“Now You’re Speaking My Language”: Teaching English as a Second Language in the U.S. and Abroad

January 31, 2014

Teaching-American-English-wordleThe English language, according to Wikipedia, is the third-most-common native language in the world after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish and is the most widely learned second language. Not only is it widely used in technology and entertainment, it is also an official language of the European Union, many British Commonwealth countries and the United Nations, as well as in many international organizations.

The U.S. Department of State recognizes that promoting the learning and teaching of English as a foreign or second language both within the United States and around the world is an essential step towards increasing cultural understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries.  The Department of State created the Office of English Language Programs, under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to encourage English language education for non-native English speakers.

As a former Business English professor for Spanish Masters of Marketing graduate students in Spain and a volunteer tutor for young Hispanic ESL (English as a Second Language) students in the United States, I had a hard time finding resources for my students or connecting with other teachers with whom I could exchange best practices and ideas for lesson plans that took into account the cultural differences of non-native speakers,” says Michele Bartram, Government Book Talk Editor and Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

English Teaching Forum, the quarterly journal for professionals teaching ESL or EFL English as a Foreign or Second Language, published by the U.S. State Department's Office of English Language ProgramsFortunately, the State Department’s Office of English Language Programs publishes the English Teaching Forum, a quarterly journal that serves as a resource for professionals teaching English as a foreign or second language all over the globe. This publication connects teachers of English as a second language across the many countries in which they are teaching by allowing them to submit articles and share their experiences working towards their common goal of helping others learn the English language worldwide. In fact, the majority of articles featured in the English Teaching Forum are authored by English language classroom teachers. Each new issue of the journal has a distribution of over 85,000 copies across more than 130 countries!

Teachers of English as a second language will find a number of useful articles in the pages of the English Teaching Forum. Topics covered in this quarterly publication include classroom language learning activities, teaching methods and tools, informational articles on potential teaching topics related to American culture, and understanding the needs of the diverse group of students that these teachers encounter.

In the most recent issue of the English Teaching Forum (Volume 51, Number 4, 2013), “Raising Cultural Awareness in the English Language Classroom” tackles the question of how to introduce American sociocultural elements into the language curriculum to enhance the students’ ability to grasp the cultural nuances of the language. It has been said that students cannot master a foreign language without understanding the cultural context in which the language is spoken, and in this article, author Jerrold Frank explores this theory and suggests methods of introducing cultural lessons to language students.

Another particularly interesting feature from English Teaching Forum can be found in Volume 50, Number 1, 2012, in the article “A Call to Service”  by William P. Ancker, which introduces an interview with Dr. James Alatis, a leader in the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) community. The interview with Dr. Alatis, originally conducted in 2004 but reprinted in this issue in honor of the English Teaching Forum’s 50th anniversary, follows this introduction.

The journal even includes classroom exercises and printables, such as this fun quiz displaying the confusion caused by English-language homophones–words that are spelled differently but are pronounced similarly (like there and their).

ETF_Lighter-Side_Homophones-QuizImage: Speak and Spell Quiz from English Teaching Forum 2012, Volume 50, Number 3. See answers at bottom of the post.

If you are a teacher or a student of English as a foreign or second language, or even if you just find language and learning to be topics of interest to you, US-State-Department-American-English-Mobile-Appthe English Teaching Forum is a worthwhile publication to explore!

For more resources for teachers of American English, visit the State Department’s American English website, including downloading their new American English Mobile App for both teachers and students.

How do I subscribe to English Teaching Forum: A Journal for the Teacher of English Outside the United States?

About the Authors: Stephanie Jaeger is Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division that markets GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector. Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.

Answers to The Lighter Side “Speak and Spell” homophones quiz from above:

Answers-to-Homophones-Quiz 


Understand How the U.S. Government is Organized

January 13, 2014

The United States Government Manual 2013

United States US Government Manual 2013 ISBN: 9780160919510 Available from http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/069-000-00216-1?ctid=38The Government Manual is an essential guide to the United States Federal Government, where one can find the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and information on every U.S. Government agency. This official handbook on the Federal Government is published annually by the National Archives and Record Administration’s Office of the Federal Register.

Two years ago, Government Book Talk featured the Government Manual with the post “Browsing the Government Manual”. Here, we will take another look at this ultimate resource on the U.S. Government.

The 2013 Government Manual begins with the country’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and then goes on to profile each agency, quasi-official agency, international organization in which the United States participates, board, commission, and committee found in the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches of the U.S. Government. The profiles include:

  • Organizational charts
  • List of principal officials
  • Summary statement of the agency’s purpose and role in the Federal Government
  • Brief history of the agency, including its legislative or executive authority
  • Description of its programs and activities
  • Information on consumer activities, contracts and grants, employment, publications, and contact information.

This organizational structure is beneficial for large executive branch agencies that have several departments each with their own mission and function.  For example, 20 pages of the manual are devoted to the nearly 40 different divisions, offices, and bureaus that make up the Department of Justice, which seems complex but pales in comparison to the Department of Defense and its behemoth structure.

The Government Manual concludes with the History of Agency Organization Structures. This section of the manual is arguably the highlight of this publication, as it provides a history of the lifetime and timeline of each agency as the U.S. Government grows with the country. For example, the Bureau of Immigration was created in 1891 as a branch of the Department of Treasury and cycled through to the Department of Commerce and Labor, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and finally, after losing its name but keeping its functions, landed in the newly established Department of Homeland Security in 2002.

The Government Manual is not only a great resource on the United States Federal government and its functions, but also a goldmine of new information and interesting facts that are not commonly known about the U.S. Government and the country’s history.  So, if you would like  to understand how the U.S. Government is organized, then this is the book for you!

How can I get a copy of “The United States Government Manual 2013”?

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Stephanie Jaeger, Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division and is responsible for marketing GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector.


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