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Noticing the Gap – It’s not Just for Train Travel

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

In language teaching, teachers strive to create lessons that afford learners opportunities to “notice the gaps in their language knowledge, encouraging them to ‘upgrade’ their existing interlanguage system” and move toward fluency.” (Thornbury, 2010) *

Transcription is one way to encourage learners to do just this. We can use transcription in language learning to foster noticing of grammar patterns, new vocabulary, pronunciation and much more. Students can then practice producing the language items they notice, and teachers can use those items in future lessons for spaced repetition.

It so happens that transcription has a similar role in music: musicians use transcription to learn styles, rhythm, feel and “accent,” if you will – the sounds of music from particular times and places. I have distinct childhood memories of my brothers, bassist John Patitucci and guitarist Tom Patitucci transcribing everything from the first movement of Ravel’s string quartet in F major to solos of John Coltrane, to 20th century avant-garde music and more.

ELT professional Neil Cowie’s 2018 article, “Student Transcription for Reflective Language Learning”** inspired me to create a language lesson using transcription. The lesson was created for a Ukrainian musicologist and Fulbright scholar with whom I have the pleasure of working on English pronunciation, speaking and listening skills. Feel free to view the lesson under the “Sample Lesson” tab on my website, and, should you find it useful, use it as a template for your own students.

Happy noticing!


* “An A-Z of ELT”

** ELT Journal Volume 72/4 October 2018; doi:10.1093/elt/ccy010

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