I know just enough Japanese and Spanish to get myself in trouble online.
Sometimes, I practice my language skills by surfing the web, looking for education blogs or articles in my weak languages. Finding them isn’t that hard. Navigating from the first page is where I get into trouble. There’s a visual aspect to web literacy that I don’t really have outside of my native English. I’m never sure if links will take me to another page, or to a totally unrelated site (via ads that come with “free” blogs) or to a check out page for something I unintentionally put in my cart.
Clearly, I’m not the audience for these sites, and that’s OK. I don’t expect blogs written by native speakers for other native speakers to be easy for me (a very non-native speaker). But, when I find sites that seem to be aimed at foreign language learners, with the same minefield of outside links to dating services, product sales, and goodness-knows-what-else, I have to wonder–who do those authors think they’re talking to?
All communication consists of a speaker, a message, and an audience. Teachers juggle these three points of the communication triangle every time we plan a class. We choose the part of our experience (teaching skills) and knowledge (subject) that best enables our message (the point of a lesson–whether determined by learner or teacher choice) to reach our audience (students). For example, a lesson about making requests would probably look quite different with a class of businessmen than with a class of elementary school children.
When I started Teaching Village, I asked myself the same question–who do I think I’m talking to?
My primary audience is non-native English teachers of young learners. There are already plenty of excellent education blogs written by native speakers for other native speakers. However, most of the teachers I’ve met in my travels over the past 20 years are non-native speakers of English. Most teachers of young learners around the world are non-native speakers of English. Some are more skilled in English than I am, but many are not.
This doesn’t really affect my message. I write about what interests me as a teacher (professional development, social networking, and teaching) and hope that it interests other teachers as well (whether English is their first, second, or other language). I imagine my message will evolve as I grow, since I’m as much a work in progress as my blog.
It does affect my layout. I want to keep my blog a “safe” place for teachers who might not be any better with visual web literacy in English than I am in languages other than English. So, no ads. No shopping carts to accidently stumble into.
I try to limit the number of links and widgets in my sidebar, to keep the pages easy to navigate.I try to list blogs in my blogroll that are also safe (no ads, or few and not prominent). Currently, I separate the blogs into two categories–English as a Foreign Language (EFL) blogs (written by teachers of young learners) and professional development (written by educators who may not teach young learners, but still offer useful information).
How about you? If you blog, who are you trying to talk to? Do you do anything to make it easier for your message to reach your audience?
If your blog fits my criteria (you blog about teaching EFL to young learners or about EFL in general, and have few or no advertisements) please contact me with a link to your blog so I can consider adding it to my blogroll.
Oh, and if you happen to know non-native English teachers who might like to read about education topics in English, but are nervous about English language web browsing, feel free to send them my way. I’d love to meet them, and promise not to set them up with a blind date or sell them anything.