Focus on the learner CELTA

5 May 2016

For this assignment I interviewed Alessandro, an Italian student in the Pre-Intermediate English class. Alessandro has been living in London for a few months now. He came to the UK to search for work as a result of the global economic recession.

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He would like to improve his spoken English skills to improve his job prospects as well as better integrate into British society. Alessandro has studied English from primary school level to High school level but highlighted that the quality of English learning was very poor as much of his formal education was in Italian.

This also meant that speaking practice was lot more limited. Since his arrival in the UK Alessandro has been attending the classes at Language Link for almost two months, and has also found work part-time in a café. Over the past couple of weeks, classroom observations and numerous conversations during and after class, Alessandro is competent in understanding the spoken word, including tasks explained in English, however is shy and reserved when answering questions or speaking in the class.

Alessandro generally likes the use of visual aids in the lessons, when images were used it helped him understand and remember the context more easily, as well as making lessons more interesting. In order to accurately assess the areas where Alessandro may need assistance both his oral and written levels were tested, using an interview I was able to note problems in his speaking.

I also asked him to write me a short letter which included similar questions to the ones he had answered during the interview. While his pronunciation was fine, his answers highlighted an incorrect use of prepositions with adjectives. For example, he said “I’m live at small town at South Italy” instead of “I live in a small town in South Italy.” For this error I have selected grammar exercises centred on the use of prepositions correctly (See Appendix A.).

Another example of language difficulty was the use of quantifiers when speaking; “It is no lot expensive…” instead of not very expensive “…no lot monument.” Instead of not many monuments “…much beautiful landscape.” instead of very beautiful landscapes “…the people much generous”, instead of are very generous As noted by Swan “Italians do not usually realise that much and many are rare in affirmative clauses.” (Swan, 2001).

For this I have selected a grammar exercises centred on the use of the words, a lot, a little (See Appendix B.) – this activity would be beneficial for Alessandro as it will allow an explanation of quantifiers in use and also provide controlled practice.

The written task also highlighted a number of problem areas, however I found the problems encountered in his speaking were also present in his writing. Firstly, the use of articles and prepositions in structuring coherent sentences. For instance, he wrote “This letter very quite simple…” instead of “This letter is quite simple.”

Another example of this is “I live in the south, a place is very beatiful” instead of writing, “I live in the South, the place is very beautiful”. The exercises I have selected above would be appropriate to address this problem area too. I have also selected an exercise on adjectives and adverbs, in particular the use of ‘quite, pretty, rather and fairly’ (See appendix C).

In addition to this I have found that his spelling is an area of concern, there is a pattern of ‘phonetic spelling’, where his spelling of the word is produced from the way he pronounces it. This is noted by Michael Swan in Learner English, “…errors resulting from the relationship between spelling and pronunciation, where learners’ expectations often lead to phonetic spelling”. (Swan, 2001)

This is apparent in Alessandro’s work, words such as “beatiful, excepnsive, dificult, emigrescion” and even the spelling “itali” instead of “beautiful, expensive, difficult, emigration and italy” are rooted in the spelling – pronunciation relationship common to Italian speaking learners.

Furthermore, the choice of more advanced vocabulary in his writing, words such as “peninsula and emigration”, are common amongst Italian learners as suggested by Swan, “Students may use long, complex sentences, with more subordination than English would normally prefer, and elaborate periphrasis to avoid repeating the same word.”

(Swan, 2001) For this I would advise Alessandro to improve his spelling, a simple vocabulary list of words will be used in the lesson. I will use the list of spelling mistakes made in his written work as a reference point to highlight to him how the “phonetic spelling” can lead him to make mistakes and that he should invest in a dictionary to ensure this problem is resolved to some extent. (See Appendix D)

Bibliography
Murphy, R., 2004. English Grammar in Use 3rd ed. (Cambridge University Press) Riddell, D. Teach English as a Foreign Language (2001)
Shoebottom, P., n.d. The differences between English and Italian. [Online] Available at: http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/italian.htm [Accessed 12th October 2013]. Swan, M., Smith, B. Learner English 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press)

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