A few weeks back I discovered a facebook add for a free seminar day hosted by the book publisher Cambridge Press. I'd never been to anything like this in Korea, or anything like this that was ESL related for that matter, so I signed up on their website not really sure if I was going to go or not.
I was a bit confounded by their confirmation which stated the times for the event as being 9:00am - 4:30 pm to host only 4 speakers. With no times stated for each of the speakers, there was no way I was going to wake up at 7:00 am to get there by 9 on a Sat. morning (after having stayed up drinking with a friend who is leaving Korea soon until 3 am). In fact, it was more or less a miracle that I left my house around 12:30 to get over there. Of course, the second problem was that the only directions provided by their email (their website was even less helpful) was that it was in Sookmyung Women's University Music Hall, 6F. Luckily, Sookdae is one of the few colleges I am aware of the location of. After looking on Google I found one of the buildings labeled 음악대학, which, of course I could read as being College of Music, but there was no way of telling whether the "music hall" resided within this building or not. If I hadn't been able to read hangul, it might have been a problem, and assuming that people attending the seminar were English teachers, I'd say it's a fair assumption that there are some that can't read hangul, or even if they can, can't understand what it says. Fortunately, the campus, upon arrival, had some English signage and I found the way to the Music Department. As I got close, signs for the event were posted around with some arrows pointing in the right direction, but I was quite disappointed in the lack of information about the times/ directions to the event.
My agitation subsided a bit when, upon signing in to the event, I was handed a free bag, a free t-shirt and then asked if it was ok if they gave me a ham sandwich (from subway!!) because it was the only kind they had left. It was just after 1pm when I had arrived and the next lecture was to start at 1:30. I ate a few bites of the sandwich, but actually I was quite full so I stored it for later and headed up to the lecture hall.
While we waited for the speaker, Charles Browne to begin his lecture on Comprehending Authentic Video: The Importance of High Frequency Vocabulary, the MC advertised some of the free gifts to be given away later in the day. Some backpacks, gift certificates and a grand prize of a HP netbook were to be giving out throughout the day.
Finally it was time for the presentation. I didn't really know what to expect with the title of the presentation, it wasn't one of the lectures I had been more keen on seeing, but I'm glad I did. Basically, to sum up his presentation, he described the need for teaching "high frequency words" while teaching English. As a professor in Japan, he finds Japanese textbooks emphasizing all the wrong words. He explained that, while students generally had a good grasp of the first 1,000 most commonly used words in the English language, textbooks tended to skip over the next level, say the next 2-5,000 most commonly used words and go straight to very high level vocabulary to "prepare students" for college entrance exams. In the above picture, he is demonstrating that 75% comprehension level of the words, this is essentially what a text might look like to an English learner. Give it a read yourself and see if you can get any of the words from the blanks. Pretty much impossible, huh? Now, go tell yourself to use "context clues" to figure out the words in the blanks like I'm sure most of you English teachers do all the time. And you wonder why your students can never figure out the meaning using the "context".
I really liked this guy because he really made me think again about the way I teach vocabulary. He also had some recommended websites that can pick out high frequency words and tell the teacher exactly which words the students will have difficulty with (and therefore make it easier to create vocabulary lists and the like) and also help you decipher whether or not something may be more difficult than you realize for your students.
Anyway, this seems like an annual event here, so if you happen to see an ad for it next year, check it out. Free stuff and at least one good lecturer (although I'm sure they were all worth watching).