Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Genki English: A revolution in English language teaching in Japan?

I came across this website while looking for things to read about teaching English at primary school level.

First time I heard something like that! But to tell you the truth, I was amazed! Things look so simple, but also, it is convincing. Yes, the truth is simple. Children learn by playing. So if you structure your lesson in a game or a song, then you are successful.

Go there and check for yourself. It's here. Genki English is the word!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

About the usage of "would"

Dear all,

I got this question sent to my mailbox. Since it might be of use to some of you, I post it here to share the question and my answer to all who have the same question.

Ở Trường em vừa diễn ra đợt thi giáo viên giỏi cấp trường. Một cô giáo dạy bài Unit 9 trong giáo trình Headway ( elementary). Nội dung của bài là cấu trúc "Would like" cô giáo này giải thích Would like = like very much.

Và Yes/no question của nó là

Would + S + like..........? cô giáo giải thích đây là Polite request. Và không được trả lời là Yes hoặc No.

Hội đồng trong khoa không đồng ý

Would like = like và want

nên Would + S + like = Do you/ they want hoặc like
Does she / she want hoặc like

Đây ko phải là polite request

Chỉ có Would you like........ mới là polite request

Theo như khoa em giải thích vậy có đúng ko cô?
Below is my answer:

1. polite request đúng là chỉ dùng "would you like"; xem thêm ở đây: và ở đây:

2. "would she like" là để hỏi về preferences, vậy giải thích như khoa như vậy là đúng rồi.
And finally, some further references:




This third link is a real good one. Let me copy this part off the page, which is relevant to the question asked above:

would: Desire or inclination
I'd love to live here.
Would you like some coffee?
What I'd really like is some tea.

would: Polite requests and questions
Would you open the door, please? (more polite than: Open the door, please.)
Would you go with me? (more polite than: Will you go with me?)
Would you know the answer? (more polite than: Do you know the answer?)
What would the capital of Nigeria be? (more polite than: What is the capital of Nigeria?)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Do you know these English words at all?

What words? Well, words like edupreuner, intextication, tweetheart, to name but a few.

But ... are you sure they are English words? I am sure they are.

Hmm... Maybe these are slangs, or teenagers' fleeting language inventions, which are not recognised in the mainstream?

Nope! They are, actually, recorded by ... Cambridge Dictionaries!

Yeah, you can go here to read these and all other newly invented words which appear in the English language every single day.

Before I stop, just to give you a taste of what is in there, let me copy the definitions from the site for the three words listed above:

1. Edupreneur: (noun) edupreneur noun someone working as an entrepreneur in an area of education

Switching sides: prominent educationists now working

2. Intextication: (noun) the state of being unable to drive safely while texting

Intextication Prevention Tools – This SafeCell Android App Credits You Money for Safe Driving [ (advert)] 31 Oct 10

3. Tweetheart: (noun) a friend or lover that you communicate with via Twitter

Gathering of Tweethearts at Chili’s [ (headline)] 07 Oct 2010

See, you have to constantly update your knowledge, or you don't know English anymore!

Well, one last word: do you know what sofalise is? You don't? Go there and check for yourself!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

For those who think they know English

English is an easy language to learn, right? Well, I don't really think so.

If you are not already confused, here are a few links that can confuse you enormously. They are about English grammar and usage. Read them, and you will learn that you don't know the language at all.

1. - Very good to read. Read today's entry below just for the taste of it.


More and more, fewer people use “less” and “fewer” the way the language gods intended. “There are less people here than there were last year,” for example, is commonly heard or written.

Grammar texts are pretty absolute: Use “fewer” when you’re talking about countable things, and “less” when you’re not. So that first example should be “fewer” people, because you can count them. Simple.

OK, then what about this? “The contract pays him fewer than a thousand dollars a week.” Doesn’t that sound funny? But it must be right: You can count those dollars.

Thus the first “exception” to the “rules”: Use “less” when the context refers to a quantity, rather than individual things, even if there are a number of things. Thus, “he earns less than a thousand dollars a week,” but “he earns five hundred fewer dollars than his wife.”

That “exception” is usually easy to follow: Use “less” with singular nouns and “fewer” with plural nouns. (You need “less” salt on your fries, but “fewer” grains of salt.) If you’re comparing quantities of individual things, “fewer” usually works better than “less.” (You earn “less” money but “fewer” dollars than someone else.)

Even so, there are times when you can’t tell if you’re dealing with individuals or groups. In 2008, The New Yorker ran this cartoon of a checkout lane with the sign “10 items or less“ corrected to “10 items or fewer.” After all, you can count each of those items, yes? Except that almost no one says “ten items or fewer.” Maybe it’s one grocery order, so the individual items don’t count? Hey! You have eleven items! Put one of them back, so you have one item fewer.

Except that you should say “one item less.”

Other “exceptions” include distances (“less” than ten miles away), percentages and fractions (“less” than two-thirds of the voters), time (“less” than sixty seconds), measurement (“less” than thirty square yards), etc., etc., etc. (And, by the way, you shouldn’t use “fewer number,” as in “a fewer number of people.” When you say “fewer,” you’re already signaling that you’re talking numbers.)

Lesser mortals have failed to keep those exceptions straight. And Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage points out that the “rule” actually started out as a “guideline,” where common sense, ear and elegance trump “right” and “wrong.”

Perhaps you can think of it as Garner’s Modern American Usage describes it: “Fewer emphasizes number, and less emphasizes degree or quantity.”

Yes, it requires you to think, but there are less fruitful ways to waste a day.

Now, stop and think: which one do you use, "less" or "fewer"?

2. - Another confusing site, well, I mean it's good, informative, but it doesn't help you in becoming a better English user. Just read the following piece and you will know why.


At various points in my life, I finished up a task and excitedly, dutifully, or resignedly announced its completion by saying “I’m done”. And most of the times, this was met with a congratulation, or at least warm indifference. On rare occasions, it was met with a succinct rebuke:

“Cakes are done. People are finished.”

That was all; no explanation given, and me left sitting there wondering why, if the subject of cake was going to be broached, it wasn’t to give me one as a reward. Because the response was so untethered to rational explanation, I would quickly forget about it, only to be reminded each time that I bothered to tell this person that I was done.

Well, I’m done. And so’s the rule. Let me turn the floor over to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (MWDEU):

“Done in the sense of ‘finished’ has been subject to a certain amount of criticism over the years for reasons that are not readily apparent.”

The reasons aren’t unreadily apparent, either; they simply aren’t. MWDEU traces the prohibition against humans being done to MacCracken and Sandison’s 1917 book Manual of Good English, which offers no explanation for its impropriety. In the near-century since, no one else has found a reason for it either. What passes for a justification is that one-liner I quoted above; for instance, in one professor’s list of “errors to avoid“, we’re given this explanation, posted in its entirety:

“30. If something has been completed, it is finished–it is not ‘done’. Remember, cakes are done; people are finished.”

It looks to me that the real reason why people started complaining about this usage is that it had two signs of the prescriptivist devil: it was a new usage, and it was a non-standard usage. To be done, the MWDEU reports, supplanted to have done for states of being starting sometime in the 1700s or earlier, which on a prescriptivist timescale somehow counts as “new”. Furthermore, the OED classifies this usage as chiefly Irish, Scottish, American, and dialectical, which to a prescriptivist is just a long way of saying improper. And usually finished sounds fancier than done, which no doubt contributed to the distaste for done.

But unless you believe in 300-year-old grudges, there’s no reason to be against people being done. According to the OED, Thomas Jefferson used it, as did Jeremy Bentham (the philospoher, not the Lost character) and others. There’s no grammatical logic why done and finished are any different, either. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if it weren’t for its snappy motto, this injunction would long ago gone the way of the dodo. Let’s try to help it toward that fate.

Summary: Cakes are done; people are finished? Nope. Cakes can also be finished and people can also be done. And stop mentioning cake if you’re only teasing me.

3. - Very good site, with explanations on confusing things in English grammar.

The only problem: The more you read, the less you know English! Because you will find that there are so many exceptions to any rule in English grammar.

Sorry! But that's why English is interesting, isn't it?

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Clozure: Cloze test made easy"

Something more for ELT professionals.

Go here for it.

Once you are there, you will be able to use random cloze tests to test your own English proficiency, or copy the test you like and use it with your students.

Hope it's useful to overworked (and usually underpaid) teachers.

Open Journals for ELT Professionals (2); "International Journal of English Linguistics"

Another open access journal for ELT professional. Here it is.

Read the description below:
International Journal of English Linguistics (IJEL) is a peer-reviewed journal, published by Canadian Center of Science and Education. The journal publishes research papers in the fields of English language, applied English linguistics, theoretical English linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, comparative linguistics, and dialectology. The journal is published in both printed and online versions. The online version is free access and download.

Hope it's useful.

Open Journals for ELT professionals (1): "English Language Teaching"

Here is an open access journal that ELT professionals can use. Read the description below:

English Language Teaching (ELT) is a peer-reviewed journal, published by Canadian Center of Science and Education. Authors are encouraged to submit complete unpublished and original works, which are not under review in any other journals. The scopes of the journal include, but not limited to, the following topic areas: English language teaching and education, theory, methodology and educational psychology in English language teaching.The journal is published in both printed and online versions. The online version is free access and download.


Open Journals

Another list of open journals for graduate students and researchers.

Go here for it.

Hope it's useful.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

For Wordle lovers

An article by Ferry Ferlazzo.

Go here for it.


Good read: "6 misconceptions about teaching young learners of English"

Something for you to read and think. I hope you don't hold any of the misconceptions listed.


You can also read below.

1. Teachers of YLs should be paid less money because the only thing they do is playing games and singing songs
2. Teachers of YLs have lower qualifications that’s why they teach kids (or – They teach kids because their qualifications are not enough to deal with more serious teaching)

3. Teaching children is not REAL teaching (Can’t remember how often I was given a look saying ‘Now what do YOU know about the difference between Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous???’) . You also don’t speak REAL English, because if you teach YLs (and are not a native speaker) most probably your level of English is equal to the one of your students’.

4. Teachers of YLs cannot/should not/ are not able to teach adults (This one is interesting – it seems like anyone can get a job teaching kids but if a teacher of kids wants to get a job teaching adults, he or she is immediately rejected)

5. Teaching YLs is a very easy/difficult job (it actually is not, once you get the idea how to do it properly)

6. Teachers of YLs like children (hmm… how to say that… I guess not all of them.)

The author of this article is Anita Kwiatkowska. She is a Polish teacher of young learners currently in Turkey. She is also active in the blogosphere and twittevers and is the person behind the blog l_missbossy’s ELT playground.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Teaching English to Young Learners Syllabus


There are six main units of learning:

1. Language awareness

Language description for the teaching of English to young learners

The practical significance of similarities and differences between languages

Reference materials for language awareness

2. The learner, the teacher and the teaching/learning context

The young learner’s educational background and traditions and the context for learning and teaching English at young learner level

Different motivations for young learners learning English at different stages of their development

Different learning and teaching styles in a young learner classroom

3. Planning for effective teaching of young learners of English

The principles and practical realities of planning for effective teaching of young learners of English

The selection and evaluation of appropriate materials and resources, including exercise types, for specific lessons with young learners.

The evaluation of lesson preparation

4. Classroom management and teaching skills for teaching English to young learners

Classroom presence, control and organisation

Teacher and learner language

Practical skills for teaching young learners of different ages and ability levels

Monitoring and evaluation of young learners’ performance and progress

5. Resources and materials for teaching English to young learners

Resources and materials for teaching English to young learners

Criteria for selection and evaluation of resources and materials for use in teaching and testing young learners of English

Ways in which materials and resources may be adapted for use in teaching English to young learners

6. Professional Development for teachers of English to young learners

Self assessment: understanding the teacher’s own development needs and working on strengths

Preparation for employment: preparing to become a teacher, colleague and employee

Professional development: support systems, publications, and courses for teaching English to young learners


Candidates should ideally have been awarded the CELTA as the CELTYL extension builds on the CELTA syllabus. Candidates who do not have a CELTA but have an equivalent entry level EFL qualification (e.g. the Trinity TESOL) can also join the course. However, they will not be eligible to be awarded an endorsement certificate by Cambridge, but will be awarded a certificate by ILA Vietnam instead.

Cambridge regulations state that candidates:

- must have an awareness of language and a competence in English, both written and spoken, that enables them to undertake the course and prepare for teaching a range of English levels.

- must be at least eighteen years old at the start of the course. It is generally recommended that candidates should be aged 20 and over, but candidates aged between 18 – 20 can be accepted at the centre’s discretion.

- must have the potential to develop the necessary skills to become effective teachers of young learners and to successfully complete the written assignments and the assessment of practice teaching.

- should normally have, as a minimum entry requirement, a standard of education equivalent to that required for entry into higher education. However, candidates who do not have formal qualifications at this level who can demonstrate their ability to complete the course successfully may be eligible for entry.

All applicants must complete a pre-interview task (see the application pack) and have an interview. This interview can be done over the telephone. The admission procedure is designed to safeguard applicant’s interests.

The written application:

- is designed to challenge you.

- needs to be completed carefully and thoroughly.

- shows you the areas you’ll be involved in during the course.

helps the centre to accept only those candidates who we think can successfully complete the course. This is a Cambridge requirement.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Websites for teaching English to Young Learners (TEFL-YL)

Following are websites that you can use if you are (or plan to be) teaching English to young learners.

1. Click here for it.

2. You can find lots of worksheets, games, songs, flashcards, all for free!


4. Click here. You can find contents of a course to prepare teachers of English for young learners, or TEYL for short. More details can be found here.

The content is so good, I have to copy it here for easy access for myself and my students. See below.

Objectives of the CertTEYL Course

1. To give you the special skills required to properly instruct children.

2. To help you understand all aspects of a child: social, emotional, intellectual, etc.

3. To show you how to interact effectively with young learners in a classroom.

4. To let you explore methods that work best in teaching English to young learners and to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your teaching style to accommodate the individual needs of your students.

5. To teach you how to create an appropriate classroom atmosphere for learning English.

6. To help you properly manage children's behavior.

7. To demonstrate to you how to use teaching resources easily and efficiently.

8. To allow you to acquire proper instructive strategies using flashcards, stories, music, drama, crafts, games, projects, and pair work.

9. To further develop your teaching career and to increase your level of professionalism.

CertTEYL Course Outline
We provide a logical sequence of learning and use the modular approach to maximize efficiency.

Course Objectives and Course Breakdown
Should you be teaching children? (with self-assessment questionnaire)
The Science of TEYL
Course Resources
Online Resources/Study Tips

Module 1 - Characteristics of a Young Learner
Defining a Young Learner
First Language Development
Learning a Second Language
Parenting and Communication
Psychological Development and the Role of Motivation
Social Development
Intellectual Development
Physical Development and TPR
Cultural Considerations
Interaction Strategy and/or Philosophy

Module 2 - Learning and Language
What is Language?/Language Acquisition
Learning Another Language
Grammar Goblins
Phonology - The Sound of Language
The Four Skills

Module 3 - Classroom Management
The Makings of a Good Teacher
Behavior Management (includes Discipline)
Classroom Atmosphere
Classroom Safety

Module 4 - Instructive Strategy
Using Gestures and Flashcards
Using Games
Using Music, Songs, and Chants
Using Dance and Movement
Using Dialogue, Drama, and Poetry
Using Stories and Storytelling
Using Crafts and Activities
Project Work
Using Technology in the Classroom
Pair and Group Work
Including Phonology in Lessons
Error Correction (+Concept Checking & Syllabus Design)

Module 5 - Resource Management
Free-form Lesson Planning
Where to get ideas! (includes an Idea and Resource Guide with hundreds of sources for lesson plan ideas)
Building a Set of Re-Usable Resources
Material Evaluation

Module 6 - Professional Development
Teachers' Rights
Language Teaching Versus Test Preparation
School Policies and Practices Versus Teacher Independence
Working Freelance or Owning Your Own School
Further Education

Certification Option 1 - Tasks
The Purpose of Certification
TASK 1 - Short Answer
TASK 2 - Annotated Bibliography
TASK 3 - Plans, Portfolio, Video, or Reflective Project
Alumni Services

Certification Option 2 - Written Paper
The Purpose of Certification
Choosing Your Topic
The Rough Draft and Research
Establishing a Purpose and a Pattern
Revising and Polishing Your Paper
Alumni Services

Within the modules there are: Three Assignments.
Fifteen major tasks.
Three minor tasks.
Forty quick reviews and quizzes.
Seventeen major "readings".
Several other minor readings and tasks. A total of 40 learning sections and another 21 sections that include introductions, instructions, and other important information.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

You are a language teacher, and you don't know what WORDLE is?

The title of this entry is provocative, I know. It's meant to be. Because I want you to coax you into using WORDLE in your classes.

But what is WORDLE? Well, don't depend on anybody's description (including mine own); it's a lot better if you go to the web page to see and experience things for yourself. Go where, I hear you ask. Here is the link:

But if you insist on me giving you description, then read below (taken from Wordle's web page itself):

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

Just so? Then why do language teachers need to know how to create word clouds from Wordle? Oh, there are several reasons. Let me tell you a few:

1. It's fun. "Worldle" allow you to make beautiful world clouds by experimenting with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. Try it for yourself, and you will see that you can make beautiful "word arts". Your students will love this kind of activity because it's fun, I am sure. You can even organize wordle competitions, using students' essays to make word clouds, and give the best prize to the most beautiful and meaningful word cloud where the format, style, and layout fit with the content of the essay. Lots and lots of fun to be expected.

2. It's actually a tool for language research. Each word cloud is a summary of the main points in a piece of writing, based on the frequencies of the words used in the writing. I've read an article somewhere in which they compare the two speeches made by two Heads of Nations - US and Vietnam. Looking at the word clouds you can immediately tell what is considered most important in each speech.

Below is a word cloud created from the text of the US constitution (I believe). See how beautiful it is, and meaningful at the same time.

See how beautiful it is? And very meaningful. Did you see that the most prominent words are: State, Congress, President, United States? And you will see that Vice-President is a lot less prominent than President, but still it is there. And other things too, hidden messages everywhere. Let you students discover and describe what they find. A lot of interesting activities can be generated.

Now you see why I have that provocative question as the title of this entry? Then go there, create you word clouds, and use it in class!

Good read: "Risk taking and language learning"

Hello there!

I have not been here lately, due to an overloaded work schedule. As usual, I hear you say. Yes, such is the kind of life that I lead!

I've just come across this article which is a good read for ESL/EFL teachers like you, so here goes.

I hope you enjoy reading the article, and if you have any ideas, please share them here.

See you all tomorrow.
As some of you has pointed out in class today, my link did not work. I checked, and there was a mistake in the syntax; that's why.

The link works now; the "article" (actually I should have called it a blog entry) is very short, but the accompanying video clip is very good and I like it very much. And I totally agree with the author's idea which I quote below:

Risk taking is one of the most important features of a good language learner. They accept what they don’t know (the ambiguity of language/communication) and they focus on what they do know. They don’t wait for perfect pronunciation or form. They communicate, plain and simple. And in all this, they like the penguin sit moment after moment on the precipice of babble, noncommunicability and yet again and again, like the penguin, they jump over it and succeed.

Teachers – I’m not sure other than a safe environment for your students, through your own building of relationships – how you might promote risk taking in your students. However, a place to start might just be showing them this video and getting them thinking about it….


Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Types and uses of language tests"

This is a summary of the main points in Chapter 1 of the Brown book, "Types and uses of language tests". The summary is a guide for you to continue reading in the topic, and also serves as an aid to your memory. This is necessary because for many students, testing is a very difficult subject and hard to understand, not to mention to remember. Many students told me that after finishing a course in testing, all they remember are two words: validity and reliability (which are abstract concepts and difficult to understand indeed!)

Hope the summary helps you in your study, and good luck!

1. Two important groups of test users in schools are program administrators and classroom teachers. They use tests to make 4 kinds of decisions: placement, diagnostic, achievement, and proficiency.

2. There are two families of tests to serve the different purposes: norm-referenced tests or NRT for program administrators and criterion-referenced tests CRT for teachers.

3. NRTs are used to compare students in terms of their general abilities, while CRTs are used to decide whether students have acquired particular the knowledge or skills required of them. (cf. Table 1.1 on page 3)

4. Each test purpose requires a different kind of information. Therefore, NRTs and CRTs employ different methods for test item construction, scoring and score interpretation. (cf. Table 1.2 on page 7).

Further resources on this topic

1. Norm- and criterion-referenced testing by Bond, Linda A. - Link:

A short, nice introduction to NRT and CRT. If anyone has the time to translate this for me, I will be grateful!

2. Assessment purposes (my title: NRT and CRT compared). Link:

Very good, succinct comparison of NRT and CRT. You will need to go back to this when you do your assignments.

3. How to understand the difference between norm- and criterion-referenced testing - Link:

A further discussion of the differences between the two families of tests.
Well, so much for now. See you all tomorrow!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Language Assessment Syllabus (prepared by Vu Thi Phuong Anh)

Dear students,

Below is the syllabus for the Language Assessment Syllabus starting tomorrow. A copy of this syllabus has been sent to you via email. All comments and questions are welcomed.

(Tentative as of March 12, 2011)

Lecturer: Vu Thi Phuong Anh


Testing in Language Programs: A Comprehensive Guide to English Language Assessment (New Edition)
Author: James Dean Brown
International Edition 2005
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Course description
This course aims to provide classroom teachers and program administrators with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools that will allow them to make good decisions about how best to evaluate their students’ learning, the effectiveness of their own teaching, and the degree of success of their programs. In order to do this, they will need an understanding of the basic theoretical concepts and issues in language assessment, and a degree of competency in creating their own – or making the right choice among those readily available – assessment tools, and in reporting and interpreting assessment results.

Specifically, students will need to be able to (1) distinguish between the two main families of tests – norm-referenced (NR) and criterion-referenced (CR) tests, (2) understand the main issues in making a language assessment choice – the performance-competence issue and the discrete-point and integrative issue; (3) to write good language test items that are appropriate to the purpose and context of assessment, and (4) to make valid interpretation of the results in order to provide useful feedback to the relevant parties about the teaching and learning process.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their own language teaching and learning experience and to contribute to class discussions about the issues presented in the course. This will help them in their final test in which they will be asked to write an essay on a given topic chosen among those already discussed in class.

Assessments – Procedures and weightings

Students will be graded based on two criteria: 6 assignments (5% each), then a final test and essay (30% each). The other 10% is for class attendance.


Six assignments will be marked during the course. These are selected from the review questions and application exercises in the prescribed course-book, and can be done in class or as homework. Students will do the assignments in groups (either at home or in class), and present their answers with support arguments in class. Marks will be assigned immediately after the teacher provides feedback on students’ work, which will be accumulated toward their final scores.

Final test

At the end of the course, students are required to do an objective test and write a 500-word reflection essay on a given topic related to the issues discussed in class, where they must show how a language assessment foundation may help them solve their language teaching problems and make progress as TESOL professionals.


Session 1 Introduction to the Course & Chapter 1: Types and Uses of Language Tests

Session 2 Chapter 2: Adopting, Adapting, and Developing Language Tests

Session 3 Chapter 3: Developing Good Quality Language Test Items

Session 4 Chapter 3: Developing Good Quality Language Test Items (cont.)

Session 5: Chapter 4: Item Analysis in Language Testing

Session 6 Chapter 5: Describing Language Test Results

Session 7 Chapter 6: Interpreting Language Test Scores

Session 8 Chapter 7: Correlation in Language Testing

Session 9 Chapter 10: Language Testing in Reality

Session 10 Rounding off & Final Test

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Approaches to teaching English as a second language"

Hi there!

I found an article on the Internet about language teaching methodology, and thought it might be useful to English teachers or English teachers - to - be, so I post it here so that people can read. Enjoy!

The Grammar-Translation Method

This method was the most common way of learning languages for centuries and is still used in many situations and countries. The Grammar-Translation method of teaching English as a second language focuses mostly on teaching students about the language but not how to use it practically. Students may have a vast knowledge of grammatical rules but are never provided with opportunities to put their knowledge into practice through discussion, conversation, activities or role-playing.

The fact that the Grammar-Translation method of teaching is based on grammatical analysis to understand the construction of English as a foreign language means that it is not a "natural" method of learning a language. Children do not need to learn the rules of their native language, they assimilate the rules through using and hearing the language.

The Audio-Lingual Method

This method to teaching English as a second language relies heavily on the assumption that learning is a result of habit formation through conditioning. Conditioning usually takes the form of long, repetitive drilling and is considered boring by most students. Drilling is not real, nor is it realistic language that speakers use in everyday life. However, it is an effective tool, used sparingly, for beginners to learn vocabulary.

This method went rapidly out of fashion in the language learning circles because learning to speak a foreign language is far more subtle and complex than forming habits.

The Task-based Method

The emphasis of this method is on language-based tasks rather than on the language itself. Teachers who use this method focus on giving tasks to be completed to students. During the task, problems and errors often become evident and once the task is finished teachers then discuss the error and explain why it was wrong, teach the necessary rules and set another task for their students.

An example of a lesson using the task-based method of language learning:

The task is for students to ask for and give information about train and bus timetables.

Students are given the timetables, put into pairs and perform their task.

The teacher walks around and listens to students while jotting down any language problems.

Once the task is completed, the teacher goes through the errors with students and explains how to correct them.

The Communicative Language Teaching Method

The CLT method differs radically from the other, older approaches to teaching English as a second language that have tended to dominate language teaching over the years. It has two main strands to it:

All language used involves language functions such as inviting, agreeing, disagreeing etc. and must be used appropriately.

Students are given enough exposure to language and opportunities to use the language for language learning to take place,

The idea behind this method is that people learn languages in order to communicate and not to simply know the rules of grammar without being able to use them practically. Adults and children learning English are given the chance to use real language in a classroom setting through role-playing, language games, discussions, technology-based ESL activities and other activities.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Teaching English pronunciation"

Something I found on the Internet, which might be useful to English teachers in Vietnam. Go here to read.

And if you have a question or an opinion, please don't hesitate to let me know on this blog. All ideas are welcome.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Must-read: "A Brit’s take on American English"


A Brit’s take on American English
Posted by Vicki Hollett on July 17, 2010
The US is a hazardous place for Brits. Since moving to Philadelphia, I’ve inadvertently commented on my hostess’s homely (=ugly) home; I’ve offended my gay neighbours by mentioning their fairy (=holiday) lights and I’ve even described the deceased at a funeral as having a wicked (=nasty – but not in Boston, where I might have been understood) sense of humour.

But there are lots of mistakes I’ve avoided. I’ve understood that batteries don’t go flat here (they die instead) and at the hardware store I’ve learnt how to ask for rawl plugs (=anchors) to put in the plasterboard (=sheet rock) along with some polyfilla (=spackle). I can now dress myself in trousers (=pants) with turn ups (=cuffs) and a jumper (=sweater – take it from me, ’merican jumpers are not a fashion item you’d ever want to wear). So I like to think I’ve had a lot of successes here. When I’ve written something wrongly, I’ve avoided asking my co-workers to lend me a rubber (=contraceptive). And when I’ve forgotten my alarm clock, I’ve never asked my travelling companions to knock me up (=get me pregnant) in the morning.

But whenever I open my mouth here, I’m conscious that it’s always a bit of an experiment. People think we speak the same language and they reason I know what I’m saying, but I don’t. The lexical differences are fun, but they’re actually small fry. Learning how to structure my thoughts ’merican-style is the biggest challenge for me.

The different styles of politeness are tricky. Putting it crudely, I come from a culture where politeness is mostly about not getting in anyone’s way, but in the US it’s more about awarding esteem. I have to remember to show approval, warmth and friendliness, and that’s tough for a Brit. If you think about it, the stereotypical Brit is aloof, standoffish and reserved. Our customs dictate we should leave people alone so they can go about their business without us getting in their way. Meanwhile the stereotype of the American is friendly and garrulous – someone who gives you a run-down of their entire life history within five minutes of meeting them. It’s just not polite to hold back, so I’ve had to learn to show more solidarity, share and be open.

It’s not that one form of politeness is good or bad, but they are different. Have you had any similar experiences with British/American differences? If so, please do share. And in my best British, I do hope I haven’t gone on too long and reading this hasn’t been a bother. And in my best ’merican, y’all come back sometime and set awhile, ye hear?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Language change, and The Global Language Monitor website

The topic of this week's lesson is Language Change. As speakers of languages, we all know that language changes all the time. Like fashion, every year we have new words coming in and some old words dying out. Which is why we need new dictionaries to keep us updated.

For people who are interested in language, The Global Language Monitor website is a must. It is, as it names suggests, a chronicle of language changes. The URL is here:

There are a lot of interesting things on the site for a language lover. For example, you will find the origin of the word "wiki" in wikipedia, wikidictionary, or, of course, wikileaks. Read below:

The word ‘wiki’ is Hawaiian in origin and is usually defined as ‘quick’ or ‘fast’ especially when used in rapid succession: ”wiki, wiki, wiki!”. In computing, a wiki describes software that lets any user create or edit Web-server content. The WikiLeaks organization was originally set-up as a ‘wiki’.

Or, would you know this fact if not for GLM? Yes, English has MORE THAN ONE MILLION WORDS now. The number 1,000,001st word is "financial tsunami", they tell us. Continue reading here.

And the following a very interesting article to read before we end this entry on language change:

Ten years ago, no one had heard of “H1N1″, “Web 2.0″, “n00b”, or talked about “de-friending” someone on “Twitter” or “Facebook”. Now these are part of people’s everyday vocabulary.

The world is changing. Inevitably, so are our words.

The English language is going through an explosion of word creation. New words are coined – some, like “n00b”, may not even look like words; old words take on new meanings – “twitter” today bears little relation to the Middle English twiteren. According to the Global Language Monitor (GLM), in 2009 the English language tipped the scales with a vocabulary of one million words. Not good news for the 250 million people acquiring English in China.

GLM, the San Diego-based language watcher, publishes annual lists of top words and phrases by tracking words in the global print and electronic media, the Internet, blogs, and social media such as Twitter and YouTube.

Each year’s list reflects major concerns and changes taking place that year. For instance, from the 2009 list, we have to acknowledge the fact that technology is reshaping our ways of living (twitter, web 2.0).

We need to face up to the after-effects of a “financial tsunami” (stimulus, foreclosure), a pandemic (H1N1), the death of revered pop icon (MJ, King of Pop) and the debates over “healthcare reform” and “climate change” that mark the year.

A quick rundown of GLM’s top words/phrases of the decade is precisely like watching clips of a documentary of the decade. From the lists we are reminded of the series of world-shaping events from 9/11(2001), tsunami (2004) to H1N1 (2009), and we see the huge impact the Internet and new technologies have made on our lives, from the burst of the “ bubble” (2000) to blog (2003), Google (2007) and Twitter (2009), which represent a new trend in social interaction.

The lists are also witnesses of the influences of entertainment sector such as the film “Brokeback” (2004) a new term for gay to “Vampire” (2009), now a symbol of unrequited love. Michael Phelps’s 8-gold-medal accomplishments at the Beijing Olympics had created a Phelpsian (2008) pheat.

The Chinese equivalence of top words came in a more complex fashion. First there are lists of expressions only, not single words. Second, there exist two completely separate lists. One is the list of top expressions from mainstream print media, while the other popular Internet expressions is selected annually from netizen votes.

The mainstream list first appeared in 2002; the Internet version came out in 1999. What is most interesting is that the top expressions on the two sets of lists rarely overlap: The one being mostly concerned with what is public, official, involving macro concerns and interests; the other being private and personal, reflecting attitudes and feelings of the younger generation.

Just like the English top words lists, the Chinese mainstream lists also reflect major events, albeit with a different angle, for instance, anti-terror (2002), Saddam Hussein (2003), bird flu (2004), prisoner abuse (2004) and G20 Summit (2009). The Chinese press also seem much more concerned with the two Olympics and the two World Cups taking place during the decade.

Internet-spawned new words are also creeping into the Chinese language: texting, blog, Baidu (Google’s main competitor in China) and QQ (the Chinese social-networking site) became buzz-words in China, though somewhat later than their English counterparts.

The Chinese entertainment sector is leaving a much bigger impact on the language. Famous lines from Chinese movies or popular shows pass on to become everyday expressions. For instance, “Integrity makes the man” from Cell Phone; “You will pay for what you have done sooner or later” from the Hong Kong movie “Infernal Affairs,” which most Chinese people believe was copied by Hollywood in “The Departed.” ” Money is not a problem” a theme line from a popular skit has become the standard version to satirize certain Chinese people’s pompous attitude to money and concern over face rather than over efficiency.

Green living as a concept is becoming a focus of concern in China too, though on a delayed time schedule. Compared with the fact that “climate change” has dominated the English lists since 2000, the Chinese version didn’t become a top expression till 2009, though expressions like “energy-conservation society” and “energy conservation and emissions reduction” did make their way to the 2005 and 2008 lists.

Although Chinese top expressions demonstrate similar trends to those in English, there are a few most distinctive features. A strong political flavor is found in the Chinese list as reflected in top expressions like the Three Represents (2002), Scientific Approach to Development (2004), and Peaceful Development (2005).

Another most outstanding feature of the Chinese lists is the contrast between the mainstream print media and the Internet: The English lists represent the spread of words in both print and digital media, the Internet, blogs and social media. The Chinese Internet buzzwords are mostly used on the Internet; although many have passed on into everyday life, only a small number have crept into the mainstream media.

Unlike the mainstream media, popular Internet expressions represent what the ordinary Chinese people are actually talking about in non-official contexts. Most of the expressions are highly colloquial, living, creative, and can be cynical. Some of the expressions reveal the new values and attitudes towards current affairs. For instance, da jiang you, which literally means “on the way to get soy sauce”, speaks of a “not concerned” or “staying out of it” attitude. This attitude is also reflected in the expression: zuo fu wo cheng, which literally means “doing push-ups”, in other words not paying any attention to what’s happening.

Some Internet words have gained acceptance in the mainstream media. For instance shan zhai, which literally means “mountain village”. It has now been adapted to mean “counterfeit”, or things done in parody, as in “shanzhai mobile phones”, “shanzhai New Year’s Eve Gala”, and even “shanzhai celebrities”.

From a linguistic point of view, language is simply a tool for communication. When new ideas and concepts pop up, language needs to adapt itself to allow the communication of these ideas and concepts. If the Internet is reshaping our lives, the net-language is only reflecting such changes.

The author is associate professor at the English Department of Xiamen University.

(China Daily 04/16/2010 page9)

And, a final note: once you are at the GLM website, don't forget to read this very interesting article: The top word list of 2010. The link is here:

Enjoy, and see you in class!

Friday, January 7, 2011

APEC English Language Content Standards

Hi there!

My last entry was several days ago, and it was entitled "'Tis the season to be jolly". I believe you've been jolly and did not need something to read.

But I guess it's time we get back to serious things, and that is why I have this entry. I have something that all of you who are in English language teaching in Vietnam nmay eed to know.

Why? Because you know that Vietnam is having this grand national project to upgrade its English language teaching in the next 10 years (called Project 2020). And MOET is developing the new English curriculum for the whole education system (I am partly involved in this, that's why I know).

In order to do that, it's necessary to see what other countries are doing. So I search the Internet and found this site, which has almost everything Vietnam needs. You can go here to find out more.

Two important documents that are relevant to Vietnam:

1. Chinese English Standards

Read this introduction from the site:

Unofficial translation of English standards by grade level including language skills, attitudes, learning strategies, and cultural awareness (translated by the United States Department of Education).

This document is 53 pages in length, consisting of 4 chapters and an appendix. I particularly like chapter 4, Implementation Suggestions. Some really useful case studies with interesting ideas for teaching and assessment.

2. Chinese Language Proficiency Scales for Speakers of Other Languages

Guideline document for teaching Chinese to meet the needs of Chinese language teaching and learning worldwide.

Useful for (1) Teachers of Chinese in Vietnam and elsewhere; and (2) Teachers of Vietnamese who would like to develop proficiency scales for Vietnamese for speakers of other languages.

Read, enjoy, and discuss this with me, will you?

And for those students of mine, see you in class tomorrow!