The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) has now published an article I’ve written about listening comprehension in second language acquisition and teaching, along with accompanying professional development activities for teachers. It’s part of a bigger module focusing on receptive skills in “the Language Leap” (Språksprånget), a professional development project aimed at foreign language teachers in Sweden. The text is in Swedish and is available on the agency’s website here.
I’m happy to have been given the opportunity to contribute to this project, and grateful for all the guidance, help and feedback I received along the way from my colleagues at the Centre for Professional Development and Internationalisation in Schools at Uppsala University, other contributors to the project, Skolverket, as well as family and friends.
I also want to share a few personal notes about the writing process. It should come as no surprise that I enjoy writing, but this project fell outside of what I normally write, which was interesting in a number of ways.
- The content is relatively technical, so it was a challenge to write it in a way that feels accessible and relevant for teachers. The text deals mainly with how listening comprehension works from a cognitive perspective, which is highly relevant for teachers to be aware of, but it’s not easy to convey this while avoiding overlap with later parts of the same module that were more practical. I can’t judge whether or not I succeeded in making the text accessible and relevant, but feedback from the few teachers who read the final draft was positive at least.
- I rarely spend this much time writing an article, which meant there was room to try out different ways of approaching the subject and structuring the text. I also received valuable, in-depth feedback on the text itself, which rarely happens in other contexts. Having other people care about why the text is structured in one way rather than another is also wonderful, especially if the new structure turns out to be better. The lessons learnt here are applicable beyond this project, too! Of course, I received feedback regarding the content as well, but that’s less relevant for other projects.
- This text is more formal and subject to specific requirements regarding style and format that I’m not used to. Obviously, I write a lot, but mostly without oversight from others except the occasional kind reader who might point out minor mistakes. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to say beyond that, it just means that the type of article I normally write doesn’t merit that kind of attention and seldom receives it. This project was different, and while the oversight could have felt oppressive, I instead found it valuable to discuss why certain ways of wording something were preferred over others, given the premise of the project.
- The text is in Swedish, even though 99% of the texts I read and write regarding second language acquisition are in English. This caused some frustration, such as having to deal with compound adjectives, which in Swedish is handled in a way I just don’t like, or trying to find the correct terms for very specific things that don’t appear in dictionaries. Still, even though I haven’t written any longer texts in Swedish for at least a decade, it’s still my native language, and writing in it comes rather naturally. As long as people find it easy to follow and interesting to read, I’m happy!
Even though the module is now published, I’m sure there will be many opportunities to sue the material in various ways, including in my own courses. It’s also likely that I’ll keep working on listening-related projects specifically for Chinese, even though I have written quite a lot about that already over at Hacking Chinese. Stay tuned!