Thursday, January 26, 2017

TEFLology Podcast: Episode 53: Wilga M. Rivers, Female Dialogue in Films, and Teaching Organizations

(TEFLology Podcast)

I'm late on my reviews (again) but the latest episode of TEFLology came out last week. (On their website HERE).

TEFLology, when it's at its best, combines interesting information with a discussion format.
This episode was one of the best.  There was tons of interesting information in this episode, and I loved the discussion.

As usual, the episode was divided into 3 parts:
1) Wilga M. Rivers
2) Female Dialogue in Films
3) Teaching Organizations

I'll note my thoughts about each one below

Wilga M. Rivers
I had never heard of Wilga M. Rivers, but her history was interesting.
In the course of discussing her history, the TEFLologists got into a discussion about the history of audiolingualism.
It turns out that, contrary to the prevailing narrative, audiolingualism actually DOES NOT come out of behaviorism and Skinner.
This surprised me.  (I hadn't known there were any problems with the traditional narrative, which I had learned about in school).  But it was interesting.

In the course of the conversation, the TEFLologists reference Russ Mayne's blog.  I'm assuming they're referring to this post: The myth of neat histories.  Which was an interesting read.  Russ Mayne also argues against the traditional idea that audiolingualism came out of behaviorism.
(In the interests of giving equal time, however, I should note that Geoff Jordan disagrees with Russ Mayne. His rebuttal is here.)

In the discussion of audiolingualism, the TEFLologists talk about one of the tenants of audiolingualism--that words should always be learned aurally before the learner sees the written form.  The TEFLologists are skeptically of this.
Krashen, in his book, was skeptical of this as well.  Krashen thought it created unnecessary frustration for the learner.  Krashen thought the learners really wanted to see the written form, because it helped them remember the word better.

I can identify  with this, because I also remember words better once I see their written form.  (I have a hard time remembering new vocabulary that I only hear.)

But at the same time, there is a definite disadvantage to this.  I often get the pronunciation of words wrong because I rely too much on the written form.

For example in Japanese.  The Japanese language has a liquid consonant that's somewhere between an English /r/ and /l/.  Some people say it's actually closer to an /l/, but it's always written down as an "r" when using roman letters.  I learned this sound as the English "r" because in my initial studying of Japanese, I relied heavily on textbooks and the written form.
Even after 8 years of living in Japan, I never corrected this error in pronunciation, which I blame on my pronunciation fossilizing early on.
I often used to think that if I had learned Japanese from listening instead of writing I would never have acquired this error.  But who knows.

In my studying of Vietnamese, I'm currently making the same mistake.  I'm learning Vietnamese primarily from the written form, and it's completely ruining my pronunciation.  Even when I hear a word and see it written at the same time, the written form seems to override the aural input.  I still remember the pronunciation of the word as I saw it written, not as I heard it.
(Although this time around, I know exactly what I'm doing wrong and I don't care, because I've given up ever trying to speak Vietnamese fluently.  I'll be happy with just an intellectual understanding of the grammar and some written knowledge).

To sum up: In this one respect, at least, I think audiolingualism might have been right.  The learners should get plenty of listening input before they are exposed to the written word.

Female Dialogue in Films
The second part of the episode was a discussion of  this article: Women only said 27% of the words in 2016’s biggest movies.

(For what it's worth: of the 10 movies from 2016 used in this study, I've reviewed 5 of them on this blog: Rogue One, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia, and Finding Dory.

It was an interesting discussion.  I just have a couple of points to add:

Point 1) Something the TEFLologists hinted at in their discussion is that the number of words spoken is only one of many lenses to view a character through.  The most obvious example of how dialogues does not always reflect a character's prominence in the story is Mad Max: Fury Road.  (It's so obvious that citing it has become a cliche, but I'm going to cite it anyway.)  Mad Max himself barely spoke any lines in the movie.  And yet he was obviously the main character.

Point 2) This is a nitpick, but the TEFLologists say that the researcher was counting Kaa as a male character despite being voiced by Scarlett Johansson.  This sounded wrong to me (Kaa in the new live-action Jungle Book was obviously a female) so I went to check this in the original article, expecting to argue with the researcher.  But instead I think the TEFLologists misquoted this one.  Kaa is being counted as a female character in the spreadsheet.

Teaching Organizations

I don't have anything interesting to add to this, other than to just say that it was an interesting conversation.

The discussion references a blogpost by Geoff Jordan: IATEFL and Teachers as Workers, which I actually had read prior to listening to this podcast.  So for once I was one step ahead of the TEFLology podcast.
...although to be fair, the only reason Geoff Jordan's blog was on my reading list to begin with was because of TEFLology, so I guess I can't claim credit for that.

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