Later today I'm going to conduct an interview of a Russian student from Novosibirsk, my home town, to get a sample of her speech for analysis. Its purpose is to see some patterns in her use of the language, including a number of its elements, such as phonetics, grammar, vocabulary, collocation, etc.
First, I think it would be interesting for you to know about the technical side of it. Actually, just before sitting down to write this blog entry I had to install 4 different pieces of software to be able to complete this project. First comes Audacity to record our conversation while we are talking on Skype. Next, come the Voice Walker and the SoundWriter. All of these are necessary to record the conversation and to transcribe it in order to analyse a sample of learner language for different error patterns, for example. I am rather curious about how it will go and how I will go about analysing the material I will have collected.
5 hours later I am sitting writing this entry completely disappointed! No, the interview was fine. We were able to establish good contact with the student and talk about her life as a student, her interest in English, a recent film she has watched and a concert she attended together with her friends (These were the requirements of the task I had to complete slightly modified because of the context it was done in). However, when I turned on the recording I discovered that none of our conversation actually got recorded but only the bits my friend who helped me to organise this interview said. It took me some time to understand that for some reason the headphones had to be blamed for this situation.
So, what I have to do now (actually already did) is to ask my friend to give it another go (what a coincidence!) with me. I hope she will agree to help me one more time, otherwise I might be in trouble. I hope I won't be.
Having shared with you my upset about the unfortunate circumstances of this situation, I would like to spend more time telling you about the assignment itself. Its idea is to apply in practice the knowledge of the language acquisition theory we have been studying in one of the courses we are taking. What I appreciate about this task is the way it is tied to the things we have discussed the theory of. Even though my first attempt of collecting the data for this assignment was unsuccessful (I hope I will have a second chance), what it asks the students should enable them to apply the theory to practice. In addition, the same data can be used to complete another assignment devoted to learning and teaching of listening where one of the possible topics for discussion is suggesting the ways in which the learner of English can be helped to master their listening skills.
Being a teacher myself, I try to create such tasks for my students that will give more meaning to what we have been studying and let them develop. I think the task I've described today is just like this.
Do you think you could do something like this with your students? Does it seem a valuable experience for you?