited by the power of large learner corpora to show us how and what learners learn. The empirical data provided by good learner corpora could potentially upset the apple cart of Second Language Acquisition studies which are based on what I call ‘observe the rats in the laboratory’ approaches. How do you see teaching materials changing in response to the growth of the Internet and blended learning? What we need to do in online and blended learning is two things: (1) recreate, using the power of technology, as many of the supports that classroom teachers offer to learners as we can, such as good feedback, interesting stimuli, individual attention, etc., and (2) provide learners with presentation and practice that they can do in their own time, in an inhibition-free environment and with choices that enable them to follow their own needs and aspirations. To date, we are only part way to achieving these aims.
English Australia Journal 28.1
English Australia Journal 27.1