A web site for the developing language teacher

November 2005 - issue 11/05


Welcome to the November Newsletter.

Interesting article from the Guardian Online:

Why we are as good or bad as our language
A reinstated theory helps to explain the linguistic signals of identity, says Jan Blommaert
Friday October 21, 2005

Sapir and Whorf: until recently these names were dirty words among linguists. They were remembered mostly as the architects of an infamous theory, the "linguistic relativity hypothesis", arguing that there was a connection between language and"worldview", as they called it, and claiming that language was to some extent organised and structured by these worldviews. Language thus was not autonomous - heresy, of course, for the new linguists of the 1960s and 1970s. The Chomskyan steamroller crushed Sapir and Whorf and made sure they were struck off the linguistics canon.

Well, they are back, and they are back in force. Since the 1990s, and driven by the Chicago scholar Michael Silverstein, a revised version of the Sapir-Whorf programme has become a dominant paradigm in linguistic anthropology. The basics are soundly Whorfian: language ideologies are socioculturally embedded complexes of ideas about language and language use, and they direct the way in which we use language.

Silverstein identified a "referential ideology of language" in which we see language as a bounded, structured, transparent object transmitting referential meaning - explicit, dictionary- style meaning. In fact the rule-oriented use of ("correct", "pure") language is just one very specific way of using language. Usually it is a prestigious form of usage, one that produces signals about where you come from, who you are, about class, level of education, even profession. It often signals that what we say is serious and formal, polite and impersonal. And it is the norm for the written use of language, in which tolerance for deviation is significantly lower than in speaking.

These signals are indexical - a term that goes back to Charles Pierce's semiotics. Indexicals connect linguistic form to context: the broader social and cultural context as well as the specific context of communication. And such indexical connections are ideological because they are anchored in social and cultural normative perceptions of language and its appropriate use.

All of us have ways of identifying someone as "arrogant", "serious", "nice", gifted with a "sense of humour" or "dull", "boring". And the only evidence we have for such far-reaching forms of identity attributions is someone's communicative behaviour in which we detected implicit, indexical signals that in our world mark "arrogance", "humour" and so on.

The point is, we have ideological codes for distinguishing between "good" and "bad" language use. We evaluate it all the time and we organise all sorts of hierarchies on the basis of such evaluations. Importantly, we perform them not on "language" in the general sense but on specific ways of using language: on particular genres and styles, varieties, accents. It is not about"language", but about what counts as language. And the bigger the range of variation, the more there is to distinguish, rank and qualify. The more diversity in language, the more inequality we get.

English, the language that defines globalisation, is of course a case in point. Almost everywhere (including in London) English is part of a multilingual environment, and it often assumes a dominant place in the ideological hierarchies of languages. Learners tend to have strong -associations between English and upward social mobility: English will get them somewhere, will open doors for them, will connect them internationally and across local class and ethno-regional divides.

But everywhere in the world it is not 'English' that is learned but actual varieties of English. Everywhere it is learned with an accent, with a number of peculiarities that quickly identify it as "Kenyan English", "Pakistani English" or "Chinese English". And often that specific variety of English does not offer the opportunities its speakers dream of; a variety of English that would carry prestige in Nairobi can carry stigma in London or New York. Positive indexicals in one place can be negative ones elsewhere.

Again, the real functions and effects of English in the world are about what counts as English in particular places - what makes you Kenyan in London. That may be the reason why all over the world people spend money to acquire prestige accents such as British received pronunciation, while few people would be attracted to a course teaching "Nigerian English". Linguistically the different varieties may be equivalent; indexically they are not.

So here we are: in the age of globalisation, the question "what is English?" may be an impertinent one to some, but of burning relevance to others. Britain is the centre of the world of English (and London is its Wall Street). Seen from here, the question may be impertinent. It is easy to see English here as a neutral decor, a practical vehicle for understanding one another, a thing everyone should just use because it is so practical.

This in itself would be an ideological perspective on English, one that creates various difficulties for people in Britain for whom it is not a self-evident, neutral, purely practical tool, but for whom it is an ingredient of complex multilingualism, an ingredient they struggle with. Understanding the way in which English operates ideologically within such forms of multilingualism may be of crucial importance if we want to understand the processes of linguistic and social "integration" - seen these days as problematic by governments, experts and tabloids alike.

If we understand that there are huge differences between what counts as English in our and their eyes, and that navigating these differences is the real process of language learning, we may have solved a mystery or two.

· Jan Blommaert is chairman of languages in education at the Institute of Education, University of London. This article is based on his seminar given at the institute earlier this month,15090,1597995,00.html

This month we have more articles from new contributors: MJ.Auria, E.Lozano & M.Mansilla tell us of a project they were involved in: 'Speaking & the Internet: an unlikely match?' & Steve Darn provides a lesson plan 'A Nonverbal Communication Lesson' that was given by one of his trainees. There is the usual section of links & within the Teaching Links there is an outline of the excellent citizenship materials for ESOL learners issued
by the UK government.

More free Google GMail accounts to give away - if interested, get
in touch.

Happy teaching.



7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



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Speaking & the Internet: an unlikely match? by MJ. Auria, E. Lozano & M. Mansilla


In 2002-3 the English Department of the Official School of Languages 1 in Zaragoza, Spain, has, for the first time ever, run a course through the Internet However, it has not been a fully online course since oral sessions have been held in our School.

Three members of the teaching staff, including the online course tutor, have enthusiastically surfed the Net for some enlightenment into how the teaching of the "speaking" skill is tackled elsewhere, so that successful methods can be implemented in our School in future editions of the online course.

Having scrutinized scores of webpages, both institutional and individual, the authors of this article can honestly claim that it reflects the findings and conclusions of thorough research into the area of teaching oral skills through the Internet, and that ESL teachers will, no doubt, find it very useful as reference work prior to any study they want to do on teaching pronunciation and oral communication on the Net.


The Genesis

Being in charge of teaching an online course to intermediate students of English and confronted with the problem of including the oral skill within the course, one of the underwriting team members decided not to run the course fully online unless research into the field proved this a good idea.

Apprehension towards technicalities aside, online courses already available did not seem to have the "speaking" part resolved. Apparently, some courses that claimed to cater for speaking practice only provided video and/or audio exercises which did not allow much interaction on the part of the student, and any interaction that did take place was not appropriately monitored.

Having said that, the team members agreed that the above statement was a mere intuition that did not deserve much credit until proper research was done, which was the starting point for this project, namely:

"Speaking and the Internet: An Unlikely Match?"

To view the article


A Nonverbal Communication Lesson by Steve Darn

Nonverbal communication has been a focus of attention for some time in areas such as business presentation skills and personal social skills. However it has received little attention, in language teaching as a complement to spoken language, though recent trends in neuro linguistic programming regarding mirroring and parallel body language have filtered into current research and practice. Nonverbal communication is a system consisting of a range of features often used together to aid expression, ranging from gesture and facial expression, through tone of voice and the use of space, to dress and posture. The combination of these features is often a subconscious choice made by native speakers, but for the learner, can be a barrier to natural communication and the cause of misunderstanding. On the grounds that 'it's not what you say, it's the way that you say it', there is much to be said for teaching nonverbal communication either parallel to, or integrated with, a language and skills based syllabus, in the same way that phonology is often treated. Like grammatical structures, nonverbal communication has form, function and meaning, all of which may vary from language to language.
Relatively few techniques have been suggested for teaching nonverbal communication, though the use of mime and other drama- based activities and watching video clips without sound raise awareness of gesture and expression.

A Nonverbal Communication Lesson

This lesson was delivered by a trainee teacher as part of teaching practice on a recent CELTA course at the Izmir University of Economics, Izmir, Turkey. The lesson was planned by the trainee, with advice and some materials provided by the course tutor.

To view the article


Thanks to MJ. Auria, E. Lozano & M. Mansilla & Steve.


ARTICLES - If you've given a course or seminar or have a lesson plan & would like to give it a public airing, do get in touch.

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No ordinary Master's: become an action researcher with Aston University's MSc in TESOL Aston University Language Studies Unit:



A couple of recent posts:

Barmadu asks:
Hi there, I was wondering if anyone could offer any tips or ideas on teaching a Spanish student who is studying for the English oposiciones in Spain?
-I have my doubts on what things I should really focus on, and what is "less" important.
-timetabling is another question. It looks like we have about 30 weeks to prepare.
-How should I approach the classes? By focusing on the written  aspects, or the speaking paper in the 2nd exam? Any tips would be very welcome!

Cliff has a job going in ChinKuaShi, ReiFang, in the north-tip of Taiwan.

JoyETEC has jobs going in Cheon ,in Yeon Su Dong.
And in Ma San.

PlanetESL has jobs going in Paju in S.Korea.
And on the beautiful island of Jeju, South Korea.
Plus more locations:

Lots of different Forums to choose from. Check them out. Post your jobs, your CV, your questions, finds on the net, ideas, activities, questions, grumbles, suggestions, your language courses, your training courses...they are there for you to use.


At Developing we occasionally carry out consultancy work. The different projects have included tutoring DELTA candidates by email, offering advice on curriculum design & materials choice & short training courses in person & by email. If you would like us to help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch.



If you have visited a site that you think would be beneficial for all or would like your site to appear here, please get in touch. Thanks.
A lot of very useful lesson material has recently hit the internet. It has been produced by the Department of Education & Skills & the Home Office in the UK & is titled, 'Citizenship Materials for ESOL Learners' - 'The aim of the Citizenship materials for ESOL learners pack is to help the ESOL teacher develop the learners' knowledge of life in the UK, help them become more active citizens and to support applications for citizenship.'

To give you an outline of what is involved, here are the section headings:

1 - What is citizenship?
Citizenship and society: An Overview
Vocabulary for citizenship
Becoming a United Kingdom citizen
Exploring beliefs, values and opinions

2 - Parliament & the electoral system
The Houses of Parliament
The role of the MP: Using reference material; reporting and discussing information
Contacting an MP: Reading and finding information
Asking an MP for help: Case studies 1
Asking an MP for help: Case studies 2
Asking an MP for help: Case studies 3
How much do you know about MPs?
The Cabinet
Local councillors
Finding information on the UK map

3 - Geography & history
Geographical areas
Flags and symbols of the United Kingdom
Population of cities in the United Kingdom
Finding out about the suffragettes
Finding out about kings and queens
Finding out about places of interest

4 - The UK as a diverse society
Diversity now
A diverse history
Body language
Culture and diversity
Festivals and celebrations: Finding information

5 - The UK in Europe, the Commonwealth & the UN
The United Nations, the Commonwealth and the European Union: Quiz
The European Union: Flags and countries
History of the Commonwealth (Entry Level 3)
History of the Commonwealth (Entry Level 2)

6 -Human rights
Human rights legislation
Human rights legislation: Case studies
Flowers from Kenya

7 - Working in the UK
What's your job?
Reading and questioning a wage slip
Contract of employment
Understanding minimum wage law
Discrimination at work
Comparing salaries

8 - Health
Children's health
Absence letters to school
Using a pharmacy

9 - Housing
Types of accommodation
Sharing a flat

10 - Education
The school timetable
Choosing schools
Choosing a secondary school
The national curriculum and options
The ESOL curriculum

11 - Community engagement
Fund-raising for a school
Choosing volunteer activities
Becoming a volunteer
Comic relief

12 - Knowing the law
Legal vocabulary: People and places
The law courts: Reading text
Legal age requirements
Drugs and the law
Drugs Web search task
Immigration and asylum

There is one pdf download of all the material:

Then there are Word downloads which allow you to change the material around to suit. The site encourages you to send in the changed or new material for inclusion in the downloads:

Very useful & interesting material wherever you are teaching - a ready-made British Life & Culture syllabus to incorporate into our existing syllabus or a stand-alone course to offer as an extra.
If you teach in China or are contemplating it, here's a useful site & contact group to check out:
'TDF Teacher development Forum started in July 2004 by 2 teachers who felt that English language teaching was sometimes a bit of a lonely affair! With the challenge of living and working in such a different environment that is China, we wanted to share ideas and support with other EFL teachers living here. We also we saw the opportunity to establish an educational and cultural link between foreign and Chinese English teachers in China. There are now over 200 teachers on the mailing list.'

'We meet weekly, most Mondays in fact, in Beijing to discuss an arranged topic. Mostly it's a free for all brainstorm; sometimes we invite somebody to lead a session. Teachers are a mix of Chinese and native English peakers, basically all are welcome! The results of the meeting are then published on our website for all to read and download. This is especially useful for those who can't make the meetings. It is all 100% free. Our vision is to find a bridge between Chinese learning styles and Western teaching styles as well as offer support, resources and ideas to all English teachers here.'
For teachers in Saigon.
A teacher student introduction service for Japan-based teachers and students which allows you teach where, when and how you want.Teachers decide their own rates. Students view the teacher profiles and then contact a suitable teacher. The site also contains Grammar Guides, an English terminology page and Toefl/Toeic resources.
Blue Zones - 'Unlocking the secrets of longevity - We're exploring the four parts of the world experts call Blue Zones - places where people live the longest, healthiest lives. We'll unlock their secrets and help you put them to work in your own life. The journey begins Oct. 31st in Okinawa, Japan - and you can vote to direct the team.'
The House of Murphy.



A few days to plan your lessons around in November:
5th - Bonfire Night
11th - Remembrance Day
16th - International Day for Tolerance
17th - World Peace Day
25th - Eid Al Fitr
28th - Buy Nothing Day (varies)

US Thanksgiving Day - 4th Thurs. in month. Buy Nothing Day in US - day after Thanksgiving.

To see the list of Days

Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:
Some holiday origins.



Listening Extra by Miles Craven, Speaking Extra by Mick Gammidge, Writing Extra by Graham Palmer & Reading Extra by Liz Driscoll in the Resource Books of Multi-level Skills Activities (Cambridge Copy Collection). Here's how the review starts:

'The Resource Books of Multi-level Skill Activities (Cambridge Copy Collection) are a very useful addition. The four books provide that much sought after supplementary material that teachers need to make the coursebook a bit more interesting. They can also be used as the basis for the course itself.'

To read the review

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:
- Halloween & a couple of other things - lesson ideas with lots of links.
- Competence - a brief look at communicative competence.
- Eye to Eye - neurolinguistic programming take on revealing eye movements.
- The Magic Wand - younger learner ideas using a wand!

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Train in Spain - Courses running in the near future at the British Language Centre in Madrid:

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7. PS - Internet/computer-related links from

A few computer use rules of thumb:
- make copies of all-important files
- run scan disk & then defragment the hard drive
- use firewall software
- use a virus scan & update the files every week
- install security patches that software providers offer
- update your DirectX files regularly
- don't open attachments without scanning for viruses first
- don't respond to spam - just delete & forget
- don't send personal or bank information by email
- turn off your computer at night

The following links are taken from the Site Linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, fifteen links every issue to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
Lots & lots of recipes. Well OK, 124,000 recipes to be exact at the last look.
Grow your own garden online & forget about the weeding.
International High IQ Society - take the five tests!
'Lucid dreaming means dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming.'
'Almost Every file format in the world!'
gapingvoid - "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards" - thoughts on success & creativity.,1759,1819110,00.asp
Build an XP-SP2 Recovery Disc from PC Mag.
Make your own picture & send it to a friend.
'News & information about the Sun-Earth environment.'
Loads of concerts to download!,1zvz,1,5y16,jid0,8qcq,5pel
A useful word or two of advice about making your passwords from AntiOnline, a site concerned with computer/network security.



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