Language Exchange Lament (and a lesson plan for Listening)

There is a popular method for informal language learning here in South Korea (and I’m sure other places) that goes by the name “language exchange”.  The name is appealing.  It suggests a business-like approach to the learning of a language, a fair trade in which you give and then take equal shares of a product.

LanguagePartners5

This is what people think is going to happen at a language exchange

Unfortunately, “language exchange” is probably a misnomer for the most part.  Rarely do two people at these events exchange equally and often what is exchanged isn’t exactly a product of the greatest quality.  Most exchanges are, after all, informal events.  So I suppose they can be forgiven on that point.

Language exchanges suffer from two problems, 1) generally one language is favored and 2) if by chance one language isn’t favored, then language acquisition is ignoring a very important piece of the “four strands”, namely, listening.  In language exchanges, what normally is done, is each participant speaks in the target language they are trying to learn to a native speaker of that language.  So I would speak to a Korean in Korean and they would speak to me in English.  This is a fine drill in itself, but it ignores entirely the very important skill of listening and receiving authentic feedback (note: I’m not talking about overt feedback like, “say this instead” or “that was really good!” but covert feedback.  The type where you say something, it is understood and the other person responds authentically.  This sort of feedback is vastly under-acknowledged and far more important than overt feedback).

What actually happens

What actually happens

Of course, other types of language exchange combat this problem by designating a time limit and specifying that during a certain amount of time only English will be spoken and then only Korean in the next time period.  Of course, these events are usually only a couple of hours long and it can be difficult to regulate these periods effectively. If done correctly, this type of language exchange satisfies my complaint.  It is my experience (having visited several different language exchanges around Seoul) that this does not happen regularly.  English is usually the dominate language used by everyone.  I have found one exchange where Korean is the dominate language and I continue to frequent that exchange, though like I noted before, it’s hard to call it an exchange, as I don’t really give anything in return, just take.  I suppose maybe friendship is my gift, not a fair trade, I think!

So what does “listening” look like in a language class as opposed to an exchange?  Well, here’s my go-to method.

Ordered Sentences and Pronunciation Distinguishing

Materials Needed:
pronunciation Powerpoint slides (or pictures that you can hold), listening material (audio or transcript to read), copy of transcript cut into individual sentences for every (or groups of) student(s).

Performance Objectives:
Students will be able to (SWBAT) distinguish between two similar sounds ([i] and [I]).  This is accomplished first by repeating real words after a native speaker.  The speaker draws attention to the position of the articulatory tract.  Using fake words, the speaker draws attention to the sounds by elongating them.  Students mimic the speaker.  Students are then given three minimal pair words (fake or real) one of which does not contain [i] or [I] and the speaker says them one after another.  Students must say which word doesn’t contain [i] or [I].  Students are then given two pictures, each representing a minimal pair of [i]/[I] words.  The speaker says one of the words and the students will point to the picture that represents the word.

SWBAT put the transcript of an audio piece in the correct sequence by listening to a full recording of the transcript.  Students will have a pre-determined amount of times they can listen to the recording. Students will evaluate their performance in pairs, by comparing with their partner how they ordered the transcript.  As a class, the transcript will be read.

SWBAT listen and repeat the transcript (or a portion) from memory.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader) in a rote-repeat fashion once.  Students will repeat again, waiting 3 seconds, then 5 seconds, between hearing and speaking.  Finally, students will attempt to repeat the transcript (or portion) purely from memory.

SWBAT produce the transcript (or a portion) following a native-speaker rhythm.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader), repeating the transcript.  The teacher will emphasize stressed syllables within words and stressed words within phrases.  Students will mimic the teacher’s technique.  Students will produce the rhythm again first waiting 3 seconds, then 5 then 10 between listening/seeing and speaking/doing.

Warm-up: (1-5min)

Objectives: Students will prepare their articulatory tract for correct pronunciation by stretching their mouth.

Instructional Strategy:
lecture, whole class work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, kinetic

Task Description:
Students will follow the teacher (or a leader) in stretching their articulatory tract by alternatingly rounding and stretching the lips, opening and closing the mouth, sticking out and putting in the tongue, moving the tongue side to side and finally by doing a vowel chant (a,e,i,o,u).  Finish with a yell if you’d like!

Presentation: (1 min)

Objectives: Prepare students for what the class will be about

Instructional Strategy:
lecture

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual

Task Description:
Using a powerpoint, or some other material, describe to the students the tasks for that day.  Explain briefly the key objectives, which is successful listening.

Practice: (10-15 min)

Objectives:
Students will be able to (SWBAT) distinguish between two similar sounds ([i] and [I]).  This is accomplished first by repeating real words after a native speaker.  The speaker draws attention to the position of the articulatory tract.  Using fake words, the speaker draws attention to the sounds by elongating them.  Students mimic the speaker.

Instructional Strategy:
lecture, whole class work, individual work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual

Task Description:
Using a text, or a prepared powerpoint, draw the students attention to the specific sound (in this case, the [i]/[I] distinction).  Show them words that change only when that specific change happens (e.g. a minimal pair) such as ‘heel/hill’ or ‘seat/sit’.  Using several examples, have the students repeat after a native speaker (or someone in the class who can produce the minimal pairs well enough.  It might be better for the students to hear a non-native speaker produce the sounds correctly, in order for them to hear or believe they can produce the sound themselves).

From there, move on to made up words (this focuses the attention purely onto the sounds, without any interference from semantic or lexical questions).  Slow down the sound, have the students say just the sound for a few seconds and then finish the word (i.e. siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-t/ seeeaaaaaaaa-t).  Speed up slowly.

Pronunciation Powerpoint

Practice: (10-15 min)

Objectives:
Students are then given three minimal pair words (fake or real) one of which does not contain [i] or [I] and the speaker says them one after another.  Students must say which word doesn’t contain [i] or [I].  Students are then given two pictures, each representing a minimal pair of [i]/[I] words.  The speaker says one of the words and the students will point to the picture that represents the word.

Instructional Strategy:
lecture, individual work, whole class work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, kinetic

Task Description:
Following the powerpoint, show three words which are minimal pairs, two of which have [i] and [I] and the last which does not.  Say the words in order and have the students decide which word does not have [i]/[I].  (Another option is to say the words in a random order and have the students order them 1,2,3).

Finally, show two pictures on the screen which represent a [i]/[I] minimal pair.  A picture of a ‘hill’ next to a picture of a ‘heel’.  Say one of the words and have the students point or gesture to the correct picture. Repeat several times with various word pairs.

Presentation: (10 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT put the transcript of an audio piece in the correct sequence by listening to a full recording of the transcript.  Students will have a pre-determined amount of times they can listen to the recording. Students will evaluate their performance in pairs, by comparing with their partner how they ordered the transcript.  As a class, the transcript will be read.

Instructional Strategy:
whole-class work, pair work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, textile

Task Description:
using a prepared script or audio have the students listen to a conversation or monologue of one or two paragraphs, depending on level.  Have the students listen through once.  Before listening, prompt them with questions to answer after listening like, “what is the main idea?”  “who is speaking?” “what are their names?”  “what is the main problem?”  After that, discuss briefly the answers.  Next, hand out the cut-up scripts to the students.  Have them spread them out and look at them.  They can begin putting them in order if they think they know.  Tell the students they will have 2 or 3 opportunities to listen to the recording before you begin again.

Listen to the audio.  Pause between turns to allow the students to think about the order.  After 2 or 3 listenings, have the students compare their order with a partner.  Have them reconcile any differences.  After that, go through with the class the correct order (have the students read them in order, one student per sentence, for example).

Below is a gallery of my own attempt at using this activity.  I used the Intermediate listening activities from a very useful website for learning Korean called “Talk to Me in Korean“. It is the Iyagi – Intermediate lesson. It is a little bit above my Korean level, so it took me a little longer to get it finished, and I used a lot of dialogue.  For my Middle School Students, I will use anywhere between8-15 sentences, but not more than that usually.

Practice (10 minutes)

Objectives:
SWBAT listen and repeat the transcript (or a portion) from memory.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader) in a rote-repeat fashion once.  Students will repeat again, waiting 3 seconds, then 5 seconds, between hearing and speaking.  Finally, students will attempt to repeat the transcript (or portion) purely from memory.

SWBAT produce the transcript (or a portion) following a native-speaker rhythm.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader), repeating the transcript.  The teacher will emphasize stressed syllables within words and stressed words within phrases.  Students will mimic the teacher’s technique.  Students will produce the rhythm again first waiting 3 seconds, then 5 then 10 between listening/seeing and speaking/doing.

Instructional Strategy:
whole class work, pair work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, visual

Task Description:
using the same script the students used for the ordering activity, read the sentences one by one (or choose a couple of sentences or dialogues to work on) with the students repeating. After going through once.  Repeat the activity, only have the students wait 3 seconds before repeating.  Do the activity again with 5 seconds, and then 10 seconds.  If it is a dialogue, you can try to have the students do it from memory (they will have the sentences in front of them from the ordering exercise, if they need them).

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