This might sound a bit too harsh, but we do sometimes hinder learning. The title of this text was borrowed from a famous saying in football, made popular by the controversial former player Romario, now a politician. He was a very successful and undoubtedly talented player and worked with a large number of coaches throughout his career. He was always very critical to his coaches and peers and did not use to keep his mouth shut when he did not agree with them. According to this idea, the...

It’s the beginning of a new term. You’re chosen to teach an upper-intermediate/advanced group. You’re excited to meet your new students, you plan a welcome activity so as to start off with the right foot. You enter the room, start the class and ask your new students to introduce themselves. And suddenly one particular student starts speaking. Their pronunciation is nearly flawless, they use a wide range of vocabulary and demonstrate control of simple and complex grammatical forms. And one inevitable thought crosses your mind: “This student speaks...

“Dear teacher, I’d like to say I have never forgotten your lessons and I’m grateful you have inspired me to follow this path.” This is part of a message I received last month. It is from a student I had over 20 years ago and who is now a successful teacher of English. I still remember her in my lessons, her brilliant compositions and perfect handwriting. She was a quiet student who I have never forgotten and reading her message made my eyes well up. Many of us have received these...

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...

One important thing I learned from my baby is that laziness starts from a very early age. Having been talking to him only in English for more than 2 years now, I can notice his incredible understanding of my production in spoken English. He understands nearly everything I speak to him, reacts appropriately to commands, and answers to my questions – but the answers are only in Portuguese. I am investigating why he doesn't reply to me "in my language", and I am coming to the conclusion that...

How did you get into English Language teaching, and why do you still do it? I come from a family of musicians and English first caught my interest when I came across Pink Floyd and The Ramones with their lyrics and fast singing. My English teacher at Secondary School (Neusa Lombardi) spotted this ‘talent for English’ and rewarded me with a scholarship to her school. Once there, I developed a liking for teaching, which lead me to read Languages at University. As a teacher, I felt the need to develop...

By definition reading is the action of a person who looks at and understands the meaning of written or printed words or symbols. But there is much more to that than meet the eyes. Nuttall (1996:2) believes that not only does reading comprise decoding, deciphering and identifying words, but it is above all an opportunity for learners to draw meaning from the written text. Reading is a significant area of development in a language, either native or foreign, as we are surrounded by words daily. Unfortunately, some teachers are...

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...

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...

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...

                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...

Checking exercises is so deeply ingrained in our teaching practice that we seldom give it a thought. Asking students to report back after a small-group activity is also common practice ever since the boom of the communicative approach.  But are we making the best use of classroom time or could we just be doing it for the sake of habit? Just last week, I was talking to a teacher I know about a great lesson she had delivered when we caught ourselves discussing just that. It dawned on us...

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...

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...

Many times when hearing story, students will not understand every word being spoken. Many times students can deduce the meaning from the context of the story. They might ask about a word, or a phrase in order to understand the situation presented in the storyline. Sometimes it's necessary to adapt language in order to be understood by the audience. Another option is to explain the situation or happenstance in other words. Story telling is about real life using real language. I find it hard to tell a story using...

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...

Half of the year has gone but we still have some time for new ideas and projects till December comes. This month I´ll share with you a project developed with our 8th graders this year. One of the units in the coursebook we use deals with different kinds of schools and vocabulary related to learning and classroom language. Students, in general, find it interesting to contrast their own school and Brazilian school system to home schooling or boarding schools students in some other countries experience. Based on the topic of learning...

Na semana de 01 a 05 de abril aconteceu na Inglaterra a 48ª Conferência Anual da Associação Internacional de Professores de Inglês como Língua Estrangeira  - IATEFL.  Com tudo o que vimos e ouvimos ainda ecoando, me pergunto o que podemos fazer para ajudar nossos alunos a aprender mais, mais rápido e com mais eficácia. Por exemplo: “Dar o recado”. Como em qualquer evento internacional, usamos uma língua franca para a comunicação entre participantes falantes de diversas línguas. O interessante para nós, profissionais da área, é que estamos...

“Listening is the Cinderella skill in second language learning”. (Nunan, 2005). For many years, listening skills were not prioritized in language teaching. Teaching methods emphasized productive skills, and the relationship between receptive and productive skills was poorly understood. Richards (2005) provides a clear description of how listening comprehension is achieved by native or non-native listeners. He refers to this listening process as bottom-up and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing refers to the use of incoming data as a source of information about the meaning of a message. From this perspective, the...