Archive for December, 2018

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Just keep doing it

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

“Just do it!” is a slogan used by one of the world’s biggest makers of sportswear and sports equipment. Wherever you live in the world, you have probably seen it on T-shirts, on signs, on posters, and in many advertisements and TV commercials. It is simple, catchy, and memorable—all the things that make a great slogan.  Generally speaking, “Just do it” is great advice for life. It reminds us that we should do what we want to do (or what we know that we need to do) without overthinking or procrastinating. As clever as this slogan is, however, it is actually not very good advice for language learners. Or rather, it is somewhat incomplete. Let me explain what I mean.

In order to achieve a long-term goal or outcome, there are three steps that need to be taken:

  1. Decide to do something.
  2. Do it.
  3. Keep doing it.

The first two of these are relatively easy.

Read more »

What’s an ESOL Teacher to Do?

Richard FirstenRichard Firsten is a retired ESOL teacher, teacher-trainer and columnist

I taught ESOL for over 35 years before I retired. During those years I was a classroom teacher, associate director of a university English language institute, and author of a number of textbooks both for students and teachers. I’m mentioning this because I want you to know how relieved I am that I’m now retired and not forced to deal with what I see going on in English these days.

Being retired, I have the luxury of time to observe how everyday native speakers are using the language in a variety of settings and contexts, and I have noticed some remarkable things going on that have taken hold where 20 years ago they never would have. The thing is, how does an ESOL teacher deal with what’s going on in grammar? Does the teacher stick strictly to what the textbooks say is standard English grammar in her/his lesson plans, or does the teacher incorporate into lesson plans the grammar changes that have taken hold even though those changes are contrary to what textbooks say? Mind you, I’m not talking about stylistic matters, only grammar.

Here’s a case in point, something that really did happen to me. I’d taught my class a lesson straight from their textbook about how certain foods are uncountable nouns, e.g., ‘bread’, ‘water’, ‘coffee’, ‘lettuce’, etc. I explained that in order to count these things, we must say ‘a loaf of bread’, ‘two glasses of water’, ‘three cups of coffee’, ‘a head of lettuce’. And then the next day two students who were in that class raise their hands in class and say, “Mr. Firsten, we ate dinner in a restaurant last night. We heard the waitress say, ‘So you want two coffees, right?’ Did she use bad grammar?” Yes, my face turned slightly red. Yes, I was at a loss for words momentarily. But then I realized I’d heard phrases like that a thousand times. So why was I teaching that my students must say ‘two cups of coffee’ and only ‘two cups of coffee’? Why wasn’t I giving them an alternative that the textbook failed to mention?

Read more »