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...

Before we start, click on the player above and enjoy this song while you enjoy your reading! I guarantee it will make the experience a lot more fun! :) Some years ago, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg said he thought the superhero film genre would die out. Much has been said about the possible downfall of this movie genre. However, Captain Marvel is already a massive box office hit and all the hype revolving around the release of upcoming Avengers: Endgame has got people really eager to see what the...

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...

At the beginning of a new semester, learners are usually excited to get started, enthusiastic about learning and with high hopes of finally achieving that much sought-after fluency. As the course unfolds, so does life: learners have to juggle work, school and their own personal lives, coping with everything at the same time. And as that happens, one of the most common comments I hear from my learners is that they wish they had (more) time to study English, do homework, listen to podcasts, watch the news, you...

Power To The Music              It is funny how people (students) may instantly think of CCR’s ‘Have you ever seen the rain?’ when you start off a conversation with the chunk ‘Have you ever Blahed?’. Have you ever (seen the rain? - lol) stopped and thought how powerful music can be in terms of learning opportunities? I bet you have, though. As I see it, music is what comes through my ears and touches my heart. In that sense here lies a powerful tool through which mankind has evolved with. Not only...

'Trousers' or 'pants'? 'Lift' or 'elevator'? 'Colour' or 'color'? 'Theatre' or 'theater'? Which lexical item do you use? Which form of spelling do you opt for? Do you teach 'American' or 'British' English? Or both? How do you decide what to teach? Does it matter? Well, according to some recent research, it does matter, and if current trends continue, it might matter even more in the future. The study, called The Fall of the Empire: The Americanization of English, analyzed over 15 million digitized books published between 1800 and 2010,...

A couple of years ago, Damian Williams wrote a post explaining why he doesn't like teaching idiomatic expressions. I wrote a response to that, as I strongly disagreed with him. However, a recent conversation with another teacher made me rethink that a bit. Here's the situation: I have two private students, both of whom work for multinational companies. One of them works for a German company, the other for a Dutch company. As you'd expect, English is the international language used for communication between workers but, and this is...

How many of us have heard learners expressing the wish ‘I want to be fluent in English’? But then, what does it mean to be fluent? As the title suggests, I truly believe in walking through life with our ears wide open, and there is one belief that has permeated my teaching over the years: the importance of triggering learners’ curiosity towards language and its genuine use in various contexts. As a learner myself, I have always wondered how to become fluent in another language. Naturally, when I started teaching, I...

  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,...

Olá a todos! Continuando minha última postagem sobre o uso da tradução na sala de aula (off topic - nesse meio tempo, entre um post e outro, acabei de traduzir um manual de RPG de 441 páginas… Ufa!), vamos a algumas dicas de possíveis utilizações com os alunos. Tradução requer, como praticamente tudo na sala de aula, planejamento e cuidado. Vamos a algumas dicas: Grupos traduzem partes diferentes de um texto em comum e precisam combiná-las, fazendo alterações na linguagem usada para que o produto final tenha coerência, coesão...

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...

Olá a todos e todas! Para este post de hoje, resolvi trazer um pouco à baila um assunto que tem a ver com uma das minhas atividades profissionais relacionadas à língua inglesa. Sou tradutor, atualmente trabalhando mais com livros de RPG (para saber um pouco mais sobre isso, leia meu post). Entretanto, sempre que posso, trago para as minhas aulas algumas referências e/ou atividades relacionadas à tradução. Antes que me apedrejem por estar usando Grammar Translation Method e não alguma técnica mais comunicativa, deixe-me explicar que não é isto...

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...

As I'm writing this post I'm thinking about my English skills as a non-native speaker. I'm aware of the fact that my English is far from being perfect and I can't expect it to be flawless. Nonetheless, I consider myself a successful English learner-teacher as far as language is concerned for one simple reason: I see myself as a language scavenger. What does it take to be a scavenger? When people speak to me and when I'm exposed to language items, I collect whatever I think is useful or...

One of the beautiful things about language is that it is always changing, and therefore, as teachers of English, we need to ensure that we change with the times.  What would you say therefore to a student of yours who says that they do not want to be referred to by the pronouns 'she' or 'he'? Which has increasingly been the case in educational institutions in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and probably other countries as well. As 'transgender' people (a person whose gender is different from...

  In Part 1 of this text, I went over 2 tips about using dictionaries and 1 tip about corpora and Google NGram. In fact, nowadays, there is no question that Google is a teacher’s BFF… if and only if we know how to use it. So here are more tips for looking up vocabulary using our contemporary oracle. 4. Be a good language detective: don’t stop at the first sign that you’ve found something. Just the other day a friend of mine saw the expression “parted the cake” (instead...

Once upon a time, a colleague entered the teachers’ lounge with a vocabulary question. Nobody could think of the answer, myself included, so I took the Oxford Collocations Dictionary off the shelf. I knew it was a long shot, as hers was not a collocation-related question, but by looking up the mysterious word’s common collocates, I found the answer she was looking for. She sighed, “You know, I never know which dictionary to use.” Now before anybody jumps to unwarranted conclusions, this was a great professional: qualified, experienced, and...

English teacher, 'How are you feeling today?' Student, 'Tense' English teacher, 'How were you feeling yesterday? How will you have been feeling by the end of the week? How have you been feeling this month?'   Did you groan? I hope so, because that makes two of us. I certainly let out an audible 'oh...

A few years ago I had to catch up with a lot of reading for the DELTA module 1, aka Reading for DELTA module. At first, the amount of reading I was supposed to do in such a short time was overwhelming. I wasn't sure if I was up for the task, but as those months went by, those books grabbed me and the more I read and learned, the more those books strengthened my interest. Having a background in linguistics and a keen interest in language learning and...

I've been using quite a lot of translation recently. Maybe it's because I've forgotten what was drummed into me when I did my CELTA course all those years ago, or maybe because when used discernibly, it can be a very useful learning technique. Translation from the mother tongue into the target language has been much maligned. And I'm not surprised, to be honest. I well remember hours spent in my French lessons at school, agonizingly trying to translate stories about Marie Claire and Jean Pierre into English. However, I think...

Photo by Higor Cavalcante | CC BY 2.0 No matter where you are in the world today, English is everywhere you look. It’s used in shop signs, products in the supermarket, the names of buildings, menus, graffiti, airports, public transport, shopping centres, notices, advertising posters and hoardings. In fact, here in Brazil there is even an English name for this type of advertising – ‘outdoor’ (as well as ‘busdoor’ for adverts on the back of buses, and ‘indoor’ for adverts in stations, shopping centres, etc.). I first became interested in Linguistic...

[caption id="attachment_2490" align="aligncenter" width="421"] Sir, why are you wearing such warm clothes in 35°C weather?[/caption]   It's that resolute time of the year again. And as we are all still following through with the promises we made on New Year's Eve, here's a resolution from me: keep my #WordoftheDay tag on Facebook. Daily. "Surely," a kind soul might ask, "you don't have that many words left to learn?" I wish. I've been studying English for the better part of my life now (over two-thirds already!) and I'm still very much learning and...

                1. Une Tomate Rouge Less than a month ago I decided to take up French and I am already being faced with big challenges: I had assumed that languages close to your own in the language tree should not be too hard to learn, so I picked French since  both languages evolved from spoken Latin. However, less than a month into it and I have already changed my mind completely. Its phonological system is a nightmare; the /s/ at the end of words never made it into the spoken...

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...

In this post, I’d like to report on some fascinating research I had the pleasure of seeing presented at the recent MEXTESOL conference in Puebla, Mexico.  What particularly interested me was the connection to the topic of meaningful learning that I have been talking about on this blog as well as the direct application of the research to the teaching of vocabulary both for classroom teachers, teacher trainers and materials writers.  I don’t know about you, but I love research that we can use in the classroom. The first...

As a teenager, I read anything I could lay my hands on; that included all sorts of literature: good and bad. It didn't matter as long as it was an interesting story ( from a young girl's perspective, I might say). As a young English language learner, I was lucky to study at an English language school with a  library and I remember browsing through all those graded readers while I waited for  class. However, there was a difference between me, the avid reader and me, the English learner:...

As a Native English-Speaking Teacher (NEST) who didn't learn any English grammar at school, it wasn't until I started training as a teacher and then teaching that I really started to get to grips with the English grammatical - and later lexical - system. In fact, I don't think there's ever been a point where I've felt I understand the whole system. That's one of the great things about being a teacher - you keep learning. When I first started out as a language teacher in the mid-1990s, I...

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,...

I've recently come across Deena Boraie's  2013 post on the TESOL webpage in which she lists the latest trends in EFL. Two of these trends immediately caught my eye: Change in the Goal of Teaching English: Our goals are no longer to transform our students into imitations of native speakers, but into "competent English-knowing bilinguals," since we assume our students are already proficient in their native languages; Changing view of an English teacher: The quality and effectiveness of English language teachers are no longer determined by their being native speakers,...

This post is a short account of two lessons I taught in 2002 which helped me to make sense of something I’d read about in the late 90s, but couldn’t get my head around. Not until then anyway. If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I’m a big believer in experiential learning (i.e., moving from concrete experience to abstract conceptualization rather than the other way around), so let me begin by describing the lessons first. That way you'll be better able to grasp the theory...

This post continues from where this one left off. How to read for language development I honestly believe that the sheer fact of being reading constantly and on a wide array of topics — books of different genres, newspaper articles, blogs, reports and so on — for information and/or pleasure is good enough and will be extremely beneficial linguistically. I will list below, however, some of the ideas I’ve tried out and which will hopefully help you as well. - Have a vocabulary notebook at the ready whenever you’re reading at...

Some teachers see warmers, ice-breakers and fillers as basically different ways to say the same thing. In fact, they are quite different. While ice-breakers are usually meant to help students get to know each other better, the objective of warmers is to get them ready for a certain topic or task.  Fillers, on the other hand, are activities that don´t require much time or preparation, and are designed to finish a topic or a class on a lighter note, or to review vocabulary before the next part of...

I enjoy playing games in the classroom. And I know my students do too, especially the young learners and teenagers (even though teachers of adult students know that many times adults really enjoy playing games too.) I've recently bought a game called "Hit or Miss" to use with my students. The obvious main aim of the game is to review vocabulary, but I've thought of a couple of other pedagogical uses for it in the classroom. And I thought I'd share this game here, because I believe other teachers...

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...

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...

Music and teaching go back a long way in my career. In the beginning there were the Beatles, the Carpenters, Carly Simon, The Police, and any other band that my students happened to enjoy. We have all experienced the incredible mood-altering power of music and we've seen it melt away a bad mood in our classes. Not only does music help set the right tone for a class but it also relieves stress and helps students concentrate. But one question I often ask myself is how we can...

Collocation Competence – fluency and accuracy hand in hand There is a number of reasons why a sound knowledge of collocations is desirable, especially for more advanced learners. Hill (2000) relies on collocations to explain that language consists largely of pre-fabricate chunks of lexis. Therefore, not only is the accurate and appropriate use of collocations one distinguishing mark of a native-like command of the language but it is also a reliable measure of the proficiency level of a non-native speaker. To begin with, the way words combine in collocations...

I picked this title from Goodreads' weird book titles. By the way, the title above is from a book by English author and academic Malcom Bradbury (1932-2000), whom I have never read and whose book I am now curious about. The reason why I  picked a random title for my post was because I wanted to  illustrate it with a simple task that fosters collaborative creative writing. I like creative writing tasks because they follow a very important principle that allows language to emerge in a real communicative...

O termo collocation já faz parte do cenário de ensino de língua inglesa há um bom tempo. Há na história relatos sobre collocations desde o ano de 1933. Harold Palmer, linguista inglês, é tido como o primeiro a citar tal termo. Na introdução de um de seus livros, ele escreveu: "When a word forms an important element of a 'collocation' [a succession of two or more words that may be best learnt as if it were a single word] the collocations is shown in bold type." Outros autores passaram a...

It is widely known that some approaches to teaching in the past consciously placed vocabulary as a secondary feature of language. In other words, one was made to think of grammar as the bones of the language whilst vocabulary as the flesh to be added. However, Harmer (1997) has a point when he states that not only does vocabulary provide the flesh but it also provides the vital organs without which nothing can be conveyed. Since one cannot communicate effectively without the appropriate choice of words, it is...

Já ouvi muitas pessoas torcerem a cara para jogos de video game: são violentos, viciantes… Nada de bom parece vir desses brinquedos “malditos”. Entretanto, há mais benefícios do que se pode perceber e que eu, como um gamer de longa data (e estudioso dos efeitos do lúdico na aprendizagem), poderia elencar aqui. Mas como este é um blog para professores de inglês, acho que cabe alguns comentários acerca de como o jogos de video game podem ser uma ferramenta a mais para nossos alunos aperfeiçoarem seus conhecimentos linguísticos. Os...

Have you taken many selfies recently? If so, was it because you were enjoying some me time, and wanted to share the moment with friends, or were you just in a bit  of a dappy mood? Squee!   Image: Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net If you followed that paragraph, then well done, but perhaps it’s time to move on, as that was so 2013. Oxford Dictionaries announced at the end of last year that selfie (a photo you take of yourself ) was 2013’s word of the year. Other notable new words of 2013...