“What do you think of Glenn Greenwald’s Portuguese?” That question came out of the blue to me, but there I was, chatting to an air traffic controller before we started his English proficiency interview about a third person’s Portuguese language proficiency. I thought of a video I saw after the first Vaza Jato news: “Well, I find his pronunciation a little difficult to follow.” “Yes, it’s heavy.” “Especially because we’re not used to listening to a foreign accent in Portuguese, I think.” “That’s true. But you can understand him, right?” he shot at...

Unit 3: Food. In the first exercise, the coursebook brings a set of pictures, each of them showing different food separated in groups. The image labeled with the letter “B” depicts bacon, a box of cereal, two doughnuts, a waffle, some pancakes, eggs, and a glass of orange juice. The instructions tell students to check the picture which contains breakfast food. Easy-peasy. However, they frown and take longer to do what is required from them than you had predicted in your lesson plan. In a short while, the...

A challenge teachers frequently face is reducing the amount of L1 used by their students in class. For obvious reasons, we all want our learners to take the most of our lessons. They also like to feel challenged and to leave the room (or wherever you teach them) feeling that they have spent an hour or so only speaking English. In addition, all of us teachers tend to believe that every minute of communication in the target language is worth the effort. These arguments make complete sense, but...

As a teacher, I have often resorted to different methodologies and activities to make students more interested in my class. However, lately I have been curious about the learning processes of a language and I have been eager to understand in depth how especially teenagers go through such processes. Consequently, the following question has popped up: what if we can boost students’ language acquisition by sparking something in their brains? Much has been studied and said about neuroscience and how the brain takes in a language, but I have...

The other day I was talking to an acquaintance who has a kid that goes to a language school to study English. As this acquaintance knows I am an English teacher, she started opening up to me about her feelings towards her child’s studies and she stated that she “did not feel like her daughter was actually learning English”. When I asked why, she said that she had the impression that her daughter would not be able to get by in case she had to speak English on a...

If learning is personalized and engaging, it is likely to stick. If your students have fun during your classes, that’s more likely to bring about emotions that should aid the process of learning. Also, learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is built upon previous knowledge. We also know how powerful stories are when it comes to learning. All of the sentences above are true and are validated by current research. If we agree that this much is true, then we can proceed to some of the underlying...

"Your English is so beautiful.” – I sometimes hear, and I promise you I have a point in writing this, which is not that I’m a Leo (although I am). In fact, I’ve always been a bit reticent about those compliments about my English language proficiency, especially when they come from laypeople. I mean, we language teachers/researchers study language proficiency to vertiginous depths and still struggle to design a proficiency test and validate it, how can anyone assess another person’s language proficiency, as they often do, at hello? A...

Translanguaging is a term that was first coined in 1994 as trawsieithu (translanguaging in Welsh) by Welsh researcher Cen Williams in order to refer to the processes in which English and Welsh were used for different reasons and purposes in the same class. For example, students would read or listen to content in English and talk about it in Welsh. Ofelia Garcia made the term more popular in her book Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective (2009) and later in Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism and Education...

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...