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Statements of Excellence for Admission to Graduate School in Linguistics
The Humanitarian Side of Linguistics
You might love the idea of traveling into the developing world and teaching English as a foreign language. But are these programs always effective?
For two years, Fang He, Leigh Linden and Margaret McLeod worked with a sample of over 15,000 students to determine the effectiveness of teaching English as a foreign language in India.
In many developing countries, the official language used in government and business is either French or English, rather than the native language spoken by the population at large.
While the curricula of many countries require students to learn official languages, the quality of instruction is often poor. These researchers partnered with the Indian NGO Pratham to evaluate whether different technologies and implementation methods can increase students’ English test scores. Overall, the interventions were successful and effective at increasing students’ knowledge of English.
The benefits of knowing the official language of a country can be life transforming, and proper instruction really important. This study evaluated a project that focuses on improving students’ acquisition of this crucial second language.
In this regard, this research fits squarely within the branch of education which does not solely seek to understand how to get children into school, but also what it takes to cost-effectively improve the quality of education. Many schools rely on rote learning and memorization. However, it may be more effective to take an interactive approach which is tailored to a child’s level of learning. How do different types of technologies and implementation methods affect learning outcomes? Let´s take a closer look. But first, a bit of background information is necessary.
Despite the fact that English is part of the normal curriculum, only 10 percent of second and third grade students in the study were able to correctly identify pictures of simple objects when given the object’s English name.
In government schools, teachers generally train children to recite the English alphabet and memorize vocabulary lists. Conversational skills are rarely introduced. Lots of teachers simply skip reading the source text altogether, and teach only in preparation for exams.
As a result, the Indian public primary school system often fails to teach a language that is of crucial importance to a child’s subsequent employment opportunities. The “critical period” in which a child is able to acquire a second language up to native-like levels is often missed completely.
Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a unique English language training program developed by the Indian NGO Pratham on increasing students’ English test scores during the study.
The program, called PicTalk, had two components: first, an electronic machine called the PicTalk is designed to be used individually by the student; the second is a set of specially tailored flashcards and teaching manuals designed to promote oral communication with the help of a teacher. Both methods aimed to teach equivalent curricula to its students, yet through the use of differential teaching methods.
To evaluate the effectiveness of this program, two randomized evaluations were conducted with children in grades 1-5 in both rural and urban areas of India. The research design varied both in terms of the implementation technology and whether the intervention was delivered through externally hired tutors or the public schools’ own teachers and assistants.
In the first study year, 97 schools in Thane were assigned to one of two research groups: (1) PicTalk class in second grade but not in third, or (2) PicTalk class in third grade but not in second. Therefore, every single school served as both a treatment and a comparison group. English tutors were hired and trained by Pratham.
In the second year, 242 schools in Mangaon were assigned to one of four research groups: 1. PicTalk machine classes only; 2. activities classes only; 3. both PicTalk machine and activities classes (as in the first year); or 4. neither PicTalk machine nor activities classes. All classes were taught by normal classroom teachers here.
On average, the machines and the student activities were similarly effective at improving students’ English scores. The externally implemented program increased students’ scores by 0.26 standard deviations. Students subjected to the teacher implemented interventions improved their test scores by 0.36 standard deviations.
Thus, each implementation method seemed to be similarly effective—regardless of the technology used by the instructor or whether the instructor was a local teacher or from an external agency.
When implemented by local teachers and teaching assistants, however, the interventions increased not only English scores, but also math scores, too. This seemed to be due to the discretion teachers had over the intensity with which the program was implemented. Ehen the program made teaching English more efficient, teachers were able to spend more time on other subjects. The results demonstrated improvements in math scores of a similar magnitude to the improvements in English for those students in the teacher implemented interventions.
In comparing the flashcard-/teacher-based intervention versus the self-paced computerized implementation, the study found interesting differences between the benefit to subgroups from such interventions.
Specifically, lower performing students benefited more from interventions that included teacher implemented activities. Higher performing students gained more from the self-paced machine-only intervention.
This is important, since the norm in Indian classes is to focus on the better performing students. These results also suggest that significant gains could be achieved by targeting different approaches to individual children, depending on ability and their response to each approach.
If you´re interested in teaching English as a foreign language to children or adults in India, you might find this video useful:
It´s also possible to teach English to immigrants from all over the world in your own country. For example, in Ireland, NALA teaches teachers to teach English as a second language:
If you are exploring this path, and we can help you apply and get onto the program of your choice with the services we provide, please don´t hesitate to let us know!
Why I want to help you get accepted to Graduate School in Linguistics
I completed my PHD in Religion and Social Ethics at the University of Southern California in 1995 and began studying towards a Master’s Degree in TESOL at the University of Illinois. That September, I found myself quite challenged by my linguistics class where, among other things, we had to invent a new language, complete with grammar, syntax, etc. The following year I was selected to teach for one year at the Universitat of Barcelona in Spain. The next year I began working on the Internet.
My greatest strength in helping you to write an extremely effective statement for admission to advanced study in linguistics is not so much my own understanding of linguistics per se, but rather my understanding and creative capacity to help you to develop and articulate your long term career plans and contribution to society, in other words, what you intend to do with your advanced degree in linguistics once you earn it.