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Achievement Profile: Marianne Celce-Murcia
A career dedicated to enlightening ESL teachers

Dr. Marianne Celce-Murcia is a professor of Applied Linguistics & TESL at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). She administered the UCLA ESL Service Courses program from January 1975 to June 1976, the Summer Program for Soviet Teachers of English in 1976, and the Fulbright Summer Program for Egyptian Teachers of English in 1987. She was acting chair of the department for all of 1992. She was awarded the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award in 1976 and was selected for the Danforth Associate Program (1977-83). In 1997 Heinle & Heinle Publishers awarded her their Lifetime Achievement Award. Professor Celce-Murcia has taught outside the U.S. in Canada, Nigeria, and Egypt, and has lectured and consulted in many other countries.

Some Marianne Celce-Murcia links:

Discourse and Context in Language Teaching: A Guide for Language Teaching (2001)
Direct Approaches in L2 Instruction: A Turning Point in Communicative Language Teaching (1997)
Discourse Analysis and Grammar Instruction (1990)
Teaching Pronunciation Communicatively (1983)

An ESL MiniConference Online interview
with Marianne Celce-Murcia:

Dr. Marianne Celce-Murcia

What is your main ESL activity now? What are your principal projects, and what is on the back burner?

I'm mainly trying to help my grad students finish their M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations since I'll be retired as of July 1, 2002. After that I will pursue professional activities selectively. I look forward to having more time to read and more time for my grandchildren (Scott,9; Danielle,6; and Joel, almost 2).

How did you start your ESL career? Who influenced your decision? What were some important formative experiences in the early stages of your development?

I got into ESL when I decided I did not want to be a high school English teacher (the career I had initially been preparing for). Choosing UCLA as the university for my graduate studies (I had done my B.A. at Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), was the most formative decision/experience for me. I had excellent teachers and mentors (Cliff Prator, Lois McIntosh, Victoria Fromkin, Sandy Thompson, and others), who convinced me not to stop with an M.A. in Linguistics and a TESL Certificate. With their encouragement and support, I eventually completed the Ph.D. in Linguistics, and that has shaped my academic agenda, which has been to help ESL teachers understand as much as possible about the English language so that they could be more effective teachers.

What are the four or five language/culture backgrounds with which you are most familiar as a teacher? Which ones are you familiar with from the perspective of a language learner yourself? What insights have you gained in how to meet the needs of English learners from these cultures and language backgrounds?

I went to Lagos, Nigeria between my M.A. and Ph.D. to teach ESL and train ESL teachers at the Advanced Teachers College in Yaba. My students there were native speakers of Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa, and related languages, so I got to know a lot about the languages and culture of West Africa. At UCLA most of my ESL students have come from East and Southeast Asia and are native speakers of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. A number of my students also speak Spanish as their L1. My other overseas experience was in Cairo, Egypt at the Center for Developing English Language Teaching (housed at Ain Shams Univ), so I've also had contact with Arabic speakers and with Egyptian history and culture. It's important for language teachers to learn something about the language(s) and culture(s) of their students. It helps them understand where some of the learning problems come from and it helps them prepare more relevant lessons and materials. In terms of my own foreign language learning, I can only claim communicative competence in German and French, although I do know a lot of facts about many other languages. In retirement I plan to learn some Spanish.

If you had to give three pieces of advice to a new ESL teacher, what would they be?

One, overprepare all your lessons; always have something extra you can do on hand in case you have some time left at the end of a lesson. Two, learn your students' names and be sure they learn each other's names; get to know them as individuals and help them through your language tasks to get to know each other. Three, be professional--friendly and fair yet firm--at all times. Students need to respect their teachers, so don't show favorites and (if you teach adults, don't date a student; once the class is over, your relationship can change).

What do you see as the most important issues facing the ESL/EFL teaching profession today?

Giving students in training sufficient preparation in 5 critical areas:
-Language (grammar, phonology, lexis, discourse)
-Teaching language use and processing (listening, speaking, reading, writing)
-Methodology (teaching approaches/techniques/activities/tasks, curriculum/syllabus design, lesson planning/materials development)
-Professional skills (assessment, classroom research, cross-cultural communication, use of computers/media)
-Supervised practice (micro-teaching, student teaching, class observation, etc.)

Final comments?

It's hard to see how all of this can be covered in a one-year program

Interviewed by Robb Scott

2002 ESL MiniConference Online

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