Archive for April, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why I am not a fan of the Communicative Approach

By David Barker
Author and Publisher of Materials for Japanese Learners of English

I am writing this in response to Alex’s question about why I am not a fan of the Communicative Approach. Let me say before I begin that the case I want to make has already been made far more eloquently by Michael Swan in his 1985 articles in the ELT Journal. If you have not read these, please do. In my opinion, they should be compulsory reading for all language teachers.

A critical look at the Communicative Approach (1)

A critical look at the Communicative Approach (2)

One problem with discussing the Communicative Approach is that the term has come to mean different things to different people. I recently had a very heated discussion with a Japanese teacher of English about Communicative Language Teaching. He insisted that my interpretation was out of date, and that CLT is actually just an umbrella term for any kind of teaching where the goal is to improve the students’ ability to communicate. Under the “correct” definition, he claimed, CLT actually embraces things like Grammar-Translation and the Audio-Lingual Method.

Read more »

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rejoinders and Exclamations(!): They Keep the Conversation Flowing

By Richard Firsten
Retired ESOL Teacher, Teacher-Trainer, Columnist, Author

Ever talk on the phone and not hear the person on the other end say anything – I mean, anything at all? Unsettling, isn’t it. The reason isn’t rocket science. It’s that you’re looking for feedback, for that other person to acknowledge (1) that he or she is paying attention to you; (2) that he/she understands what you’re saying; and (3) that she or he feels there’s some kind of worth in what you’re saying. But that’s not all. You also want to know if (1) the listener agrees or disagrees with you; (2) if he or she is being “entertained” or “amused” by what you have to say; and (3) if she/he has anything worthwhile to add.

Wow! That seems like a lot to expect from a listener, and I’m not just talking about somebody on the phone. Oh, no. It can be somebody standing or sitting a few feet from you right there in front of your eyes. Even if you’re looking at the listener (unlike on “regular” phones, which don’t allow for that), you want – no need – some feedback. That’s when rejoinders and exclamations kick in and do their thing.

Read more »

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Do a Zoologist and a Teacher Have in Common?

By Tamara Jones
ESL Instructor, SHAPE Language Center, Belgium

I was reading an article in the January 2011 edition of O Magazine recently about a zoologist, Laurie Marker, who is working in Namibia to help save the cheetah from extinction. You might wonder what a zoologist in Africa could possibly have in common with an English teacher in Belgium. Well, not much, really. But, one thing that she said in the article really resonated with me. She was talking about how she came to this place in her profession, and she concluded by saying, “I don’t take what I do lightly.”

I don’t take what I do lightly.

Those words have stuck with me for weeks now. I believe they perfectly summarize how I feel about my profession and my career. However, I spent some time thinking about exactly how I demonstrate that I don’t take what I do lightly. What have I done and what do I do to show my dedication to English Language Teaching?

Read more »

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The SHAPAL Method

By David Barker
Author and Publisher of Materials for Japanese Learners of English

Language learners all over the world will no doubt be pleased to hear that I have finally discovered the definitive technique for learning a foreign or second language. I am so confident of its effectiveness that I am prepared to guarantee that anyone who follows it will be successful. I can also say with a high degree of certainty that anyone who chooses not to adopt this Method will be doomed to failure.

I first became aware of the importance of the SHAPAL Method when I was talking to a Canadian who had learned Japanese. Actually, I had been following the Method myself in my own studies, but I had not fully grasped at that point just how universal it was. The Canadian in question was called Chris, and he had mastered Japanese to a higher level than any Westerner I had ever met. My own Japanese was not bad at the time, but it paled next to his command of the language. Of course, I was curious to know more about his study techniques, so I asked him, “How did you learn Japanese? Did you just Study Hard And Practice A Lot?” He looked at me quizzically and enquired, “Do you know any other way?”

Good point.

Stupid question.

Read more »