An Interview with Scott Thornbury from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Scott was giving a plenary at the Japan Association of Language Teachers national conference in Shizuoka this weekend, as well as a couple of presentations, but was kind enough to spare me half an hour or so for a chat. We talked a grammar, Vygotsky and socio-linguistics (inspired by James Lantolf, who was also speaking at the conference), technology, textbooks, testing and, of course, dogme. Like his fellow Kiwi Paul Nation, he is a thoroughly nice chap. If you want to pick up some of Scott’s books (and I really recommend that you do – he has a great talent for bringing complex concepts to life)  you can get them through my store and contribute a few pennies towards the running of this site at the same time….


Window-dressing vs. Cross-dressing in the EFL Sub-culture. (The article I referred to in the interview… revived by the magic of twitter)

The New School– Online MA programme which Scott Thornbury (amongst others) is teaching on.

Scott’s own website, where you can see his edited plenary slides and plenty more.

Apologies, as usual, for the racket in the background and the occasional cropping of vital body parts.

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19 Thoughts on “an interview with scott thornbury

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  3. Fantastic interview Darren! Very much enjoyed your questions and Scott’s informative answers. Have been thinking quite a lot about how to chunk up grammar at the moment, actually something that has been emerging from my students themselves who still want explanations on why sentences work they way they do -yet don’t want this in isolation, serving up the meal as opposed to the mcnuggets so this was quite an interesting point in the interview for me.

    I agree with many of the points in the window dressing article as well, my thoughts tend to run on why aren’t there just normal looking people in them rather than specifically focusing on a niche and yet, perhaps within niche textbooks, only focusing on that niche.


  4. Don’t most teachers NEED a textbook?

  5. Karenne, thanks! Scott’s plenary talk covered these ‘seven views of grammar’ and, as he mentioned in the interview, from a teaching perspective it is questionable to consider grammar in the traditional sense at all.

    Patrick – Maybe most teachers THINK they need a textbook. But worldwide, yes they probably do for reasons of their own language proficiency, class size, context, or the need to have any tools at all. That is why I asked the question about optimum “dogme” contexts. I still feel that “dogme” works best with small classes, experienced and proficient teachers and students with a high tolerance of ambiguity. But what I liked about Scott’s answer was it’s inclusivity and pragmatism. There are probably very few teachers who will be able to chuck out all the books, but we can all have “dogme moments” in the “crevices of the lesson”. The overall message is a very humanistic one – don’t be ruled by the tyranny of the classroom, the textbook, or the exam… remember to listen to each other and take the opportunities to teach and learn.

  6. Oh, that is so RIPE for a spot of lampoonery, Darren! I have been brewing my “Scotrates – the thinking behind the teaching behind the philosophy (erm…)” blog posting for a good while now, and I think I have just found the necessary materials for its completion and maturity!

  7. Can’t you just do Rinvolucri again?

  8. No! Mario’s SO nice!! And at least he doesn’t hack on about why the EFL publishers choose to ignore bum-bandits and the like. I would have thought it was obvious why they don’t feature in course books, but either Scott enjoys taking rhetoric to the Xth degree, or he’s being deliberately disingeneous – perhaps both?!

  9. Sandy, you nearly had the honour of being the first non-spam comment deleted from my blog….

    For the uninitated “Sandy MacManus” is the foul-mouthed, hard-drinking internet persona of a mysterious TEFLer investigating and exposing the seemier side of the ELT industry. At the moment he is working on a story about the shady practice of school accreditation, and it’s a story worth checking out. However, on occasion he gets over-excited when tricking to prick the balloons of the luminaries… hence the “bum-bandits” remark. If you like a bit of Derek and Clive with your investigative journalism, then maybe you think it’s funny. But I don’t think Sandy would be saying quite the same things if he peeked out from behind the mask.

    To address your comment, Scott didn`t “hack on” about anything, it was a question I raised based on a ten year old article as an example of the banality of coursebook materials, and he was quite clear that it would be culturally inappropriate to focus on certain lifestyles in mainstream texts. But aren’t you tired of the same old Madonna and Beckham schtick too?

  10. Praise to you Darren for a really well-organised interview. Scott was brilliant, the worm’s eye view of him was brilliant and the crashing noises off also added texture to the event. Oh, and the content was marvellous, too. I think it’s one of the nicest vids of Scott I’ve ever seen. I think all the crashing stuff in the background contributed to the relaxed atmosphere!

  11. Thanks Ken! The angle was a controversial choice, but I think my artistic vision has been vindicated.

  12. Thanks so much for doing this interview Darren. The only thing I disagree with, which has been said before elsewhere, is that teachers have been fantastic for thousands of years. I still doubt that’s true.

    Otherwise, this was so nice to get to see Scott’s views in an interview format as I highly doubt I’ll ever meet him. I find myself more in the dogme camp all the time.

    I also agree with Ken, the angle was cool.

    “A language is a means, not a subject.” I love that.

  13. Cheers Nick. This was a really fun one to do, and I think I’m getting better at them ; P

    But everyone I’ve asked has been so nice and forthcoming. I’ll be putting one more video interview up over the weekend, then it’s onto skype for a while. Anyone up for a chat? More to the point, anyone know how to get a podcast onto a server so I can link to a url? Driving me NUTS.

  14. Use some FTP software and upload it to a server that way. If you only have a WordPress blog and not your own website (with server space) it may be a little difficult though.
    I use in Japan because I can just pop off down to the convenience store to pay the fees (a modest ¥950 per month)

    I like Scott Thornbury’s ideas. I think Dogme works really well with the right classes and his Natural Grammar book is great. But I wish there was a simpler version of it for lower level students.

  15. Hello Darren,
    I am new to your blog so I wish you all the best.
    The interview with Scott Thornbury was fantastic – for me, his ideas are very influential and I greatly admire him. I consider him (as many others) as one of the greatest people in ELT.
    However, I was quite disturbed by one of the comments above, which was highly offensive and which I personally, would have disapproved of on my website. Especially if I had the honor of Scott Thornbury featuring on my website.
    Thank you very much for your time.
    Kind regards,
    Vicky Loras

  16. Hi Vicky, thanks for coming by and I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. As for the comment, I agree that it is offensive, but I chose to leave in it, contextualise it and answer it rather than ignore it. I did, however, remove a later comment which went too far. It’s a difficult balance to strike, I think, but I hope we can move on now.

    Sean – this wordpress site is hosted, so I might be picking your brains for all that jiggery pockery. I’ll buy you a couple of beverages of your choice if you can fix it, plus the undying gratitude of the ELT masses who need my podcast ;-P

  17. Sorry if I offended you, Vicky, with my use of vulgarisms. I promise to keep them in check in future.

  18. gwen atkinson on March 6, 2010 at 11:19 am said:

    agree! learning online (the new school/MA tesol) was really great–more intensive than on-site classes & Scott was an awesome online prof!–you should write a book called ‘how to teach grammar online’, scott!~ :>

  19. Good interview and a very Lynhcian camera angle. Also, was that a scream I heard in the background when Scott mentioned ‘I’m loving it’? Maybe Lynne Truss was on an adjacent table.

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