Teaching Persian Language: An Applied Linguistic Approach

This panel aims at investigating different aspects of teaching the Persian language; namely: methodology, material-development, and assessment. There will be three presentations in this panel.

The first presentation investigates main principles of the communicative Task-based Language Teaching approach. It is, in fact, a proficiency-based learning system that can address the kind of interaction and critical thinking skills needed in effective language communication and promotes learning of language and culture by doing. It will be argued that TBLT is an efficient methodology, specifically for developing instructional materials for the Persian language and culture.

The second presentation will be on the challenges of writing a Persian language textbook. The discussion will focus on three major domains: (1) the linguistic foundations on the basis of which these textbooks were written, (2) the applied linguistic theories on the basis of which the exercises were developed, and (3) the methodological concepts on the basis of which the tasks and activities were chosen.
In the end, different methodological hints will be introduced in order to help the educators take the role of the facilitators rather than lecturers in the class.

The third presentation will be on integrating Language Skills in Testing Persian Language. As communicative language teaching is based upon integrating different language skills, in turn, the skills of Persian language should be tested in an integrated fashion rather than testing each skill individually. This approach not only encourages language learners to perform communicatively but also enables a tester to evaluate two or more integrated language skills. To this end, examples will be given to demonstrate how different skills can be evaluated in an integrated approach of Persian testing. This is similar to producing language skills in real life instead of being evaluated in an isolated manner.

In sum, the aim of this panel is to examine the most recent approaches to language teaching and learning, material development, and language testing in the developing field of Persian language teaching.

Personal Information (Panel Organizer)

Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi
McGill University

Chair

Dominic Parviz Brookshaw
University of Oxford

Presentations

by Peyman Nojoumian / University of Southern California

Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT) methodology builds upon the development of real-life language tasks in order to enable efficient communication through the cultural context. TBLT instructional materials development works based on students’ needs analysis, learners’ proficiency levels and the course curriculum. For a language course, basic task types are defined and designed in different modules. Task types are main building blocks of the TBLT modular design. For example, analyzing a case, narrating or describing an event, writing a report, summarizing an article, translating a text, presenting an oral report, participating in a debate, and following map instructions are considered task types and they can be applied to any specific theme or domain. A target task, however, is defined as a narrower topic based on a specific task type. For instance, "narrating a memorable event in your life" would be a target task module for an intermediate/advance language course. Pedagogical tasks (PTs) are building blocks of each individual target task. Each PT or subtask breaks down the target task from easier into more difficult and complicated instructional components. For instance, the first PT is a listening activity for which a language learner is required to find out the main topic. The second PT will address the similarities between two scenarios and the third PT will develop recognition of differences. PTs together will create main skills required for doing real-life target tasks just like what a native-speaker would do. Finally, TBLT defines a final "Exit" task to wrap up the learned language skills inductively and integrates them into a whole unity in the form of real life scenarios. For example, for the advanced "case analysis" task type, learners are presented with a social or cultural case in the society and asked to analyze it. TBLT is a proficiency-based learning system that efficiently addresses the kind of interaction and critical thinking skills needed in effective language communication and promotes the learning of language and culture by doing. In this presentation, a sample of Persian language materials will be demonstrated based on the said approach. The demo illustrates an interactive lesson that incorporates instructional technology to further enhance language learning process.

by Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi / McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies

Writing a textbook for Persian language is a rather new trend in the field. There exist quite a number of invaluable works by the pioneers of the field. Nevertheless, like any other discipline, the writing of Persian language textbooks is a developing field, which needs to be visited and revisited. The purpose of this study is to give a background about available textbooks on the market and compare them with other second/foreign language textbooks written mostly for European languages, like English and French.

The main focus of the study is on three major domains: (1) the linguistic foundations on the basis of which these textbooks were written, (2) the applied linguistic theories on the basis of which the exercises were developed, and (3) the methodological concepts on the basis of which the tasks and activities were chosen. These discussions will be general, and not towards one single textbook.

Once the foundational issues are discussed, some general theoretical concepts on second/foreign language learning and teaching will be introduced. Some factors in this discussion include the contrastive analysis between the first and the second language and the effect of the first language on the second language. This will be illustrated with examples from the two languages as well as from the students’ errors.

This section will be followed by the tasks that the educators can use to bridge the theoretical agenda with the actual intended content and context. In this section, different language learning skills will be discussed, and various tasks that can be included to serve the purpose of bringing the theory into practice will be introduced.

Finally, different methodological hints will be introduced in order to help the educators take the role of the facilitators rather than lecturers in the class. This is especially important because we are mostly concerned with teaching Persian outside the Persian-speaking countries, and the only chance that students have to practice the target language is in the classroom setting. For this reason, it is imperative to choose tasks and activities that are conducive to the target language use by the students. In addition, the contents of the contexts are extremely important and can be geared towards subject-matter contents, such as politics, media, literature, art, history, etc.

Persian language pedagogy studies are a new discipline, and any textbook or research in this field will benefit Persian language educators as well as Persian language learners.

by Ladan Hamedani / University of Hawai'i

This presentation will be on integrating Language Skills in Testing Persian Language. As communicative language teaching is based upon integrating different language skills, in turn, the skills of Persian language should be tested in an integrated fashion rather than testing each skill individually. This approach not only encourages language learners to perform communicatively but also enables a tester to evaluate two or more integrated language skills. To this end, examples will be given to demonstrate how different skills can be evaluated in an integrated approach of Persian testing. This is similar to producing language skills in real life instead of being evaluated in an isolated manner.
Testing reading comprehension can be accompanied with a listening section followed by open-ended questions that require response in either oral or written form. Testing writing skill can be associated with reading a text and/or listening to a text. Afterwards, producing the written form is asked. Testing listening skill can be combined with reading a text while producing the response in written or oral form. Speaking skill can be evaluated in conjunction with reading or listening to materials first. Subsequently, producing the spoken form is required.
Based on the traditional approaches, some Persian language skills have been assessed through either recognition, such as multiple-choice items, matching items, true/false items, or minimum of production, such as fill-in-the-blank items. Consequently, the production skills, either in oral or written form, have been used as little as possible. For instance, while testing grammar, the maximum of production can be providing the written grammatical form, such as the correct form of a verb. Nevertheless, in the integrated approach of language testing, this task can be performed in response to an open-ended question either in written or oral form. Some open-ended questions require an examinee to produce more than one sentence. Therefore, the answer can be at sentence or paragraph level, which can be led to focusing on function while producing the form, rather than at word or phrase level. If the Persian language skills are checked in more productive manners, some factors such as vocabulary, structure, register, discourse, and pronunciation that are distinguishing factors in Persian language can be checked better.
All these factors can help a tester to evaluate the skills of a Persian language learner in an integrated combination of skills.