TBLT Course: The Book Part 2

I’ve already written about the choice of the book and its place in the course, but wanted to say a few more things. Most of these reflect what I do in my graduate classes, and how I will modify those for this course.

When I pick a book for a course, I want one that I can discuss on different levels. Not just theory and practice. What struck me in this book was that we were talking (yes, I talk with my books) about teaching and learning, linguistics, and SLA. But there is another element. It is wide-ranging and historical enough that we can see the science of SLA. I love science, even though I am not very good at it. When people ask me, “What is the greatest human invention?” some may answer the wheel, or fire, or even currency. I think the height of human evolution is in a process. The most important human invention is the scientific method. Humanity would be so much poorer without it. Indeed, we may have shuffled off or been subsumed without it. Handling the breakneck progress is another skill we are working on.

I studied Psychology undergrad, and in those days it was trying to shake off the mantel of armchair science (ethnography, introspection) to become a real, “hard” science. When I studied Linguistics in grad school, we were at a similar point, moving away from anthropology to hard science. I am happy see here how far linguistics and SLA have come, and where exactly the bare areas are that need filling in. This is a very fulfilling feeling.

The second reason I chose this book was because of my personal journey. A fresh graduate with my psych degree I returned to Barcelona, where I had made many friends on Junior year abroad. I was there from Franco to Felipe, during the development of democracy. I studied at the International House for a certificate of teaching and began my career at the IEN (North American Institute) with 70 other faculty and 3,000 students. I think a left just about when Scott Thornbury got there.

I got a scholarship from IEN in Barcelona for a TESOL Summer Institute at Northwestern. I picked a lawyer turned linguist because he was said to be the toughest. Michael Long had us reading hundreds of pages of research every day, pounding it in every morning. He needed a tennis partner, so I got to be humiliated every afternoon for two weeks. It changed my life. He was getting ready to move to Hawaii and worried about it.

Living in Tokyo has its advantages, but when I landed here in 1984 I never realized it was also so central to SLA and linx. My boss, Kaneko-sensei, and my colleague, Robson sensei were in the first TESOL cohort at Temple Japan. Rod Ellis was a key faculty member. Kaneko-sensei got him to fly in from New Zealand twice a year for intensive courses at our university graduate school, so he was often available for questions. I like questions.

Peter Robinson is (was?) at Aoyama, I’ve lost track. But I will always remember the night we missed the last train and had to drink Hobgoblin until the first train. He went over the research implications of moving to the University of Maryland versus some other university in the UK. Our talk never really touched on his research, but I did get to see a very sharp mind, even after quite a few brews.

Living in Tokyo meant that I got to regularly see the leaders in area like vocabulary acquisition, statistics, testing, and too many others to mention. I’d have to say that the common denominator among those is a great and bustling energy. I wish I could hold a candle to them, but have contented myself to a measured slog with a long horizon to prepare things like this class.

Tomorrow, Reading 1 (of 3), the second step in the process.

Today Reading (0:27 Ch. 9) and Blogging (0:39)

Previously: Announcement. Book.

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