miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2016

Is Culture the Fifth Language Skill?

By Mayra Yaranga. 

Nobody can deny the vital importance of the presence of culture in every lesson we teach. However, the question of when to teach it and how to approach it are still aspects which need to be carefully considered.

On one hand, the traditional apportionment of language in four skills makes it hard for teachers to identify the aim of a lesson. Perhaps this is why trying to insert the teaching of culture in class might be misconstrued as teaching it ‘independently’ and, although a chance to teach culture may seem hard to identify, in reality it is always present regardless of the contents given.

This could become evident when working on a reading exercise, for instance. Students read about important street markets in the world, which, apart from generating discussion on whether students know them or like them and the reading micro skills they develop, can also open up the debate on how different or similar these street markets are to Peruvian ones and the reasons why they are organised in a certain way and the way people interact with them in one part of the world or another. A key principle here is that culture should not be understood simply as the “target language culture,” but as a contrast between the diverse lifestyles and views likely to appear in every teaching context.

For our students to succeed in developing communicative competence, they don’t only need grammar or isolated vocabulary but content, and this is what culture provides. When learning a language, students also have the great opportunity to learn about the way in which others think, feel and interact. This is not limited to native English speakers alone, but, since English is spoken all around the world, scenarios emerge in which speakers of other languages might also turn this language into an effective tool for cultural communication. Therefore, fostering the inclusion of culture can greatly enhance the opportunities for meaningful lessons.

Now it’s YOUR turn

Do you teach cultural aspects in you class? How do you approach it?


Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ; she holds a Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London)  revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada from IPNM. Currently she works as Pedagogical Specialist, Cambridge Oral Examiner  and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She is also ESP coordinator and an Associate Professor at UNIFÉ. She has published papers in the fields of English Language Teaching and Cultural Studies.

viernes, 9 de septiembre de 2016

Why not becoming a Language Teaching Researcher?

By: María de la Lama E.

It’s very interesting to see the many images that the term “research” can evoke in many English teachers: from boring theories to a group of scientists conducting  incomprehensible experiments, the fact is that for many language teachers  the term “research “ is everything but motivating.

The reason for the unpopularity of research among language teachers may be that the term evokes something difficult and very distant from what really happens in a classroom. This teachers’ perception of research may impact negatively on their professional development, especially now that we live in an era in which knowledge is produced and interchanged faster than ever. Thus, language teachers need to give a newer look to research becoming good classroom researchers. Easier said than done? Not at all! Consider the following easy approach to doing research.

Some previous considerations:
·   Our classrooms are perfect labs. Pay attention not only to the effectiveness of your lesson plan, but to what students do and how they are doing it. Go beyond your own lesson design and consider, for example, internal and external factors that encourage or impede students’ participation in the activity.

·         Keep a research notebook. Something just for yourself where you can register all your simple but highly valuable observations.  Then choose one of your notes and get information about the topic.

·         Get Information?? Does it mean I have to go to libraries???
Not at all. Get used to reading language teaching journals as your main source of information.  These Journals, some of them written by teachers for teachers, always provide readers  with state-of-the art information based on the latest research.  Two of my very favorite journals are: English Teaching Forum and Teaching English Professional. Just Google them!

How can I do research? Follow these easy steps
Imagine that you are conducting a pair work activity with a group of teenagers. Even though the activity is going fine you notice that some students are not that engaged in the activity.  

1.    Write down your observations in your notebook. Pay attention to what students do and how they are doing it. Don’t concentrate only on their language production, but on how they are doing the activity: e.g.: what prevents them from fully participating in the activity? Are they enjoying it? How is the classroom atmosphere? etc.

2.   Then, after class give yourself time for accessing an English teaching journal. For this purpose we’ll access English Teaching Forum and enter the key words Pair Work to look for articles related to the topic. You’ll get a list of very interesting articles such as the following:

Getting Teens to Really Work in Class
In: English Teaching Forum 2012, Volume 50, Number 4Format(s): Text
"This article explains the brain development and behavior of teenagers as well as their special needs. The authors offer English language learning activities that meet the need for physical movement, social interaction, and reduced stress."

3.   In this very easy-to-read article you’ll find important information about teenagers´ behavior needs such as: their need to play and for social interaction, their need for rest; their need for physical activity and their need to learn in a stress-reduced environment. With this information prepare a short checklist for yourself so as to evaluate the extent to which the way you conducted the pair work activity catered to your students’ needs.

4.      In a couple of days, conduct another pair work activity again, but this time put into practice what you’ve learned from the article. Make sure that the needs mentioned in the article are taken care of. Some practical suggestions for fulfilling the mentioned needs would be: asking your students to stand up and change places for the activity; see how tired they are (maybe you are teaching at the end of the day); see if they are really interacting with their classmates, etc.

5. Write your observations and register whether there was any improvement or not. The more detailed your notes, the better they are for your research.

6.    Share your notes with another colleague. By sharing your observations you’ll get an even better understanding of your findings.

7. Continue searching about the topic and incorporate findings and suggested activities. By the end of the academic year, you’ll have become an expert on the topic.

Focus on the Language Classroom, Dick Allwright and Katleen M. Bailey, Cambridge University Press
English Teaching Forum

DE LA LAMA, MARIA, holds a Master´s Degree in Applied Linguistics and Bachelor´s Degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California; MBA Universidad del Pacífico. Current Director at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacifico.

jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2016

All the information is now at the end of your Googletips

By Flor de María Vila A.

Nowadays, it has become exceedingly common to interact with different digital networks and platforms. In fact, interacting with this new second world is a must for everyone who wants to keep updated with the latest news, methods, games, tips, gossips, offers, secrets, advice, or the very thoughts they may need in a special circumstance.

The obvious advantage of interacting with the virtual world is, for instance, the information that one can collect by typing a word or phrase in the Google search engine. In countless cases, the only thing that matters is to have access to the information that may help us do an assignment, to learn something new or to just have some relaxing time.
 Are there any further benefits in addition to finding the satisfaction to the specific need of obtaining information?

The most sophisticated yield could be that of improving your critical and analytical thinking through the use of different reading strategies such as previewing, contextualizing, reflecting, evaluating and comparing, among others.  Supplementary benefits could be those related to competences that will empower your cognitive skills; something that will be useful not only in your academic domain, but also in your everyday life. It is highly probable that you will notice your memory swelling, your attention enhancing, your vocabulary expanding, your stress reducing, and your writing and entertaining talents improving. All those are good reasons to start interacting with the digital world. All these benefits are related to the old adage “use it or lose it.” You cannot expect to remember anything you have just glimpsed, can you? You will most likely remember something you have put to use somehow. Thus, giving your brain the chance to think over a topic, question, or comment to provide a response is the minimal “exercise” that your brain needs in order to be kept in shape.

It is said that nothing belongs to you until you use it. When writing, you use a number of cognitive skills that will enable you to pass some information from your short-term memory storage to the long-term memory storage because somehow your brain rehearses the information used.

Using the information you read to create new one will absolutely contribute to your cognitive empowerment. Furthermore, it is always rewarding to contribute with our small bit to the enrichment of education in our country, is it not?

What about sharing your ideas about the following:

What have you read about interacting with the digital world? 
Are there any other benefits?
What do your colleagues say about interacting with “the cybernetic world”?


M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development (c) from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Pedagogic Advisor and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico and Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory). She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS).

jueves, 25 de agosto de 2016

       Why is Pronunciation the      
Cinderella of Language Teaching?

By Enrique Rojas R.

Everyone in language education knows that the most neglected ability being imparted in learning institutions, and for many teachers the most difficult to attain, is that of teaching a tongue’s pronunciation. And this is particularly true in the case of teaching English as a foreign language. Not in vain, it is widely called “the Cinderella of English teaching.”

As it is known, English is not a phonetic language. Other linguists, like Professor Gertrude Hildreth will contend that it is so in a general sense but, at the same time, “it is inconsistent to a considerable degree.” (Hildreth) Professor Thurston Womack, in turn, argues that all languages, by definition, are phonetic, since “Phonetics pertains to speech sounds” and “all languages are composed of speech sounds. They cannot be languages otherwise” (Womack). The latter defines: “A language is an arbitrary system of vocal signals by means of which groups of human beings interact.” But he himself admits that this definition excludes writing, gesture, visual and auditory and tactile code systems.

The crux of the matter is that English spelling does not recognizably reflects the sounds of the English language and that makes it difficult to teach children, even native speakers, how to read, let alone speakers of other languages how to pronounce.

The way American children learn to read is based in teaching them to recognize recurring written words which have sounds they already are familiar with, pronounce well and enjoy using. These utterances must be identified within the framework of the total word, then “through a generalizing process the children learn to identify common recurring sounds in unfamiliar words met in reading.” (Hildreth). Thus, they learn to read the short i through common words such as winter, wings or win, whereas they become familiar with the long i via ride, slide and hide and so on.

Nevertheless, in Latin America and Spain alike, children are still trying to learn to read English syllabically, applying the only principles they know, those of their own language in which there is a one to one correspondence between phonemes and graphemes. Of course, Spanish does not present a 100% phonological spelling; such a thing probably does not exist in any language, but it is fairly close to that. Small wonder that these students’ pronunciation is very far from the language they are trying to learn; frequently it turns out unrecognizable to native speakers.

The problem is that the non-native English teachers also learned this way themselves and, therefore, undergo the same confusion. They do not feel confident about their own pronunciation, so they prefer to skip teaching it to their students. And the pernicious flaw perpetuates itself (Scrivener).

It might be claimed then that native speakers of English, whether British or Americans, or else, would be the best teachers, since they know how to pronounce correctly the words in English. But this is far from the truth because the fact of being native speakers of English does not qualify them to comprehend the phonological problems of speakers of other languages and which are the main glitches to be overcome.

It is curious to note that the same thing occurs in the opposite case, that of English speakers trying to learn Spanish. Ana Serradilla Castaño, a professor of Phonetics in Spanish to speakers of other languages in an American university in Madrid, complains of the little importance and dedication given to the studying of pronunciation. “They are unable to reproduce Spanish sounds,” she says referring to American students. She states that they thought they could speak Spanish because they did it in the safe context of the classroom, but in reality “they continue speaking English using Spanish words”. (Serradilla)

So, the only solution will be provided by teachers –whatever their origin-- who are better prepared and knowledgeable to cope with these situations. And the teaching of pronunciation should be intensified and begin with the first stages of foreign language learning.

What do you think? Is the teaching of pronunciation a burden for you too? How do you deal with it in your classes?  Let us know, by leaving a post and sharing your valuable experience.

Bibliographic references:
Hildreth,  Gertrude. Some Misconceptions Concerning Phonics
National Council of Teachers of English. Elementary English.Vol. 34, No. 6 (OCTOBER, 1957), pp. 386-388. Published by: Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41384636. Page Count: 3
Scrivener, Jim. 2011. Learning Teaching. The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching. London.
Womack, Thurston. Is English a phonetic language?. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41384636?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. Retrieved Aug.234, 2016

Graduated in Journalism at the PUCP, Peru, Enrique Rojas R. holds a MA in Journalism and MA in Inter American History from Southern Illinois University, USA; an MA in Literature from University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico, all the coursework for a MA in TEFL at Universidad de Piura, Peru and BA in Education from Universidad Federico Villarreal. He has also obtained Certificates of Proficiency in English both from Cambridge University and the University of Michigan and the Diploma for EFL Teachers from Universidad del Pacifico. He is an Oral Examiner for the Cambridge University exams and has been awarded the title Expert in E-Learning from Asociacion Educativa del Mediterraneo and Universidad Marcelino Champagnat. He has worked as a professor in universities in Peru, Mexico and the United States; as a newscaster and a producer in radio and television stations in the United States and Mexico, and as a writer and editor in daily newspapers of the same countries. He has been in the staff of CIDUP for 17 years teaching English and Spanish specializing in International Exams, English for Business, ESP and Teacher Training. He is a member of the Research Area of Centro de Idiomas de la UP.

martes, 16 de agosto de 2016

What Can I do to Enhance my Level of English?

By Zarela Cruz

Have you ever asked yourself how you would enhance your level of English notwithstanding the level you teach? Sometimes, we teachers, have to hide our own instruction preferences to keep a position. Time flies and suddenly you are told that all the staff will be made to have international exams to test their mastery of the language. You are frozen. What to do now?

First of all, don’t panic. Panicking does not help at all. What you have to do is to oblige yourself to practice your English daily, no matter what. You can try with videos of your own preference, watching movies, Netflix, listening to the news in English, reading newspapers on line….there are many ways to do it…and here comes the best part, for free!

Another strategy consists of changing the layout of your email to English. That way, you would be familiar with all the words related with this type of activity.  Do you think it is hard to do?  Not at all. It is within the reach of a click. More ways to use the social media? When you use What’s app, write to your colleagues and students in English; when you create a Facebook for an English course, always exchange information in English. This habit pays dividends very quickly. Give it a try and you will see.

What I always attempt to do is to test myself: that is, undertake international mock exams. Try one section at a time, so you can see which one or ones need to be reinforced.  If you want to go deeper, do read the existing literature about a topic that interests you. On the other hand, novels in English tend to be economical, since not many people buy them. You may even find a very interesting one on sale.

You will always have the chance to take online courses in English as well. Do it as often as you may. There is an increasing number of students who are pursuing such courses. You will learn not only about the topic, but also about teaching methodologies. And you happen to be a privileged learner, since teachers partake in both scopes: the student’s and the instructor’s. 

Go to touristic places. You will relax and will have the chance to talk with tourists. If you are not the talkative type, just listen to other people speaking the language. Try to guess where they come from, if you can recognize the accent, some phrases they use, some idioms you catch… the list is endless.

Last, but not least important: keep the language alive. Always read about the latest terminology or changes in the language. Do keep in mind that language evolves and so must you.

Zarela Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma University as a translator.  She also finished her masters studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in English and Spanish: Higher Education, Virtual Courses Design, and Spanish for Foreigners. She has also completed a number of certificates:  Teaching the Working Adult, Online, Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses.   During her more than 20 years teaching experience, she has taught different courses, programs and levels. This article aims to encourage other teachers to keep improving their knowledge of the language regardless of the level they teach.

domingo, 14 de agosto de 2016

Teaching  a  Foreign  Language
a Long Time in the Same Level
Is there a risk in it?

By Carmen Hurtado

As EFL teachers, one of the goals we set for ourselves professionally is to walk forward, climb to the top, and stand out as teachers at different stages, reaching the highest levels. However, this goal does not significantly means progress in our careers. It frequently signifies leaning towards up-to-the-minute approaches, losing touch with the evolution of the language -–syntactically as well as lexically— and developing a tendency to underperform a bit in fluency and beyond.

What are the risks native and non-native English speaking teachers face if they keep on teaching the same EFL course-level over and over?

It might emerge as lack of confidence by EFL teachers on their own language skills. For example, they might be afraid of delivering the lesson using the foreign language in full style. Likewise, they could take most of the class-period prompting early-year students to develop non-verbal activities (e.g.; coloring, cutting, and pasting) as well as, for instance, encouraging juniors/undergraduates to sustain discussions regularly if they have a big class. To get over these affairs, it would take them more than a little 'learning-session’ planning time, rather than employing the time in developing communication skills. Consequently, it might downgrade the practice of EFL in communicative activities.

Another factor to be considered is the need for better communication among teachers, because to 'learn' only what is to be taught at a certain level should not be enough. It goes without saying that teaching at one single level for a long time, gives us the impression that we have everything under control. That is, we get to know a certain lexicon, type of guidelines, sort of activities and even, we fall again into the risk of using the same doings year after year. Is that so hard to avoid?

How should teachers become aware of the importance of updating and practicing the language endlessly so that it can be transmitted at ease, fluently and appropriately?

The need to learn languages ​​continues to rise, higher and higher. Globalizations, the business world, communication, amid other components, are great motivators not only to learners but also for teachers. Are we ready to react in time and spin out straightaway?

Tell us what you have observed in this regard from your experience as a teacher of languages ​​and have your say.

Bio Data
Carmen Hurtado, graduated in the educational field; she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Educational Science, and the title of Lic. in Education by Universidad Nacional de Educación. She has also finished her master’s studies in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Universidad de Piura, and taken some specializations in the EFL and Spanish fields. She has taught English and Spanish for over 20 years. She currently works teaching fully online courses. A lecturer in the late Annual Congresses at CIDUP, she works as a Pedagogical Teacher Trainer and is a member of the Research Area at Universidad del Pacifico Language Center.

jueves, 4 de agosto de 2016

International Exams: a Tool for Teachers’ Career Improvement

By Mayra Yaranga

It cannot be denied that obtaining international certifications, both for language proficiency and for methodology, is a career-boosting move for teachers of English as a foreign language, because they are valid proof not only of their competence, but also of their commitment to their profession.

In the first place, teachers should constantly consider their proficiency in English. A good place to start would be the Cambridge English qualifications, given their wide availability and acceptance in the TEFL world. I would argue that all teachers, regardless of the level or age they teach, should start their careers at a solid B2 standard, that is to say, to hold a Cambridge First (FCE) with a Passing Grade of B or A. Naturally, teachers should always seek to improve this standard, especially now that children in many schools are being given the opportunity to sit such examinations. Ideally, the teachers in charge of preparing these students should have experienced the examination, as well as the ones above the level. Another compelling argument in favour is the fact that holding different certificates may be a key for teachers to be promoted, to teach different classes or to seek different job opportunities.

Teaching methodology is another aspect in which international examinations can be a valuable tool. Nowadays, TEFL professionals need to be familiar with the theoretical foundations and well versed in the terminology of the profession. For teachers with little experience, the TKT would be ideal in order to guarantee that such foundations are present. Unfortunately, qualifications such as the CELTA or DELTA are still available to very few people in our country, and should only be considered when time and resources become available.

I would like to suggest that teachers ought to devote an entire year (or at least eight months) to preparing for the demands of any qualification sought. There are resources available over the internet to this purpose. Other than that, they could consider training courses provided that they have the motivation and commitment to meet the demands of such courses.

What do YOU think?
What difference do international examinations make to teachers’ careers?

Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ; she holds a Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London)  revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada from IPNM. Currently she works as Pedagogical Specialist and Member of the Research Area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She is also Associate Professor at UNIFÉ. She has published papers in the fields of English Language Teaching and Cultural Studies.

viernes, 29 de julio de 2016

Independence Day

Dear colleagues and readers,
Independence Day is one of the most important holidays in our country. 
We do expect to continue on  the path of development and equality at all levels.

                                                                         Cidup Research  Area

jueves, 21 de julio de 2016

Teaching adults? Practical insights to be considered
                     By María de la Lama Eggerstedt
If you are teaching adults you may probably find yourself in the situation in which despite all the effort you put into preparing a lesson, your methodology does not seem to match your students’ expectations.   What’s going on? Why is it that teaching adults may not be that easy after all?
When teaching an adult group of students the difficulties do not come from an apparently lack of training, but from the teacher’s unawareness of some practical insights about how adults learn.
To begin with, always bear in mind that adults love grammar! This doesn’t mean that they do not want to develop their oral skills. But whether we want it or not, they want “their grammar” since grammar for this group of students becomes their “security blanket”, something that they can have a good grasp on when struggling with the development of listening comprehension skills, speaking, pronunciation or other areas of the language. Somehow they have the idea that by studying grammatical structures they will control the language. However, we need to consider that the heavy emphasis that they place on grammar may be inherited from previous methodologies that used to focus on the analysis of a language but not on its use.
So, here are some ideas to put into practice to succeed teaching adults:
1.         Always teach grammar communicatively. That is, make your students put into real practice the new structure and vocabulary they have just learned. With this group of students never skip a genuine communicative activity.
2.         Constantly provide them with good and positive feedback, especially after a communicative active is done.
3.         Teach them how to learn by themselves. They are grown-ups who do things on their own.  Thus, make them think about which learning strategies work better for them and which ones are not that effective. Give them lots of learning strategies. Better yet, make them discover their own.
4.         If you really want to make a difference as a teacher, teach pronunciation. Especially, make your students aware of the phonological differences between English and Spanish.
5.         Develop their self-confidence when speaking English. Unlike children or teenagers, adults are sensitive to how they may sound when speaking English.
6.         In class, make the most effective use of time. Consider that most of your students come to class with an instrumental motivation and the last thing they want to do is their waste time on an ineffective lesson.
7.         Welcome mistakes! Adults know that by making mistakes they learn. More importantly, never say anything sarcastic, improper or discouraging. Believe me, they will never forget it!
8.         Make sure that your written tests or exams do not measure just grammar or vocabulary. Test their ability to interact in different situations. Dialog completions are good for this.
9.         Finally, for adults, learning a foreign language means acquiring relevant cultural information. Teach English in such a way that your students are not only learning a language, but also increasing their knowledge of the world. Who knows? Maybe one day in a social gathering they will say something like: I know that! I learned it in my English class”.
DE LA LAMA, MARIA, holds a Master´s Degree in Applied Linguistics and Bachelor´s Degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California; MBA Universidad del Pacífico. Current Director at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacifico.