From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic

From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic

Editors note: This is a guest blog post by Lina Gomaa, Arabic Instructor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University, about the Creative Commons-licensed textbook she wrote, From MSA to CA: A Beginner’s Guide for Transitioning into Colloquial Arabic. 

At Portland State University (PSU), the Arabic program is designed to teach Modern Standard Arabic ( MSA) for at least one year, after which the students can learn Colloquial Arabic (CA). Because of how the Arabic program at PSU is designed (similar to many programs in the USA), the importance of this book arises. This transition can be challenging for some students. The book targets students in NM (Novice Mid) who have studied Arabic for a year or more and aims to help them advance to IL (Intermediate Low) according to the Oral Proficiency Interview standards by ACTFL, the American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This book documents answers to questions from students in CA classes. Its goal is to transition students smoothly from MSA to CA, giving them confidence to explore both varieties while reaching the NH (Novice High) or IL level, navigate predictable social situations in CA, and utilize their previous knowledge in MSA to learn CA. The content and structure are based on my teaching experience and as an ACTFL OPI interviewer to assist students in their quest to speak CA with native speakers with relative ease.

The material, organization, topics and translations are based on comments, suggestions and ideas which students shared with me during teaching colloquial Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. While creating the book, I wanted it to be a reference for students to “get a feel” for MSA and CA similarities and differences. This book introduces the Cairene Egyptian dialect; however, it also explains commonly used expressions in the Levant (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel). The goal is to introduce students to more varieties, allowing them to choose which dialect to specialize in and still be able to communicate with Arabic speakers. Although this book does not introduce Gulf dialects, many of the expressions and terms are frequently used in most of the Arab world, and many are derived from MSA I aim that this book will benefit students of Arabic at PSU and elsewhere, reduce their textbook expenses, and help them improve their CA speaking.

I also hope that the dialogues (recorded by PSU students of Arabic) will be enjoyable for learners and provide successful examples for others to follow.

The book is published on the PSU library page and the website of the Center for Open Education at the University of Minnesota. It has been downloaded over 1,000 times and counting all over the world by different universities, institutions, business and governmental bodies.

Professor Lina Gomaa is an Arabic instructor at Portland State University.

Working with Students to Create a Textbook

Working with Students to Create a Textbook

Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Julie Ward edited an anthology of Hispanic literature with her students, elevating the role that the students played in the class, and proving that the pedagogical affordances of openness are just as important as the low costs most often associated with openness.

I initially had the idea to work on OER because of the wonderful OER librarians at my campus. Their initiative to promote the adoption and creation of OER on campus inspired me to propose a project for my Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course, a third-year Spanish course required for Spanish majors.

The course generally relies on fairly expensive and large anthologies. I thought that if I assigned texts that were in the public domain, and asked students to choose one particular text to study and prepare for inclusion in an online, open-access anthology, the Antología abierta de literatura hispana, they would have a richer research experience and really get to understand what literary studies are about.

This project would also give them the chance to practice their writing in Spanish, and to write for a much larger audience than a traditional classroom paper provides. Students knew that they had the option of submitting their work for inclusion in an open-access anthology, and that anyone with internet access around the world could potentially read their work. This fact motivated them to do their best and to consider their audience.

Finally, I was happy that students had the chance to create something that could help other students. Their results of their hard work over the course of the semester are visible and useful. The learning experience doesn´t stop at the end of the semester, but is shared with others. It is also a lasting example of their skills that they could highlight in the future.

My goal in leading students to create their own textbook was to help them learn the tools of literary research and give them an audience beyond the classroom or the campus. In small groups, students chose one of the texts studied in our Introduction to Hispanic Literature and Culture course and created a critical edition, complete with introductory information about the author, time period, and literary context; footnotes annotating various aspects of the text itself; and a bibliography for further study.

With the help of two undergraduate research assistants, I uploaded the results into Pressbooks, where it is downloadable and accessible in many formats. Now the first edition of the anthology is available for students of Hispanic literature, and I am working on a second edition, with the help of the Rebus Community, that incorporates critical editions made by students at other institutions.

My goal is for the AALH to continue expanding and become a go-to, open-access resource for anyone who wants to know more about Hispanic literature and culture.

For more information:

Julie Ward joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma in 2014 as Assistant Professor of 20th- and 21st-Century Latin American Literature. She holds a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Berkeley (2013). Her current research focuses on the representation of the real in contemporary Latin America.

The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective

The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective

Photo credit: Sonia Balasch Creative Commons License

From the Editor: This is a guest post about a new set of openly licensed activities “The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective”, by Sonia Balasch (Eastern Mennonite University), Alexia D. Vikis, Lisa M. Rabin, and Colleen A. Sweet (George Mason University).

This virtual space offers free access to nine original lessons that are oriented towards the teaching and enrichment of intermediate-level students of Spanish. Each lesson consists of readings that are written in Spanish and short, communicative activities. In its totality, these materials or open-access educational resources call upon critical thinking through eight themes closely tied to the Spanish-speaking world.

Coordinate with license agreements for open-source educational resources (identified in English as OER, or open educational resources), teachers and students are welcome to make use of these materials. Even more important, we hope that the adoption of these shared lessons can serve as a point of departure for enriched classroom discussions on Spanish-language culture, especially in the United States where Spanish has a long historical presence and exists in myriad, dynamic sociolinguistic contexts.

Spanish co-exists with other native languages in three continents (America, Africa and Europe). Whether officially accounted for or not, the many different voices and sociolinguistic histories of Spanish reverberate and move audaciously across the vast geography of the Americas. In The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective we cover such diverse themes as:

  • The history, varieties and current profile of Spanish in the United States
  • The Spanish-language press in the United States
  • Youth’s courageous resistance to entrenched dictatorial regimes in 20th-century Latin America
  • The encounter of Catholicism and other religious traditions in Latin America
  • The overwhelming force of globalization in the Latin American regions
  • The mass media as vehicles of power and resistance
  • The long history of Latinx in the United States
  • The contrapuntal relationship of country and city in the modern context

All of the lessons of The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective have been successfully tested in two courses of intermediate Spanish (Spanish in Context I and Spanish in Context II) that are taught at George Mason University’s main campus in Fairfax, Virginia. Lessons for these courses were grouped in two sections, as the following diagram shows.

The lessons of group 1 formed the backbone of the course Spanish in Context I, while those of group 2 sustained the course Spanish in Context II. However, because each lesson was created independently, they may be put to use in the ways in which teachers themselves find them beneficial to their classes. In the end, the key goal of these lessons is to engage with themes that are rarely covered in intermediate courses of Spanish that we teach in the United States. In the best of all cases, students and teachers will build fruitfully on the critical perspectives that they are exposed to in The Spanish Language and its Cultures in Perspective.

Explore:

Creating OER makes sharing ideas, materials and methodology possible!

Creating OER makes sharing ideas, materials and methodology possible!

Photo credit: flickr user Hansol Creative Commons License

Editors note: This post was written by COERLL partner Jeannette Okur, and originally published in Tex Libris, the blog from the libraries at the University of Texas at Austin, for a special Open Education Week series.

For a year and a half now, I have been designing and piloting an OER textbook and online curricular materials designed to bring adult learners of modern Turkish from the Intermediate-Mid/High to the Advanced Mid proficiency level. The textbook, titled Her Şey Bir Merhaba İle Başlar (Everything Begins With A Hello), will – hopefully – be available on the UT Center for Open Education Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) website in Fall 2019; and the complementary series of primarily auto-correct listening, viewing, reading and grammar exercises and quizzes will be made available on a public Canvas course site. This new set of OER materials is aligned with the ACTFL standards for Intermediate- and Advanced-level communicative skills and intercultural proficiency descriptors, and also reflects my department’s (and my personal) commitment to blended instruction and the flipped classroom model. I’ve now designed five thematic units that promote the following pedagogical goals:

  • Introduce the learner to culturally and socially significant phenomena in Turkey today.
  • Introduce the learner to various print, audio and audio-visual text types aimed at native Turkish audiences and guide them to use (and reflect on) the reading, listening and viewing comprehension strategies needed to understand these Advanced-level texts.
  • Engage the learner in active recognition and repeated practice of new vocabulary and grammar items.
  • Guide the learner through practice of oral and written discursive strategies specific to the Advanced proficiency level.
  • Balance the four communicative skills.
  • Balance seriousness and fun!

I’m excited about OER’s potential to transform students’ and teachers’ experiences with Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) like Turkish. A readily accessible and modifiable OER for this level of Turkish language instruction, in particular, makes a whole lot of sense, because the for-profit textbook model is a non-starter! In other words, because no one can make a profit off of Turkish language teaching materials outside of Turkey; few of the teaching materials that U.S.-based Turkish language instructors design ever get published or shared. In fact, creating an OER for Turkish-language learning has made sharing my ideas, teaching materials and methodology possible!

I believe wholeheartedly that being able to share and modify OER teaching/learning materials via online platforms leads to collaboration among educators and eventually to better educational products and practices. I hope that other Turkish language educators, upon engaging with my OER materials, will learn a few small but important lessons from me, namely:

  • Adults learning Turkish need help practicing and learning vocabulary, not just grammar.
  • Identifying and discussing cultural differences/commonalities on the basis of actual socio-cultural phenomena captured in texts aimed at target culture audiences is key to increasing learners’ cultural proficiency, especially when those learners are not learning in the target culture.
  • The blended instruction/flipped classroom model really works because engagement with reading, listening and grammar materials at home gives learners more time to practice SPEAKING in class (or with a tutor).

I also look forward to learning from the colleagues and learners who engage with my materials in varied settings beyond the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Jeannette Okur has coordinated the Turkish Studies program at the University of Texas at Austin since 2010. Drawing upon extensive experience teaching not only Turkish, but also German and ESL, she continues to develop new curricular materials for Turkish language instruction at the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced proficiency levels.

Open Access at the Core of Materials Development for LCTLs

Open Access at the Core of Materials Development for LCTLs

Photo credit: Orlando Kelm

Editors note: This post was written by longtime COERLL partner Orlando Kelm, and originally published in Tex Libris, the blog from the libraries at the University of Texas at Austin, for a special Open Education Week series.

Open Access seems to be at the core of materials development for those of us who teach what is called LCTLs (less-commonly taught languages). In academic settings, publishing companies are less likely to take a chance on publishing materials where the market is small. There have been multiple occasions when I have been told by publishing companies something similar to, “If you could do this project for us in Spanish we would be interested, but unfortunately the market in Portuguese is not big enough to take on such a project.” Although it has been discouraging to hear such replies, it was also understandable.

However, in today’s world of innovative technologies, online, electronic, digital, social media, video and podcasts, Open Access pedagogical materials in foreign language, especially for the less-commonly taught languages, have provided a boon of opportunities. Here at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, the College of Liberal Arts (LAITS), the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) and the Center for Global Business have all been supportive of our development of online and open access materials for those who want to learn Portuguese. COERLL helps maintain our BrazilPod site, where all our Portuguese materials are available for everyone, anytime, Open Access, and with Creative Commons license. Here’s the URL: https://coerll.utexas.edu/brazilpod/index.php.

This site contains a number of videos, podcasts, exercises, transcripts, translations, and a number of other materials. We have seen how users, both teachers and private learners, have integrated, modified and added these materials to the study of Portuguese. Some access the materials online, others embed content into exercises and quizzes, others create ancillary activities for organized courses. Open Access has revolutionized the way that learners of LCTLs share materials and expose learners to content.

It also seems a bit ironic when we think of the initial rejection from publishing companies. If they were to approach us today to publish in traditional formats, chances are that we would react by saying, “Thanks, but our ability to share with Open Access works for us better than the traditional publication methods.”

Orlando Kelm was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He earned his Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1989 and then went straight to the University of Texas at Austin, where he has been ever since.

Empowering Learners of Spanish

Empowering Learners of Spanish

From the Editor: This is a guest post about a new set of openly licensed activities “Empowering Learners of Spanish”, by Claudia Holguín Mendoza, Robert L. Davis, Julie Weise (University of Oregon) and Munia Cabal Jiménez (Western Illinois University).

We want to share with students and educators the Empowering Learners of Spanish project from Romance Languages at the University of Oregon. This collection of activities based on Critical Pedagogies developed in the Spanish as a Heritage Language program at the University of Oregon, serves to introduce students to a range of concepts in sociolinguistics and critical inquiry into language ideologies.

The activities are written in both English and Spanish, and resources are also in both languages. Working in two languages will allow students to reproduce the linguistic practices of bilinguals. Heritage learners of Spanish should find these practices familiar, and students learning Spanish as a second language will benefit from the scaffolding of using some English. Language development for both profiles of students can be enhanced with the techniques of “intercomprehension”, outlined in the “Guide to intercomprehension” in the resource section in the INDEX.

Instructors can decide what language(s) students should use to participate and respond (Spanish, English, Spanglish), depending on their local context, student level, and course objectives. We have developed these units and resources for teaching this content in regular Spanish language programs, including Spanish as a Heritage Language courses, and any other content course where Spanish is relevant! In fact, the first unit that we developed El corrido “El deportado”, has the purpose of supporting the teaching of Spanish to the understanding of primary texts in a course on History of Latinx in the Americas. This class is taught in our History department; it is not a language class per se, but students have made gains in proficiency by working in two languages. Moreover, content-based materials within a language program or elsewhere on campus become an opportunity for students to engage in debating the relationships between language, ideology, power, and the association of discourse and sociocultural change. Ultimately, this type of curriculum fosters the development of Critical Language Awareness regarding language practices in communities of Spanish speakers, particularly in the US.

One of our main objectives in the Empowering Learners of Spanish project is to provide students with opportunities to participate in current sociopolitical debates. We include several elements already presented in interdisciplinary critical pedagogies of language and discourse. In this manner, this initiative fits within curricular models that integrate language learning with critical studies in culture and discourse. Heritage and L2 students are able to engage with material that emphasizes language variation, social dynamics of language use, and the historical contexts that generate them. This content makes the ELS initiative particularly relevant and motivating to Spanish Heritage learners.

This project has been supported by a generous grant from the College of Arts and Sciences, at the University of Oregon.

Explore:

A Program for Professional Growth Based on Collaboration

A Program for Professional Growth Based on Collaboration

Over the past three years, COERLL has been working on several projects that require participation from language instructors; a new realm for a language center accustomed to making language learning materials with small teams of faculty and graduate students.

In order to jumpstart these participatory projects, we started a “COERLL Collaborators” program to mentor teachers and give visibility (and some funding) to their work, while spreading the use of open licenses and starting a network for our projects. Participants in the COERLL Collaborators program have helped COERLL tremendously over the past year or so, by testing and providing insights into our projects.

We piloted COERLL Collaborators for FLLITE (Foreign Languages and the Literary in the Everyday), a project with CERCLL (Center for Educational Resources in Culture Language and Literacy) in which teachers write multiliteracies lessons around an authentic resource, receive peer review feedback, and have their lesson published on fllite.org. The FLLITE team chose three graduate students to go through this process, based on lesson proposals they submitted.

These lessons are now published on the project website for anyone to use, and exemplify how a teacher can transform their interests into a completely original lesson.

  • Natasha César-Suárez photographed an image from Spain’s 15-M movement and turned it into a lesson on language in social movements.
  • Marcelo Fuentes developed an image of a letter to God found in a Chilean church into a cultural lesson and letter writing activity.
  • Carol Ready used a poem by Pablo Neruda to teach students about the impact of commercial food production on Latin America through the study of descriptive language.

For our digital badging partnership with Austin Independent School District, which awards teachers digital badges for professional development based on the TELL (Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning) Framework, we chose three more Collaborators. The three teachers agreed to attend professional development and personal mentorship sessions organized by Thymai Dong, AISD’s World Languages Coordinator, and to earn digital badges related to the topics of the sessions.

Unfortunately administrative changes stopped us from seeing this process through to the end, but the COERLL Collaborators still received some mentorship and challenged themselves to take risks and reflect on their teaching.

  • Rachel Preston developed her own professional growth plan based on a self-assessment of her teaching, which led to an increase in her students’ self-assessment, reflection and goal-setting.
  • Tania Shebaro got motivated at a workshop to scrap her lesson plans for the next day and rewrite everything, leading to engaging and participatory class sessions.
  • Janeth Medrano attended every professional development event possible to get new resources and tools she could adapt for her students.

Thank you to all six of our Collaborators – they have taught us, in addition to teaching their students!

Six more COERLL Collaborators are now busy perfecting some new FLLITE lessons in Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, and German, and we are narrowing down COERLL Collaborators applications for our Heritage Spanish project. We are looking forward to expanding the COERLL Collaborators program and building up a network of creative and collaborative language instructors.

See what the COERLL Collaborators have created:

Engage and Explore

Engage and Explore

Photo credit: flickr user UrbanPromise Creative Commons License

From the editor: We asked master Spanish teacher and teacher trainer Rose Potter to create some activities that use COERLL’s resources to engage students and satisfy state and national standards for language learning. She created these five simple but effective activities, and describes her approach below.

As a young teacher in the 80’s, I often called upon images of Sra. Hartley, my high school Spanish teacher, to guide me through lesson planning. Upbeat, funny and highly energetic, we laughed and sang our way through the ALM drill and kill methodology of the 1960’s. Today, when training pre-service teachers, I understand that their default approach to teaching is the model they experienced. Because their teachers were also learners in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s their methodology may reflect that era – or, that of their teachers, products of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s teacher training. Over time, Madeline Hunter’s “anticipatory set” became “priming activity”, “warm-ups”, “bell-ringer review” and more. However, the methodology did not always keep pace. Instead, students often receive a mini-worksheet at the start of class. They are expected to sit quietly and respond to discrete point items while the teacher takes roll and prepares to teach. This century’s students have trouble doing exactly that. The expected quiet time may become a class management challenge.

Today’s LOTE (languages other than English) educators recognize that “warm-up” means preparing the eyes, ears and, most importantly, the mouth. Get them talking! Today’s term “engagement” goes beyond a writing or viewing task, it requires active participation on the part of the students. The steps are not complex: grab their attention, pose a simple task that requires interpersonal communication, use the task to build skills for more complex tasks. That’s it. You will see these steps incorporated into the five engagement activities I designed using COERLL’s materials. As you review then consider the simplicity of each step.

  • Engagement: this can be through an image or video projected on the screen that students see as they enter.
  • Interpersonal task: Pose a question to get them thinking before class begins. Ask your partner/another student: “Have you ever…? Do you like… Do you think… Compare what you see to…”
  • Build skills: The questions may contain unfamiliar cognates or verb constructs that make sense in context but are new to students. Keep it simple, but allow them the opportunity to discover the new learning through practice. Learning vocabulary and grammar as a function of communication makes it real for students.

The engagement is the first step of an inquiry-based, constructivist approach to learning, the 5E’s lesson plan model. Engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate. For my students, I’ve added a 6th E, Exit Plan, to assure that they close the lesson. Since using this plan with my LOTE students, I’ve seen an enormous increase in the potential for engagement.

To see more examples of the 5Es in action, take a look at the following resources:

Rose Potter is an Assistant Clinical Professor of LOTE Education for the UTeach-Liberal Arts Program at the University of Texas, as well as a teacher, writer, consultant, and mentor.

Re-Mixxer: Using French and German OER in The Mixxer

Re-Mixxer: Using French and German OER in The Mixxer

Last year, the Mixxer (a free educational website for language exchanges via Skype) offered a MOOC to English speakers learning Spanish and paired the participants with a partner course of Spanish speakers learning English. Using open educational resources from COERLL, Colby College, Voice for America and the BBC among others, the language learners were introduced to new vocabulary and grammar points through texts and audio and then given activities to complete with their language partner from the other course. If you have ever taught a language class, you can think of the language exchange with the partner as a substitute for the partner activities we do most every day in class.

Thanks to a generous grant for digital humanities from the Mellon foundation, we were able to hire three education and language students at Dickinson College to create lessons in German, French, and Chinese. Created by Betsy Vuchinich, the Chinese materials use content primarily from the Confucius Institute and the University of North Carolina. The lessons have been designed for beginners of Chinese and are available on the Mixxer site.

The German and French lessons, created by Ezra Sassaman and Caitlin DeFazio respectively, are based on the COERLL open textbooks Deutsch im Blick and Français interactif. Both lessons assume some knowledge of the language – roughly one semester – though beginners could start by working through the text on their own. These lessons are currently available and free to use.

We had the opportunity to showcase these resources at the CALICO / IALLT conference in Athens, Ohio (May 6 – 10) and received a lot of praise from educators. Of particular interest is the news that we will use these lessons as part of three MOOCs to be offered this summer (starting July 1st). As before, each MOOC will have a partner course for speakers of Spanish, French and German learning English. Learners from each course will then be able to find partners to complete the language exchange activity provided within each lesson. The courses and lessons are open and free to anyone interested. We will be suggesting that our own students join as a way of maintaining their language skills over the summer.  A more detailed description of each course is provided below along with the sign-up form. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or you can contact me at bryantt@dickinson.edu.

http://www.language-exchanges.org/node/113108 (Spanish MOOC)

http://www.language-exchanges.org/node/113052 (French MOOC)

http://www.language-exchanges.org/node/113051 (German MOOC)

An Open Assignment Bank … For Languages

An Open Assignment Bank … For Languages

From the editor: We’re happy to repost this entry with permission from Barbara Sawhill. You can catch more of her thoughts at Language Lab Unleashed. We welcome Barbara to our community of language educators for the progress of OER.

I’m a big fan of the creative work that happens at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) at The University of Mary Washington.

Digital Storytelling 106 (ds106) is one of the many creative ideas that DTLT  has spawned, and it certainly has a presence on the web. I have been watching ds106 (and I have sometimes participated, because that is what you are expected to do) and also wondering what ds106 – a course about using media in a creative way for digital storytelling — could teach those of us who are interested in using media in a creative way  for language learning.

To be clear: I am not looking for new shiny tools or cool apps. What I am looking for is creative and fun ways for students to speak, listen, write and read in a second language. I am thinking about fun tasks to develop language skills. And I want to  integrate free, open, available tools and objects into exercises for developing languages.  And then I want to share them with everybody.

So here is my idea:  What about an open assignment bank for LANGUAGES?  I know what you are thinking, jeeez louise aren’t there enough of those out there already? True, yes there are, but many of them are tied to specific textbooks, courses and lesson plans.

I’m thinking more broadly, more generally. And yes, more open-ly.  Like ds106, I want to make it possible for anyone to suggest an assignment and for everyone to try them out.

And, rather than re-inventing the wheel, maybe there are ds106 assignments that are already in the hopper could be stolen liberated repurposed for language learning. I’m pretty sure the DTLT folks are into sharing, and wouldn’t mind seeing that happen.

So here we go.  Here’s a start. Here is a link to a rudimentarygoogle form where you can add ideas to  a language assignment bank. Please add something, please share it with others.  Please think about ways to incorporate existing open resources into the mix.

Ready?  Let’s see what we can create together.

Barbara Sawhill portrait

Barbara Sawhill has been working for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for about 15 years. In addition to teaching Spanish she runs a somewhat unconventional language center. Prior to this adventure in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to write, read, swim, and watch the Red Sox. And sometimes she blogs over here and here as well.