I was asked recently what I did for a living. I replied that I was a freelance teacher and teacher trainer, working for an assortment of organizations, companies and individuals.  However, what I am part of is the 'gig economy'. A 'gigger', if you like. But what is it, and how will it affect English language teaching in the future? Gig work originally referred to jazz club musicians in the 1920s, who would ply their trade working in different clubs, more often than not without any form of social...

I asked an investment fund manager recently what were the big investment opportunities in Brazil at the moment. He replied that without doubt he would invest in the health and educational sectors. He specifically mentioned online courses, whether or not they are blended, as showing great potential for growth in the future, although he added that this would be a longer term investment, rather than short term. When I told him that the experience I have had with online courses has been mixed in terms of success, he didn't...

My son is learning to read. I sit with him as he tackles a short text. He approaches each word warily, vocalizes each individual letter, and then connects all the sounds together to pronounce the word. It’s a slow process. He stumbles over the words; his intonation is out of sync; and he sometimes gets it wrong. He has particular problems with consonant clusters (tr, fl, sp, etc). It has again made me realize how difficult it is to pronounce a word from its written form, whilst trying...

I was recently asked to give a workshop on interaction patterns  It seemed that the teachers at the school were not using a sufficient variety of them, and that this was affecting the effectiveness of the lessons. This is not an uncommon criticism. I have lost count of the number of times in feedback that I have had to ask why the teacher did not take the opportunity to change the interaction patterns. A common reply to my query more often than not is, 'I forgot'. It appears that in a large...

I think that we can all agree that learning a language is a complex process, involving complex systems. By complex systems, I mean a process of complex behavior which emerges from a few simple rules. All complex systems are networks of many interdependent parts which interact according to those rules. It is a process which is neither linear, nor incremental. This contrasts with the input hypothesis theory, which has been the prevalent paradigm over the last twenty years or so. The basic premise was that input would be processed,...

You have probably heard of the PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) tests. They are standardised tests of reading, science and mathematics, which are designed to allow comparisons of  educational attainment around the world. Well, it appears that the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the organisation which runs the tests, is likely to introduce another set of tests in 2018, which will measure what the OECD calls 'global competence'. The OECD defines 'global competence' as: "the capacity to analyse global and intercultural issues critically and from multiple...

There was some interesting news last week. Scientists at Berkeley University in the United States have mapped out how the brain organises language. Their 'semantic atlas' shows how the meaning of  vocabulary is organised into different regions of the brain. In the past, it was believed that information about  words' meanings was represented in a region of the brain called the 'semantic system'. However, this recent study shows that this intricate network is spread right across the outer layer of the brain called the cerebral cortex, which plays a key...

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...

What is complexity theory and how does it accommodate up to date beliefs about how languages are acquired, and new approaches to teaching like task based learning and dogme approaches? Until recently, theories about language acquisition have been dominated by the cognitivists, such as Krashen, Long and Chomsky. The basic premise was that input would be processed, and hypotheses made, which would then result in output where the hypotheses could be tested. This process was said to be innate, and relatively fixed. Coupled with this was the idea that...

Recently, I was asked to lead an in-service session on Pronunciation. I was given about an hour and a half to cover sentence stress, intonation, features of connected speech, word stress and phonemes. Not an easy task considering how much is involved in articulating speech. Maybe we under-estimate it? For 'teaching' pronunciation encompasses much more than just modelling and getting the students to repeat. I  started off by telling the participants that I have lost count of the number of times, when observing teachers in action, that I have...