posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany
In one of my classes last week I presented an authentic, anonymized piece of writing to my students here in Giessen, produced by a 13 year-old learner in grade 7 a few years ago (in his/her third year of learning English as a Foreign Language in a secondary school in Germany). After providing all the necessary bits and pieces of background information (type of secondary school attended by this particular learner, his/her heritage language/language spoken in the family [i.e. Turkish], the textbook used at the time, etc. pp.), I asked them to evaluate and grade this learner text which I chose because it is full of target language anomalies (misspellings, grammar problems, etc.), for instance:
signs = singns; languages = langeses; Wales = Wahls; castles = carsels, carstels, casels; climb a mountain = climb a monten; with = wiht; table = tabel; making = makeing; having = haveing, etc.
However, this beginning learner of English also produced text passages such as: “In South Wales you can go to a pit museum, a casel [ = castle], a beach, cycle a bike. I would like to go to the bache [= beach] and swim.”
It was very interesting to see how my students reacted to this. While a few of them immediately conceived of this as a clear case of dyslexia (without any substantial knowledge of research in this area), arguing that this learner needed professional help by a specialist (i.e. a psychologist, or even a psychiatrist), others were less certain. They pointed out that they were quite confused by the inconsistencies in error and text production.
In the following, we discussed a wide spectrum of possible causes for learning difficulties in the EFL classroom (including, among many other things, lack of motivation and effort, absent-mindedness, carelessness, distractibility, linguistic interference, teacher-fronted instruction, teaching as transmission of skills, as well as dyslexia, ADD and ADHD), and potential options for dealing with these issues in everyday classroom practice in adequate ways.
I am very interested to hear what you have to say about this, and about diversity in foreign/second language instructional contexts in general. Please feel free to comment on all other facets of diversity relevant to foreign language instruction in the 21st century.