May 2013

English is Easy because Every Language is Easy, Even Chinese

There are two videos in this blog but the second one on how to read Chinese is only 6 minutes, so they are well worth the time.

The first one is Benny Lewis. He is an Irish guy who knew for a fact he could not learn languages. He lists his reasons why he thought that in case you or your students find any of them familiar.  Here is his logical, simple method on how to learn to speak a new language. Fluent in 3 Months – Rapid Language Hacking 

“Grammar is not a language; it’s a list of rules” Benny Lewis TEDx

That might be fine for Benny and it might be fine for many languages but Chinese is often touted as the hardest language to learn.  You might be interested in what ShaoLan has to say to refute that myth in a 6 minute video: Learn to read Chinese…with Ease.  Chinese Characters

Benny’s method is a trial by fire and a little about trust. He advocates jumping in – just start talking. Mistakes is how people learn. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Trust yourself to eventually figure it out and trust others will be generous. It is cost effective and worth a try.

ShaoLan reduces the foundation of Chinese writing to its root – its simplest form and builds in a logical way.

What both these amazing methods have in common is PATTERN THINKING. Benny trusts the human brain to find the patterns in language and build on them. ShaoLin actually identifies the base patterns. Both of these language teaching pioneers attribute success to the same basic principle – ATTACH NEW INFORMATION TO INFORMATION THE LEARNER ALREADY KNOWS.

If you want to know how pattern thinking works for every aspect of teaching/learning English, visit

Until next time,

Teacher Judy

Teacher Judy’s Sound Dictionary for Android

The $1.99 solution for North American PRONUNCIATION and SPELLING using colors as a bridge from writing to speaking – and back.

Demonstration PowerPoint click here.

Abstract: The problem this app solves is English is non-phonetic. Students can’t speak English from reading it. Dictionaries arranged alphabetically aren’t helpful. Two critical facts: English is stress-based, one and only one syllable is featured in any word and there’s one and only one vowel sound in any syllable. The Easy Pronunciation Dictionary app solves crazy English spelling by attaching new information to specific information students already know and by categorizing words by sound not spelling. This Android and iPhone resource works for all ESL/EFL students. It dissolves spelling and pronunciation barriers quickly and easily.

You’ll find the iPhone app in the Apple App Store and the Android app at Google Play.

 on google play

Teacher Judy’s Sound Dictionary app for Apple

The $1.99 solution for North American PRONUNCIATION and SPELLING provides a bridge from writing to speaking.

Teacher Judy’s Sound Dictionary app divides the 2,000 most common words in English into 16 chapters by main vowel sound. ESL/EFL students can look up how to spell words they have only heard and can see how to pronounce words they know how to spell but not say.

Demonstration PowerPoint click here.

You’ll find the iPhone app in the Apple App Store.

What have you got to lose?


Testing Comprehensibility vs. Accent in ESL/EFL Students

It was a historic day in ESL!

C/AR Testing Hamilton

C/AR Testing Hamilton

When an English language student says, “Ze meeting iz on Vensday’, there is clearly an accent issue; at the same time no meaning is lost. No one is confused about what is happening or on what day. This is the difference between accent and understandability. Students want to be understandable and we teach them accent reduction – they are not the same thing.

The head of a language school recently contacted me. “Our students pass their speaking tests, but they can’t speak English. Can you make a test that assesses their authentic ability to converse in English?” I was doubly excited by the proposition. I thought I could do it and I knew it had never been done before. ESL schools don’t realize what they are selling as Speaking Classes are either Conversation Classes where students practice their mistakes with people who know less about English than they do, or Pronunciation Classes which focus on accent reduction. Neither program helps students speak English effectively. Reducing accent is more helpful in a sound-based language like Korean or Chinese but for speaking English, accents don’t matter. Everyone who speaks English has an accent. If an accent doesn’t impede their understandability should it be the student’s choice to ‘fix’ their accent or not? What students need to know is how to express themselves in English, how to carry on a conversation. To date Speaking Classes haven’t taught them that. We have been taking their money.

With the help of McMaster graduates and Otterwave voice recognition software, we successfully tested and scored students from a wide range of language backgrounds on both their ability to have a conversation with strangers and measure their accent interference in the same time.

It was awesome.

I can’t say enough about the brave students who volunteered for the test. Every single student at this college participated because they believe the testing will help other students! The students are wonderful and so is their courageous coordinator for outing the silly testing that is in place right now.

The McMaster graduate students will use the Conversation/Accent Reduction test for their new online student speaking software program.

It is a new day and long overdue.

Until next time,

Teacher Judy