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,...

Hello again! Many years ago I took a class in educational psychology and came across this quote from the cognitive psychologist, David Ausubel: "If I had to reduce all of cognitive psychology to one principle it would be this:  the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.  Ascertain this and teach him accordingly."  (1978:  flyleaf). I was very struck by this and was therefore even more interested to find out what cognitive psychology had to say about ‘meaningful learning’, something that we talk about vaguely in...

At first I had set out to write about my professional journey as a NNEST in the 1980s, so I thought it would be nice to reflect on some of the first course books I used in my first years as a teacher. That was when I decided to ask for some help from the IATEFL members on our Facebook page but the replies I got took me even further into the past, and that made me want to start my story from the very beginning: my life...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="350"] Not pink (Wikipedia)[/caption] Picture the scene: A two-year-old boy with his dad having a conversation about a favourite teddy bear (not unlike the one in the photo). CHILD: Look daddy, this old teddy bear is pink. DAD: No, son, it's blue and white. For a two-year-old this level of language would be pretty amazing,yet the father has chosen to correct his son because it isn't a true, factual statement. This can be seen when the following day the dad and the son are again talking about the same teddy bear: CHILD:...

Good news for teachers (and even better news for students) of foreign languages: a new longitudinal research, whose results were recently published in a journal of the American Neurological Association, reveals that bilingualism has a positive effect on cognition and may delay the onset of dementia in older adults.  The participants, who live in the Indian city of Hyderabad, were given an intelligence test in 1947, when they were 11 years old, and retested sixty years later. Because Hyderabad is a cultural melting pot where much of the...

[caption id="attachment_1276" align="alignleft" width="300"] Keep Calm by Guilherme Bomfim Pacheco/MULL - CC BY 4.0[/caption] When my son was about 18 months old I took him to a local shopping centre here in Curitiba. I don’t normally do this because I hate shopping centres with a passion, but it was raining and we were both going stir crazy from being in the house for too long. At one point my son just stopped dead in his tracks, pointed at a travel agent’s and started shouting I the way that only the...

For the past six months I've been teaching a close friend of mine once a week, on a one-to-one basis. He's what most people would refer to as an elementary learner, but in many important ways he's anything but your typical A2. And that's partly because he's highly intuitive. The more I teach him, the more I wonder whether all the syllabus-based grammar work that we do in class is of any use at all. Last week, for example, with a little help from me, he was able to say...

This lesson plan is one for any time, any where, any students…   1 Show the four images below.   Ask your students to choose one and think (not talk) about why that particular image appeals to them.  Allow them plenty of thinking time.   2 Tell them about the picture you choose, but don't say explicitly which one you've chosen. For example, "This makes me think of summer, and of home. It reminds me of the smell, and of sitting outside on a summer's day with my friends, maybe between classes at...

The way I see it, reading vastly and variedly is the most important language-learning exercise there is. Extensive reading — which Thornbury (2006, p 191) defines as being the more leisurely reading of longer texts, primarily for pleasure, or in order to accumulate vocabulary, or simply to develop sound habits of reading — helps develop general language competence; develops general, world knowledge; extends, consolidates and sustains vocabulary growth; helps improve writing; creates and sustains motivation to read more. (Click here for article on ER). It also makes you...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="320"] Yes, it's morning now, but you can still go back to sleep! (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)[/caption] My son is approaching 3 years of age and he is developing both his English and Portugese at an amazing rate.  His language, though, sounds very strange, some people call it cute, and this is partly because he is being exposed to two languages at the same time and partly because he is still only 2 and this is a natural part of first lanaguage(s) acquisition. One example that he constantly uses is...