Tuesday, September 03, 2013

EFL Blogs-the obstacles and solution

There are many articles that suggest involving language learners into blogging experience can benefit and maximize the learning. Here I won't talk about the benefits anymore; however, I would like to list several obstacles that EFL teachers usually face to in traditional classrooms and suggest how teachers can do with weblogs to solve the problem.
(1). insufficient exposure to the target language (TL)
EFL learners usually do not have enough exposure to the TL. Apart from the textbook and other printed materials that the teacher gave in class, learners usually do not have chance to be exposed to sufficient and suitable authentic materials (for authentic materials are usually designed for readers from the target culture, not for language learning).
->suggestion: I often try to find interesting articles or discussion topics online, and then rewrite it to suit my student's langauge level. After rewrite it, I post it on the classblog and have a discussion with my students afterwards. After the class, I would also post several links related to the discussed topics for mere entertaining materials (sometimes as homework) and encourage them to write their comments. Learners can arrange their own time to learn online, post comments and homeworkl; learning becomes 24 hours and is not restrained in time and space.
(2). individual inequality to use the TL in tradional classroom
EFL learners usually only have 3-5 hour English class (at most) per week. there are usually at least 8-10 students in one class (in junior high or high schools, there can be more than 35 students in one class). Factors of learners' different personalities, learning and response pace, motivation, and language proficiency can all lead to individual inequality to speak up in class or in groups. It has always been a challenge for EFL teachers to make interaction going and maximize the learning.
=>suggestion: by involving learners in blogging experience, teachers can promote social equality and identity. It is because that learners usually have more time to think and plan their language output before they post their voice on the blog, and they do not have to be stared by the whole class. Online communication is usually more face-saving than face-to-face communication. Every class member has equal chances to express their feelings and practice the language; individual differences leading to social inequality to speak in traditional classrooms can all be overcome; more!! teachers can give comments (or encouragement) to individuals (learners usually feel great about this).
(3). insufficient chance to learn the target pragmatic knowledge
EFL learners generally do not have enough chances to learn the target pramatic knowledge for they do not have opportunities to take part in the target social and cultural context. For not to experience 'culture shock', EFL learners, who grow up in different cultures, need to learn not only 'language with correct grammar' but 'appropriate language'.
=>suggestion: how to let our students take part in the sociocultural context? teachers can try to pair up our students with learners from other culture, better from the target culture (or put several learners in a group). Teachers can create a 'multicultural blog' for students and ask them to introduce their own culture by showing photos, pictures, or links to audio and video files to other students and encourage question asking. Teachers can offer help to put the photos, pictures, and links online.
So...blogs are very helpful to language learning; I would say it is especially helpful for EFL learners to get one step closer to the target culture and improve the language proficiency without spending money to go abroad.
so, when using weblogs to language learning, there are several principles that EFL teachers need to know about:
1. design tasks/lessons that is related to the target culture (learners need to learn not only the language but the culture)
2. create motivation by giving collaborative tasks (eg. pair up students to keep story journal together)
3. encourage online opinior exchange (the more the better)
4. more links to authentic materials. ( eg. I use text-to-speech software to create authentic-like listening practice for learners, upload to a server, then give links to learners, and ask them to download the listening files)