“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...

"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...

 Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore’s article Welcome to the Experience of Economy has on its opening page the following statement: “As goods and services become commoditized, the customer experiences that companies create will matter most.” (Pine and Gilmore, 199:97) and much in  the same way, it is a positive experience  that learners also seek in our classrooms. This ‘economy experience’ concept (Pine and Gilmore, 1998) is not limited to a specific area but it ranges from going to an amusement park at the weekend and having fun, to classes...

Before you say anything, I am sorry. Yes, I know I've said it before, but this time I mean it. I know I have been silent for a few months, and that the last time I was this quiet I apologised and swore it would never happen again. Only it did happen again and here I am, saying sorry and promising not to forget about writing this blog for months on end, again. I have a good excuse. But then I always have a good excuse. But this time, it really...

Do you have students that complain they can’t understand the listening tracks until you let them read the transcripts? The solution could be in Richard Cauldwell’s work, which has been brought to my attention by my dearest Higor Cavalcante. The author of Phonology for Listening and of the forthcoming A Syllabus for Listening, Cauldwell did an EVO webinar on Sunday and reminded us that it’s a jungle out there. In a very fitting metaphor, he explained we usually teach pronunciation of isolated words as if words were potted plants in...

Last January 3rd, my husband and I were driving back home from the beautiful state of Minas Gerais. Days before, during our stay in the effervescent Belo Horizonte, the capital city, we had met a very interesting twenty-something Japanese young man in the hostel. His name is Goro and he’d been living in Brazil for 2 years. He was doing some backpacking since this is his last month in Brazil. As we were all going back to São Paulo, we offered him a ride. A pause to explain: Goro's...

[This is a reflection; I am not here to give you answers nor do I have any. I would like to pick your brain about something that has been bothering me for long.] The first time I went to Argentina was in 2010. Getting there, my former boyfriend, having learned a little of the language from a “How to say everything...

If you are suffering from Novemberitis and need a comical interlude or just an idea for a lesson, here's an integrated-skills lesson plan for B2 learners. The topic is embarrassing stories  and students will read about it to get in the topic, listen to a celebrity telling her own stories and talk throughout. The main point here is to get them to speak a lot, of course, but also to learn and practice (both in listening and in speaking) the structure of a personal story. ****************************************** 1. Lead-in 3' (WG*):...

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...

“Relax,” many teachers tell students, “if you have communicated, it’s all right.” Indeed. What is it, however, that counts as effective communication? At what moment can we chill out knowing we have done a good job in communicating? For some teachers, communication is getting your message across. It doesn’t matter if the learner has made mistakes, if the listener has had to pay very close attention, if understanding the learner demanded many turns of negotiation. In sharp contrast, there are people who will maintain learners don’t need ‘to communicate’ only....

It seems to me that my posts here have, unintentionally, turned into a pronunciation series. I've been keeping my eyes /aɪz/ and ears /ɪərz/ open to things to write about. Last week, I worked with the pronunciation of different suffixes in different places. Because of that, I thought this would be an appropriate topic and I've chosen three that I think are particularly mispronounced. -ful Adjectives that take the suffix -ful are sometimes pronounced by Brazilians the same way the word 'full' is pronounced: /fʊl/. However, the vowel sound here should be...

Why do my students participate in my classes? This is the question I asked myself when I first met this group of twenty s teenagers age 15-16 years old. From day one, they took part in the activities and spoke English most of the time. I was puzzled. How come? We meet at the end of the afternoon twice a week.  I’ve been teaching at my language school for ten years now and I’ve had some very nice groups and students I’ll never forget. This group is one of...

After receiving some positive feedback on my previous post about pronunciation, I started thinking about other pronunciation areas that I thought were problematic. These are mistakes your students will certainly make, but that you may be making yourself too. The two sounds I have chosen have a couple of similarities to the /s/ and /z/ I mentioned last time. First of all, these are common mistakes made by Brazilian speakers of English. The final /m/ is a bilabial consonant, which means your lips touch to stop the air coming...

  “Language doesn’t only represent or refer to social reality (…) it constructs social reality" Claire Kramsch, in "From Practice to Theory and Back Again."                                                                                            Now  I look around and I realize how things have changed. I find myself speaking Portuguese in a teachers' room with...

For a very long time, I thought my pronunciation was very good. Teachers and colleagues had told me so, and because of that I rarely ever gave it much attention. I was more worried about learning vocabulary or grammar. Naturally, my pronunciation was (and still is) far from perfect, but it took me time to realise that. There is an Aristotle quote that I think rings true for teachers. He said that "the more you know, the more you know you don't know." Little by little I started to...

  English teachers are often asked by learners how they can become more fluent in English. Developing oral and written fluency in English requires discipline and a certain study routine – it does not happen overnight as all teachers certainly know and have pointed out to their learners. Learning English nowadays is certainly more accessible than a few years ago. Internet is usually easily accessible and a number of materials and resources can be found there. The trick here, however, is how to turn all this information into knowledge,...

Durante a cerimônia de encerramento dos Jogos Olímpicos do Rio de Janeiro, transmitida ao vivo para o mundo inteiro, o Brasil deu mais uma prova de que o nosso povo é capaz de realizar grandes feitos. O espetáculo estava uma lindeza só e tudo transcorria maravilhosamente bem: apresentações impecáveis dos nossos melhores artistas, espetáculos de luz e som, coreografias de encantar a vista...

"Novices become acquainted with activities not only from their own and others' attempts to define what transpires in an activity, but also from how those participating in the activity respond to them." Elinor Ochs, in "Becoming a Speaker of A Culture." (2002) I have just read Elinor Ochs’ article entitled ‘Becoming a Speaker of a Culture,’ a contribution to the book ‘Language Acquisition and Language Socialization --- Ecological Perspectives,’ edited by Claire Kramsh (Continuum, 2002).  In her chapter, Elinor Ochs offers some very interesting insight into Second Language Acquisition theory. Elinor Ochs is an...

A friend of mine, who is also an English teacher, was taking Pragmatics at uni and admitted she was struggling to see the point of all that theory. I wanted to reply in neon and all caps: “All the point in the world!” Ironically, I don’t think I did convince her. I say it was ironic because pragmatics is, among other things, the study of “how to do things with words”, as the seminal book title goes. While my intention was to persuade her to change her mind about pragmatics,...

Todo estudante de língua estrangeira sonha com o tempo em que estará falando “fluentemente” o idioma escolhido. Dentre os principais mitos citados no artigo 7 conceitos de fluência e o que você deveria saber a respeito dela, um dos mais frequentes é o de que ser fluente significa falar sem pausas. E não é pra menos. UM RÁPIDO TESTE Façamos o seguinte teste: se você fosse professor de idiomas e um aluno, ao final de uma aula, lhe perguntasse de repente “professor, o que posso fazer para melhorar a minha fluência...

Esta semana, surfando na internet, me deparei com um meme bastante bem humorado que me chamou a atenção, arrancando aquele sorriso típico de quem admite para si mesmo: ‘genial!’ Eis aqui o dito cujo: Não obstante o riso quase que inevitável, por de trás do bom humor (através de um símile que faz alusão ao estereótipo da fala de um caipira texano para dar a dimensão da dificuldade da vida), o meme também nos coloca diante de alguns questionamentos bem relevantes, especialmente para quem ensina línguas em um contexto de EFL/ELF,...

No artigo 7 conceitos de fluência e o que você deveria saber a respeito dela, apresentei algumas definições de “fluência” comumente encontradas na internet e procurei mostrar como elas são ainda bastante vagas e controversas (mesmo entre os profissionais da área de idiomas), dando ensejo aos mais diversos usos e abusos do termo pelo mercado. Ao final do artigo, propus um exercício de reflexão aos leitores: que formulassem seu próprio conceito de fluência a partir de 10 assertivas comumente utilizadas pelo senso-comum, já que, como pretendi deixar claro,...

No artigo intitulado O que nunca lhe contaram sobre terminar um curso de idiomas em tempo recorde, procurei contextualizar e explicar criticamente o surgimento da necessidade de se falar um idioma “fluentemente” (o mais depressa possível) em decorrência principalmente da mudança de paradigma e das exigências do mercado na sociedade atual. Indo na direção contrária, afirmei que a fluência em um idioma, a fim de tornar-se uma habilidade permanente, deve ser incorporada ao próprio ser como uma espécie de segunda natureza, e que cada indivíduo leva um tempo...

Although attempts to define ‘fluency’ and ‘accuracy’ when speaking a foreign language abound in the specialized literature, there still does not seem to exist a consensus regarding a single, ultimate definition of either one of the terms. One of the reasons which could partly explain the lack of common ground among authors is the very subjective nature of the two words in the context of learning/mastering a foreign language. Any given language is a complex structural system whose components include, but are not limited to, rules, vocabulary and pronunciation....

Generally defined as the unnecessary use of a large number of words to express an idea - when fewer, more direct ones would do - circumlocution seems to bear a somewhat negative connotation. It is often frowned upon by literary critics who tend to attach greater value to a more pragmatic approach to writing. In the ELT world, however, this Latin-derived word, which means literally "around a speaking", holds a more privileged position: It is defined as a strategy learners make use of when they need words they...

Did you happen to see the story about the leader of the Green Party in the UK? Well, she went to give a live interview on the radio last week to kick off her party's election campaign. About two minutes into the interview, she was asked a question about her party's housing policy. Upon which she was suddenly struck down by what has been commonly called 'mind blank'. George Dvorsky (2015), a neurologist, says "catecholamine hormones, like adrenaline or noradrenaline, prime the body for violent physical action. This includes...

I’ve just had a week off, so I went off on holidays. After a whole year of teacher, training, writing, talking to students, parents, helping those who needed the extra help or a supporting word (or hug!)… I tried to fool myself, thinking I would be able to completely tune out of work by simply not looking at emails from work. But one doesn’t stop being a teacher just because she is not teaching… It starts out quite subtly, really… a song you hear playing that you immediately identify...

[caption id="attachment_2345" align="aligncenter" width="384"] Amanda, Nicolas, Olivier e Adir[/caption] Hi there and Happy Holidays! I just couldn’t get my head around what I was going to write this month until I witnessed something that brought one word to my mind: determination. As you may know, I don’t teach anymore. Nowadays I write content as a freelancer and I was finally able to launch an online course for Brazilians in June. Well, being my own boss meant I needed to learn how to sell my products online and so I delved into...

In my last post here I looked at a monologue from a non-native speaker of English, Dani and analysed what made him a proficient, fluent speaker (see A lot from a little V). The interesting thing about his monologue is that its sophisticated quality does not derive from grammatical or lexical complexity but rather from the communicative strategies that he employs.  I noted that his intonation and way of placing emphasis contributed greatly to his message.   But by analysing a monologue like this, we can also draw conclusions about...

Olá, pessoal! Depois de uma pausa meio que forçada, estamos de volta para mais um post envolvendo, de certa forma, tecnologia. Desta vez, vou falar de podcasts. Sabem o que é um podcast? É uma espécie de programa de rádio, geralmente editado, e disponibilizado em sites, blogs e assemelhados, sobre os mais variados assuntos, que podem ser ouvidos online ou baixados em formatos como .mp3 para smartphones e outros reprodutores de música. Eu, por exemplo, sou um podcaster, participo junto com meus amigos do ArgCast, sobre quadrinhos, games, cinema,...

Picture the scene: There I was, a shy 13-year-old boy, dressed in an itchy, ill-fitting school uniform in the middle of a German language class. Our teacher, Mrs. Dawson, a strict woman who ruled the classroom with an iron fist, is going round the class calling out people to read chunks of a text out loud, in German. Nothing could be more embarrassing for a nervous teenager in the throes of adolescence than having to read out a short passage (badly) in another language to a room full...

Continuing my series on less is more. Today, and in the following posts, we will look at how much can be discovered about spoken language from watching a monologue of a mere 200 words. In this case, the monologue is given by Dani, a proficient non-native speaker of English from Barcelona. Before reading the rest  of the post, 1) Watch this video of Dani’s anecdote [video width="640" height="480" mp4="https://new.richmondshare.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/dani-copy.mp4"][/video] then 2) Download a Word document of the monologue from dani transcript. Alternatively, download them both from my website: https://www.bengoldstein.es/blog/2011/07/13/building-the-speaking-skill/ Regardless of the content of...