- How did you first start teaching English?
I was inspired by one of my English teachers who had a positive impact on me in the early stages of my education. I got more interested in becoming an English teacher during my undergraduate studies. I started teaching when I was a junior university student majoring in English Language and Literature. After attending teacher training courses and doing classroom observations, I started teaching English.
- How does your academic background and being a Ph.D. student influence your teaching?
Conducting contrastive studies of grammatical structures in English and other languages, and finding out about the similarities and differences between typologically different languages have affected my teaching in a great way. Carrying out comparative studies can shed more light on the universal phenomena that exist in all human languages and the different parameters. The findings of such studies can be used for specific purposes, e.g. teaching, bilingual analysis, and translation. I think, when teachers have sound knowledge of theories of second language acquisition, contrastive analysis, and error analysis, they will be able to predict language learners’ difficulties in a more systematic way. This facilitates the process of second language learning and teaching, and can lead to an improvement in language teaching.
- What prompted you to pursue a Ph.D.?
After finishing my Master’s studies in TEFL, I started teaching undergraduate students with different L1 backgrounds. Most of the students seemed reluctant to use certain types of relative clauses (RCs) in their writings as well as in spoken interactions and performed unsatisfactorily when attempting to form and use English RCs. In-class evaluation of the oral and written performance of the learners of English revealed a distinct gap between the expected use of English RCs and the actual performance of students. As a result, the idea of conducting research in the area of English RCs began to form in my mind, and this prompted me to pursue a Ph.D.
- What led you to focus your research on relative clauses?
RCs have a very prominent place in linguistic typology. They affect both the syntax and coherence of the discourse as they can promote syntactic complexity and textual linkage, and ensure semantic clarity. These constructions have unique syntactic properties, cause a heavy load of processing on language learners’ minds, and are complicated constructions to perceive and produce.
Due to the complexity of RC structures in their very nature, and the noticeable difficulties in the acquisition of RCs for L2 learners, the bulk of research is being conducted on the linguistic analysis of the RC structures as well as the psycholinguistic analysis of the cognitive processes involved in the acquisition of RCs. In addition, RCs are good examples of the link between linguistic inquiries and second language acquisition studies and are of particular interest for many language researchers too.
- Based on your research so far, how do you see it being applied by learners and teachers?
Language acquisition is a complex process that might be influenced by many external factors like L1 transfer, input change, and type of instruction. My study on the acquisition of English RCs with the aim of testing a number of accessibility hierarchy hypotheses of RCs–comparing the use of English RCs by learners of typologically different languages, and focusing on the effect of a particular type of instruction on the order of the accessibility of English RCs–has achieved interesting results that will have implications for teaching. I hope the findings of my study provide new insights into the teaching and learning of RC structures.
- As an academic and a teacher, what are some areas of ELT that you think need more attention and research?
The concept of language learning and teaching is expanding both in content and in its depth. Although the bulk of studies have been conducted in the areas of ELT, there are still so many unanswered questions that need more investigation. Everyone is welcome to contribute to ELT research in any area of his/her interest. I personally find the following areas of research quite interesting: multilingualism, autonomy in language learning, and the conceptual and empirical connection between language learning theories and second language teaching.
- Pursuing a doctorate is very time-consuming. Do you have any time management tips you could share?
I think pursuing a Ph.D. is not a linear, steady journey. It is going forward and backward and certainly very time-consuming. If you set smart goals by splitting your dissertation chapters, prioritize your tasks for meaningful work, and build an efficient daily schedule, you can make the best out of your time.
- How did you discover ELTABB and how have you benefited from becoming a member?
I discovered ELTABB when I was taking my CELTA course at the Berlin School of English. Joining ELTABB was a great decision as I have gotten to know many supportive and kind-hearted people. Doing a Ph.D. can be tough and lonely work. The friends I have made at ELTABB have helped alleviate that pressure. I have gained a lot since the time I have joined ELTABB and I always feel happy after attending a workshop. I also won the ELTABB scholarship in 2019 exactly when I needed it.
- Question from Sandra: I would like to nominate Golpar Bahar and ask her about her experience as an Iranian in Berlin – living in a foreign country and teaching a foreign language – and what she sees as the greatest challenges and benefits that come with it.
One of the challenges of living and working in Germany for any foreigner who does not speak German is the language problem. Especially when you are involved in teaching, you need to know German to some extent. When you are teaching English to a German native speaker, your familiarity with their culture and their mother tongue can influence the quality of teaching and learning. The condition makes you try harder to learn the German language and study the culture, which is advantageous.
- Who would you like to nominate as ELTABBer of the month and what question would you like to ask them?
I would like to nominate Alaa Aladini and ask him what he sees as the greatest challenge of working in English teaching in Berlin, and what solutions he would like to see.
Edited by Stephanie Anderson