“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...

I feel for test designers. They have an impossible task. To design a test of language proficiency that is considered valid and reliable by the various stakeholders involved in the testing process. This is particularly true of the test takers themselves. And it was in relation to these people that two stories recently caught my eye. The first related to a native English speaking Irish woman with two university degrees who had her visa application for Australia rejected after she failed a computerized English speaking test. Inexplicably, she managed...

I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about this, but I’ve reached that age when I’ve turned into a kind of Agony Aunt to my younger colleagues and friends. The 20-somethings come to me with their career choices and, boy, do they ask difficult questions! Their fork in the road often goes along the lines of, “Should I do a CAE or a CELTA?”, “Should I go to college or work on my language?”, or “What do teachers need more (urgently): language or methodology?” You’ve probably seen these questions before,...

  The challenge of being a non-native English speaker in a native English speaking world I recently came across EFL teacher James Taylor's blog post about NNESTs' struggle to be respected as English teachers by students and employers. In his guest blog post, James lists a number of advantages of being a NNEST over a being a NEST. Wow! I'd never given much thought to the issue of NNESTs (non-native English speaking teachers opposed to NESTs -- native English speaking teachers), and yet I have belonged to this group most...

Last week I happened to read a post in a well-known Brazilian newspaper blog explaining that several students who have been granted scholarships in the program Science without Borders are at risk of an early and compulsory return to Brazil. The reason? They have not achieved the minimum proficiency in English to be able to attend the course they intended to. If you read the post (see link below), you’ll see that the journalist who wrote it oversimplified the problem by saying that Brazilian students cannot communicate in...