A web site for the developing language teacher

October 2007 - issue 10/07


Welcome to the October Newsletter.


7. PS - Internet/computer-related links


1. Hello

A follow up article to the stroke victim article a few months ago:

Boy recovering from brain op emerges with new accent

The Guardian, Tuesday September 18 2007

A 10-year-old boy has recovered from a life-threatening illness, only to
emerge with a new accent.

William McCartney-Moore of York was struck down with viral meningitis
last March and needed brain surgery after doctors found he had a rare
strain called empyaema. "He lost everything," said his mother, Ruth. "He
couldn't read or write, he couldn't recognise things, he had no
recollection of places he'd been to and things he'd done and he'd lost
all his social skills. He went from being such a bright, lovely,
wonderful eight-year-old who was totally confident and socially aware,
to being a two-year-old who followed me everywhere like a toddler."

William surprised doctors by making a good recovery after the surgery
but his mother was more baffled to hear that William's Yorkshire twang
had been replaced with a far more posh-sounding accent: "He went in with
a York accent and came out all posh. He no longer had short 'a' and 'u'
vowel sounds, they were all long." He has returned to school and is near
to a full recovery from his illness.

The transformation has the hallmarks of a well-documented but rare
condition called foreign accent syndrome (FAS), where a brain injury can
cause a person to end up speaking very differently. In many cases the
muscle groups in the lips, tongue and vocal chords lose coordination and
speech changes in terms of timing, intonation or even where the person
places their tongue. Although the speech usually remains intelligible,
it is perceived as different by others.

Last year, Geordie Linda Walker awoke from a stroke to find that her
Newcastle accent had changed into a mixture of Jamaican, Canadian and
Slovakian. In 2003, 61-year-old Tiffany Roberts went from an American
accent to a mixture of English cockney and west country after she
recovered from a stroke. One of the most famous cases was identified
during the second world war, when a Norwegian woman suffered brain
damage from shrapnel and developed a German accent.

In recent years scientists have been closing in on what might cause the
syndrome. Most believe that several parts of the brain have to be
involved because of the complexity of the condition. Research in 1996 at
Brown University in the US suggested that specific damage to the left
hemisphere of the brain was a factor. In 2002, Jennifer Gurd at Oxford
University found that some people with FAS had lesions in the
cerebellum, which led to a difficulty in motor control of speech,
causing an alteration in pitch and the mispronunciation of syllables.
The condition is usually treated by speech therapy.


As of last month Developing teamed up with Tony Buzan's website iMindMap. Tony Buzan invented mind maps & they have now entered the digital age with an excellent programme that lets you design your own mind maps on your computer. To download a trial version & find out more, click on this link:

This month Steve Schancke returns with another 'common sense' article, this time about teaching vocabulary. If you are involved in materials design Neil McBeath offers an interesting reminder on keeping the students' needs & interests in the picture at all times. He looks at military English course design in the Middle East. And for those interested in web sites & search engines Rolf Palmberg returns to report on an experiment he carried out.

If you have any information you'd like to include in the Monthly Newsletter, please do email it with the subject: 'Monthly News addition'. Thanks.

As usual, thanks for reading.
Happy teaching!


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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.




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We use Moodle, an excellent course management system, each course having its own password so only the individual participant plus the trainer can gain access. The central focus on the courses within Moodle is the forum & where there may be three or four different threads going on at the same time. Attached to these are a variety of resources. All are very easy to operate in Moodle. Choose between the full, seven-module course, & an elective four-module course.

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A Common Sense Approach: Vocabulary Building by Steve Schancke


Most traditional EFL textbooks have modules designed to increase vocabulary stores. Although there are many different techniques for teaching vocabulary, it can be difficult for students to effectively increase their stock of new words through mainstream approaches; new words are most often simply acquired through use. In this respect, it is somewhat similar to developing reading skills.

Traditional curricula define intensive reading as reading carefully, or in detail, for an exact understanding of the text, while extensive reading is simply reading for pleasure and general understanding, not focusing on every detail. I have previously cited what I felt was the myth of intensive reading. It can’t really teach you how to read; traditional reading courses can describe reading strategies such as skimming (reading for general understanding) and scanning(reading for specific information), and offer practice in utilizing these strategies, but it is the process of reading extensively that really hones skills such as understanding opinion, understanding inference, and recognizing discourse markers. In other words, we learn to be competent readers by…reading.

And so it is with vocabulary. Traditional approaches have not been very effective. We learn vocabulary by using vocabulary, using it in meaningful contexts.

Selecting Vocabulary

A well-known school in Beijing, China preps its students for vocabulary sections of standardized tests by making them memorize long lists of words; the words are culled from previous exams and are occasionally recycled, so at worst one gets practice in the areas of vocabulary commonly tested. Needless to say, this may be somewhat effective for test performance, but most of the words are forgotten soon after the test.

Vocabulary lists have many drawbacks, notably that they are not contextualized and that many items are not relevant to students and, thus, rarely used. Some textbooks “chunk” vocabulary; that is, they group vocabulary items in specifically defined categories, such as colors, vegetables, or home furnishings. This may have the advantage over randomly selected vocabulary in that, sometimes, vocabulary items in categories reinforce each other, which makes them easier to learn. Still, the vocabulary groups may not be relevant to certain students and, hence, go unused and unassimilated.

Jeremy Harmer cites the principles of frequency and coverage which involve how often words occur in the language and how many different meanings a root word can cover, e.g., play being taught with playboy, Play Station, playbook and so on. This system, however, is also flawed as it often ignores topic, function, structure, and the needs of individual students.

Teaching Vocabulary

Presenting vocabulary takes many forms. Using realia or bringing objects into a classroom can often clarify meaning for a student, but the obvious drawbacks include depicting large concrete nouns and abstract concepts. Graphics are also useful, especially when illustrating objects that are too large to be brought into a classroom. Mime and gesture are useful in defining verbs and other concepts involving movement and action. Enumeration, a cousin of chunking, distinguishes the general from the specific in presenting vocabulary. For example, one can introduce the item appliances and then illustrate by enumerating items such as refrigerator, microwave oven, dishwasher, and such. One of the most common presentation techniques is explanation, but the more involved an explanation becomes the more advanced students have to be to really grasp it, a drawback in itself. Translation is also a commonly used presentation technique, but it also comes with its own limitations—culturally complex concepts are often difficult to accurately translate, teachers may not be fluent in the students’ native language, and a class of students from mixed language backgrounds would make translation of little use.

Discovery techniques go beyond simple modeling, explanation, mime, and translation; instead of simply furnishing meaning, discovery techniques also ask students to discover how the language works. The difference can be illustrated by looking at questions on a reading or listening comprehension evaluation that measure type 1 and type 2 skills. Type 1 questions simply ask students to pick out clearly stated information from a written or spoken passage, while type 2 questions demand students understand information that isn’t always directly stated, such as recognizing discourse markers, getting meaning from context, and interpreting attitude and opinion, information that requires students to possess a greater mastery and knowledge of the internal workings of a language. Similarly, discovery techniques have students look at language from different angles, not just from a semantic point of view. Students may be presented language and asked the time framework—is it describing the past, present or future? Students may be asked to note instances of adjectives and prepositions found in a written or spoken descriptive passage. Discovery techniques shift the emphasis from the teacher to students and invites them to use their reasoning processes and problem solving skills to learn the subtle nuances of the language and, hence, to mimic the psycholinguistic approach utilized by native language learners.

To view the rest of the article:


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Teachable versus Unteachable Materials; Two Examples of English for Military Purposes by Neil McBeath


The following paper is not original work. It has been compiled from papers that I have presented at different conferences, from papers that I have published and from papers that are awaiting publication (McBeath 2005a; 2005b; 2006a; 2006b; 2006c; 2006d; 2007a; 2007b; 2007c; Forthcoming a; Forthcoming b)

From January 1981 to June 2005, I served as a uniformed education officer in the Royal Air Force of Oman. Although I say it myself, I was an extremely good officer. At any rate, I was good enough to be the only British education officer to receive the WKhM (Wissam al Khidma al Mumtazza – Distinguished Service Medal) from His Majesty the Sultan. The criteria for such an award are “outstanding service and devotion to duty over an extended period of time.” I left Oman because of threats I received from the British civilian in charge of the Curriculum Development Cell – the man responsible for the IT backup for the RAFO Target course.

I mention this because I do not want to give the impression that this paper is simply a hatchet job on former colleagues. The points I am making, the failures and shortcomings that I expose, have an academic legitimacy. The fact that so many different academic fora have been prepared to publish my accounts is, I think, indication of the fact that my concerns are genuine, and that they resonate with other practitioners.


I would like to start with a quotation:-

“There are certain truths which stand out so openly on the roadsides of life, as it were, that every passer-by may see them. Yet, because of their very obviousness, the general runoff people disregard such truths, or at least they do not make them the object of conscious knowledge. People are so blind to some of the simplest facts of everyday life that they are highly surprised when somebody calls attention to what everybody ought to know.” (Hitler 1925/1939; 238).

The above quotation is contentious, more because of its source than because of what it actually says. Since 1945, it has become academically impossible to suggest that Adolf Hitler was ever right about anything, but the essential truth of this quotation is so self evident as to need no defence. In this paper, I intend to examine some obvious truths, some simple facts of everyday life, and explain how these impinge on the Royal Saudi Air Force English Course, and the Royal Air Force of Oman’s Target course.

Fact One:- Both these courses are designed for serving members of the armed forces in AGCC states.

Fact Two:- The armed forces, in any country, form their own discourse community.

Fact Three:- When we teach the language used by any specific discourse community, we are teaching language for specific purposes.

English for Specific Purposes.

In February 2006 I gave a paper at the Fourth TESOL Arabia ESP SIG Conference, which was held at the University of Sharjah. The paper was entitled “ESP is NOT TENOR Plus.” ESP means English for Specific Purposes, and TENOR is Abbott and Wingard’s (1983) term for the Teaching of English for No Obvious Reason. I believe that ESP and TENOR are at opposite ends of the English Language Teaching continuum.

Somewhere along that continuum lies General English – always open to the charge that it is either too specific or not nearly specific enough to be of use to any particular group of students. Reda (2003) has pointed out that most General English courses are, in fact, based around anything up to 24 principal topic areas, and that the term should more accurately be English for Limited Purposes, but I would suggest that this separation of ESP, General English and TENOR helps to explain some of the negativity to which Costley (2007) refers.

Cozens (2006; 7) states that “some teachers would argue that there is, indeed, no need for ESP, and that all language needs can be taught through ….. a general language programme.” Mellor-Clarke (2006; 46) points out that “In LSP teaching, some teachers may feel threatened by dealing with specialist ‘content’ in the classroom.”

Assuming this is true, it would go a long way to explaining comments like “I don’t see why I should know about military ranks”, and “My brother’s an engineer, and he’s never had to describe a screwdriver” with regard to the RSAF English course materials.

I say explain, but not excuse. In the fist instance, teachers may not need to know about military ranks, but if they are teaching service personnel, then their students must master this information. The second objection misses the point completely. Native-speaking brothers, be they engineers or anything else, can be assumed to be conversant with what Hutchinson and Waters (1979; 7) describe as the lexis of “popular technology”. RSAF cadets will also be familiar with the concepts of “popular technology”, but they will only be able to express them in Arabic. This dichotomy can be resolved if teachers follow Bell’s (2006; 36) advice and “adapt their teaching to suit the context in which their students are studying and approach the teaching of specialized vocabulary accordingly.”

The article continues at:


What website counters can tell us - Operation MathLog revisited by Rolf Palmberg

Two years ago I designed an internet-based EFL maze entitled ‘Operation MathLog’. It comprises language tasks of different types, e.g. anagrams, acronym tasks, enclosures, jumbled sequences of letters, word search grids, categorisation tasks, word chop exercises, cryptograms and problem-solving tasks (see Palmberg 2006a for more details). As the name implies, the maze is aimed particularly at logical-mathematical learners, i.e. learners who are fond of logical reasoning and numbers (as characterised in Howard Gardner’s theory of the multiple intelligences; 1993, 1999). The main purpose of the maze is to increase learners’ general knowledge and understanding of English vocabulary.

The rationale behind Operation MathLog is simple. Learners have to solve a series of language tasks, starting from the one presented on the opening web page of the maze. Each task occupies a web page of its own. Since the only website address (or URL) available is that of the opening web page, learners have to solve the task in order to proceed. When they have figured out the wanted keyword, they must replace the word ‘mathlog’ (which is included in the URL of the opening web page) with that keyword. The same principle applies throughout the maze: the word that constitutes the solution to a given task is the new keyword that allows visitors to change the current URL and find the next web page (and get the next task).

In 2006, various attempts were made to make the maze known to the general public, or rather, to as many logical-mathematical EFL learners as possible. Each web page was provided with a counter to keep track of the number of visitors. The information collected was hoped to give tentative answers to questions like: How many people visit the website? How far towards the closing web page do they proceed? What is the average dropout rate from task to task?

The counters used for the present purposes were provided by AddFreeStats, a website statistics service. Once a counter has been activated (i.e. a specific HTML code has been incorporated into the HTML code of the target web page), the system starts collecting information. A click on the AddFreeStats logo displays the following information for each visit (the information can be protected by a password if the website owner so decides): an image of a flag indicating the location of the host computer, the date and time of the visit, the hostname (or, if the cursor is placed on it, the visitor’s IP number), the entry page of the visit (i.e. the URL of the web page that the visitor came from), the number of page visits made within the website, and the number of days lapsed since the previous visit (or an indication that the visitor is “new”). An image of a magnifying glass, when clicked, opens a box which summarises the information about the visit and the visitor.

The most useful information concerns the number of visitors. Thus, during a randomly selected eleven-month period of time (July 1, 2006 - May 31, ç2007), the opening web page of the maze was accessed by 465 visitors (*) (as identified by their IP addresses). Of these, 414 represented the five continents in the following proportions: Europe (40.3%), America (36.0%), Asia (19.3%), Australia (3.9%), and Africa (0.5%). 49 different countries were represented, topped by the U.S.A. (102 visitors), Finland (74), South Korea (18), Canada (17), Spain (15), Australia (13), Israel (13), Japan (12), France (11), China (10) and the U.K. (10). The system failed to identify 51 visitors’ country of origin and registered them as “unknown”.

The above figures inevitably include visitors who just wanted to take a quick look at the web page or who did in fact search for entirely different types of websites. The information collected for the second web page of the maze was therefore assumed to be more informative for the present purposes. After all, its 190 visitors would not have found the second web page had they not demonstrated at least some interest in logical-mathematical language tasks (when solving the task presented on the opening web page). 175 of them represented 30 different countries, the continental distribution of which was similar to that for the opening web page: Europe (49.7%), America (29.1%), Asia (16.6%), Australia (4.0%), and Africa (0.6%). The top ten countries were Finland (57 visitors), the U.S.A. (32), Canada (10), Japan (9), Hungary (7), Spain (7), Australia (6), Israel (6), South Korea (5), and the U.K. (5). The 15 remaining visitors were of “unknown” origin.

(*) This figure does not include my personal visits or those made by colleagues and students at the Faculty of Education at Åbo Akademi University.

The article continues at:

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Sites that make designing strip cartoons really easy. Design your own for classroom use & get your students making their own for each other.
Tapped In is the online workplace of an international community of education professionals. K-12 teachers and librarians, professional development staff, teacher education faculty and students, and researchers engage in professional development programs and informal
collaborative activities with colleagues.
¡Education has the power to change lives. All it needs is the opportunity. That’s why, for over 25 years, Tribal CTAD has been working to extend education’s reach. Most of what we do is designed to help those who have been excluded from the joys and rewards of learning, for whatever reason.
As technology has advanced, so too has our ability to meet those objectives. Tribal CTAD is now the UK’s foremost provider of ICT-based educational materials and resources for the post-16 market. And we’re also leading the way forward into exciting areas such as mobile learning.'
FACTWorld is a forum set up to support the teaching of subjects through the medium of a foreign language. The site contains links to country reports, links to useful sites and contact details of key people in participating countries.

'Integrated ESOL curriculum. Richard Paton, an EFL teacher and course designer based in London, has developed a systemic synthesis of the Adult Literacy Core Curriculum for ESoL Entry 3 and three other approaches to English language teaching and testing: the International English Language Testing System (the Cambridge IELTS Course Workbook – Cambridge University Press); Headway (Oxford University Press); Reward (Macmillan Education). He explains his reasons and how it might be used by others in the document. '
Download integrated curriculum [WORD]
Collaborative Learning Project - 'We support a network of teaching professionals throughout the European Union to promote inclusive education. We develop and disseminate accessible talk-for-learning activities in all subject areas and for all ages.'
World Wide Words
The World's Wackiest Holidays - pictures & brief description of some interesting festivals - great for class discussions.

If you've visited a site that you think would be beneficial for all or would like your site to appear here, please get in touch. Thanks.

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A few days, among many, to plan your lessons around in October:

3rd - Reunification Day in Germany
5th - World Teacher's Day
9th - John Lennon's birthday
10th - World Mental Health Day
12th - Columbus day
24th - United Nations Day
29th - Internet First Created - 1969
31st - Halloween
Nobel Prizes

To see the list of Days:

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



There's a review from Scott Shelton of 'English Pronunciation in Use Elementary Book with Answers and 5 Audio CD Set' (English Pronunciation in Use) (Paperback) by Jonathan Marks (CUP) & also 'English Pronunciation in Use Advanced Book with Answers and 5 Audio CDs' (English Pronunciation in Use) (Paperback) by Martin Hewings (CUP)
To read the review;

If you're going to, or then please go through our Books page. You will pay the same & we will receive a few pennies to keep the site & newsletters free. Thanks.

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- Happy healthy teaching - dealing with stress
- Thought groups - practical help with prominence.
- Student materials - a bit more than negotiating the syllabus - materials design
- Yawning may keep us 'on the ball' - lesson material
- Strangers on a train - a useful speaking activity.

To see the Past Tips:

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7. PS – General internet/computer-related links

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
Ubuntu - one of the best free Linux operating systems.
Download -
Advert for Dutch engineering business.
Upload your own picture & get simpsonized!
Zen Habits covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugal, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits.
Best of History Websites. - Interesting, Funny, Random, Strange, & Cool Images.
The etymology & history of first names.
And then find the origin of English surnames.
'Idealist is a project of Action Without Borders, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 with offices in the United States and Argentina. Idealist is an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.'
Stephen Fry's website.
15 Ridiculously Useful Website.
World Freedom Atlas.
'Nice That is a daily blog launched in April 2007 by designers Will Hudson and Jez Burrows to locate, collect and share Nice things.
It seemed to them that, without anyone noticing, 'nice' had become this limp opinion neither complimentary or constructive. A weak and ambiguous non-word that ended up sounding snide or inadequate even when it was offered genuinely. Stepping forward, they decided to take back Nice and turn it into a steely workhorse of a word, significant and sincere, with a renewed purpose.
So what is it? It's an idea you wish you thought of first—succinct, beautiful and well executed. Although primarily interested in emerging creative work they also realise that it's not the be-all and end-all. They want to tell and be told about ideas, originality, imagination and creativity in any context. Not the best, the biggest or the most popular, just things to give you that quick jolt of passing attraction that makes you think 'It's nice that.''
How to make a perfect cuppa.
Batman quotes.

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