“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 


The Great Beyond…On Earth?

July 20, 2011

Guest blogger Camille Turner takes a look at where our universe has come from and where it is going.

I think like many members of my generation, my interest in space sparked with  Steven Speilberg’s E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial, and then there was no looking back. Cosmos and Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context from the NASA History Series maintains a lot of those same wonderful aspects as a Spielberg flick; it’s enjoyable, it defines itself through the particulars of science and the unknown, and it creates a universal appeal by tapping into the bigger questions of how culture itself has evolved to what it is today.

One of the really amazing aspects to this book is that it isn’t just an exploration of space: experts from an array of fields including science, history and anthropology, all explore culture in the context of the cosmos. By investigating a set of recurring principles, particularly evolution, the authors of each section relate a principle to the expansion of the cosmos, in such a way that makes perfect sense.

For instance, when evolution was first established as a concept, it was considered blasphemous. Now, it is not only accepted in every arena of science; it is a symbol of cultural values, as can be seen by the fish on the back of cars containing the word “Darwin” and occasionally growing feet.

The authors of Cosmos and Culture take these widely accepted ideas and push them one step further: if we see evolution everywhere, even in the evolution of technology and physics, how could the cosmos not be evolving too?

Even better: the entire book is written in layman’s terms. By utilizing diagrams when needed and expanding on common metaphors to maintain the reader’s interest, this seemingly intimidating volume becomes a manageable and enjoyable read.

For scientists, space enthusiasts and history lovers alike, this volume transcends most lines between astronomical and sociological research to fuse into a compelling detailing of where our universe has come from and where we are going, both culturally and evolutionarily.

You can get a copy from our online bookstore or find it in a library.


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