August 2013

It’s Time for Teachers to Go Back to School

‘Out with the old and in with the new’ is a softer way of saying what I started out calling this blog which was ‘Death of the Accent Reduction Industry’. What’s necessary and exciting is the end of one phase is an opening for new and better. NY Times article on the “charlatanism and quackery” of the “accent reduction industry.” Read More

Enough about death. The first step is to admit there is a problem. Ok, ok, we got it. Teaching grammar and pronunciation does NOT help people become fluent in English. What does work? Speaking Made Simple small

Watch this space for more information on programs that do work:

Jason WestEnglish Out There – confident speaking skills – 30 hours

Rita BakerThe Global Approach – whole language curriculum – 30 hours

Peggy TharpeRevolutionary Accent Reduction Program – 30 hours

and me

Judy ThompsonSpeaking Made Simple – patterns of Spoken English – 30 hours

30 hours is the number. If it is taking longer than 30 hours for you to produce capable, confident English students you are focusing on material that doesn’t make a difference for them. You are taking their money. It is time for teachers to go back to school.

Until next time,

Teacher Judy

Death to the Big Book of Mistakes aka the Dictionary

RIP DictionaryI love LinkedIn Groups and participating in a variety of lively topical discussions. Not everyone agrees all of the time but almost everyone is polite and professional as they share ideas, experiences and links that pertain to the field of teaching ESL/EFL.

Last week a teacher posted a fairly benign topic Dictionaries Needn’t be a Big Yawn It was linked to a blog about why students don’t use dictionaries even suggesting the layout was the problem.

The dictionary is one of my pet peeves. As a 500 year old collection of William Caxton’s spelling mistakes I like to refer to it as the BBM – the Big Book of Mistakes. I took the opportunity to submit a scathing review that began “Dictionaries are more than a yawn they are a hair’s breadth from  useless…

The dictionary is a feature in every English classroom worldwide and arguably the cornerstone of the English language education industry. I suspected my post would garner some defence of the ancient tome. I was wrong.

Here are some other teachers’ paraphrased posts.

Robert Hanley • I would agree with your point that dictionaries are not necessarily a productive means of learning

Jennifer England • Dictionaries can be a double edged sword for learners because they’re not designed for them. The IPA is a crappy way to try and figure out pronunciation.

William Jones • Hard copy dictionaries may not be useful to students. There is not one e-dictionary better than hard copy on the market. I do agree that the IPA is essentially useless to the average student.

Robert McCall • Judy – you´re so refreshing and equally hilarious! I love reading dictionaries in the loo, ripping the pages out and covering the walls – makes interesting wall paper.

I stopped short of suggesting other uses of the dictionary in the loo.

The dictionary is not a tool for learners:

“One has to know how to spell a word before they look it up, what it means or they don’t know which word they want, how it sounds because IPA is not for English students it is for linguists and how the word is used because students often know the meaning of the words (‘blue’ and ‘moon’) but can’t guess the abstract meaning of words together (blue moon=rarely). One of the biggest problems with the dictionary is that it organizes words alphabetically which is ridiculous for a non-phonetic language.”

Them’s fighting words but this day on an international LinkedIn teachers’ site with 16,000 members – no one argued.

If you are interested here is an alternative, the world’s first dictionary by sound Grass is Black ridiculously simple and effective. 

Until next time,

Teacher Judy