“No tengo lapiz.” Linguistic acquisition and the ESL teacher

언필이없서요 (yonpil-ee obsoyo). A recent addition to my catalogue of chunks of Korean, of which I now know a range, none of which are related to each other enough to form sentences let alone serve any useful, communicative purpose. Meaning, “I don’t have a pencil,” this, like the Spanish phrase for the same dilemma in this post’s title, is the extent of my on-the-job language learning.

The situation is reciprocal. I learn phrases like, “I haven’t got a pencil,” “I’ve finished”, and bathroom,” in the language of the country I’m living in. The under-10s I encounter in those countries in turn learn the words, “TEEEEEacherrrrrr” (with bored / outraged / despairing inflection depending on the situation) “No homework pleeeeeeeaaazzzzz,” and, astonishingly, all the words to the latest Disney / One Direction song (depending on grade level). Neither I nor they seem to get much beyond this point. More


Pants performance by prattling prannies – the pestilential ‘P’ prevails

The problems pertaining to plagiarism persist in my place of employment in the most pernicious manner. It really is beyond the pale. Plagued by precocious pubescent Peruvians, my pedantry proceeds to proliferate as my patience proportionately depreciates.

Is it possible to promote perspicacity as the pathway to sagacity? Or in each precious plenary must we penalise relentlessly – probe pupils’ principles; plumb the depths of their duplicity?

Perchance praise and plaudits for pristine practice may give pause to the deplorable pretenders who pilfer, plunder and purloin the precious, prized phrenic prowess of their peers.

O! What penalty can provide practical prevention against such academic perversion? I postulate that the pervasiveness of this perturbing predicament cannot be pacified by punishment nor pushed aside: we must emphatically petition for a prevalence of probity!

postscript: this ‘profe’ is proper pee’d off.


Language and thought

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a student. The clock in my classroom has been rubbish for several months. The battery was replaced at the beginning of the year, but it soon ran slow again. Eventually, after it became a hindrance to the smooth flow of classes rather than a mild distraction, I took it down. This necessitated the purchase of a watch.

I remember discovering the idea that language reveals the way a society thinks at university. If there isn’t a word for something, it’s because it’s a concept that culture never needs to describe, analyse or discuss. Al revez, if a culture has a lot of words to define different aspects of one thing (like the famed Eskimo communities with their myriad words for snow), it indicates the importance of the concept.

The discussion that brought this back to me was around my watch, More

The power of play

Remember that story about Einstein forgetting how to tie his shoelaces so he could remember to work out how the universe works? Remember when you left school at 16 and could do quadratic equations, remember the Periodic Table and quote Dickens? It’s amazing how knowledge that seems to take forever going in falls out remarkably quickly.

It’s only been a little over 18 months since I finished my CELTA and started teaching, and other than a spell of a couple of months between countries, I’ve been working constantly since. And yet… today I recalled Basic Lesson No. 1 from that glorious training ground, the Kamala tiki hut classroom in Ecuador paradise.

Make learning fun.

So simple, so effective, so elusive, so easily forgotten. More

My recent guest post on ESL Hell.

ESL Hell

I’m in my second year of teaching experience. With a career change in mind and a CELTA in hand I decided to make a go of life in Latin America.

Before I even got that far, I’d had to contend with CELTA vs CertTESOL vs TEFL. Which to choose? What did they mean? Which one was the best? I did my research and realised that the CELTA and CertTESOL were roughly equally highly regarded, and certainly the only two certificates worth the twin investment of time and money. The differences between the two are minimal, or so I understand.  CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is the TEFL certificate offered by the University of Cambridge. CertTESOL is accredited by Trinity College, London. Both are respected by employers worldwide. In my case, the CELTA won out based on little other than the fact that there was a…

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“My grandma did it”

The last 3 months, while very busy, stressful and infuriating, have provided a wealth of eye-opening experiences. It’s been back to school in a big way.

Having had little to do with the school system in the last 18 years, other than swanning in now and again on a TIE contract (Theatre In Education – think Legs Akimbo from League of Gentlemen) to make disenfranchised schoolchildren engage their minds through the medium of drama, I knew I was woefully unprepared for the role the moment I accepted.

Term 1 saw me planning lessons the night before class, or sometimes the hour before class, as I was recruited at the very last minute and was still working in my other jobs until the day before the first day of term. It also saw me throw several hissy fits about Things Staff Members Should Probably Be Told More Than Two Days In Advance. Like when reports are due. More

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