Something a student of mine said recently got me thinking. She told me that her English teacher at school had told her, and the class, that you should never translate the names of monuments and landmarks into the target language. Therefore, according to the teacher, the Pao de Acucar must never be translated as Sugar Loaf and Cristo Redentor must never, under any cirmcumstances, be translated as Christ the Redeemer. Upon hearing this, a number of questions popped into my head. Why did the teacher limit his dictate...

As I'm writing this post I'm thinking about my English skills as a non-native speaker. I'm aware of the fact that my English is far from being perfect and I can't expect it to be flawless. Nonetheless, I consider myself a successful English learner-teacher as far as language is concerned for one simple reason: I see myself as a language scavenger. What does it take to be a scavenger? When people speak to me and when I'm exposed to language items, I collect whatever I think is useful or...

One of the beautiful things about language is that it is always changing, and therefore, as teachers of English, we need to ensure that we change with the times.  What would you say therefore to a student of yours who says that they do not want to be referred to by the pronouns 'she' or 'he'? Which has increasingly been the case in educational institutions in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and probably other countries as well. As 'transgender' people (a person whose gender is different from...

  In Part 1 of this text, I went over 2 tips about using dictionaries and 1 tip about corpora and Google NGram. In fact, nowadays, there is no question that Google is a teacher’s BFF… if and only if we know how to use it. So here are more tips for looking up vocabulary using our contemporary oracle. 4. Be a good language detective: don’t stop at the first sign that you’ve found something. Just the other day a friend of mine saw the expression “parted the cake” (instead...

Once upon a time, a colleague entered the teachers’ lounge with a vocabulary question. Nobody could think of the answer, myself included, so I took the Oxford Collocations Dictionary off the shelf. I knew it was a long shot, as hers was not a collocation-related question, but by looking up the mysterious word’s common collocates, I found the answer she was looking for. She sighed, “You know, I never know which dictionary to use.” Now before anybody jumps to unwarranted conclusions, this was a great professional: qualified, experienced, and...

English teacher, 'How are you feeling today?' Student, 'Tense' English teacher, 'How were you feeling yesterday? How will you have been feeling by the end of the week? How have you been feeling this month?'   Did you groan? I hope so, because that makes two of us. I certainly let out an audible 'oh...

A few years ago I had to catch up with a lot of reading for the DELTA module 1, aka Reading for DELTA module. At first, the amount of reading I was supposed to do in such a short time was overwhelming. I wasn't sure if I was up for the task, but as those months went by, those books grabbed me and the more I read and learned, the more those books strengthened my interest. Having a background in linguistics and a keen interest in language learning and...

I've been using quite a lot of translation recently. Maybe it's because I've forgotten what was drummed into me when I did my CELTA course all those years ago, or maybe because when used discernibly, it can be a very useful learning technique. Translation from the mother tongue into the target language has been much maligned. And I'm not surprised, to be honest. I well remember hours spent in my French lessons at school, agonizingly trying to translate stories about Marie Claire and Jean Pierre into English. However, I think...