Can you learn another language without a Teacher?

I am a teacher so I earn my living by having students, but … could it be that I’m shooting myself in the foot by saying that you can learn a language without a teacher?
Last week, a friend messaged me asking for tips about learning English on his own.
I said, “that’s really cool, David, and you’re being quite brave. Self-study is not for the weak of heart. But it’s possible. Something I’m always bitching about (sorry, I mean, preaching) is that any language student must listen a lot of the sounds of their target language. Tune in on an internet radio station such as the BBC or NPR and let it roll, even not understanding much. Also there are hundreds of free podcasts geared towards those learning English at different levels. A podcast I usually recommend my students is the ESL – English as a Second Language Podcast which is constantly updated and the narrator usually speaks at a slow pace
On YouTube there are millions of videos to practice with. Of course you’ve already seen all of the ESL with Mo the Americanoid episodes, right?
1.1 – ESL With Mo the Americanoid Unit 1 Lesson 1
YouTube also has many free language courses. In the case of English as a Second Language, on Google you should first type ESL and then type what you’re looking for. A really good ESL series available on YouTube is Headway
New Headway English learning video, beginner,elementary, and pre-intermediate
 There’s also this beginners series on YouTube:
Beginner Levels – Lesson 1: Nice To Meet You!
English For You – Learning English is much easier now! Beginner Levels – Lesson 1: Nice To Meet You!
To sum it up –

Yes, it will be hard work, but the payoff has no limits.
Is self-study for everybody? Yes. But few will be able to do it all without a teacher, since my role as a moderator and facilitator will lead them in the right path towards proficiency.
Consequently, if doing it all alone is way too heavy for you, feel free to contact me on the button below. I’ll be happy to help you out for a modest stipend (after all I’ve got my bills to pay 😉
Cheers and keep on studying,

Chunking and Pausing

chunkingMany students focus their language learning on memorizing vocabulary. The  most committed ones usually write down the noun, or verb, or idiom mentioned by the teacher in class as if that would be the solution to all their problems. Well, even if that were true, those words would be soon forgotten behind other lists and pages in the student’s notebook never to be seen again. 

But there’s an approach that can be used in class and by students on their own. Fluency and vocabulary memory can be greatly improved by students using CHUNKING AND PAUSING – techniques for effective speaking:

Even intelligibility and clarity improves much more when students focus on volume, pace and chunking instead of only on pronunciation. 

  1. Collocations – strong tea 

                            – heavy traffic /heavy rain 

                             – the national soccer team

2. Idioms – to get cold  feet

Against all odds / 


3. Phrasal verbs

put up a great fight / 

put up with your boss

4. a whole sentence / clause

Thousands took to the streets –


The Teacher must help students to:

recognize chunks and 

practice their use


Pauses and chunks package information for the listener. Speakers divide speech into ‘chunks’, which may be single words or groups of words to communicate a thought or idea, or to focus on information the speaker thinks is important.

Without the use of pausing and chunking, it is  hard for listeners to follow your meaning and they may be overwhelmed with too much information.

Look at these examples. Try reading both of them out loud. Which one do you think a listener would understand better?


Sample 1

Does it really matter whether people speak with an accent as long as they can be easily understood many people now believe that in an increasingly globalized world we should accept variations in pronunciation that is accent. however there’s no point in speaking with an accent if people can’t understand you is there?

Sample 2

Does it really matter /

whether people speak with an accent /

as long as they can be easily understood?//

Many people now believe /

that in an increasingly globalized world /

we should accept variations in pronunciation /

that is / accent. //

However /

there’s no point in speaking with an accent /

if people can’t understand you /

is there?//

Speech chunks and pauses are marked with a slash / or // for a longer pause.

Source: University of Technology Sydney 

But chunking is only one rung on the language learning ladder. All that vocabulary must be firmly grounded on basic but solid grammar structure. vocabulary notebook

Cheers and good speaking,


What Do EFL Students Want?

I simply love the cartoon below and the myriad of variations of the text. But it leads me to try to find some answers to this ever-present question.

what we want


Find below some of the answers my own students have given me in recent months:

“A tough teacher”

“A demanding teacher”

“A patient teacher”

“A kind teacher”

“A teacher who teaches me English”

“I don’t like English so I want a teacher who’ll make me like English”

“My worst grade in High School was 7. The subject? English, of course” 

“Never needed it.”

“Read for gist and presto”

“I can understand what I hear or read by Deduction and logic”

“I want to speak and understand in one year”

“I want perfection in my writing and speech”

“I want to speak proper English not the ‘patois’ my father uses” 

“I don’t know exactly”.  

And the list could go on and on. 

Students’ wants can be endless but their needs – as far as language learning applies are simple:

They need a teacher who loves the language

who knows what he’s teaching

Who can motivate and create opportunities for students to grow

If students really want to learn, they will have to dedicate time, effort and money, how much they invest (especially time and effort) will determine the return they’ll have on e investment.

what I want 2

As regards to perfection, no one can expect it in a language that has regular and irregular verbs and tons of exceptions to any rule. Beauty yes, perfection just a pie in the sky. So be realistic, optimistic or even pessimistic but leave perfectionist in the closet.

Keep on growing.