Sunday, December 5, 2010

U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

Want to find out the mechanics of refugee resettlement? How about where different refugee people groups can be found in the U.S.?  Look no further than the U. S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.  Find opportunities for project funding, links to service providers, photos and the latest on legistlation, politics and news from Washington and around the globe.  Click here to visit the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration or look for the link under "Resources."

First Words: Are they really colors, foods or household goods?

Ok. Perhaps it's just me, but almost every adult or community ESL textbook I have seen highlight low frequency vocabulary words for explicit instruction.  I wonder how often words like "tomatoe", "pink" or "vacuum" are really needed for beginning English speakers in everyday conversations? I won't mention the title, but I did a comparison this past summer between the vocabulary listed for explicit instruction in an intro level ESL textbook and the first thousand most frequently used words in English.  Less than 50% of the vocabulary from the textbook was high frequency and many of these lower frequency words were even listed in the top 2,000 high frequency word lists.  I could go on and on, but I rather give you a link to Ogden's Basic English word list, which is a mere 850 words.  Ogden list, borne out of his methodical sifting of the 25,000 word Oxford Pocket English Dictionary, resulted in the elimination all the vocabulary that might be explained by pairing simpler words together, thus arriving at 850 words. Thanks Ogden!
Click here to visit the Basic English word list or look for the link under "Resources."

The Speech Accent Archive

The Speech Accent Archive is available to us through George Mason University. The site allows you to browse through and listen to the many English accents found across the globe.  Simply click on an area of the map and then on the flag which marks the location of a particular accent.  If your students are having a difficult time understanding the spoken English of individuals from New York or Georgia, Paris, China or Spain, then this site it for them! Each speech example lists the age and origin of the individual speaking in the clip and every clip utilizes the same short reading, making comparisons that much easier.  
Click here to visit the Speech Accent Archive or look for the link under “Resources.”

Another great tool for pronunciation!

Three cheers for the University of Iowa and their web page, Phonetics: The Sounds of American English! This website is another great online tool for pronunciation instruction and practice. Instructors can learn the technical and laymen terms used in pronunciation instruction and students can make great use the sites explicit instructions and visuals to identify and differentiate sounds, watch how each sound is produce via computer animation as well as video clips and practice pronunciation on their own!  
Click here to visit the Phonetics website or look for the link under “Resources.”
The Center for Applied Linguistics - don’t let the name scare you away from this fabulous resource! CAL has been working with the U.S. government and resettlement agencies all across America and overseas to collect, develop and share resources on various aspects of refugee resettlement. CAL is also home to the Cultural Orientation and Resource Center, where you can network with other service providers to share and swap best practices or take a look at the latest research and statistics.  Visit the CAL or COR Center website to find information on the languages, cultures, special needs and resettlement of refugee people groups or look for links to these pages under "Resources."

Free Training for Adult ESL Teachers

New American Horizons Foundation exists to assist immigrants in integrating into their communities within the United States. This site is particularly useful for those who are new to the adult education field, as it offers video training for adult ESL instruction. You can purchase the training materials at production cost or watch videos online.  

Click here to visit NAHF’s website or follow the link on my “Resource” list.

Tools for Pronunciation

Well, the end of the fall semester is here and I thought I would share with you a few pronunciation tools that I picked up along the way. Pronunciation instruction is so important for ESL students no matter what their background is.  Not everyone can be web designers or code writers, but just by virtue of the fact that you found your way to this blog demonstrates that you are tech savvy enough to use Audacity software inside or outside of your classroom.  Audacity is free digital sound recording and editing software that works three platforms, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and GNU/Linux.

Teachers and students alike can utilize Audacity to analyze, compare, contrast and practice English pronunciation.  You don’t need to be familiar with every feature or watch any training videos.  All you need is a computer microphone and perhaps some portable speakers and you are ready to go! What is the point of repeating sounds or words without any way to check if your pronunciation is correct? Use Audacity to record native and non-native speakers to compare and contrast their speech.  Playback a student’s speech and watch students become aware of the difference in their speech and that of native speakers.  Because the software is free, students can download the software to their home computers for additional practice outside of the classroom!  
* To download Audacity, click here to be taken to the website or find the link on my Resource list!