The weekly column
Article 23, July 2000
Welcome to this edition of the ELT Newsletter. This issue brings some good news, but also some bad news, unfortunately!
The good news is that this edition brings you the promised interview with Michael Berman. Because of space restrictions we couldn't publish all of them, but we managed to put some of the most frequently asked questions to Michael.
The bad news is that we didn't manage to have a live interview with Michael; this is because he has recently started a new job as materials writer for a soon-to-be revealed website for teachers and learners of English - congratulations, Michael! He has therefore been very busy. This may also mean that he won't be able to contribute to our newsletter as frequently as in the past, but on the other hand we will let you know about his new website once it has been made public, so you will be able to access lots of his materials at any time.
And so, on to this week's issue!
"Interview" with Michael Berman
Your questions answered!
1) What is your view on language acquisition among various nationalities? Do you see any value in distinguishing learning styles among different ethnic backgrounds or should we, as teachers, see teaching ESL/EFL as a field "without borders"?
MB: To say learners of certain nationalities are better or worse at learning English could be regarded as racist. Moreover, if we put labels on people they tend to live up or down to them. Perhaps success is dependent more on motivation and this is likely to be affected by the individual's needs.
Undoubtedly certain systems of education encourage a more left-brained approach than others. And if learners have preferred styles of learning, we have no choice but to respect the way they go about things. However, at the same time we can show them that there are other options to choose from. Whether they elect to make use of them is up to them.
What I am very much against is the suggestion that there is only one correct way - the use of Spidergrams to group new lexical items, for example. While this may work well for those learners with highly developed Spatial Intelligence, for the rest of us they are nothing more than heiroglyphics!
MB: To suggest that we just have to live with certain errors that learners make strikes me as being rather defeatist. It is an argument frequently put forward by so-called experts who have little actual classroom experience. If they did, they would certainly know that there is a great deal we can do in such situations, facilitating the use of 3rd person S for example.
MB: Co-operative Learning sounds very impressive in theory but I would like to see how it works in practice before passing judgement and to view some model Lesson Plans. To the best of my knowledge, nobody is using it in the UK yet.
MB: The only books that I know of are "Joyful Fluency" by Lynn Freeman Dhority with Eric Jensen published by the Brain Store Inc. and "A Multiple Intelligences Road To An ELT Classroom" by myself - published by Crown House. Mario Rinvolucri and Herbert Puchta are said to be writing a book on the subject too.
MB: You'll find some ideas for teaching the use of gerunds and infinitives in "A Multiple Intelligences Road To An ELT Classroom" and some others in its sequel (which has already been written) if I can persuade anybody to publish it!
MB: It can be argued that there are three forms of Intelligence - IQ, EQ and SQ - Binet's traditional Intelligence Quotient, Daniele Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, and Danah Zohar's Spiritual Intelligence. According to Zohar, Spiritual Intelligence enables us to place our experiences in a broader context, thus rendering them more meaningful.
7) How does MI theory influence the choice of LLS ( Language learning strategies)? Have you done any research in this field?
MB: By teaching multi-modally and using strategies to cater for all eight of Gardner's Intelligence Types, we surely have a much greater chance of reaching everyone in the group.
MB: In one sense, all classes are mixed ability. We are all unique, with different strengths and weaknesses, and all of us learn in different ways.
Thank you Michael for answering these questions, and all the best in your new job!
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