A Researcher’s Love for Language Helps English as a Second Language Teachers

A Researcher’s Love for Language Helps English as a Second Language Teachers

Linguistics is an interesting subject that encompasses the scientific study of language and its structure. We recently sat down to chat with Jane Seely, a Ph.D. candidate, who is currently working toward a degree in linguistics. We discussed topics including her current research project, how she got into this field, and what advice she has for other Ph.D. candidates. Read on to learn more about this fascinating subject area.

For her Ph.D. project, Jane is studying how teachers speak in English as a Second Language (ESOL) classrooms and how this develops and changes over time depending on teachers’ level of professional experience. The ultimate goal of the project is to identify key areas of teacher talk that should be further developed during training and also to highlight the positive features of teacher talk which are often not included in training programs.

Jane is collecting both qualitative and quantitative data. She recorded fifteen ESOL teachers in the classroom for three hours each. She then transcribed and recorded each session, which totalled almost 150,000 words. In addition, Jane conducted interviews with the teachers to learn more about their backgrounds, perceptions of teacher talk, and their own ideas related to teaching. Once all of this data is compiled, Jane will analyze it to see where patterns emerge regarding teacher talk.

While she is currently studying linguistics, this has not always been Jane’s primary area of study, it is her longtime love of languages that brought her to this point. After finishing her bachelor’s degree in French literature and language, she jumped into a Master’s degree program in Medieval language and culture. During this program, she studied the development of the English language from its Norse roots to its current, modern form. This sparked her interest in teaching English, and she has been doing so since 2010. She originally enrolled in an applied linguistics Master’s program in order to augment her qualifications for her teaching career, but then after really enjoying her studies, Jane decided to extend her program and pursue a Ph.D. instead. This led her to her current project which she hopes to submit this December.

After earning her Ph.D. Jane wants to move into a career involving teacher development and training. She hopes to work with teachers at all stages of their careers to be able to apply what she is learning in her research to the real world. There is a lot of crossover between the two because knowing more about how languages are learned can make people better able to teach them. Being a great language teacher goes beyond knowing the language well, it also means being able to explain it well to others. In addition to this work, Jane would also like to apply her love for grammar to writing a grammar textbook.

Jane is truly enjoying the work she is doing for her Ph.D. but it is not always easy. She cites time management as the biggest challenge she has encountered so far. It can be difficult to balance academic work with jobs and volunteer commitments. However, Jane feels that it is truly worth the balancing act to study something that she loves and to be able to present her research to others.

One of the many other commitments Jane must balance is her work as a tutor for other students. Jane works with them to help them build their autonomy and to develop skills in academic literacy. In order to be successful in this position, Jane thinks back to how scary it was when she had first started at college, and works to address the fears she had with her students so they do not have to feel the same way.

In addition, Jane is also the Communications Officer at “English Language Teaching Professionals Ireland.” She was a founding committee member of this organization which helps ELT professionals from around the world connect and network. In her role, she maintains the organizations social media presence, including its monthly Twitter chats (#ELTChinwang). You can learn more about this fantastic organization here.

We asked Jane if she has any advice for students who are just beginning a Ph.D. program. After thinking for a moment she shared the following great words of wisdom:

“Take care of yourself mentally and physically, it’s very easy to cut back on sleep and food when you have deadlines coming up, but working yourself to your limits will do you more harm than good. It’s so important to have a support system of people who know what you’re going through! The Ph.D. communities on Twitter have been a lifesaver, as sometimes all you need is a good meme to get you through. But the most important thing I can say is to write every day if you can, it doesn’t matter how much, but knowing that you’re a little closer to that target word count every day is a great motivator.”

We love this advice because it can apply to students across disciplines and really encourages students to care for themselves during this very busy time in their lives.

To conclude, Jane wanted to give a few shoutouts to her university, Mary Immaculate College and the supportive staff there including, her supervisor, Dr. Tom Morton, the Ph.D. programme coordinator, Dr. Joan O’Sullivan and the amazing and inspirational Dr. Anne O’Keeffe.

We really enjoyed speaking with Jane as she shared so many great insights into the field of applied linguistics and also into the difficult process of earning a Ph.D. At Conseris, we aim to make the research process a little easier by streamlining the data collection process. Learn more and start a free trial here.