I was talking to a teacher the other day. He had just completed his CELTA course with a grade B although he had already been teaching for a couple of years beforehand. A nice chap all in all, and very enthusiastic. I am not sure how, but after the initial chit-chat which broke the ice, we got on to talking about 'communicativeness'. He had a pretty sure idea what it was all about. Controlled practice was 'uncommunicative'. Not only this, but controlled practice was also mechanical and largely meaningless....

I am pretty sure that anyone who has either learnt English as a student or been a teacher even for a short period of time must have come across the English Grammar in Use series by Raymond Murphy. Apparently, they are one of the best selling grammar books of all time. Go into a staff room and you will more than likey see three or four copies on the shelves. When a student tells you that he has a grammar book, it is very likey that it will be...

I asked a student of mine recently whether he still believed in Father Christmas. He looked at me nonplussed before asking me who Father Christmas was. I replied that he was the big, fat man who delivered children presents at Christmas time. “Presents?”, he asked. “Gifts’, I said. To which he smiled and said, “Ah, you mean Santa Clause”. Does it matter? Well, maybe not for this 25 year old adult, who I presume no longer believes in Santa Clause (or Father Christmas), but it might matter to my...

A couple of weeks ago, the British defence secretary Michael Fallon claimed British towns are being "swamped" by immigrants. He made the claim in response to a question posed by an interviewer on Sky News. The Conservative Party, to which Michael Fallon belongs, was none too happy and quickly forced Mr Fallon to withdraw his comments. I am not sure if Mr Fallon himself regretted his comments and wishes he had chosen his words more carefully but what it does show is the power that words have and...

To start off with, let me just say that I have never ever liked ‘Hangman’. You know, the game where you have guess the word(s) by calling out letters of the alphabet before the man is hung up on a scaffold. It is not because the act of hanging runs contrary to my political sensibilities but because I have never found it particularly exciting or interesting as a game. Just as some people, I am sure, do not particularly enjoy a game of noughts and crosses (or tic-tac-toe...

Did anyone read a recent article in Time magazine entitled 'Want to Learn a Language? Don't Try So Hard'? (Abrams; 2014) It outlined a study undertaken at MIT University which basically found that whereas young people up until the age of puberty use procedural memory to learn a language, adults will use a different type of memory which, although it is not stated in the article, appears to be declarative memory. Whereas procedural memory involves the unconscious memory of skills and how to do things, like riding a bike,...

Am I right in assuming that more and more people are now looking beyond traditional learning experiences in a school setting to a more individualized and needs focused learning normally provided through one-to-one and small , closed lesson formats? In my experience, and judging by what colleagues say, this certainly seems to be the case and the success of online learning courses such as EnglishTown also attest to this. And it is not only professionals looking for ESP lessons but also people who want general English as well,...

You may or may not be aware that the football championship is just around the corner with national teams beginning to arrive, stadiums being finished and with thousands of people brushing up on their English. Football (or ‘scoccer ’) is the most popular sport in the world, played and talked about by millions of people. It is therefore no surprise that numerous expressions that began life being used to describe the beautiful game have now entered common usage as idiomatic expressions. Although the contexts in which these expressions are used...

I was doing a CELTA course assessment last month and observing the post-lesson feedback with the tutor and the trainees when an interesting issue arose. The tutor asked one of the trainees to comment on the amount of teacher talking time (TTT) which had occurred during her lesson. The trainee agreed that there had been quite a lot of TTT. Indeed, a whole 10 minute chunk of the initial part of the lesson had been devoted to the teacher telling a story to the group of elementary students...

Three private students of mine recently proclaimed that they believed they had become less fluent since the beginning of our lessons a little over two months ago. They were naturally preoccupied given that they were paying good money to improve their English. Needless to say, I had to put their minds at ease, and it got me thinking. Both of these learners are Brazilian, and I think that their nationality does play a role in what I am about to describe. They were both also very fluent when I...