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March 14, 2018

Teaching Teachers the Subtleties of Language in ESL Education

by Rebecca Benison ’11

In February, 2018, Daryl Gordon, Ph.D., Ammon School associate dean, was among the experts presenting on TESOL topics to an international audience at the 14th annual CamTESOL Conference on English Language Teaching in Cambodia.

Thousands of people representing dozens of countries convened at the Institute of Technology Cambodia for the event, whose theme was “English Language Teaching in the Digital Era.” The purpose of the Conference was to help Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) instructors share their strategies for success with one another. About 450 educators made presentations across the two-day event in Phnom Penh.

Dr. Gordon, who presented on “Emphasizing the Rhythm of English in Pronunciation Activities,” said her research highlights the importance of teaching the subtle nuances in speech, including stress, tone and pauses.

“Recent research in pronunciation indicates that a focus on supra-segmentals—or rhythm of a language—is essential to learner intelligibility,” Dr. Gordon said. “In other words, if second language learners practice the rhythm of their new language, they will be more intelligible to a native speaker.”

In her presentation, Dr, Gordon compared language to dancing, saying that learning to speak without rhythm would be like learning to dance without music. In order to succeed in either, you need rhythm to guide you. Being able to practice with an experienced teacher helps, she added.

At Adelphi, Dr. Gordon teaches Linguistics for Teachers. She explained that the importance of phonology, or pronunciation, is critical for ESL teachers to understand. She developed a course specifically designed for this topic, called Phonetics and Phonology: Applications for ESL/EFL Teaching, which focuses on pronunciation instruction for ESL teachers.

Her background includes additional experiences that made her a perfect fit for CamTESOL In 2000, Dr. Gordon taught English in Laos and her dissertation research concerned Laotian refugees to the U.S.

“I have always been interested in Southeast Asia and the conference provided an opportunity for me to share my work with teachers who are teaching English in that area,” she said.



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