Showing posts from May, 2018

Exhibitions and art

I went to a fantastic free exhibition at the Verdant Works in Dundee yesterday. It is called 'Patterns of Migration' by Laura Darling and was inspired by her experience of working at the Dundee International Women's Centre. This picture in particular caught my attention. It is a native speaker talking to a non-native speaker and all the brain processing that goes on when you speak to someone in a different language. I recognise this process very well from my days of living in Germany and struggling with accessing services, speaking in formal situations and the 'mental load' which goes on all the time. I would constantly be translating and working out how to say things. I remember just getting to the point where I couldn't listen and take anything else in, my brain was full.  I liked this picture as it helps remind me, as a teacher, that this is occurring each day for my students, and really, how exhausting the entire process is for them. I liked it so much that

Sheryl Crow and vocabulary learning

Learning new vocabulary can be difficult, how do you remember all these new words? Pictures are good, and labels on things around your house can help but you know that feeling when you have a song in your head, and you can't get it out? I had two students this week and both independently asked what 'winding' meant. After I explained it, the Sheryl Crow song came into my head, "Every day is a winding road" and I played part of it. If you can associate a sound or a song, with a word or phrase or some part of language learning, then it is very easy to remember. All songs have song lyrics somewhere on the internet, so look up your favourite song, get the words and start to sing along.

Tied up in knots?

I had an interesting discussion about the word, 'tie' today. Like lots of words in English, it has multiple meanings. A tie (noun) can be the strip of material worn around the neck, often with men's formal wear. To tie (verb) shoelaces is something that most children learn to do before they are ten years old. You can also, tie up your horse, if you have one. When the result of a competition is a tie (noun) it means that you share the same amount of points/ the same score, as someone else. We were, however, focusing on the 'tie'  which means a link or connection. 'We must keep our family ties strong' so the links in the family are known as ties. Tie can also have a negative meaning, that restricts someone in some way. 'She was tied to her job day and night' meaning that for whatever reason, her job is restricting her freedom. There is plenty of idiom too involving tie. 'My hands are tied'- I want to help you but I am unable to do so for a reas

All things hideous...

I sat in on a great lesson this afternoon, about words to describe oddly shaped fruit. The lesson was based on this video, about a French supermarket which had decided to sell the fruit that the farmers usually had to throw away. There were a great variety of adjectives that the learners hadn't come across before. Ugly, horrible, misshapen, disfigured, ridiculous, unique, hideous, failed, repulsive, inglorious and my personal favourite, grotesque. Lots of food for thought for the learners today. The images of fruit hopefully will stick in the learners' minds along with some of these new words. Printing out some pictures and labelling them with appropriate adjectives, is a great way to learn new vocabulary. The learners then had an interesting discussion about food waste-and perhaps we all could waste less food?

Pronunciation and accents

I was asked by a student to teach her better pronunciation, she wanted to sound like a native English speaker. I will correct students' pronunciation when it's hard to understand, but when a student is producing the target language correctly, and can be understood, then I don't interfere. Some people do have the goal of sounding like a native speaker, but the question is, which native speaker do you want to sound like? The Queen? Theresa May? Me? Essentially I think it boils down to accent , and which accent you want to speak with. My personal opinion is that I like regional accents, it reminds us of our origins and is an easy conversation starter when you meet someone now. I've never tried to change my accent, although it has changed over the years as I have lived in different places. So to change the accent of a student, more than merely helping them to say a particular word, I feel this is out of my remit and more for a voice coach to work on. 

IELTS test and automated call centre response?

At the end of a lesson today, one of my students asked me to help her ring an airline that she had booked tickets with, and was unsure about doing it. Calling people on the phone is notoriously hard as there is no body language to use to help you understand what is happening in the interaction. As I have lived and worked in a foreign country myself, I know exactly how hard this is. So I helped her make the call and press 2 for the extension she required. Only to be cut off, three times. It got me thinking, maybe IELTS should have in their listening test, a genuine call centre automated reply and the students have to choose which button to press. It's actually something that if they are living and working in an English speaking country, it is a life skill they need.