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Study On Summarisation


Most classes test reading comprehension with multiple-choice or true-or-false questions. But a new study suggests that the most effective method for checking understanding is not practice tests, but summarisation.

According to ‘The Influence of summary writing on the development of reading skills in a foreign language’ by Martgorzata Marzec-Stawiarska from the Pedagogical University of Krakow (2016), summarising involves building a text’s ‘macrostructure’ – essentially, forming its gist.

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Words And Sensitivity


Do second language speakers process large language patterns, such as multi-word phrases (for example: ‘no need to worry’) as a whole, or do they process each word separately? Are they sensitive to their frequency, meaning being able to process high-frequency combinations faster – as native speakers are?

The answers to these questions can potentially give linguists a ‘unified theory’, a single-system view of language according to which words and larger patterns are processed by the same cognitive mechanism.

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Chinese students anxious but enthusiastic

An engagingly written study by Philip Landström of Sweden’s Karlstads University tackles Foreign language anxiety among Chinese senior middle school students. Noting that speaking in front of others is hard enough without it being in a foreign language, he gently introduces tricky concepts like Horowitz’s Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS), which scores between 36 (not at all bothered) and 180 (deeply nervous).

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Iranian academics Paaws for thought

Iranian English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Learners’ Argumentative Writing Performance in Private Language Institutes is a clear well-written investigation, presented informally enough for even non-academic ELT journalists to follow. Its introduction includes detail on how most Iranian students will study English at school but often acquire their ‘communicative skills in the English language’ only through supplementary classes at private language schools. A total of 69 ‘argumentative essays’ (putting forth a point of view) in this study were written by students at one of these private languages schools – often preparing students for Ielts or Teofl. The authors note that little research had been done on this sector of Iranian EFL.

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Teaching ‘information structure’ a tad easier

The paper ‘Information Structure in EFL Teaching’ (Gulktekin Boran) tackles a difficult area of EFL – teaching ‘information structure’. It’s hard enough to define what information structure is – it includes such syntactic constructions as fronting (emphasising what’s important in a sentence by putting it at the front), clefting (for example sentences starting ‘According to …’ to show we’re more interested in the source than what the source says), pseudoclefting and other tricks involving flipping sentence word order to highlight or de-emphasise bits of information.

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Wake-up Call after 93 per cent drop-out rate

What happens when a large motivated group of adult learners starts using Computer Assisted Language Learning (Call) for self-study in the workplace? They stop using it after a short while, reveals a study by the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Languages (CASL). Self-study with language learning software in the workplace: What happens involved 326 US government employees in two groups – beginners who chose a target language and mixed-level students learning Spanish. Two popular self-study technology-mediated programs were accessed via the internet. Participants in both groups agreed to keep a weekly learner log and complete periodic assessments.

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Israel’s ‘inequality in higher education access’

Access to Israel’s universities and higher education colleges is determined by performance in the twelfth-grade matriculation exams, with most HE institutions requiring a pass in English. In ‘English as a Gatekeeper’, Yariv Feniger and Hanna Ayalon of Ben-Gurion and Tel Aviv universities respectively look at the likelihood that Jews and Arabs will enrol in a university within eight years of leaving high school.

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