К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2005
Авторы: Бэлласт Д., Нурбаева Ж.
A Principled Approach
The Foreign Language teaching at Kazak
American Free University is based on three sets of principles: Cognitive
Principles, Affective Principles and Linguistic Principles. The cognitive
principles relate to the mental and intellectual functions. The second set of
principles deals with the emotional involvement of a learner in the process of
a language acquisition. Finally, the last group of principles focuses on the
language per se and the acquisition of linguistic forms. These principles are
examined in detail in D. Brown’s book Teaching By Principles: An Interactive
Approach to Language Pedagogy (Brown, 2001).
learning leads toward better long-term retention than rote learning.
This principle ensures that the language material corresponds to the
students’ interests, academic and career goals, and existing knowledge so that
deeper and closer ties are established between the old and the new. This means
that the University curriculum allows for a variety of language courses that
address a range of language functions including language for specific purposes.
powerful rewards are intrinsically motivated within the learner.
This principle derives from the one
mentioned above: as students set specific and meaningful learning goals and
achieve them, they become intrinsically motivated. It is our goal to train
students who will be motivated not by grades alone, but will become independent
learners who are capable of directing their own education and taking language
learning outside the classroom.
mastery of a foreign language calls for a variety of learning strategies.
This principle stresses the importance of
learning styles, multiple intelligences and strategies based on these
preferences. The implications for the classroom will be raising the teachers’
ability to recognize different learning preferences represented in their
classroom, to adapt their teaching styles to various types of learners, and
finally, to enable the students to utilize various strategies in the process of
Learning to use a foreign language, people develop a
new mode of thinking, feeling and acting – a second identity.
The new “language ego”, intertwined with
the foreign language, can create a sense of fragility, defensiveness, and
inhibitions (Brown, 2001). It is the teachers’ responsibility to create an
optimal environment in the classroom, which promotes learning, especially in a
university setting when adult learners may develop a set of inhibitions.
Capable adults may sound and seem “slow” and “stupid”; however, in this case
unintelligible does not mean not intelligent. Thus, the students’ attempts to
produce language should always be recognized and supported. The assignments
should be carefully balanced between being not challenging enough and being too
overwhelming. The principle of the language ego drives such teaching activities
as lesson planning, error correction, presentation of material, group work, who
to call on, etc.
Successful language learners will “play” and take
risks to produce and interpret language that is beyond their current ability
When the learner is supported (see the
above language ego principle), then he or she is able to overcome their fear
and try out new forms. This in its turn leads to a better understanding of a
language as these attempts are adjusted and corrected, again in a supportive
Whenever a language is taught, a complex system of
cultural norms, traditions, values, ways of thinking and behaviors should also
At our University a great emphasis is
placed on teaching culture, and cross-cultural communication is soon to become
a required course for all majors due to the international nature of the school.
The issues of raising our students’ sociolinguistic competence are addressed in
the article “Are our students sociolinguistically competent or challenged?” in
this very volume.
The native language effect: The native language
exerts a strong influence (both facilitating and interfering) on the
acquisition of the target language.
Familiarizing the students with the
native language phenomenon that caused the error in the target language is a
good way to repair such errors. This will raise the students’ awareness of their
own language, culture, and the language acquisition process as a whole.
Communicative Competence: Instruction should be
pointed toward all CC components – formal linguistic, sociolinguistic,
discourse, and strategic competence.
The English instruction at KAFU is
steering away from teaching a grammar-based curriculum when contrived,
artificial language forms and functions are not relevant to the student’s world
outside the classroom. However, in the attempt to focus on fluency, accuracy
should not become obsolete. There is room for both form-focused and
fluency-focused instruction and discernment is needed in developing courses to
find the right balance (formal linguistic and strategic competencies). Students
are to be exposed to a variety of situations where particular language is used
(discourse competence) and particular cultural values are displayed
Based on these principles, the following
requirements are made for our English programs and their curricula, resources
The authenticity requirement can be
stated as the hypothesis lay down by Omaggio Handley, “Opportunities must be
provided for students to practice using language in a range of contexts likely
to be encountered in the target culture.” (Omaggio Handley, 2001, emphasis
Authenticity is achieved through the use
of authentic teaching materials. For instance, texts such as the Interchange
series, the English File series, Active Listening and the Hotline series are
widely used by several of our programs. The university library offers newspaper
and magazine subscriptions such as Newsweek, News for You, and National
Geographic; samples of English and American literary works, video and audio
materials. Authentic assignments may include writing a business letter to the
KAFU Vice-President, developing a city tour for a visiting faculty member,
group project work, Internet and library research, and other activities where
students have freedom of incorporating their own interests and developing the
sense of ownership in the learning process. Authenticity is also a requirement
for assessment tools, especially those used for performance-based tasks. Among
the tools used at our University are rubrics for oral and written proficiency,
portfolios, project presentations, peer evaluation, etc.
Last, but not least, authenticity is
achieved through the involvement of our foreign faculty, both resident and
visiting, who introduce our students to present-day English.
There are at least two challenges in
meeting the authenticity requirement: first, the availability of authentic
resources; second, even if such materials are available, “there is no assurance
that the language use is always normative or that the materials are fully
comprehensible to language learners.” (Omaggio Handley, 2001) Authentic
materials are usually intended for native speakers, and the foreign language
teachers are challenged to examine, evaluate and adapt such materials to make
them appropriate to the level of their students. This in its turn calls for
developing highly proficient, qualified and creative faculty, skilled in
critical thinking and who are life-long language learners at heart.
The focus on fluency, our next
requirement, can never be overstated. Omaggio Handley defines fluency as
the “ability to produce a large number of ideas relatively quickly.” (Omaggio
Handley, 2001) An example activity used at our school to fit this definition is
“brainstorming” sessions. As a class anticipates a visit by a new foreign
faculty member, they generate a long list of questions for the interview.
Another way to enhance fluency is giving assignments that involve critical
thinking, for instance, placing words/objects/events in categories and then
substantiating the choices. The Webster dictionary, however, gives a more
traditional definition of fluency as “ability to write or speak
smoothly, easily and expressively.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1986) This
smooth “flow” of language is to be established already at the novice level even
at short segments. (Brown, 2001). At the beginner’s level, only errors made in
the practiced elements are corrected. Fluency is developed in our classrooms
through activities such as free writing, spontaneous conversations with guest
native speakers, debates, group discussions, and other correction-free
Fluency thrives in a friendly environment
where any ideas are welcome and only errors that cause the communication
breakdowns are addressed. The challenge we face when cultivating fluency is
that it might be, although not necessarily, in conflict with accuracy. The
tendency may be to “overlook” the errors to sustain fluency to the point that
these errors become fossilized and almost impossible to eradicate.
The mentioned above “normative” use of
language falls within the scope of our next requirement, accuracy. Accuracy
refers to the “acceptability, quality and precision of the message conveyed.”
(Swender, 1999) Although grammar is losing its “grip” on our approaches and
curricula, form-focused instruction still has its place. However, grammar is
not the only aspect to be considered here. Among other features are vocabulary,
pronunciation (both individual sounds and intonation patterns), and
sociolinguistic competence. In other words, accuracy concerns itself with
“appropriateness” of the language. We strive to produce graduates able to
orient themselves in various cross-cultural contexts and still find the most appropriate
way of communicating in the target language.
The greatest challenge in this area would
be a tendency to constantly correct errors; this might lower fluency, cause
student inhibitions and develop a fear of speech.
The requirement of interactive instruction
is met through cooperation with our visiting faculty who introduce more modern,
student-focused teaching directed to develop students’ critical thinking and
independent learning. Our students learn to take initiative and responsibility
for their learning through individual and team project work, whereas the role
of the teacher is being reduced to that of a facilitator rather than
information giver (during class) and receiver (during exam).
However, only some English-speaking
teachers are exposed to this interactive model of teaching through their
association with Western faculty. Even then, there is no guarantee that they
adjust their teaching to this new model after observing it. There is a need to
establish a teacher development program at KAFU that will help its English
faculty to reflect on their teaching, learn new skills and apply them in their
classrooms. One way to do this is to require all KAFU teachers to study at the
MA TESOL program, but there has to be an option of taking some classes for
professional development without having to enroll for the entire graduate
The last but not the least requirement is
intensity of study. For an English program to be intensive, according to the
international standards, it has to offer at least 18 hours of English
instruction per week for the period no less than eight months long. Primarily,
this requirement is set for our intensive English preparatory classes for
students wishing to enroll as well as for current students in the American Diploma
Program. Unfortunately, the Foreign Languages curricula are not as intensive
due to some restrictions from the Ministry of Education. This could be resolved
by adding classes and seminars taught by Western professors such as Leadership,
Globalization, Philosophy, Western Thought and Cross-cultural Communication to
the course load.
At present there are both national and
visiting faculty members teaching English at KAFU. Most of them are just at the
beginning of their teaching careers, but their mobility, enthusiasm and
flexibility are more of an advantage than disadvantage, especially in the light
of radical changes this University is attempting to implement, including
international certification of our English programs. There have been consistent
English methodology and other professional development seminars offered at KAFU
by visiting and local faculty; there is an MA TESOL program, and endless
opportunities to share experiences with visiting Western professors – all these
factors help shape our distinct English department. Last year KAFU had a
privilege to host an English Language Fellow who organized numerous workshops
and trainings at our University for both our department and teachers from the
area. The three major trainings that have taken place at KAFU are English
Methodology, Teaching English to Young Learners and the Village Project
Training. The village project trains city teachers who then will travel to the
remote areas and offer workshops to the village teachers to enhance their English
skills and methodology. One of our KAFU teachers has been actively involved in
To meet the requirements of authenticity
and fluency, we hope to offer our entire English faculty an opportunity to
travel overseas for internship. So far only two of our teachers have had such
an experience. This summer we plan to send one more teacher to our partner
University in the United States, Seattle Pacific University, for an internship
at the American Cultural Exchange, an intensive English language program for
international students. The intern will observe classes offered at various
levels of proficiency, volunteer as a classroom aid, fulfill the assignments
and write a reflective journal. Upon arrival, the intern will present the
materials and give a report on teaching and learning at ACE and how it will
affect their own classroom at KAFU.
KAFU ENGLISH PROGRAMS
As was mentioned above, our intensive
English programs include the community classes and the first year of intensive
English instruction for the students in the American Diploma Program. The
evening community classes are offered three times a week for a total of seven
academic hours for eight months. Groups are formed based on the placement test
and there are four proficiency levels: beginners, low-intermediate,
intermediate and high-intermediate. These classes are for anyone in the
community who is interested in learning conversational American English. Both
national and international faculty is involved in teaching these classes. All
of the five requirements are met in this program: authenticity, fluency,
accuracy, intensity and interactive learning. In the future, we hope to expand
the program and offer specific courses to attract various audiences like
preparation for TOEFL and IELTS, Business English, English for Tourism, etc.
The first of the American Diploma Program
is part of the intensive English program – two groups are formed, intermediate
and high-intermediate. For some exceptional students who have graduated from
our evening classes there is an option to be enrolled directly into the second
year, omitting the first year. However, the majority is enrolled in the first
year where there are up to 26 hours of English instruction per week. The
students take classes in Phonology, Grammar, Reading Comprehension, English
Conversation, Academic Writing, Cross-cultural Communication, Introduction to
Business English, Listening Comprehension, etc.
During their second year, American
program students take 90 hours of Business Communication and seminars in
Business Presentations and Business Writing. Third year students are now
divided by their majors – Management, Information Systems, and Law – and take
two semesters of Professional English. Thus, we offer Business English, Law
English and English for IT.
As far as English teaching, the Kazakstan
Program is presented by three major programs. The first two are offered to the
English majors, specializing either in English teaching or Translation. The
third program is developed to help raise the proficiency level of our
non-English majors. This last program offers additional hours to the course
load and involves teachers skilled in interactive approaches. Right now
teachers and staff are developing new curricula and starting from fall 2005 we
will be using all authentic materials. Among the series to be used are the
English File, the Natural English, the Cutting Edge, the Hotline and the
Among the extracurricular activities the
Translators’ Club attracts current and prospective KAFU students, who gather
together for fellowship, discussion of issues related to translation and
cross-cultural communication, and to listen to a range of interesting speakers
from a variety of backgrounds.
Every spring semester, KAFU hosts a
series of Olympiads for high school students, KAFU college students and
University students. It is significant that the level of participants is
getting higher each year, and the contests are becoming increasingly
competitive. This year it was a special joy to see non-English majors actively
involved in writing proficiency tests, project presentations, and other events
during the Olympiad week. In the future we hope to host intercollegiate
Olympiads open for students from other universities.
Among the KAFU graduate programs, there
are two where English instruction is essential: MBA and MA TESOL. The MBA
classes are offered both in Russian and English; however, it is expected that
the graduate students are all highly proficient in English to be able to
participate in our international programs – visiting Western lecturers and
Summer Business Internship in the US.
All of the MA TESOL classes are in
English with both national and visiting faculty members. The focus of this
program is to develop English teachers for colleges and universities, who are
trained in modern methodology and research, who will be involved in continuous
education and who will potentially become teacher trainers themselves. There is
an option of the US internship for these graduate students at the American Cultural
Exchange program at the campus of Seattle Pacific University, one of our
The KAFU College also offers a Translation major to high
school graduates who wish to later enroll in our University program. In the
future we hope to design a new curriculum for the major in hotel and tourism
industry coupled with an intensive English Program. There is an English Club
for anyone wishing to improve their English conversation with native speakers,
and weekly classes are offered to high school students with our KAFU faculty.
This article outlines the foundational
principles for the English instruction at the Kazak American Free University
and discusses strengths and opportunities for growth of its existing English
1.Brown, D. Principles
of Language Learning and Teaching. 4th edition. Addison Wesley
Longman, Inc. 2000.
2.Brown, D. Teaching
by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Addison
Wesley Longman, Inc. 2001.
3.Omaggio Hadley, A. Teaching Language
in Context. Heinle and Heinle. 2001.
4.Swender, E. ACTFL
Oral Proficiency Interview Tester Manual. Yonkers, New York. 1999.
5.Webster’s New World
Dictionary of the American English, 2nd College edition. Simon and
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2005