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Focus on the learner.!

Name of the trainee: Nazia Hameed Kunnummal

Name of the student: Hanan Abdulattif

Date: 11/06/2014

Assignment number: 1

Motivation:

This assignment is focused on an adult, elementary Arabic English language learner. As a Saudi by nationality and above 35 years of age with four children, Hanan is struggling with her dream and reality of English language learning. She works as a security guard in British Council. Not only does she realises the global significance of English language but is also mindful of its need for getting a better job. Hanan loves to travel and mingle with people. She is motivated more intrinsically and her goal is to become a good listener, fluent speaker, quick reader and impressive writer.

Background:

During the interview, I noticed that Hanan’s background affects many areas of learning. First language interference was prominent while she was talking. When talking about her strengths and weakness, Hanan claimed to be good at listening and reading and said speaking and writing is difficult for her.

While expressing her feelings about learning English and its culture, Hanan said that she was very happy at British Council because it is the place where she finds herself in an English speaking environment. Outside the classroom, she does not find enough opportunities to speak English. Though she uses internet to improve her skills in English, she is still not able to explore, nor is she able to scrutinise authentic English websites.

As a student, Hanan started learning English from her elementary school and now although a Diploma holder in Computer Science, she is still at elementary level. She took a six month course with an Indian teacher at her home and a three month course at Horizon Institute with a non-native teacher. Now with great expectations and patience, Hanan is studying at the British Council. What I observed is that Hanan’s learning style is different.

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Learning style:

Though shy by nature, Hanan has the aptitude to become a better English language user but she needs to improve her language skills to achieve her goal.

Tony Wright argues that all the learners in a classroom can be placed in one of four different categories. She belongs to ‘oracular’ category. That is, she “focuses on teacher but is more oriented towards the satisfaction of personal goals” [1].

Using Keith Willing’s categorization of learner styles, she can also be referred to as a ‘Conformist learner,' which means she “prefer to emphasise learning ‘about language’ “ and “ tend to dependent on those in authority and are perfectly happy to work in non-communicative classrooms, doing what they are told”[2]. Observing her during my TPs, she was really hesitates to join the social aspect of learning English language. She loves no group activities and games.

As per Gardner’s seven intelligences, I conclude that Hanan is a ‘Linguistic’ as well as ‘Intrapersonal’ learner as she “likes to read, write more, work alone and pursue own interests” and “is good at understanding self, focusing inward on feelings/dreams, following instincts, pursuing interests, and learns best by saying, hearing and seeing words, working alone and having own space”[3].

Language competency and recommendations:

During the interview and in her written assignment, I identified a variety of language learning problems. I chose two specific language problems from her identified problems-/p/and /b/sounds and spelling errors.

Pronunciation:

Communication, the primary function of a language, is hindered here. Hence I chose to focus on this area. While speaking she doesn’t produce the consonant /p/ correctly. Thanking me for a pen; the word pen sounded more like “ben”. She also talked about her vacation days and she told “I liked the place” but the word “place” sounded as “blaze” and that is what she wrote in her written assignment too.

The learner has problem with /p/and /b/sounds that is very common in Arabic speakers, because they have no alphabet for /p/in Arabic language and the learner got confused it with /b/sound. In her interview, she also pronounced “passport”/ ˈ p ɑː sp ɔː t/as “bassbort”/b ɑː sb ɔː t/.

Bernard Smith, in his article “Arabic Speakers”, mentions this problem by saying “/p/and /b/are allophonic and tend to be used rather randomly. [4]

Remedial activity and why?

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I would ask her to download “Articulation Station app” [appx 1] in her smart phone as the /p/sound program comes free. The technology app will keep her interest. It is engaging and meaningful for her. I chose this activity keeping in mind her age, level and problem with utterance of /p/sound as it does not exist in her native language. As extra practice, the website “howjsay.com” [5] and the two worksheets for /p/and /b/[6][appx 2] with words, pictures and sentences can also be used. Shape of mouth is another presentation, as in the video “How to teach the P sound” by the Speech-Language pathologist Heidi Hanks [7]. It is also meaningful as it will help her to pronounce the sound clearly.

Spelling errors:

It was difficult to read her written assignment because of handwriting, spelling errors and punctuation mistakes. I chose to concentrate on spelling errors because even the points she wanted to convey became unclear due to the serious spelling errors [words like country name “indonsia” for Indonesia and other words for e.g. “laiket” for liked, “Hazbind” for husband, “Chelldren” for children]. Though she knew the words, when it comes to writing skill she failed to achieve the target of conveying the message due to spelling errors.

Remedial activity and why?

She believes spelling is all about sounds. To clear that, I will read with her a poem where some words are substituted by homophones-[8][appx 3].I have chosen Johanna Stirling’s “Look Say Cover Write Check-Spelling Chart” [9][appx 4] as it will challenge her, as she is an adult “Linguistic”, “Conformist and Intrapersonal” learner. It suits her learning style and hence engaging and meaningful for her.

References:

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1. Jeremy Harmer, The practice of English language teaching, Longman (3 rd

Edition), p.42

2. Jeremy Harmer, The practice of English language teaching, Longman (3rd

Edition), p.43

3. Jeremy Harmer, The practice of English language teaching, Longman (3rd

Edition), p.47

4. Michael Swan and Bernard Smith, Learner English, Cambridge (2 nd Edition), p.

197.

Websites:

5. www.howjsay.com

6. www.english-4kids.com

7. Heidi Hanks, How to Teach the P Sound;

http://mommyspeechtherapy.com/?p=340#sthash.9qz3RwEz.dpuf

8. Poem-Eye halve a spelling checker, British Council;

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/sites/podcasts/files/Poem-eye-halve-a-

spelling-checker.pdf

9. Johanna Stirling, Look Say Cover Write Check Template;

http://thespellingblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/look-say-cover-write-check-

template.html

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Appendices:

• Questionnaire.

• Appendix 1

• Appendix 2

• Appendix 3

• Appendix 4

• Written sample from the learner.