I decided to launch a new EFL/ESL teaching blog for 2011 as it looks like I’ll be doing what has become a short term career for another couple years (hopefully not longer, but we’ll see).

I used to post a lot on http://kimchi-icecream.blogspot.com/ and then I decided to move over to https://kimchiicecream.wordpress.com/ as I like wordpress better for blogging.  You can read a lot of older posts at the blogspot site, and for most recent posts check out the wordpress site.  I will try and make a ‘best of’ or ‘most useful’ blog post here of my older material at some point as I get this blog up and going.

From now on please read the http://eflteacherlearner.wordpress.com blog for posts about teaching and other related topics.  Julianne and I may live and teach in a few more different countries, and I will not be starting new teaching blogs for each move we make as it’s too much work.

EFL Teacher Learner will be my blog home for writing about teaching for the remainder of the time I do this career.  I hope  readers continue to find my writing interesting and useful.

Below is an excerpt of the first blog post I have published on http://eflteacherlearner.wordpress.com



EFL/ESL University Listening Test Design, Writing, Editing, and Recording – Do’s and Don’ts

I went today to do my first listening test recording in China for my university. I think I’ve probably done 50+ listening test recordings over the past six years I’ve been teaching, and I’d like to think I’ve accumulated a bit of useful experience and ideas about how things should be done.

As a native English speaking instructor I always struggle to find ways to integrate myself into the L2 educational environment–and in China it’s no different than in South Korea in terms of trying to remind teachers to give me the information I NEED TO KNOW, and to keep me in the communication loop with all the parties that are involved in the process of designing, writing, editing, recording, and then editing and checking the final product.

If you’re new to EFL/ESL teaching, I strongly recommend you purchase a good book on test design.  There are three titles that I’ve come across that are really good.

Assessing Speaking by Sari Luoma. Cambridge Language Assessment Series, 2004

Testing Second Language Speaking by Glenn Fulcher. General Editor: C. N. Candlin. Applied Linguistics and Language Study. Pearson Education Limited, 2003

Testing for Language Teachers, Second Edition by Arthur Hughes. Cambridge Language Teaching Library Cambridge, 2002

Of the three books, I’d recommend the 3rd title, Testing for Language Teachers, Second Edition, as the most useful book for any type of test you might have to make for the four language skills. For new EFL/ESL teachers who are beginning a career this book is an invaluable resource.

Yet at the same time the EFL/ESL training, experience, and methodology books we have can cause us unnecessary stress when it comes to designing tests, writing them, and then (in the case of listening tests) doing the recordings.  Knowing how something should be done, or can be done, and then seeing first hand how untrained, inexperienced, incompetent, or working under poor conditions teachers ACTUALLY produce tests can be . . . ahem, unsettling.

Depending on your personality this may result in anything from a shrug, and saying “Okay, let’s get on with it,” to banging your head into a brick wall as you intermittently do shots of the cheap local libations (not, of course, that I’ve ever done that, lol).

Before I (finally) get to some Do’s and Don’ts, let me say one final thing: ‘professionalism’ is a huge cultural difference.

Let me say that one more time: PROFESSIONALISM is a cultural difference.

I’ll write about this topic in depth some other time, but for now suffice it to say that during today’s recording session I kept hearing other university instructors say to me, “You’re so professional.”  And it made me want to ‘scream’ a wee bit because I was biting my tongue from pointing out all the small issues I kept seeing crop up in the process for the listening test recording we were doing, and the bigger issues I wanted to say something about but didn’t because there was no time to do anything about them, nor did the general education culture and setting allow for the proper rehearsing and language pronunciation issues that kept appearing during the recording session I had with my Chinese English teacher partner.

It’s definitely a blessing and a curse to be seen by other teachers, and your supervisors, as being a ‘professional teacher’–especially when the behaviors or actions they’re commenting on are, in my mind anyways, things that EFL/ESL professional career teachers should do WITHOUT THINKING . . . anyways, back to the topic at hand.

Do’s . . .

1. Ask your university contact person for their cell phone and email, and then ask who the other people are that are involved in the test recording process and production line. (Oh yeah, and ask them if they have YOUR cell phone and email info–ask them to READ IT TO YOU, lol.  Sometimes ‘loss of face’ will prevent a teacher from admitting to you that they lost your info, or forgot it, or whatever is going on–and then later when they need to tell you something they can’t because they don’t have your contact info.)

2.  Ask your university contact person the following explicit questions.

a) Who will approve the listening script and questions?

b) Who will be my partner for the listening recording?

c) Who is available to edit the written script and questions for the listening test?

NOTE: Then ask again for the contact information for these people to keep everyone involved in the communication loop.

3. Do use the ‘spell and grammar’ check in MS WORD.

4. Do SPEAK OUT LOUD anything and everything that will be recorded.  My senior year high school English teacher taught me perhaps the most valuable editing trick is to read out loud the text because unnatural sounding language is easier to detect and revise, and errors that you missed while only reading also sometimes get caught by the ear when the eye misses it.

5. Do PRACTICE and REHEARSE the text to be recorded before you get into the recording studio (IF POSSIBLE–it’s not always possible).

6. Do PRACTICE and REHEARSE with your partner, and any other speakers involved, before you get into the recording studio if possible.  Often, if your partner is a L2 (non native English speaker) there are words they do not know  how to pronounce, sentences with difficult stress patterns, and vocabulary or cultural items that they do not know.  You can help them practice whatever they need to BEFORE getting into the recording studio where it’s not a good time to have to stop and start, stop and start, because they are making errors that cannot be used on a recording for testing purposes.

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