Garold Murray, Associate Professor in the Foreign Language Education Center at Okayama University and some of his colleagues came to visit us at our base in Princes Street the other day. As a researcher, he has published a number of extensive longitudinal studies of learners recording their stories of strategy use, motivation and progress over time. Fabulously interesting stuff.
Here’s one particular gem from our conversation. We were talking about tutors and what makes effective one-to-one counseling / language coaching and we both agreed that basically it was the innate ability to listen with empathy, encourage and help learners see that what they “naturally” do as language learners is both valuable and effective. Once this rapport and understanding is established, the role of a language coach or advisor is to feed in a few suggestions or questions that will help that learner adapt what they naturally do to what is going to be more effective. It’s about working with the experiences that the learner brings with them and acknowledging the value of those practices. Just as relevant when working with employees in a workplace literacy context or as a coach.
This very much fits with the rationale behind some materials we have created which look at websites that learners “naturally” use – TED.com, Lyrics Trainer and some online learner dictionaries. The support materials we have created are based on what learners naturally do, but give some direction on how they can enhance what they naturally do in order to learn more language from the site. Here is an example of a resource my colleague Tom Lusk created for TED.com and one for Lyrics Trainer. Please let me know if you are interested in seeing more.
Thanks for coming to visit us, Garold – it was great to talk to you and get your perspective on the work we do here.