Scene 1: Big conference in Brazil. The speaker, a Brazilian, goes onto the stage to begin her plenary session. While she speaks, you notice she makes some mistakes, pronunciation mistakes, grammar mistakes, but the content of her presentation is relevant and she manages to get her message across. At the end of her talk, you hear teachers, the vast majority of them Brazilians, commenting on the mistakes and criticising the presenter. Scene 2: Same big conference. The presenter on the stage is not a native speaker of English, and...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

This is the second of my posts which focus on drawing big conclusions from small details of language use. In the previous one we saw how the minimum of text, when combined with the right kinds of images, can generate a lot of different activities. This time round, we’re going to look at the intense, perhaps disproportionate, public reaction to a speech and a particular phrase used in that speech. The speech in question was given by the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, at the 2020 International Olympic Committee...