“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 


Yetis and Extraterrestrials?

September 22, 2011

Alert Government Book Talk reader Deb Christmas tipped me off to this document which, although not the kind of thing I usually discuss here, has a couple of things going for it. First, what’s not to like about an American diplomatic memo outlining the special procedures required by the Nepalese government for those engaged in yeti-hunting expeditions?  The diplomat involved may have wondered exactly how he wound up drafting such a memo, but I hope he derived some amusement from it. I also wonder how many intrepid explorers received this excellent advice prior to launching themselves into the high Himalayas. The other aspect of this little “Foreign Service Despatch”  that stimulated what pass as my thought processes is the juxtaposition of an official, rather bureaucratic Government memo regarding a subject widely considered to be…well…paranormal. Since this blog already has discussed the possibly occult nature of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, how could I pass up the opportunity to delve into such enigmatic realms again?

This brings me to the U.S. Air Force’s 1997 The Roswell Report: Case Closed. This study, written by Air Force Captain James McAndrew, “was to determine if the U.S. Air Force, or any otherU.S. government agency, possessed information on the alleged crash and recovery of an extraterrestrial vehicle and its alien occupants nearRoswell,N.M. in July 1947.” The conclusion? “…the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army Air Forces, recovered debris from an Army Air Forces balloon-borne research project code named MOGUL. Records located describing research carried out under the MOGUL project, most of which were never classified (and publicly available) were collected, provided to GAO, and published in one volume for ease of access for the general public.”

Jim McAndrew, whom I met in the course of GPO’s printing and selling The Roswell Report: Case Closed, was a sincere and enthusiastic disbeliever in the much-hyped Area 51 stories that circulated then and now, but I’m afraid that his conclusions haven’t had much influence on those with a will to believe in extraterrestrials, UFOs, etc. I try to keep an open mind about these things, feeling that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Based on this well-documented study, though, I think the official version holds up pretty well. (Those anthropomorphic test dummies are pretty creepy looking…)

You can read The Roswell Report: Case Closed here or find it in a library. The yeti memo? Look here.  As far as is known, no yetis were shot at,  testifying to its effectiveness.


Terrorism as Organized Crime

September 28, 2010

“Terrorist Networks Are Organized + Terrorism Is a Crime = Terrorism Is Organized Crime”

That’s the formula that Blue Planet: Informal International Police Networks and National Intelligence presents to the reader, and author Michael D. Bayer makes a good case for it. Bayer, a former chief of the Department of State’s transnational criminal investigative office, takes the view that police around the world are better positioned to know what’s going on in their local areas, no matter how remote they seem from the wider world. Through informal contacts with colleagues in their own countries and abroad, they can gather and disseminate vital intelligence to detect and suppress “worldwide manifestations of destabilizing violence, often indiscriminately labeled ‘terrorism.’”

I found Blue Planet to be an intriguing read for a number of reasons. It presents a reasonable and clearly written case for greater involvement of the police in fighting terrorism, argues forcefully against the post-9/11 militarization of U.S. anti-terrorism effort, and cites a number of fascinating case studies of how informal international police networks, even including such relatively closed societies as Cuba and China, have worked effectively to apprehend criminals. (Some of these stories could be the basis for your next suspense novel!)

Blue Planet also makes the interesting point that both international criminal operations and terrorist networks often use the same illegal methods (smuggling, money laundering, drug trafficking), and who better to learn about those links than those already tracking organized crime?  According to a recent RAND report cited in the book, “For terrorist groups that cannot or will not abandon terrorism, policing is likely to be the most effective strategy to destroy terrorist groups. The logic is straightforward: Police generally have better training and intelligence to penetrate and disrupt terrorist organizations. They are the primary arm of the government focused on internal security matters.”

Blue Planet is not just another policy report. It’s an insightful and intellectually stimulating book that also includes some terrific true crime stories. You can read it here on the National Defense Intelligence College Web site or track down your own copy here.


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