The Multilingual Mozambican: Remembering my U.S. English Language Fellowship

The English Language Programs of the U.S. Department of State is celebrating their 50th anniversary of the Fellow Program. As a former English Fellow to Mozambique, I want to share my teaching English experience as part of the celebration. I wrote about my fellowship in a newsletter while working elsewhere. Sections of the article are provided below. Please note that this information is outdated. It’s a snapshot of the early 1990s in Maputo, Mozambique from the perspective of a foreign worker.


The Multilingual Mozambican (Rogers, 1995)

I miss Africa. It was as great a pleasure as a hardship to teach in Mozambique. From September 1992 to December of 1993, I was employed by the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, the capital city. After interviewing at TESOL Vancouver, the (USIS) United States Information Services provided me with an English Teaching Fellowship (ETF) contract for one year. Having always wanted to visit Africa, the stability of a US government contract made my adventure-in-the-wait a job reality with roundtrip airfare, medical insurance, and a generous stipend. In addition, UEM provided me with housing.

…My (US) salary as a visiting teacher was better than that of the host nationals. Monthly, I received $600 and the equivalent of $200 in their currency (Metical), which suffered from superinflation: one dollar equaled 5K meticais. My first check was for a million meticais.

Mozambican money in $10,000 bills

When I first arrived in Maputo, the country was still at war. There were numerous war orphans and amputees on the streets. During my stay, I witnessed the uneasy steps towards peace that eventually led to a peace accord and democratic elections. I saw the UN tanks replace their army’s. I experienced the rebel leader leaving the bush and taking up residence in the city (my neighborhood). I talked to teachers who after being restricted from traveling outside the city for 15 years, finally got to go visit their hometowns. It was an amazing time in Mozambican history, one that I’m glad I can share. The UN Mission (UNOMOZ) was a success and the troops pulled out. The country was a tropical paradise in ruins that needed to be rebuilt. The major obstacle to rebuilding the infrastructure and a normal lifestyle was the litter of hundreds of landmines. Mozambique had the largest landmine problem in the world.

…Portuguese, as well as many African Bantu languages,  are spoken in Mozambique. Spanish is understood by the Portuguese speakers and vice versa. It’s very close. I think it’s important to mentions this because, like most Americans, I was completely unaware of this fact. However, in my humble opinion, Portuguese is a more structurally complicated language.

Being fluent in Spanish helped me meet the language requirement to get the job. Also, my volunteer work with the Peace Corps (PC) in Honduras (1985-87) and an internship in Guatemala (1991) showed my ability to adapt to harsh conditions. Due to severe droughts and a sixteen-year-old civil conflict, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world.

Teaching conditions at the university were definitely third world: no window panes to keep the dust out, sometimes no running water to wash hands or flush toilets, and frequent power outages. Most importantly, transit was limited for the students. Public transit was nonexistent in Maputo. Given these hardships, one must wonder why anyone would want to work there. Well, I knew from my PC experience that no matter how much I put into a job like this, I would gain more from it; and I strongly believe I have.

As a light-skinned, American female raised in a democratic society, I underwent a complete minority immersion. Placed in the Engineering faculty to teach English for Specific Purposes (ESP) to beginners, I encountered a majority of black males as well as a host of visiting professors from Communist countries. Mozambique was a Socialist/Communist country undergoing political change. In the past, they received assistance from Russia and Cuba, as well as other former East bloc countries. Some of my students had received military training in these countries and thus spoke Russian, German, and Spanish. Additionally, many Mozambican professionals had studied abroad…Not many Mozambicans spoke English, but a good number of them were multilingual. One charming example of this was the night I went out with some German backpackers to a simple open-air bar and had half the locals buying drinks for us and speaking German.

Another factor adding to the multilingualism in Mozambique is that many educational materials had been donated to the university in languages other than Portuguese… So learning how to read in English (the language of the largest selection of books) is necessary for third and fourth-year students at UEM. Hence, ESP programs focused on reading proficiency.

To add to the multilingualism, many visiting professors didn’t speak Portuguese and thus lecture in their native language. For example, my students were used to receiving math classes in Spanish because of the numerous Cuban professors employed at the Engineering faculty. Visiting professors make up about 50% of the staff due to the  ‘brain drain’ caused by the civil conflict and previous war of independence. In such a case, the majority of management and PhDs are very young and abroad obtaining their credentials.

As for the communication in my classroom, students received instructions only in English at first, but they were informed of my Spanish fluency and consequent comprehension of Portuguese. We exchanged English for Portuguese during free periods. The only formal instruction for non-native (adult) speakers at that time was the Brazilian Cultural Center downtown. I attended classes for one month, but the accent was so different that I decided it wasn’t a good idea. Mozambican Portugues is truer to Portugal given the colloquial insertions and accent. This is because Mozambique was Portugal colony until 1975.

Eventually, I learned to communicate in Portuguese. My students were at ease after my acquisition. It led me to question the ‘English only’ rule: If I’m to be the facilitator, how can I help them if I can’t speak their language? That year (1993) an article appeared in the TESOL Journal questioning the validity and general acceptance of such rule with no empirical basis. In my opinion, this rule creates a high affective filter. I was made aware of this by reading hundreds of my students’ journals each week.

To further expand on my minority immersion, I was the only American teaching English in the city, probably the entire country. British English dominated Africa. This is due to…their colonization…and their continued outpouring of funds for English programs throughout the continent. For example, the British Council had a wonderful library and resource center in … Maputo.

I taught these students English for Specific Purposes (ESP), which included vocabulary on the subject of civil engineering.

…Teaching Mozambicans was a great pleasure. They were very receptive and gracious. I miss my students and the Mozambican teachers. Together they showed me how to relax and have a good time despite the harsh conditions. Thanks to them, I too have become multilingual. Initially, Mozambique was at the end of the world for me, as it appears to many based on their global location, but now it seems somehow closer with the education I carry of the land and its people.

Mozambican student's note on back of class photo

#ELPalumni #Mozambique #TESOL #fellowimpact

Reference

Rogers, S. (1995). The multilingual Mozambican. The Teacher, 1(2). Recife: Brasil: Association Brasil America.

8th SLanguages Annual Symposium 2015

Conference Organizer
Conference Organizer

Time: November 14, 2015 to November 15, 2015
Location: EduNation in Second Life
Organized By: Heike Philp aka Gwen Gwasi

Event Description:
8th SLanguages Annual Symposium
14-15 November 2015 (Sat/Sun)
Come and join us at SLanguages Annual Symposium, a two day online conference on language learning in virtual worlds held for the 8th time on EduNation in SecondLife.  The two main topics of the conference are machinima (cinematic productions of real-time conversations in virtual environments) on Saturday, 14 Nov 2015 starting at 12pm GMT and language learning games on Sunday, 15 Nov 2015 starting at 9am GMT.
We meet on EduNation in SecondLife, and there are tours to various virtual worlds like OpenSim, Edmondo, Kitely, Minecraft, Unity 3D etc., some of which you may want to attend via our livestream.  Here are the highlights:
– a CAMELOT symposium, an Istanbul University symposium and a Minecraft symposium
– keynotes by Stylianos Mystakidis of OpenEducationEuropa, JayJay Zifanwe of the University of Western Australia, Gord Holden on immersive technology for learning in schools, Nick Zwarts of the TiLA project
– a film festival, fire side chats, games parks, water sports fun, tours and a party with the Cheerleaders
For the provisional program, please click here
http://tinyurl.com/SLanguages2015
It is free to attend and all of the sessions are being streamed and recorded in Adobe Connect. You do not need an avatar to attend, but if you do join us in SecondLife on EduNation, and if it is your first time to do so, we are happy to assist and look forward to meeting you inworld.
Twitter hashtag: #slang15 

Practical Second Language Acquisition Strategies

People dining outside of a restaurant in Norway on a sunny day.

One of my friends journeyed across the Atlantic for a new job where he’ll need to learn a new language.  As a farewell gift, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my practical experience in successfully learning two foreign languages while working abroad.  In the past, my masters in teaching English as a second language provided me with some excellent practical strategies.  These are the ones that worked for me.  I hope they help you, too!

  1. Eaves-dropping: I learned this from my professor in graduate school, world-famous second language researcher, Dr. Rebecca Oxford.  This learner strategy was mentioned as useful by students in a book she edited, Language Learning Strategies Around the World: Cross-cultural Perspectives (1996).  This would fall under Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory.
  2. Silent rehearsal (a.k.a private speech or subvocal rehearsal): I also learned this from Dr. Oxford back in the 90s.

  3. Read your favorite children’s book in that new language. For, example, I’ve read The Little Prince in three languages—it never loses its beauty. The simplified language of a children’s book will assist you in becoming a successful reader in the second language. Your familiarity with the storyline will aid your comprehension.

  4. Find a tutor to exchange language journals.  Meet with them regularly and informally. Write about what interests you.  For example, I wrote a short form of poetry in free verse in Portuguese. I still have it to this day. Your language journals will become your memorabilia.

  5. Immerse yourself in the everyday language communicated on their radio stations, TV channels, the local newspaper, and yes, the local pub!

  6. Learn the shared words that have crept into their language through pop culture, history, or religion. These are called friendly cognates.  Also, learn the false cognates; they don’t mean the same thing.

  7. Study, test, test, test yourself on the grammar to develop a long-term memory of it. Roediger & Karpicke (2006) found that students in the treatment group of study-test-test-test (STTT), outperformed other students in other treatment groups (SSST and SSSS). This is referred to as the testing effect.

  8. Become the extrovert that pushes the envelope to encounter opportunities to practice the language by yourself.  If you hang out with other English language speakers, they will keep you from learning the language.  Try to find locations where no one speaks English.

  9. Watch classic children’s movies in the target language. The strategy is similar to #3 but with media, you will hear the language. I remember watching Pinocchio in Spanish when I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras at a movie theater. Nowadays, you can simply select the language settings on your movie streaming devices.

  10. Change the language settings on all of your devices. Force yourself to learn the language within a situated task. This is called situational learning.

References

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Oxford, R. L. (Ed.). (1996). Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives (No. 13). National Foreign Language Resource Center.

Roediger, H. L. III, & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

(Note: This is work-in-progress. I’ll keep adding the research basis when I have more time to devote to this.)

Saudi ELLs Digital Gameplay: A Case Study

Note: The following blog post is an excerpt from my qualitative case study with 11 Saudi college-aged students conducted in 2014. Contact me if you’re interested in reading the entire paper.

I conducted a single instrumental case study to understand the digital game usage of the dominant culture of English language learners (ELLs) at my university, as well as their personal attitudes and cultural views toward gaming.  The main purpose was to obtain qualitative data on the bounded system of Saudi college students attending an English language center (ELC) in regards to their gaming habits in order to add to the literature on gaming for educational purposes.  I wanted to see if gaming was a good fit for language learning. My study focused on the intermediate, advanced, and university (bridge) level Saudi ELLs’ usage of digital gaming during and after school in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Saudis are the dominant language group not only at this ELC but nationwide.  In fact, the number of Saudi enrollments for English language in the U.S. has grown from 11,116 to 71,026 in the past eight years (Marklein, 2013). Therefore, research on their learning habits and cultural norms are critical for U.S. colleges.

What types of non-educational digital games do Saudi students play after school in Saudi Arabia? Participants played adventure (e.g., Grand Theft Auto, Pepsiman, and Trivian), beauty (e.g., Sally’s Salon), community (e.g. The Sims™), historical (e.g., Assassin’s Creed®), sports (FIFA soccer, Forza Motorsport, and Driver), war (e.g., Battlefield and Call of Duty®), and westerns (e.g., Red Dead).  These games can be played as MMORPGs or offline individually.  Overall, Call of Duty® (COD) was the most popular game among participants.

What type of non-educational digital games do Saudi students play after school in the United States? Some participants reported not having any time to play games after school due to their course load, while others either brought their Xbox or PlayStation consoles with them or purchased them here.  A serious student stated, “I came to study, not to play. Perhaps during break.”  Female students were more likely to play games on Facebook like The Farm or Candy Crush, or apps on their phones like Sally’s Spa. One male student reported playing Lumosity.  Overall, those that played digital games in the U.S. reverted to the aforementioned ones, and COD remained the game of choice.

Do Saudi students believe that they can learn English from playing digital games?  Participants strongly believed that they could learn English from playing digital games.  One student claimed, “I got my language from PlayStation characters, to be honest.  I don’t care about level. I care about history.  I get two things: language and history.” Some were specific and stated that they learned new vocabulary but not grammar or pronunciation. Another participant reported learning English idioms from gaming, “Yes, sometimes, you talk with players from U.S. by using headset, and learn vocabulary from game they don’t teach in ESL class, example, ‘Free for all’.”  A participant alluded to digital gaming teaching him “to speak with English speakers to know what to do or something.”  They also felt that gaming would be a nice way to learn in class.  Many students referenced playing COD with headsets “to talk to lots of friends.”  A female student reported learning English from The Sims even though the characters don’t speak English; they speak Simlish.  She stated, “I learned a lot of words from this game.  Message and icon are in English. I learned a lot from this game because I love it. I played it for three years. I have big family, and they became rich.”  Both males and females reported learning English from commercial digital gaming.

Emergent Themes
Emergent Themes

 

Marklein, M. B. (2013, January 15).  Saudi students flood U.S. colleges for English lessons. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/11/saudi-students-english-class/1827465/

Rogers, S., & Johnson, R. B. (2014). Saudi English language learning college students’ digital gameplay: A case study. [Unpublished work].

Learning2gether with Dawn Bikowski discussing gaming and language learning

Thanks to Vance Stevens and Dawn Bikowski for putting together this learning event.

Learning2gether

Download mp3 here: http://learning2getherdotnet.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/2014aug31dawnbikowski-64k.mp3

On Sun Aug 31 Learning2gether was honored to meet with Dawn Bikowski discussing gaming and language learning

Dawn discussed projects she’s working on for teacher training by putting digital gaming into her MA teacher training courses, including pedagogical grammar and teaching reading & writing. She also talked about her experiences as lead author of the teacher’s manual for the digital game Trace Effects, which she did for the U.S. Department of State.

http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/12/k-12/u-s-state-department-launches-online-game-to-aid-english-learners/

Dawn mentioned using Aurasma with teacher trainees in her discussion with us. On YouTube you can see many examples of what Aurasma does; e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBKy-hSedg8 and she explained in greater detail in her talk at the CALL-IS and IATEFL LTSIG webinar on Gaming and Gamification on Jun 14 this year, where she spent 10 minutes talking about Aurasma and how she uses it to help teachers experience games.

TESOL CALL-IS Keynote, Dawn Bikowski
Training Teachers to Think in Games

View original post 342 more words

CALL Community Newsletter: Making Connections Highlights Members

Sandra has been teaching for 20 years. She’s actively involved with the Electronic Village Online (EVO) and currently serves on the coordination team. You may have read some of her CALL-related blogs on TESOL. She freelances for ETS.org and MuchEnough.com. In addition, Sandra runs a virtual nonprofit to help the unemployed find work on BrokeButNotForLong.org.

Affiliation: Teacherrogers Consulting

Years in the CALLIS: 2 years (2009-2011)

Q: Favorite platform?

A: Well, in the past newsletters this referred to the computer operating system. I use Windows XP, but it’s not really my favorite. As an online teacher, I’d like to add that my favorite learning management system platform is eCollege (Pearson).

Q: For you, what is the one indispensable tool/webpage?

A: That depends on my resources for the project. Camtasia Relay for screencasting with a budget because I can edit and add closed-captioning. Screenr.com for screencasting without a budget―no editing feature so you have to do retakes! Screencasters help you meet the standards for quality online instruction, such as virtual tours, lecture capturing, demonstrations, one-on-one specific help, and student presentations and/or intros.
Q: What is your most unexpected source of information about CALL?

A: I didn’t realize that the CALLIS helped create the Principles and Practices of Online Teaching certificate courses and that some of the CALL members actually teach the classes, too.

Q: What was your favorite CALL creation?

A: I’d have to say my e-portfolio blog that I created in Vance Stevens’ Multiliteracies EVO 2010 session. It has become my go-to place for everything I do―my landing strip! I blog about my trials and errors with integrating technology into education and post all of my projects there.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Besides training moderators as an EVO coordination team member, I’m also mentoring the PLN/PLE moderators for #2012evo. I continue to blog for TESOL, my eportfolio, and my nonprofit. For BrokeButNotForLong, Inc., I’ve decided to migrate all of our content to Google sites like Blogger for Blogging4Broke to save money. We recently received a Google grant for free AdWords, so you should be seeing more of Broke in online searches in a few months. For my own career, I’ve launched Teacherrogers Consulting for Literacy, Language & Social Media Solutions.

Q: What area would you like to see developed/researched?

A: I’ll echo what Andy Bowman said back in 2008: “More computer-like devices created specifically for language learning.” And I want to help create one, so give me a call!

Q: In a sentence, what advice would you give to a newbie starting out in CALL?

A: Take the Electronic Village Online free professional training in January!

Q: What is your funniest CALL-related incident?

A: OK, since Laine (Helaine) Marshall has a good sense of humor, I’d like to describe our first face-to-face encounter. I was running to a session at the TESOL convention in New Orleans when I passed her by. I turned around because I recognized her face from her thumbnail photos on Yahoo IM. She became a great mentor to me during my first attempt at moderating a session for EVO in 2009. However, I wasn’t sure it was her because of her petite stature. Laine had become such a giant in my mind that I didn’t expect her to be so small! I explained this to her, and we both laughed because she didn’t expect me to be so tall.

Link to full article: http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolcallis/issues/2012-03-16/7.html