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...

I’d like to start this post with Maya Angelou’s beautiful statement: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” As a subscriber to MET (Modern English Teacher), I received the October 2018 issue at home this month. Their articles cover a wide range of topics as you can see from its cover: [caption id="attachment_8235" align="alignnone" width="539"] MET magazine October 2018[/caption] One article, in particular, drew my attention: Promoting gratitude among learners by Jeffrey Dawala...

Back in 2011 I was invited to write the general introduction to a series of books for PNLD (Programa Nacional do Livro Didático), a Brazilian government programme that, as most of you may know, distributes books for public schools. It was a detailed introduction, which had to thoroughly explain the concept behind the book and how the authors beliefs about foreign language learning were represented in the series. At that time, I was not aware that writing this introduction would change my views about language learning forever. In 2014...

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...

Two things have happened recently that served as inspiration for this post. One of them is the (erroneous) belief that one can only learn a language if his/her teacher is a native speaker. Who would figure this is still a debate in 2017. The other is the #accentpride that aims at fighting the prejudice that only a native-speaker accent (which one?) is the correct way to speak English. With those two things in mind, I have decided to share the story of how I learned to speak English and how I...

Pensar é algo natural para todos nós.  Segundo a Wikipedia, é uma faculdade do nosso sistema mental através da qual modelamos o mundo para nele podermos transitar e agir segundo a nossa vontade. Pensar vem de fábrica, ou seja, é grátis. Por esse motivo, não se aprende a pensar. Se é assim, por quê então ainda vemos tanta gente por aí dizendo que você só será fluente em um idioma quando conseguir pensar nele? O SENSO COMUM Ainda outro dia, estava eu a observar uma professora em uma turma de...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

Just a minute, let me think![1]   The first decision I had to make regarding this post was if I wanted to write in Portuguese or in English. That was because it is based on a three-question survey I conducted with my last year high school students (3o ano do Ensino Médio) where I work and where the lessons are taught in Portuguese. I decided to write it in English in the end as this was one the suggestions made by part of the students: having lessons in English.   In this...

The first time I saw these images, and others like them, my immediate reaction was to laugh and think: How can people be so stupid? Why didn’t they ask someone who can actually speak English to tell them what the correct language was? Also, when on board most flights of Brazilian airlines, and listening to the ‘delightful’ aircrew English coming through the speakers, I often tsk-tsked, sniggered a little, scorned a little and complained a little: Will these people ever learn to speak proper English? More recently I have stopped laughing. Actually...

I must have mentioned before on this blog that I teach adolescents in their last year of High School. Needless to say, this is a period of great anxiety as most of them intend to go to university and now have to choose a career. It is the time when most of them realise that their days of “automatic pilot” - in which they simply progress from one grade to another - are over and that making a decision based on the question What do I want to...

Here’s one more post with ideas and suggestions for helping our learners become aware of pronunciation areas which are essential for their intelligibility, and overcome their difficulties. This time let’s focus on a very common Brazilian pronunciation problem which fortunately teachers and more recent course books (like Richmond's new English ID series) have been giving more attention to lately than they used to do a few years ago. That’s the mispronunciation of initial R’s as H’s because of the way the letter R is pronounced in that position in...

Cecilia Lemos’s today’s post about the importance of intelligibility when teaching pronunciation made me think it is time I went beyond my two previous posts – where I talked about investigating Brazilian learners’ specific pronunciation needs and tackling their intelligibility problems – and move on to something more specific and practical. What do we know about what makes Brazilians more or less intelligible when communicating in an international context – i.e., using English as a lingua franca? According to a small-scale investigation I conducted (da Silva, 1999) using Jenkins’s common core...

I was wondering what I was going to write about for this month’s post, when a conversation with a friend last Saturday made me think about my previous post, so here is a bit more about pronunciation and intelligibility. I hope you find it useful. My friend was talking about his experience as an EFL student in New York City. As he put it, he has a “degree in beginners’ course first week”, and the course in New York had been no different – he’d quit soon after the...

When I was about 13 my English teacher showed us a picture of some children playing in a park. All was going well – I could understand what she was saying, and felt very clever – when she suddenly said something that startled and puzzled me so much that I just stopped paying attention to everything else. She’d pointed to a boy in the picture and said: Johnny is sitting on the bench. “What?”, I thought. “Johnny is not sitting at all!” What happened was that in my...