Once in Paris, I had a friend teaching me the following phrase in case I needed to ask for information: Bonjour! Je suis désolé! Où je trouve les toilettes, s’il vous plaît? Apparently, my question was well asked as I was ‘gunnned down’ by the fastest French speech I have ever heard. It is obvious that questioning is a basic skill one must bear in mind when learning a language. My short yet eventful experience in Paris dawned on me that so is answering. I have come to notice...

We all know too well, at least we should, that teaching does not come easy. However, people, other than teachers, tend to consider what we do as something ‘doable’. In other words, they think it is just a job in which you get into a class and start doing the talk. Little do they know that such days are gone. I come from a language-centre background teaching environment. As a ‘new-to-the-system’ state school teacher, I have encountered several situations that required a lot more than teaching skills. Scary to...

The academic year is just around the corner and every now and then we tend to start the New Year facing some challenges and the kind. Being an educator is not an easy task, dealing with stressful situations such as routine, and, to add insult to injury, many of us will have to perform a juggling act, e.g. work in different schools, in order to make ends meet. Looking for perfection should be the main aim, right? It is important, however, to bear in mind that there is no...

It is generally known that learning your ropes is a key factor in developing your personal, academic and professional life. It is true that one always encounters a very competitive world, yet it is also true that facing this world with solid training is a way to allay their fears. According to FDR, ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor’ – this saying is absolutely applicable to an educator’s career on the grounds that having the reading literature itself will not provide the real electro-cardiogram of teaching, in...

It goes without saying that vocabulary is one aspect language acquisition that plays an important role when learning one mother’s tongue, let alone a foreign language. I have often had learners saying that they can fairly get by grammatical structures and the real factor holding them back is how to put words within this lexical construct. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula through which one can get by learning new lexis, being it from the word level to the sentence level; however, memory seems to be one key element...

Power To The Music              It is funny how people (students) may instantly think of CCR’s ‘Have you ever seen the rain?’ when you start off a conversation with the chunk ‘Have you ever Blahed?’. Have you ever (seen the rain? - lol) stopped and thought how powerful music can be in terms of learning opportunities? I bet you have, though. As I see it, music is what comes through my ears and touches my heart. In that sense here lies a powerful tool through which mankind has evolved with. Not only...

We language educators often get asked what else we do apart from teaching English. Now, this takes the biscuits on the grounds that some people are hell-bent on this to mystify whether we take our profession seriously or not. It is generally known that an L2 teacher is supposed to be someone graduated, qualified or trained with required abilities to handle the teaching/learning process in a full variety of ways and environments. Unfortunately, many L2 teachers still face much criticism, discrimination and suffer mockery based on the fact that...

How did you get into English Language teaching, and why do you still do it? I come from a family of musicians and English first caught my interest when I came across Pink Floyd and The Ramones with their lyrics and fast singing. My English teacher at Secondary School (Neusa Lombardi) spotted this ‘talent for English’ and rewarded me with a scholarship to her school. Once there, I developed a liking for teaching, which lead me to read Languages at University. As a teacher, I felt the need to develop...

Whatever needs analyses one carries out with their groups, there is every likelihood that 9 out 10 will record that they will want to improve their speaking skills best. At this point I do not believe that anyone involved in ELT would be surprised at this, yet we can witness the fact that developing speaking skills might still be a challenge that either provokes or haunts teachers, especially if they are confronted with high demands. Speaking of provocation, here we have some questions to which you might want to give...

By definition reading is the action of a person who looks at and understands the meaning of written or printed words or symbols. But there is much more to that than meet the eyes. Nuttall (1996:2) believes that not only does reading comprise decoding, deciphering and identifying words, but it is above all an opportunity for learners to draw meaning from the written text. Reading is a significant area of development in a language, either native or foreign, as we are surrounded by words daily. Unfortunately, some teachers are...

Scarcella and Oxford (1992) mention that ‘a learner will basically need to develop competences in order to become proficient in an L2 – grammatical competence, socialinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence.’ I bet that at the some point of your teaching career you have come across that student who wants to learn only to speak English. Little do they know that there is a lot more to it than meet the eyes. By the same token, some teachers might consider developing Speaking Skills a challenge, especially if they are...

In this day and age getting a job, let alone a position which suits you best, has become a scarce commodity. More and more professionals are seeking jobs that meet their needs. However, not many are actually prepared to meet the market needs. This is a harsh reality and it has obviously hit our ELT world. I have sort of picked up the musical side of my family, my Dad was (still is in my heart a great accordion player) and music to me is what comes through your...

It might ‘cost you dear’! That is what we generally hear when people talk about investing time and money in learning a foreign language. By the same token, professional teachers are usually judged by how qualified they are in the teaching community and investing time and money on CPD seminars seems pretty much the way to go. On 18th March, I had the opportunity to meet up with brilliantly committed teaching professionals at Braz-Tesol Belo Horizonte Chapter on Teacher’s Development. BTW, well done you on your organisation. I delivered...

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In other pictures, I mean, in other words, a picture might provide us with a thousand words which might eventually give free reign to your imagination. I am not saying that is all bad, however, for some this may be too little and, say, too comforting. I have come up with a theory that since a picture may lend itself to a thousand words, then it is fair to say that a thousand words may lend themselves...

It goes without saying that we live in a world which is bombarded by information. I am not saying that is all bad, however, for some this may be too much, too soon and too frightening. This fast-moving evolution of information technology has brought about a new sort of ‘society’ which seeks for a full range of perspectives and interests. That is exactly when RLE (Real Learning Environment) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) collide. Unfortunately, the so-called ‘cloud’ does not seem to be 9 for everyone, especially if...

Having embarked on the teaching of English in the public sector, little did I know how many hours would take my students to walk an extra mile! You must be thinking that a mile is a mile. Indeed, yet not many students have the knack for measuring it properly. Forgive me my fellow mathematicians but a mile does not seem to represent the same distance to learners. Much to the contrary, a mile will last as many hours to some as fewer hours to others. That is to say,...

I have recently read an article talking about the teacher of the future and that got me thinking whether I was either connected to past, present or future. Some years ago I and Lidia Vanessa (a fellow teacher and friend of mine) did a presentation at an ABCI conference which started with a provocative question: ‘’Will computers replace teachers?’’ It was amazing to see how much debate there was then and how much this is being debated today. But, before we get to the answer, it is vitally important...

I have recently embarked on a little adventure of leaving my language-centre-teaching comfort zone and teaching regular schools in the State Public School System. Little did I know how much ground one still needs to cover when facing such challenge. Especially, when you hear the utterances that give this text its very title. I have been around as an EFL Teacher at Cultura Inglesa SJDR for a while and (over)heard that such public school environment is not the ideal one to develop communicative abilities and the kind. Plus, there...

How come you can’t get your students to concentrate? That seems to be a rhetorical yet plausible question until it happens to you. I am not sure about you but I have certainly tasted this sensation in my teaching environment, and for the record, that is not a pleasant one. I have been around for a while and seen students losing track of my lessons due to various issues. The most common one is because of other ‘funny’ students’ attitudes in class, which may lead teachers to lose control. There...

On announcing my groups’ final testing dates, I can vividly remember one student coining the chunk, if I may say so, ‘TeStressing Times are coming.’ Well, in terms of pronunciation one might easily say she has aced the test.  Living and learning seems to be a fair motto, I say. We all know that the end of an academic year or, our academic semester, is packed with surprises that most learners love, not to say hate. Either fortunately or unfortunately testing is one them. One thing is for sure,...

If we jump back in time we might hear Sir Mick Jagger singing: ‘Time is on my side’. Mr. Keith Richards would promptly reply: ‘Yes, it is!’. The fact of the matter is that they are pushing 70ish and still keep rocking, which gives us the impression that time is really on their side. Had they chosen the teaching career, I am not that sure they would be singing that enigmatic phrase, let alone the ‘yes, it is’. It all sounds very easy when it comes to teachers managing...

One may often hear how expensive it can be to invest time and money in learning a foreign language. However, it is widely known that an institution is usually judged by its teachers and how qualified they are in the teaching community. Consequently, a LOS (Lesson Observation Scheme) is instrumental in providing the academic department with important evidence on a teacher’s performance in class. Further down is an outline of what we usually use at Cultura Inglesa São João del Rei.   Why Lesson Observation Amongst various reasons, one advantage of...

It is often said that dealing with grammar instruction in class is rather dull, let alone, demanding on both learners and teachers. The first ones might consider it as something heavy-going to take on board. The latter ones might consider it demanding on the grounds that preparation is a key element when delivering a grammar-based lesson. Unfortunately, grammar treatment tends to be downgraded and, to make matters worse, regarded as not instrumental in enabling learners to use the language more accurately.  Much to the contrary, approaching grammar instruction should...

I was delivering this session on Developing Listening skills to a Pre-service course at CISJDR and got bewildered, not to mention shocked, at what one trainee brought up in a group discussion. She categorically affirmed that she is not allowed to work on listening skills in her school as it may disrupt the class and bring chaos to the institution. I really feel sorry for her as I see her as potential educator who wants to make some changes to the teaching of English in our public schools....

Voz do Brasil, former Hora do Brasil, is the oldest radio programme in the country whose political content broadcast is mandatory to all radio stations. It is regularly aired at 19:00 sharp, Brasilia time. You may wonder what is with that and how it is connected to learning. In fact, this is closely related to people’s abilities since Voz do Brasil (aka Fala Sozinho) is said to be what everybody hears but not many people listen to. Now, how important is listening instruction in a foreign language? seems to...

Is reading a skill in isolation? No language skill, either receptive or productive, should be dealt with in isolation in class. Reading texts hold an awful lot of language, information, and topics among other things that can lead to speaking and writing. Thereby, it would not be wise to engage students in a reading task and move along after it is finished without connecting it to anything in the lesson. On the contrary, I fully agree with Brown (1994:283) when he states that ‘reading ability will be best...

By definition reading is the action of a person who looks at and understands the meaning of written or printed words or symbols. But there is much more to that than meet the eyes. Nuttall (1996:2) believes that not only does reading comprise decoding, deciphering and identifying words, but it is above all an opportunity for learners to draw meaning from the written text. Getting students to read in English both intensively and extensively is vitally important for a number of reasons. Firstly, we basically read a great deal...

Collocation Competence – fluency and accuracy hand in hand There is a number of reasons why a sound knowledge of collocations is desirable, especially for more advanced learners. Hill (2000) relies on collocations to explain that language consists largely of pre-fabricate chunks of lexis. Therefore, not only is the accurate and appropriate use of collocations one distinguishing mark of a native-like command of the language but it is also a reliable measure of the proficiency level of a non-native speaker. To begin with, the way words combine in collocations...

It is widely known that some approaches to teaching in the past consciously placed vocabulary as a secondary feature of language. In other words, one was made to think of grammar as the bones of the language whilst vocabulary as the flesh to be added. However, Harmer (1997) has a point when he states that not only does vocabulary provide the flesh but it also provides the vital organs without which nothing can be conveyed. Since one cannot communicate effectively without the appropriate choice of words, it is...

Error correction may be extremely strenuous for both learners and teachers if it is not dealt with caution. Some people tend to downgrade it whilst others find it a necessary condition for language acquisition on the grounds that grammatical and lexical competences can increase the rate at which learners develop. Corder (1967) found out that language learners produced errors that were both systematic and creative in nature. He mentions systematic errors (more evident in ESL/EFL learning) and nonsystematic errors (more evident in one’s native language). Attempts are caused by a genuine lack of knowledge. Learners...

I bet you might be trying to make sense of the phonics above. I wonder how you think this might impair one’s understanding. Of the many factors which contribute to how well a person speaks English, pronunciation seems to be really salient. Consequently, I believe that having a sound knowledge of pronunciation is important for a number of reasons. Such knowledge makes you aware of the sounds/features non-existent in L1 – Brazilian Portuguese (BP). Secondly, by dealing appropriately with pronunciation, one can spot their weaknesses and self correct them. Finally, good pronunciation is instrumental in...