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...

You are a student in a classroom full of them. You are all seated in a circle and the teacher is standing in front of you. The teacher asks a question. Silence. Ok, thinking time is beneficial, you think. One minute later, silence remains, until the teacher says ‘I won’t say a word before you say it”, followed by another full minute of silence. Finally he says “if you haven’t read the text, there won’t be a lesson today. You can go home.” I do not know if...

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,...

We all know too well, at least we should, that teaching does not come easy. However, people, other than teachers, tend to consider what we do as something ‘doable’. In other words, they think it is just a job in which you get into a class and start doing the talk. Little do they know that such days are gone. I come from a language-centre background teaching environment. As a ‘new-to-the-system’ state school teacher, I have encountered several situations that required a lot more than teaching skills. Scary to...

As a teacher, I have often resorted to different methodologies and activities to make students more interested in my class. However, lately I have been curious about the learning processes of a language and I have been eager to understand in depth how especially teenagers go through such processes. Consequently, the following question has popped up: what if we can boost students’ language acquisition by sparking something in their brains? Much has been studied and said about neuroscience and how the brain takes in a language, but I have...

We hear about CPD, the acronym for Continuous Professional Development, all the time. Although CPD is not only about taking courses, they are certainly a prototypical concept and the number of courses aimed at teachers has been increasing steadily, or at least this is the impression I have. When it comes to courses, one of the most common questions we hear is “Is this or that course worth it?” or “Should I do this course or not?” The answers, however, are definitely not as simple as the questions....

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...

“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...

If learning is personalized and engaging, it is likely to stick. If your students have fun during your classes, that’s more likely to bring about emotions that should aid the process of learning. Also, learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is built upon previous knowledge. We also know how powerful stories are when it comes to learning. All of the sentences above are true and are validated by current research. If we agree that this much is true, then we can proceed to some of the underlying...

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...