A web site for the developing language teacher

September 2004 - issue 9/04


Welcome to the September Newsletter.

A slightly shorter newsletter this month as the holidays are upon us.

Found this article the other day on the New Scientist site:
Language may shape human thought

Language may shape human thought - suggests a counting study in a Brazilian tribe whose language does not define numbers above two.

Hunter-gatherers from the Pirahã tribe, whose language only contains words for the numbers one and two, were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration, revealed the study.

Experts agree that the startling result provides the strongest support yet for the controversial hypothesis that the language available to humans defines our thoughts. So-called "linguistic determinism" was first proposed in 1950 but has been hotly debated ever since.

"It is a very surprising and very important result," says Lisa Feigenson, a developmental psychologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, US, who has tested babies' abilities to distinguish between different numerical quantities. "Whether language actually allows you to have new thoughts is a very controversial issue."

Peter Gordon, the psychologist at Columbia University in New York City who carried out the experiment, does not claim that his finding holds for all kinds of thought. "There are certainly things that we can think about that we cannot talk about. But for numbers I have shown that a limitation in language affects cognition," he says.

To read the rest of the article:

This month Emma Worrall returns with an article & accompanying
lesson plan about discourse in writing. Check it out below. If you'd like to publish an ELT-related article or lesson plan on Developing, do send it in.

A quick mention about the online support courses hosting. Among
many possibilities are the following:

- support for group classes
- support for one-to-one classes
- support for telephone classes
- whole online courses

We set up you up with a website with a course programme installed & you provide the courses for your students. It is very easy to use as setting up & running courses is all a question of a few clicks. Please do check out the information on our Developing site:

We are off for a summer break, hence the earlier than usual arrival of this newsletter. The Weekly Tip will return on 20th September.

Happy teaching!


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7 PS - Internet/computer-related links



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Discourse in Writing by Emma Worrall


In this essay I will attempt explain the meaning of discourse and how it is analysed. Then I will look at writing theories of discourse and some of the reasons that students need to understand and use discourse in their writing and the problems they face. Then I will focus on discourse markers in writing (also referred to as connectives and linking devices) and theories of how we can help students to improve in this area.

What is Discourse?

Discourse is natural spoken or written language, with meaning being transferred through the sentences of a text, in context. The study of discourse, or 'discourse analysis' is concerned with "the study of the relationship between language and the contexts in which it is used" (McCarthy 1991: 5). Discourse was inspired by the work on the different disciplines of linguistics, semiotics, psychology, anthropology and sociology during the 1960s and 1970s. It looks at (and aims to identify) discourse norms. These are the underlying rules which speakers and writers adhere to and the realisations of these norms and what the actual language forms are which reflect those rules. It does not try to provide a method for teaching, but it tries to provide ways of describing and understanding how language is used. Discourse analysis is interested in what language 'does' or is 'doing' rather than just the functions it performs and the grammar and lexical forms used (McCarthy 1991).

Discourse analysis is mainly concerned with spoken and written communication which are the two main things that our students are exposed to. For example, we take part in a wide range of spoken interaction on a daily basis and each of those spoken interactions will have their own "formulae and conventions which we follow; they will have different ways of opening and closing the encounter, different role relationships, different purposes and different settings" (McCarthy 1991: 8). A discourse analyst is interested in every one of these different factors and tries to account for them with sets of descriptive labels. However, discourse analysis is also directly concerned with the written and printed words we consume daily. For example, newspapers, letters, recipes, stories, notices, leaflets and instructions. As McCarthy says (1991: 12) we usually expect these written texts to be "coherent, meaningful communications in which the words and/or sentences are linked to one another in a fashion that corresponds to conventional formulae, just as we do with speech; therefore discourse analysts are equally interested in the organisation of written interaction".

To continue the article at the site

Lesson Plan - Emma's accompanying lesson plan has the following aims:

Main Aims:

1) To encourage students to use their existing knowledge of sequencing devices and cohesion to order a text.
2) To analyse meaning and use of the following discourse markers:

on the whole, but, unfortunately, except for, however, although, besides, in conclusion, also, as I see it, for example, despite, taking everything into consideration, another point in favour, a further disadvantage

Subsidiary Aims:

1) To produce a cohesive written text using some of the above discourse markers.
2) The students will work collaboratively to produce their work.
3) The students will be able to peer correct their completed work after regrouping to form their completed essays.

To see the lesson plan

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Thanks to Emma

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

ADVERTISING - We reach a few thousand teachers every week with the Weekly Teaching Tip & the same each month with the Newsletter, not to mention the 1000+ unique visitors a day to the site. If you've got a book, course, job...anything that you'd like to advertise, then do get in touch.



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

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A few recent postings:

Andrew comments on the gerund/present participle posting:
Speaking of gerunds, has anyone noticed that catenatives (verbs followed by gerunds and infinitives) tend to be followed by gerunds if the catenative is a phrasal verb? eg. I'm looking forward to going. I'm still trying to see if I can formulate a rule for this. This and other things can be found on my website. I'm not sure if it's all correct and would welcome feedback. Warning, its a bit technical so don't use it with your students unless you greatly simplify it.

zwemgek asks for advice:
I have a co-worker who's trying to learn English. She's doing a very good job, considering she's done it almost entirely on her own. She would like me to tutor her once a week or so, and I told her I would. Now I have no idea where to start. I have a little experience in teaching. I tutored math, and I used to give archery lessons. I've also learned Spanish, so I know what it's like to be on the other end. On the other hand, math and English are two entirely different subjects--especially to be teaching. In addition, we both know I speak Spanish; this could either be an asset or a hindrance--perhaps both. I was thinking of starting with very basic and highly useful language and vocabulary (e.g. "Where is the bathroom?") and branching out from there. Grammar is my strong suit, so I won't be teaching her bad habits. I won't have to teach her much about sentence structure since Spanish and English are pretty similar
in that respect. She's a smart lady; she's caught on quickly to things I've already taught her at work, so I'm not worried about having a hard time getting her to understand things. I just want to go about this in an efficient and interesting way. Thank you to anyone who replies; I apologize for the long post.
PS I realize that she would get more benefit from going to an ESL school or hiring someone who knows what they're doing, but she simply doesn't have the money. I know this because I overheard her talking to someone else about it. I'd rather not push the issue because I think it would embarrass her.

Lina asks:
How can we help advanced students achieve oral fluency? A Greek student of mine asked me to teach her to speak English fluently. She has a very good knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and she can understand almost anything she reads or listens. But when it comes to speaking she feels stressed, 'cause she says she can't find the right words, and even when she does, she falters, unless she utters chunks containing 5 to 6 words on an average (if these are short and simple, and are closely related grammatically and lexically). Where should I start from? How can I help her? Can you suggest me books?

chepkerish asks:
I am doing research for a Master of Education degree and would appreciate information that would help me with a knowledge of the necessary ingredients for training TESL elementary (primary) school teachers.

Ziggy Stardust keeps the present perfect thread going:

Steve is looking for a teaching post in Segovia, Spain.

ABC Supply offers:
Admiral Business Centre requires supply teachers for the coming term and thereafter. Are you a qualified teacher? Are you flexible, reliable, resilient? We offer: Good rates of pay, placements in Portsmouth schools & professional development support.

Urumqi English First offer:
Teach English along the Silk Road! Urumqi EF Training Centre is currently looking for full time English teachers to start work both immediately and in September. The Urumqi branch of English First was opened two years ago and has fast become one of the most progressive schools in the west of China. Situated in the very heart of Asia it is a perfect place to experience both teaching and living in the cultural melting pot of China's far west. We are looking for relaxed, dynamic teachers with prior experience and qualifications in the ESL field who are willing to spend a year in this remote yet colourful city. Teachers are required to work a five-day week during the off-season and a six-day week throughout the peak season, weekly teaching hoursaverage about twenty real hours. Overtime is paid for hours exceeding those stated on the contract. Airfares, accommodation, insurance, visas and Chinese lessons are all provided by the school. Monthly salaries start from 5,500RMB and a generous bonus scheme enables successful teachers to considerably supplement their income. So if you're enthusiastic, creative and enjoy a challenge, why not become part of our rapidly expanding team?

Lots of different Forums to choose from. 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.

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'WordCount is an interactive presentation of the 86,800 most frequently used English words. WordCount is an artistic experiment in the way we use language. It presents the 86,800 most frequently used English words, ranked in order of commonality. Each word is scaled to reflect its frequency relative to the words that precede and follow it, giving a visual barometer of relevance. The larger the word, the more we use it. The smaller the word, the more uncommon it is.
'A Map of Languages in the United States - The MLA Language Map is intended for use by students, teachers, and anyone interested in learning about the linguistic and cultural composition of the United States.'
'Double-Tongued Word Wrester records words as they enter and leave the English language. It focuses upon slang, jargon, and other niche categories which include new, foreign, hybrid, archaic, obsolete, and rare words. Special attention is paid to the lending and borrowing of words between the various Englishes and other languages, even where a word is not a fully naturalized citizen in its new language.'
English for Specific Purposes World

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Some days to plan your lessons around in September:

7th - Brazilian Independence Day
8th - International Day of Peace
17th-28th - Paralympics
26th - European Day of Languages
29th - Scotland Yard Anniversary
Rosh Hashanah

To see the Days of the Year
Some holiday origins.

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This month we are continuing with the review of Jeremy Harmer's new coursebook 'Just Right'. (Cavendish Marshall, 2004). If you have been in teaching for any length of time, you are sure to have come across one of Harmer's books, probably 'The Practice of English Language Teaching'. With so much dross on the coursebook market, this is one not to be missed. Check out the review

To buy the book at

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. We are having a break so the Tip will return on 20th September.

Recent Tips have included:

- Sound Correction - some common sound problems corrected.
- Gender Bending - a look at gender in conversation & awareness in class.
- Going For Gold - Olympic Games materials & classroom ideas.
- Lefthanded - teaching ideas to coincide Lefthanded Day.

To see the Past Tips

To sign up to receive them

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

Full-time four-week courses, next courses October & November '04
Part-time course twelve-week course starts 4th October.

Part-time, six month course, October >> March
Full-time two-month courses, January/February, April/May, July/August '05

10% discount on all courses if you mention the newsletter!

Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for the duration of all courses.

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7. PS - 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

The following links are taken from the Site Linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, lots of links to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
BBC article about newly patented video screens on gravestones.
Interesting visual.
Low Life Labs - from the Science Museum of Minnesota.
'Nearly every culture invents a food that is weird or disgusting to outsiders. These strange foods from around the world are cultural markers to show who's a member (insiders like it) and who's not a member (outsiders hate it.) Maybe a group of kids started eating it on a dare. They then perpetuate it (perpetrate it) on the next generation. Then they nudge each other and laugh when outsiders gag.'
'In the course of the 20th century, mankind experienced some of the most devastating wars of all times. Where did these wars take place? Have some regions experienced more wars than others? Who were the main protagonists in these conflicts? This map gives you the opportunity to answer these questions. It displays wars with at least 1,000 military battle deaths.'
Free online tool to make your own graffiti art.
'Dedicated to the venting of food servers' frustrations and a harsh education of the dining public!'
Take a break with the Fly Guy.
Always wondered about the best way to catch a lion.
'Secret Worlds: The Universe Within -View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.'
Adult Attention Deficit Disorder
The home of the Dairy Lama - dairy haikus??

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Disclaimer - all of the recommendations for computer-related software are personal recommendations. We take no responsibility for anything that might go wrong when downloading, installing or running them - not that anything should, but you never know. It's your decision, your responsibility. The same applies to the jobs mentioned above. And anything else that you can think of that we might be responsible for as a result of this newsletter!

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