Monday, 29 June 2015

Discussions--Series 25--ELT Professionals Around the World

Please go to Post 68 and then come back here. Thanks.

Discussions—Series Twenty-five
Topic 62
Worst practices?
David  Deubelbeiss Assistant Professor, Nipissing University. Technology Consultant / Entrepreneur
Top Contributor
We talk and discuss a lot about "best practices" in teaching. Rules of thumb and guidelines for quality teaching. However, it is my contention that teaching is not a zero sum game. Meaning, teaching isn't something that just by its own state, adds to student learning. It can also hurt student learning and there are negatives. 

What are some of the worst teaching practices in your view? What do teachers do that can harm student learning then and now and also for future months/years? I'm sure there are even many common practices that some of us might consider as harmful.

Two negative practices stand out in my mind and involve the perception by students of favoritism: 1. When the teacher focuses on the most able learners to the exclusion of the more shy able learners who need to be drawn into a discussion or exercise. 2. A report by one of my students from an Arabic university. The teacher ,she claimed, focused on the
wealthy in class to the exclusion of the poor. The first example can be the result of a teacher more comfortable with the talkers, the 2nd a cultural issue within a class compounded by self esteem issues of the student.
 K R Lakshminarayanan likes this

Top Contributor
Considering themselves superior and mocking / belittling/ humiliating weak learners in front of their peers by word and deed
Having fun at the ignorance of learners
Reading learners’ gestures wrongly and thus hurting them
Calling students names
Accepting another teacher’s image of certain students and looking at them with prejudiced perception and developing a negative attitude
and thus wounding their ego, destroying their confidence, initiating a dislike for the subject
and thus paving way for bad blood (as a possible worst result)

Topic 63
What should I do the first day of classes? Neither the students nor I will have books or the class objectives/curriculum by then. What do I talk about or do?
Duane Flanigan TEFL Instructor at Greater Circle Learning Institute

active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai
Top Contributor
Even if you and your students do have the coursebook(s) and / or workbook(s) ready, it's better you start with introductions. You and your students should move from being strangers to acquaintances and to friends. First talk about yourself as a student in school and then in college, your family, your thoughts on learning, how you saw your teachers. Be informal, smile, have constant eye contact with all your students, your eyes touching every one, use your face and hands and body to go with your thoughts (do these every time you are in class for body language is better picked up subconsciously). Then get your students to follow the same pattern and introduce themselves.

Even if you had only 10 students, this activity will move into the second class as well.
Then you can talk about classroom management, what your learners can expect from you and what you expect from them--fulfilling expectations is a crucial aspect in the success of learning-teaching process.

Topic 64
Could you please tell me about the useful methods of improving students' writing? How it could be facilitated?
Reza Baharloui Sports, Turism and general translator ,English Instructor, Exercise physiologist
Top Contributor

active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai
Top Contributor
Can they form sentences, can they select the right vocabulary? Can they write short paragraphs? Can they use tenses appropriately? Can your students describe a place, a person, an incident? In other words, can they put in writing what they think about something? Can they describe feelings, emotions? Can they argue for or against? Can they analyse a situation? can they narrate a story or an activity?

Help will depend on your answers to these.

Hi Nelson
One paragraph in only simple sentences is possible but three paragraphs? I should one try myself.

Most students should be comfortable with familiar experiences or actions. Sympathy, affection, jealousy are common enough emotions among learners. Games, films, video games and gossip are common enough topics among learners.

Get your learners to speak about these, share their narrations, descriptions, analysis of events or happenings. Let them put it on paper. Get them to edit their writing by telling them to revise so they can take care of spelling, grammar, logic, sequence errors. Peer correction is possible but you should be wary of snide remarks or mocking eyes. Of course you can also suggest improvements.

Interesting topics, content treatments, unique styles, convincing arguments can be read out to class as a gesture of your appreciation and as samples of good writing. Such encouragement should add to their motivation.

Topic 65
I love my job! Do you?
Thibault van der Straten Waillet Senior Teacher at EF English First

This morning, it was snowing so much they canceled my kids’ schools. I pushed my way through the wind and snow, arrived at the train station to board my train to work just on time, and sat down to write this. I listened as passengers on the ttrain...

Top Contributor
I've retired from classroom teaching but keep in touch with students through my books. The moment I entered the classroom, only my students and what they did or attempted to do mattered, I'd be oblivious to the rest of the world. Successes made us happy but failures did not deter us from moving forward.

I'd like to share with everyone through this discussion--thanks to you, Thibault--dedication of my autobiography: what happens in a man's innermost, to my students through a poem:

my students
under whose studently affection I live

you’ve been
Niagara to my eyes
music to my ears
roses to my nostrils
poetry to my lips
the beat of my heart
the blood in my veins
the salt of my life

you haven’t been blind
you haven’t been deaf
you haven’t been mute
in fact
i’ve received more than i’ve given
thank you my students
for everything!
 Jeffrey Diamond likes this

Founder and Director of VerbMatrix, Director of the English Center at Tecnun, the Engineering School of the U of Navarra

Dear Lakshminarayanan,
Something you said struck a chord with me. In my neighborhood in Hondarribia, a small beach resort and fishing town of about 16,000 on the Basque coast in northern Spain, we have a serious problem with a neighbor with psychological problems. It is often exasperating that the judicial system is so slow to react, the police so inefficient and city hall so worthless. It can be depressing. But an hour with my students snaps me out of it and after class I see the world in a different light.
 K R Lakshminarayanan likes this

Hi Jeffrey
Being with students is so solacing!
 Jeffrey Diamond likes this

Senior Teacher at EF English First
I am so happy to witness that so many people are feeling the same way towards their job. It's really a motivating thing to live and do something that you really care for! Keep up people !!! Sometimes, skies are grey, sometimes rain pours, but sunshine always comes back. And with a positive attitude, it's not even crazy to think that we can make the weather we want!! :)

Topic 66
Does the English language need more letters?
David Deubelbeiss Assistant Professor, Nipissing University. Technology Consultant / Entrepreneur
Top Contributor
I'm serious. Many think that the alphabet needs reform and doesn't also allow a writer to perfectly transcribe the sounds they speak. What's your thoughts on this? Got any sounds that should have a new letter?

Here are some old letters that we used to use and might dust off and bring back.
You know the alphabet. It’s one of the first things you’re taught in school. But did you know that they’re not teaching you all of the alphabet? There are quite a few letters we tossed aside as our language grew, and you probably never even knew...

Top Contributor
What are we trying to do here? It's the idiosyncratic nature of a language that makes it fascinating. It's the complexities of language use that brings beauty to a language. It's the intricacies of a language that brings charm to a language. Despite the difficulties non-native users of English (even native ones?) face, they (both) have managed to learn and use it and express themselves lucidly enough. Why open the Pandora's box?

This makes me imagine what would happen to Thamizh which has more than 200 letters (vowels and consonants and complete combinations of both, each vowel going with each consonant so that all the sounds in the language are represented in writing, except that we have the same letter representing 'p' and 'b' and 'k' and 'g' as in 'game') if we tried to reduce the number of letters!

In French and Hindi, inanimate objects are either male or female.

I'm serious, too, David!
 Will S.KM Abdul Mumin and 1 other like this

David, by this: The difference between Thamizh (Hindi, Begnali, etc.) is that the alphabets have an easy-to-learn logic, and are based on the Sanskrit alphabet,...' do you mean that the Thamizh alphabet originated from the Sanskrit one?

If I'm not mistaken, Thamizh is a member of Dravidian family but according to one source, Wikipedia, 'Dravidian is one of the primary language families in the Nostratic proposal, which would link most languages in North Africa, Europe and Western Asia into a family with its origins in the Fertile Crescent sometime between the last Ice Age and the emergence of proto-Indo-European 4–6 thousand years BCE. However, the general consensus is that such deep connections are not, or not yet, demonstrable.' I don't know if this is right.

I know this much from my personal experience of having learning to speak Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, a North African country, there are very great similarities in the sentence patterns of both Thamizh and Amharic.

Please throw some (why a lot, I'm sure you can) light on these, won't you? Thanks. I'm curious.
KM Abdul Mumin likes this

Director of Studies at Cactus Language Training
(It was Rod, not David)

The Brahmic alphabets used in the Sub-Continent are either directly taken from Sanksrit (the one used by Hindi and Bengali, for example) or are adaptations of that, or in many cases "sister" alphabets that came from the older Brahmi script that Sanskrit is a descendant of. In other words - I said it wrong for Thamizh - the Thamizh script is related to the Sanskrit script.

Tamil/Thamizh, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam are Dravidian lanaguges, and therefore not related to the Indo-European languages of India and beyond (Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Singhalese, Persian, Kurdish, Greek, Latin, English, German, etc.).

The Nostratic proposal is in theory possible, that Dravidian and Indo-European (and other langauge families in Asia and Europe) are distantly, related but separated from each other well before 7000 years ago. But that would not have been at the end of the last ice age (10,000 years ago), it would be much further back in the past (even 20,000 or so years).

However, "modern" man spread from Africa along the coast to India and beyond to Australia etc. around 70,000 years ago (as well as other directions). They already spoke fully fledged languages way back then, and so early relationships between unrelated language families can potentially be very far back in the past - way beyond what modern historical linguistics can reconstruct. Some similarities (particularly sounds and grammar) between Dravidian langauges and Australian Aboriginal langauges, for example, have led some linguists to suggest that these two groups are related.

Most modern reconstructions only go back around 7000 years at most, with some such as Nostratic going further back, over 10,000 years. Beyond 20,000/25,000 years back things get basically impossible.

Amharic is in the same family as Arabic and Hebrew (the Semitic-Hamitic group)- and the theory that the Semitic-Hamitic languages and the Indo-European languages are distantly related has been around a long time - and it is perhaps logical. Both language families originated in the same general area of the world, what is now called the Middle East.

Rod, I'm sorry about the addressing. And thanks for a clear picture.
Rod Mitchell likes this

PS - I myself am all for keeping English writing as it is, don't get me wrong. However, I also recognise that the English speaking world would be better off in the long run if spelling was "judiciously" reformed - not in the drastic way of 40+ letters, or the "tongue-in-cheek" way I did to show the ridiculous lengths reform can go.

"It's a puzzle well-worth unraveliing." This is why English spelling - if reformed - will be as minimalistic as possible - and will keep us who are interested in etymology and all that quite happy.

(Note - not Old German - Old English [Old German was a sister language of Old English - Old English is also in its written form a few hundred years older than Old German - Old German is the ancestor of the modern German dialects]; also - in Southern English, the direct ancestor of Modern Standard English, the inflections didn't die out until 2 or 3 hundred years AFTER the Norman Conquest.

London was in Saxon territory (between Middlesex, Essex, Kent [not Saxon], Surrey and Wessex. The main Norse settlements were in Anglian territory. Real northern influence in Standard English didn't start happening in reality till the 1500s when numbers of well-off northerners started settling in London.

It is not so much that the Normans "demanded" the use of the Latin Alphabet - for one the English had been using the Latin Alphabet for centuries - it was introduced by Irish monks/missionaries as early as the 600s - the process was that the Norman scribes and the English trained by them simply - naturally - used the spelling system they had been bought up on - the Old French spelling system. However, this happened in the generations after William the Conquerer. In the early days, most English "public servants" stayed in their positions and continued to use English. Willima himself tried to learn English, because for him he had become the King of the English legally through English law. It was his sons that started the strong move against English.

However, in different parts of England the mix bnetween the Anglo-Saxion system and the Norman system happened ni different ways. It was "piece-meal". A knowledge of Old English writing was kept. it is clear that some English writers did pay attention to the Old English system as well as the Norman system for a few centuries.

Which is another reason why our spelling is so hay-wire nowadays - the mix of Norman and native English pulls.

Jumping in here to state something but also say thank you to all those who've contributed. Not my area of specialization/interest and I'm learning lots. 

But foremost want to address what Rod posted about learning the sound/letter connection. Yes, would be easier with a phonetic alphabet (Koreans say anyone can learn to read phonetically Korean in less than a day! and hanguel is used often to record in script many dying languages). However, another thing that would make it much easier for children to achieve phonemic awareness is if they learned this through their own voices. Usually children learn the sound/letter connection through a foreign script, something they know little about but supported with lots of context/pictures. Better if the child speaks for themselves and sees this spelled. This would cut years off of the arduous task of learning to sound the letters. 

All this said, still have to throw out the usual caution to those new to teaching/education and who are reading this - really reading this. Reading is about lots more than a sound/letter connection. The reading brain so young, so fragile, so incomplete. It's hard to become a good reader but thanks to Gutenberg and all those involved in paper, ink and now digital text, a very rewarding thing to master. This world in fact, is a world created by readers. "nough said but there is a lot in that statement. (and highly recommend anyone interested to dip into the works of Frank Smith or Maryanne Wolfe on the topic of reading, the reading brain). 

To end, as Chaucer so long but shrt ago said, " The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne"

Topic 67
Do you think body language is important for learning English?
KM Abdul Mumin DM (Admin & Training) at Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation
Top Contributor
I think body language is important for learning any language, let alone English. It's easy to learn for NSs. NNSs can also learn it easily if they get NSs as their teachers. Unfortunately, most of NNSs can't learn it so well from their teachers who are NNS. In this case, I suggest my students for watching English movies and TV programs as alternatives to acquire body language imitating the NSs. If you could share your views and experience in this regard, it'll be useful to me.

Hi Abdul
I agree with you but I'd like to take it further. Words can clothe and hide your innerworkings but body language can and does play 'rogue' and reveal them, unless of course you're an excellent actor (pretender).

Yes, I used films one of the purposes of which was asking students to notice the body language.
KM Abdul Mumin likes this

Director at National Unity in language
Top Contributor
Abdul, As you know I advocate teaching pronunciation from the ground up. But body language is so interesting to see, and so variable from person to person, that I have not taught it. It is very easy to understand to me, even if I have never seen the gestures, because it is so part of the language meaning context. I enjoy it very much.
KM Abdul Mumin likes this

English teacher at SEIHA
Top Contributor
When you walk into a class of beginners, body language is half your method of communication. In fact you magnify your actions to emphasise your meaning. I'm almost like Charlie Chaplin on some days. I just wish I could be really talented like Rowen Atkinson or Jim Carey or the like. That would be so useful in class!

English Language Trainer -“We breathe in our first language, and swim in our second.”
Haha :)) coming to think of it, I must look like a silent movie heroine most of the time in class.

As for teaching body language... I rarely do it explicitly. What I usually do is give my students advice on how to sound (and look) confident, especially when I help them prepare for an exam or job interview.

I also keep asking them to speak up and look at the person they're talking to. I've never really thought of why I do it- it comes instinctively- but of course it's all about positive body language. And that's essential for successful communication.

Or there's also a role-play I sometimes use in which they have to act out certain personality traits and their partners have to guess what it is... it comes quite close to 'teaching' body language :)
KM Abdul Mumin likes this

english teacher at Synergy International Training and Testing
Hi Abdul, body language is universal but understanding the signs is the difficult part. Whether NS or not we each have to learn our own cultural body language. It is different for all cultures, there are many variables.

Richard is on track when he mentioned walking into the classroom. Your brain would have formed an impression within the first 20 seconds. Not only movement but smell and clothing styles come into play. If you look at the more densely populated cities their body language is totally different to a country dweller.

Its a matter of personal space. When I teach body language one of my exercises is getting my students to hold their arms out to their side, I have a 1.5 metre personal space as I love to be outdoors. My students here have a space of 0.6 to 0.8 metre, more than that then they feel uncomfortable.

In Australia we have been very lucky to have an educator and writer by the name of Alan Pease. See if you can find one of his books, it will really help in teaching body language. I also include eye movements and eye positions, this can be difficult in some cultures as looking straight into someones eyes can be considered impolite. If your students agree then you can learn even more about a person in a short space of time.

I shock some of my students at times as they think I can read their thoughts by observing their actions. Finally try getting your students to look at people having a conversation and try to imagine what the conversation is about. Sometimes this is better than watching movies or TV. Hope this info helps. Oh I just reread Melinda's post and it reminded me of " mirroring " another person and studying and acting their movements.
KM Abdul Mumin likes this

Now that I come to think of it, body language is an integral part of any interactive activity, of which learning English is one (which involves communication). I consider 'silence' as the most telling one for it can be louder than words, though it can be misinterpreted, but for that matter any interaction--oral, vocal, body--can be misinterpreted by a prejudiced mind.

Of the several non-verbals (nodding, proximity (personal space), touch, orientation[posture], time, physical characteristics, speech aspects: voice, tone, stress, accent, volume), eye contact is the most important for its absence would in all probability be construed to ignoring the listener(s), and language is only one mode of communication.
KM Abdul Mumin likes this

Topic 68
Do students learning English as a second language learn differently from those who are native speakers?
Judith Morais Teacher at Education Queensland Top Contributor

Why not let 'native-speaker-students' take on the role of 'teacher' to ESL students in areas where the former are good and the latter need teaching (of course after identifying them). Of course under your supervision since there is a possible danger of the former showing off their superiority if both are left to themselves. Once these two groups jell and you see its evidence, you may forget the supervision part of it.

But you may have to watch out for 'boredom' raising its head (in the case of either group) a few weeks after the former have had 'fun'; perhaps some one-act plays can be selected and the two groups can role play the characters.
Derek W.Rod Mitchell like this

In this thread we are talking specifically about ESL (non-native) kids within a mainstream (= native speaker) school. ESL students whose English is deemed good enough to "sink or swim". So the levels can be anything like 4 or 5 within the same class, from nominal upper intermediate (= advanced in the US system) to native speaker-like (and then there are the native speaker students, who can also speak local English dialect/accent - in the case of Brisbane South-East Queensland English). Some of the students might also be native speakers from other countries (South African, British, Irish, US, Canada, New Zealand, etc.).

The classes are not decided on proficiency of English, but on age/previous schooling. Such schools might or might not have separate ESL classes that focus specifically on the English language for non-natives.

The focus of the mainstream classes is not English language; it is maths, or sciences, or social studies, or English for native speakers (English literature, etc.), and so on. In other words, kids in classes studying native speaker subjects at native speaker speed and level.

The ESL students can either be the children of immigrants to Australia [in this specisfic case], or children (Taiwanese, Mainland Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian, etc.) who have been sent to Australia by their parents specifically to do secondary schooling in Australia, then to go to university in Australia.

The realities of such education is that the whole system focuses on native speaker learning processes - as I said - ESL students "sink or swim".

The ESL and mainstream students are at comparable levels in the general knowledge they have (maths, sciences, etc.); the ESL students have passed an IELTS or similar exam showing their nominal English language competency (or come from schooling where English plays an important part, perhaps as the main medium of intruction or bilingual instruction).

Perhaps Yogeshkumar speaks from experience. But learning English as another language by my students in India, Ethiopia and Nigeria--I've taught tens of thousands--wasn't as gloomy as he presents (as far as I could observe, of course some had problems), based on my 43 years of teaching it.

Not so much gloominess from experience - but talking about the real issues facing students of English in non-English speaking areas where - once you go out from the school or leave school, it can be difficult to do anything with English.

The beauty of the internet age is that now we have this great tool for so much - including English improvement. Or if I wanted to learn Mongolian or Tibetan or Hawaian or Mandarin - I can find all sorts of resources - and teachers - online.

Hi William
'Therefore, I would say that those students learning English have a slight advantage over those learning English being second language students.' It's not clear to me who you're referring to in 'those students learning English'.

I think learners of English as L2, whether children (born in L1 environment) or adults (staying in L1 environment for a period), pick up English the way it's spoken around them with ease--I've evidenced this in a yesterday's TV visual where Indian children participating in an Indian Karnatic music show held in California spoke with the American pronunciation, stress and intonation and I evidenced this when my old students from SVCE conversed with me during their trip to Chennai. The immersion or the infection happens and is visible to the ear!

Of course there were some who continued to speak English the way they were speaking before they left the Indian shores. I asked the latter ( the some) why they weren't speaking English like Americans do, they weren't able to explain it. I'm not sure either, for a Bengali friend of mine has lived in America for a good number of years teaching maths but spoke English (and still is though retired) like a Bengali does. Amazing isn't it?! He couldn't explain it either.
sarah A.Rod Mitchell like this

We at Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering years ago faced a situation similar to what Judith narrates in her latest comment. Students from both English-medium and regional-medium schools entered engineering collages for further studies. The latter were totally at sea with the whole learning environment for English was the medium of instruction. So we decided to put regional medium students in a separate class and coach them using Thamizh and English as the medium. Initially, the move was welcomed but as time went on they felt cheated of 'competition' by being removed from their English-medium batch mates! They said they would prefer to work with the other batch mates side by side, however difficult that could be for them. It was a revelation to us, we expressed our regret and put them back.

We should have tried this experiment with students in the following years to see if there was merit in our assumption and in the students' claim, but the Management wasn't interested, and an interesting research experiment got aborted.

Would you, Judith, if you could succeed doing something like we did?
Rod Mitchell likes this

If getting to 'compete' with L1 learners is the point, yes, splitting would be inadvisable. But, Judith, aren't these L2 learners already immersed by living in 'native English-speaking environment'? You might try the experiment if the situation permits.
Rod Mitchell likes this

In some schools in Brisbane (and elsewhere), separate classes are possible because of the numbers of the students and also the particular “stream” (by this I mean courses) the student is doing (focusing in technical, or computing, or acting, languages, or whatever) with regard to possible future university studies.

Such classes focus on the English necessary for a range of subjects, however, the students also attend the mainstream subjects. The real difference is that when the mainstream kids are doing their English class, the ESL do their own English class, though the two come together in various ways.

The ESL students themselves in general prefer to be with the mainstream kids, their parents want it, and so on – because that is why they are attending an English-medium school (in the case of foreign kids going to Australia specifically to attend an English-medium high school in an English speaking country). That is the whole point. As Judith says, generally high achievers and highly capable, with (if I might add) a higher average IQ than their mainstream colleagues – statistically speaking.

There are also those ESL students that are rarely seen in big cities like Brisbane – those students from linguistic minorities within a country like Australia, both indigenous Australians as well as established immigrant communities who have managed to keep their language, such as towns where a large part of the population is Sicilian, or the like, where the community language is not English. This is a very different category, such indigenous communities being “remote” tribal areas with all the negatives of colonization etc.., and in some cases where immigrant communities are concerned, might also include factors of educational disabilities of various types.

In such cases, a good case can be made for education in the 1st language and the dominant language. Note also that in Brisbane, there are some high schools that run “immersion” classes, such as for those students doing German, they do some subjects (maths, science, history or whatever) in German, and others in English. Another category where all students are expected to work NOT through the dominant language, but through the language being learnt.
 K R Lakshminarayanan likes this

Topic 69
Can’t a verb be used in the plural after the interrogative ‘who’?
K R Lakshminarayanan active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai
Top Contributor
Can't we ask:
Who is coming with me to the party?
Who are coming with me to the party?

Should we say: who is coming to the party? irrespective of what the answer might be.

Is 'why' grammatically only singular?

EFL/ESL Senior Instructor/ESL Department Manager/Curriculum Writer/Teacher Trainer
1. The first question is correct (Who is ...), not the second (Who are ...).
2. "Irrespective of what the answer might be"? This sounds too general. I would rephrase that and say "irrespective of whether the subject in the answer is singular or plural." The answer then is yes.
3. "Is 'why' grammatically only singular?" What do you mean? No, we can say,"Why does he ...?" and "why do they," "why is ..." and "why are they..."

Top Contributor
It looks like a matter of case. 'Who are the proponents of this theory?'
I think you mean 'Is 'who' only grammatically singular?'

Enseignante chez Institution Sévigné
I would understand the question What is the difference between why and what for. But I fail to understand your question about why being singular or plural. I would think the matter is irreleval. We can say Why do you take your umbrella? Why do they take their umbrella?
Maybe if you gave us an example, we could understand.

About who, I agree with Mokhtar. We can say Who is coming?, even if we expect a plural answer, My brother and I are coming.

But we'll use the plural form in these cases: Who are these people? My teachers!

Bilingual School New Horizons, Santo Domingo
If the verb after "who" is any other verb than "to be" then "who"has to be followed by third person singular verb.

The answer can be singular or plural. Ex. Who speaks? We do. Or He does.

ESL Skill Facilitator at biznes.ESL - A Corporate Lingua Corridor
Why not, "Who are all coming with me to the party?" :)

English has greater and flexible "options/ choice of words" of putting idea/s precisely!

another pattern: Who (all) would like to go with me to the party?

Don't get stuck to the traditional syntactical approach to express ideas! Try something practical that shares meaning and probably adds some style to what you are trying to express; if not, none would come with you to party! :)

'Who's coming with me to the party?'
The difference looks like one is an auxiliary verb.

EFL/ESL Senior Instructor/ESL Department Manager/Curriculum Writer/Teacher Trainer
Nixon, languages are governed by specific rules that allow users to communicate effectively and clearly. These rules form standards that put order in a language. These standards apply throughout the world's English speaking community. If you "try something practical," as you say, then there will be chaos and lack of accurate communication. Languages change, but unless the change gets established and accepted by a large community of users, we should stick to what exists as official standards. And, what's so unpractical about following the rules shared by a significant number of speakers?

I also don't think your question "Who (all) would like to go with me to the party?" is grammatical if you insert the "all" in it. I know it's sub-standard or slang (no offense intended). However, as a teacher of EFL, I wouldn't teach it to my students. If they come across it, I'll tell them what it is, but discourage them from using it.

I know y'all don't consider some expressions as standard, or appropriate for teaching, but I would include them in informal writing instruction if they are the standard, or accepted, for a wide enough demographic, if not for formal speech, but for a common register.
Nixon Balaiah likes this

I'm sorry about the error; it should've been 'who' and not 'why'.

In an attempt to get an answer through internet, I came across the first page of an article entitled ‘Is WHO really a singular?’ and written by Sylvia Chalker at editor

She cites these examples to say a plural verb should be used in these sample sentences:
Who are playing Navrotilova and Shriver in the women’s doubles?
Who are going to work together on this project?
Who help each other most in time of trouble—rich or poor?
Who are ‘divided by their common language’?
Who were fighting among themselves at that time?
Who play the duets in tomorrow’s concert?
Who have the leading roles in this production?
Who have been appointed director and stage manager?
Who are playing Macbeth and Banquo?

These examples provide a context and thus justify the verb in plural. But what about these which are her examples, too:
Who inhabit those remote treeless valleys?
Who were pouring across Europe in the Dark Ages, bringing destruction in their wake?

Here the plurality is obvious even without an explicitly stated context. So I think a plural verb can follow 'who'.

ESL Skill Facilitator at biznes.ESL - A Corporate Lingua Corridor
Mokhtar sir,

"...languages are governed by specific rules that allow users to communicate effectively and clearly." I have a simple question not very clear to me though! Why the English moved from Shakespeare to the present form!

In a party, none would ask as you refer to (rules form standards that put order in a language): "Lo! Wilt thou goest with me whither to the party?"

I read the article you mentioned, Kolipaka, but I can't be completely convinced, some of the examples sound so strange. It would be good to find a real trustworthy grammar rule. Any grammarian around?

And Nixon, have you been partying too much for the new year? A language evolves, we all agree, but it still has to follow rules - grammar is the one. Just look at your example, the spelling has evolved, not the grammar!

Both can be used in the interrogatives sentences. ıf you want only one person to come with you, of course you can use " who is coming.....?" however, ıf you want persons more than one you can ask "who are coming.....? either is possible.

Thanks Agnes for taking the trouble to read the article I'd mentioned. Today's grammar is more descriptive than prescriptive, I guess. Besides, a usage prevalent in a community may take sometime to be incorporated in grammar books--for instance, ending a sentence with a preposition or using 'they' as a pronoun for 'everyone' or for that matter the choice of 'Ms.

To my mind, if the 'how' (expressions) can describe the 'what' (thoughts) appropriately, it doesn't matter what grammar rules say, for grammar rules are only reference points, not the be-all and end-all of how a language is being used or should be used.

Look at these:
‘In response Havelock shook his head, waved his hands dismissingly’ writes Arthur Hailey in The Evening News. ‘She had been working in a massive Washington law firm as a labor lawyer, married Morton Traynor, also a labor lawyer, and settled into dulldom’ writes Leon Uris in his A God in Ruins. or for that matter, I see 'no' as a question tag as in:
Robert Ludlum’s The Ambler Warning
I always bring lots of fruit on a mission. Much nicer than rations, no?’

Teacher at Oulu-Opisto
@ Agnes had is spot on with:
About who, I agree with Mokhtar. We can say Who is coming?, even if we expect a plural answer, My brother and I are coming.
But we'll use the plural form in these cases: Who are these people? My teachers!

@Kolipaka had many similar examples where who is followed by a plural verb:
Who are playing Navrotilova and Shriver in the women’s doubles?
Who are going to work together on this project?

I think I am at least better prepared if a student asks me something like this. Thank you all, who took part in this.

I would stick with 'Who is coming' regardless of number of comers.
I think there's a difference of what is required for 'to be' being used as the main verb, and as the auxiliary.

Topic 70
Announcement from ELT Professionals Around The World
David Deubelbeiss Assistant Professor, Nipissing University. Technology Consultant / Entrepreneur Top Contributor
Dear ELT Professionals,

Just a few words to share some news and items of interest. Congratulations to all for your contributions on the community. I'm always so surprised at the generosity and intelligence of everyone here.

1. Find below the most popular conversations from this winter (so far). I've updated our archive and view the previous full list here - Also, see all the latest activity -

2. Please refrain from posting just to become a top contributor. A number are doing that and they'll be deleted. Take your time, don't just post a question but rather give it some context and tell us why you are asking the question. Engage us and we'll engage you!

3. We welcome more teachers introducing themselves. But please do so by using the discussion for that.

4. The EFL Classroom 2.0 Newsletter has just been published. Lots of interest to teachers. Resources and professional development.



Winter 2014 - Popular Discussions

1. Does the English Language need more letters?
2. Grammar comes before vocabulary.
3. SMS texting language is worrying me.
4. Effective ways to teach phrasal verbs.
5. Should we teach students to swear?
6. To what extent are teachers responsible for student motivation?
7. Which education is better: online or offline?
8. Is there a rule to use verb + inf. VS verb + pres. part?

Thanks for all the info. I'll definitely take a look at those mentioned in point 1.
KM Abdul Mumin likes this

Hi David
Google search says both the links you've given in point 1: and didn't match any documents.

Ah, somehow they didn't hyperlink! You won't get them through google search, youll have to put in the exact url into the address box. Here are the direct links.

I'm interested in a few discussions--7 and 10 of Winter 2012--2013,, 1 of summer 2012 and 11 of Archived. Can I possibly add comments to these?

@KR Unfortunately, LinkedIN controls when discussions become read only and archived. Wish it weren't so. You can always start the same discussion again and provide a link to the old archived one? If you think it important enough to continue ..... 

@Arzoo Thank you for your recognition. Like us all, try my best. Look forward to your take on teaching phrasal verbs. Not an easy thing! About file sharing. Probably best to add the file to EFL Classroom 2.0 or a file sharing service like, Mediafire. Then share the url with us. Unfortunately on this community, no uploading and storage of files. You might also if you use gmail, use google docs and share it as public.

Topic 71
As a result, consequently, and Hence;The meanings of these linkers seem to be same. Can they be substitute each other at upper-int. level? I would like to see your responses? Because....

1. No help was forthcoming; as a result, he had to go it alone.
2. This poses a threat to agriculture and the food chain, and consequently to human
3. We suspect they are trying to hide something, hence the need for an independent

I know ‘hence’ is a formal expression. The other two sound formal as well. So, I conclude that they are generally used in formal contexts and writing. Another is that they are rarely heard in conversations. To my mind, these three couldn't replace 'so' in the previous sentence.

4. It was still painful, so / therefore I went to see a doctor.
5. He’s only 17 and so / therefore not eligible to vote.
These sound informal to me and are more common in conversations.

While I consider substituting ‘so’ or ‘therefore’ in the first three sentences acceptable, I’d consider odd substituting the first ‘three’ for the second ‘two’.

I have an interesting piece of information I’d like to share. I came across this in Collins Everyday English Usage compiled by R. D. Thomson and A. H. Harvine (1960):
The following sentence illustrates the commonest error
in the use of so: ‘It was wet, so we went out.’ This should
be either: ‘As it was wet we went out’ or ‘it was wet; so
we went out’ (so meaning ‘therefore’).

What do you think?

Hi Jennifer
'I would be very cautious about the interchangeability (is that a word?) of any English expressions, Firstly I don't think any of them can be used in the ways given in some of the sentences above, as they are all mainly markers for a new sentence...'

I take it that my examples are not part of the 'some'; It is for my own benefit that I seek this clarification as learning never ends. Thanks.

Freelance consultant
@ Lakshminarayan and Frank:
I think your sentences are OK, although I would add a colon or 'and' before hence and possibly commas round consequently. I also strongly agree that 4 and 5 would sound ridiculous with these formal connectors. Interestingly I was just reading a research study on the use of these, yesterday, and it also confirmed what we are saying, Consequently is often given as only a sentence initial marker, but I have often found it embedded further into sentences or that sentences are combined in with and as you do here. (I found one in a (very well-written) a PhD I was reading this morning, as a matter of interest, My 'some' referred to the examples Mehmet gave, which David D also commented on!

I would approach IELTS sites with caution. Some of them do stupid things like providing students with lists of such markers and encourage them to put them in wherever possible regardless of text content. This leads to a phenomenon known in the trade (i'e'e the trade of putting right all the false impressions about academic writing given by much IELTS preparation!) as 'sprinkling'. University lecturers spend much of their time shaking their heads over the assignments their students produce which are' sprinkled' with random and confusing and totally unnecessary markers!

Topic 72
Error Correction: Does it help?
Thomas Keller Director of Language Institute; Director of Translation Program at Universidad de las Americas, Chile Top Contributor

What are errors & how should we  deal with them in our classes? - Scott Thornbury When I first started teaching the answer to these two questions was clear and...

Top Contributor
I like Rod Ellis' approach in this talk. Really worth while lecture on the subject -

I've always advocated that when possible, try to correct indirectly through recast or modeling. The real goal is to get the learner to self monitor and to begin to notice their own language production and self correct.

Top Contributor
Thanks a bunch, David, for the link to Rod Ellis' talk. It presents a very neat, clear overview and summary of the varied positions taken by research and pedagogy about what, when, where and how of correction feedback by the teacher to the student. Every teacher should listen to this and apply his recommendations (which are actually a summation) in their own environment and judge for themselves which one works for which learner(s) and use them accordingly.
John Nairn likes this

This is what happens in India, generally speaking. More often than not, It's not only that students' errors get fossilised, it's the teachers' way of correcting also gets fossilsed, learnt subconsciously from how their teachers corrected errors. Teachers' ignorance also plays a vital part in the occurrence and fossilisation of errors in students. Errors occur in the areas of pronunciation, speaking English without rhythm and stressing word syllables because they speak English like they do their mother tongue where all sounds are pronouncecd and pronounced equally. Grammar is no exception. It's is next to impossible to get rid of these habits for they are so ingrained; besides, they don't see a necessity to learn these and they are even amused when told.

But individual students either in India or after going abroad especially to the States or England read a lot and see a lot of films which lead them in the right direction.
Jerry A. likes this

Topic 73
Agnès Glenn Enseignante chez Institution Sévigné Top Contributor
In other words, how did you learn English? Was there one thing that helped you more than the others? Talking to natives? Watching movies or series? Reading? A teacher? A method?

My illiterate grandmother (maternal) and my grandfather's younger brother (mother's side) and my father to a certain extent played a crucial role. My grandmother loved to hear stories read to her and she loved films. I used to read to her a lot of 'to-be-continued' stories appearing as series in Tamil magazines, it's she who made me go to the local public library to read newspapers and to whom I summarised the news items of course in Thamizh; The other close relative had a good collection of abridged versions of famous novels, made me read and summarise them chapter-wise (of course I did this reluctantly but obediently), and my father lived and worked in a different town and wrote letters to me in English and made me respond in English. Thus I developed the reading habit and some ability in writing.

In my twenties, I watched ten movies a month for six years (More than half the cinemas in the then Madras, now Chennai, ran English films). Initially I found it difficult to follow the dialogues but gradually began to enjoy them. I taught literary pieces of great masters---prose and poetry; I must have made an awful lot of mistakes but I was never conscious. My HOD used to say I was improving,

I had the good fortune of teaching English in Ethiopia and Nigeria and re-learnt grammar to teach it to my students. And I enjoyed reading and teaching fiction and poems by African writers. It's during this period of sixteen years that I began to read fiction, and this has continued to this day. I must have read novels in thousands--half of them I purchased. I spoke to foreigners including American Peace Corps and I think we got on well.

Whatever I learnt in my school was Wren and Martin grammar and literary pieces in my BA and MA courses. I never touched a dictionary until recently when students in an engineering raised doubts about synonymous expressions.

To cut the story short (even this is a little longer than I expected to write), reading, writing, watching films did the trick. And I am a nonnative user of English who learnt English from nonnative teachers in nonnative environment and taught English to nonnative learners in their own countries.

My untiring subconscious has made it possible for me to speak, listen, read and write the way I've been doing for decades. I learnt it as my fourth language and it's been my first since 1962 along with other two first languages: Thelugu (my mother tongue) and Tamil (my regional language); I know Hindi (official language of India), too.

Thanks, Agnes, for this opportunity.

This is wonderful, thank you all for writing your stories. Some of us have been extremely dedicated (KR), but it pays. Isn't it wonderful to learn, learn, learn?! 

TESOL Teacher Trainer at Chaoyang English Project
Top Contributor
English is my 'mother tongue', but I have to say that the 'reading widely and profusely' is what helped me greatly improve my written English. I used to write essays the way I spoke, (often just scraping 'Pass' marks in undergraduate studies). It was only after reading hundreds of academic journal articles that my written English really started to shape up (and getting consistently high marks for postgrad essays).

I'd add one bit extra to it, though:
'Reading widely and profusely... in an active and critical way'.

Yay, for extensive reading!

Reading is a habit that is dying in India, especially books published in regional languages. City-bred students spend most of their on the mobiles or the internet while students from small towns and villages struggle with the English syllabus that they have no appetite for extensive reading.

And Heath, you're asking for 'one bit extra to, though'. Why blame students, even English teachers-both college and school--hardly, as far as I could see while I was working.
Heath J. likes this

(Just meant that it wasn't until I started reading in an active, critical way that my writing really improved. I'd done lots of extensive reading prior to that as well, yet was still a terrible writer.)

I'm sorry for the errors in my previous post.

Thanks for your gentle explanation; I didn't realise that 'extra bit' was referring to your personal effort.
Heath J. likes this

Topic 74
Mystery Quiz
Heath Jeffrey TESOL Teacher Trainer at Chaoyang English Project Top Contributor

The following 12 statements are related to a controversial book. Without knowing which book, and without knowing which of the 12 statements it supports or rejects... what are your thoughts? How many of these do you generally* agree with? Leave your comments, and in about 10 days I'll let you know the book title and which s/he agrees/disagrees with.

(* I say generally because otherwise most people will answer 'it depends on context' for every question. Please focus on what's likely to be the case 'more often than not'.)

1. Heavy exposure to spoken text (=listening) is extremely important.

2. Correct production by a student is not evidence that a student has ‘mastered’ the grammar/lexis involved. Producing it correctly today doesn’t necessarily mean they will produce correctly tomorrow.

3. Rather than think about language as being ‘correct’ or not, we should think about it as being ‘more or less likely’ or 'more or less common'.

4. Students need to be encouraged to observe language closely and develop hypotheses based on what they see.

5. A teacher’s role necessarily changes throughout a lesson.

6. Teachers should think in ‘approaches’ (theories/principles) rather than ‘methods’. Methods predetermine tasks and techniques, whereas an approach helps you to select the best tasks and techniques for each unique teaching-learning situation.

7. The grammar and vocabulary of spoken language differs somewhat from that of written language.

8. The distinction between grammar and vocabulary isn’t black and white. It is more like a continuum or scale.

9. In relation to ‘structure’, it is not enough to focus only on sentence grammar (eg. tense). It is just as important to pay attention to word grammar (eg. collocation; phrasal features) and text grammar (eg. cohesion; lexical repetition; reference).

10. ‘Advanced’ level structures can be introduced at lower levels by treating them as practical expressions (eg. Would you like [a cup of tea]?)

11. At any one time a students’ grasp of the grammatical system is partial, provisional and developing.

12. Decontextualized vocabulary learning (in contrast to grammar), is a fully legitimate strategy.

Top Contributor

I only disagree with one - "The grammar and vocabulary of spoken language differs somewhat from that of written language."

As always - this is a "depends" on what is meant by spoken language and written language.

If what is meant is "informal spoken language" instead of "formal written language" [or vice versa] - then that is almost a "no-brainer".

Informal written language is essentially the same as informal spoken langauge, and formal spoken language is essentially the same as formal written language.

Top Contributor
1. Heavy exposure to spoken text (=listening) is extremely important.
Yes with a qualification added: to speaking. I'd prefer 'constant' to 'heavy'.

2. Correct production by a student is not evidence that a student has ‘mastered’ the grammar/lexis involved. Producing it correctly today doesn’t necessarily mean they will produce correctly tomorrow.

Agree if learning occurs consciously

3. Rather than think about language as being ‘correct’ or not, we should think about it as being ‘more or less likely’ or 'more or less common'.

‘correct’ is a label affixed to the language of the ‘educated’, not to the language itself

4. Students need to be encouraged to observe language closely and develop hypotheses based on what they see.

observation is a conscious act and a language is best learnt subconsciously.

5. A teacher’s role necessarily changes throughout a lesson.

No, it doesn’t if the role is to get learners to involve themselves in the learning.

6. Teachers should think in ‘approaches’ (theories/principles) rather than ‘methods’. Methods predetermine tasks and techniques, whereas an approach helps you to select the best tasks and techniques for each unique teaching-learning situation.

I taught English as a language long before I knew theories existed. Even after learning these theories, my teaching style never changed. I never based my teaching on any specific theory, method or technique.

They may in fact be a burden.

7. The grammar and vocabulary of spoken language differs somewhat from that of written language.

I agree with Rod here.

8. The distinction between grammar and vocabulary isn’t black and white. It is more like a continuum or scale.

It is black and white because they can be seen as discrete items. It isn’t when translating thoughts into expressions through sentence structuring..

9. In relation to ‘structure’, it is not enough to focus only on sentence grammar (eg. tense). It is just as important to pay attention to word grammar (eg. collocation; phrasal features) and text grammar (eg. cohesion; lexical repetition; reference).

Then we need to pay attention as well to word stress, rhythm and intonation as well.

10. ‘Advanced’ level structures can be introduced at lower levels by treating them as practical expressions (eg. Would you like [a cup of tea]?)

‘Elementary’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’, ‘from simple to complex’ are labels we thrust upon how a language is to be learnt; in reality, all these co-occur.

11. At any one time a students’ grasp of the grammatical system is partial, provisional and developing.

Philosophically speaking, yes. For practical purposes, the knowledge that we’ve gained as a student is what we transfer to our learners,and they are none the worse for it.

12. Decontextualized vocabulary learning (in contrast to grammar), is a fully legitimate strategy.

Even the dictionary meanings are placed in context , that is, in relation to other words.

I don't always agree with your thoughts, but you tackle things in a logical and sensible manner, and appreciate that you've thought each through and really justified your views.

It's interesting to note that for a couple where it seems you disagree, your views actually seem to align surprisingly closely to those of the author. For example, your concern about the labels 'correct' and 'advanced', is reflected in the way the author his/herself places them in 'I'm skeptical about this term' quotation marks. And the author's bit about 'observation and hypothesis' was actually proposed as a bit of challenge against conscious 'explain the rules' type approaches. (Partly to do with riding the line between subconscious and conscious learning; partly to do with there being more evidence that vocab learning, unlike grammar learning, benefits greatly from conscious focus).

There is one where I personally disagree with you quite significantly though, and that's #6. Although, I suspect that it's due to just differing interpretations of the terms 'theory' and 'principles'.

To me, you clearly draw on specific theories and principles in your own posts. Some of your principles (appear to) include:
* language is best learnt subconsciously
* a key role for teachers is to get learners to involve themselves in the learning
* it helps to pay attention to word stress, rhythm and intonation

I'm assuming these impact on the way you teach. If that's the case, then your teaching is based on theories and principles (but not on specific 'methods').
K R Lakshminarayanan, ... and 1 other like this

University of Nizwa, Instructor Lifelong Learning Institute

I also, with the exception of #12 (not certain how decontextualized vocabulary can be learned at all) it is easily fair for me to say that generally 11 of the statements ring true.

I especially like #4 (encouraging students to observe language closely to develop/discover...) in that I hit open this myself by asking students to use (authentic) reading texts to discover many different aspects of language usage and structure--from subject-verb agreement to where and how prepositions and articles are placed onto when vocabulary head words change suffixes, syntax, etc.

# 6 is a nice and essential gem--a clear distinction between teaching approach and methodology. I can't seem to develop and stay on one methodology which makes #5 (teacher's role constantly changes) a seemingly wonderful corollary that associates both "approach" and "role" of the classroom instructor.
Rod MitchellHeath J. and 1 other like this

Head of English
I more or less agree with all of them.
However, as for n. 12, theoretically I would say no, I don’t agree: learning words in context sounds more productive, but it is exactly what I have been doing since I started to study Russian on my own (for the moment): I study series of words within categories.
I would say n. 2 - just the 2nd paragraph statement- depends on your audience’s age: in adult education what you state may not be so.
Rod Mitchell likes this

Interesting to see that 12 is the one most often met with skepticism. I think there's quite a lot of support for it in both the research and in classroom practice.

In the former, the literature repeatedly reports that techniques like flashcards, dictionary work, translation lists, mnemonic techniques, organising/sorting/categorising, etc (eg. Carty; McCarthy; Thornbury; McCarten), are effective and highly efficient, particularly for 'first meetings' with new words. Sure, they need to meet the words/phrases multiple times on top of the decontextualised learning to acquire it more 'fully', but it gives the a big head-start when compared to text-only approaches.

In the classroom, even highly experienced and qualified teachers (eg. Scrivener; Morgan & Rinvolucri) use and recommend pictures, other visuals, mime, definition, etc, for introducing new words. Not to mention all the card-based, cross-word style, etc, games.


(Nb. Katarina's clarification about the difference between 'context' and 'cotext' is key to my line of thinking and to the way the author uses the term 'decontextualised'. Eg. It's not true that "dictionary meanings are placed in context" by this definition. Articles, collocations, common patterns, example sentences, etc, are features of form and co-text. Context is more to do with larger discourse, conversations, texts, situations/scenarios, etc.)


I understood ‘approaches’ mentioned in your point 6 as referring to the theories prevalent in ELT literature. And my comment was based on this understanding. That’s why I’d stated ‘I never based my teaching on any specific theory, method or technique.’

The principles that you refer to in your responses to my comments are my personal beliefs based on observation and experience long before I got acquainted with the philosophies as seen in approaches in ELT literature. I'd also like to mention here that I believe that judicious use of L1 in the learning of L2 DOES help quicken learning an L2; I began to use this even before I knew about the bilingual approach.
Rod MitchellHeath J. like this

I don't know about how many students from different countries appearing for GRE continue to remember and use words learnt for the specific purpose of getting through the exam. But the students I knew at my College in Tamil Nadu and who were successful in GRE used to tell me they didn't and couldn't remember the thousands of synonyms and antonyms they'd committed to memory.

Language Consultant/Adult Education
@ KR L

It's a question of memorizing lexical lists and some of them do remain with the students all their lives. Not all of them. For that matter, how much of contextualized vocabulary do students even remember and use all their lives, no matter how much of context building you spend time on as teachers?

Anyways, great scores on the GRE or GMAT do not guarantee effective communication in the language!! To the point of being blunt, not even a great score on the TOEFL or the IELTS is a guarantee of effective communication.

Topic 75
is this sentence correct? The team whom Mrs perea guided performed well at the debate.
Kumari Amaradasa Teacher at Visakha Vidyalaya Top Contributor

These seem better (the "team" being a "thing", not a "person", even though it is made of people):
"The team that Mrs Perea guided performed well at the debate."
"The team which Mrs Perea guided performed well at the debate."
"The team Mrs Perea guided performed well at the debate."
Piluca N.Venmadhi S. and 6 others like this

What do others think of putting a comma in this, as in ,
"The team that Mrs. Perea guided, performed well at the debate."

Does that improve the sentence and construction?

I would say that the comma is unnecessary (for me "wrong" even when taking the sentence in a neutral reading).

The reason being that we don't normally put a comma between the subject NP and the verb NP - unless there is a clear pause, of course:

[The team that Mrs Perea guided] [performed well at the debate]

Where the comma(s) would fit in (and therefore where there is a clear pause) would be this:

The team, which Mrs Perea guided, performed well at the debate.

This being a non-defining relative clause, and the intonation/pausing pattern show this.
Kolos E.Elia Jekova and 8 others like this

There are two types of relative clauses:
DEFINING relative clauses
‘A’ group: relative pronoun referring to the subject of the sentence

(i) personal : The woman {that}is near the bank entrance is a divorcee.

(ii) non-personal: The book {that }has topped today’s sales is written by my brother.

‘B’ Group: relative pronoun referring to the OBJECT of the sentence
(i) personal : The woman {whom}you saw with me in the bank is a divorcee.
                                          {who }
                                          {that }
                                          {---- }

(ii) non-personal: The book {which}she has in her hand is written by my brother.
                                             {that }
                                             {---- }

‘C’ group: relative pronoun referring to possession of something by the subject of the main clause.
(i) personal : The kid whose father’s name appeared in yesterday’s headlines for a
burglary case passed away this morning.

(ii) non-personal: Living in a house whose walls were made of glass would be horrible.

Non-defining relative clauses

‘A’ group: relative pronoun referring to the subject of the sentence
(i) personal : My father, who had been on a visit to the United States, has just

(ii) non-personal: The Appollo Hospital, which can boast of 10,000 by-pass surgeries
every year, is in India.

‘B’ Group: relative pronoun referring to the OBJECT of the sentence
(i) personal : My uncle, whom you met in Sathya’s marriage last Thursday, suddenly
passed away.

(ii) non-personal: I’m selling my house, which I had built ten years ago.

‘C’ group: relative pronoun referring to possession of something by the subject of the main clause.
(i) personal : My wife, whose recent novel was chosen for a Sahitya Academy
Award, wants a divorce.

(ii) non-personal: The Zion TV Channel, whose ownership has changed hands recently,
has introduced a few exciting soap operas in English.

I agree with several members, especially Rod,

I hope this helps.

Topic 76
Pair Work: Advantages, Disadvantages, and When Appropriates.
Heath Jeffrey TESOL Teacher Trainer at Chaoyang English Project Top Contributor

On another post, Anes Abdelrahim Mohamed shared an extract from an article challenging the value of pair work. I don't have access to the full article, but have a few concerns about the article based on a few points in its opening paragraph. So, I'm going to start with a few comments in response to that... then leave it open to comments in response to my comments or just adding your own 'advantages, disadvantages, and when is it appropriate' thoughts about pair work.

Here's the start of the article extract, my comments will come in reply in just a moment:

It appears to us that despite the general enthusiasm (at least amongst native English speaking EFL teachers) for pair work , there is very little critical assessment of its widespread use. This is particularly the case with most initial and post certificate teacher training courses in EFL, where ability to demonstrate effective pair work (and subsequent monitoring) is essential to passing the course. At Marxist TEFL, however, whilst not denying the positive effects of various forms of peer orientated activities, we seriously question this “stop-watch” approach to learning and ground current enthusiasm for such activities in Taylorist managerial ideology. In short, we are being asked, as teachers, to replicate within our classrooms the inhuman and alienating work practices of the some of the worst workplaces.

For example, take this piece from materials writer and teacher Liz Regan(1)

Make a list of pairs of names before the lesson starts or while the students are coming in, or just tell them when the time comes: “Gianni, you work with Paola; Chiara, you’re with Stefano this time.”

If there is an odd number of students make a group of three but break them up later in the lesson and put them into pairs with someone else so they get more chance to speak.
You could put them in small groups to start with if the activity allows. You could even make the activity a competition in small teams if the activity allows, seeing which team gets the most answers right. Use the board or a piece of paper for keeping score.

Change the partners quite often so that the students don’t get bored with their partner. This is especially important if there is a student who isn’t very popular with the others.

Top Contributor
Involving learners in pair work or group work is supposed to make learning 'student-centred' and 'communicative'. The activity to be dubbed as communicative is right only when the pair really 'know' and are WILLING to talk to each other. Talking may come easily but even with friends learning may not occur because classroom pair WORK is a very conscious activity.And when you're conscious, you're likely to make mistakes, fumble and these might be causes for concern.

Then there's the question of domination. How well the teacher can supervise and help out when several pairs are talking at the same time is another hiccup.

Another point is, as some have pointed out, paring itself. You can't expect all or even most students to be outgoing or extroverts; some may by nature be introverts, silent ones who just don't speak out, keep their thoughts to themselves.

Even group activities these problems can crop up.

Only when two students VOLUNTEER will the pair work can begin to be successful. But how many students will?

I'm sorry about the inadvertent presence of 'can' in the last sentence of my previous comment.

The problem is in getting these two activities to work for the learners. Several practical problems can crop up while engaging learners in these activities. Another factor to keep in mind and act on would be how well the transfer takes place and such transfer reflects in real life situations. The teacher has to devise methods by which they can keep track of the transfer and the progress.

The best way would be to place learners in real life contexts, and the teacher observes the performance and later provides feedback or to video the scene, play it back and offer suggestions.

If such activity is too heavy and time-consuming or impractical, the teacher will have to make do with classroom activity and hope for the best.

Of course pre-consent is a must, Katernira. I should've put that as a qualification in my comment. But then videoing is in the interests of learners for they can see their performance both oral and body language, which is essential to any oral communication.
Katerina X. likes this

Topic 77
BTW is the 'native speaker' tag still relevant?
winston peter Thomas Head of English Department at SPA,International School,Solo Indonesia Top Contributor

Top Contributor
A flammable topic there Winston Peter Thomas!

I believe it is, insofar as 'native' and 'non-native' each represent very BROAD categories at two opposite ends of a spectrum. Because the categories are broad, I don't believe it is feasible to identify the precise qualities of either. But they clearly allow us to distinguish, for example, me, an Australian, as a non-native speaker of Chinese and many of my friends, Chinese, as native speakers.

But this is the only post I'll make about the issue, as we've only JUST finished a lengthy (and I'm afraid, largely unconstructive) debate about it here:

And there are two other recent discussions on related topics too:

Inflammable it is, Mr Heath.Thank you.There are certain questions that need asking when time and passage legitimizes the moment.I am not an authority,nor pretends to be one, about such issues. I am initiating the unasked question that 'mystifies' the term and what it really means, for many effective and dedicated English teachers who have made the language a lifelong quest.

My take? Well, 'proficient' seems a better(predictable?) fit.An excellent degree of grammar accuracy, articulate use of metaphor, discipline of proper sentence structure and interesting punctuation,all in Standard English, would just about do it.

The world has moved on. English is now international; not a language of the few but of the many. Having said that, I feel very strongly against those who claim 'This is the way we speak English in my country', to explain away (excuse?) deficiencies.  The internal combustion engine requires petrol not vegetable oil. Thank you for the links.Should make interesting reading.
 Heath J. likes this

Hi Winston
'Native speaker' is an expression that cannot be taken away from the literature of a language. It refers to people who have spoken and continue to speak a language as their mother (native) tongue.

To the English, English is their mother tongue wherever they live and they ARE native speakers.. But to Indians, Pakistanis and others who have lived in England all their lives, English can at best be only a first language overtaking their mother (native) tongues. To me, Thelugu is my mother (native) tongue and Thamizh, the language of the region which has been my home, is my first language and also English is my first language because of the choice of my profession.

So by default, the Indians and Pakistanis though living in England for decades and all those who learn English for various purposes in their own countries ARE non-native users of English.

The distinction between native and non-native speakers of English need not be a bothersome issue as far as language use goes, but it can be in the appointment of teachers for there exists a prejudice among employers (in non-native countries) in favour of 'native speakers' because it's generally felt mother tongue users are the best lot to teach English to non-native children. The employers may not be aware that there are several 'Englishes' even among native speakers of English and that native speakers they'd like to employ may not be speaking the 'standard English' (spoken by the educated).
Heath J. likes this

Well said KRL. Its prejudice and lack of understanding that is the problem, not the terminology. And I believe having that terminology allows us to help fight the prejudice and build better understanding.

Topic 78
Words with a story
K R Lakshminarayanan active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai Top Contributor
It's interesting to learn how certain words originated and how their meanings have changed over time.

Here I present three interesting words (These have been drawn from 'Words with a story by A H Irvine in Collins Everyday English Usage, 1960 ediction):

bellyache: The dictionary definition is 'abdominal or stomachic pains,' but in World War II 'to bellyache' was Service slang for 'complain whiningly.' Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery was fond of using the verb, both in speaking and in writing, when condemning such 'whiners.' In a Press interview he gave his own interpretation of its meaniong as 'to invent unsound reasons for not doing what one has been ordered to do.'

bunkum: Buncombe, a county in North Carolina, U.S.A., gave the Americans and us the words buncombe, bunkum and bunk, thanks to its representative in Congress, a certain Felix Walker. Near the end of the debate, Walker continued to speechify while the House was impatiently waiting for the closure. When several members begged him to sit down he declared he was "bound to speak for buncombe."

Buncombe, then bunkum, thus came to mean 'speech-making to please constituents'; 'political showmanship'; 'bombastic oratory'; and finally 'claptrap; or 'nonsense.'

cab. Many words in our language have been shortened, probably because of our dislike for having to use three, four or more syllables when one will do. Numbers of these words, originally regarded as colloquialisms or slang, have come to be accepted in literary English. The 'Zoo' now takes the place of Zoological Gardens, the 'bus' of the omnibus, the 'pub' of the public-house, the 'taxi' of the taximeter-cab, and the 'bike' of the bicycle.

To this list we can add cab which, sometime in the 1820's, came into use as the shortened form of 'cabriolet,' a French word introduced into English, meaning a light, horse-drawn, two-wheeled or four-wheeled carriage (usually with a hood). With the coming of the automobile, 'cabriolet' returned to service to describe a kind of motor-car with a hood. ...

can we hear similar stories?

In India, we have a three-wheeler diesel-driven vehicle which we call 'auto', a shortened version of 'auto-rickshaw'. Rickshaw was a once-famous, two-wheel wooden structure pulled by men.

Are such words in existence in the English spoken by non-natives?

Top Contributor
In Japanese : "depato" = department store.

In colloquial Italian - "buon week" can be used to say "haev a good weekend".

This will amuse you all, I'm sure.

In Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, India, every bridge is named after some famous person. One bridge was named Hamilton bridge. However, in due course of time, Hamilton was pronounced with a mutation, people, probably, illiterate residents around that area left out the 'l' and pronounced it as Hamiton which got mutated to 'ammattan', and gradually the mutation replaced the English name and got translated into 'barbers bridge'! The Tamil word refers to a barber.

The word is a compound of 'escape' and 'goat'. In the initial ritual of the Day of Atonement as prescribed by Mosaic law, the high priest cast lots on two goats, one being for the Lord and the other to be the 'scapegoat'. In the O.T.(cf.Leviticus Ch.xvi) the Lord's goat was sacrificed for a sin offering, but the other, the scapegoat, was presented alive before the Lord. The latter was let loose in the wilderness and symbolically bore away with him all the sins of the people. So the word is now used figuratively as a term for a person made to suffer for the misdeeds of another.
This is taken from Collins Everyday English Usage.

Topic 79
use of 'will' in first person interrogatives
Kolipaka Lakshminarayanan retired from Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering, Sri Perumbudur, Thamizh Nadu Top Contributor

I feel the following interrogatives are genuine communications:
Will I achieve my goal ever? (depending on the context they may mean
Will I see you again? doubt/wonder/sadness)
Will I do instead? (suggestion)
But I don’t find ‘support’ statements in books on grammar.

I received Michael Swan's response to this through , which I'd like to share with the community:

“It’s important to distinguish the general meanings that grammatical structures have (e.g interrogation, negation, present time, futurity, completion) from the particular meanings that sentences containing these structures can convey in specific contexts (e.g. doubt, wonder, sadness, suggestion, criticism). Grammatical descriptions can list the first kind of meaning (because this belongs to the structure), but not the second (because this belongs to the sentence in its context, and is unpredictable in general terms). So a grammar can tell you that ‘is’ expresses a present state; but it can’t tell you what will be communicated by saying ‘The window is open’, ‘Your wife is on the phone’, ‘That’s my coat’ or ‘Peter is looking worried’ – any of these sentences could express anger, surprise, pleasure, a desire that the listener take some action, or any number of other context-specific meanings, none of them contained in the verb ‘is’ itself. The same goes for your examples with ‘will’: it’s not the verb that expresses ‘doubt’ or whatever, but the sentence plus its context. This kind of meaning is the domain of pragmatics, which examines how we understand what is NOT encoded in the grammar and vocabulary.”
 David DeubelbeissRam Kumaar and 1 other like this

Teacher at Unicorn School of Languages
Yes, thorny problem. I fear that many have lost the distinction between the future application and the modal which is so admirably shown by the Germans in the use of "warden" and "woollen" where the distinction is finely, and accurately drawn. Quite a few grammar books fail to distinguish - which, in my opinion, is a shame. I am a "shall" person and forever shall be.

Principal - Al Huda Model College
Grammar books are not the 'be all and end all'! Grammar books are like the robots -- they have structure but they lack emotions and ingenuity!

Teacher at Unicorn School of Languages
That is as may be - but I have come across many who claim to speak English because they have done a course but who cannot sustain a conversation outside the parameters of their course books. I believe the communication method to be the "Emperor's New Clothes", stultifying, financially rewarding but lacking in the "je ne sais quoi" department. I f you go back to one of David Deubelbeiss' blogs about "then and now" he writes " I should of gone stir crazy" - if the constructs disappear then the flesh around them, i.e the words, mean nothing. I have written before: I have a student who has come to me from another school and he wishes to apply to study in London. He has no hope in hell at the moment simply due to the fact that he speaks only in chunks and with no gristle or ligaments. He had a personal tutor who took his money and spoke to him. Imagine his joy when he found a linguist who could order his sentences for him! A very intelligent forward looking lawyer who, up until now, had no chance of following his dream because of the constraints of text books!

"I should "of" vs "I should have" = "I should've". Equally important, I shall / I will = I'll. The spoken contraction creates huge problems for the linguistically/gramatically uninitiated

As a small child, I learned SHALL for the first persons singular and plural, WILL for the other persons. Hard to pinpoint when this stopped being an axiom for the future, and will crept in for all persons. Some time in the last 60 years.
I accept as correct what you say above in your post, Kolipaka, and i feel that most people would have to, while older people may hold on to the "shall" word for first persons.

"Shall" of course lives on in Polite Forms, as in "Shall I help you/make some tea/ring the office for you? etc., when i offer a service or assistance.

I thank you all for your thoughts and impressions but I thought Michael Swan's explanation would attract attention.
 Mike V. likes this

I agree with Bridget on that. When I started to learn English at the secondary school I was taught the use of shall for both first singular and first plural personalities as subject pronouns. The use of "wil"l in the first singular and first plural personalities is thought to insist a suggestion after "shall we" for example; Shall we go to the cinema? if we cannot get any positive or negative answer from the person to whom we asked a question as a suggestion, we can emphasise our suggestion as " Will we go to the cinama or "will I go to the cinema with you? 
shorly saying; as suggestion " shall I or shall we " To insist our suggestion " will we or will I "

Topic 80
Can ‘no’, ‘correct’ or ‘right’ be used in place of question tags?
Kolipaka Lakshminarayanan retired from Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering, Sri Perumbudur, Thamizh Nadu Top Contributor
In the novels quoted, these appear as spoken by ‘educated’ characters:
1. “Pictures can be misleading, no?” Zackheim gave him a questioning look.
2. “You didn’t even want him as a client.”
“But now I have him, no?”
Robert Ludlum’s The Ambler Warning
3. ‘I always bring lots of fruit on a mission. Much nicer than rations,
Andy McDermott’s Empire of Gold
4. Jack Rogan’s The Collective
“I know, Rachel. I know. But I can hope, right?”
“And by ‘terrorism’, we generally mean Islamic terrorists. Correct?”
‘I’m sure I told you this story, right?’
Sean Black’s Lock Down
5. Your family is friends with the CEO’s family, right?
Sounds great, no?
Steve Berry’s The Venetian Betrayal

These expressions appear in today's fiction by famous writers whose pieces are gone through with a fine tooth comb by editors of famous publishing houses.

If this reflects commonness, can’t ‘isn’t it?’ or ‘is it?’ be acceptable as well?

Business English Teacher at Meten English
Well, we shouldn't, should we?, but we do, don't we? Yes?

English teacher at SEIHA
English is changing. That's what it does. It ain't the same thing in different parts of the world.
To be sure, it's not the same thing in different parts of England. That's what dialect is, ain't it?
I must confess it's hard to keep up, yeah? Especially when you're my age and forget half of what you learn.
Still, that's what keeps it challenging and by definition, interesting.
It is also why I think the way we teach it sometimes needs to catch up too before us old fogies get left behind.

Author, Racing to English
Using "no" as a question tag is unusual and I would never teach it - it's not yet standard English.
Using "right" or "correct" are more common in speech but they are very colloquial again I would not encourage second language learners to use them.

Whether or not we like the usage we must prepare students for when they encounter them even if we may discourage their use.
It is like teaching students to recognise historical English in Shakespeare or a Jane Austin novel

I've found all the three expressions in novels written by American and British fiction writers.

I feel 'no' in the examples I've cited doesn't sound negation as someone suggested elsewhere but rather are equivalent to 'can't they', 'don't I', 'aren't they'.

'Isn't it' is the question tag is in wide currency as one-all purpose tag among literate Indians, (and if I'm not mistaken, the regular tag among 'educated' Indians) obviously under the influence of mother tongue tags, and if 'no', 'right' or 'correct' are acceptable in place of the grammatically correct question tags, why not 'isn't it (true that...)?

Learning Counsellor at TQ Education & Training
Top Contributor
Genuine, yes. Natural, possibly as part of a dialect. In South Wales a lot of people only use the question tag "Isn't it?" as a tag for any question. That's a transference from Welsh.

Professor de inglês - particular, Fortaleza, Brasil
It's right in the States, innit?

I think those tag questions stand for 'Is that correct?' If you used 'isn't it' you would have to use 'right'. Better might be 'isn't that right'.
Actually I've seen or heard 'isn't it'.

In your examples above, a statement followed by a legitimate 1-word question (e.g. "Right?" or "Correct?") are common and probably grammatically correct - because the rest of the sentence is implied.

However, a question followed by "No?" is almost never used in American English - and it doesn't really imply a question, but rather it implies a negation. The use of ", no?" is correct in the Spanish language and is possibly heard where Spanish has a heavy influence on the language of the user.

<no?" is correct in the Spanish language>

In Chinese there's the 'dui bu dui' expression. It means 'right, or not right?' I don't know exactly what type of statement it can follow, but it's used a lot.

I've found all the three expressions in novels written by American and British fiction writers.

I feel 'no' in the examples I've cited doesn't sound negation rather are equivalent to 'can't they', 'don't I', 'aren't they'.

'Isn't it' is the question tag is in wide currency as one-all purpose tag among literate Indians, obviously under the influence of mother tongue tags, and if 'no', 'right' or 'correct' are acceptable in place of the grammatically correct question tags, why not 'isn't it (true that...)?

Asst Lecturer at Rustaq College of Applied Sciences
Nelson, "dui bu dui" seems to be used with any sentence where agreement or an opinion is sought.
But if job is to describe a language, don't we have to accept that since these uses exist and are commonly used by native speakers then they must be legitimate forms?

Are they question tags or are they slightly different semantically?

A needs analysis - how do you do this?
David Deubelbeiss Assistant Professor, Nipissing University. Technology Consultant / Entrepreneur Top Contributor
I taught a graduate level curriculum development course for a few years and though teachers generally understood the need and process of doing a needs analysis for their classes - I think few rarely did on any level.

I'm wondering if others can share how they informally or formally get to know the language needs of their students and help make them part of the curriculum creation process for the year (instead of just saying - yeah, we're using this book and whatever I feel like we should do in class).

If you want more info. on needs analysis - see my curriculum development page where I share many of my resources on this subject.

Business Operations Manager and Course Tutor at International Mediterranean Academy
Needs analysis is an essential tool for any Teacher to be successful helping students in their efforts to improve their language skills. This, for me, begins with their application or enrollment form. Reinforcement in the classroom on the first day is accomplished with a placement test that should include the use of all skills. The final part of the analysis is done by observation in the classroom, not forgetting the most important tool, asking the student what they think.

Pre-sessional tutor at Southampton University
A needs analysis is an essential introduction to the teaching of any class as the abilities and shortcomings will decide the stucture, content, pace and aim of the subsequent lessons. It should not be rushed as it takes time and care to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the students, who should be tested in all four skills - reading, writing, listening and speaking at the beginning of the course in an unpressurised atmosphere to give accurate results which the teacher should take time and effort to consider.
Philip Davies likes this

Director of Studies at Linguarama
Where I work we do an initial needs analysis with all students - this is then backed up by ongoing discussions with the students. My situation is a bit different to your example David, we have 1:1 and group courses, often for a module of 30-40, so understanding needs & prioritising is very important. We often use cards with different key areas and get the Ss to prioritise on these..
Agree with Philip too that the student should be involved in this process

Columnist at English Salon
Wow! Thanks for the link, David. You are very generous. I'll check out the site more over the next few days. I'll let you know what I think.

As far as needs analysis goes, I found the best assessment of my student's needs were in written form, first. Then we'd discuss what they wrote, and I'd ask them questions (L/S) and to read a short passage from a popular book aimed at their age. That helped me determine their individual education plan in my class. That was back in the states, where I had relatively small classes and could easily do such things.

I like the looks of the information you've offered. I'm eager to see what it looks like. :-)

Associate Professor at Ahfad University for Women
Thanks David, this is very interesting. I have also taught a course of syllabus design for a few years now and needs analysis is an important component of the course (for postgraduate students of ELT). This year I am teaching a course of ESP and introduced the idea of needs analysis I also gave the students an assignment to write their own needs analysis questionnaire for a selected group of learners (of their choice). Although it took us a long time to get them on track, they have done it well and are writing a report now with recommendations for an outline of a syllabus for their selected group.

As for my own experience even when I teach a set textbook still for me needs analysis is an ongoing process which might entail supplementing the textbook or adapting parts of it and so on according to the needs of the students and how well they are coping with the material.
Thanks for the website, I will tell my ESP students about it.

It appears that in India generally speaking writing syllabuses for English courses in schools and colleges is based on ELT theories and practices rather than on needs analyses. All English syllabuses provide space for all the four language skills (lsrw) and their sub-skills and prescribe textbooks and recommend reference books. And teachers obediently use textbooks to cover the syllabuses and prepare learners to face examinations.

This is a sad state of affairs; I conducted a survey in the early 1990s, prompted by a concern for our learners whose responses to various syllabus items were, if anything negative and a desire to make classroom learning more meaningful, and well funded and supported by my College Management, on curriculum Development in ELT for engineering students in Tamil Nadu; The population consisted of 1455 learners, 27 English teachers, 128 engineering teachers from 18 institutions, randomly chosen and 67 working engineers. Four questionnaires (differing slightly in the items) were administered and responses

I Listening and Speaking
1. campus communication medium--English, Tamil, both
2. anticipated communication situations--assumptions (learners) and reality(engineers)
3. Use of Tamil by teachers of engineering disciplines
4. Oral communication--difficulty, reasons, solutions

II Reading
1. reactions to existing English text, 2. future lesson content--a to f
3. comprehending 'major discipline' text books, esp. by foreigners
4. inclusion of live reading job material

III Writing
1.weaknesses 2. grammar learning 3. developing abilities 4. inclusion of live written job material

IV influence of existing syllabus on senior students

V future English syllabus--type, duration, abilities

VI general and specific comments

Here let me mention some interesting observations made by all:
1. Half the population wanted interesting anecdotes related to science and technology,short stories, novels, poems of present litt. from several countries.
2. Learners wished to be trained in oral communication with appropriate registers.
3. Learners wanted only a revision, not revisit to grammar.
4. While learners wanted live job material as part of learning material, working engineers didn't see any need for such inclusion because on the job experience would be sufficient.
5. It was recommended that English could be offered to those who wished to continue with it in their senior years, but the problem was of logistics--finding space in the timetable.

I followed this up with a workshop to discuss the findings but nothing further happened because no other engineering institution was willing to take this movement forward. I sent the full report to Anna University for their consideration. Needless to say, nothing materialised.

Topic 82
In the world of ELT, what distinguishes experts from novices?
Thomas Orr, PhD Professional Development Coach, Consultant and English Language Trainer for High-Potential Native and Nonnative Speakers Top Contributor

That's correct. I'm tentatively thinking that the primary measure of expertise in teaching is the quality of learning the teacher is able to motivate, and that this "quality of learning" could reasonably be assumed to include depth of understanding, length of remembering, success in application and perhaps enjoyment of and gratitude for the learning experience.

EFL teacher at Zhejiang Shaoxing University of Foreign Languages
Hi, interesting discussion - one thing I'd add, is that although I don't consider myself an expert yet, one thing I've realised has changed in my teaching is that when I started I would go into the classroom with no more aims than those expressed in the textbook, whereas now I have a much clearer idea of why I ask students to do the activities I do and what I hope to achieve. In line with Zehaad above, these aims have also changed from the idea of 'students learn X' to 'students practice X', so I guess I've become more realistic about what can be achieved in an hour or two in a classroom. Along with this change I think it's also helped me to have greater confidence in creating my own materials, which for my personal satisfaction as a teacher (and hopefully for my students too) has been one of the best developments I've made so far. I think this is an important difference as teachers progress in their development, and also the increasing self-reflection that comes with this and posting and following threads like this.

Yes, it is the "quality of the learning" that counts and I'm glad this has been mentioned. Teacher observation should focus on that. That said, it isn't the only criteria that counts.

One thing that is a must - we need to at least have a standard like general education in TESOL. You should have 10+ years in an ESL / EFL classroom to be a teacher trainer or "expert". Of course this alone doesn't mean "competency" but it is the height of the bar, a standard that must be in place. It drives me crazy in ELT how there are so many teacher trainers with 1,2,3 years experience only. Also authors and so called "celebrity teachers" (yes, saw this term being used and cringed) with only a modicum of classroom experience.

The emphasis when measuring teacher quality must rest on nurturing and supporting the teacher themselves. It isn't about a "mark" but about the reflection, feedback, discussion and growth of the teacher themselves. And that leads us to a shift. It isn't just about how well the teacher knows their subject (usually shown through their qualifications) or how well they can control a classroom or even motivate learners. It is about the teacher him/herself and that they have the potential to grow and the passion to learn and develop as a teacher. This is the nugget of gold and teachers with this precious metal will become experts.

Thomas raised the point of "natural talents". I'm not so sure about this kind of innatism (nor am I sure of it in regards to the language learner either!). The audience of a teacher consists of many, many, many different kinds of students. Too many to elaborate on. This entails we produce, celebrate and put in the classroom, many different kinds of teachers. Teachers with different belief systems, teachers with different teaching styles, teachers with different personalities and dispositions, etc .... The problem is hooking the right teacher up with the right learner(s). Unfortunately our capitalistic and industrial type schooling systems don't allow this to occur. That is the rot if any that should be changed - not creating one type of uber teacher. Teachers within any school system need the freedom to teach. Students within any school system need the freedom to choose their own teachers.

I've never heard the term 'celebrity teacher', but I'm intrigued ! Is that like a 'celebrity chef'? I read somewhere about a teacher in South Korea who was on TV shows and stuff. I wonder if this idea is taking off!

To me, an expert is a person who makes accurate diagnosis on learners and puts the combination of the most effective techniques and methods in such a way as to teach even someone who is reluctant to learn a foreign language. Nobody can claim that he/ she is an expert on teaching a language if he /she uses sterotype techniues or methods. The way of every learner belongs to his /her own like the finger prints of someone else. Because of that, a well-qualified or distinguished lecturer or an expert should have the combination of the professions, such as being a good philosopher, psychiatrist, sociologist, mathematician, comedian and having a persuasive manner of speech.
I want to mention about my friend's experience that he had when he was an associate professor in the past. He told me that he had a great difficulty in making certain diagnosis on an old patient when his professor was at a conference for a week. "I was not able to find out any way of treatment for the patient until my professor came back" he said. Finally, my professor came back to the hospital and I told him that I had not been able to find a certain solution for my old patient to treat. He looked at her from the door of the room where my patient was in bed and he made a certain diagnosis for her within ten seconds. He said that an experience is such an invaluable possess that nobody can buy it at once.
The reason why I am telling that is that an expert is someone who is able to make certain diagnosis on the learner who has difficulty in learning a foreign language.

An expert teacher is an excellent teacher! When a teacher experience teaching and practice it every minute he is excellent and he is an expert. We know that it is challenging to be excellent, but we try to reach the level that satisfy our students. We serve a community and ourselves.

Profesor de inglés en inlingua Quito
I've never heard the term "expert teacher" before. For me, a good teacher is one who puts his heart into the profession. He must respect the students and know how to maintain a dynamic classroom environment.

Co-founder and owner , SpeakYourMind - teacher, trainer, writer and course developer
I think it's that novice teachers aren't aware of all the decisions that are constantly available to be made in the classroom. Their attention is still focussed on what they are trying to do. With experience their antenna (can) become more sensitive.

English Instructor and Freelance Translator
Dear friends
I think to be a good teacher, u need to have a strong passion for your idea of this topic which I think differentiate experts from novice ones is related to decision-making,(e.g.) the expert one do their work consciously and intentionally and they may have reasons for their work, and lets say those who can integrate theory and practice ....and be at the center of learner needs...

English Teacher Trainer for more than 15 Years at Wide Range of Schools & Centers
You are having a great discussion here everybody. Would please take five minutes to help me fill in a Pronunciation Survey for a research I am doing on the subject. It won't take long, but you would be of great help. Thanks in advance

Continued accumulation of subject knowledge and its application to suit the varied needs of learners at different levels and a humane approach and effort to learner problems is what generally separates an expert from a novice. This distinction applies to any discipline / profession. I don't include terms like 'dedication', 'commitment', 'honesty', 'integrity' in this list for even a novice may possess these.

I'm not actually comfortable with the term 'expert'; a novice is only a new entrant and an expert has been there for some time. And there is so much to know, to learn that no one can really call themselves 'expert', which is just like 'professor'. To my mind, these are only convenient terms to make and maintain distinctions, part of an attempt at nomenclature.
Thomas Orr likes this

Facilitating Authentic Language for Global Interaction
I'd like to simplify what Zehaad wrote the way I understand it. As he does, I believe that ELT "experts" are able to quickly identify and use group experiences to adapt their lessons. This suggests that experience is what counts. "Experts" in ELT become that way because, via their students, they get to know a variety of backgrounds, skills and life experiences that they can implement to enhance lessons. They have more materiel to draw from based on what they've used for different levels and skills. For example, if I have a group of higher level learners, I introduce more competitive activities such as debates and contests. If my group is slower, I let them research and present on briefer topics such as introducing a suitable guest speaker at a meeting or explaining basic customer service practices. Quickly identifying areas of strength and weakness in a group leads to more effective facilitation strategies.

Assistant Professor at Dr. B C Roy Engineering College, Durgapur, India
Wonderfully enlightening discussion !! I completely agree with Dr.Orr as well as David Thornton that the successful ELT/Business English Teacher should start off being of a definite personality (personable, extroverted etc). Elis and Johnson in 'Teaching Business English' says so in the very first chapter ! That said however, the more important distinction that I hold close to my heart is that of being able to generate 'outcomes' that are favourable and to customize content and delivery according to learner needs. If the class achieves the goals that it set out to and every learner feels catered to, that would be the hallmark of a successful teacher. As for the 'expert' bit, the moment we become that, our learning stops and we stagnate. So maybe its best that we never consider ourselves as 'arrived' but rather a 'journey in progress' (?)

Yes, Sunitha, 'arrived' is what an 'expert' is likely to feel and be proud.

The listings offered up by David Thornton are certainly descriptive of the attributes of a skillful teacher. However, like most educational statements it is a big overwrought (but I like it just the same!).

The question is less relevant and important than what is the learning environment? Whether novice or expert, a teacher is subject to a school's politics; he/she is vulnerable to the culture of a school; limited by the desire of his/her students.

It is not the novice or expert, then, who facilitates learning. It is the environment established by the school, supported by its faculty and administration, adhered to by its students that enables a teacher to flourish and inspire and guide his/her students to learn. The expert is a leader amongst leaders :-) The novice stands alone.

An expert is the one who updates and freshen their knowledge every time to keep him alert for every innovations in his/ her own field. On the other hand, a novice is one who does not believe in renewing his /her kowledge at any time because they say that renewing or updating himself is a time-consuming period for their point of views.Whenever a teacher finds himself sufficient and because of the idea of sufficiency, this is the time when the wind of knowledge stops. AND, it means that the stream will drift your sailing boat to the rugged and rocky coasts where a lot of novice teachers are aimlessly located. Two kinds of novice are found over there. young novices and old novices! the main diffrence between them is the wrinkles on the old ones' faces. Nobody can see the wrinkles on the expert ones, because they draw learners' attentions to their speeches, updated knowledge. The wrinkles gain importance on their faces.

Associate Tutor in the DL MA in Applied Linguistics programme at University of Leicester
Thanks, David Thornton, for a really exceptional post. I've rarely seen this important question so clearly and succinctly handled and I blush to say that I hadn't come across Hattie's work before. I've cut and pasted your comments and will offer them to my MA students. .
Thomas Orr, PhD likes this

True Kolipaka, maybe I will fully know that one day. In the meantime, what do you think about the Outcome Based Teaching-Learning that i was trying to focus on.
Thomas Orr, PhD likes this

Senior Principal at Mount Mercy School
You can make out when you read their comments Ha Ha Ha...
Thomas Orr, PhD likes this

I've been working in Peru since Dec 2 and just visited this conversation again to see what people have been thinking. Very nice!
Me likes this

Hi Suneeta
By 'outcomes' do you mean any of your own different from the ones a syllabus prescribes? Trying to achieve learner needs is what every teacher does--novice or otherwise. Of course the levels of achievement and satisfaction may vary depending on how motivated novices or experts are.

Outcome of a subject taught would not only mean the marks the learner
received at testing. It would include the feedback from the endusers
of such teaching, (in my case, the employers) as well as peers, if
possible, to evaluate the degree to which the teaching has been
This would perhaps be expressed as not only accurate/fluent language
production, but also include efficient language management.
Do you think I am on the right track here, if I choose these to be my
teaching goals for Business Communication classes?
Susan Davidovits likes this

Encargado tutorias CEMAAI en Universidad Autonoma de Baja California -Facultad de Idiomas
Knowing what to answer when an unexpected and complex question is asked and being able to adapt one´s teaching techniques depending on many circumstances such as age or mixed ages, student´s backgrounds, beliefs and culture.

The only feedback from employers--end users I know is their evaluation of a teacher's performance as a teacher of a subject comes from the results--the percentage of passes-- produced. Your employers may be willing to give you more feedback than this.

If your peers can give you frank feedback, it would definitely be a boost.

But 'genuine' feedback from learners as the affected party in the form of responses to a questionnaire prepared by you is more direct and hence useful. Then again teachers do get such feedback at regular intervals through their body language.

Hi Maha
I did answer the questionnaire by clicking on the connection you indicated in your post.

Wish you all the best.

Hi Suneeta
In the last but one post I forgot to address it to you. It was in response to your query: do you think I am on the right track?

I refer to the employers of my students when I speak of 'end users'. Since, hopefully, there will be some sort of a continued liase/PR/interaction from the Training &Placement Department of an institution with the Industry, one can expect to be briefed about the skills/lack thereof , of the learners employed there.I believe strongly that at least in Business Communication, it is crucial to know the results of 'product testing' (!) 
However, learner feedback based on a questionnaire has also been very enlightening, as you said. Thanks, Kolipaka.

Topic 83
A member said she was looking for ideas to help her students speak and not clam up in open class.

Supervisor at Tobest International English
I don't know how old your students are, if for children. Bring something like silly putty. Give them a topic and ask to make something using silly putty. The students will like a lot because the atmosphere is relaxing, the students will get quite involved since its their own creation.
Marjorie R. likes this

Well, actually, i teach adults English. I think a " silly putty" class need very good warming-ups. This thur was the white valentine's day. We told the students the love story of the king, and asked them questions based on the readings. The students were so touched by the story. And when we come to the silly putty making part, everybody was very excited and it was real good class. (PS, my class size is 6 people, and they are between 25-45 years old.)

It seems that the students are not interested. Have you ever thought letting other teaching help you in the class? The students may feel quite refreshing if they see a new face and new ideas. Maybe you can have some other teachers set examples of the mini-presentations, the students learn from the real "mini-presentation" rather than something on the book. The student learn by giving comments. I tried it a few times in my class, it works well.

What nationality are the students? - some cultures don't expect to respond and speak to large groups of people.

What kind of topics/language are you asking the students to speak about as part of the whole class? - I'd start getting them speaking about what they know well, have a grip on. Avoid topics which demand a lot of academic vocabualry/knowledge (despite the CAE study). Their interests/world. Teens / young adults want to talk about issues with significance and meaning - voice their own opinions. Here's a presentation about teaching teens with some ideas.

Do you stand or sit (sitting can often relax students). Sitting can put them more at ease, create an informal mood.

Do you move around the class and speak from different parts of the class? This will make the classroom seem more egalitarian and less like you are judging them.

Is there a social hierarchy of any sort in the class? Get to know who the leaders are. Get them involved, others will follow. Maybe even talk to them personally about this but I wouldn't address this head on in class. Also, step back, sit down with the students as part of the class and let some of them lead the class, if that is an option. Seems to me they are more partial to speaking when the teacher isn't part of the dynamic. That isn't a slight on you, just the way some classrooms are.

To this the member responded:
My students are mostly Austrian students (20 - 30 years old) in a CAE class at an Austrian university. In addition, I have several foreign exchange students. I move around the class to encourage them to talk and as I mentioned they are fine with the topics in groups. the topics in the CB are fine, superstitions, celebrities, families, studies, travel, etc. That isn't the problem. And when I ask them to talk, I sit. Our rapport is great - they stay after class to chat and contact me per email, it is just the speaking in front of the group although I can't get them to stop when they are in pairs. I have some ideas to try out this week and will report back.

Area Sales Manager at Cambridge University Press
Marjorie, I have the very same problem with my group of CPE students, aged 17 to 22. The class is from 11.45 to 2.15 on a Saturday so with the previous week of studying and I imagine some degree of Friday night "socialising" they come in to class quite tired - a number of them are always 15 to 20 minutes late, despite living only 3 or 4 metro stps away from the centre.
As in your case, there's no problem getting them talking in their groups (there are three hexagonal tables, with four or five to a table). They lap up any amount of course book exercises; in fact I could spend the whole 2 1/2 hours doing grammar and they wouldn't complain. But overcoming the shyness, embarrassment and general awkwardness is a herculean task.

I get them talking in their groups on topics with picture cards, newspaper articles, topics for debate or whatever, and once they have started, I go to each of the tables, sit down, listen and gently join in, but there is a palpable "clamming up" if I try to engage them even in small groups.

I've been teaching 23 years, 18 of those years at this centre, I speak both their languages, my wife is from here, I consider myself well integrated and I would say I "connect" with them and their culture and I've never had thissort of problem before, certainly not on this scale, but sometimes, there's just nothing to be done.

..., I have the very same problem with my group of CPE students, aged 17 to 22. The class is from 11.45 to 2.15 on a Saturday so with the previous week of studying and I imagine some degree of Friday night "socialising" they come in to class quite tired - a number of them are always 15 to 20 minutes late, despite living only 3 or 4 metro stps away from the centre.
As in your case, there's no problem getting them talking in their groups (there are three hexagonal tables, with four or five to a table). They lap up any amount of course book exercises; in fact I could spend the whole 2 1/2 hours doing grammar and they wouldn't complain. But overcoming the shyness, embarrassment and general awkwardness is a herculean task.

I get them talking in their groups on topics with picture cards, newspaper articles, topics for debate or whatever, and once they have started, I go to each of the tables, sit down, listen and gently join in, but there is a palpable "clamming up" if I try to engage them even in small groups.

I've been teaching 23 years, 18 of those years at this centre, I speak both their languages, my wife is from here, I consider myself well integrated and I would say I "connect" with them and their culture and I've never had thissort of problem before, certainly not on this scale, but sometimes, there's just nothing to be done.

Pay them. Put a tall stack of 8 or 10 euros on your desk and pay anyone who asks a question, comments about the lesson, shares a personal story...It gets their attention and gets them over the hump. You can't pay them in cash everyday - but you don't have to, it's like an icebreaker in that the ice only has to be broken once.
Alternatively, "Who is Your Hero" is a good one. I model a 2 minute explanation of why Christopher Columbus is my hero (he believed in himself and was right when everyone else was wrong - He is not my hero for discovering America because he didn't discover America - he thought he was in the Far East!) Students are often happy to talk about something or someone they feel strongly about and their own passion takes them over the hump.

at Holmwood's Online Learning
Top Contributor
One of the most effective things I have found to get anybody to talk is to find something slightly controversial about which they have strong opinions. Of course you need to find that topic, but often it can be as simple as "do you believe there is a God" or "is Obama a good president" or "are Mac's really any good, surely Microsoft is better"
Shilpa H.Marjorie R. and 1 other like this

Marketing Associate & Photographer | Designing attractive promotions and branding for international markets
A discussion topic that my German students loved was, "Discuss the benefits and disadvantages of having films dubbed." I'm not sure if Austria is the same way, but in Germany all movies are dubbed and subtitles are hard to come by. My students all had very strong opinions!

ESL Instructor at New America College, Denver
I use with great success to improve speaking and pronunciation. Below is my class presentations recorded in voicethread. I found that recording their presentations prior to presenting in front of the classroom helped with confidence and clarity.

English Language Teacher, Trainer and Consultant
A couple of suggestions:

Get them to organise the presentations themselves in small groups (eg 3s/4s) - they are adults after all. First ,as a group they need to source a video clip (English speaking) from you tube or the like and prepare an oral presentation together on: why they have selected it, what they like about it - any interesting language they have noticed etc. Then each week one of the group becomes the presenter to the other groups. The other groups ask questions at the end of the (very short presentation) - the other team members can answer the audience questions as a group. You can then build in feedback sessions on how to make the presentations more effective, particularly drawing on the strengths of previous presentations.

Also, some learner training - where they discuss what they find difficult about speaking out in class in small groups and write down the issues - then swap so that groups can come up with solutions. Finally regroup (1 from each group) and they ask and give each other advice.
Robert F. likes this

English language teacher, oral examiner & researcher. Experienced in authentic materials in foreign language instruction
Since your students have something to say when they work in small groups or pairs, I would say that, maybe, it's a matter of anxiety when speaking in front of the whole class. I would make clear that I value each and every contribution, even if there are errors or even if it is a bit off-topic. I would explain that every little contribution helps in order to expand a topic and explain that everyone has something new to learn from the other classmates. I am sure that the rapport between you and your students is great but there may be a problem among students themselves. Some students may be very advanced and dominating. This could intimidate less advanced students who are not very confident. Ofcourse, providing information about the topic beforehand and giving time to students to prepare before they speak could help reluctant students. Just to let you know that this boat is full of English language teachers, I would like to inform you that I face this problem quite frequently as well.

Coordinator of Social Program at Baptist Church in Salinas, P.R.
Marjorie, I haved this experience in my classroom at university level. One strategy that function in my case, was change the structure of room. Instead keep chair in line, I made a circle and I sit with them, ocasionally. The teacher standup have an authority and control meaning. And its correct. But when students can see the teacher as the same level, sure that in corporal positions, they can feel more confidence. You will discuss the topic of the day, it no change, just the structure of room. I taught psycriatric and mental health and learned that sometimes the more simple way is more effective then other learned in college.

Instructional Design - Curriculum Development
I relate talking subjects to real world issues as a way of getting students to talk more. I use group discussion for quiet ones to talk. The quiet ones that are talking in small group IS talking. Some cultures produce people unable to speak in large groups eg asian families sometimes produce girls that won't talk in large classes because they might be silenced at home culturally.

Training Consultant & English Language Specialist; Performance Strategist; Operations & Project Manager
Use an ice-breaker - 5 minutes each session - pass them a ball to through around - start with a story line like There once lived a lonely lion high up in the mountains - and the student you throw the ball to needs to carry the story forward and then throw the ball to the next random student who must continue the story - make sure to monitor so they stay on track and start introducing student names - the student who throws the ball should name the student he/she is throwing the ball to and so on.

A few of this type of activities will get them going to think out loud - don't be afraid to chuckle or even appreciate innovative twists in the story - a great fun activity.

Would be interesting to get feedback on how this turns out to help your class open up in front of each other - look forward to hear back on this :)

Professional Foreign English Teacher, China
The ideas mentioned here are all wonderful. I will also use them in my middle school and high school kids. As to the question posted, I assign a topic for them to prepare and everyone has to say it one by one in class the next time. This is to break the ice of speaking in front of many people. When they have developed enough self confidence, I throw follow up questions on their speech and ask other students if they agree or disagree. There are many ways to solve the problem. The solution will really depend on which method would be best for your particular kind of students. My two cents ...

Have you considered letting them prepare for a speaking activity in class, say, in small groups, before they launch into a group discussion?
Surely the problem is that they feel that they don't have the words/phrases and so on that they would like to use?
Or you could take a topic, work in small groups and then pool the vocabulary and ideas - improving on them where necessary - and then jump into the speaking?
I shall come back to this, it's a good topic and one which may be relevant for me with a new group I will have soon.

Professeur d'anglais at SOFIQ (Société de formation industriel au Québec)
Choose volunteers!

Hi Marjorie, I had a similar problem in the past . My adult students were at A2 /B1 level with mixed abilities . I thought it was a problem of language, but it was not as they were not shy to speak in English. It was the topic that they were not interested in. Therefore , I asked them to make a list of things they liked to talk about. One student ( Oil n Gas technician ) wanted to talk about how to extract oil ( quite interesting as I learned a lot from my student) , another wanted to draw the falcon and talk about it , and again I learned a lot about the student's culture. Now, I know what kind of questions I ask my students.

Beginners are often very shy, and I give them specific draw something on the board representing a word on a card I've given them, charades, that sort of thing, and having two come up , not one on his own. Groups reporting back to the whole class - again 2 of them or all 4, whatever, helping each other to present, and answer questions from the floor.
I have found that Italians for example just talk, you have to stop them at times (!) but Northern Europeans are infinitely more reserved, and really don't want to look foolish, so you have to start them off on very specific things, untiil they have the habit of being more spontaneous.

Cool - Let me know what they were and how they worked out - For CAE, especially the grammar bit, I would throw in a lot of relative clause activities or similar - let one student pause on the relative pronoun/adverb and the other should finish the clause. They need to finish each other's sentences as this will open psychological barriers which are at times cultural and lingual constraints.

All the Best!

Do your students have this resource, Marjorie: 
You might like to also look for this book:

Basically, the main problem for learners at this level is that they use the wrong collocations and have too few of them at their disposal. 

In the "Teaching Collocation" book there are some great practical ideas from practising teachers in real classrooms (not just dry theory that you know will never work). 
One of the ideas I would love to try out is to get students to use their bilingual dictionaries (or smartphones) to prepare talking about a topic. 

First they discuss what words they would use in German; second, they see if they know them; third, they look them up. Then they use their collocation dictionaries to see how the words work in practice and write up the expressions they need.

If your students won't talk, then fear of grammar mistakes and lack of vocabulary is probably the root cause. 

The fear can be broken down by giving them - or helping them to find them themselves- the words and expressions they need.

Being allowed to practise something first, and then being given the opportunity to repeat the exercise later - when the expressions needed are better known - can also build confidence.

It's not your activities which are the problem, I would guess, it's their lack of vocabulary which is at the root of their confidence issues.

Have you simply asked them - perhaps even in German to get honest answers - to TELL you why they feel uncomfortable about speaking in front of the whole class?

translator at free-lance english/greek translator
let me suggest something very could give them some questions and ask them to write short answers.then you could correct them and ask them to read them in class. after that you can ask them to memorise what they have written for next time.this is not the best idea but it works in extreme situations.they will feel more confident to speak up because they'll know that their answer is correct and no one will make fun of them. you can work with this technique for a while and gradually they'll be able to answer alone. also when you talk about a theme-fashion for example- you can pre-teach them some topic vocabulary or provide them with standardized expressions so as to reduce anxiety and make them feel more confident.

English Language Trainer at LETA - Learn English Through Action
It looks like you are making a fundamental mistake: You are putting a question to a crowd. If you would direct your question to each individual of that crowd you'd get an answer from each and every one them. Ask the crowd as a whole, and you'll get silence…
Why? A whole lot of different reasons ranging from not wanting to appear [whatever], over being a quiet type, to being isinterested, to having trouble forming an answer in their mind, to not having understood the question, issues with authority, peer criticism and what have you.

People feel "safer" in pairs and small groups as we all know. Why not use those small groups to work up from small input to full-blown presentation?

If you need to get answers from a group of people, then group your class and appoint a spokesman for each of your small groups (or have each group elect one themselves) and get your answers from them.

If you need individuals to speak to the whole class, then have a group work out what their spokesperson needs to convey.

This also allows you to run multiple topics simultaneously (each group could be working on a different topic) And it allows you to have these 4 or 5 spokespersons to exchange group results, engage in a debate about results, find pro and cons of each other's results etc, and all that from the safety of their own little groups yet still in front of the whole class. You already have 4 or 5 people holding mini-presentations right there!

Then appoint new spokespeople for each group and for a new task so everybody gets a turn to present something. And you can take this as far as you desire. You could even have one person sum it all up at the very end, which would definitely be a full-blown presentation that was actually worked out by EVERYBODY!

I obviously don't know what kind of material you need to cover, nor what your teaching style is, but my point is to keep people in their safety zones. Rearrange the furniture, create a low key "coffee shop" atmosphere where nobody is in charge and where you are available to help, and not to tell them what to do other than what their task is.

You need to get them to present something, anything, asap. Tell them not be afraid of mistakes, because they learn by them. Once they are getting comfortable with conveying results and talking to a larger group you can start to introduce the finer points, look at technique, correct individuals, and so forth. But on the whole I'd say have them learn by doing it and you'll get them to speak.

Chef, teacher, artist.
Marjorie - apologies, I have only skimmed over the replies however could it be a reflection of the changing times? I wondered if you would you consider hooking your students up with peers from another country, for task based conversations or collaborative peer to peer study online? Students today are digitally aware I think and they need to begin connecting globally to create PLN´s of their own - from both a career and learning perspective. One of my students is a Professor at a Business School here - and she is very inquisitive. I am sure she would love to participate. As you say - group work after class could be based around online discussions with overseas students - just an idea for you to consider. A blend I guess.

Might be a little late but recently posted on ways to get students speaking. Though, only really push students to speak when they themselves are ready....

For whatever it's worth (because of the time delay in responding to this post), here are some experiences of mine while handling English classes for undergraduates of engineering disciplines in Thamizh Nadu, India.

Some of my students had studied in the regional language medium at school and hence they had this fear complex so much they wouldn't speak at all in classes. They heard English all the time from 9 am to 4 pm which hardly made any sense to them--even physics, chemistry and mathematics. For the jargon was in the garb of English.

I spent the first few classes for confidence-building. I introduced myself, my family, my schooling, my fears, my desires, my hopes. Then I got them to introduce themselves in five or six sentences--giving them a sample. I got English-medium students to introduce themselves first so the regional medium students heard the pattern and got used to it.
When they faced the class to speak, every one clapped, many smiled to them and said words of appreciation.

Next I spoke about my interests--politics, music, films, sport (cricket is very popular here), asked for their reactions as part of my talk, responses came involuntarily, discussed certain events and films in some depth, involved them in the discussion.

Next I asked them to speak about their favourite hero (herione), sportsperson. I made them watch English movies, Charlie Chaplin's films, got them to talk about these, react
to specific instances.

In due course, they were able to get rid of this to a great extent. Their self-belief began to grow. By the time they were in second or third year when they need to make presentations, they were better off.

Of course, all these didn't work with some regional medium students. They were so fear-struck, they wouldn't come out of their shells.

Hope this will give you an idea or two.

Director at Belgrade English Language Theatre
Dear Marjorie,
I teach drama and theatre in English to Serbian young people in Belgrade. I am familiar with the challenge that faces you. You may not have time for this but I find it helps overcome nervousness and self-consciousness.
One word at a time story
a. The group sits in a circle and begins to tell a story one word at a time going around the circle in order.
b. Try the game again with three words at a time and you can build up the number of words each time.
It works as a piece of reverse psychology, because they usually end up wanting to say more words than just one, three or whatever the limit is.
Good luck,

Hi Marjorie,
ask your students to write and prepare one by one irregular verbs, the verbs in the past simple, the verbs in the present progrssive, the object pronouns, and so on. before going to your classroom, think some sentences for them to form, and in the classroom, ask them to come to the whiteboard, holding the papers on which verbs, nouns, modifiers, and soon are available randomly. e.g: "the leg of the table is broken". ask them to put the words in order to form a meaningful sentence. so long as you want them to put the words in order to form a meaningful sentence, everystudent will be stimulated to come to the whiteboard with their papers that they have prepared before. these activities will help and reveal their desire to speak in the classroom without having any fear of being unsuccessful.

Hi Marjorie , I realize this is an old conversation, but the topic is relevant for many of us.
When I have a small group of 20-30 adult learners, I find out about their interests, likes and dislikes at the beginning of the course ( getting to know them ). I utilize this info when I have to do a speaking activity with them, I begin each such session with a nugget of info from their backgrounds ( esp. the very shy ones), we discuss around it , with related info and this acts as the ice -breaker.
Works well for me and gets the shy ones participating, so I thought of sharing it here:)

Hi Paul Murray...we learnt this technique in a session on storytelling by Nell Phoenix, and I now know where to use it, thanks to you!
Paul M. likes this

Director Academico at Globoworld
First they need to be grammatically empowered, have a good repertoire of vocabulary on each topic, positively reinforced, complimented on their slightest efforts. But also they must be challenged and they must know that they are expected to produce orally. Then push them. Ask for complete oral sentences, always ask "why" or "why not" on every thing they say, and show them you are waiting on more explanation although their opinion seems obvious or logical. Show you are intrigued or even shocked by what they say (even though you're not). Learn their names and try engaging them by NAME...

Also limit correcting them to a minimum, allow them to get away with mistakes unless they really obscure the meaning of their sentences/ideas...

Professional Educator/Expert English Instructor
Judy, I think you were a bit harsh with your comment. There are various types of classes, teachers, students and environments, never mind cultures, albeit there are methodologies that have been 'proven' to work with certain ESL communities. When he said grammatically empowered I am sure he meant that they have acquired the knowledge to stream a sentence as well as the vocabulary to ensure their meaning is correct. Students, in my experience, insist and require, grammar in order to feel empowered with their L2. Like I said, there are numerous ways to teach and we as educators have to be consistently and constantly assessing our students and our classes in order to deliver the best possible ESL education possible.

I agree with Linda there...most ss feel intimidated and scared to shed off their hesitancy because they feel they lack an armoury of an ESL teacher you do have to provide scaffolding words and pre-teach some vocabulary, before expecting ur ss to participate in discissions.

Director Academico at Globoworld
Yes, Judy. You were very harsh with your comments. It seems you blindly jumped to conclusions and perhaps ignored the bigger picture. And sorry for having to say that here, but we take students' money because we are proud of the quality of the service we offer! We are not perfect but we try and improve every day.

I know nobody likes grammar but let’s be honest that it can’t really be overlooked if you have enough respect and consideration for your students to help them reach standard and precise communication. Everyone deserves correct and accurate communication skills…Grammar goes from empowering students to say “yesterday you were..” instead of “you yesterday is…”, perhaps all the way to using the subjunctive adequately... Also it involves helping them to utter a good stream of words to furnish their ideas, paraphrasing and thanking Linda for the way she so eloquently and intelligently put it.

The question is what are the steps, techniques and precautions (method) you’ll use to get them empowered in that sense. Trained and experienced teachers use methodologies because we look for results in a record time. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be blind fanatics of a particular methodology. We use what gives the best results depending on the circumstances (which is where experience comes in to allow us to reinvent ourselves and adapt). Yes, it may appear obvious to address students by name, but that is emphatically important for good classroom management, especially in a 20-student class size. Often up and coming teachers would throw questions in the air and expect everyone to answer. It won’t happen unless you address the shiest/less advanced ones by name, acknowledge them and show them the respect of giving them too a chance to participate….

I am even more shocked than you, dear Judy, to read that “Complete sentences are unnecessary …[sic]. They are “not appropriate” for “basic or intermediate students.”… I must admit I have heard and explored this. And I do know how controversial my opinion might be, but for us, if we are talking about the same approach, it only works when working on developing students’ listening accuracy, then we don’t particularly accent students’ responsive structure… So please do enlighten me, but teachers also need to encourage and develop students’ oral production, not just utter isolated words. It makes little sense to say for instance: “need coffee” which could mean: “ my brother needs coffee to start his day” or “you need coffee to make a cup of latte”. Perhaps everyone will agree these are basic (not even intermediate!) concepts that are unclear unless all the words are correctly streamed by the student in a complete sentence.

Everyone, of course, is entitled to their methodology. What really matters is that they work. And let’s not forget that the ultimate goal is that students get enabled to clearly express their ideas and fully grasp other people's in a context of mutual respect and consideration without frustrations for both parties in the name of the beautiful art/science of communication.


It depends on how you teach grammar to your students. As a language learner , my English teachers thought me grammar 'rigidly' I knew about all the tenses and the forms. I played ' English teacher ' at the age of 12 in the Independent Learning room and explained all the grammar to my classmates. I passed all the English Exams.
Yeah , maybe grammar had empowered me to be known as the Grammar Geek at school , but when I found myself in an authentic English Environment , I couldn't express myself in English. I was silent ! I was thinking all the time" I need to produce accurate sentences in the past perfect and the conditionals ", But, we don't need the past perfect , the conditionals and the passive to communicate simple needs in English , do we?

Another problem, they ( my English teachers ) never made us aware of the English pronunciation and talked to us like robots. They simplified LONG English texts. We listened to their voices and answered true and false questions. What a waste of time !

What we really needed as learners was a short segment of 'natural' English from the news or a conversation between friends or strangers . Again when I was in an authentic English environment , I thought the English were 'aliens' and didn't speak English . To save face, I smiled and said ' yes please! even when I didn't want milk in my tea. I just didn't understand what my host were saying to me.

Now , as an English teacher , I don't repeat the mistake my teacher did in the past. I teach my students English Language so they pass their exams and use it in REAL-life situations. .

Topic 84
How good is your grammar? Quiz
Angus Proctor Independent Environmental Consultant at Freelance environmental Consultant Top Contributor
Are you guilty of using tautology, dangling participles or split infinitives? As Tesco is announced as the winner of the Bad Grammar Award, we put your grammar to the...

I got seven right. two wrong because of my careless reading. one on comma splice. Not bad.

I answered correctly the question about the dangling participle, but I have no idea what a dangling participle is. I can think of other dangling things, but a participle! That seems strange to me. Anyone cares to explain?

Here is an attempt:
Errors occur while linking participial phrases with main clauses.

No further matter arising, the meeting was brought to a close. (present participial)
The last train having gone, we had to walk home. (verbless)

Note: The first halves of these sentences contain non-finite and verbless clauses, they’re not explicitly connected to the main clause and are therefore called absolute clauses.

A word of caution is necessary here about what we attach to main clauses. See these:
Entering the house, the door closed with a bang.
Hated and persecuted by all, the reader feels sympathy for Shylock.
Only a few minutes from Chennai, the accident occurred.
Being very tired, the alarm was not heard.
Standing on the church tower, the whole village could be seen.
Finished with the meal, the plates were cleared away.

The first halves of these sentences contain what are known as dangling phrases/participles. They are termed ‘dangling’ because unlike in the absolute clauses, the connections that exist between them and the main clauses in these are not properly expressed because here the subjects of the main clauses are not subjects for the participial phrases as well:

The door cannot enter the house
The reader is not hated
The accident is not away from Chennai
The alarm was not tired
The whole village did not stand on the church tower
The plates did not finish with the meal

Such constructions should be avoided:

On entering the house, I closed the door with a bang.
Hated and persecuted by all, Shylock receives sympathy from the reader.
When we were only a few minutes from Chennai, the accident occurred.
Being very tired, I slept through the alarm.
Standing on the church tower, the visitors could see the whole village.
Finished with the meal, we cleared the plates away.

So it’s absolutely essential to bear in mind that converting simple sentences into phrases should be done with care so that the subjects of both the phrases and the main clauses are the same when relationships between the two exist.

No relationship, they are absolute clauses
Relationship, care is need.

Thank you very much, KR, things are clearer now. But I could add they are curiouser and curiouser as I would have preferred the second sentences (On entering...). I'm now going to work on these dangling participle and practice, practice, practice!

You're welcome, Agnes. My pleasure.

So participles tend to dangle... had no idea :) Fun test!

They don't dangle, Melinda, we hang them.
Melinda Makkos likes this

Haha :) You're absolutely right, dear KRL.

Topic 85
I thought I'd share this article here as it's got some interesting comments for you to add to - 'new wave' versus 'old wave' - education - philosophical and psycholgical perspectives:))
Sylvia Guinan Freelance English Language Teacher Online, Blogger and Writer Top Contributor
Myths, Sorcery, & Influence in the Digital Age This is a timely post for Teacher Appreciation Day celebrating what’s REALLY happening in professional development...

The ten-point list in the write-up is like ten commandments, the only difference is the amount of freedom today's teachers can enjoy and benefit from. Item 10 will happen if the other nine can happen. Of course it all depends on how teachers can exploit the gifts today's environment provides for them--for instance, the five communities in LinkedIn--so learners can grow as learners.

I wrote the list randomly - I could have put it on a mindmap or word cloud either - they are hardly commandments - and certainly they are not meant to be - you can agree or disagree with them, add perspective, suggest points of your own or share an alternative vision.

In what sense did you mean they are like the ten commandments?

It's the number that is common between your list and the famed list. When I saw 10 of them, I linked it with the other. There were ten suggestions here and there were ten instructions. No other connotation. For the time being I'm happy with the list.
 Sylvia Guinan likes this

I see, thank you:)

It's funny how we see the same things in different ways - I have commented on that phenomenon beneath the article.

For me 'ten commandments' reminds me of authoritariansim - hence the misunderstanding.

Also you have actually inspired a new learning/brain-storming activity in my mind.

If I copied my list onto a word cloud of jumbled up words and told everyone to come up with a list of their dreams for education using key words from the cloud - how many different or similar 'visions' would we come up with??

I'm going to experiment with this on facebook - which is more image friendly:)

I'm looking forward to the new one. In the meantime, let me see if I can add something to your list or modify it, with your permission.

Absolutely - that's why I shared it here:)

I chose this medium for I'm not sure how you'll receive the following: 
‘There is some lingering confusion out there as to what teachers actually do online, the substance of their work and why it should make any difference. 

‘I will share what we are proud of, as well as address questions of substance and ‘sorcery’ 

‘Professional development initiatives online are bringing teachers together from all over the world. Experienced veterans in the ELT field who have established a strong online presence are working together to share their ideas with teachers on the ground. 

‘As for ideas, why would anyone give away ideas? For free? 

‘Power lies in sharing positive influence and celebrating the fact that those you influence will rise to the occasion and create better things than you have created. The new creations will be celebrated collectively and used to enhance classroom experiences all over the world. The power of sharing online cannot be over-estimated. It is a sea-change occurring beneath the crusty surface of a disgruntled academia still stewing in papers and citations. 

From these extracts, I realise something positive is taking place online through the efforts of ‘teachers of substance’. 

I have no idea of what you’re talking about. Before I can say anything, I would like some answers. Who are these teachers of substance—‘the new wave of educators’ as referred to by Nick Micheloudakis? What have they done? How will what they have done transform the teaching-learning process? What has caused the brimming confidence to emerge as reflected in the ten-point list as celebration marks? 

Thank you.

Thanks for taking my request in the right spirit. 

On 05/08/14 11:13 AM, Sylvia Guinan wrote: 
I've been teaching online for four years and the last two years have involved global professional development. 

To answer your questions in great detail would take at least another article if not a full description of what's been happening globally. 

Can you check out the links in the article first and tell me if it sheds any light on the matter? 

Then I'll try to give focused answers in the group or on the blog itself. 

Thanks for your interest:)) 

Topic 86
Some people think that children should learn to compete, but others think that they should be taught to cooperate with others. What is your opinion?
Mitra Niroomand EFL Instructor and Researcher Top Contributor

From my observation of 43 years of teaching children and adolescents, I've noticed this: some like and expect competition and are disappointed if there's none, some like and expect cooperation from others and like to cooperate with others and are disappointed if there's no cooperation, especially from the intelligent ones. Some don't care either way because what happens in the classroom is a ritual they have to go through for they are put there.

Now you need to find a way to satisfy the first two groups. Which would mean you need to quickly identify students belonging to the first and the second. Once you've done that, set two kinds of classroom experiences such that both the groups can actively participate. If you're following a prescribed coursebook and if it doesn't contain experiences suiting both the groups, you need to prepare your own and use them.

Of course this means a lot of work for you, but then you can derive satisfaction of doing your job well and in the bargain earn respect from both groups.

Thank you all for your insightful comments.
Although cooperative learning has strong positive effects on almost every conceivable learning outcome,not all learners like to work in groups. The reluctance to work in groups may be due to egocenteredness among some students who will not acknowledge other learners ideas as they believe that they are much more competent. Hence, there must be several ways to motivate these kind of learners to cooperate with their peers, but how?

‘... there must be several ways to motivate these kind of learners to cooperate with their peers, but how?’
Why compel them to do something they’re reluctant to do. Only tell them they'd be missing the joy of working together but if they persist, let them work on their own. This would allow them to maintain their equilibrium.

‘compete with oneself’ is the best that can happen to a learner. Greatness grows and thrives when you compete with yourself, setting standards higher all the time. But it’s a virtue not all possess and thrive only in external competitive environment. Your girl student will go places if she maintains it. Congrats on your success!

I can't agree more. Fine comment.

Expert Written English and editing. Rater at 51pigai. New Oriental Education and Technology Group.
Top Contributor
It is possible to compete at the same time cooperate and, either way.

Competition by its very nature cannot include cooperation between or among competing individuals. However, I've seen intelligent ones helping out those who are less fortunate.

KRL you are contradicting yourself. it is very possible to compete at the same time cooperate in a few things. one awkward example is China and America. Hahah. Sorry not to bring politics here. Meant for laughs. But I am a volleyball player, I it is a game in which you compete but at the same time good amd cooperative to the opponents.

Topic 87
Teachers' Thread
Nelson Bank Director at National Unity in language Top Contributor
I would like to propose a thread for teacher questions - questions maybe from students, that are difficult to answer; questions about usage, maybe prepositions, plurals, or verb tenses. If you are a teacher and have a question about a specific instance of usage, please post here and other experienced teachers can offer suggestions.

A welcome gesture from a senior.

A thought for mulling (and acting?):
Several issues related to usage and grammar are thrashed out, say, in EFL discussions or in Professional (pick up or fetch?). I think quite a few of us here are also members of more than one discussion group. So may I suggest that we post here issues unresolved in the other groups or something other than those already discussed and resolved there. This would mean some work for all of us, reading those discussions would mean time, and do we have it. Yeah, I understand but then at least it'd be informative and educative as well.

Great idea KR. Unresolved issues from other lists. 

Hi Agnes
I'd use a comma in the question sentence though traditionalists may correct me; yes, of course, a semi-colon would be right.

University of Bristol, University College of Toronto and other websites recommend rewriting sentences with splice commas.

But Richard Nordquist in his Comma Splice - Grammar and Composition - says this:
'Though often treated as errors in traditional grammar, comma splices may be used deliberately to create a rhetorical effect of speed, excitement, informality, or confusion. (See Examples and Observations, below.)'
Please check them.

Personally, I use two or even three commas when the sentences have some kind of link, for instance, flow of continuity.

Here is part of what I wrote in a discussion:
White people tend to use ‘Indian English’ as an umbrella term to refer to the ‘new’ English spoken in India, there’s no Indian English, there are only localised varieties of Indian English just as British English and American English have their own, I believe, at least as far as sound production goes; and there’s no standard Indian English just as there’s no standard British English and American English if I’m to believe what I’ve seen and read in some of the discussions on LinkedIn.

I've used two commas for the simple reason that the sentence that follows is also linked with a semi-colon, and I wouldn't like to break up the first sentence using full stops.

What do you think?

One unresolved issue was: which is correct: teacher of English or English teacher. Quite a few said both were correct, some objected to 'English teacher' as a synonym because 'English' refers to the community and not to the language.

How do we see this here?

Reading the comments about the splice comma, I see that the written language is changing. In fact, we try more and more to reflect the spoken language. We use punctuation in new ways to mimic the micro pauses we do in a speech, we seem to want to express more.
About the English teacher, I'm a French English teacher, but I don't teach French. If I did, should I have written "I'm a French, English teacher" to avoid the confusion?

Your're right, Agnes, about how the spoken language has been influencing the written one. Previously, we used to see it only in plays.

a French native English teacher sounds like a native English teacher teaching French. I guess the solution is to put the two words that go together, together with a hyphen.
A native-French English teacher. A French native-English teacher is John Smith teaching French.

To avoid the confusion, wouldn't it be better to say, 'I'm French and I teach English' or 'I'm English and I teach French', especially where the language and the nationality go by the same word?

Even where they don't, for instance, 'I'm an Indian English teacher', I'd prefer to say, 'I'm an Indian and I teach English.' For messages to be received, clarity is essential, and if a word or two is required for this, why economise and say in a way that confuses rather than clarifies?

K R, the voice of wisdom! You're right.

Topic 88
If there are rules in English grammar then why exceptions?
Bb Spoghmay English Instructor at AAI

It is true not only for english but for any other language.

Even though they're called rules, the rules of a language usually aren't chosen deliberately. Linguists document consistent patterns which we call rules. Exceptions to rules usually occur because at some point in the language's history, people started saying something in a different way and it happened to stick around. Languages are constantly changing, so exceptions can be evidence of an old pattern that used to be more common but it slowly going away, or they can be evidence of a new pattern that is emerging but isn't fully adopted yet.
Unlike (9)

Good explanation, Claire. I might add that because English comes from so many other languages, rules are hard to apply across the board. As the language has evolved, words from other languages have been adopted, also, and the rules haven't necessarily applied to them. English constantly changes, and thus, the rules do not always follow suit.

The only purpose of making any rule is to eliminate the exceptions. There will never be a rule for anything where there are zero exceptions.

The question was really simple, and so I'll try to give it a simple answer:

There aren't "rules" in English grammar. Referring to them as rules is actually incorrect, because, as you so succinctly pointed out, if they were rules then there would be no exceptions.

When you want to play a game, you explain the rules first. Then you play. Language "rules" are the opposite. Millions of people use a language all over the world, and at the same time. As it's happening, we're trying to codify the patterns that occur most often, and calling those patterns "rules." If a game were played that way, it would be chaotic and inconsistent, words that describe grammar rules quite fittingly.

A final point: Something is only called a rule when a large majority follow it. In that situation, what the rest of the people do is called a mistake. But when a mistake becomes common enough, it ceases to be a mistake -- it's just incorporated into the rule. Those instances are often called "exceptions."

A language isn't a logical phenomenon, it is more complex. That is the reason why some irregularities may occur.

There are rules with no exceptions to English grammar but they are not what we were taught (I'm not really sure what all that crap is). Unfortunately, we teach what we were taught - even though it is wrong. If you want to know the grammar rules for English,Rita Baker figured them out about 30 years ago and teaches them at the Lydbury English Centre -

Her approach is called the Global Approach and it will every single second of what you tell students for the rest of your life

Oh and it takes about two weeks to learn the real rules of English after which learners go out and function in English. Learning English only takes thousands of hours when you do it wrong.

I think differently, I do support the idea to have rules, since EFL/ESL teachers want to teach their L2 learners effectively to overcome their repeated grammatical mistakes and yet L2 learners often transfer their L1 grammatical norms which may differ from English language and then it yields inappropriateness learning process and of course learning grammar is a part of that process to build language competence.

In my opinion English grammarians had better write,different rules , with exceptions though,for writing and speaking because those rules that seem very strict in writing are exceptional again when it comes to speaking.

Good point Ali, speaking rules are completely different from writing rules. Speaking rules I know. There are six of them and they are so simple toddlers figure them out on their own. There are no exceptions to the six speaking rules. 'No exceptions' is how you can tell when you have identified the real rules.

What makes the English language beautiful and frustrating at the same time is that it's one on the few major languages that has no board like french or Spanish does. Over time, the language morphs. Many of the exceptions come from this splitting, borrowing of words, and creating new ones.

I have found teaching both children and adults alike that psychologically people love to hear that they are learning 'a rule'. They seem to embrace the idea and are more receptive to learning it. Then once they have solidified said rule, it's very easy to then say ' but then there is this exception and that exception'. The rule is the foundation from which the exceptions spring.

Teaching much of grammar rules may get the learnrs away from what we call language.They must be used as spices not the main ingredients. Those who know how , where, when and why to use grammar are the victors. After 21 years of teaching I got to the point that rules are nothing but precious.

Really? There are rules? Go figure!

Like anything in this world, there are rules and exceptions. Otherwise we won't have words such as "but, however, by the way" and so on. Language is like the road. It has an ultimate destination, namely "meaning". And that destination has a main road but along the ways it has all sorts of short cuts (called context), by-passes and road blocks called exceptions. They make the journey more challenging, interesting and exciting - even fun! Every language is bound to have some exceptions. For language learners, we as teachers must teach the basic rules first and then teach them the exceptions. Where possible, we must also explain why we have such exception. Simply saying "that is the way it is" is not good enough. Make the exceptions a fun learning experience. Language is power and language has the power to bend it's own rules. Aren't we crooked too as teachers and learners?

(A little late, perhaps) Right on, Nanda!
Turn all the exceptions into rules, and exceptions will be ruled out forever...

Rules are different from axioms. Any rule has its exceptions. English language is the most used language all over the world. Flexibility happens and it is wide. Rules are the milestones to help to undertand the language logic and to convey menings and uses. I value the need of rules and also the motion of introducing new language pragmatics.

I think one of the reasons is the history of English. It consists of a combination of so many different languages. Old Norse and French and German and Anglo Saxon and other influences. So what works in one language is an exception in another language. Plurals are a good example of this. Sheep and sheep, phenomenon and phenomena. Curriculum from the Latin. Etc etc.

The "rules" are simply how the langauge operates - no more and no less. They do not have "exceptions", no.

"Prescriptive ruekls" have exceptions (1) because thy are badly put, and (2), they are the "rules" for a specific type of language, not the WHOLE language.

<<What makes the English language beautiful and frustrating at the same time is that it's one on the few major languages that has no board like french or Spanish does.>>

French adn Spanish are morphing - and have morphed - as much as English has. The presence of an "Academy" has not stopped this in any way. French and Spanish are as complex in slang, swear words, dialect, social uses of language, language change, foreign words, etc. as English is.

Patterns is a better word. The rules we are stuck on teaching are neither accurate or useful. If the 'rule' includes an exception is isn't a rule. Keep digging until the premise is pared down to it's most basic form, that is always true, then you have a rule. Or read up on someone's work who has already figured it out, but for heaven sake stop preaching a bunch of garbage called 'grammar' because you don't know what else to do. It hurts and confuses learners when we aren't straight with them.

You should try listening to this episode of BBC's Word of Mouth. I think that it might answer you question...

conformity is possible but probably not attempted.

Rod, please elaborate:The "rules" are simply how the langauge operates - no more and no less. They do not have "exceptions", no.

Language is like water - it finds the easiest way down the mountain.

Thanks Lucy for the link. I think Pedants are just worried about the change of English language ...They haven't realized yet that English is evolving and has become global. I'd like a cup of coffee , I should like a cup of coffee.. or coffee please!

The spoken language always precedes the written language, which is usually at least a generation behind. The "rules" are permeated with exceptions because the "rules" haven't caught up to reality.

The exceptions are there to keep ESL teachers in gainful employment.

Topic 89
Key Aspects Of A Listening Lesson
David Deubelbeiss Director of Education, EnglishCentral. Assistant Professor, Nipissing University. Top Contributor
Almost as much as pronunciation, teachers are a little scared of a full listening based lesson. Usually, listening is just a quick passage and a few follow up comprehension questions.

What do you think are the key things to include in a listening lesson? Any examples of lessons you've done that provide a strong plan for the perfect listening lesson?

I've wrote about my own lesson, fully described with resources here -

Listening is a highly important skill for students to practice. Last week in this post - "The Ears Have It", we elaborated on how research outlines just how important our ears are. This week as a f...

Key aspects
Content assimilation is the essential activity in listening as a receptive skill. Assimilation involves comprehension of lexis and syntax used to convey the content. The content can be in the form of lectures, talks, speeches, passages or dialogues, group discussions. For both categories, recognition of sounds in combinations through words, their literal, connotative and inferential messages, knowledge of sentence formation (simple, complex and compound) , kinds (statement, questions, exclamations) and patterns (SVOOAC) are essential. Here the learner has to apply the world knowledge he/she possesses to understand what’s being said. But in the case of communication between people (two or more than two), a lot more is required: the tone, the pauses, the intonations.

The second aspect relates to the type of listeners we want our students to become:
i. informative ii. empathetic iii. appreciative iv. critical v. discriminative.

The third aspect is the kind of listening that should go on. We should want listeners to be participating in the communicating act: using body language, speaker-oriented, clarifying.

The fourth aspect is the listener’s ability to skim and scan.

Any lesson on listening needs to take care of RELEVANT parts of these four aspects for it to be successful.

Again this assimilation can be checked in an overall fashion (skimming and summarising) and in a specified fashion (scanning).

Barriers like preoccupation, avoidance, refusal, complexes, prejudices should be factored into the lesson activity.
Irena DeweyMary Shay like this

Creator and Directing Manager of
Thumbs up David, for the attention you have put into listening for the learner. It is such a personal and intimate space where the learner is free to analyse, process, make decisions, and be creative. I believe time spent on listening is, in many cases, undervalued.

Having worked with two-year-old learners, listening skill is highly appreciated since at this age learners barely have the capacity to speak in their own language. They are constantly absorbing information through listening, even if it might seem as though they are distracted in class. Often times when encouraged to speak, they refuse to do so as they seem to be incapable of utterances, however when given the sufficient amount of time to process their listening skill, their speech magically appears when they are ready. Quite remarkable really!

Concluding that many times we, as teachers, have to remember to give the learner, at any age, "listening-space" to allow for their assessment and development.

Yes, Mary, I agree with you: I believe time spent on listening is, in many cases, undervalued.

Here’s a listening plan that’s fun and useful.

You will need to choose a list of words with their definitions and functions that you want to focus on and record them, or use a “speaking dictionary” program. Make a list with 3 categories: easy, difficult and expert. Have a reward system like points or fake money.
Preparation for listening: Choose a student from the class. Let the student choose which category he or she wants, the higher the category, the higher the reward. Show the student the definition and function of the word. Do Not show the word.

The other students should have pen and paper.

The chosen student reads aloud the definition and word function to the class. (Help out if there are any difficult words in the definition.) Example: Appreciative of benefits received; thankful.

After reading the definition, play a recording of the word to the class (3 times maximum). Then give the students a few seconds to write down what they think the word is and turn their papers over when they are finished.

Practice: Play the recording a 4th time (if needed) and then have the chosen student spell the word aloud while you write it on the white or blackboard.
Reveal the correct word to the class. (Note: This is where they understand sound and pronunciation differences). Play the word again now that they can see the word and make the necessary corrections.

Compare and reward. I reward 10 false-euros in the "difficult" category (to make it fun) for each correct letter in the correct position. Example: if the word was “grateful” and the student wrote “greatful” I would reward the G,R,F,U, and L with 50 euros. I would not reward the T, E, or A as they were not in the correct position even though they were the correct letters. (If you have a lot of students,to save time, you can “pay” only the student that spells aloud and remind the other students that they are practicing for when they have their turn.) Do not let students count their money till the end of the lesson.

Rotate the students so that all students get a chance to spell what they think they heard aloud and receive their pay-checks!

Performance: Depending on the size of the class let each student have at least one chance to spell aloud then form groups and have the students create a story or sentences with all the new words from the listening exercise. Have one student from each group read the story to the class and let the other students correct any mispronunciations of the new words. Decide whose story was the best.

Each student counts his or her money in English to see who wins!

ELT video content producer, curriculum developer, training program coordinator
Top Contributor
I agree with K.R. that listening is a more complex activity and should involve participating in a speech act even if in the simplest of the forms, like agreeing or disagreeing with what he/she has just heard. What specific skills do we want the listeners to develop? If it is listening comprehension in terms of information transfer from the speaker (lecturer, narrator in a documentary) to the listener (our learner) then we're isolating "listening" as an abstract skill that has little to do with real life contexts. Basically, what we're doing, we channel information to the students, and then we check what percentage of that info. was successfully "delivered" to the learner.

I think listening can and should be taught as a communicative skill, that exists in tandem with learners' ability to react to what has been heard in a more active way. After all, that's what our students will have to do in real life: listen to people, process the info. and immediately react to the input in some way.

Topic 90
Usage in structuring Here are some sentences I’ve copied from novels; I believe they are American rather than British.
K R Lakshminarayanan active member, Expert Panel at Quadruple Education Network Private Limited, Chennai Top Contributor
Here are some sentences I’ve taken from novels; I believe they are American rather than British:

• … Perry decided to go back and drill into the mountain in hopes that Benthic
Marine might be the first organization to sample the molten material. (American)

• in the hopes that…

• in hope of landing more significant business

• … and asked CBI Agent Kathryn Dance to interview him, in hopes of a confession.

• I’m guessing, I’m thinking, on second thought

• “I’m sorry Mr. President, but Adam Shaw just called. He says it’s urgent.”
Turning, Kerry Kilcannon excused himself, and left.
Lara’s gaze followed him. “I hope he can stay for dinner,” she said. “The day was
seeming too good to last.”

• They also warned that some of the particulars, the ones pertaining to seldom-used
areas of the structure, were “less certain” and that some of the materials analysis was
conjectural and “uncertain.”
Less certain. Uncertain. Words Janson was hearing too often for his taste. [usage]

• We did find some fibres that were crushed into the fabric of his clothing and survived the
fire. I’m having the lab test them.

• “I was wondering if you have any inside information.”
“Not me,” Mason said. “I was hoping you had some.”

• backseat driving, took a picture of me (my picture), what was the name of it (its
name)?, I’m believing everything you say (I believe), I’m guessing, I’m thinking,
I’m hearing (all American usage)

Are there others?

English Language Consultant
Top Contributor
I don't know whether you can be sure what these samples mean. Different syntax maybe. Poor proof reading perhaps. The author may have a different standard from you. An editor or publisher may have changed the sentences to suit the target demographic.

The world is becoming (or is already) globalised and American English is unavoidable in films, television programs, the internet and so on. But British, Indian and Australian English still has its place. Stick to your guns. I do.

A consultant in teaching & core product,an Entrepreneur,Law associate to ad.Omar Faruque & associates, Marketer,Writer
Top Contributor

Thanks, Minhaj, for the link. There the discussion is about some common verbs used in simple and progressive tenses.

to all
I'm interested in learning about other differences in structure between American and British English.
Minhaj Quazi likes this

You are right, however, all variations are much important too. Just one point, one of my younger own brothers who got the scholarship from Indian govt. and got the chance in Aligarh Muslim University several years ago. In one vacation period he came back to Dhaka from his University, he rectified my conversation," no, unbalance, it would be imbalance!"

As he was the most meritorious student in our community(stood first in Dhaka board at matriculation) I agreed as he might not have done any wrong.
Do you know? Many years after, I realized --no, both are correct and it is depended on context!

So, nothing is absolute, yes, to what extend?

English for Academic Purposes Instructor at University of Nizwa, Oman
Adding "ing" to stative verbs has quickly become a norm (in speech) and not surprising that certain writers, in certain contexts would imitate or use consciously. The meaning is clear, but if you are looking Wadsworth then you have some strange examples. I don't teach putting "ing" on certain verbs, but neither do I berate an author for her colloquial attempts.

All these -ing usages are perfectly standard international English, used everywhere - and have been part of English (in an evolutionary sense) "for ever" - which means since before the establishment of prescriprive grammar. They are as much British as US, and their roots go as far back as Old English (over a thousand years ago).

• "in hopes that"/"in hope of..." vs "in the hopes that…" : for me in hopes that/in hope of (etc.) is more correct, and with the article it should be "in the hope that"

This is a typical use of the zero article to focus on abstract concept rather than specific referent. The plural shows that the hopes are somewhat general/vague, and not specific (which is "in the hope...")

Less certain : means not as certain as others

Uncertain : means unsure, not certain


"A picture of me" is standard; it doesn't mean the same as "my picture". "My picture" is the picture that belongs to me - and it can be a picture of anything.

The structure "a picture of X" refers to the contents of the picture :

"There was a full-size picture of a thoroughbred on the wall."

What is in the picture is a thoroughbred.

"I saw a picture of Mike on the wall" : what is in the picture is Mike.

"There was a picture of me and my mother on the table" : in the picture are me and my mother.


"backseat driving" - the activity of interfering with the driver by telling him/her what they should be doing.


"what was the name of it" vs what was its name"

The distinction between 's and of varies from very subtle to blindingly obvious. Taking the obvious point of view:

"What was the man's name?" - 's is used to refer to possession by an animate (people, animals, etc.)

"What was the name of the ship?" - of is used to refer to possession by inanimates (things).

Behind this is the focus of 's on "personal", and of on "impersonal" - "what is the name of the man" changes the psychological focus by refering to the man not so much as a person, but as an object - i.e., the focus is on the name, which happens to be that of a man [there are other ways of understanding this as well].

"What is the house's name?" - this personalises the house, it is a person's dwelling/abode - it is my house, or my father's - or something like that.

"What is its name?" has this "personal" reference, while "What is the name of it?" has the contrasting reference. However, as this is part of the psychology of the context, to get this, we have to know the whole context.

To come back to the "simple" vs "ing" contrast. As I implied, this has been in existance as long as English has been a language - well over 1000 years, though it was more complex in Middle and Old English. Modern English has simplified the matter.

The "ing" suffix most commonly refers to the activity expressed by the verb, and that is why it is used in these contexts:

1) names of activities (jobs, etc.) : nursing, engineering, teaching, mountain-climbing, sailing, etc.

2) adjectives that show activity : a sailing ship, running water, an interesting film, a boring topic, etc.

3) focus on activity/state as it is (was, etc.) happening and that we know is (was,e tc.) going to end - i.e. - on temprary activity/state:

"They were sitting chatting in the park in the sun."

We know that the sitting and chatting was happening in the time reference referenced by the context, but we also know that it was temporary. They were going to stop.

"Permanence" is shown by the "simple" (The earth goes around the sun; Every lunch break when it is sunny they sit in the park and chat).

In the examples given (I’m believing everything you say (I believe), I’m guessing, I’m thinking), "ing" has its regular "focus on temporary activity/state [as it is happening] that we know comes to an end.
I’m hearing (all American usage)

If I understand you, Rod, correctly, I've drawn wrong conclusions. But then I don't see most of them in novels written in British English, I've seen them only in novels that use American English, and going by where these expressions appear, I thought that some were American while some others were British. I only have printed matter as reference points. Hence the query.

I decide about the style by looking at punctuation and spelling.

Thanks, Rod.

You also have to be careful about the "register" of the novel - the type of people represented in the novel, who is talking, their role/poasition in society, and a host of other aspects. The things you note also have register usages - which are exactly the same in the States and the UK.

We also have to keep a distinction between the stem of the verb, e.g. "hear" in "I'm hearing what you're saying", as opposed to the grammar, and the context - what comes before and after - why the person is portrayed as saying X in the flow of the story. The grammar is in itself identical for US and UK English; it is the "hear" that to a certain extent expresses a dialect difference, though it can be used in the reading of "understand" in the UK as well (that is to say - "hear" = the words have entered into my consciousness, and I have understood what you are saying/are trying to say)..

The use of the "ing" in "I'm hearing what you are saying" is to focus on the fact that it is right now that I am referring to - to what I am understanding now at this moment - but that there is more to the story that could well mean that what you are saying now is not actually correct. There are a variety of ways of getting this across, and each of these ways gives a different "psychology" to the discourse. There is an overt or implied "but there's more to be said":

I have heard/understood/got what you are saying/are trying to say, but ...

I hear/understand/get what you are saying/are trying to say, but ...

Topic 91
I stumbled upon this: use a or an in front of a countable noun. Use any in questions. So how come it is better to say: "Is there a dog in the garden?"?
Agnès Glenn Enseignante chez Institution Sévigné

 ‘Are there any in your bag?’ Here ‘any’ is a pronoun and can be used by itself without a noun following it.

‘Any teacher will tell you that students learn at different rates.’ Here it’s a determiner. Here
‘any’ can be replaced by ‘a’: A teacher will tell you that students...’

‘Any’ is also used in negative sentences: There isn’t any left, I’m afraid. Here it’s a pronoun.

And in questions: Are there any stamps?

The indefinite article is also used :
in the meaning of ‘any/all’:
A dog is a faithful animal.
[All dogs are faithful animals.]
A house is a place of shelter.
[All houses are place of shelter.]

<a dog>
The indefinite article is also used :
in the meaning of ‘one’:
A dog was barking for a long time. There’s a house for sale.

Note: Though ‘a’ or ‘an’ can mean ‘one’, we can’t use
‘one’ in the place of ‘a’ or ‘an’ because there is a
difference in meaning:
One dog was barking for a long time.
[not two or three]
A dog was barking for a long time.
[I’m not definite about which dog it was.]
‘One’ is used when we think in terms of number
and ‘a’ or ‘an’ when we are not definite, when we
are unable to be specific.

<in the garden>
‘The’ is used when both the speaker and the hearer know the objects being referred
to (in the immediate situation):
Bring the candle.
The roses are very beautiful.
I missed both the lectures this morning.
Put it on the table.
I spoke to the airlines.

Hope this helps.
Ameneh Shourideh likes this

<how come it is better to say: "Is there a dog in the garden?"?>

A clarification: Is the second question mark necessary? Because we don't put a full stop outside the quotation marks if the one within the quotation has one. Doesn't this apply to the interrogative mark?

@K R, I'm not sure about the second question mark. There is a question within my question. I was actually hoping someone would say something about it.
Your explanation about any is very thorough (and I knew that before), but it is difficult to explain that some things go by "feelings."
Found any good book at the library? (singular)
Have you seen any one at school? (singular)
Have you bought any onions at the market? (plural)
Have you bought a dog at the pet shop? (singular)
Any is fine, but again, we must use "a" in the last question. How do I explain it other than saying, as I told my students, any wouldn't sound right here?


I like it. I wouldn't put a second period after a quote (He said "The ball is purple.".) I don't know about a question: He said "Is the ball purple?".
And, I don't know about the comma before a quote: He said, "Whassup?".
Should we vote? Can we break it down further to specific types of phrases?

1. <Have you bought a dog at the pet shop?>

'any' would mean any dog, and people go to a pet shop only with the intention of buying a particular type of dog (a dog of their choice). The enquirer knows this and so uses 'a'.

<Found any good book at the library?>
Here the enquirer has in mind: any good book on any topic interesting to the listener.

Found a good book ...?
Here the enquirer knows about the listener's area of interest and so wants to know if the other person was successful.

This is how I see it.

<And, I don't know about the comma before a quote: He said, "Whassup?">
Nelson, except to say that tradition has it there, I can't explain its role, may be to separate it from the quoted speech. Sounds very tame, does it?

Look at this:
'Tell me,' he asked, 'why you met her.'
Here the comma is used twice, because perhaps the reporting verb is in parenthesis?

<'any' would mean any dog>

Yes. I would use 'just' in there. Have you bought just any dog?

<the comma is used twice>

Absolutely. And it fits in nicely with intonation.

<He said: >

I like the colon.
The use of comma after the reporting verb is British and the colon is American, if I'm not mistaken.

Enseignante chez Institution Sévigné
Thanks K R, here we are again, confused between BrE and AmE. I'll try to remember it so let's hope you're not mistaken!

<the colon is American>

mebbe . mebbe not.
It sounds like the comma reflects the pause in the utterance; the colon reflects the mental operation of 'giving an example of' or 'I'll show you what I mean."
Most of the time I don't use anything; e.g. He said "Why bother?"
What do you think of the punctuation in this example?

Who knows why a comma or colon was started to be employed immediately after the reporting verb. I don't, if any of you can throw some light on this, welcome.

Nelson, I like your rationalisation. Tradition says use a comma (a colon), but then rules get broken so why not in this instance?

Topic 92
Anes Abdelrahim Mohamed Lecturer at Kansai Gaidai University
What constitutes indoctrination in the context of language teaching? How can it be avoided?

In a way, everything - when you learn another language, you learn another world. Potentially everything is indoctrination.

Even the simple act of having to learn that language can be indoctrination.

How can it be avoided? By being very aware of EVERY part of the teaching-learning process, and that the most insidious indoctrination is the hidden curriculum, those things we as teachers and students do not even realise are going on (the students can also bring along indoctrination themselves, such as community beliefs regarding the language and so on).

Indoctrination in its mild or strong forms is a universal activity born out of subjective nature of humans. Influenced by my perceptions I see a theory or an activity as a sign of indoctrination and hence rise against it and try to get others to see my point of view which can be as defective as or worse than those of others and indoctrination has arrived. Vehement opposition will only result in unpleasantness (to say the least) to both parties as human history--today's and yesterday's--is replete with instances.

Respect others' views and yet make yours known but don't get negative because things don't happen the way you wanted them to. If you did, pain will result and will eat you up, don't let this happen at any cost. Keep fighting the system.

Specifics of indoctrination are many and various - and in many or even most cases overlap with other subjects in the curriculum.

* the language (and culture) being learnt is superior, and hence one's own language (and culture) is inferior

* girls are inferior.

* girls learn language better than boys (and so are superior)

* female teachers make good language teachers, and so make up the bulk of the "inferior" positions in schools.

* languages are not for boys.

* speaking X language means you are likely to get good jobs.

* important jobs (engineering, medicine, etc.) are filled by men - and as most language teachers are women, obviously not an important job.

* farmers/peasants/country people/minorities/different races can't learn languages; they abreluy even speak the language of the country well.

and so on for ever and ever - the insidious beliefs, often unstated, that mis-channel the student and teacher in any learning that is being done.

When teachers say that grammar forms, vocabulary and pronunciation aspects of AAVE are wrong or incorrect without explaining that they are simply another variety of English distinct from Standard English.

abreluy - should be "barely".

Exactly right, David.

Why only AAVE? Why not Canadian versus American, or Australian versus RP, or Nigerian versus . . . Should those who have speech impediments be forced into speech therapy so THEY speak correctly.

If you teach any aspect of language (i.e. pronunciation or grammar), you are indoctrinating, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that the pejorative connotations of the word itself have frightened the beejeebies out of anyone who can't separate the inherent politics of multiculturism - language instruction therein - from trying to help people who want to broaden their horizons, which might mean bettering their lives. Not many, if any of my students are pondering the frailties and/or shortcomings of their individual cultures while I am walking them through subordinating connunctions because they're intelligent enough to know that, in learning a new language, in this case the most ubiquitous language on earth (I did not say most important or necessary), they are adding to their unique characters as people, not diminishing themselves. Give your students some credit, and lose the self-imbued notion that you wield such tremendous power.

I understand indoctrination as a teaching style based mainly on Teacher Centered lessons. If you want to avoid falling into that, try to keep a lot of dynamic activities where students learn the topic, through trial and error, task based,etc.

"Teacher Centered" lessons - no, that isn't indoctrination. That is simply "teacher domination". The indoctrination is in the materials themselves.

Indoctrination is not necessarily a delibrate act of brainwash.It is rather inherent in the nature of language itself.The use of an X language is an ideological choice.Even when one pretends not to know a word in his mother tongue and uses its alternative word in a preferred lange is an ideological choice.