Research on Persian Language Pedagogy

This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals


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Persian is a less studied language in Korea. Only one university in Korea, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (Seoul), provides Persian courses in its Persian department. The students in this department start learning Persian from the first year of their entrance to the university. This department has 12 language classes (among 20) in the first semester and 13 (among 20) in the second semester.
We have collected sentences that students have made in several language classes and analyzed the sentences to find the errors that Korean students frequently makes. Moreover, we attempted to explain why those errors were frequently made by contrastive analysis of the grammar of this language and the students’ native language, Korean. Furthermore, we assumed that English grammar might affect the students making the errors in Persian since English is their first foreign language.

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This study primarily looks at the challenges that exist in the development of online language resources for Persian language learners and offers possible methodological and technical solutions to tackle those challenges. With the expansion of Persian language courses across the US colleges and universities, there comes the question that what is the best that technology can offer in order to further enhance language teaching and learning process. Audio, video, animation, illustrations, interactive assignments, text-to-speech, speech recognition and class management systems are some of the available technology that can be embedded to any e-learning platform. However, teachers are left with a lot of confusions as to what extent these tools are effective and how to use them effectively.
In this study, the rationale behind the idea of using assistive technology for the purpose of enhancing language teaching and learning will be accounted for first and then few practical examples will be demonstrated to show some of the best practices in the development of effective assistive technology for the language classroom. One of the resource development projects completed by the author is named Persian Learner’s Dictionary. This resource has been developed as an smartphones app for elementary Persian learners. Some of the challenges in the development of this valuable resource will be demonstrated and solutions will be discussed in details.

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Persian language classes at post-secondary settings possibly consist of both heritage and foreign language learners. The principal topic argued in this paper is how to have both groups of Persian language learners in a class while focusing on needs of both groups and facilitating language learning through student-centered instruction. A heritage learner is considered as the one who has acquired an ancestral language using it at home or perhaps in the community to a certain oral, and/or possibly written, level of proficiency (Kondo-Brown 2003). One of the major differences between the acquisition of a heritage language and that of a foreign language is that the former begins at home while the latter begins in classrooms (Sedighi 2010). Separating heritage language learners from foreign language learners in dual-track programs is possible when some languages have high enrollments (Kondo-Brown, 2003). However, Persian is a less commonly taught language; therefore, in most post-secondary settings, Persian heritage language learners and Persian foreign language learners are placed in the same classes, but they certainly enjoy different levels of language proficiency showing various strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Persian heritage speakers have acquired the language in families or communities, so they might be much better with colloquial register or be stronger with spoken language. Persian foreign language learners, on the other hand, have learned the language in classroom settings, so they might be better with formal register or be stronger with written language. In this paper, in addition to emphasizing on “differentiated Instruction,” altering method of teaching in order to have the best possible experience of learning (Tomlinson, 1999), and “linguistic instruction,” involving heritage students in the process of detection and grammar induction to identify the linguistic patterns (Megerdoomian 2010), it is suggested to use student-centered instruction (Auerbach 1996, 1992) considering needs and linguistic backgrounds of both heritage and foreign language learners of Persian. Learner-centered instruction is an approach of instruction when procedures and content of learning are selected from and about learners’ information; moreover, this term is used to describe learners’ active involvement in learning process (Nunan1999). Teacher’s role is suggested to involve both groups of Persian language learners in different activities and make them have collaboration so that each group’s strength can facilitate the other group’s learning process.

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To develop efficient general purpose second language curricula, designers need to make empirically justified decisions with respect to a host of issues. One vexing issue concerns the selection and incorporation of vocabulary items from the innumerable lexicon of the language in question. The questions to be answered here are ‘how many’ and ‘which’ lexical items should be covered in the curriculum. A related second issue, particularly brought to the fore by recent research on language processing and acquisition (e.g., Ellis, 2012; Jiang & Nekrsova, 2007), is the inclusion of formulaic language in the curriculum. According to one estimate, for instance, 58.6% and 52.3% of spoken and written language respectively are formulaic and therefore highly predictable (Erman & Warren, 2000). Due to their predictability and, in effect, ‘lexicalized’ status, the curricular incorporation of formulaic chunks and patterns has been shown to enhance learners’ language acquisition and boost their (native-like) fluency (e.g., Myles, Mitchell & Hooper, 1999). A third issue derives from the current debate over input authenticity in second language education that revolves around the curricular reliance on language input originally intended for first language (L1) users. In view of these ongoing issues and the indispensable contribution of corpora in second language education (e.g., Römer, 2011), in this presentation I will first describe the process of constructing a multi-million-word Persian language corpus at the University of Maryland to help address these curricular concerns. I will next demonstrate the affordances provided by this corpus and discuss how corpus-based findings can furnish Persian language curriculum designers with sound empirical justifications in tackling the three issues referenced above.

Works cited

Ellis, N. C. (2012). Formulaic language and second language acquisition: Zipf and the phrasal teddy bear. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 32(1), 17–44.

Erman, B. and Warren, B. (2000).The idiom principle and the open choice principle. Text, 20, 29–62.
Jiang, N., & Nekrsova, T. M. (2007).The processing of formulaic sequences by second language speakers. The Modern Language Journal, 91(3), 433–445.

Myles, F., Mitchell, R., & Hooper, J. (1999). Interrogative chunks in French L2. A basis for creative construction? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 49–80.

Römer, U. (2011). Corpus research applications in second language teaching. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, 205–225.

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Knowledge of writing genres, authorial voices and intentions, audience expectations and other social, interactional and cultural aspects of writing is not only an important aspect of writing instruction but also closely tied to reading comprehension and text navigation for language learners. In teaching reading and writing to learners of Persian through authentic samples of language use, one genre that seems to be increasingly more relevant and of interest to learners is professional and business writing. In the age global communication, exposure to the linguistically and culturally accepted ways in which native speakers choose to compose emails and letters such as formal inquires, application letters, thank you letters, complaints, etc., provides rich input for authentic modeling and the analysis of effective communication or otherwise in the language classroom. In collecting samples of this genre of writing for the above purpose, a range of rather unique and interesting features of Persian written communication have emerged that I’ll focus on in this presentation. Drawing on an Intercultural Rhetoric perspective (Connor, 2012), data is analyzed from a corpus of sixty randomly selected and publicly available online Persian official communications and business letters written inside Iran. Results are discussed both from a macro-structure and a micro-structure analytical perspective: At the macro-structure level, a rhetorical moves analysis (Swales, 1990) shows how certain social norms and expectations are discoursally constructed in the overall organizational structure and content. Furthermore, results of a micro-structure level analysis point to the grammatical complexity, indirectness, and a tendency to express the main point only toward the end of the letters. Most common genre-specific forms of address, expressions of politeness, and lexical choices across the corpus are also identified. In light of the findings, I will discuss the challenge of deciding to what extent these apparently culture specific ways of writing should be taught to learners of Persian. I will also talk about the pedagogical implications of the results for teaching international communication to Persian-speaking working professionals.