Students’ real-world contact with English plays hands down a more realistic role in the development of their skills, rather than the few hours they spend in the classroom. Taking this into account, it is high time teachers worked as mediators between learners and their (desirable) daily exposure to the language. But is it enough to just tell students to do something at home, such as “listen to songs in English more often” or “watch films and series with original audio and English subtitles”? We don’t think it is. So,...

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...

Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who can integrate technology effectively in their pedagogical practices will replace teachers who can't. The quote above has been repeated time and again (with different wording each time) in education conferences where the focus is technology in education - so much so that it's hard to find the correct attribution to the original quote. But let's face the facts, shall we? It's now 2017 and there are two very distinct realities in the world today - those who are connected to the world wide...

A couple of months ago, talking to a dear friend and co-worker about future jobs prospects, I asked her one of those ‘why don’t you’ questions. Her reply was ‘I don’t have much time for promoting myself.’ Well, I know that is true when you have deadlines pressing on you. Then, on a different occasion, I asked somebody whose work is greatly admired and respected, in another ‘why don’t you’ style conversation and her reply was fairly similar: ‘I’m not good at promoting myself.’ Self-promoting has probably always...

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...

Once, when I needed to sign a document, I borrowed a pen from a person very dear to me. I immediately felt something was wrong. My handwriting wasn’t flowing naturally and I wondered what was up with the pen. That’s when I saw a 6-point white star on the top. The owner of the pen must have read some sort of criticism in my eyes, “I know cheap Biros will do the work just as well…” “Or better,” I interjected, glancing at what looked like a forged version...

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...

“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....

If you had been my student at around 2010 on of your complaints would have been that I never used songs in my lessons. Earlier in my career I used songs quite frequently, in that gap-fill let's-kill-some-time kind of way. However, as I became more experienced, I realised that this kind of activity is not very useful. As I had no idea how to actually use songs appropriately I decided to simply stop using them. Fast-forward to a few years later, when my colleagues and I had just come...

Então, mais um ano se passou. Se você for como eu, vai olhar para as resoluções do ano anterior (aquelas que você escreveu ainda em 2014) e ver que não conseguiu cumprir boa parte delas. A tão sonhada forma física, o curso de desenho artístico e a viagem à Fernando de Noronha em 2015, por exemplo, serão transcritas diretamente para a agenda de 2016, ipsi literis. Infelizmente, ainda não foi desta vez. Mas como diz o poeta (neste caso, eu mesmo): a vida é como um fone de ouvido dentro da...

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,...

I was giving a lesson the other day to a group of students on the topic of pet hates. The students had to make a list of their pet hates and then compare with their partner in order to find out if they had anything in common. I then asked the learners what some of their pet hates were. Traffic, queuing, rain, and warm beer all came up. And then one student said, "people who don´t listen". People who don´t, or who are incapable of listening is also one...

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...

We are constantly becoming more and more visual. Our social media communication includes sharing images. We share pictures, we comment on pictures, we like pictures. It's all very simple and immediate. Using picture books with small children is a way in which they can use simple language communication skills. They can simply like, share and or comment on the picture and infer meaning. That being said, we don't need to limit topics to simple children's books. We can use pictures from newspapers and magazines as well. Children can infer meaning,...

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...

Communication between humans is an extremely complex and ever-changing phenomenon, but there are certain generalisations that we can make about the majority of communicative events and these will have particular relevance for the learning and teaching of languages. Learning to speak a foreign language is much more complex than knowing its grammatical and semantic rules. It involves both command of certain skills and several different types of knowledge. Richards (2005: p. 204) states that learners must acquire the knowledge of how native speakers use the language in a context...

For quite some time now, I have been trying to lower my adult students’ affective filters about their pronunciation difficulties. These affective filters (proposed by Stephen Krashen) “(…) acts to control the amount and quality of input learners receive.” (Thornbury, 2006 p.8). Affective filters can include motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Anyone who has taught or teaches adults (especially in beginner levels) knows adults usually have higher affective filters than teens do. In my experience, these filters are usually high for adults because they were “conditioned” (by traditional teaching and...

The teaching of English pronunciation is such a challenge. Maybe because there is so much to accomplish that we often feel overwhelmed, and perhaps even insecure of our own abilities to give learners what they need. Most of us will let the course books tell us what to do and when to do it, as they highlight phonemes and other segmental and suprasegmental features here and there, and provide exercises and phonemic charts. Many of us will use these when they come up, as suggested in the books....