Wednesday, December 15, 2010


OK OK so I've been remiss. When the website and all my writing was washed clean, I put much of it on a blog, or at least what I needed for the 2010 grammar-check presentation. But there was actually quite a bit of it; I'm not sure I got it all. In addition, I wrote an interesting article (I thought) more or less summing up my thoughts, and putting them in readable form, for Global Study Magazine; it was accepted, but I'm not sure it was published. I will now attempt to recover some of what has gone before.

1. Grammar technology for better or worse. This is the homepage for my presentation.

2. Green line to the commons: Grammar-check takes esl/efl for a ride. This is a composite of all that I wrote before my presentation in Boston, and was in fact directed toward Boston (get the "green-line" reference?) includes some interesting writing, but one thing is unfortunate: the one called "grammar-check theory" is really misnamed. There IS a grammar-check theory, but it's really better stated here:

3. Grammar-check theory, this blog. The essence of this, which I'd like to carry on, is two-fold. One, our linguistics training teaches us that all language creation is rule-bound, and it is: learners have an active set of rules that they apply to what they create, though that may be variable, or developmental, or even simply borrowed from L1 (see interlanguage theory). Technology adds an important element to this. Though not all language creation goes through technology, enough does so that we must recognize a new paradigm (so to speak): Most writing is a combination of a student's original grammar, fed into technology - word's grammar-check and spell-check, if nothing else - then altered according to technology's advice, so that the final product (what we see) is a combination of the writer's rules, the computer's automatic alterations, the computer's advice and the writer's response to that advice. This theory should be written to account for the fact that, in some cases, the writer has started with native language funneled through a machine and then fed to a grammar-check program.

In addition, what students know or believe is often a product of what they have experienced from these programs (as well as other things, of course). In other words, Spell-check, grammar-check and other grammar technology have an active influence on students' learning and belief systems, whether or not they accept a teacher who actively contradicts some of those teachings. In other words, when a grammar-check program tells a student to rewrite something, the student notices, and, on some level learns, whether that machine has given good advice or not.

4. My own advice to myself was, go talk to more people; this came from the fact that, in mentioning it to only two, I got astounding insight, and even those two were merely interested but casual observers. Some of this is related here:

tell it to the machine, my latest blog post, 6-5-10

but, in fact, this blog and the writing are littered with others. It seems the influence of the machine is pervasive for native speakers as well as language learners, and it's well overdue that we start looking seriously at the effects that it has on both our perceptions and actions as we type our daily diatribes (this included).

5. simplish: unexplored possibility (11-09)

6. presentation links, (3-22-10)

7. changing grammar check (3-10)

8. Finally, the Global Study article. There's no sign of it; it's vanished. I submitted it, and it was accepted; it may in fact be published someday, or, maybe it already has. I sense that this magazine is in some trouble surviving in these rough times. It may be possible that it in fact got lost out there. But it's important to me; I will keep looking.

As I peruse my own writing, I find it disorganized, and I'm disappointed by that. I see interesting ideas, I already knew that; but, they are not presented well. Perhaps I can redo that this time. I reenter this project with several goals:

a. Widen my scope...Talk to more teachers. Talk to students also. Spy over people's shoulders. Ask the lab people.
b. Put my theory in succinct, readable form, in a good place. I need something clear to point to.
c. This time, at the presentation, be able to show how to set this stuff up and use it, anytime, anywhere. Last time I kind of fumbled; I don't actively use it myself; nor do most of us fluent writers.
d. Survey again. What do people use? Why? How much of this active machine translation from native language actually happens? Why is this a problem?

This blog remains the place where most of my ideas have ended up. In particular, notice that 3-7 are all here. I hope to keep it that way. The Tom's ESL Closet blog is not particularly readable, though it served its purpose in saving valuable resources. Unfortunately, as I've said, what I put here does not come out very well organized. Maybe I can address this problem. Stay tuned.