CERCLL Project Close-Up: The L2 Written Arabic Corpus

October 3rd, 2011 | Posted by CERCLL in arabic | arabic corpus | cercll project - (Comments Off on CERCLL Project Close-Up: The L2 Written Arabic Corpus)

Project Director: Dr. Samira Farwaneh, Associate Professor, Arabic Language and Linguistics
Project Assistant: Mohammed Tamimi, SLAT Ph.D. Candidate

The L2 (or interlanguage) written Arabic corpus project is a gradually expanding database of written samples produced by L2 and heritage students studying Arabic as a second or foreign language. Most essays in the collection were initially handwritten, and later carefully typed by one assistant and proofread by another to ensure that errors in the originals were not unconsciously corrected by the typist.

The typed essays are now located within a searchable database, where they are tagged by learner level (beginning, intermediate, or advanced), learner type (L2 vs. heritage), and genre (description, narration, or instruction). The database now features nearly 300 essays, most from second, third, and fourth year Arabic students. Roughly one-fifth of the essays were written by heritage students with some background in a regional variety of Arabic. The rest were produced by L2 learners. Essays categorized as  “reflective” were written at home as homework assignments, while  “spontaneous” essays were written during in-class exams.

The complete database is freely accessible online at http://l2arabiccorpus.cercll.arizona.edu.

One of the many challenges of foreign language instruction is that syllabi and textbooks are designed following native speakers intuition which may not be reflected in interlanguage grammars. For example, the preliminary data collected so far show that learners of Arabic correlate stress with length, and this correlation is expressed as orthographic errors involving inaccurate insertion or omission of long vowels. In Arabic, however, length and stress are interrelated but independent suprasegmental features; a vowel may be long but not stressed, or it may be stressed but not long. Teachers rarely emphasize stress and length features in class activities and examinations, focusing their attention instead on grammatical mood and case endings which often are not overtly marked in authentic texts.

The corpus will serve as a significant source of empirical data for hypothesis testing in second language acquisition research. It will also be a resource for syllabus design, textbook development and assessment, dictionary design, and teaching methodology for Arabic instructors.

The first public presentations introducing the project were given at the spring 2010 Western Consortium of Middle Eastern Languages Workshop held in Tucson and the Georgetown Roundtable on Arabic Linguistics and Pedagogy. This past Spring, it was introduced at the NCOLCTL annual conference as well. The project received positive and constructive feedback at these events.

What is Culture?

October 3rd, 2011 | Posted by CERCLL in culture | professional development - (Comments Off on What is Culture?)
definitions of culture from workshop participants

Culture is central to what we do at CERCLL. But it’s also a bit of a nebulous concept. What is culture? Nearly everything. What isn’t?

This past June, Dr. Elisabeth Arévalo-Guerrero  of the University of Maryland addressed these challenging questions as part of her CERCLL Summer 2011 Workshop The What and How to Teaching Culture in the FL Classroom: Introducing the Basics of Intercultural Communication. Participants in that workshop included graduate students and teachers from the elementary to the college level. Numerous cultural and ethnic backgrounds were represented as well. Here’s how they answered the question “What is culture?”

definitions of culture from workshop participants

Answers to the question "What is Culture?" from participants in Elisabeth Arévalo-Guerrero's workshop.

CERCLL Summer Workshops Enlighten Educators

October 3rd, 2011 | Posted by CERCLL in professional development - (Comments Off on CERCLL Summer Workshops Enlighten Educators)

From May 31 to June 10, 2011, CERCLL hosted its fourth summer series of professional development workshops tailored for K-16 language educators and university/graduate students. Educators were able to choose from six “hands-on” workshops that covered topics such as digital gaming, pedagogy of multiliteracies, teaching for literacy and semiotic awareness, visual arts, process drama and the basics of intercultural communication.

Kicking off this year’s series was a two-day workshop that sprang from one of CERCLL’s core projects and was led by our project directors. Dr. Jonathon Reinhardt (University of Arizona) and Dr. Julie Sykes (University of New Mexico) led participants in Playing Stories and Reading Games: Developing L2 Literacies through Digital Gaming. Participants reviewed theories of digital gaming and L2 learning and pedagogy, and gained first-hand experience in the ways in which digital gaming can be integrated into their own L2 curricula. Games in various genres were covered, including including massively multiplayer online games, social network games, adventure games, simulation games, and mobile games. In a new development, some participants in this year’s workshops attended remotely via Elluminate Live!, including individuals as far away as Iraq (and as close as Tucson). We were pleased to learn that within two days of the event, one teacher already had her students playing the Facebook game CityVille.

On days three and four, participants were challenged to reconceptualize the ways in which the study of language, literature, and culture are integrated in the classroom, and to move beyond the language-content dichotomy that typically characterizes the undergraduate curriculum. Led by Dr. Beatrice Dupuy (CERCLL Co-Director, University of Arizona) and Dr. Heather Allen (University of Miami in June, now University of Wisconsin), this workshop was titled For a Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Reconciling Communicative and Text-centered Instruction in the Elementary and Intermediate Foreign Language Classroom. During the first day of this workshop, participants were given an overview of the communicative language teaching paradigm and were asked to consider how similar or different key features of a pedagogy of multiliteracies might be. Participants then examined pedagogical frameworks and strategies for integrating textual content into introductory language courses. Finally, participants considered what implementing a multiliteracy curriculum might mean in terms of the content that is taught in the classroom. On day 2, participants worked in groups to develop and present a thematic unit in a language textbook, including locating textual genres for inclusion, sequencing the selected textual content, and developing activities that can engage students and facilitate their linguistic development.

The next two days of the workshop series featured presenter Dr. Richard Kern (University of California, Berkeley), and was titled Textualization and Recontextualization: Teaching for Literacy and Semiotic Awareness in the Foreign Language Classroom. Basing his teaching on the notion that writing and the visual media are our primary resources for learning about the past and present worlds outside our own community, Dr. Kern’s presentation focused on practical ways of integrating reading, viewing, writing, and thinking activities in the classroom, with the aim of deepening students’ reflections on the texts they read and making them more aware of their own role as integral participants in the meaning-making process. Participants were asked to consider the connections between film and written texts to show how the interpretive skills students learn in one medium can often be adapted to the other medium. Participants learned how film and written texts can be integrated in tasks and activities that support a broad-based foreign language literacy.

Day 7 of the series featured two half-day workshops: during the first, Applying the Performance and Visual Arts in the Second Language Classroom, taught by Denise Osborne (SLAT student, University of Arizona), participants examined the Performance Cycle Model and its applicability to the L2 classroom. This model consists of six phases: Building Community, Entering Text, Comprehending Text, Creating Text, Rehearsing/Revising Text, and Performing Text, and it enables students to express themselves and establish a meaningful connection with the core of the what they are learning. Participants learned ways in which performance and visual arts can be used as creative processes in second language learning, and how it can provide learners with encouragement to take risks and gain new perspectives, as they feel more engaged in the learning process.

Participants in Denise Osborne's workshop

Participants in Communicative Language Teaching Through Process Drama discuss a scenario.

During the second half of the day, Leslie Sapp (EL/L student, University of Arizona) led participants through an overview of Communicative Language Teaching Through Process Drama. Participants were first given an overview of Process Drama, an extended, whole-group, improvisational drama process that has been used for decades in reading, writing, and social studies classes in mainstream classrooms in the UK, Australia, and Canada and is rapidly gaining popularity in second language classrooms worldwide. All attendees participated first-hand in the experience of carrying out a Process Drama improvisational exercise, and saw how through ongoing speaking, listening, reading, writing, and critical thinking activities, process drama can activate the intuition, imagination, and feeling of every participant, making it an extremely powerful and engaging language‐learning tool.

The final two days of the series featured Elisabeth Arévalo-Guerrero (University of Maryland Baltimore County), leading The What and How to Teaching Culture in the FL Classroom: Introducing the Basics of Intercultural Communication. This workshop addressed the following questions: Are teachers prepared to teach culture? What cultures (that are represented under the umbrella of the target language) should be addressed? Is cultural knowledge enough? How do we assess culture? Will I sacrifice linguistic content? Is students’ resistance an obstacle or the beginning point to raise cultural awareness? Participants gained an understanding of the basic concepts of intercultural communication (culture, dimensions of culture, communication, verbal and non verbal communication, perceptions, values, etc) as a framework to design in-class activities and assignments that enhance learners’ intercultural communicative competence. Participants had the opportunity to reflect on the teaching of Culture (with a capital c) and culture (with a small c), and experience ways to include cultural learning through intercultural activities. The workshop concluded with a discussion among participants regarding the challenges that they face in the teaching of culture and ideas on how to contextualize intercultural activities and assignments in their current practices.