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TEFL Masterclass – Working With Emergent Language

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Neil Harris – Teacher Trainer & Director of Marketing @ CELT Language School.

Neil Harris started his career in ELT in 1993 after completing a CTEFLA with IH London. He quickly realized that language learning and teaching was his true passion. Neil has worked in a variety of roles in the UK and Italy, including as a teacher, Senior Teacher, EAP Lecturer, DoS, Teacher Trainer, Business Development Manager, and Director of Marketing. Currently, Neil focuses on developing online ESP medical English and teacher development programmes in his role in agent-based marketing and course development.

What you will learn

Competency in intercultural communication amongst international companies, groups and organizations has been challenging as more and more diverse teams form. This talk will look at some of the reasons for problems in communication and discuss how basic misunderstandings that have taken place within different groups of trained, expert educators, native and non-native alike, due to our own varying cultural backgrounds can affect understanding.

Examples of the intercultural miscommunication will be demonstrated, and the session will offer up better methods to avoid potentially serious errors or miscommunications through examination of our own cultural voice. Many tools and resources are available to help, but the best method is teaching speakers how to speak better, listen better and ask better.

Workshop Summary

Introduction to Emergent Language

Neil Harris introduces the concept of emergent language in language teaching, an unplanned, natural language that arises during learner interactions. This approach enables learners to express themselves authentically, even if it deviates from standard terminology. The role of the teacher is to guide learners towards more natural expressions, rather than strictly correcting them. This concept is explored through teacher-led reformulation, clarification, and support, and is effective in both traditional and task-based learning frameworks.

Emergent Language: Theory and Practice

Emergent language, detailed in Richard Chinn and Danny Norrington-Davies’s book “Working with Emergent Language,” focuses on language produced during meaningful interactions. Harris has been incorporating this approach since the early 2000s, realising its importance in teaching various groups. Emergent language teaching is about encouraging students to use their language skills to convey meaning and then refining their expression. It contrasts with target language teaching, which focuses on pre-selected language by the teacher or coursebook.

Techniques and Integration in Teaching

Various techniques facilitate emergent language, like monitoring student interactions, using audio or video for feedback, and encouraging spontaneous language use. Emergent language can be integrated into different lesson types, including those driven by target language. Task-based learning is particularly conducive to emergent language as the language focus occurs after students engage in a task. Teachers can also reformulate traditional lesson plans to include more opportunities for spontaneous language use.

Practical Applications and Conclusion

Emergent language teaching has practical applications across various levels and contexts. For example, correcting a phrase like “I back home” to “I went back home” utilises emergent language techniques. Tasks like organising a Christmas party foster meaningful interactions where students use and refine their language skills. This teaching method aligns with language acquisition theories and caters to the communicative needs of learners, making it highly effective. For further exploration, resources available in the Gallery Teachers library archives are recommended.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. Do you consider yourself to be more a Teacher A or a Teacher B?
  2. What are some of the advantages of being more like Teacher B than Teacher A?
  3. Have you come across the term emergent language? If yes, what do you already know about it? If not, Google the term and consider how you could use it in your classes.
  4. How could you start to incorporate working with emergent language with your students?

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