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Participants gain insights on modern trends

By Zou Shuo in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-21 10:41
An attendee at the TESOL China Assembly takes snapshots with her mobile phone at the event. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

Discussions and deliberations at the ongoing 2018 TESOL China Assembly are helping English-language educators and participants gain valuable insights and modern techniques in foreign language teaching and learning.

The conference, which has attracted more than 1,800 English-language teachers from across the country, has also invited more than 100 domestic and foreign experts in the field for keynote speeches and panel discussions.

Topics range from the mission of English educators in the new era to English education and wholistic personal development to student-centered learning. It will also share experiences in academic research and practical teaching and discuss topics, including the differences between first language acquisition and foreign language learning, information-based foreign language teaching and teacher development.Autonomous learning and experiential learning are the new buzzwords at the event that has captured the imagination of participants.

In his keynote speech, David Nunan, professor emeritus of applied linguistics at the University of Hong Kong and distinguished research professor of TESOL at Anaheim University, stressed on the need for a learner-centric approach, which he has been championing while teaching English as a foreign language for more than three decades.

He said the learner's autonomy is essential if they are to become effective language users because it facilitates learning beyond the classroom.

Similar concepts were echoed by Ester de Jong, president of TESOL from 2017-18 and a professor at the University of Florida. In her speech on Friday morning, de Jong called for the integration of language and content to facilitate experiential learning, an ability that allows students to learn beyond the classroom.

"We need to become facilitators of learning, not just transmitters of knowledge, because our students have access to tools for learning that did not exist before," she said.

Wang Xiaohua, an English teacher for students majoring in computer engineering at Dalian University of Foreign Languages, was one of the many participants who found the lectures inspiring.

"I will conduct more project-based teaching to enable students to have more autonomy in designing the teaching content," said Wang. "For example, I will probably divide the students into different groups and ask each group to develop an English website promoting the food, transportation, economy and culture of Dalian. Through these projects, students not only learn the language, but also how to use them in everyday life."

Yang Fei, an IELTS teacher from Shanghai-based language training company Global Education, said the lectures have changed his concept of English teaching.

As most of his students are prospective candidates for overseas education, he said, "we should not simply prepare students for the test, but for real life overseas".

"In particular, teaching more academic content will play a big part in helping the students become better accustomed to foreign universities," Yang said.

Gong Yafu, a senior research fellow at the National Institute of Education Sciences, considered such exchanges of ideas and concepts as envisaged at the conference as vital to English-language education in China.

China has one of the world's largest population of English learners, which include at least 200 million students from Grade 3 to college, not to mention a growing number of preschool student learners and working professionals.

Despite its scale, Gong, who was the president of the National Association of Foreign Language Education (2001-17) under the Chinese Education Society, said most English-language educators have few chances to interact with their international counterparts and keep updated with the world's leading concepts. "I hope this conference will be the start of more assemblies that introduce international research in language teaching to Chinese teachers, and promote more local research that comes from Chinese teachers."

Xing Yi contributed to this story.

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