Saturday, 15 August 2015

Appropriateness of terms for languages


Naming a language as x or y

This is based on a theme discussed in Chapter 1 of H H Stern’s Fundamental Concepts of Language Teaching, published by OUP in 1987 as the fifth impression.

Introduction
In his book, Stern provides the following terms to refer to mother tongue and other languages a person knows and uses; the terms imply varying levels of knowledge and proficiency:

          1
         2
                3                 
L1
first language
native language
mother tongue (the vernacular)
primary language
stronger language

 L2
second language
non-native language
foreign language
secondary language
weaker language
language of wider communication
standard language
regional language
national language
official language
modern language
classical language


Terns under L1 and L2 groups indicate the relationship between an individual or a group and a language at a personal level whereas terms in the third group refer to the relationship between a language and a group in terms of geography, social function, political status etc. The first relationship is subjective whereas the second one, objective.

The L1 and L2 terms indicate two things:
    1. acquisition process
    2. proficiency level
But the terms in both groups are not clearly distinct and are fluid in the descriptions and so don’t mean the same thing to all people living in an area. The distinction between L1 and L2 poses no problem in countries like England, France or German where the populations speak one common language which is L1 for the natives and which is L2 for non-natives living or staying in those countries. ‘But in many language situations the relative position of the languages is not as simple. The languages of the home, neighbourhood, school, region or nation may form intricate patterns of bilingualism and multilingualism. The language experiences in these situations make the boundaries between L1 and L2 learning far less definite.’(Stern 1983: 13)

Indefiniteness of terms under L1 and L2 groups
I’ll take myself as an example to illustrate this, living as I do in Thamizh Nadu, a South East Indian State on the shores of Bay of Bengal.

I can say I know six languages: Thelugu, Thamizh (generally spelt as ‘Tamil’), English, Hindi, Malayalam, Amharic. Thelugu, the regional language and the native language of Andhra Pradesh, I acquired from my infancy, early childhood (hence, ‘first’, ‘native’ or ‘primary’) and within the family (hence ‘mother tongue’). However, it’s NOT my stronger language for several reasons. I lived in Andhra with my parents till I was nine years old and so my Thelugu was ‘native’ enough to communicate. But I lived with my maternal grandmother in Thamizh Nadu for the next twenty years, learnt formal Thamizh (through study in school) and informal Thamizh (through social interaction) and I spoke Thelugu only with my grandmother, my parents and relatives from Andhra Pradesh when they paid visits or when  we met during festive occasions. My vocabulary was a mixed bag of Thelugu and Thamiz words, the ratio being higher in the case of the latter), so much so my speaking proficiency rate of Thelugu became lower and lower as time passed and my relatives in Andhra during visits used to be amused at my poor (‘corrupt’ as they called it) use of Thelugu; yet, I can get the general drift, even today, of written Thelugu in newspapers and of lectures. Thamizh gradually became my stronger language and I’ve been as good as any native user of the language, and it has thus become and been my another first language.  

English I learnt as a subject in school (1952—1957) where teachers explained in Thamizh. At home, I read and wrote chapter-wise summaries of abridged versions of famous English novels and showed them for correction to my maternal grandfather’s younger brother, went to public library to read English newspapers and dutifully summarised the news items to my grandmother, I had to write to my father letters in English stating my monthly progress in studies. English became the medium of learning in my P.U.C., BA and MA courses. This was when I started using English to speak. I started my teaching career in 1963 which ended in 2005. Thus, initially English was my third language and over a period of time became my second language and for several decades it has been my first and primary language along with Thelugu and Thamizh.

Hindi, the national language of India, I learnt as my fourth language as part of school curriculum. It was my second language in my PUC and BA courses and I was so good at it that for a short period I considered doing my post-graduation in it. I began to use it in Ethiopia to converse with Indian colleagues from North India—from Delhi, Punjab, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Orissa (now Odisha)—who spoke Hindi as well as they did their first languages. The Hindi that I knew was bookish and I learnt conversational Hindi from these friends where to my shock I found that grammar was the casualty, like it is in Thamizh and other languages. Since my return to India from Africa, though I’ve hardly had occasion to use Hindi to communicate, I’m fairly fluent in Hindi even today.

Malayalam, the regional language and L1 of Kerala, a South-West Indian State, is my fifth language. I learnt it from my colleagues in Ethiopia, and I was almost thirty; learning it was easy because it’s closer to Thamizh. I learnt to speak Malayalam like my friends. Since my return to India , I’ve had almost no opportunity to use it and whenever I need to use it I struggle to express myself.

Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, is my sixth language. I was almost thirty when I learnt it because of ‘atmospheric pressure’—I needed it to communicate to shopkeepers, servants, neighbours. Soon I began to speak like an Amhara, and this pleased the locals no end. I learnt it also because I could use it to teach English and to help students grasp English lexis and structure by comparison. Honestly, I didn’t know then that bilingualism was a teaching technique. Even though I left Ethiopia in 1977 and I haven’t spoken it since, I’m confident that I can greet Ethiopians with ease and surprise them if an occasion arose.

In sum, Thelugu is my mother tongue, first language, (native language ?). It is my primary language as well while communicating with those to whom Thelugu is the mother tongue—anywhere in the world. But it’s my weaker language by comparison. Thamizh has moved from second language status to primary language status since 1957. English has moved from third language status to primary language status since 1959. Hindi has remained a second language and is neither weak nor strong. Malayalam is my weaker language, and there’s no term to describe my relationship with Amharic, except to say it’s my weakest. I thus have three primary languages, one second language and two weak languages, the proficiency level being equal in Thamizh and English and in decreasing order in Hindi, Malayalam and Amhric.       

Other multilinguals in India and elsewhere may have similar language experiences. 

SL and FL
Two terms under L2 group that are not clearly demarcated with reference to countries like India, Ethiopia are second language and foreign language. A language is deemed ‘foreign’ to its learner when native speakers of that language live outside the country of the learner. In this sense, English is a foreign language. A language is called ‘second’ to its learner when it is learnt and used in their country. In this sense, English is a second language. What is not clear here is for what purposes the so-called second language is used. For instance, it may be the medium for official communication between the national and state governments, for written correspondence and medium of instruction of education from the start or later in the process but not the spoken medium and whose native speakers live thousands of miles away. In Ethiopia for instance English is only used as the learning medium only at university level. In India, it’s an optional medium of learning from school level but it’s the only medium of learning in higher education; socially, it’s used as the spoken medium only when people from different states visit another state, which is not very often but it’s used to speak and write in private firms. In Canada, English is number two language for French-speaking Canadians and French is number two language for English-speaking Canadians. However, the proficiency levels may vary from person to person, and either language can become first language along with the mother tongue.    

conclusion

The ELT literature uses TESOL in place of TESL and TEFL. Existing terms have been found wanting in describing a person’s ability to use languages in addition to their mother tongue. So I feel another language can be used in place of ‘non-native’, ‘second’ or ‘foreign’ as an umbrella term to cover any language other than the mother tongue. The quality of other languages as far as their use is concerned can be thought of as subsets under ‘another’ language. We’ll now have only two expressions: mother tongue and another language and there’ll be no confusion. I suggest TEAL/LEAL: Teaching English as Another Language/ Learning English as Another Language       

Friday, 14 August 2015

Two contrasting theories


Acquisition of Language

In terms of theoretical significance, language acquisition is no different from language learning, barring of course the technical distinction brought about by Krashen. Modern linguistics and modern psychology are two of the disciplines that are intimately tied to language and the paradigms proposed in relation to language and language acquisition. A paradigm is a set of shared assumptions regarding what is relevant and what is irrelevant. As far as language acquisition is concerned, we have two paradigms: Structural and Chomskian.

The Structuralist Paradigm (S. P.)
In this paradigm, answers to
   a. what is language?
   b. what are the goals of linguistics?
   c. what are the relevant data for linguistics?
   d. what are the procedures used in linguistics?
were attempted. The answer to question (a) is closely tied to concept of language in terms of language acquisition.

In this paradigm, language was treated as the sum total of sentences produced by a speech community. “The totality of utterances made in a speech community is the language of that speech community” (Bloomfield). Such treatment of language was the result of two factors. One , Bloomfield took it upon himself to delimit the role of linguistics (no longer as an auxiliary of anthropology, rhetoric and philosophy) and to make linguistics autonomous and scientific. To Bloomfield, ‘scientific’ meant rejection of all data that was not directly observable or physically measurable. The other is the influence on Bloomfield of Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour. Rejecting the parole—langue distinction, Skinner adopted a strictly behaviouristic point of view and argued that the only observable object of scientific study is the verbal behaviour, the speech utterances and texts (parole). Langue, according to Skinner, is a mentalistic and unscientific abstraction. Consequently, passion for being empirical, for being ‘scientific’, for making linguistics a discipline in its own right led Bloomfield to ignore the existence of meaning, to decide ‘in the division of scientific labour, the linguist deals only with speech signal’ and to assert that language learning was a matter of imitation and reproduction. Thus based on its assumptions about the definition of science and of language acquisition, the structuralist paradigm proposed parole as the corpus of linguistic analysis and discovery procedure for identification of linguistic elements and their classification.

Chomskian Paradigm (C.P)
Again, we are concerned here with Chomsky’s answer to the question ‘what is language?’ Chomsky criticised the structuralist paradigm and proposed a new one.

Chomsky rejected the Stimulus—Response based and environment-based theory of linguistic behaviour because structural linguistics did not lead to an understanding of a language as a system of rule-governed relationships. These ‘rules’ are instructions for generating all possible sentences of the language and are based on what people say (Palmer: Grammar).

By describing language as overt behaviour conditioned by response to stimuli through imitation, reinforcement and reproduction, the S.P. had failed to account for the creativity of language use. It has no explanation for the native speakers’ ability to produce and understand an infinite number of sentences. Obviously, they couldn’t have acquired an infinite set of sentences through imitation and practice.

S.P treated language as behaviour and equated this behaviour with other forms of behaviour. But language is now considered species uniform and species specific. C.P. claims that the human brain must have certain properties that determine the nature and acquisition of language. It acknowledges language as a rule-governed system where the rules are ‘not only intricate but also quite abstract’. Such mentalist paradigm contrasts with the mechanistic paradigm.

S.P. cannot explain how a child is able to exhibit in an incredibly short period a rich and systematic mastery of language for all purposes, considering the exposure to language (environment) is so meagre, incomplete and unsystematic. C.P. explains this ability as the result of a process in the brain. The innate language learning ability takes the form of language acquisition device (LAD) that processes by hypothesis testing. Consequently, children acquire a language by making hypothesis about the form of the grammar with which they are surrounded. They then compare this with their innate knowledge of possible grammars based on the principles of universal grammar. In this way, the child internalises a knowledge of the grammar of the native language use (performance) possible. Language use is thus rule-governed behaviour that enables speakers to create new utterances to conform to the rules they have internalised.

Thus Chomskian paradigm proposes competence (langue), explains performance (parole) and predicts all potential sentences with the intuitive judgements of the native speaker.


In conclusion, stuructualism considered environment basic to learning, and learning was conditioned, imitative and mechanical. The Theory of Innate Language Structures plays down the role of environment and stress the importance of genetic characters.   

Relationship between linguistics and classroom teaching


The linguist and the teacher

It would not probably be untrue to say there was never a moment in the formal teaching of language when linguistics has not had a say in deciding the language content. Decisions about words and structures were always taken, and fluctuation has always been there in deciding the language mode through which language needed to be introduced. The teacher had always taken decisions for the absentee or non-existent linguist. Non-teachers like Erasmus, Marcel, Prendengast, Sweet certainly there were. But teachers like Quintilian, Palsgrave, Hoole, Hamilton, Ollendroff, Gouin, Pestalozzi, Palmer were the ones who provided principles of language teaching. While West was wedded to reforms on practical concerns, Vietor, Passy, Jesperson were teacher-turned-phoneticians. However, like in the 18th century when teachers in general used only existing form language study in spite of increasing interest in historical and comparative studies of languages, language teaching theorists except Palmer at the turn of the century hardly revealed any distinct awareness of the need to use linguistics in its new formal shape. (As though reciprocally!) neither did the theoretical linguists concern themselves with issues in language teaching, say the question of vocabulary control.

But with the arrival of Bloomfield and his Language, everything changed. Both were to have tremendous influence on linguists and language teaching. Bloomfield was critical of conventional language teaching. Linguists became more interested in his concepts and began to refine and use them for more rigorous descriptions of languages. Linguistics had come of age and had become a discipline in its own right. Fries and his colleagues rejected approaches like the Direct Method and, applying structural linguistics, showed how the sound system, the structures and the most useful lexical material could be derived from available linguistic knowledge and organised for language teaching purposes. and with them the linguist had arrived in the language teaching, and the teacher had to follow him. The applied linguist began to tell the teacher what to teach and how to teach. The teacher was supposed to remember constantly the most compelling commandment: Teach the language, not about the language.

A sudden transformation had come about. The teacher without a grounding in linguistics would not be considered knowledgeable, let alone be permitted to contribute to language teaching. The arrival of transformational generative grammar did not help though questions began to be raised about the role of linguistics in language teaching. Now the teacher had to know about deep structure, too. He had to make sure learning took place through problem-solving tasks.

This was not the end of the story. Hymes questioned Chomsky’s linguistic competence and introduced communicative competence. Newer concepts and practices for the benefit of the teacher of course have emerged in the garb of communicative language teaching. And since about 1970 linguistics has begun the study of language beyond the sentence through discourse analysis. And in between these developments, English for Specific Purposes with its language variations, registers, discourse is another thing the teacher has to contend with. And he has to comprehend creative construction hypothesis as a counter claim to interference hypothesis of contrastive linguistics. And for the teacher of literature, stylistics has changed the colours of critical appreciation by introducing and emphasising the linguistic aspects of a literary piece.

Curriculum, syllabus, materials writing have become sophisticated and are supposed to reflect in their objectives, language content, texts and techniques, of course for the benefit of the teacher, a given theory and its realisation in pedagogical terms. Teacher trainers are also expected to introduce the teacher to all new, ever-growing innovations, classroom techniques geared to successful teaching: motivate, draw and retain attention through presentation, arouse the learner through thinking exercises, consolidate, revise, remediate. A variety of drills for pattern practice has become central to classroom techniques. Language teaching also reflects the theoretical concepts that have formed the base for the edifice of language teaching. And the teacher is supposed not only to know how to write test items in conformity with the underlying concepts but to be able to evaluate objectively learner performance, achievement, proficiency.


Now the question is whether or not linguistics is behind the teacher, whether or not linguistics has a place in the classroom, whether or not a knowledge of linguistics is useful to the (classroom) teacher who teaches mechanically might not need a knowledge of linguistics to perform for he is likely to follow the text and the syllabus blindly, and his failure would be that of the writers of materials, syllabus and curriculum. And technically he might not be wrong. However, as no curriculum, no syllabus, no text can bring to classroom a theory in its fullness, in its richness, as none of them can minimise the inherent weaknesses, the teacher becomes responsible.

Traditional grammar / Traditional grammarian

Traditional grammars are largely remembered for their fundamental conceptions about the nature of language. They relate to quite basic issues about language. And they fall under three essential categories:
    1. The written language was more fundamental than the spoken
    2. A particular form of the written language, namely the literary language, was inherently
        purer and more correct than all other forms of the language, written or spoken.
    3. It was the task of the grammarian to preserve this form of the language from corruption. As a consequence, they prescribe rather than describe.

Traditional grammars fail to recognise the spoken and written forms of a language as different modes, displaying very different patterns of grammar and vocabulary and the illogicality of applying rules to one that are made for the other. For instance, rules instruct us to say ‘shall’ after ‘I’ and not ‘will’; in speech, however, ‘I’ll’ is most common. Besides, we begin to speak before we write. Most of us speak far more than we write in everyday life. All natural languages were spoken before they were written, and there are many languages in the world today which have never been written down. To base one’s statements about language on writing rather than speech is therefore a reversal of linguistic priorities.

Related to this is the point that in most traditional grammars the material presented does not even cover the whole range of the language’s written forms, but is restricted to specific kinds of writing—the more formal styles, in particular. Anything informal tends to be religiously avoided or if included is castigated as ‘slang’ and labelled as ‘bad grammar’; though very often the informality is in regular and widespread use by educated people. For example, it is not a question of ‘whom’ being correct usage and ‘who’ being incorrect. It would be inappropriate to introduce formality in an informal conversation, as it would be to introduce informality in an official occasion. ‘Never end a sentence with a preposition’ fails to take the formality difference into account. Besides, we tend to get a distorted view of the proportions and function of language forms that the language described in grammar books is normal general usage. In language description, absolute standards rarely exist.

Traditional grammarians turned to the ‘usage’ of the ‘best’ authors. Early dictionaries did this also, including only those words which had been used by a reputable author. Most of the quotations illustrating grammatical rules in even fairly modern grammatical handbooks are taken from novelists or non-fiction writers. Clearly, the result of applying such standard is to produce a description of a very restricted, specialised literary English.

Traditional grammar described English on the basis of another language—Latin. We find rules about English which tell us to say “it is I’ instead of ‘it’s me’. English has only two noun cases. To think it has five or six is an obvious example of Latin interfering with the description of the English language. Gender is assumed to be a characteristic of all languages because of Latin and is therefore assumed to be a category of English. But English has no gender. Pairs of words such as  brother/sister, bull/cow refer to ‘male’ and ‘female’ and are hence lexical; the suffix ‘ess’ is also a lexical feature—a matter of derivation, not of grammatical gender. Traditional grammar says English has three tenses but in actuality only two—the past and the present—are there. The paradigm ‘I shall’, ‘you will’, ‘he will’ is purely a grammarian’s invention. Careful investigation has shown that there is no evidence for the use of ‘I shall’, ‘we shall’ as regular forms.

Traditional grammars are guilty of semantic fallacy. Traditionally an interrogative sentence is one that asks a question. But the interrogative sentence:
                     Would you mind closing the window?
is not really a question but a request. The sentence:
                      you’re working at IIT?
is a declarative, though an echo question. If we go by the description ‘A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing’, words like ‘red’ ‘blue’ should be nouns because they are names of colours. If verbs are ‘doing words’, then what about words like ‘seem’ and ‘be’ which are definitely verbs but which do nothing?

Word is said to be a linguistic unit that has a single meaning. The difficulty is, of course, in deciding what is meant by ‘single meaning’. If ‘dance’ has a single meaning, then ‘dancer’ has more because it means ‘one who dances’, ‘look down upon’ cannot be divided into three meaning units but have a single meaning of ‘have a low opinion of’ and word division does not appear to correspond to meaning division. For instance, a ‘criminal lawyer’ is not both ‘criminal’ and ‘lawyer’. The sentence is, it’s said, the expression of a complete thought. How do we know what a complete thought is? Aren’t ‘carrot’ and ‘woman’, for instance, complete thoughts? Does the sentence ‘My wife read while I watched TV’ contain one complete thought or two?

That the traditional grammars mix up different criteria is evident in the definitions of parts of speech. If the definition of ‘noun’ is based on meaning, the definition of adjective is based on function. Besides, is ‘college’ in ‘college girl’ a noun or an adjective?

Latin was not the only authority these grammarians turned to when wondering about what to do about English grammar. They used logic to explain or condemn a usage. Logically, two negatives may make a positive: I’m not unhappy, which is almost synonymous to ‘I’m happy’. But two negatives can also make a more emphatic negative as in ‘I’ve not done nothing’. Taboos on common usage like ‘more perfect’, ‘rounder’ are examples of logical fallacy. ‘I didn’t like nobody’ may not be ‘good’ English but no rules are broken because this structure is common in an English dialect. Logic was invoked to say ‘He’s taller than I’ is right because ‘than’ was a conjunction and so required ‘I’. But this argument fails if we insist that ‘than’ is a preposition, too and so requires ‘me’. Traditional grammar would not consider logical sentences like ‘If everybody minded their business...’ because ‘everybody’ couldn’t be referred to by ‘their’. But ‘their’ functions not only as the plural possessive but also as a singular possessive when sex is unknown.

To sum up, the ‘traditional’ attitude to language was ‘prescriptive’ Traditional grammarians  didn’t try to describe the language as it functioned since they believed that the language of the past and the language of literary writers was the best and everything else was corrupt. Thus they ignored two realities—history and language variations. No wonder then if they made rules about how language OUGHT to be used in conformity with their standard.


However, there’s no gainsaying the fact that traditional grammar did provide us with a beginning in language analysis.

Two modes of language


Spoken and Written Language

Speech and writing are two of the modes that language has always used for purposes of communication. Most languages exist in both these modes though there are some that exist only in the spoken mode.

The kind of relationship that was considered to have existed till recently between speech and writing is largely attributed to the debt of the traditional grammar to the kind of literary and linguistic research that ensured in Alexandria in the third and second centuries B.C. During this time, restoration of original texts that had come intolerably corrupt, attempt to decide between genuine and spurious works, admiration for the great literary works of the past encouraged the belief that the language in which they were written was itself inherently ‘purer’, more ‘correct’ than the colloquial speech of Alexandria and other Hellenistic centres. Thus the Hellenistic scholars combined the aim of establishing and explaining the language of the classical authors with a desire to preserve Greek from corruption by the ignorant and the unlettered. The Roman grammarians followed the Greek models in general assumptions about language and also in points of detail. A typical Latin grammar dealt with the art of correct speech, understanding of poets, treating of parts of speech in terms of tense, gender, number, case etc. and discussed good and bad style, warned against common ‘faults’ and ‘barmarisms’ and gave examples of the recommended ‘figures of speech’. The grammar of Priscian was used as teaching grammar through the Middle Ages and as late as the seventeenth century. And when English as a vernacular assessed itself, its grammar was fashioned after that of Latin which in turn had been fashioned after that of Greek.

Naturally, English grammar reflected the ‘classical fallacy in the study of language handed down to it from Greek times. Greek linguistic scholarship was concerned primarily with the written language because of the tendency to consider the spoken language as dependent on and derived from the written language. The second misconception was the assumption that the language of the fifth century Attic writers was more ‘correct’ than the colloquial speech of their own time and that the ‘purity’ of a language was maintained by the usage of the educated and ‘corrupted’ by the illiterate.

But the contemporary linguist maintains that the spoken language is primary and that writing is essentially a means of representing speech in another mode. Of course he’s not without his arguments. We know of no system of writing with a history of more than some six or seven thousand years. On the other hand, there is no group of people known to exist or to have existed without the capacity of speech; and many hundreds of languages have never been associated with a writing system until they were committed to writing by missionaries or linguists in our own day.

For more relevant to understanding the relation between speech and writing is the fact that all systems of writing are demonstrably based upon units of spoken language. In the description of spoken language, the linguist generally finds that he must recognise units like ‘sounds’, ‘syllables’ and ‘words’. Now all commonly-used systems of writing take one or other of these units as basic: alphabetic systems being used on ‘sound’, ‘syllabic’ on ‘syllables’ and ideogrpahic on words.

However, this argument cannot be carried too far. It may be said that homophones like ‘great’ and ‘grate’, ‘meat’ and ‘meet’ are not distinguished in their spoken form. Spelling ‘reforms’ is another instance.

However, it should not be forgotten that in the more advanced civilisations at least, where a highly developed written language is in daily use by millions of people, even purely passively, for example, in the reading of newspapers, there are likely to be developments in written language which are not preceded by or even paralleled by developments in the spoken language. Literature is the obvious and perhaps the most important category, scientific and legal writing are some others. Again there are likely to be circumstances in which independent developments in written language do have an influence on spoken language: expressions like ‘chortle’, ‘galumph’, ‘UNESCO, ‘POW’, ‘zap’ (Wallwork: language and linguistics 1969:15—16). Both the modes may in advanced societies cam to diverge from one another considerably in vocabulary and grammar. Modern French affords a particularly striking example of this. Written and spoken French (to a greater degree than written and spoken English) are learned and used by educated Frenchmen as partially independent languages (Lyons—Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics 1971:40—41). And societies have employed languages like Latin, Sanskrit in their written mode even when they have ceased to exist as spoken languages.

From another angle, considering the amount of printing that takes place (books, journal, newspapers) written language, more than the spoken one can be said to have been responsible for dissemination of information, sharing of views, spreading of concepts and philosophies. From yet another angle, that of ‘durability’, of themselves as it were sound-sequences died away and if they are not ‘decoded’ on the spot, were lost forever. But the availability of written mode ensures transmission of messages and their preservation for future reference. The differences in the conditions under which speech and writing are employed are such that it would be inaccurate to say of languages with a long history of literacy behind them that writing is merely the transference of speech to an alternative substance.


A word about teaching language—whether first, second or foreign—since both the modes  under discussion are as intimately related to teaching as to linguistics (Or rather to learning as curriculum is being thought of more learner-centred than linguistics-centred.) In ancient times, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the written mode had always followed the spoken mode. And between sixteenth and till the 1950’s the focus was on the written mode. During every period, there were dissenting voices (Comenius, Montaigne, Locke). Reaction to the Grammar-Translation led to the Direct Method. Palmer in Britain and Fries in America made teaching scientific, drawing respectively on Associationism and behaviourism. However, both insisted on teaching starting with oral training. And through efforts by several independent agencies moving towards the same goal of making teaching more meaningful than it was, there has been shift in emphasis from form to meaning through Communicative Language Teaching. This latest move recognises mutual interdependence of receptive and productive skills as reflected in spoken and written modes of language.

Do Learn Grammar


Grammar and You

If there’s one thing you don’t like to learn or know about, it’s grammar—be it English or mother tongue. In fact, you’re averse to learning English grammar. Even teachers may not be happy teaching it because you may raise issues for which they may not have ready- made answers. 

What is grammar? You may say it’s a bag full of dos and don’ts. I won’t blame you because that is the impression or feeling every non-native student of English gets or experiences. You’ve learnt the grammar of your tongue right from the time you were in your mother’s womb, you hear it everywhere all the time, you speak and write it all the time. This is not the case with English. Do you hear it used around you—in your home, in your street, in your school, in shops, in public places? No, you don’t, unless you’re in a big city. Yet, English is very important to you for various reasons—they being obvious. You have to learn to use English. How do you do that? From grammar lessons, from English textbooks, from fiction, from films, from TV channels.

Your dislike or hatred for grammar is an unnecessary burden you thrust upon yourself. This is because of the way traditional grammar books have treated grammar and the way teachers have taught them. But there’s no need to look at grammar that way. Hear me out, will you? Thanks.

Grammar is no more than a mirror; it records how people have been using a language they call theirs. I can call to mind two classic examples: 1. The use of plural pronoun ‘they’ for a singular noun like ‘everyone’ and 2. Ending a sentence with a preposition, like for instance, ‘he’s the one you should talk to’.

Today you don’t have to memorise rules and exceptions for you’re not tested on them. Instead you’re tested on how English is used in certain contexts or situations. Grammatical errors are no longer frowned upon, and committing mistakes is no sin; on the contrary it’s the way you learn to get to know to use English.

Grammar is not a villain, it’s a friend, I tell you. For the simple reason, it just provides information on how educated native users use English in speech and writing, how they put nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions in certain ways, how they form sentences and questions, paragraphs, how they use English in formal an informal situations.  

Your mother knows the recipe for idly, dosa, puttu, fish or chicken curry. Suppose you ask her to cook food the Mexican way or the Chinese way, she has to look for a recipe. You know the recipe for how to use your mother tongue. But to use English the English way, you have to look for a recipe. Grammar is that recipe.

Use it, you’ll soon become an international chef! God bless you! 

Please also read 'grammar educates' which you'll find at the bottom of page 5.

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Interpreting a visual


This piece is an example for learning to interpret a visual.

1. Cartoon Interpretation

This was my response to a question I had to answer in my Certificate Course at CIEFL, Hyderabad in 1987.


The Cartoon I have chosen is in Tamil.



The Cartoon Scene:
A cricket Test Match is on. Balram Jakkar, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, is the straight umpire and R Venkatraman, the Leader of the Rajya Sabha, is the leg umpire. Opposition parties are fielding. Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister, is facing the bowling. The ball being bowled is the demand for discussion in Parliament about the President—Prime Minister relationship, especially in the light of the exchange of letters between the two P’s. An ‘opposition’ bowler bowls Rajiv. Jakkar declares the delivered ball a ‘no ball’ and thus Rajiv ‘not out’. Venkataraman from the other end says: ‘shut up! Not out!’ The bowler asks exasperatedly: ‘If you abuse your office in this fashion, how can we ever get him out?’ And Kapil Dev, the Indian Cricket Team Captain, thinks aloud: ‘If we had the benefit of two such umpires, we should never lose a match!’

The EFFECT the cartoonist intends
               1. fear of loss of office, favours
               2. partisan attitude
Political  3. Abuse of office
               4. mockery of democratic norms

               1. fear of criticism
               2. poor umpiring decisions
Cricket   3. Abuse of office
               4. mockery of the game

Form
The Cartoonist blends into one two independent but similar situations that have arrested the attention and engaged the minds of the public for weeks. One is the long-drawn battle between the opposition parties and the Officers of both Houses of Parliament over the issue of President—Prime Minister relationship. The other is the marred India-Pakistan cricket series (Tests and Onedayers) besotted with poor and bad umpiring decisions.

The result is a high class coffee the public tastes with relish: decoction—political scene, milk—cricket scene and sugar—Cartoonist’s values. It’s his original focus that makes us laugh and think.

Overall content
Situation One—background
It all began with (at least as far as Parliament and the public were concerned) when the President asked for clarifications regarding the Postal Bill waiting his Assent. Then the cats began to come out of the bags one after another: leakages, veiled accusations.

Content (decoction)
Then ensued a constitutional furore and the resultant refusals in both Houses by their officious Officers for a discussion in Parliament about the President—Prime Minister relationship on the premise (pretext, the cartoonist would perhaps say) that the President was above and beyond discussion.

Situation Two
Background
The age-old rivalry between the two nations of the sub-continent reflects itself in cricket, too. Imran Khan came to India with his personal ambition to defeat India on her soil.

Content  (milk)
Bat-pad catches, lbw’s, caught-behinds, runouts had a controversial ring about them. The umpires, overpowered by their desire to exhibit impartiality, afraid of being criticised of being partisan, and harassed and bullied by the visiting team took their duties too seriously and too overzealously and erred and erred and went on erring that cost India the series and more than the series.

Unlike in the political scene, here the situation is inverse and hence all the more significant. Funnily enough, India, the home team, is the opposition party and Pakistan, the visiting team, the ruling party. This adds to the richness of the metaphor.

Sugar (Cartoonist’s values)
In both situations, the Officers of Parliament and the umpires are charged by the oaths and the positions they hold with the sacred duty of protecting their respective constitutions and the rights of people under the umbrella of their authority.

Whether it be overzealousness or personal considerations, the fact remains that they have betrayed the trust, they have sided with one group, they have failed miserably in the discharge of their duties, they have eroded people’s confidence in the very system that forms the foundations of national philosophy and thus been responsible for the consequent loss of faith in that system. They have committed the crime of inaction in that they have protected the ‘strong’ and wrong action in that they have suppressed the ‘weak’.

Conclusion
The humour is in Kapil Dev’s wishful thinking. The seriousness of today’s problem in democratic India is aptly heightened by Kapil’s dreamy observation and the bowler’s exasperated but rhetorical question.  


Comment by the evaluator
Good but you could have commented more especially upon the choice of batsman, umpires and bowler.

 ______________________________________________________________________________ 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A Permanent Solution to the dilemma in assessment of learner performance

A Permanent Solution

This piece discusses what happens at the end of learning over a given period of time in mass education through schools and colleges run by government or private trusts or organisations.

problem
Award of numbers (say, out of 100) or grades (letters A, B, C, D) as indicators of learner performance levels as pass or fail or distinction in annual exams conducted by schools for promotion to higher class and end-of-year/semester exams conducted by external examining bodies for award of qualifications such as certificates, diplomas and degrees and also as the first qualifying step to deciding study scholarships, to pursuits in higher education and job getting has been in vogue for centuries as the evaluation tool. Equally importantly, such award builds or destroys self-confidence, erodes self-esteem and self-belief of individual learners.

The implications of such evaluation are self evident. Subject knowledge is gained not for acquisition and permanent retention of knowledge for lifelong use but for securing high marks or grades which form the basis for any kind of progress—scholarships, admission to higher education institutions, job getting. As a result, learners typically fail to make important connection between concepts within and across the subject areas they’re studying and they forget quickly and easily the knowledge they’ve acquired. This is definitely true of students in India and may be true in the case of students elsewhere in the world. Besides, Low marks or low grades have their own consequences: disappointment, frustration, undue mental stress that students experience when they go unrecognised and this may even lead to unwanted social behaviours.

One improvement to this has been to evaluate learner performance through internal assessment as formal (as mandatory by bodies governing education at different levels) or informal (teacher’s efforts to make a comprehensive assessment) means. The formal one has had its critics and the informal one is rather subjective.

An alternative indicator could be descriptive evaluation. In a forum in Linkedin an excellent teacher asks:
      Is it not enough to simply graduate from a programme with a certificate,
      diploma, or degree that states a learner's competencies in an intuitive and
      understandable way (e.g. with descriptors) instead of opaque, abstract numbers
      and letters?
But it’s not just viable in a scenario where thousands or hundreds of thousands have to be evaluated.

solution
I go one step further—a really long jump, it may be felt, but worth considering and implementing.

Two things are evident. Our evaluation system doesn’t ensure retention of knowledge. Two, we’ve taken it upon ourselves what should be the responsibility of learners, namely learning. In other words, we education providers are the guilty party.

How do we get learners to take responsibility of learning on their shoulder?

Learners go through the learning process—listening to teachers and reading related literature including the textbooks as they complete syllabuses for a given period of years, receive course completion certificates at different levels (school, college), compete for jobs and higher education courses, exhibit the knowledge level they’ve acquired, get selected and move further or get stagnant. Now they’ll realise that the fault lies with them and they haven’t learnt enough. They will stay stagnant if they don’t make the effort. Now they are the authors of their own success or failure. 

(Of course, governments will have to educate the parents, students, teachers, employers and higher institutions what’s in store for them.)

Two things happen as a result. Employing agencies and higher education institutions will have a huge task of evaluating hundreds of thousands of learners. They shouldn’t complain because now they can select really knowledgeable candidates. Once this system is introduced, it will take some time for how the system now works to sink in in the minds of students and their parents. But then they’ll soon settle down to this inevitable environment and get down to the business of learning. And now the burden of learning will be on the right shoulders.


Of course, this is not to say award of marks or grades is to be done away with. Grades or marks are to be used solely for the purpose of award of scholarships. But they should not decide the future of learners, they should not affect them emotionally; now it’s learners who will decide their future by learning or not learning, by retaining knowledge gained or not retaining knowledge gained. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

happy tidings

gladdens my heart to learn that 5000 have visited in 20 months. Thank you all.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Useful sources for English teachers and students

Useful sources for English teachers and students
1.
myspeechbuddy.com•Language Development and Comparatives
posted by Janet Sharp in ELT Resources

2.
off2class.comEverything you need to know about teaching Idioms to your ESL students. 30 ESL Lesson Plans for you teach Idioms to your ESL students!
Posted by Kris Jagasia in ELT Resources

3.
off2class.comFor anyone teaching ESL to non-native English speaking professionals, business idioms are important. We have 2 lessons dedicated to Business Idioms!
Posted by Kris Jagasia in ELT Resources

4.
off2class.comA recording of our "Phrasal Verbs - Teaching Strategies and Demonstration" webinar. It includes a live demo of teaching phrasal 
posted by Kris Jagasia in ELT Resources

5.
posted by Nik Peachy in ELT Resources


6.
Posted by Nik Peachy in ELT Resources

7.
oupeltglobalblog.comMargaret Brooks, a co-author of Q: Skills for Success, Second Edition, offers some tips to help your students take notes in class. Whether in the context of taking a phone message or listening to a...
posted by Nick Edwards in ELT Resources


Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussions--Series 32--ELT Resources

Please take a look at Post 68 and then come back here.

Discussions—Series Thirty-Two

Topic 112
I'm really interested in making resources. I've been working on creating lessons to improve teaching the writing process using Unusual Animals. Lesson Plan included. Let me know what you think?
Sara Davila Research Manager at Human Capital Media
Educating Her World saradavila.com
I came upon several different live post about unique or unusual animals and it inspired me to put together these worksheets. When I was working in my middle school in South Korea my students absolutely adored anything to do with the animal world...

Me
Thanks Sara, I've shared the link with my daughter who teaches lower classes.

Excellent. I'd love to hear how it works for her.

Me
Hi Sara
My daughter is not a member so I'll get it from her and pass it on to you.

Excellent.

Me
Hi Sara
Here is my daughter's immediate response:
An excellent tool for multiple skills
The worksheets are simple and clear. The process of reading the passages and completing the worksheets will trigger the inquisitive mind of students and lead to developing research attitude. Also, it enhances mind mapping skill in students.

As teachers we understand that this type of worksheets can be used to teach other concepts too. It also breaks the conventional method of responding to comprehension passages.
Lesson plans: A mention about the teacher’s prior preparation would orient teachers to handle curious questions asked by students. The phonetic transcription of the ‘names of animals’ will help in right pronunciation.

Thank you.
Regards
Ramya Ramkumar

She further says the material will be useful to students of higher classes--she teaches class 1 students-- and she'll get the feedback from those teachers and pass it on to you through me.

Thanks so much, this is exactly the kind of feedback I'm looking for. I would enjoy hearing from other teachers she is working with as well. Thanks for passing these on! I'm really glad that she was pleased with how these break from reading/comprehension passages. That was a very deliberate work on my part as critical reading skills are being lost with the almost mindless focus on question answering. We can, and should, ask for more from ourselves and our course content.
___________________________________________________________________________

Topic 113
How can you deal with the use of mother tongue in an English Class?
Nick EdwardsMedia at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)
omments
 You and Mahmoud Sultan like this

Head of English Department at Ministry Of Education
The usage of mother tongue should br discouraged and used as the last resort because ecsseve use of mother tongue will undermine the usage snd the learning of the targetted language. It can be used as the last resort when teaching abstract vocabulary to save time anf effort.

Freelance ESL instructor and writer
I suppose it depends on the setting, but in private ESL schools - I have found that a limited display of my own inept attempts at using the students mother tongue helps build rapport and break down some of the barriers connected to shyness or unwillingness to talk as a result of the students lack of language skills.

As for definitions, I would always use their mother tongue as a last resort (just as Mahmoud said), describing the word to them and asking them to give me the equivalent word in their language, which I could then confirm. Of course, this is dependent on there being an equivalent.

Me
Top Contributor
In a non-native environment, there is no harm in exploiting the advantages the local provides to teaching English; in fact, we have what is known as bilingual method. Comprehension is easier with its use. Comfort accrues to learning. Learning does take place. Where is the harm then?
Of course with a warning about its judicious use.
___________________________________________________________________________

Topic 114
Is it possible to learn a language without studying grammar?
Nick EdwardsMedia at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)
 You and Roger A. Ripert like this

Author, Racing to English
Yes - we all did between the ages of 0 and 5!

Head of English Department at Ministry Of Education
There are are many theories for teaching languages; however, grammar cannot be excluded if we want to teach languages academically. Grammar acts as a guide that directs the the languages teaching process and gives learners a kind of security while learning language. On the the other hand teacher should bear in mind accuracy and fluency because if we adpt the too extremes, we will not get constructive teaching of languages.

Exective member at united teachers' Federation(UTF)
I think it is possible to learn a language without learning its grammar consciously.That is the way we learn our mother tongue.As a practicing English teacher I can say that even if we teach grammar consciously, the students can not learn a language but they may learn some rules of grammar which they may not use in their speaking or writing.Language is a much complex phenomenon.We should make the children think and construct language instead of teaching grammar consciously.The grammar of a language should be internalized

Me
The answer is a 'no' even with regard to learning English as one's own language or as that of another's. Even a native child will need to learn grammar because of the present day excessive influence of SMS on the mobile and email abbreviated words on the internet. There was a report some time ago in an Indian newspaper about school children in England writing answers and paragraphs with the 'broken' (even literally speaking) English and teachers were stumped and worried about such a trend. May be a different kind of English will emerge!

But for the present, as teachers of English--be it in native surroundings or non-native ones--we'll have to point out to children grammar is not something to be disliked but to be followed as it reflects only how a language is being used in a given society at a given time (these days grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive). If grammar is not liked by students the fault probably lies with the writers of grammar books. A lot of examples from real-life conversations and great fiction writers will have to be presented to students so that they realize grammar is not their enemy but a friend.

Of course the final say lies with the students themselves whether they'll accept what teachers present them with or they'll learn the hard way from life situations they may face as adolescents or adults.
___________________________________________________________________________

Topic 115
Should/Can students evaluate their teachers?
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)

Me
I hope my contribution to the discussion hasn't arrived too late.

I think they can and they should.

Whether we like it or not, students do assess us right from the moment we enter the classroom for the first time, even though they may not be conscious of it as we as teachers assess our students as soon as we enter the classroom. (This happens, too when two strangers, acquaintances, friends and relatives meet.) Yes, it can be biased, but we can sift and learn the good observations and also look at some negative comments objectively.

Also another dimension can be added; teachers can and should assess their own performance as a teacher of a subject, as a critique of the syllabus and the textbook and as a classroom manager.

But in reality, assessments are very biased in either case for we judge as human beings, objectivity is seen less and they are not taken seriously by either.

Both teachers and students need to be 'educated' or 'enlightened' about the need to objectively assess themselves and the other party. And hope for the best! (for human nature controls human behaviour more than we think or can imagine!)
Ferd R. likes this

Me
here is more.

I believe that energy flows from one source to another. If teachers are committed to helping learners not only learn subjects, and show personal interest in their problems--both academic and personal--and do their best to solve them by seeking help if necessary in all honesty, this definitely rubs off on their students.

This has been my experience in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Thamizh Nadu.
Ferd R. likes this

Me
The body language always tells what learners feel about what's going on in class or for that matter what's not going on in class!
Dianna HenshawFerd R. like this

Me
What I said in my previous conversation refers to informal feedback. You can ask your students to formally evaluate you with a questionnaire:
as a subject teacher
1. language--clarity, pronunciation, speed,
2. manner of handling the text, level of explanation you give
3. your body language--eye contact, cheering, enjoying their company

as a classroom manager
1. apportioning time for teaching, listen to students, quality of comments, organsing information on the blackboard

as a person
caring, indifferent, judicious, prejudiced, helpful

The same things can be asked for in an informal feeback with a blank paper with only the titles suggested above.

Me
Yes, Stephen, I can see the danger in getting feedback from students when they are used as part of teacher assessment. The instrument is not faulty but the purpose is. Learners should be made to realise that their feedback is being collected in their own interest and meant solely for the purpose of improving ways of getting messages across to them.

Of course there is also this danger of learners not being serious about giving genuine feedback; there is no yardstick for this. Yet, I think learner feedback will mean something to each other if the relations between a teacher and a set of learners is cordial, to say the least.
24 days ago
 Dianna Henshaw likes this

Me
Hi Madni
Yes they may not be able to judge their teacher's knowledge but sorry because they do have the ability to judge a teacher's ability to get messages across.
Madni Khan likes this

Note: I’d copied this down when I had no plan to include others’ responses to the thread.
___________________________________________________________________________

Topic 116
Using a textbook may give a backbone to a course but working with it cannot be the only thing we do. Manager's Choice
María Inés Brumana Espinosa Profesora inglés/español, capacitadora. Autora: Al Rescate del Estudiante de Español, Coautora: ELT Goes to the Movies
If it´s boring for me, I assume it´s boring for my students. I always transform some of the exercises into games, may change the order of activities or skip them and do something else instead. I use lots of my own resources. I design games and worksheets to work with songs or short film segments (you may want to check this outhttp://eltgoestothemovies.blogspot.com/).

Me
Why not throw the dice to students and get them to participate in the learning-teaching act, especially in higher classes in school--say 9 to 12 (according to the system in India)?

Me
A textbook is only one tool in the hands of committed teachers. They can use newspaper articles, letters to the editor, cooking recipes, sports magazines (not fashion magazines for diversion here is the easiest and the quickest!), fiction you may have read or are reading, videos, films--anything that can offer scope for teaching and learning. Or you can give the initiative to students to bring their material.

Me
Hi Stephen
From your comment I understand memory of the lesson content is tested, in which of course the textbook becomes all too important.

Learning Counsellor at TQ Education & Training
Hi Kolipaka
The textbook is sometimes a psychological prop to both the teacher and student alike. If it's good, it may be all you need, and often of course it's all you have. It should be language-rich, have multi-syllabi (lexical/phonological/structural/skills work/learning strategies/cultural input) and have enough in it that you can leave out what you don't like or won't benefit your students. There is a bit of a "textbook-bad' tendency these days which I don't necessarily go along with, although to be sure there are some rotten textbooks out there. You can be as creative with a textbook as you can with any other tool.

Me
Hi Stephen
From your comment I understand memory of the lesson content is tested, in which of course the textbook becomes all too important.
___________________________________________________________________________

Topic 117
What makes a successful speaker in English?
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)
ments
 You, Sireen (Nisreen) M. and 1 other like this

There are many factors that may influence this skill but some that come to mind are: tone...clarity..coherence...aim...target audience...and accuracy...
These need to be defined further as individual issues because each point has a various impact on speaking.

Owner, TP Publications
I would think that a successful speaker of any language is one that a listener would understand, and would want to listen to. Grice's 'Cooperative Principle' and 'Maxims of Conversation' are well worth looking at. They're simply put, just common sense really.
Phonological correctness is more specific of course, but equally important, and English language teachers often underestimate the need for skill and application here.
Fatima Zohra B. likes this

Assistant Professor at Tlemcen University
To be successful in a productive like speaking, one needs, at first, to be audible enough because the voice is the only that speakers have to convey his speech. second, one should make an eye contact with the target audience to ensure their attention. The choice between formal and informal language use is very crucial in public speaking, and therefore, successful speakers are those who consider the social context they are in, before speaking ( that is to say speakers need to adjust their language level with the place and the people they are speaking with , for example, one should decide between being formal, less formal or informal in speaking, and between using easy language style or difficult one). Finally, using accurate language ( mainly in terms of pronunciation and word choice) and some appropriate body language signs and gestures are all important to be good at speaking.

Teacher at R. S. S. (Rawd el Saleheen Bi lingual school)
I agree totally with Sireen, moreover I want to add MOTIVATION. I think when the learners have a clear target they become self motivated , when they see their teacher cares they get interested and they do care.

English Language Teacher, Trainer and Consultant
Helps if you have something you really want/need to say!

Me
Whatever qualifications and attributes a speaker may have, in the final analysis, what really matters is audience's positive response during and after the event through non-verbal and verbal messages, and getting the audience to act appropriately, I guess.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Topic 118
Can’t a verb be used in the plural after the interrogative ‘who’?
K R Lakshminarayanan active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai Top Contributor
Can't we ask:
Who is coming with me to the party?
Who are coming with me to the party?

Should we say: who is coming to the party? irrespective of what the answer might be.

Is 'why' grammatically only singular?

Language teaching
No, even if it is a reported interrogative:
I don't know who drinks my whisky in the middle of the night.
(You could not remove the 's' from 'drinks' to make the verb plural)
But you can if it is not interrogative:
A teacher who doesn't agree with me is stupid.
Teachers who don't agree with me are stupid.
Both are correct.
Goodness knows why!

Teacher at Taos Municipal Schools
"Can’t a verb be used in the plural after the interrogative ‘who’?"
Answer- Yes.

Who cares if the restaurant is expensive? Although the question word, "who" does not have a plural form, the subject is plural. Subject indicates whether the verb is to be pluralized. Who (of all the people in the world) cares?

Verb and subject must agree in tense or aspect. (I am vs. you are)

"Wh-question words" do not determine the agreement between verb's tenses, or aspects.

Who is coming to the play? Verbs both agree in tense.

"Who" could be one of many, and the correct form of the helping verb is "is".

Who are coming to the game? No verb agreement in tense or aspect.

Let's just be clear. The best English is language that is understood by others.

We can't say, "They is going to the movies." ("They" is a plural subject.)

We can say, "They are going to the movies." (The subject needs a form or tense that matches it (singular or plural).

Hope, this helps, a bit. Sorry about those bothersome hyper-links. They are not mine, and will lead you astray. Use a regular online dictionary, instead of clicking on a link that leads to spam, or unwanted ads. Thanks!

English teacher at SEIHA
Who are you? (addressing one person)
Who is coming with me? (addressing a group)
It's complicated for me too. I think others are better qualified to explain this rule.

However, on a little tangent.
I think the important point this question has raised for me is this:
When is a student ready for what information?

When I am teaching English in class, I differentiate between phrasebook English and textbook English.
Phrasebook English is language we learn with no supporting grammar foundation.
"My name is..." is phrasebook English. We learn it in the first lesson but with no understanding as to what we are saying other than the meaning we are conveying.
It is just something to get the students speaking.

"My name is..." becomes textbook English after we have studied possessives, the verb 'to be' and the vocabulary. Now we can understand the sentence and adapt the sentence to say other things: His name is.... Their names are... etc

Our aim is to turn phrasebook English into textbook English in the most productive way. The transition = true understanding.

So my point.
If this question arises, is it a phrasebook sentence or a textbook sentence we have encountered?
This is really important as it determines whether the student is ready for the explanation.
If it is the former, my advice to my students is: If you don't understand it yet don't worry.
Just learn this phrase for now.

More importantly:
1) Are you communicating your message? In that case that's half the battle.
You SHOULD BE studying English to communicate with others, so, let's concentrate on that.

2) Mistakes are good. Mistakes are how we learn but ONLY if you learn from those mistakes.Follow your instincts and use what you have learnt so far. And when you make a mistake be ready to learn from anyone good enough to correct you.
Make correcting each other part of the class responsibility to each other. You are a team.

3) The student is responsible for his or her own learning. They need to listen and read extensively. Speak and write as much as they can.
Class rule 1 (The first rule we learn in my class)
Study x use = development
More study x more use = more development.

4) Patience. You should not worry too much about what you have not addressed yet. There is only so much you can do at any one time. True understanding, (textbook English) will come with time and experience. (When you are ready for it.)

Me
I'm sorry about the error; it should've been 'who', not 'why'.

In an attempt to get an answer through internet, I came across the first page of an article entitled ‘Is WHO really a singular?’ and written by Sylvia Chalker at editor @eltj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/38/128.

She cites these examples to say a plural verb should be used in these sample sentences:
Who are playing Navrotilova and Shriver in the women’s doubles?
Who are going to work together on this project?
Who help each other most in time of trouble—rich or poor?
Who are ‘divided by their common language’?
Who were fighting among themselves at that time?
Who play the duets in tomorrow’s concert?
Who have the leading roles in this production?
Who have been appointed director and stage manager?
Who are playing Macbeth and Banquo?

These examples provide a context and thus justify the verb in plural. But what about these which are her examples, too:
Who inhabit those remote treeless valleys?
Who were pouring across Europe in the Dark Ages, bringing destruction in their wake?

Here the plurality is obvious even without an explicitly stated context. So I think a plural verb can follow 'who'.
Hafsa S.Rod Mitchell like this

Exective member at united teachers' Federation(UTF)
I think a plural verb can follow who.Suppose you are asking more than one person, you can say who are coming with me? suppose you think only one has done some thing, you say, for example,who has broken the mirror?I do not think who should only be followed by a singular verb.I think it depends more on the meaning.But what is considered singular.What makes you think so.You can not say what make you think so or what are being done by you?
Rod Mitchell likes this

Language teaching
I've just thought of one:
The whole synod condemned his behavior but, after all, who are they to stand in judgement?
(I nearly wrote "Who are they to judge?" but realised that this is ambiguous.)
It's odd, but when you think about it, one can almost always find a context for the most unlikely word sequences.
Jeff Bullard likes this

Attended Pedagogic University - Maxixe
Truly,Wh - question words are followed by a singular verb form especially when you don't know the one who does the action: "Who is going to attend the meeting?" although you may know consciously that there must be 3 or more people. But, when you address the question to one PRESENTLY who you expect him/her to answer, it's obvious that you are going to use the 2nd person either singular or plural: "Who are you?; what do you know about love?".

I hope I have contributed to this particular discussion concerning to GRAMMAR, a boring subject as my students say.
Jeff Bullard likes this

Teacher at Taos Municipal Schools
In an attempt to get an answer through internet, Kolipaka Lakshminarayanan, an
active member, Expert Panel, Procademia, Chennai came across the first page of an article entitled ‘Is WHO really a singular?’ and written by Sylvia Chalker at editor @eltj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/38/128.

He said, "She cites these examples to say a plural verb should be used in these sample sentences."

Those are my (Jeffrey) "OK's in parenthesis. (OK)

(OK) Who are playing Navrotilova and Shriver in the women’s doubles?

Who are going to work together on this project?

I disagree with this sentence. It will be better in American English to say, "Who is going to ....come to work tomorrow, going to work overtime, today, ....etc. We understand clearly, that we can be refering to any number of people...the whole staff, group, etc.

,
Who help each other most in time of trouble—rich or poor?

Interesting>>>>I would say, Who helps- pluralizing the verb "help".

(OK) Who are ‘divided by their common language’?

(OK) Who were fighting among themselves at that time?

Who play the duets in tomorrow’s concert?

Change this to "Who will play ...(Here, there is a future context, and the modal verb "will" is perfect. Consider, "Who is playing the duets, in tomorrow's concert?" (continuous- the musicians are not expected to be changed...) The original construction makes no sense. (Who play the duets in tomorrow’s concert?)

(OK) Who have the leading roles in this production?

(OK) Who have been appointed director and stage manager?

(OK) Who are playing Macbeth and Banquo?

(Note: It is acceptable in Am.Eng. to say, "Who is playing Macbeth and Banqou?" (TIME IS NOW!) The answer goes something like, Jack R. is playing MacBeth and Jill S. is playing Banqou. It is also an acceptable place to use a modal indicating a future time.....Who will be playing ...(Time is LATER-future)

To be more precise, I would ask, "Who are the actors that are playing Macbeth and Banqou?"

Me
Hi Jeff
Thanks for taking the trouble to express personally how you look at the verb in these sentences.
I'm OK where you say you are, too. But
adding 'will' suggests there's a problem using 'play' after 'who'. 'the duets' suggests plurality and so 'who play...' is fine, to my mind.

You say: It is acceptable in Am.Eng. to say, "Who is playing Macbeth and Banqou?" (TIME IS NOW!) The answer goes something like, Jack R. is playing MacBeth and JillS. is playing Banqou. It is also an acceptable place to use a modal indicating a future time.....Who will be playing ...(Time is LATER-future)

But while the substitutions are acceptable to me as alternate structures, the question: whether or not 'play' is acceptable after 'who' still remains.
John House likes this

Exective member at united teachers' Federation(UTF)
I think who can follow a plural verb.Who are going to meet the principal is as correct as who is going to meet the principal.I think there is no strict rule prohibiting the use of a plural verb after who unlike what.What is usually considered singular.What is being done? who was killed in the accident or who were killed in the accident?both are possible.

Young learner TEFL specialist
Yes there are some examples where it can be used, but most of the given examples just sound wrong to a native ear!

Exective member at united teachers' Federation(UTF)
But the fact is most native speakers do not use grammatically correct sentences all the time.I asked two native female English teachers "Are you Married"One of them said "neither of us are married"? I jocularly said, "do native speakers speak English like this.The speaker immediately replied that what he spoke was wrong but most native speakers speak that way.Since usage is more important than grammar "Who' may be followed by a singular verb but it is not grammatically wrong to use a plural verb after who.

founder at Linguistics, Inc.
WHY and other interrogative pronouns require a complement. The complement determines the number of the verb.

Why is the sky blue? (singular)
Why are the students tired? (plural)
Who are they? (plural)
Who is he? (singular)
What is he doing? (singular)
What are they doing? (plural)
What are you doing? (plural form for all YOUs)
In the occasion that the complement is not provided, the singular form is used.
Who is coming to the party? They are.

Exective member at united teachers' Federation(UTF)
So most of the native speakers and grammarians feel that who without a complement is considered singular just like what.Let us come to a consensus that Interrogatives pronouns themselves cant take a plural verb unless they are followed by a plural complement'.Any how, the usage of native speakers is final on the contentious issues like this.
What is this?
what are those?
but What is being done?
Who are they?.
but Who is coming tomorrow?O.K

Founder at Meshiareni, LLC
Venkata, I usually use the singular form. I think that is the "default" assumption.

However, When I expect a plural answer, and more importantly, when context indicates unamigously that the answer will be in plural form, I will pose the question as a plural.

The speaker's anticipation of the answer ultimately governs. Where the student has not had enough practice (meaning months or years) to anticipate forms, the singular will usually suffice.
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Topic 119
Can ‘no’, ‘correct’ or ‘right’ be used in place of question tags?
K R Lakshminarayanan  active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai Top Contributor
In the novels quoted, these appear as spoken by ‘educated’ characters:
1. “Pictures can be misleading, no?” Zackheim gave him a questioning look.
2. “You didn’t even want him as a client.”
“But now I have him, no?”
Robert Ludlum’s The Ambler Warning
3. ‘I always bring lots of fruit on a mission. Much nicer than rations,
no?’
Andy McDermott’s Empire of Gold
4. Jack Rogan’s The Collective
“I know, Rachel. I know. But I can hope, right?”
“And by ‘terrorism’, we generally mean Islamic terrorists. Correct?”
‘I’m sure I told you this story, right?’
Sean Black’s Lock Down
5. Your family is friends with the CEO’s family, right?
Sounds great, no?
Steve Berry’s The Venetian Betrayal

These expressions appear in today's fiction by famous writers whose pieces are gone through with a fine tooth comb by editors of famous publishing houses.

If this reflects commonness, can’t ‘isn’t it?’ or ‘is it?’ be acceptable as well?

Business English Teacher at Meten English
Well, we shouldn't, should we?, but we do, don't we? Yes?

English teacher at SEIHA
English is changing. That's what it does. It ain't the same thing in different parts of the world.
To be sure, it's not the same thing in different parts of England. That's what dialect is, ain't it?
I must confess it's hard to keep up, yeah? Especially when you're my age and forget half of what you learn.
Still, that's what keeps it challenging and by definition, interesting.
It is also why I think the way we teach it sometimes needs to catch up too before us old fogies get left behind.

Author, Racing to English
Using "no" as a question tag is unusual and I would never teach it - it's not yet standard English.
Using "right" or "correct" are more common in speech but they are very colloquial again I would not encourage second language learners to use them.
John House likes this

English teacher at SEIHA
Whether or not we like the usage we must prepare students for when they encounter them even if we may discourage their use.
It is like teaching students to recognise historical English in Shakespeare or a Jane Austin novel

Me
Top contributor
I've found all the three expressions in novels written by American and British fiction writers.

I feel 'no' in the examples I've cited doesn't sound negation as someone suggested elsewhere but rather are equivalent to 'can't they', 'don't I', 'aren't they'.

'Isn't it' is the question tag is in wide currency as one-all purpose tag among literate Indians, (and if I'm not mistaken, the regular tag among 'educated' Indians) obviously under the influence of mother tongue tags, and if 'no', 'right' or 'correct' are acceptable in place of the grammatically correct question tags, why not 'isn't it (true that...)?

OK, Kolipaka, but the question is whose mouth does the writer put the remarks into? Whether the character is educated or not I think their use implies foreignness. I've always thought of the use of "no" as a question tag as a transference error typical of Spanish speakers.

Me
Stephen, definitely into 'educated ones' mouths' even if they were Italian, French etc. living in America or England. The fact that the writers do use these as part of dialogues of people from different nationalities originally points to their usage as common.

Hence my question about "'isn't it (true that ...)" as a genuine question tag. Especially by a very large section of users of English in the world.

Genuine, yes. Natural, possibly as part of a dialect. In South Wales a lot of people only use the question tag "Isn't it?" as a tag for any question. That's a transference from Welsh.

Professor de inglês - particular, Fortaleza, Brasil
It's right in the States, innit?
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Topic 120
when to use these:'since', 'for', 'as' and 'because'?
K R Lakshminarayanan active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai Top Contributor
Can we substitute these one for another?

English teacher at SEIHA
In focus on these words when I introduce perfect continuous tenses and building complex sentences
"I will have been ____ for ..." "I have been ____ since ..."

'because' and 'so' I introduce with the conjunctions and, but, so, yet, because etc.

Me
I see now my topic needs specificity: can we replace one for the other in a reason clause:
I left a message for/ since/ as/ because you were out.

Learning Counsellor at TQ Education & Training
I have the feeling that "for" is only used meaning "because" in Journalese, jocular style, poetry or archaic English. e.g. Tony Blair (for it is he) as in Private Eye. For I have thought thee fair and sworn thee bright/ as in Shakespeare's sonnet.My Love is as a Fever. Since/because/as are much more natural for this meaning.
Hafsa S.Frances D. and 1 other like this

Director of Studies at Cactus Language Training
The use of these is based on their main meanings:

since "from that time before till the reference time" - the reason comes from the cause

for "potential goal"

as "exactly like/exactly the same" - an exact reason is the cause

because "for this/that cause" (< "by this/that cause") - the cause was X - general cause

"I left a message for you were out" - in standard English this use is impossible; it is only used in some dialects.

"I left a message since you were out" - two possibilities : (1) I left the message after you had gone out; (2) having learnt/discovered you went out - and because of that - I left a message.

"I left a message as you were out" - two possibilities : (1) at the same time as you went out I left a message; (2) I left a message because of the exact reason that you went out (probably you should have left the message).

"I left a message because you were out" - (1) I came to see you, but you were out, so I left a message (I left a message - the reason for doing so was that you were out); (2) You were supposed to leave the message, but yo were out, so I did it instead.

Me
Thanks a lot, Rod.
Rod Mitchell likes this

Language teaching
Rod's example "I left a message for you were out"; isn't exactly impossible, just improbable from a native speaker because the "for you" completes the sentence "I left a message for you." and the mind of the listener has to jerkily change gear to reinterpret "for" and to pick up its new meaning once "were out." is added to the phrase.
A native speaker, I think, would automatically avoid it.

The other point is a question of register or formality: If "I left a message for you were out" sounds odd it is also partly because the banality of the subject renders it unsuitable.
"Thou shalt not abuse the grammar of the language for God's vengeance will fall upon those who do." looks OK and "because, or as, wouldn't be in the right style for the context.
It doesn't have to be quite as dramatic as that: "The thief will have his hand cut off, for that is the practice in his country." is all right too and yet, viewed purely from the point of view of syntax each of these is similar to "I left a message for you were out".
Rod Mitchell likes this

You;re welcome!

A correction - I noticed a typo:

"I left a message as you were out" - two possibilities : (1) at the same time as (DURING THE TIME) you WERE out I left a message; (2) I left a message because of the exact reason that you went out (probably you should have left the message).

"In standard English this use is impossible; it is only used in some dialects."

"Dialect" is the important word here - "register" should also be added - not everything that appears in written English (or spoken for that matter) is "Standard English", and we as native speakers, according to our life experiences (level of education, religious upbringing, and so on) have a much wider use and acceptance of what is OK and not OK in English than the "narrowish" Standard English".

Both of Mark's examples are special, one in being ultimately from the King Jame's version of the bible - essentially Elisabethan English, and so from around 400 years ago, and also it was a translation of the Latin/Greek/Hebrew versions, and at times apparently a little too word-for-word.

Having said that, "for" in older English was much more common for the concept of "because", though normally mosty commonly with "that" or an equivalent relative. It showed the concept of "because" when abstractly looking towards/at the cause, whereas "because" was looking at the concept of "because" when the "cause" was the cause of the result:

She is hungry because of working so hard for so long this morning (< by cause of).

She is hungry for food : She is hungry, for she will eat. (will in older English meant "wants")

In the evolution of Modern English, "because" has become generalised as the standard word, while "for" has only been kept in archaic phraseology (including poetry) and in dialect. That is why we teach Spanish speakers (in particular - though also others) that we can't really use "for" for because.

("The thief shall have his hand cut off, for that is the practice in his country" - "shall" probably is better in this example).
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Topic 121
what is difference between home and house?
umesh sharma National Cordinator at British Institute of Spoken English
Top Contributor

Me
All said and done, let's see what we have:

I’ve taken possession of my house. (=building) (not ‘home’ here)
He works from home. (house is not possible here)
We’re approaching our home/house. (here both are possible)
Let’s have the party at my house (here ‘home’ possible?)
My house isn’t far off from here. (‘home’ possible here?)
Be quiet or you’ll wake the whole house. (home is not possible)
We’re moving house (=going to live in a different one) (how do Americans say this?)
As we approached the house, it began to rain. (someone else’s)
Most households now own at least one car. (home or house possible here?)

Complicated? / complicating?

You’re complicating matters. (correct)
The English language is complicated / complicating (?)
The English language is complicating learning (correct?)

There is no difference, its only an ideology inflicted on other cultures that have no perception of the meaning. Dwelling and Clan.

Me
Frank's comment 'no difference' is valid in the case of Indian languages where in day-to-day communication only one word (of there may be other words not used and found only in literary circles) for both 'house' and 'home'. For instance, Thamizh has 'veedu' for both.

The distinction may be a distinctive feature characterising the English language. I'd be interested to know if there is this thought difference say in German, French or Japanese or Chinese.

Me
Can I add, with your permission, 'even with family around' to your enquiry, Samia?
 Samia Sayadi likes this

Me
I added this to your question because I did, as my wife and all our four daughters and sons-in-law and all our grandchildren did, when we visited temples, we enjoyed taking bath in a private waterfalls and enjoyed bird watching, singing and dancing, even meditating in an 'ashram'. More than touring places, it's the 'togetherness' that mattered most, not the hotel, not the food (though they were very good)

Me
Hi Jenifer 
Thanks for the appreciation. Well.. you need to come to Chennai, India. You're welcome anytime. 

best wishes 

krl 

On 03/18/14 4:53 AM, Jenifer Spencer wrote: 
-------------------- 
How beautiful! Can I come on holiday with your lovely family next time? :)

I am fascinated how many ways we are all finding ways to say pretty much the same thing...

I think looking at some of the definitions from this thread would make a great exercise in class.
Possibly a vote or debate for/on the best one selected from half a dozen or so.

Me
Richard, thanks for turning a discussion into a point for learning. This is how we teachers learn so our learners may learn from us.
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Topic 122
6 ways to use the verb 'GO' in English:http://youtu.be/gDLX3jqkEhI via YouTube
Nick Edwards Digital Marketing Technician at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)
Top Contributor

Freelance tutor and trainer
Than you David.
Looks interesting.
I usually treat this as the four uses as go to/go to a/go to the use the a and the which I would have covered by this stage making the differentiation less important.
I might on reflection adapt what I do to reflect this though.
Rod Mitchell likes this

Not to belittle her at all - great stuff, important for it to be there, and so on.The more the better.

Negatives? The confusion of putting the "a/the/zero" articles as if they are part of the use of "go". An unfortunate linking. But she "turned me off" when she stated talking about "exceptions". "Go on", "go for", "go through" - and so on are not exceptions at all, they are regular uses of those prepositions with verbs like go. Also, like "to", they have the same type of use according to article (a/the/zero), and so on.

The positive remark she made was telling "us" [as the student] to develop a feeling of how to remember/know when to use go without a preposition, and when the prepositon is there, how to know when not to use an article, or to use a/an or the. This info came across in a vague way - but would it have been enough for am EFL student?

What she could have done was give us those clues overtly (no article means an uncountable, "state-like" noun/activity, and so on).

She should have split it in two - focus purely on the articles (which she does do elsewhere), and then focus on the verb "go" and its own uses, like :

I go home/swimming (the "destination" is a place where a prepositon is not used, or an activity)
She went crazy : the adjective represents a state that she attains (she is "in" the state of craziness).

I go to X - the X is my destination/goal
I go on X - the X is either the place/thing where the going is happening, or a specific reason (like "go on holiday")
and so for other prepositions.

Have a go / It is my go now (= a turn, etc.)

Obviously, everyone has their own preference. Personally I don't often try an cover a topic in such a comprehensive fashion.
I tend to introduce the basics and then revisit it at a later date to cover the more advanced elements.

At an early stage I usually just cover (Often with quite a limited initial vocabulary):

go to/into (a place) school, a school, the school...(we could look at the differences using determiners)
go for (a reason) a drive, a walk, my medicine...
go (an activity using -ing) swimming, shopping, walking...

One of the most common mistakes my Japanese students make is "I go to shopping"

So, we often look at
"I go shopping."
"I go to a/the this/that/these/those his/her/ some/many etc shop/s" (I like to use as many determiners as possible as alternatives to help the students with the differences)

"I go into a/the this/that/these/those his/her/ some/many etc shop/s"
"I go for my shopping."

At this level I am more likely to extend this out using the different tenses rather than other examples of how to use go

I feel that for this level that is enough to be going on with.
Next time round some of the other issues can be addressed

Don't get me wrong, Richard, whatever any of us write in a forum like this with regard to the backgrounding detail is never actually how we present the stuff in real life, just as I know that your summariation iof an excellent lesson implies much more than just what you have "baldly" stated. And maybe even two or three or more lessons.

This is a forum for summarising - not for going into the bits by bits of what is a long-term teaching/learning project. Keeping in mind that English has over 60 prepositons, most (all?) of which can be used in conjunction with "go".

I was mentioning the negatives of confusing the articles with the teaching of "go". The articles have nothing to do with "go" - and then the strange use of the word "exceptions" when referring to the other prepositions.

That mistake you mention is one that all learners of English make.

I'm with you Rod don't worry. My comments were more addressed towards the original few comments about the video clip.
I do realise that you are giving a more comprehensive answer and I am grateful for that. I am jealous of your encyclopaedic knowledge. I wish I had half of your ability. (I am certainly going to be 'borrowing' from a lot of your answers and passing the knowledge off as my own. ahem)

I do get the feeling that in some quarters a comprehensive answer to a problem is always expected and I think that I was just trying to suggest that sometimes I find with students it is not always necessary to overload them too much of a subject at any one time and that the level of the student should always be considered as a priority.

This explains why I introduce topics which such basic and familiar vocabulary. It is purely to keep the new data to a minimum while a student comes to terms with the mechanics.
Rod Mitchell likes this

It is never good to overload anyone - not even students - at one moment.

Start off small, and build up, because at each stage of the build-up, the actual new material will be small in amount with regard to what the students already know - and will build on that. Enough to challenge, not enough to overwhelm.

One of the oldest tenets of language teaching from the 1890s from the establishment of the Direct Method (the direct ancestor of the Communicative Approach etc.).

With reference to the video - I see you waht you mean now.

Though, of course, such videos are more "reference" than real teaching tools, in that Rebecca didn;t really ask for student intereaction of any kind, merely stated "patterns" and suggestions of how to remember the patterns.


Me
One thing struck me about the answer the lady gave for the last but one sentence in the exercise: go to the doctor but then the advice could also take 'a': go to a doctor; in other words, there can be a choice depending what the speaker wants to convey: go to some doctor to get treatment or go to the doctor the listener usually goes to.

I wonder why she didn't point this out.

Me
'I go shopping' is how natives say it. We Indians tend to add 'to' or 'for' after the verb and students (learning English as another language) wonder what's wrong with the addition because in Thamizh we say to the question 'where are you going?': 'I go to shop' or 'I'm going to buy dress/ things/ grinder/ provisions.'

Why natives don't use a preposition and why we use a preposition are just not debatable is what I used to tell my students.

"I wonder why she didn't point this out. "

It is why she should not have even mentioned the patterns of "go" with the articles - it is a complete red herring, makes the discussion too complex - and implies a direct relationship that does not exist in any way.

It is a red herring because all verbs have exactly the same relationship with their direct or the prepositonal phrase that follows where the use of the articles are concerned; this has nothing to do with the verb itself.

"I go shopping/skiing/swimming/sun-bathing/sky-diving/hunting"

The verb "go" does not need "to" (or another preposition) in this because we are not referring to going to a place (or whatever) in order to do the activity. The activity is the activity we are doing while going - and also the activity that our going will end up doing.

"I go hunting" : I leave home in order to go hunting - arrive at the hunting area and I am still going hunting - and then I go through the hunting area hunting.

"Hunting" shows we are talking about the activity itself - we are not talking about the moving to the place.

In older English there was a prepositons, but it was not "to" - it was "on". "On" shows continuation of activity (he is on business, he went on talking), and what has happened in Modern English (but tyhis started already in Old English) was that where the activity focus was clear, "on" tended to become unstressed, pronounced "a", and then disaapear.

In some dialects of English, the "a" ias still used - and in song styles like Country and Western influenced by local dialects. Perhaps the most well known song known by English speaking people is this one:

A hunting we will go,
A hunting we will go,
Hi-ho the derry-oh
A hunting we will go.

The older "We go on hunting" (using Modern English spelling for what was pretty different in Old English) became "we go a' hunting" - which is now "we go hunting".

In Modern English we only use "on" in this construction to highlight continuation:

At midday they halted for lunch and a rest, and then at around 3 they went on hunting.

Me
Thanks, Rod.
 Rod Mitchell likes this

Welcome!

English Instructor for General, Academic and Special Purposes at University of Nizwa--Muscat Lifelong Learning Institute
Glad I read all the comments before ever (not) watching the video.
Rod Mitchell likes this
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Topic 123
What body language signs should you be aware of in class?
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)
Top Contributor

EAL Teacher/Owner of 'ealenglish'
Lack of eye contact and looking away-sometimes misinterpreted but often shown through respect...

English Trainer (ELT Switzerland, since 2000)
A blank stare!
Sheila T.Ksenija G. and 1 other like this

Academic Writing Coordinator and Senior Lecturer, USTB
Staring into their lap while their hands move about indicating (most likely) texting.

Slouching over with their head on their hand.

Furrowed brows indicating confusion.

Sleeping in class.

A smile or laugh of enthusiasm.

That "A Ha" moment when they get something, learn something, or realize something new, thanks to you.
Mariella ChenAlexander S. and 1 other like this

Assistant Professor of English at Nalla Malla Reddy Engineering College
Palms below the chin,staring at us to give an attentive impression but totally absent minded

English Trainer (ELT Switzerland, since 2000)
NB: Body language ISN'T universal (as some claim it to be).
Eleonora K.Banu S. like this

Head of English Department at Ministry Of Education
Threatening and nervousness body language are the most destructive body language that may destroy students'trust and the whole educational process

"Threatening ... body language" And just how is this projected and detectable?

(I have never had threats from students but if I did, I'd call the parents &/or rector).

As for nervousness and agitation, this is manageable: When the teacher is poised.

the teacher of English and literature at ETS "Paja Marganovic"
I think that Mahmoud maybe was thinking of the teacher`s threatening and nervouseness body language thatcould also destroy the educational process, of course within the elemnetary school`s classes
Alexander S. likes this

Folding your arms can give the impression you are "closed down". Pacing up and down like a caged tiger can get on students' nerves. But we all have to have mannerisms that our students can have a laugh imitating.


This member hasn’t allowed communication from me regarding using his comments in my blog. But I’m using this as an exception because this contains excellent into to young teachers.

I fully agree with Alexander St-John that body language is not universal: it is both idiosyncratic and cultural.

There are two aspects to body language in the classroom that tend to feed off each other: there is the body language produced by the teacher; and there is the body language produced by the learners.

Sometimes the intention of the message behind the body language differs from the perception of the message in that body language by the audience (whether learners or teacher).

Below I offer a list of thirty examples of body language that I have observed in classrooms and have used in professional development sessions. Some are positive and some are negative. Whether positive or negative, teachers need to be aware that the opposite of each target body language typically sends the opposite message. You may, of course, agree or disagree with my interpretations. The first element is the body language, the second is the message [the possible interpretation by the audience].

Arms crossed on chest: defensiveness/nervousness/closure
Biting nails/nibbling fingers: insecurity/nervousness
Brisk, erect walk: confidence/authority
Eye contact avoided: lack of confidence/uncertainty/unsure/nervous
Eye contact direct: confidence/authority/superiority
Hand to cheek: evaluation/thought
Hands clasped behind back: apprehension/anger/frustration
Hands clasped behind head with body reclining: confidence/superiority/openness/distance
Hands in pockets with shoulders hunched: dejection
Head resting in hand/hands with eyes downcast: boredom/inattention
Locked ankles: apprehension/insecurity
Looking down with face averted: disbelief/incredulity
Looking over the top of your spectacles: disbelief/suspicion/warning
Nodding as someone is talking: agreement/encouragement/attentiveness
Open palm: sincerity/receptiveness/openness/innocence
Pinching bridge of nose/eyes closed: negative evaluation/doubt/incredulity
Playing with/patting/fondling hair: lack of self-confidence/insecurity
Pulling or tugging at ear: indecision/concern
Rubbing hands: anticipation
Rubbing the eyes: doubt/disbelief/ weariness
Sitting legs crossed and foot kicking slightly: boredom/mild irritation
Sitting legs crossed with hands behind head: confidence/superiority
Sitting with legs apart: open/relaxed/approachable
Standing with hands on hips; readiness/aggression/belligerence
Steepling fingers: authority/superiority
Stroking chin: indecision/trying to make a decision
Tapping or drumming fingers: impatience/irritation
Tilted head: interest/encouragement
Touching and rubbing nose gently: rejection/doubt/evasion/obfuscation/lying
Touching face persistently: nervous/distracting/upset
Alexander S. likes this

ditto
We can go a little further...

A glazed look in the eyes of the learners certainly tells you that you have lost them.

Other body language behaviours that seem to have different currencies in different cultures include:

Crossing your arms or legs might make you seem nervous or afraid, and it might make it seem you have something to hide. It might also be insulting in some cultures.

Staring at people or excessive eye-contact might put people off. It can be very threatening. By all means maintain eye contact but do not stare. If you are talking to a group of learners or a whole classroom of learners, give them all some eye contact to make a better connection and to check if they are listening. On the other hand, giving no eye-contact might make you seem insecure or nervous or unsure of what you are talking about.

In the classroom, teachers should not keep their eyes on the floor or on the nearest learners; it will make them seem insecure and unsure. Teachers need to scan the whole classroom with their head up straight and eyes if not towards the horizon to include the back of the room.

Personal space can be a problem with body language. Different cultures and individuals within those cultures have different perceptions of physical distance. Teachers should be careful about standing too close to learners as this can send out the wrong massage. Everybody gets put off and even threatened by a close-up speaker. Learners need to have their personal space, so do not invade it.

The teacher should not be afraid to take up personal space by sitting or by standing with your legs apart; this shows self-confidence. If you want to show that you’re confident in yourself and relaxed lean back a little. If you want to show that you are interested in what someone is saying, lean toward the learner, but don’t lean in too much or you might seem desperate for approval. On the other hand, if you lean back too much or you might seem arrogant and distant.

Teachers need to smile and laugh: learners will listen to you if you seem to be a positive person. Smiling and laughing can be positive but can be a sign of nerves or ingratiation. Teachers should not laugh at their own jokes or laugh to excess, because it makes them seem nervous and needy. And they should not keep a smile on their face all the time, or they will seem insincere or supercilious.

I recommend you read Nik Peachey [2005] Listening to body language 
http://teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/listening-body-language
Alexander S. likes this

yawning!
Seriously though, I think you need to differentiate between the body language of an odd student and the cumulative impression you get from the group.
If you have an individual showing negative signs you need to file this away for monitoring and further investigation. Some students will be virtually impossible to engage and in a group there is only so much one person can do.
If a large part or the whole group however is showing signs of boredom, lack of understanding or both the red lights should be flashing and bells should be sounding in your head. Your class is failing and something needs addressing quickish.
The main thing I suggest is go with your instincts. Body language is just that. Instinctive.

I've been thinking overnight that perhaps the problem is that we insist on trying to be inclusive rather than realistic. Differentiation is like an elastic band. Put enough strain on it and it will snap. You cannot teach a large class of students each on their own individual course. They have to join in and keep up with the program. If they cannot they need to join smaller groups where a little more teacher time can be allotted to their personal needs. If they need one to one then that's fine as long as the student, parent and company understand that I work to the students speed not to a target plan set from outside. If that is what you are instructed to do then you might as well go back and struggle in the large group!

Finally I teach structures over vocabulary. We learn a structure and then how to add vocabulary to that structure. This is the students responsibility. How much they are able to develop their speaking will depend on how much they are able to or wish to study. The advantage however is that all the students get the base structure as a foundation for whatever they decide to do with it later.

Even if they can only use one or two verb and object eg "I play tennis." they learn the determiners, the pronouns, the tenses, the modals, the extra information of where, when how etc. They learn to join sentences, phrase and clauses to make more complicated sentences. They learn how to make positive negative and question forms. And so on, but all with the minimum of core vocabulary.

Then it's up to them. Can they add new vocabulary? If they learn the vocabulary I will show them how to implement it. If not... The student needs to understand the responsibility for their own learning.

I will do the best I can for any of my students. The student then needs to do their best for themselves to get the most from their learning.

As for special educational needs. They need small group or one to one learning and they need realistic targets to suit them and them alone. If you, the parents or your superiors insist on trying to fit them into 'The program' then best of luck to you and shame on those managing you.

English Trainer (ELT Switzerland, since 2000)
Yes, teachers: Set a good example. (And have fun while doing it, knowing that every little bit helps.)
though I agree there's a certain amount of instinct, think twice before acting, even if you go with the instinctive decision.

Me
Learner silence when asked to respond, body supported by the arm, sending SMS, quick favourable learner body language (don't you believe this!), knowing smiles, quick exchange of glances etc. are some telltale signs teachers should take note of and take repair steps (damage control) before learners are lost to teachers.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Topic 124
If you could change one thing about teaching what would it be?
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC) Top Contributor
 You, Ferd Roseboom and 4 others like this

Interesting question. My rant shall commence now:

For me, the growing treatment of education, particularly Higher Education, as a business that is focused less on learning (whether it is theoretical or practical knowledge) and more on holding up a piece of paper that reflects attribution (which people rarely check on) bothers me. I see this in China - the students that roll in have forgotten (or have never been told) what learning is and are more concerned with the grades than the abilities they are supposed to gain as those grades will result in accreditation for abilities they do not (in many cases) possess. The kids are brought in and fired through the system like machines off an assembly line (and yes, some of them SHOULD be recalled), and the rumblings from the West seem to be saying the same thing to me.

Students associate the degree with job opportunities - not the courses, not the knowledge, not the skills - the degree, that piece of paper, and so much so that we have glutted the market with people who have made the run from Bachelor's to Master's to Doctorate without practical, real-world experience, relevant knowledge or any application of these skills, and we expect them to lead us into the future. It's sad really, and that to me is what needs to be changed.

Education should be about learning skills, knowledge, and more importantly, being able to apply them, not about flooding the market with people holding up documents that say they can do something (but never really test them on). To quote Russell Hunt,

"This is the situation we've built for our students: a system in which the only incentives or motives anyone cares about are marks, credits, and certificates. We're not entirely responsible for that -- government policies which have tilted financial and social responsibility for education increasingly toward the students and their families have helped a lot -- but the crucial factor has been our insistence, as a profession, that the only motivation we could ever count on is what is built into the certification process."

The flip side of this of course is that while students want marks/credits/certificates (instead of knowledge, skills and abilities) because these (the paper evaluations) will get jobs, Educational Institutions tout higher education as a practical move because it will generate higher income for educated people (what a wonderful sales pitch), but that isn't necessarily true anymore (a basic understanding of the laws of supply and demand can illustrate this wonderfully, or The Globe and Mail's article "Who Will Hire All the PhD's - Not Canada's Universities" or The Economist "Doctoral Degrees - The Disposable Academic"), and to be honest, this bugs me.

Too many students come through my door buying the message about education but not caring about the process because education as a business doesn't really care about the end result for the students so much as the bottom line for their ledgers. As Universities continue to focus on the business models that will push more and more students (and their money) through University doors and out the other end with a shiny piece of paper (but not necessarily the skills the paper implies they have) in return, we are losing something important.

I don't know - maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm cynical, but to me, education institutions need to focus on teaching tangible and applicable skills (and the theory behind them), not pushing as many students through the doors as possible.
Habib H.Nick Edwards and 10 others like this

Well said, Robin!

Anarchists will tell you it's the very nature of institutions, gov'ts and corporations (literally 'bodies') to serve themselves before any other need. In being ex-communicated from the priesthood for criticizing the Church's complicity with American imperialism in turning subsistence economies into market economies, Ivan Illich critiqued not the Church nor America but the institution they were mutually establishing in such regions to serve their ends: schools:

"Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question."

I smiled the other day when I fact checked an ELT forum comment written this year where someone claimed a particular M.A. TESL was $20,000. In fact it was $28,000--even online it was more: $24,000. Given that a CELTA costs $3,000, a DELTA about $5,000, and a B.Ed about $6,000, is it not surprising that those who've completed the MA TESOL express the desire to additionally do a DELTA to pick up actual 'teaching skills'? Sort of tells you the value of credentials. I'm wondering how many of those in the Middle East would actually be able to distinguish an M.A TESOL from a DELTA holder with equivalent teaching. experience?
Robin D.Alexandra C. and 2 others like this

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

Accountability, including assessment and evaluation. Is it just me or do others feel this is where many private schools fall far short of the mark? For example, the inflexibility of course pacing serves schools more than it does students. Why do students have to pay 100s to a third party for a proper assessment of their skills? Would you trust a garage that couldn't do a thorough examination of your car's performance?
Robin D.Alexandra C. and 1 other like this

DOS at EF Education, Freelance Education Consultant
Simple one really - business people running academic establishments rather than academics running them.
Robin D.Alexandra C. and 3 others like this

Primary School Teacher at International American School
@Ferd I'm interested in knowing where you can get a B.Ed for $6,000!

Academic Writing Coordinator and Senior Lecturer, USTB
Funny you mention that Malachy - most of the major Chinese Universities are run by people with Science degrees who are FOLLOWING business models instead of academic ones. *chuckle*
- -.Ferd R. like this

@Alexandra: In Ontario, Canada with a prior degree, (Do we all have one?) only 1 yr is req'd. but not for much longer. I guess there've been complaints about the quality someone can get from only 4 months on campus and 4 on prac. Even non-professional, skilled trades apprenticeship programs are longer.

@Malachy: Robin's right... and doubly so for those with ed degrees----if you read my Illich quote, this won't surprise you. In fact, it's been my experience that Chinese management staff with business degrees or just business experience are somewhat more capable of running a school just as those who hadn't majored in English in college often have better English than those who have.
Nick Edwards- -. like this

DOS at EF Education, Freelance Education Consultant
@Robin - Why do you think most private educational institutions are 'pushing as many people through the doors as possible'? Do you really think it's got anything to do with acquiring 21st century skills or whatever the latest catchphrase/slogan is for the 'education business'?

I'm not criticising business managers running schools just saying that's what I would change. I would ensure that anyone running an educational institution has at least spent time teaching in some capacity so they have a deeper understanding of what the business really is. This deeper understanding can only help the business, right?!?!

Now, with MOOCs taking off globally, the education industry/business is in for some radical changes. I can already see that one of those changes will be education moving deeper into the realm of business rather than education. Perhaps this will be a good thing. I hope that it will. I also hope that it is dealt with responsibly rather than just as a venture into making more money for some of the business people leading the move. It's also very interesting to see the number of freely available MOOCs. I think that this is like a new product being given away freely at first to gauge interest/public opinion and get some valuable feedback and support for the paying students. I'm wondering when will the freely available courses start to disappear?

@Ferd - And I completely agree. I've meet many 'English teachers' with seriously questionable English language skills. I have also met many very wonderful, talented and committed teachers who 'learn their trade' in the private language schools before stepping into the better off public school systems.
Nick Edwards- -. like this
@ Malachy: I like your statement as I have taught ESL in South Korea. The situation is very similar. My husband and I left without our last month salary.
Nick Edwards likes this

Hey Malachy,

I can only speak intelligently about China on that one - the private institutions here have a reputation and it doesn't matter what the results are, so long as parents can tell people "My child went to..."

This goes for private schools as well as pei xun ji gou (additional training schools - similar to Korean Hagwons or Western Private Tutoring labs) - they charge huge fees but many of the parents don't care about the results, so long as the kid walks out with a certificate.

From a business position, it makes sense - again, I go back to Hunt's comments on cheating:

"If I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, or improve my golf swing, or write HTML, "cheating" would be the last thing that would ever occur to me. It would be utterly irrelevant to the situation. On the other hand, if I wanted a certificate saying that I could pick a jig, play a round in under 80, or produce a slick Web page (and never expected actually to perform the activity in question), I might well consider cheating (and consider it primarily a moral problem). "

For these businesses, they "cheat" because they are not interested in the education aspect but the business aspect - you can reconsider the above comment in terms of a company actually producing in the education field.

Coming back to your question - do I think it has anything to do with skills? Not at all. It's profit driven, particularly in China where the end results don't matter. The rule here (at the Uni level) is that no one fails because it looks bad for the school and they are not interested in actually teaching these "troubled students." There is no impetus to actually teach or test the students on anything, so long as it *looks* like we're teaching or testing, which is why everyone is given a leg up and essentially passed (because it is going to happen anyway). There is little drive to keep strong teachers here either - if they want to stay, great, if not, there are plenty more where they come from.

I agree that there needs to be some educational experience - the best businesses are the ones where the leadership has a foundational understanding of the product being sold. But for me, I think the focus should be education guided by effective business principles, not business with a little education tossed in.

Perhaps if it was handled a little more subtlely here in China, I wouldn't be so antagonistic about businessmen running schools or treating them like a business...I don't know, hard to say. It's hard when you watch your students become entwined in the Dunning-Kruger Effect and you can't really do much to prevent it.
Nick Edwards- -. and 2 others like this

Language Consultant
THE SALARY!!! and the way you are seen as an EFL professional. Ageing backpacker!!!!! WHAT !!! There is a serious need for some kind of regulatory body. Being a native speaker does NOT make you an expert:Also anybody can open a school and rip off both students and teachers. It´s a great pity,but there are a lot of unscrupulous characters that infest our chosen path..... anyway I love what I do, and have been teaching for over 40 years and I can´t see the status quo changing in the near or distant future!
Robin D.- -. and 1 other like this

Agreed Connie - it would be nice if there was a regulatory body or at least a proper International Association that monitors credentials and helps legitimate schools/companies find employees. The aging backpacker generalization aside, I've come across too many paycationing "teachers" with degrees in Business and Asian Studies teaching English of all things (as you say, being a Native Speaker does not make you an expert, nor does it make one qualified to teach).
Nick Edwards likes this

The problem is not a lack of recognized credentials, it's a lack of DEMAND for such credentials from schools and ultimately, the marketplace.
Robin D.Nick Edwards like this

assistant professor of english at W. H. ISL. COLLEGE mULTAN
oh that i could eradicate the degradation and humiliation of traditional teaching of language. traditional grammar with traditional teaching method has got a deep rooted importance. we can try to b innovative but v should not ignore TG
Nick Edwards likes this

Ferd - don't forget the ease with which those credentials can be forged as well - how many companies actually CHECK said credentials?

Again, referencing my experiences in China, the companies are happy so long as the person appears to be qualified (which means forged credentials in some cases), which means they don't actually check the credentials. I know that since I've been assisting in the hiring of new teachers at my Uni, they don't check to see if the person actually has the diploma or degree (and those can be forged too - I looked at my own after I scanned it and just shook my head - any PS novice could erase my name and put in their own and suddenly have the same degree as me).
Nick EdwardsFerd R. like this

President at Truespel Inc.
The big change should be upgrading to an English-based pronunciation guide. Truespel phonetics can be learned by teachers and ESL's in less than an hour. Students can actually "write" in phonetics, a huge advantage for learning and assessing pronunciation, not only of English but other languages. Truespel is free as my gift for noncommercial use. Seehttp://justpaste.it/course2.
Nick Edwards likes this

English School Chairman at ECCg
That education is somehow finite. In other words, it starts and stops with a class course or qualification. If I could change anything then it would be perception of what learning really is. (A series of steps in development until we die)
Teresa de la Morena likes this

English Studies Consultant
teacher's attitude to change

@Robin: The Chinese gov't in it's recent tightening of visa req's is only compounding the problem. Even I was tempted to fake my degree last fall when they refused to look at the transcripts and, even official ones, in favour of the all important certificate. It cost me much more to ship it than it would've for my university registrar to fax official transcripts.

@Ashiq: You ought to become a teacher trainer. A curriculum itself doesn't degrade or humiliate people so it must be the teachers where you are that are doing that. What a tragedy!

@Thomas: Perhaps in the EU but Asians want US pronunciation for obvious reasons.

@John Savage & Ramani P N: I'd argue that what you both say stems from that same fundamental lack of accountability where it's not just students that are 'schooled' to mistake studying for learning. Why expect the market to deliver what the public doesn't demand?
Nick Edwards likes this

Hey Ferd,

The Chinese gov't accepts scanned copies of documents (diplomas and certificates), which is utterly foolish considering how easy they are to Photoshop. We have a new teacher here who cannot get his diploma for a couple of months (having recently graduated), but can order his transcript and have it here in less than 7 business days - the school won't accept the transcript. The possible fraud and chicanery that comes from this policy is problematic.

What is worse is the most recent changes (as of July 1st) that put far more power in the hands of the schools; while trying to crack down on illegal teachers, they have opened the door to possible abuse of legitimate teachers.

Ah, China....

@Robin: I've played devil's advocate with a turf-protecting 'credentialist' on ESLcafe.com who argued a (random) degree should and soon will become the mandatory requirement for TEFLers around the world. But even in Canada, I doubt my degree status was ever verified.
Nick Edwards likes this

Whoaaa! There seems to be a lot of people here talking about qualifications!
Should we concentrate on qualifications as the route to being a good successful teacher?
I would agree that qualifications are fairly important to teach a lot of subject areas with technical knowledge a cornerstone of presentation. I would argue though that a good teacher could draw on his professional experience to deliver that piece of teaching. We would have to assume that a good teacher is also responsible for examining the curriculum or syllabus for the necessary pieces of personal knowledge required to present to the students (this should be required regardless of qualification). We might expect that a good teacher would research and study and manipulate a curriculum to achieve relevant outcomes in their classes.
Personally, I have watched many teachers overf the years I have been in teaching and for many of these I have been responsible for delivering some kind of assessments, support and professional development plans and training. In so many instances, qualifications and study has not produced adequate teachers. In other words, the learner outcomes have not been met, the students have not been fulfilled or methods have not been appropriate to the syllabus.
One thing I can point out, during professional development phases, qualified teachers might be more disinterested in topics being offered and treat other developing teachers with a touch of unfair arrogance. Whereas, teachers less well qualified tend to contribute more to the teaching team.
I am convinced that the arguments for and against are all merited for the best reasons. However, I do dislike reading narrow minded, finger pointing posts that try to stereotype any particular group of people. Please remember that we all contribute to this group because we all care and have something to offer teaching and our students. There are times when we are all stumped by something that happens in class regardless of the sum of our experience or our qualifications.
On reflection, I think I might look a little deeper into this assumption that there is a link between quality teachers and their qualifications; it seems that there are two very clear schools of thought here; that qualified teachers are absolutely necessary for a good teaching outcome and that qualifications aren’t necessary to teach a subject like English. I will report back with anything I uncover on this.
Nick Edwards likes this

@John: Wish I could remember what LinkedIN group and thread I saw it in but someone posted a link to a study of ESL teachers in the US, both qualified and non-qualified and the non-qualified performed as well if not better if I recall. Schools such as those in Asia rely exclusively on credentials as they often hire sight unseen or lack the HR personnel to do a Skype interview.
Nick Edwards likes this

@Ferd. Thank you for your recommendation, I will do my best to find this source. I am also going back over my own observation data to see if there are any conclusions there that I can find. I would be most grateful if any others here have links to sources of data about this qualified/non-qualified status issue. I am constructing a framework for testing the success of teachers based on their initial qualifications before entering a new position. The studies I have found so far seem to polarise into two categories. HR focus (did the recruitment process work) or teacher development (has the teacher improved as a result of training) I would like to bridge the gap between the two. Any suggestions?
Nick Edwards likes this

Early Childhood Educator at Community Kids Mount Gambier SA
Teachers need to be interested in what they teach and each individual child's abilities and interests need to be taken into account, and they need to challenge curriculums and focus on teaching not rules regulations, policies and procedures
Nick Edwards likes this

@Janita: I don't see the two as distinct. If policies and procedures don't support learning, it's not an environment conducive to learning. In my experience, issues with the curriculum usually reflect administerial ones.

The late Stephen Covey once wrote “In the world of education, there is no lack of creativity, passion, caring, or research as to how to create a great school, a great classroom, or a great student. More often than not, the great barrier to success is that the systems and processes are not in place to sustain excellence.” To define this barrier, he borrows a term from Built to Last by J.C. Collins and J.I. Porras from which he quotes: ‘Far and away the biggest mistake managers make is ignoring the crucial importance of alignment.’
Nick Edwards likes this

Actually I have 2 pet peeves.

Fast-tracking of students.

Progression to a higher level should not be automatic but instead based on ability. I have had several students who failed a course, only to show up at the next level the following semester. This, of course, messes up the whole dynamic of the group and causes the other students to suffer.

Poor placement tests.

A placement test should reflect the actual ability of a student rather just their technical knowledge, but still the majority of schools in Poland (maybe elsewhere too) use a grammar based placement method without any assessment of the students productive competence.
Ferd R.Malachy Scullion and 1 other like this

English lacks a reasonable phonetic system. Neither US newspapers nor the government of US use phonetics at all, but instead a workaround system to show pronunciation. But the fix is at hand, truespel phonetics, a pronunciation guide notation based on US English spelling. I'd like it to become the core phonetic intermediary spelling system for all languages. It's mature, easily writable, free for noncommercial use and based on the lingua franca of the world, English. Lots of work to do.
Nick Edwards likes this

@Mike: Aren't those merely symptomatic of a larger issue? What's the curriculum and teacher training/observation like where you are?
Nick Edwards likes this

@Ferd. The teacher observation is regular although it feels more like a formality than a chance to receive worthwhile feedback. As far as the curriculum, it is mainly based on coursebooks.

Yes, I agree that the fast tracking is a symptom of the larger issue, but I would say that the issue is, as was mentioned earlier, the schools are firstly businesses and then educational institutes. So rather than risk upsetting a student by making them repeat a year, the admin and management would rather put the student up a year to get the extra years tuition.

I think the placement test issue may be specific to the school I was working at most recently, but again - it is cheaper to have one multiple choice test, which can be checked by admin staff instead of a more in-depth language assessment involving teachers.
Nick EdwardsMariam B. like this

Me
Enter the class with an open slate. a mind without prejudices, however difficult that may be (but not insumountable)
 Nick Edwards likes this

The most important thing that is taught is reading. Yet in my county in Florida 20% of 3rd graders failed reading. This is actually typical in US. So how can we fix this. 
A new answer in US is to teach "phonetics" in k-1, and I think that is a good answer. But they don't know what phonetics is, let alone teach it. No teachers are taught phonetics in US. They are taught "phonics", because phonetic systems such as in dictionaries use special symbols and are useless for writing. In fact the "phonetic" system used in US is not phonetic as all - seehttp://justpaste.it/voaspell

The answer is truespel phonetics, a simple English based notation that has one spelling per sound based on best English compatibility. It links all English learners in one system, and it's designed to always remain as a pronunciation guide. (The VOA dictionary now has truespel key). 
The future is to have one phonetic spelling for all languages based on truespel. Phonetics need not be difficult anymore.
Nick Edwards likes this

@Thomas: First implement TrueSpell(TM) globally--get Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc to install it on all their devices for free for instant eBook translation. Then lobby kid lit publishers to start publishing TrueSpell(TM) editions of their entire library starting with the lowest levels so such kids never need to read real English, ever.

Utopian? Yes. Most of those systems fail to live up to their claims. This summer, I showed my sister the BBC's highly popular Alphablocks video series but in conversation, became aware of its drawbacks in early literacy / intervention. The reason is NOT that 5 yr olds lack the abstract capacities to analyze language input, quite the contrary---how else would they master rather complex language skills to begin with and at such early stages? The reason these systems fail is that children lack the language proficiency and self-awareness to COMMUNICATE abstractly.
Nick Edwards likes this

That link should have been http://justpaste.it/voaspel to show how pronunciation of English is depicted in US such as by the Voice of America. -- What is Truespell(TM)? 
Truespel shouldn't fail for kids by being too abstract. In fact one argument is that it "dumbs down" phonetics and that it looks like the way children write already. 
Thanks @Fred for the propagation hints. It's a long hard road, and teachers coming out of college can say "I didn't learn truespel in college. It can't be any good." Yet in my county about 20% of 3rd graders fail reading. New tools are needed. 
In fact in some states in the past teachers were taught NOT to tell kids that letters stand for sounds. Thankfully now with common core "phonetics" is required in k-1

As a teacher, It's all a little bit above me. In my world, the thing I would like to change is what we teach and when. There are too many courses and text books that teach a phrase here, a tense there a grammar point next and now a modal verb or two and if the students make a connection, it's more luck than planning.

What I want is to teach in logical steps. Teach grammar in blocks. (Don''t use one verb tense, try four to six. See how they relate to each other. Don't learn one modal verb, learn them all. See how they relate to each other. Don't learn 'a/an' and 'the' learn how to use this/that, these/those/ my, your, his... some many all etc see how they relate to each other. And so it goes.)

You don't need many words to begin with. Learn how to make a sentence and then learn to substitute. Don't over burden students with vocabulary until they understand what to do with it. Give the students responsibility in their own learning.(Here is a structure these are the word groups that go here now go and learn vocabulary and start making sentences. The more you study the more you will do. It is now up to you.)

If as a group you want to organise a logical(Oh God please let it be logical) scheme of work that takes the student from beginner to advanced in logical steps then great. Roll that out around the world. Then you have a template for your text books, games, your tests and your qualifications. 
That's what I am doing in my little world. Whether I am doing it right. I don't have the experience to know. My students are happy. They know what they have studied and what is to come. The ones that study are progressing well. The ones that don't study...at least they have the structures down.

Are you to clever to be simple? http://chilledenglish1.blogspot.jp/2013/12/to-clever-to-be-simple.html
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Topic 125
help One student asked: I want to speak English as fluently as native speakers do. Can you me? What is the best answer to give?
leila boussena directrice du centre d'enseignement intensif de langues chez université Hassiba Ben Bouali de Chlef, Algérie
Top Contributor

You and Marla Colondres like this

Director at Furnivall Associates Ltd and Senior Consultant at Charisis Ltd.
Yes.

Experienced EFL teacher
If possible, go and live in a country where the language you are learning is spoken, and even then it's not a guarantee such a thing will happen. Speaking a language not only requires knowing it's logic,lexis etc... it also requires a decent knowledge of the culture from which it eminates, and it's quite difficult to immerse yourself in such a culture from a distance.

Even then, it's no guarantee you'll ever achieve such a goal, which will, if you do achieve it, take years to reach. I've lived in Russia for a few years, for example. I understand everything people say, I can read a novel from start to finish like I can in English, I can write and speak without making many mistakes and I have an idiomatic vocabulary, but things such as local humour still confuse me at times, because I'm not from here.
Eleonora K. likes this

Director at Your English Classes, and of TnT in Christ
Go to live in the counry where the language is spoken when you are 10 years old or younger, but if you can´t then follow Daniel´s advice.
Daniel Rennie likes this

Yes. I think the only way to speak like native speakers is to try to practice as much as you can. After certain age the vocal cords become less flexible thus it is not possible to have native like pronunciation. With regard to fluency, according to the critical period hypthesis all languages are stored in one part of the brain before buberty. However, after that the nativr language is stored in one part of the brain and the second language is stored in another place. Therefore, nativelike fluency is also not possible. consequently you can get native like fluency by intensive practice.
tayyaba R.Terry T. like this

Owner and Principal at The Whittaker Group-accent modification and communication expert
It is important to have as much interaction as possible with native English speakers- both in work settings as well as social situations.
This can include book clubs, Parent-Teacher organizations, sports clubs, etc., conversation groups at local schools and libraries, etc.
Our Rules By The Sound online platform is also an excellent way to practice pronunciation, stress and intonation, vocabulary, voice projection, phrasing and rate, and more.
You can try it for free at: www.eslrules.com. We also have newsletters, blogs, video lessons, and numerous resources for teachers and students in our archives. Contact us at:'info@eslrules.com if you have any questions.
Marjorie
Eleonora K. likes this

Me
The key word is 'fluently'. Yes, it is very possible. I'm an example. But if the adverb refers to 'accuracy', as is understood by participants here, then my response is 'not necessary'.

For the latter purpose, there can be nothing better than 'immersion' in a live society''; in fact it's the only solution.

If you tried it from a 'distance' as Daniel put it--in your country, it would at best be 'aping' which can more often than not sound funny--at least to local people--and for which there is no necessity for a non-native as pointed out by several experts.

I refer here to two such experts: E.W.F. Tomlin (English Teaching Forum, 14, 2 (April--June 1974) and Braj B Kachru (English Teaching Forum, 15, 3 (July 1977). And in my opinion, there may not have been any change in such stance.

Experienced EFL teacher
I would say that fluency at a "native" level and accuracy are interconnected, given that a foreigner who has a "native" command of a foreign language (i.e. above C2, although I can only really judge regarding Russian, where the native level proficiency exam is equivalent to that) is judged to be someone who speaks like an educated native speaker, who at least when speaking anyway, don't tend to make many mistakes.

It also requires an accurate knowledge of register, which may actually make you better than some natives (I don't have a native level of Russian, for example, but I have often corrected the use of register of some of my past translation clients in e-mails, for example. As a mater of fact, I would also add that some native English speakers would fail CPE for this very reason.) In fact, I would say many people who have such a command of a language, in terms of pure knowledge, actually speak better than your average native speaker (a well-known British entrepreneur in Moscow, John Warren is a good example of such a person.)

As regards to 'aping' native speakers, at the end of the day isn't that what we kind of do anyway when we speak another language by virtue of the fact that we learn the language they speak and as such they are examples for us. I mean we won't necessarily speak exactly like them or that everyone should or wants to "copy" their speech, but in the materials which people use to study foreign language the people in the dialogues they listen to, who write the texts they read are in most cases native speakers and as such they provide some sort of a benchmark for a learner to ape, be it in terms of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or whatever.

Therefore, people may not be consciously copying a native speaker and aping them, but they are following a benchmark set by a native without explicitly realising it.

Founder at Meshiareni, LLC
This expectation relates to many factors. The age at which a student is exposed to English, the amount and manner of practice, and the student's motivation are important. While there is little hope that an older student will sound like a native speaker, I have met adult learners who communicated very easily and accurately in English. I believe that every speaker, native or otherwise, constructs a grammar within the language's grammar. Some adult learners construct personal grammars that exceed some native speakers. With due respect to the limitations suggested by the critical age hypothesis, I would tell the student that some non-native speakers have become fluent and eloquent in the English language.

Until you know what kind of native you want to be.. continue to practice as often as you can with native sources and then stop worrying about it and get on with your life.

Good point, Richard. There are native speakers of English all over the world. I think a good follow up question would be to ask why he/she wants to speak English like a native speaker and next, what does he/she understand a native speaker to be. Does he/she want to "blend in", to integrate with an English speaking society, that is, to go and live in one? Native speakers in Mississippi and Sydney sound widely different of course. The above question needs unpacking.

Young learner TEFL specialist
I had a 10 year old tell me that she wanted to speak fluent English. Whilst she is unable to immerse herself in English, at her age she has many opportunities to expose herself to it through music, tv and the internet. I told her to make the most of it as she was so motivated, but without her parents support, I think she will struggle to remain motivated. Ten may be a young age, but the road ahead for her will be a long one.

It may, and I wish her the best! But speaking fluently and speaking like a native are two different things. Has she spoken to you about why she wants to do this?
Richard Tomlin likes this

Founder at Meshiareni, LLC
Jo, give your student biographies of people who mastered English. There are hundreds of people who have learned. I met a 50 year old factory woman in China whose English was conversational and fluent, albeit with some fossilization. She taught herself using videos and self-study guides available on China. I think the motivation is hers, rather than her parents', and if you give her examples, she can succeed.

For a 10 yr old I don't think you need to get too complicated. Exposure is good. Fun and games are good. What she needs is someone to be with her while she learns. When a child reads, all they need is someone to correct their mistakes. When a child learns through play, they just need someone to play with. (My son and I were playing monopoly and scrabble in basic forms at 5-6),When they watch T.V. they just need someone to find the correct program and sit with them.
The difference between native and non-native is 'time' and 'someone'

(If you have the time, I think Monopoly is a great learning tool in fact if I remember right we crated a different game with the pieces where you bought and sold vocabulary in the form of verbs, nouns and adjectives etc and made money by selling and developing sentences)

For a 10 yr old I don't think you need to get too complicated. Exposure is good. Fun and games are good. What she needs is someone to be with her while she learns. When a child reads, all they need is someone to correct their mistakes. When a child learns through play, they just need someone to play with. (My son and I were playing monopoly and scrabble in basic forms at 5-6),When they watch T.V. they just need someone to find the correct program and sit with them.
The difference between native and non-native is 'time' and 'someone'

(If you have the time, I think Monopoly is a great learning tool in fact if I remember right we crated a different game with the pieces where you bought and sold vocabulary in the form of verbs, nouns and adjectives etc and made money by selling and developing sentences)
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Topic 126
What to do if you do not know the meaning of a word in class?
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)
Top Contributor

Author, Racing to English
I say "I don't know - but I'll find out"
Nick EdwardsSheila T. and 3 others like this

directrice du centre d'enseignement intensif de langues chez université Hassiba Ben Bouali de Chlef, Algérie
This is a good oportunity to show implicitly that a teacher is not the only source of knowledge and to encourage students look for the meaning of the word in the e-dictionary. Using ICT in the classroom may be so helpful!
Sheila T.Nick Edwards and 3 others like this

I do the same as Gordon (not that it happens that often - most of my students have electronic dictionaries).

What is more important though is to say the word doesn't exist. We had one teacher from San Diego who would get into arguments with students by correcting their pronunciation or telling them the word they used didn't exist because she was not familiar with alternative (read: British) pronunciation or had never heard the word before, and then she'd get mad when they would argue with her and tell her she was wrong (her fall back - I'm the native speaker here). She made herself look foolish on more than one occasion, and served as a lesson to current teachers about being aware of the limits of your knowledge.
 Sheila T.Nick Edwards and 1 other like this

teaching
i wl say... at the moment i don,t know bt nxt time we wl discuss it
Richard TomlinSheila T. and 1 other like this

Me
There's nothing wrong in admitting not knowing the meaning of a word; in fact, students will respect you for it (though some may express their glee with knowing side glances). But be ready with your response next time you meet them.

I agree- use it as a teaching moment, showcase your composure, and be a role model for your students. Are we expected to know and understand every word in the English language?
Thank them for introducing you to a new word. Ask if anyone in the class has heard the word before, etc. Start a list of novel words to add to personal notebooks, etc. Incorporate it into an assignment.. Create a "stump the teacher day!"

Anyone who won't admit to not knowing something is headed for trouble.
It's a good chance to learn something new.
Have a little game of call my bluff (give them three possibilities and let them choose one before going to the dictionary.)

Me
Yes, an interesting addition to class activity, Richard!
 Richard Tomlin likes this

On occasion, I like to use word substitution exercises to help them learn new vocabulary.
For example. If you have a sentence with a meaning we understand but a word we don't.

"Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberly Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge her spirits were in high flutter."

Pride an prejudice.

So we want to know what perturbation means.
We can gather from the paragraph Elizabeth's feelings (focus on the phrase "her spirits were in high flutter") so now we find a word to substitute while keeping the meaning the same.

So we come up with
perturbation probably means: excitement, agitation, anxiousness etc

Finally we check our meanings to see if we were right with our assessment and look at the possibilities.

All this is long hand for what native speakers do instinctively when reading and is a good skill to learn. It teaches the student to have an educated guess as to the meaning of a word using the clues around them. This will speed up reading and reduces the need to dash for the dictionary every five minutes. (When was the last time you looked at a dictionary when reading a book?)

Time well spent on an underestimated skill which with care can be used at any level

You also notice how I am, with the last two examples coincidentally, creating ways of avoiding the need to admit ignorance straight off.
 

There will be sufficient opportunities for doing that!

More to the point, what if you can't explain the meaning of a word? Try explaining irony to a lower intermediate class in Saudi. We all sort of know what it means, but try putting it into words!

But why would you?
I wouldn't. Not for lower intermediate.
Come back to this later folks when you're ready.

If they can't get the meaning from you or a -language- to English dictionary, I should put it to one side. I have no qualms about saying "You are not ready for this yet." Whatever the level.
Otherwise everything is up for grabs.

You would because it crops up in a reading and one of your students asks you. I personally would feel a bit patronised if my teacher said "Your are not ready yet, Grasshopper!"

If your students are reading on a Kindle, they can touch the unfamiliar word and the definition will pop up. This is a great feature for those students working on vocabulary.

Regarding the original question, when I wrote an answer in a course essay saying in effect that I would indeed say I don't know, I'll get back to you, My tutor wrote a comment along the lines of "Your students will expect you to know."

Well I Didn't take any real notice of that. I didn't know the answer at that time and I would still tell the students "I don't know, I'll get back to you."

However the difficulties students have understanding these nuances is real and although it's a diversion from the original question I suppose I will continue to play devils advocate as I would be interested to see what others think(And it was my New Year Resolution).
You may choose your own examples or may indeed think you should never say such a thing. but at what point, if ever, do you say to a student or group of students. You really are not ready for this yet.
Is that really patronising or an honest assessment? Can you really be honest with your students? Remember we started talking about lower intermediate but we could extend that to any level.
(Obviously after class or one to one is a different situation and doesn't apply as I always willing to give the students as much individual help as time or my ability allows.)
It's a fun way to get the new year rolling.

This has happened quite a bit for me as many of my students have attained an extremely high level due to their professions as translators, English teachers, lawyers, nurses and so on. What I say usually depends on why I think I am unfamilar with the word....

For higher level learners, I may say:
- I've heard it before, but never looked it up - let's do it now (or I'll get back to you)
- it's an uncommon word that I've come across in my reading but as I understood it broadly in context and I never stopped to define it. You look in your e-dictionary while I check the paper dictionary - let's compare what they say.
- it's probably specific to your field (medical or legal register, etc) and as I am not involved in that field, I have not yet had a need to learn it in my life experience. Can you explain it's use in your field?
- it's possibly American (etc) slang or a localised idiom
- it's obviously a word that is used infrequently - let's look it up and find a more common synonym that may be useful for us to use
and so on.

I also agree with others above that developing strategies for helping learners guess unknown vocab from context is invaluable. Here are some tips I give my learners to help them do thishttp://learnenglishwithdianna.co.nz/how-can-i-improve-my-vocabulary-by-guessing-new-words-from-context/.

Hope it is of some use to you.
 Richard Tomlin likes this

That was a great post, Dianna. I am sure your students found it very helpful!

I've known teachers who over-use this as a technique-"I don't know! Let's Google-search it!' even when they do know. Outside an esp context it's probably fairly rare that a native speaker would be in that position..

Full-time English Lecturer at Far Eastern University
Never attend your class unprepared. If a student asks you the meaning of a particular word uneexpextedly and you do not know the meaning, ask the student how is the word used in the sentence, with that you would be able to apply your knowledge in context clue.
Madni K. likes this

teacher must be prepared!!!!

Then you are cleverer men than I am. I sorry I don't have unlimited knowledge so I will continue to admit my failings when confronted with something I don't know or can't do. This extends into my knowledge of grammar, mistakes I sometimes make in punctuation, and dealing with people.

online English Teacher via Skype
I don't even see them as failings - they are just things we haven't encountered or honed up on yet.... That's life! I, too, am neither the "font of all knowledge" nor infallible.
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Topic 127
Using a textbook may give a backbone to a course but working with it cannot be the only thing we do. Manager's Choice
María Inés Brumana Espinosa Profesora inglés/español, capacitadora. Autora: Al Rescate del Estudiante de Español, Coautora: ELT Goes to the Movies
If it´s boring for me, I assume it´s boring for my students. I always transform some of the exercises into games, may change the order of activities or skip them and do something else instead. I use lots of my own resources. I design games and worksheets to work with songs or short film segments (you may want to check this outhttp://eltgoestothemovies.blogspot.com/).

 You, Bethany Ansell and 2 others like this

Owner en YaeggyEnglishServices
I also agree. Besides, one has to really enjoy grammar in order to teach it. One thing is certain though, grammar may well be a fantastic stepping stone that will take us as far as we want to go. At least, that's how it's worked for me (as a student).

Right, grammar is part of the language. The thing is that some may not like spinach so we need to dress it well and trim it. Say you have to practise conditional sentences, why don’t we play a customized Rummy instead of asking students to write sentences? Games make us use the target language for a purpose different from practice itself. They catch our attention so naturally that students make a bigger effort to concentrate and memorize because they want to win. Is it bad?

But what happens when you are teaching on a One-on-One basis, a young executive at 7 in the morning? You have to change the whole strategy!
Yes, games work for groups of almost any age and here I would like to ask you for your valuable feedback. Truly speaking, what do you do when you are teaching the 7 o'clok class, the student is a 35 year old executive who is learning English because he/she wants to climb his/her way up in ther organization?

I´ve been teaching adults all my career, mostly on a one-on-one basis. I´ve never started earlier than 7.30 though. = ) I use games with my students, the only difference is that I explain why I use them. Adults need to know. I obviously have to design games that involve a little luck so they can win too, for example, the Rummy I mentioned, or games that involve certain abilities I may or may not have such as visual memory.

ELT Teacher at Top Up English
I like the sound of the Rummy game. How do you play it with sentences?

I´ve designed one to practise mixed types. I divided the cards in 3-somes. One with the word if, and 2 with verb phrases. You play Rummy as usual except that you have to make sentences in a loud voice instead of just matching the cards. = )

English Language Services
I am absolutely in favour of games as a teaching tool for all aspects of English. There are a couple of great books on the theme: "Grammar Games" and "More Grammar Games". But as has been said, circumstances may put limitations on what you can do. A middle-aged company director "... didn't spend (his) valuable time and money on playing games. Let's get some real work done!" I have lost clients by trying to be too creative in my one-on-one classes.
Also, when working for large language schools, there is often very little time for extra activities. The students pay for a course, and the group has 10 weeks with 3 classes per week and they expect to complete the book which contains 30 units of 1.5 hours each. Then they have one extra class for an exam which they very much expect to pass.
Obviously, if one is running ones own courses with an open-ended schedule and open-minded student(s), then playing games and fun activities becomes a very attractive and useful option.

I´ve heard that kind of comments since I started using games in the late 80´s. I still find a lot of people that don´t believe that playing is serious stuff. I´ve explained why games are better than simple written activities, given non-believers some literature on the subject and proved my point just by playing and helping sts acquire language faster. I´ll never forget when a huge overseas oil company hired me to teach Spanish to the new regional president (about t retire after this post) and his wife. I insisted on the use of games, songs and movies; they drove me crazy and asked for a daily report! After a week this crash course had started, I asked my two students to answer a longish questionnaire, it was kind of a survey that included their opinion on the use of games, songs and movies; I sent that instead of the blooming report. They never bothered me again.

It´s true that some schools believe that turning pages equals learning but we know better. And some of the activities in books are more difficult to do as they appear in those books, a typical example: order the words in these sentences. If you copy the words in slips of paper and ask sts to order them, you´ll see it´s much easier for them to do the activity well, and faster I must say. Manipulating the words helps a lot, they never forget any, they can reorganize them easily, etc.
We need to avoid frustration. Emotion is a primary catalyst in the learning process.
Cintia G. likes this

English Language Services
I'm very much in favour of making classes more interestings and more fun. I think modern textbooks have made some very positive moves in that general direction too. (However I do feel like shooting myself in the head whenever I have to use "business" course books!)
Depending on ones teaching environment and the expectations of the local culture, "fun" and "learning" might not collocate!

Ha, ha. I understand what you say. I´ve been struggling against that concept for ages! Little by little, people tend to accept it.
When you teach business, you may prepare games to review vocabulary and collocations. For example, memory games and snaps, which can be used as warm-up activities.

I loath business classes, particularly 'in-company'. The students are either there because their boss told them they had to attend, or because it allows an extended lunch break. The supplied material is as dull as dishwater. And when trying to be creative with activities, you have no 'information gap' to work with because all the students work together and have known each other for years and anyway, their lives are identical.
(I'm sorry Maria Ines, but you keep catching me last thing at night or first thing in the morning when I'm at my most cynical)
deepti P. likes this

Say it in English ! expert
If students are wild about grammar exercises - I think that they feel safer with them like many of their teachers- they can do them galore on the internet and get instant feedback. Face to face, student teacher situations are precious and expensive so, the more planned fun and games used, the better. At first they can seem a bit scary but the magic they create is worth it. I have found that pictures, poetry, songs, film clips, thematic games, chanting, making up songs and rhymes, dancing and movement and the use of internet in class keep my students happy and stimulated and the grammar seems to fall into place naturally - just like it does in the minds of young children learning their own language through real situations. I started teaching foreign languages in 1972. My students are all ages and some of them think I am wacky, but they learn and we nearly always have a good laugh at some point in a class.

I agree with you Kit. If students are having fun in the class it will keep them coming back ... which is good for business. Creativity also keeps the teacher's mind stimulated. The problem I keep pointing out is getting over the initial reluctance to participate in what can seem strange activities and whose learning value may not be immediately obvious to the student.

I understand Daryl, what could be duller than teaching Business English in a company? That´s exactly why we have to do somehting about it. The games I suggested are to the point and no student has ever disliked them when I used them. Far from it. I guess it depends on your position as regards games. I only teach adults and I strongly believe in games so I guess that my enthusiasm is catching. Besides, as I said before, I always tell my students why I use games. I also believe you have to create the information gap by creating roles.
I agree with Kit. The only problem is that adults tend not to “have time” (or the will) to do homework so we have to find ways to review in class and creative ways are better than boring ones just because they are more effective.

Exactly, Daryl. We need to brainwash students! = )

EAP lecturer
We all like games, adults included! However, I believe that with adult learners games should be chosen with great care and that they are made relevant to the group or individual. One should always keep in mind the age, culture and objectives of the learners. Otherwise, you might be asked "Why are we doing this?"

Owner en YaeggyEnglishServices
I agree with Daryl. The corporate world is completely different. Bear in mind that most of these people - and here heriarchy plays a big role - were educated to believe they own the world, which makes the approach to teaching much more subtle - the teacher has to be very careful on the things he/she says and more importantly, how they say those things!

I have also lost students trying to bring them a different approach to learning but I don't want to give up because I want to go on enjoying this noble activity. Maybe it's not a game they need - or maybe it is. Meanwhile, I'll keep searching beacause as a teacher, I want to have fun teaching... help!!!

And you know what Kit?That may help. If your students see you with some kind of awe may sometimes be a better tool than the resources you have for teaching. That and a good conversation topic!

I understand what you say. It depends on students and cultures. Still, games work. I don´t work with children (only a few months which seemed ages). I´ve worked with adults since I was 20. I´ve taught in companies such as Shell, Massey Ferguson, American Express, Merck Sharp & Dome, Pepsicola Argentina, ABN AMRO and Exxon Chemical Argentina, I´ve taught Presidents and VP´s of these companies apart from executives, engineers, accountants, lawyers, managers and the like. I´ve never lost a student because of games. I´ve always explained why I use games and asked them to trust me. They did and they learnt. They appreciated the explanation, my talk about the brain, memory, multiple intelligences, learning styles, emotional intelligence…
Adults need to know why. If you guide them, choose the right games, little by little they start to enjoy this “torture”: having to attend a class (because the company pays for it and they need English to climb the corporate ladder). In the end, they start finding the class a relaxing, enjoyable experience during which they learn without frustration.
This is my humble experience.
Kit S. likes this

My experience tells me that children and in-company students have a lot in common: Someone else is paying for the classes. I think if the student has a real personal investment in the classes their motivation and participation levels are much higher.
Anyway, I'm rather getting off the point here. This discussion was originally about the use of games in the classroom ... and I could rant on all night about how much I hate business men and kids ...
I'll shut up now and let some else lead the discussion.

IGCSE EFL Teacher, IGCSE Sociology Teacher and Lecturer
Compile resources from many different books and make our own handout will be more suitable for us and the students.

Yes, Daryl, in a way I agree. I still prefer adults though. = )
Yes, Syanimur, I agree. It is almost impossible to find a book that is perfect for any student. We need to customize it, and compiling resources is a way. At present we know that our brain is plastic, it continuously remodels itself, sometimes within a remarkably short period of time (these biological changes are the result of outside experience); certain intellectual functions are restricted to one cerebral hemisphere; emotion is a primary catalyst in the learning process; memory is not stored in a single location in the brain or static or unitary; there are multiple intelligences, different learning styles and emotional intelligence. It is obvious that we cannot continue using the same methods as those of our ancestors´ believing that all our students learn in the same way. The great challenge is to create new resources which accelerate the acquisition of the language making the most of each student´s abilities and strengths.

I´m sorry I misspelled your name, Syainur Rahim!

After reading, delightfully I should add, the participation of many of you in this very fruitful forum, I think everything comes down to one thing: Explain why and I quote María Inés here (btw, you are such an atractive woman) "the only difference is that I explain why I use them. Adults need to know...". I totally agree. And I think this can be taken to any extent and to other different teaching and learning styles. In the last few classes I have been doing just that: Today we will do this and this beacuse...

And yes, the students feel they are being acknowledged. It's like after listening to this very simple word "because" they can now see a new light. It's like if they could envision the whole purpose of the course itself and it makes it worth it for them. It's only a matter of a positive attitude and this magic word: "beacause..."

But then again, I am not playing games with my students, and in this respect, I think it's a matter of teaching styles. María Inés believes in the power of games to teach her students and she is absolutely convinced about it. I, on the other hand, strongly believe in the power of grammar and I am absolutely convinced about it. I remember some years ago I had the great opportunity to attend a Lama Tenzin Rinpoche conference. I remember he said back then: "It does not matter what you do just as long as long as you are absolutely sure the thiing you do is good for you". I think it makes sense. I know that weight-lifting is a good exercise, but I don't think it's good for me. On the other hand, I know running is a good exercise and I also know it's good for me. Needless to say I run, I don't do weight-lifting.

I just wanted to share this with you all and with María Inés, see you on line!!!

Oscar - "Explain why and I quote María Inés here (btw, you are such an atractive woman)" - I think maybe you need some English cultural awareness classes, and a few lessons on Political Correctness!

Hello Daryl, Oscar here. I read your reply and I will be more than happy to be your student in these two subjects: English cultural awareness and Political Correctness.

Shall we start? Please make your lesson as memorable as possible so that I can remeber what I should or should not do. Or are you just being sarcastic? If you are, please don't. Go right to the point. I think people understand better that way.

Making personal comments about a colleague's appearence, even if complementary, is generally considered unacceptable behaviour in the work place. Some people may - for a whole range of reasons too extensive to go into here - find such unecessary comments offensive. Therefore, in some large companies telling someone that they are "such an attractive woman" may be a disiplinary offence.

For an indirectly connected example of this kind of madness, read this:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16808941

Oscar Quiroz
Thanks for the advice Daryl. But first, this is your personal opinion and I do not agree with it, second, this is not the company where I work and according to the netiquette I am not breaching any code, third, it is María Inés who might show her disagreement with my comment and then I will personally apologise. I am here to share my opinion and to learn from others and I think you missed the whole point which was playing games in the classroom and text books.

Regards
Oscar Quiróz

Indeed, Oscar, but ...
1) this is not a personal opinion (see the article I attached and google "Political Correctness")
2) this may not be the company where YOU work, but it is a working environment.
3) comments that may be considered of a sexist or implied sexual nature can also offend 3rd parties.
4) Yes, I agree that this discussion should be about textbooks and games in the classroom, but you were the one who made the original remark. And anyway, perhaps you have learned something: In Mexico you can say what you like about the "Senioritas", but in English speaking countries it is generally prefered that people keep such opinions to themselves or save such comments for the guys down the pub.


Daryl:
* this is not a personal opinion (see the article I attached and google "Political Correctness")

It becomes a personal opinion the moment you believe in it and express this belief freely. Here I will add that it is your right to express what you believe in.

* this may not be the company where YOU work, but it is a working environment.

It is not a working environment. I do not work for or with you.

* comments that may be considered of a sexist or implied sexual nature can also offend 3rd parties.

I do not see the sexual nature of it. It is just a personal opinion as it is saying that this forum has been very fruitful.

* Yes, I agree that this discussion should be about textbooks and games in the classroom, but you were the one who made the original remark. And anyway, perhaps you have learned something: In Mexico you can say what you like about the "Senioritas", but in English speaking countries it is generally prefered that people keep such opinions to themselves or save such comments for the guys down the pub.

You are wrong. In México you do not go around saying whatever you want to "Señoritas" (by the way, this is the correct spelling Daryl). And one last thing, I do not know the kind of guys you hang around with but I do not have a drinking problem - in fact, I do not drink. So I do not have to wait to go down the pub with a bunch of drunken guys to talk about the things and people I like or dislike. To wrap up Daryl, my original comment has 330 words in which I highlighted the fruitful forum, teaching and learning styles, games Vs. grammar and even a quote from Lama Tenzin. If you want to go on with the 6 words that apparently will not let you sleep well tonight, it's very much your problem. I will always respect you and your opinion, but for me, it is time to turn the page.

Regards
Oscar Quiróz

I´ve read the comments you made yesterday and, as this is a professional environment, I´d like to stick to the topic of this debate. What do you mean by grammar exercises, Oscar? Just pen and paper? Why do you speak of grammar vs. games? Don´t you believe that a game could be a grammar exercise but more brain-friendly, motivating, engaging and fun? Don´t you agree that we have to cater for different learning styles? We cannot expect our students to share our learning style.

Here are my coments.
1) Maria is convinced about games,Oscar about grammar.

Games teach grammar - so they are delightfully combined, which is why I know Maria is convinced about games.

2) It's true that complimenting Maria on her looks is off topic ( some may consider it flirting),

.....although you probably meant it as a sincere compliment. We should all accept that it was just a complimet ( even if misplaced) and talk about the real issue at hand - Maria's post.

On facebook, the environment is more informal and I sometimes accept compliments if we are on an informal thread, and it's clean and well-placed.

I would not accept it from a total stranger on a serious education thread, though I would politely and assertively express my feeling without embarrassing the one who complimented.

Linkedin, I believe is much more serious than a common social network.

Daryll, where do you stand on games and brain-friendly experimentation??

Thank you, Sylvia, for your comments. I see eye to eye with you. Games are such a wonderful tool.

Indeed Maria. I hope that one day I'll be as expert in games as you are, but I must admit that I delight in being eclectic.

I do language game experiments with the Edupunk movement online. Tomorrow I'll be getting student to write haiku poems using mystery song lyrics - in a 'guess what' - 'guess who' format.

To clarify my points in netiquette above, let me add that even on facebook, 99% of compliments I receive are about my work, or poetry or psychology discussions.

So my advice is 'compliment the comment, not the face'.

Objectives for poetry creation games are fun, flow, memory enhancement, confidence building, fluency development, creativity, whole-brain awareness exercises.........

Knitting together linguistic devices in an holistic way!!!!!

Ha, ha! I hope you share the link to the class on my wall in facebook. Being eclectic is something we should all try to be. Selecting what appears to be best in various methods or styles to help our students learn as fast as possible is a must in our profession.
deepti P. likes this

the Tutorcrowd
Playing games is one way and an invaluable way of learning grammar. However, I think that a game can be very simple and quick, eg. guess the odd one out, and also that a lesson can be very motivating and interesting for a student even where games are not used. For instance, making up a survey, deciding which questions you'd like to ask the tutor, or which questions you'd like to be asked, discussion games, or as Sylvia says, poetry, (Haiku) are all great fun. Five minute activities (P Ur) and similar are also useful to get learners thinking. As a language learner, I personally dislike playing too many games! (But that's just me!)

Deepest apologies to all for the recent behaviour of Oscar and I (although I hope some people found it at least a little entertaining.). I was bored, and there's nothing like a good argument (even a virtual one) to help one relax.

Moving on. Several people have mentioned the Japanese poetry form, Haiku, as a useful classroom tool. I'm not that familiar with it myself, so I've never used it. What I have had great fun with is getting students to write limericks. Great for pronunciation and stress awareness, (although rhythmic patterns are not that well served). It can also make everyone laugh in that "naughty schoolboy" way, with some of the 'unusual' vocabulary that is generated!

Anne, a short game is great, especially as a warm-up or to change the mood of the class. Longer games can be very useful though -as the one I mentioned earlier in this thread. I do use surveys (even if they tend to bore me depending on the person you ´re asking) but I agree with Sylvia and you on the need for variety as I´ve said before.

Daryl, I just love limericks! There was an old man from Nigeria whose manners where rather inferior…. Haikus can be used for any level though.

Oh I agree Maria - variety is the spice of life! there was a young lady from Ealing, whose lifestyle was very appealing...

Limericks can be used to teach all kinds of vocabulary:

There was an (old/young/tall/fat/sad) man with a ... ,
(Who/Whose/That/Which) .........,
etc.

Very adaptable.

Ha, ha! Great, Anne and Daryl!
Well, I´m taking a couple of weeks off. I´m not supposed to use a computer. We´ll see if I can survive without one. Thank you for your ideas! = )

PGT(English) at jawahar navodaya vidyalaya
I agree with you Maria, When it is boring for us (teachers) it will be a horrible experience for our students. Hence, it is a good way to teach through language games and impart knowledge. As we are the guide and friend to the modern day students it will be fruitful for their learning experience.

As a child I was introduced to the nonsense poetry of Edward Lear - considered by many to be the father of the limerick. If you want to amuse classes of children (and yourselves) I suggest you take a look at some of his other works. Have fun.

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay in my reply but I've just arrived home and now I want to take the time to properly reply. Hello María Inés. Let me please start by saying that I think there is a misperception, misunderstanding or some kind of a myth around grammar these days. A language, any language, is mostly based on grammar. By grammar I mean the structures, tenses, vocabulary, (all kinds), listening exercises, reading, writing, speaking, coherency, fluency, proficiency, etc.

I do not mean that I do not play with my students every now and then. But how could I, when I as a student don't like games much. I really like the use of grammar books and nowadays, there are several grammar books that are eye-catching, very up to date in terms of relevant, and even controversial articles. But yes, I sometimes play games, I sometimes play a song and prepare the most suitable hand-outs, and yes, sometimes we write poems, we play with tongue-twisters, word´puzzles, etc.

And yes, we as teachers have to cater for the different learning styles of our students, and I think one way or another all of us do.But once again María et all, I love grammar. And I will quote you once again María Inés: "If it is boring for me I assume it is boring for my students" Games are not boring for me and even if they were, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of by openly confessing that I don't like games.

I think it goes like this, how can someone learn mathematics without getting really deep into numbers? How can a doctor be a doctor without opening a corpse? How can a lawyer be a lawyer without plunging into law? I think it's just the same with a language. It's personal preferences and we as teachers have that right, don't you agree?

And I almost forgot, there's also that special thing every techer has, that personal touch, that value added, that thing he or she does to spice the class up, to get things moving, to juice up the students. That counts too. Now, let me finish this by saying: Enjoy your days off, yes you can live without a computer and this discrepancies and agreements, this rich exchange of ideas and opinions are the ones that make life much more fun. I love it too and thank you all. I hope ypou all are enjoying this forum just as much as I am, including you Daryl!

Good night

Lucy - WOW! All I can offer is my greatest admiration. Recently I had an in-company group of 15 students who would come and go as they pleased. After the first class, I rarely had more than 4 at a time, and each time a different combination of 4, with the exception of one woman who came to almost every class. The company was trying to have English classes "on the cheap", and so ability levels within the group were very mixed. This frustrating situation drove me mad! But it sounds like a mere trifle compared to what you have been accostomed to - my congratulations.

How do you move a course like that forward? It's all very well with advanced conversation students to have unconnected lessons where students can dip in and out without missing anything vital - like watching the occasional episode of "CSI" or "Seinfeld" - but at a lower level surely there has to be some kind of progression. Students have to learn something new and move forward, and those who don't attend regularly will find thenselves confused - like missing a few chapters of "Lost".
anne F. likes this

I work as a private teacher teaching only private students and stay as far away from government organised education projects as possible. In a previously incarnation I worked within several levels of local and national government in the UK. Local government never had enough money to carry through their grand plans effectively, and the waste and missmanagement at a national level was appalling. I discovered there that no politician really cares about the outcome of the schemes they set in process, as long as the numbers look good. A high number of attendees to the English course (counted even if they only attend once) looks great on the statistical report; no one ever wants to know if those students actually benefit in any way from the experience.

Me
Why not throw the dice to students and get them to participate in the learning-teaching act, especially in higher classes in school--say 9 to 12 (according to the system in India)?

Teaching unmotivated students is the same, adult and child. We sometimes spend too much energy trying to encourage them to want to learn. If the student doesn't want to learn they won't bother. Acknowledge their feelings,and give them something challenging. Treat them like adults. (including the children) If they can do it all, it is too easy. Now focus on the class who are interested(There are usually some) and exude enthusiasm.

A game is and activity aimed at your class. If it is easy..... If you use it across the board without modification it will fail more often or not. Don't call it a 'game' in a business class. It's an 'activity', a 'challenge' or' practice'
I have many more successes than failures. I always give my best and if the student does not want to learn so be it. I know what I do works nearly all of the time. There are sayings galore about pleasing everyone...

People know when you are doing your best. They appreciate that and do respond. If not go back to "You can't please everyone..." I must go, I have a class soon and a bag full of games to play.

In the Gulf countries, where I have taught a fair bit, I've tried to play language games. However, I find there is a tendency not to take them seriously, if you see what I mean.
Students often take a game as a license to generally act the goat. Perhaps this is because of a cultural predisposition towards what might be called "book-learning", that is, if it isn't boring it isn't learning.

Arguably also learning can't always be fun. There are the boring bits that you just have to grit your teeth and mug up on. There's too much of a feeling these days that if it aint fun it aint worth doing. Life will, by it's nature, contain boring bits. Why shouldn't education prepare us for life, which will not all be hugely interesting.

I think an example of games not being called 'games.' They now become activities and challenges.
I must bow the the superior knowledge of those that have encountered this attitude. However If that is what they want then fine. Scrub the games. That is what being flexible is all about and the students are as much our masters as the parents and the management.
A 'game' however is not just there to provide 'fun', it provides a change of pace and a chance to practice. The change of pace is half the battle despite the content that follows. So if you don't want to play a game you do need to change the pace in a different way. With a little imagination the meanest of textbook can come alive and full of exciting possibilities. And even with my limited experience I have seen some mean old textbooks. They may become merely a springboard into some other activity. On one occasion we just re-wrote the chapter in small blocks into different tenses(including the passive) That gets the brain ticking. On another occasion we just described the book itself in detail. (Physical detail in detail so to speak, location (prize for the most different prepositions used relative to other objects) Description of its worth as an entity. It's quality, pictures, paper, printing, font etc) I forget half of the things we did with it. oh, we did go on.

We must take the students into account when we plan what we are going to do with them.
I must admit I find it hard to see anything as boring. even rote learning. I have a game(ooops sorry, I mean challenge) for that too....

Me
A textbook is only one tool in the hands of committed teachers. They can use newspaper articles, letters to the editor, cooking recipes, sports magazines (not fashion magazines for diversion here is the easiest and the quickest!), fiction you may have read or are reading, videos, films--anything that can offer scope for teaching and learning. Or you can give the initiative to students to bring their material.

Yes, it is only one tool. But all too often it is effectively the syllabus and in exam classes there is pressure to stick fairly close to it. One has to justify the use of other tools by showing how they satisfy the syllabus aims, particularly where the students' employer is the paying client.

Then you have to use it! As in all these discussions there are examples of one extreme or another. You use the flexibility you are given or are trusted with but every one must work within the boundaries they are given.
Just offer a little prayer of thanks if you are like me and are allowed a little flexibility.
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Topic 128
What is the best way to teach vocabulary?
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC) Top Contributor
You and cemile yavuz like this

 (Is there a 'best' way? Good question...)
I'm curious enough to 'follow' this discussion, to see how this is followed up.

My answer will only be partial: 'Follow it up' is my motto

For starts, words and collocations, chunks, should generally follow students' level and in the order of common usage, so first basic and then 2nd-level lexis (Synonyms).*

A) One can provide a (graded, adapted) text (slightly higher than) the level at which students are at, with a list of 10 -12 words and phrases [you deduce from experience, hopefully knowing their mother-tongue] will be important / useful, others interesting for them.
1- Have students help each other, have them guess by the context, afterwards have look them up. (Teacher alone cannot presume they don't already know these or some at least).
2- Clarify any cultural differences there might be, if necessary. Check and fine-tune pronunciation (v. spelling).

Higher-level students are encouraged to search the BNS or COCA to get authentic samples of usage.

Have them produce meaningful sentences (spoken, then written) to see if they can appropriate these.

* 'flat' before 'dwelling' ;-) 'car' before 'automobile' or 'vehicle', even though the first may be more difficult to learn than the latter (depending on their L1); but since they are more commonly used). Teacher should look up the etymology of words in many cases, btw. ;-)

B) Another way, which works fine for some (and others less), is to provide a more comprehensive list of related words (e.g. human anatomy / automobile) with visuals.
Diverse activities can be found for dealing with learning these. (e.g. Crosswords, etc)

A certain autonomy is expected, much exposure (3 or mores times), much repetition (7 times ideally), room and tolerance for mistakes until the learner is able to correct him- /herself. Hence the 'ELT Resources' (apps! more good apps!)

When the learner makes a mistake, if I laugh at THE MISTAKE and explain why it is funny, the learner will remember 'the joke', hence the 'mistake' better... next time round.
So there also needs to be a 'next-time-round', for lack of a better word. ;-)

I have found, in most cases, learners will learn better when they take down on paper new words [they find useful].
 ayhan D. likes this

Through games.. There's a lot of ways to teach Vocabulary.. Not just games, story telling (from a big book) also can help u in this ;)

At first, this looks like a simple innocent question. But on further thought it becomes more complex to answer. Finally, my opinion is it's the wrong question. To elucidate, language itself is a series of vocabulary. To teach vocabulary seems to be a misunderstanding of the teaching process, what we should be doing is giving big enough samples of language either words or phrases for the student to make meaningful communication possible. We might for instance offer students headers for questions and answers and let the student choose appropriate fill to complete each side of the QA equation. We might give form and their associated morphs to express variation in meaning or focus. To me, providing and endless list of words to learn is non-productive and in my experience it is a very slow way to introduce a learner to language. However, in many schools in the world the need for vocabulary is driven solely by the need for a student to pass an exam and therefore the needless chore of spitting out supposed meanings for words begins.

I would never consider teaching words in isolation, I always try to provide a pattern with the word attached or contained. I prefer spider grams linking pieces together to form imaginary lists of choices or groups for students to remember. I try to create pictures of menu structures in a student’s mind stimulating pattern memory for the common words and phrases. This seems to speed connection building and allow those connections to strengthen quickly. I am an advocate of lexical language approaches but within the control of standardized methodology in order to control the presentation and practice phases.

We have to realize that words are grouped according to parts of speech and therefore require different teaching methods and styles. The key importance of teaching words i think is getting students to remember the sounds of words and the articulation of mouth parts for pronunciation before caring to much about written representations of the word. It’s the sounds that are key and therefore... The real question is; how do we get students to remember sounds primarily rather than the written representation of a word?

Head of English Department at Ministry Of Education
By using the brain based appriaches and minding the markedness criteria. Vocabulary should be taught in different contexts to activate different parts of the brain.

Assistant Professor at Tlemcen University
First, we need to look for some ways to PRESENT vocabulary not to TEACH it.
Second, the types of vocabulary, for example, receptive and productive vocabularies, need to be identified before using any way. For receptive vocabulary presentation, teachers can ask learners to read texts or listen to recordings and then underline or pick out the new words, to later, try to deduce their meanings from the context or use dictionaries. To increase our learners' productive vocabulary, teachers can use vocabulary grids, show pictures, give some letters and ask them to guess the omitted letters.

And what is important is to recall and recycle what has been presented as vocabulary in future classes.
Alexander S. likes this

Teacher at T.C Ministry of National Education
for a few years, i have shown tendency to make categorizations among words in terms of semantic and morphologic forms and this has attracted the students' attention. For example, i am giving a word like "reliable" and ask the students to roll around the synonyms, anthonyms, verb form, noun form etc. then this technique gives rise to formation of a vocabulary pool. An important point is that we don't mind the exact meaning of the word in the native language, Turkish here..

Me
I don't know how lexis is handled in a native teaching/learning environment. In non-native environment, vocabulary building through learning affixes, vocabulary learning in 'prepared' contexts, gathering words through synonyms and antonyms, matching words, choosing a word for a given sentence--all these may not amount to much because it is a very conscious learning.

I picked up most of my words in Thamizh, my first tongue so to say (though not my mother tongue) listening and reading. And I also picked up vocabulary in English, which is another's language, through again listening (watching films) and reading (a lot of fiction and non-fiction) rather than through vocabulary exercises and textbook reading.

Permanence is guaranteed the more you listen and the more you read in live environment and the more you put them to use in writing even for a non-native language, where the subconscious, the ever-greedy repository, is busily engaged to do its job, which it does perfectly.
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Topic 129
What kinds of techniques really help learners to get better at listening?
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC) Top Contributor
You like this

Unsure if there are "magic techniques", but we can help learners by focusing on a lot of different aspects....

1. Development of strategies such as prediction, guessing unknown words from context, focusing on stressed words to catch key meaning, applying both language and world knowledge to guess when you miss something, learning to focus on chunks of meaning rather than individual words, skimming, scanning, learning to 'zoom out' for gist (top down processing) and 'zoom in' for detailed understanding (bottom-up) and to switch between strategies as needed

2. Raising awareness of features of connected speech - linking, reduction, elision, etc to help make sense of relaxed pronunciation

3. Learning of vocab, strong collocations, common idiomatic chunks etc

4. Awareness of context and features of speech - situation, relationship between speakers, shared background, repetition to aid understanding, signalling devices to help the listener follow, paraphrasing etc

5. Active listening strategies, feedback noises, clarification-seeking strategies etc - to listen as a participant

6. Raise awareness of the blocking nature of anxiety when listening - help with strategies to deal with speed, background noise, unfamiliar language / accent, etc

to name a few.

Just doing lots of it really, lots of different sorts. And not always with an obvious task.or under stress. Train learners to ask What/Where/When/Why as a sort of all -purpose comprehension check while they're listening.

Me
Dianna has presented an exhaustive list and to top it all she closes with a 'to name a few'!

The activity also involves listener's body language as a response medium which conveys a better picture of comprehension than a lot of words can say--a gentle/vigorous nod or shake, a smile, twitching of lips, raising eye brows, furrowing forehead, facial expressions of joy, wonder, sadness, shock, fear, gestures indicating 'being bored' etc.
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Topic 130
What is the most difficult part of English grammar? Please take a minute and explain what you find most difficult about the English language.
Nick Edwards Media at The Bournemouth English Book Centre Ltd (BEBC)
Top Contributor

English Language Instructor at American University of the Middle East
In relation to my context of teaching which takes place in Turkey, the most challenging aspect of English grammar is the usage of simple past versus present perfect! It is simply due to the fact that Turkish lacks the latter structure mentioned above. That is why students usually have hard times to distinguish between these two concepts in terms of function!
Martha F. likes this

Quite a few parts of the English grammar are challenging to teach --- the irregular verbs, the gerund , the phrasal verbs, the conditionals -- the modals and the auxiliaries -- I think the best way to deal with the present perfect is with the help of a time line . In India, people speak in the continuous tense all the time -- whether they mean the simple present or whether they are referring to the 'present perfect'.
Martha F. likes this

Associate Lecturer (ESOL) at Southampton City College
I find the difference between simple and continuous tenses continues to baffle and confuse nearly all learners right up to ESOL Levels 1 and 2 (Upper- Intermediate) and, as mentioned above, very often it's because the learners' native languages don't discriminate between the different meanings expressed through simple and continuous tenses, or else discriminate between these meanings through other means than tense formation, such as by adding time markers. The use of timelines is of course invaluable as a way of explaining the different meanings, but only frequent and endless drills seem to be effective in getting it embedded - not the most interesting experience for either learner or teacher!
Martha F. likes this

Lecturer in English at Educational Institute
In a country like India which is a multi-lingual nation it is very difficult to teach Tense forms of verb-both regular and irregular because the basic English grammar rules cannot be translated into any Indian language including its national language Hindi

Me
Indians have these difficulties:
The use of articles and the prepositions are the most difficult because even educated speakers and writers are unsure. The present perfect with the past time adverbs is most common.

In Japan the difficulty is that determiners are not used, singular and plural, likewise and there is only one tense for present and future. However, I think the biggest problem is that everyone insists on teaching verb tenses in isolation. I am new to teaching English grammar myself and had just as much difficulty as non native speakers in mastering all the rules. (Mastering is probably an exaggeration). In the end I had to develop my own methods. 
I now teach tenses together along with one or two common verbs. They learn four tenses to begin with (simple( I don't call it simple present as it is not technically a present tense, It's habitual), simple future, simple past, and continuous.) and the balance together soon afterwards. The modals also get rolled out together soon after that. We hit the'high spots' and then practice and develop over time. Seeing the tenses and modal verbs in relation to each other makes a great deal of difference. The use of the diagram and physical 'touch and say' also helps. Here is my version of the first four tenses for anyone who may be interested. 
http://chilledenglish1a.blogspot.jp/2013/12/the-first-four-verb-tenses.html 
and the basic diagram: 
http://chilledenglish1a.blogspot.jp/2013/12/extra-information-when.html 
I have also found this 'block introduction' of determiners, modals, frequencies etc also works well. Lot's of grammar and a little vocabulary, then practice and develop in tandem.

Thank you, Richard, for sharing your ways of teaching tenses. I shall certainly check out on these resources.
If you ask me, most of the grammar is taught in isolation -- and that's why there are problems.Teaching in context is the key to understanding how the language works. And I have also noticed that not much importance is given to those 'twenty little words' (i.e. the modals and the auxiliaries ) which are block builders -- especially the trio of (1) 'be' and its forms (2) 'have, has, had and (3) do , does and did !
In India also, people have a lot of trouble with the determiners -- and then there is a lot of translation that goes on -- and naturally, things tend to get 'lost in translation'!!!!!!!

When I teach determiners to Japanese children I do so with brackets. (a dog) (The apple) Then when we speak we mimic those brackets with hand movements. One for the determiner one for the noun. If you have only one bracket action you have missed something...

The children become used to the action and showing the the hand movement for the bracket is usually sufficient to remind them they have missed the determiner. With constant use it does sink in.

As for the tenses have a look at my tactile learning blog entry. It has been difficult to put down 'on paper' but I hope it gets the idea across.
http://chilledenglish1.blogspot.jp/2013/11/tactile-learning.html
there is an example for the first four. Hopefully in the near future I will get the complete twelve down including those tricky perfect tenses.

The perfect tenses have been the biggest challenge faced by my students. Mainly because some of them are always trying to relate it to Portuguese. Is it common for speakers of other languages to find perfect tenses difficult?
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Topic 131
15 Things to STOP Doing When Learning English! (Very Important!)

Learning a new language can be very difficult, but you can make it easier for yourself by NOT creating more barriers that will hinder your progress.  These tips (in no particular order) should help to make your learning process a lot smoother, and make learning English fun!

1. STOP translating!
Translating should only be something you need to do in the very early stages of learning English.

Once you have a basic grasp of vocabulary, you should stop thinking in your own language and trying to translate everything, as this slows your progress down, and limits your focus!

When someone says something, concentrate on the words you DO know, and build your understanding from there.

2. DON’T be afraid to make mistakes!
Fear can become a huge barrier, which makes it difficult to progress. If you know the rules of grammar, but struggle to hold a conversation – that doesn’t mean you should avoid talking in English!

STOP thinking about how people might react, and what they’ll say. Everyone makes mistakes, and then they learn from them – that is how you get better at it!

3. STOP negative self-talk!
Having a negative attitude doesn’t help improve your learning, it makes it worse. If you find you’re saying negative things to yourself like:
“Why do I always get it wrong? I’m so stupid.”
“I always make mistakes; I’ll never get better at this.”
“I don’t know what to say, it’s so hard to speak in English.”

This needs to change! Try to turn them into positive statements, you can rephrase them to show positivity. Instead of saying “I’ll never get better at this”, you should say “I’m going to keep trying, I’m sure I’ll get better at it soon.”

Instead of saying “Sorry, I don’t speak English, I can’t understand you”, say “Sorry, I’m still learning how to speak English, so could you speak a bit slower please?”

Positivity helps you to learn much quicker!

4. STOP being nervous!
Speak in English every time you have the opportunity. If you think about speaking, then you’ll just feel even more nervous. Just put yourself out there, and speak!

The more you speak, the more confident and comfortable you will feel, and the quicker you will learn how to communicate in English properly!

You may need to step out of your comfort zone a little bit, but the more you speak in English, the more you will begin to feel relaxed.

5. STOP taking it personally when people don’t understand you!
At some point, you will meet someone who, no matter how hard you try, just can’t understand you. This happens all the time.

Due to the large number of English speakers in the world, there is a wide range of accents, some of which, can be hard to understand!

Eliminating your mother tongue from your accent completely, is extremely difficult, so don’t be too hard on yourself!

6. STOP apologising!
No one knows everything – so don’t apologise for not speaking English perfectly! You’re still learning, everything takes time.

The more you speak and practice your newfound skills, the more you will improve. Even native English speakers didn’t learn how to speak in a few months!

The main thing is that you are trying, most people will understand and appreciate that. So just relax, and start talking!

7. DON’T just learn in class!
Learning in a classroom environment is great because you get to ask questions, pick your teacher’s brain, and share ideas with classmates, but you also need to implement the English language into your daily life, and communicate with people in English at every opportunity you get.
If you don’t practice speaking English outside the classroom, then your ability to progress will remain very limited. This is one of the most important things you need to remember.
It is the best way to learn, and will definitely influence how quickly you improve!

8. DON’T give up!
At first, it always seems hard when you’re learning something new, but if you keep at it – it will become easier!

You have to keep practising if you want to get better, otherwise it’ll get harder to improve.
Professional athletes have to do the same, they train hard all the time, because if they didn’t – their skills would just get worse!

9. STOP worrying!
Don’t waste a chance to speak English because you’re worried about whether they will understand you or not. Be confident, and have an ‘I can do it’ attitude.

Don’t be shy! Least of all, don’t worry about learning, because it’s supposed to be fun. The more fun you have, the easier you will learn!

10. STOP comparing yourself to other English speakers!
No matter what level of English you are on, you worked hard to get there. Be proud of what you have achieved.

Everybody is different, some people learn languages more easily than others, and some people spend more time working to improve their English. Just because your friend is learning faster than you, doesn’t mean you’re not on the right path!

11. STOP using outdated, inefficient methods! (please)
Grammar-translation methods, and memorisation of rules have been standard practice for a very long time, but they’re probably not the most effective ways to learn.

Some students study English for many years, and know all the rules of grammar and sentence structures, but still struggle to communicate properly and hold a conversation in English.
It is important to have a significant amount of time focusing on conversational, functional language use, and learn in context through interaction with other people!

12. DON’T work too hard on one skill and neglect the others!
If you just want to be able to speak to people, then you might place less emphasis on reading and writing, but you shouldn’t neglect them too much, as they are also crucial for fluency.
You should concentrate on improving your speaking skills, but also dedicate a suitable amount of time practising your reading, writing and listening skills. You shouldn’t underestimate the benefits all these skills have on each other!

13. STOP spending too much time studying!
If you sit in front of a book or screen for hours, going over the same rules and flashcards again and again, it won’t make you learn any faster!

You should have short study periods of up to 30 minutes, then spend a generous amount of your available time putting the language skills you’ve learnt, into practice.

It’s okay to study for up to 30 minutes, take a break, then go back to studying if you really need to, but studying for a long period of time, without taking a break, is quite exhausting for your brain!

14. STOP thinking of learning as a chore!
Learners sometimes associate study with something that is unpleasant, which turns it into ‘boring homework’, and ‘boring exercises’.

Even if they realise that learning is important, they may not be self-motivated enough to do it all the time! It needs to be something you want to do, not have to do. Make it interesting so you have fun when you’re learning.

- If you’re walking down the street, build simple English sentences in your head about the things you see around you
- Learn a new word each day and try to use it in conversation
- Watch a funny video on the internet and tell someone what it’s about
- Read an article about your favourite band (or something else that interests you)
- Communicate with people on a discussion forum.

Soon you will stop thinking of boring classes, difficult grammar rules or lengthy homework – instead you’ll be thinking about a funny English TV show, your favourite band, or interesting conversations with different people – in English!

Only one kind of person would do these sort of things – the kind of person who enjoys them! If you want to learn how  to speak English well, you have to be that person. Have you ever heard of anyone who became successful by doing something they hated?

15.  DON’T disregard the culture!
Language is made up of so many intricate expressions of culture, that it is impossible for books and courses to cover them adequately.

For example, the way an average, ordinary person interacts with other people in his or her community. All cultures and small communities have different gestures, intonation, slang terms, proximity, interjections, fillers, and short cuts!

If you are focusing on learning the tongue of a certain community then it would be best to integrate with them, and learn from them!

K R Lakshminarayanan
This list is pretty good. I’ve shared this at Facebook, Twitter and Google +

Note: When I copied this one I hadn’t noted down the source.
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Topics 132
Arzoo Baker ELT resource person at Oxford University Press

'Why was the poor man felt sad ? --'Why was the conductor refuse the to take the frog on a ride/" Are there any rules for this kind of auxiliary error ?
I know that the construction should be --'Why did the poor man feel sad ?' and ' Why did the conductor refuse to take the frog on a ride ?' --- But how do I explain to the students that the auxiliary 'did ' is to be used and not 'was' ?
Another time someone said 'Why was you not brought your book'? When it should be 'Why did you not bring your book?'
The confusion mainly seems to be with the use of the Wh- 'why'?
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Nick Edwards and Vera Daskalaki like this

Rod Mitchell
Probably the simplest thing would be to take them through the structural sequence:

The poor man felt sad.
Did the poor man feel sad?
Why did the poor man feel sad?
........................................

The conductor refused to take the frog on a ride.
Did the conductor refuse to take the frog on a ride?
Why did the conductor refused to take the frog on a ride?

The wh-word is "simply" attached to the beginning of the basic sentence is the general rule of thumb, keepin in mind that the wh-word refers to underlying parts of the basic sentence.

He saw a frog on the tram.
Did he see a frog on the tram?
What did he see on the tram? (what = the frog = the direct object)
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Rod -- this kind of structural sequence I have taught them for converting the Yes/No questions to Wh' questions -- and vice versa.

This still doesn't provide me with the answer to the question ( which students ask ) why use 'did' and not 'was ' ? '

The other day someone said ,' Why are you not brought your book?' When it should be 'why have you not brought your book?'

Why should the student use 'have ' and not 'was' ? Is there a rule for this kind of stucture?
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Of course there are "rules" - it is do with the meaning of "do", "be" and "have". They are not "randomly" used grammar.

I know that many grammars and EFL textbooks give this impression by calling they auxiliaries and teaching them as part of comninations like rpesent continuous, past perfect, and so on.
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"Do" refers to activity:

He does his homework before going to bed every day.
He does the shopping on tthe weekend.
He does the cooking in the catering company.

"Do" can also refer to an activity that we know from the context.

They did him in with a knife. [they stabbed a knife into him and killed him]

I'm done in [The activity I have been doing was so intense that now I am in a state of exhaustion].

The old combinations "do on" and "do off" (= put on and take off) have now become "don" (e.g. "don a hat" put on a hat) and "doff" ("he doffed his hat" he took his hat off).

"Do" is also used to emphasis the truth of the activity of the verb:
He does often swim in the morning. [it is a fact that he swims every morning]
He does love her. [it is iundeed true that he loves her]
This use is why we use "do" in questions and negatives - it focues on the "truth value" of the statement:

Does he often swim in the morning? = Is it true or false that he swims in the morning?
He doesn't often swim in the morning. = it is not true that he often swims in the morning.
Doesn't he often swim in the morning? = Isn't it true - I don't think it is false - that he swims in the morning?

"Do" focuses on the truth of "yes" or "no" of the activity either as a fact (or not a fact) in the present, or the past.
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"Be" shows state - being in a state, including active states:

He is sick. (state as a result of gettnig a sickness)
He is sleeping. (state)
He is sitting under the tree. (state)
He is singing a song. (active state)

He is tired. (state as a result of doing too much)
He is beaten. (state as a result of an activity)

We use "be" when we are focusing on the state that the subject is or was in.
.............................

"be" - shows state (pure state, active state, state as a result)
"do" - shows truth value (of state or action)
"have" - shows the link between the previous action and the present result.

This reflects the three aspects of English - "state-focusing", "action-focusing", "result-focusing".
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"have" - "holding/possession"

"have" has a range of uses, varying from ownership/possession thorugh holding to "having" a situation.

He has a brand new car. (ownership)
He has a pen in his hand. (holding)
He has five children to look after this morning. (has a situation - an abstract "holding")
He has dinner at 7 every evening on the dot. (has a situation - an abstract "holding")

He has the dogs let out every morning at 6. (has a situation - causes a situation - which results in the dogs being let out).

This is true also of the perfect. The perfect essentially says "have a situation that is a result or stems frmo a previous situation".

"He has broken his computer." - now he has a broken computer, and that is as a result of him breaking his computer in the past.

"Have" overly shows that we know have a situation based on the past action. As an "auxiliary" (the first example), the question and negative must be made with "have", as it is the important word in the meaning transfer. We want to make it clear that the present situation (in the present perfect) HAS a result from a previous time (the pst). "Do" is incompatible with that, as "do" can only show present truth/lack of ruth or past truth/lack of truth - but not the link between the two.
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did in and done in are phrasal verbs --- but thank you, Rod, for your time in painstakingly compiling all the different functions of 'be' , 'do' and have. I shall carefully study all the material -- and apply to the list of wrongly structured questions that I have.
The difficulty that the Indian students have is understanding the functions of these three verb forms in their various avatars --- as models, as auxiliaries and as 'full' verbs. At one workshop, I asked the teachers to come up with difficulties they experienced with students-- one said students didn't ask them questions / didn't cross question them. I said that that is because they don't know how to construct questions -- the skill of asking questions in the correct format is an important skill --- because meaningful communication happens all day only via questions.
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You are right to focus on question format. Communication and self-learning can only advance through curiosity - and if you are curious, you need to know how to ask the question.

Of course, Englsih question structure is different from Hindi (etc.) question structure, so there is also this issue.

The term "phrasal verb" is a misnomer. Though there is an idiomatic level, it is NOT true that the verb and the preposition-particle change or lose meaning in phrasal verbs. They retain their core meanings, and the key to understanding phrasal verbs are always the core meanings.

You also need to keep this in mind when teaching phrasal verbs - there are over 15,000, and native English children already know the phrasal verb system by the time they are 5 years old. It is a very simple system that we teachers and our textbooks make much much too complex. It is literally impossible to learn and use 15,000 phrasal verbs by thinking that each one is a separate lexical item. Native speakers do not do that; why should we expect learners to do that? We understand "phrasal verbs" as a combination of a verb (e.g. "fly") and a preposition-particle (e.g. "off"). Here I talk about we native speakers who have not had our understanding skewed by becoming English teachers and having our feeling for English misguided.

Most English teachers actually know little about English as a language; it does not form part of their training. They might now a lot about English as literature, poetry, formal grammar, and so on, but this does not mean know anything about English the language. Essentially, English teachers make the task of learning English more complex than it needs to be.

Even though "did in" and "done in" have idiomatic uses, this (as I showed) come directly from their concrete uses of "do"/"did" = "do an activity", and "in" to "being inside (contained) by something" ("do someone in" is killing someone by either stabbing them or shooting them; there is also an older, rare use of "doing someone in to the police" - reporting them to the police; "I am done in" - the activity I was doing has been so intense that I am now IN a state of extreme tiredness).

If you want you students to really understand English and to be proficient in English, they have to understand to this level.

This is the same for the auxiliaries. They are not random words; their use as auxiliaries depends on their core meaning. Indian students (and everyone else) have difficulties because we teachers and our textbooks/grammarbooks present English in a complex, structure/grammar-focused way rather than in a communicative way. Unfortunately, India has retained a lot of the pre-independence old fashioned British Raj education system. Very structured, but not very communicative. It says a lot for many Indians that they succeed very well despite the system.

It also says a lot that many succeed as engineers, computer specialists, business people, where an expert proficiency in English is not needed.
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' Indian students (and everyone else) have difficulties because we teachers and our textbooks/grammar books present English in a complex, structure/grammar-focused way rather than in a communicative way. Unfortunately, India has retained a lot of the pre-independence old fashioned British Raj education system. Very structured, but not very communicative. It says a lot for many Indians that they succeed very well despite the system,' ---------------------@ Rod, kudos to your summing up of the way English is taught in India . It's grammar, grammar and more grammar --- in the Course Books, in the work books , and in addition there is a series of separate 'only' grammar books--- and yet children can't speak or write good / correct English. Books do not meet the needs of the student community ----- neither do the teachers -- they are all deep into the 'rote' system. For about 80 % of students in India , English is a foreign language ( 'it's all Greek' to them) -- for around 15 % , i might say, English is Second Language -- and the remaining could be categorized as English First Language speakers. I am struggling hard against this grammar teaching business in the School / College which is in my charge currently.
I was using phrasal verbs long before I knew their technical name ! Thank you again, Rod.
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You are welcome :-) (the technical name was invented in 1925 - and the person who invented it did not like the termname - he threw it out as a suggestion in the hopes of finding something better - before that, people learnt English perfectly well without knowing the term).

Me
These questions give me a message: the students are aware (if only subconsciously) that they cannot frame questions in English with just the verb: the poor man felt sad, that framing a question needs another verb to go with the main verb. You must congratulate them because they know (again subconsciously) that constructing sentences questions in English is different from constructing them in Hindi, Thelugu or Thamizh for instance, which would be: why the poor man felt sad, why the conductor refused to take the frog on a ride, why you not brought your book ((Thoo) pusthak ko laayaa kyon nahi(n)?). The only problem they have is with the choice. Probably, adding a derivative of ‘be’ is easier than using ‘do’ or ‘did’.

The confusion may not be with the use of ‘why’ only; if it were, that is, if they used the right splitting to form other questions, your task would be easy. Splitting the verb to form a question or negative sentence is something that must sink into their subconscious.

If I were you, I’d try something like this:
write out several dialogues—short and long,
get them spoken by students (if only by ‘rote’),
ask them to write out dialogues imitating the given ones,
make corrections if necessary,
get them to enact them,
take them to the next level of their own dialogues without props,
let them practise them

This activity can take 10 or 15 minutes of every class until you feel students are comfortable with these structures. Then test them. I’m sure very few would still be committing such errors.

These dialogues should have question and negative sentence formation in all tenses with both regular and irregular verbs. It shouldn’t be difficult to write dialogues which of course must have for themes day to day activities in the institution, canteen, hostel, the cinema, hotel, shopping, eateries, involving them in arguments.

Then of course you might if you like explain the verb getting split (do/does/did) for past and present tense forms, the subject being placed in the middle (of course this won’t be necessary for negative sentences).

This procedure is likely to work better than showing the splitting and getting students to split them consciously and practise forming questions consciously in this fashion.

My best wishes, Arzoo. 
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Thank you, Mr. Lakshminarayanan-- for your tips --- though Rod has given a very detailed annalysis of 'what goes-with what' - All ideas are welcome -- and I shall certainly try them out.
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The three biggest tools at our command - practice practice practice, patience and awareness.
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