Accent v Pronunciation

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This is another question that comes up quite often in the language classroom:

“Teacher, what’s the difference between accent and pronunciation?”

Well… in simple terms, accent is the voice you’ve developed based on where you were born and raised, your parents, family, classmates, etc all played a role in developing your accent in your mother tongue. Anyone has an accent! You realize it every time you move out of your area or comfort zone where most people speak like you.

Don’t even get me started with different British accents – one for every village and town.

Now… pronunciation refers to your intonation – the way you enunciate words and phrases.

I always tell my students that they don’t have to lose their accents – they are many times even considered charming by other speakers…. but they must be careful with their pronunciation so that they can be understood and not break down any communication attempt.

One example is the pronunciation of the letter R /r/ as a consonant sound. Many Brazilian, French and Spanish-speaking students find it hard to pronounce words such as

Rabbit  РRaccoon Рradio Рred РRecipe Рrun etc

many times their default pronunciation with be with an H sound – they’ll say

Habbit – Haccoon – Hadio – Hed – Hecipe – Hun etc

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My role as the teacher is to identify these problem sounds, raise the student’s awareness to it and encourage them to produce the adequate sound.

Speaking another language requires skills which can and must be developed.

So happy practice and keep on speaking.

Cheers,

Mo

 

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How to spend a lifetime in teaching? ūü§óūü§Ē

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This week I came across an episode of the podcast TEFL Training Institute with the question quoted above where Ross (one of the hosts) interviewed his parents who worked as teachers for a combined total of almost 50 years. And myself? Well, I started at my church’s Sabbath School initially teaching the primary class (kids between 8-12) . I was 15 at the time, so I’ve been involved with teaching for over 35 years. The questions asked on the podcast are relevant to all of us involved in teaching either as volunteers, professionals or both. Here they are:

1. How do you keep yourself motivated? 

Professionally speaking – money is a motivating factor. yeah, yeah… You may say whatever you want but you still need to pay your bills at the end of the month and buy a pair of shoes once in a while. But although money is a very visible factor, it isn’t enough to get you going. I like speaking in different languages, so… I look forward to every opportunity I have to speak in English, Spanish or French. I love watching tv in other languages. I like reading magazines and newspapers from other countries. The students are the same but also different. You’ll have similar difficulties and challenges but their attitude, behaviour, reactions always surprise me. I’m always open to learning new words, getting to use new teaching materials. I wish I could attend more TEFL conferences, but sometimes they end up demotivating me using the same themes ad nauseamIMG_9078, being more of a marketplace where language schools and publishers come to sell their goods instead of teachers discussing their best practices and the future of their industry. Since traveling can be quite expensive I really appreciate when the organisers of those events make them available online on YouTube.

2. How has teacher training changed? 

Sadly enough I haven’t notice great changes in teacher training. You may use a smart screen instead of an overhead projector but still present the same ideas, and interaction activities.

3. What advice do you have to new teachers?

Welcome to this rewarding career. Yes, there will be challenges and you will never become a millionaire from your classes (Some exceptions may apply) but you will be always learning and always growing if not from anything else, from at least being in touch with some wonderful human beings, yes, you’ll also encounter some dreadful, horrid creatures, but they are still, thank goodness, too few and far in between.

Happy teaching and enjoy the journey.

Cheers,

Mo

Freelancing as a Teacher

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One of these days my wife and I were talking about two young men close to us in their 20s and how lost they’re feeling regarding their career path. To protect their identity let us call them E. and A.IMG_9316

¬†E. has already worked in IT for big multinationals like Danone and has decided he doesn’t want to work in the corporate world anymore, the pressure, the competitiveness, etc have not been appealing to him, ¬†but he doesn’t know what direction to take. Should he become a freelance teacher, a translator, a missionary? Meanwhile, A. has never worked – only studied and doesn’t know if he would like to follow the path of engineering he chose earlier since he’s never tasted it. So now he’s working as a delivery boy for a small restaurant during the week.

My wife said to me “Now I know how your brother must have felt when you said you were quitting your steady and well-paying job at a national bank to pursue your dream as a teacher” .

But differently from the two young men mentioned above I knew what I wanted AND didn’t want. I didn’t want to spend my days behind a desk. I wanted to be a teacher. And I needed to have an income right away… no daddy to send me monthly allowances.

In my na√Įvet√© I not even knew I could be a freelancing teacher. So, initially I looked for jobs at language schools. But over 20 years ago I saw the possibility of flying solo and earning my living as a freelance teacher. The benefits are:

IMG_9317Positive:

  • you develop your own career path and make more money, not having to give at least 50% of what your students pay to the language school.
  • You choose where and when to work.
  • You can fire those horrible students (it takes courage but your mental sanity is worth it)
  • You can choose when you’re going away on vacation
  • You get immediate feedback and know what works and doesn’t work.

Negative:

  • you must always be prospecting for new students
  • No basic or fringe benefits – no health insurance, paid holidays, sick day leave, paternity leave (you know what I mean), or even no access to the company’s restroom – (yes, it’s true, damned the designers and architects of some corporate buildings which hide away the toilets and the enforcers of condo rules such as “no access to the toilet unless accompanied by your respective student)

But I chose this path and despite its highs and lows I wouldn’t have done it ¬†differently. I’ve been in charge of my professional destiny and I’m sure many other mortals have never been able to breathe outside their gilded cage.

I’m quite often reminded of this Bible verse which has been proven true to me over and over again. Psalm 37:25:

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (King James Version)¬†

My advice to you if you’re considering freelancing – jump into the water and go free, or tread slowly just freelancing a couple of hours a week and no matter where you land it will have been worth the risk.

Cheers and Happy Teaching, IMG_9318

Mo

ūüźĆSnail Technology in Textbooks

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I guess the question “does technology belong in the classroom?”¬†has been amply discussed and satisfactorily answered with a resounding YES! (kept some reservations). Both teachers and students have already grasped the idea that they can use technology as a learning tool. Not just the cool new thing.IMG_9271.JPG

So why have publishers been so resistant and slow to adopting e-textbooks? Yesterday a student of mine called my attention again to the outdated status of English coursebooks – which in my humble opinion are the most advanced in terms of volume of sales and global reach. Eduardo has finished his New Headway Elementary 15th edition (just kidding) and is ready to start the Pre-intermediate level. So I volunteered to buy him the book because as a teacher I get a 10% discount from the book distributor here in Brazil, SBS. Well, the coursebook and workbook¬†(16th edition) come with CDs for the student’s home study. Fine. But the first thing Eduardo said was: “Teacher, today’s computer notebooks not even include a Cd drive. Why can’t I just access it online or at least use a memory stick?”

An e-textbook is weightless, has multiple functionalities, can be read anytime, anywhere, allows for interactivity, can bring enhanced tools in audio, video, sound effects, games, quizzes, tests, etc. IMG_9270

So why are e-textbooks so unappealing?

First, the cost. Secondly the quality of the content must be improved. Another huge downside is compatibility. The same e-textbook would have to work perfectly well across a broad range of devices and operating systems. Let’s not forget the DRM – Digital Rights Management which tries to combat piracy.

The publishers allege that there still is an enormous digital divide in the world  Рbroadband and wifi may be restricted or simply nonexistent in many places. Or the power supply may be simply  unreliable and sporadic to keep the electronic devices charged. Software updates also can compromise functionality. Also, an ebook requires at least a computer. The same way that in the past language learners had to use a record/cassette/cd player to take advantage of the resources accompanying their textbooks.

Another contributor to the digital divide is that there are still teachers and students (especially those over 30) who lack the expertise on how to use the technology present in e-textbooks.

I would love to see giant publishers like Oxford University Press, Macmillan, Pearson and others to start introducing e-textbooks at a fair price and high quality which would undoubtedly be great incentives for teachers and students to adopt them.

Don’t hold your breath.

Cheers,

Mo

 

 

Writing a Glossary

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A student of mine, who is very keen on learning and has a strong motivation and passion for reading and encountering new vocabulary, has started his own glossary. Here are some tips that might be useful to any language learner.

PURPOSE: why create a glossary if you can go online or use even a paper dictionary? A glossary will provide a one-stop place for students to go to in order to check and review new vocabulary. Moreover, it’s more meaningful – the student has created HIS or HER own glossary. It will also allow access of information in the future.

WHAT TO INCLUDE: you can divide your glossary by subjects – verbs, nouns related to technology, finance, communication, presentations, etc. It becomes much more than a glossary.

USING THE GLOSSARY:  you can revisit the glossary in case you get stuck on a certain word or concept. A way to quiz yourself before an upcoming test, for instance.

MAKING THE GLOSSARY: you can use a traditional notebook or index cards. Write definitions and pronunciation. IMG_9267

When possible add also the pronunciation of the word – either the phonetic spelling or just the way you hear it.

 

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Add context to the words – include examples of word collocation. Use pictures and visuals when possible¬†– words that go together “like a horse and carriage”:

Examples of word collocation:

to feel free
to come prepared
to save time
to find a replacement
to make progress
to do the washing up

Please feel free to take a seat and enjoy the show.
Make sure to come prepared for the test tomorrow.
You’ll save time if you turn off your smart phone and concentrate on the lesson.
We need to find a replacement for Jim as soon as possible.
We’re making progress on the project at work.
I’ll do the washing up and you can put Johnny to bed.

Cheers and happy learning,

Mo

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Glossary

 

 

5 easy steps to start thinking in your target language

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Quite often I come across students who say they have been studying English for ages but they still can’t think in English. thinkThey spend precious time translating the word or phrase they’re trying to say. They feel discouraged and frustrated with this lack of performance. A couple of weeks ago¬† I came across these very brief and useful tips on how to fix this problem. Check out Simple English Videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/vickihollettvideo)

Here are the 5 easy steps to help any language learner internalize and start thinking in English, Spanish, Portuguese or any language they’re trying to learn:

1. WORDS – look around you – do you know the names of all the objects surrounding you? Look them up. Expand your vocabulary.

2. SIMPLE SENTENCES – use those words in simple sentences – that painting is on the wall. There’s a stapler on my desk.

3. THOUGHTS – internalize those words and ideas – say them aloud and also just think of them.

4. CONVERSATIONS – try to talk to someone in English – a friend, a co-worker, etc. You have nobody to talk to? Get a little text and read it aloud – listen to your own voice

5. DREAMS – by practicing the 1 through 4 steps daily, pretty soon you’ll be having dreams in English.

Presto – you have overcome the translation barrier – now your language production and reception will be smoother and faster.

Happy thoughts,

Cheers,

Mo

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Estudando uma l√≠ngua estrangeira

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Muitas vezes, pessoas me  procuram em busca de um professor para aulas de inglês, espanhol ou francês e sempre perguntam:IMG_8412

Hi ūüėä
Tudo bem Moacir?!
Ent√£o, estou pesquisando sobre aulas de ingl√™s e lembrei de voc√™, por isso entrei em contato com voc√™ por insta, pois n√£o sabia entrar em contato.ūüėÖ
Gostaria de saber qual a frequ√™ncia de aulas semanais mais apropriada para o aprendizado, se vc tem disponibilidade de noite ou fds e qual seria o valor das aulas ūüėä

Um contato sempre é bom Рse alguém está cogitando fazer aula comigo é porque algum aluno já indicou ou a pessoa já me conhece de algum evento. Claro que o ideal seria fecharmos o contrato e iniciarmos as aulas. Mas já faz um bem danado ao profissional saber que está na mente de alunos/ clientes em perspectiva.

Geralmente minha resposta segue as seguintes linhas:

Hello, X.

Obrigado¬†pelo contato. Olha …, ¬†o n√ļmero de aulas semanais vai depender dos objetivos que voc√™ tenha: viagem a passeio? Trabalho? Desenvolvimento pessoal? Acad√™mico? Manter o ingl√™s atualizado pra n√£o enferrujar, etc.

Nisto entra o seu nível de inglês РBeginner? Intermediate? Advanced?

Em média as pessoas fazem 1 ou duas aulas de 60/ 90 minutos por semana. Depende também  da disponibilidade de tempo e dinheiro.

Por que s√≥ uma ou duas vezes? Porque o aluno precisa assumir o controle do aprendizado… o aluno tem que passar tempo ouvindo – muito, mas¬†muito mesmo. Tem os v√≠deos do Ted Talks no YouTube que s√£o muito bons ou document√°rio do NatGeo ou History Channel. Tamb√©m pode baixar podcasts e ouvir enquanto vai para o trabalho, por exemplo. S√£o excelentes para praticar o listening. Ent√£o o aluno precisa praticar todos os dias – mais tempo, mais progresso. Zero tempo? Zero progresso.

Além disso, o aluno precisa incorporar à sua rotina alguns momentos para ler e pensar na língua que está aprendendo. Claro que não estará compondo poesia,  (pelo menos de início)  Rsrsr, mas estará se familiarizando com a nova estrutura do novo idioma.

No meu caso como professor leciono presencialmente – o aluno vem at√© o meu office – ou online via Skype ou FaceTime. No momento n√£o tenho hor√°rios √† noite. Quanto ao fds como Adventista guardo s√°bados, domingos e feriados. Rsrs ūüėāūüėā

L√≥gico q o pre√ßo da “consulta/ aulas” varia com cada profissional mas como valor de referencia cobro R$ X por 4 horas/ m√™s.

Mas é o q falo para o pessoal Рse as pessoas fossem todos os sábados à English Sabbath School Class no UNASP SP e estudassem a lição diariamente nem precisariam de professor.

Cheers,

Mo

Make your own English Textbook

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Earlier this month, my 14-year old niece, Duda, showed me her English textbook – given for free to all students at her state public school.

The textbook is beautifully designed with lots of reading and linotebook 3stening activities plus speaking activities. I would say it is on a par with any coursebook available on the international market (including the fact that there is no e-book available – but that’s a theme for another post).

One thing that intrigued me is that Duda told me her English teacher does not use the book. The teacher gives some extra book activities.

Could students use the books for self-study?  Yes, but the fact that the books are 100% in English it can be discouraging especially when they have to resort to the dictionary just to understand the instructions.

A good thing (contrary to the previous edition) is that the book includes the transcript of the audio CD.

Why does the teacher avoid using the textbook? Many reasons can arise:

  1. She doesn’t like the way the book presents the themes.
  2. She lacks the necessary training to use the book in large classrooms
  3. The book brings irrelevant material for the students.
  4. The book brings way too difficult material for the students.

 

In an ideal world and school the English teacher could perfectly coordinate with the other teachers to define points to be incorporated in her lesson.

For example – history – students are learning about the independence of nations in Latin America

Or geography or science and biology…

English would then stop being one more subject they have to study and would become a tool for the students to learn the other subjects.

But in any different way or situation, the students could have a notebook where they would create  their own textbook along the year.

Drawing pictures, pasting photos, taking dictation, reading short articles, grammar drills and exercises that they had been given by the teacher or copied from the board.

Advantages

  • The words and expressions will be tailored to suit YOUR own needs.
  • Reduce clutter. You don‚Äôt waste time on useless topics.
  • You can keep track of your progress.
  • Your textbook serves as a reference of everything you‚Äôve learned so far. Whenever you forget something, you can look it up easily.
  • You are learning as you‚Äôre writing the textbook.
  • It‚Äôs free.

Disadvantages

  • You need to create the content yourself. You have to look for the material.
  • You are in charge of keeping it organized.
  • Your textbook won‚Äôt be 100% error-free

Source: Self-Learner – Teach it to yourself http://self-learner.com/write-your-own-language-textbook/

 

 

 

Desire to Learn English

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This afternoon, my 8th grade niece came home saying that she had received her English coursebook which included an audio CD but she couldn’t understand the instructions or how to use that material.

I said, “Come on, don’t be lazy, that can’t be that hard. Didn’t you pay attention to your teacher explaining how to use it?” But I must confess: it is difficult. The coursebook assumes that students have had 3-4 years of continuous English instruction so they can understand text and oral instructions. Nothing could be further from the truth. The students can’t simply make heads or tails of what they’re supposed to do. To add insult to injury the text is monolingual and just leaves the students hanging in there – sink or swim. coursebook

I’m not just blaming the teachers, who have 30-40 students in a classroom to work with, but I do know many of them are not qualified to teach English as a Foreign Language at all. Some of them not even know how to use the coursebook and no one bothers to explain to their students how to use the CD or to self-study. In some other cases (not just a few – the teacher says to the students: “I’m a teacher of Portuguese and now I’m required to also teach this …. (fill in the blanks) English language”.

Consequence – year after year students finish elementary school and secondary school having learned – hopefully – the verb to be and nothing else.

The government’s initiative to provide quality textbooks is praiseworthy but training on how to use the material is equally essential. That’s the least they can do. I remember my first formal school contact with English was in 6th grade back in 1976. By teacher, very wisely I must say, rejected the use of any textbooks – she developed her own curriculum and used dictations and the blackboard to teach us reading and speaking. I’m telling you this: I learned much more during those 9 months of class than in the next 2 years with another teacher who made us buy the coursebook – which was not bad – we used the same book in the 7th and 8th grade and not even then did we manage to complete the syllabus for the book that was geared to 5th graders.

The problem with the teaching of foreign languages in schools won’t be solved until it ceases being an academic subject and becomes a tool for the teaching of other subjects. My suggestion would be to require more user-friendly textbooks (clear bilingual instructions, transcript of the audio activities) which could be used for self-studying.

Meanwhile, the educational system will continue sending to private language teachers, tutors and language institutes hundreds of thousands of frustrated and scarred students.

My apologies to you, Maria Eduarda – Since I’m sure she can’t understand this in English (Pe√ßo-te perd√£o, Maria Eduarda).

Cheers,

Mo