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I talked to Professor Jennifer Jenkins about English as Lingua Franca, what it is and what it means to us as teachers. As usual, a google scholar search turns up quite a lot of good reading in this area, but I would recommend this short article as a good starting point.

Barbara Seidlhofer’s name came up in the discussion too, and I recommend this article as a very important one in the development of the field.

Seidlhofer B. (2004) ‘Teaching English as a lingua franca’. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics Vol.24: 209–239

The Vienna-Oxford International Corpus of English is an ongoing attempt to build a sample of non-native interaction in English.

Here is a review (mine!) of her 2007 book ‘English as Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity’

And finally, some commentary on David Graddol’s book (and a free pdf download of the whole thing) which we mention later in the podcast.

From this particular conversation? I am still in agreement with the philosophy behind ELF… but it ELF doesn’t need my permission, as a native speaker, to exist and thrive. The fact is that non-native speakers are now driving the language forward. My difficulty, as a teacher, is what I do about it. What is a mistake, and what is just a difference? How does this impact on my writing class? How long have I got to become fluent and fully literate in another language, before I become obsolete? Listen, enjoy, and comment please. But play nice – I know this topic can get particularly feisty….

Two days after I first arrived in Japan, on my first day of a week-long training period, I was awarded the title sensei. You are probably familiar with the word, which is usually loosely translated as teacher in English. In Japanese, it can be used to refer to any professional or expert in a particular field. A doctor, an artist, a poet, all can be a sensei. So, what made me a sensei? My passport, my eye colour? In a private Japanese language school, basically, yes. Having said that, there were some fine teachers there – they were kind, friendly, smart… and with no official teaching qualifications whatsoever they were able to help their students learn.

When I returned to the UK, I was qualified to teach at a university thanks to my CELTA certificate. This time, I had colleagues who were not native-speakers of English. Of course, English Language instructors are not necessaily afforded the same wages and conditions as teachers in other university departments… people who have never studied teaching at all, not even for four weeks.  A historian, for example, just has to demonstrate that they know a lot about their subject. They are not required to prove they can teach it. So a teacher has to have subject knowledge to be considered a true professional?

Now I am in the higher education system in Japan, and the entry level qualification is a masters degree. It used to be unimportant what that degree was in, but now more and more schools expect it to be in English, Applied Linguistics or a related field. Competition is such that a doctorate is increasingly useful, and it is expected that teachers publish and present fairly regularly. A DELTA, whilst handy, is not well recognised. In order to call oneself a teacher, then, research is a high priority.

I don’t know enough about the UK Further Education sector, but from what I can gather there are an incredible number of hoops to jump through in order to qualify. Every ESOL teacher I have ever met, as well as being very nice, has also been in the middle of some nationally standardised training course or another. Perhaps standardisation is the key. We need to be sure that our teachers can fit into a qualification structure?

So what gives someone the right to call themselves a teacher? Because the last one was so much fun, I’ve made a poll… but this time you can vote for as many as you like. The real game is in the comments box though, so get stuck in! I’d also like to know what you have to do to be called a teacher where you are.

(By the way, I never worked at the school advertising above! My company employed teachers of all races, as long as they were native English speakers, or proficient Japanese speakers of English. Click on the picture to read more about the dodgier side of the industry)

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Angela is a texbook writer, teacher, teacher trainer and sometime commenter on this very blog! You can see her interview in video form here.

If you like this podcast, please subscribe in iTunes, and write me a review! More are available in the archive – just click the ‘podcast’ tag below. I am always interested in talking to people, so email me if you would like to be interviewed for future episodes at


(Teacher Development Series Number Two – Attendance of professional workshops, lectures and conferences)

When I asked ‘How do you learn to teach?’ this was another of the popular choices, at about 20% of the popular vote. People love a good conference! As IATEFL is fast approaching, I thought it was an appropriate time to tackle the topic. The trouble is, so did everyone else. Rather than trying to squeeze any more out of it myself,  you are probably better off visiting Jeremy Harmer’s recent post on ‘What makes a good conference?’. If you are presenting yourself (or planning to) it is also worth checking out this four part series from One Year, on presenting from the planning stage right through to publication…

The title of this post alludes to the elements I personally feel make a good conference. Please, please don’t read me your slides. And if you can’t get the powerpoint working within fifteen seconds, just talk. That will be fine.

If you are not presenting, take a breather between sessions.  And if you hear someone is interesting and / or funny, go and see them, whoever they are or whatever they are talking about. If you want to read my recommendations in more detail, I have an article in English Teaching Professional (November 2008) which was perkily re-titled ‘See you at the Coffee Stand’ during the editing process. If you can’t get hold of it, then this slightly inferior rip-off by notorious ELT chancer Alex Case will probably do just as well…..

Can you express the perfect conference in 140 characters or less? tweet me at @livesofteachers or comment below.

rewind, selector

Trying to get the podcast versions of the interviews off the ground – there are now four available for download as mp3 audio files, either manually from this blog, or via the one-click iTunes subscription up in the top corner of the sidebar there. There will be more to follow, as I edit the audio files I have. Hopefully, by the summer I will be caught up enough so all interviews will be available simutaneously as audio downloads and video streams.

I’m still interested in interviewing teachers via skype…my details are on the ‘about’ page up there….

If you enjoy the podcsats, please leave a nice iTunes review… that helps them move up the rankings, and helps get them publicised to people who might otherwise miss them.

My Podcast Alley feed! {pca-ba5157345185a6fb6739dc8e1dea8cd8}

An audio version of the video interview we did at the JALT conference in Shizuoka, Japan.

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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.

There has been a lot of discussion of dogme around the blogosphere recently, triggered by the tenth anniversary of the movement. Not all of it kind….

Romantic Comedy with a Sinister Twist. A Marxist Critique of Dogme ELT. « Marxist TEFL Group

Critical DOGME or DOGME with Sympathy for the Critical? | Critical Mass ELT: Reflections on the World of English Language Teaching

D is for Dogme « An A-Z of ELT

But let’s not forget the prestigious ELTON award!

An audio version of the video interview we did at JALT 2009 in Shizuoka, Japan.

I first saw Miles speak a couple of years ago at another JALT event, and at the time was very impressed with his fair but candid assessment of writing and publishing in ELT. When I started this series he was one of the people I was hoping to talk to, so I was delighted to see his name as a featured speaker.  Amongst other things, we talked about how a book is put together, design, the pain of writing, the needs of students and teachers and the future of the publishing industry.

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 (Teacher Development Series Number One – Classroom Observation )

This is the first in a series, inspired by this originally off-the-cuff, just-for-fun poll, looking at teacher development techniques the old-fashioned way… teacher development unplugged, if you like 😉 As much as I love my on-line Personal Learning Network, it is only a part of how manage my development. In the early stages of my career, until fairly recently, it wasn’t a factor at all. So what, I asked, is the best way to learn how to teach ‘off-line’?

In the poll, I separated observation into two types – observation OF other teachers / trainers / supervisors,  and observation BY the same. Unsurprisingly, to me, the former was amongst the most popular choices offered – running at 18% of the vote. Being observed is not considered so helpful, with just 7% picking it as their top choice.

Why do so many of us want to watch other teachers, yet shy away from being watched ourselves? As Nick Jaworski commented, when

“…there is a complaint …. management swoops in in a flurry of paper and ink. Why do so many teachers fear observations? Because at most schools, they are never done for positive reasons.”

I cringe when I think back to my early days in private language schools… this is exactly what happened. If you were doing a good job (if no one was complaining) you wouldn’t see a trainer. If you were having trouble, you’d be looking over your shoulder waiting for a trainer to show up and sit at the back of your classroom.

Fortunately for me, I was the one doing the watching. I must have seen literally thousands of classrooms hours, and then written every one up in a two page report. I like to think I was able to help some of those teachers improve. But if I am being honest, I think it was far more formative on my teaching career than it was on any of theirs. Good or bad, I took something from every lesson. A great activity. Something you should never say. A smart way of transitioning. An awkward silence… and in writing each one up, I had to reflect on what made a lesson fail or succeed and put it into to words, again and again.

I think that we have to recognise that observation is beneficial to one person, and one person only – the observer.  Unfortunately, we are set up to expect feedback from peers who are unused to giving it, and reluctant to do so.

As part of the DELTA programme, I was involved in observation from every angle. I observed and was observed by my peers, and observed and observed by the trainers. Am I alone in this, or is it actually much easier when there is a clear power differential? However well you prepare, however much you negotiate in advance, however gently you tread, the peer observation is fraught with danger. As much as I love Ruth Wajnryb’s book Classroom Observation Tasks I wonder …. are peer feedback programmes doomed to uncomfortable failure?

You may not be in such a slump as poor George Costanza, but why wait? The life of a teacher is characterized by peaks and troughs, by breakthroughs, epiphanies, bad days, difficult classes, critical incidents and culture bumps. But these things are GOOD things, because the worst thing that can possibly happen to a teacher is stagnation. Early on in our teaching life, we are too busy figuring out the basics to worry about anything else. But after that? As Frances Fuller (1969, 1974) describes, our concerns change… from self, to task, to impact. We start by asking “Am I adequate?”, move on to “Is this activity working?” and (hopefully) end up with “How are the learners?”. Achievement of a state of stability is a  both a blessing and a curse, however.

Trainers spend so much time with pre-service or novice teachers that those of us later in our careers (and I speak as someone who has actually only been teaching for ten years) are left to our own devices. Which is fine. I am happy to direct my own development… why would I be sitting here writing this, otherwise?

Part of the way we can continue working happily as a teacher is by shaking things up before we get bored. In my research into teacher development during changes in context, I was very interested to see how often ELT professionals moved on – from one institution to another, from one country to another – to fend off the impending stagnation. Any anxiety and difficulty created by the change was compensated for by the invigorating power of ‘the opposite’.

I recognise the fact that TEFLers don’t always get a choice in these matters. But I would tenetively suggest that some of us are grateful for the chance to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Do those of us attracted to the industry have shorter attention spans than teachers in mainstream education?

But if you don’t fancy moving to a new continent, or you have ties and responsibilities that make that difficult, how do you avoid getting into a rut? Well, George’s advice still holds good. Try the opposite. If you usually stand up, sit down for your lesson. If you are a great whiteboard artist, leave it blank next week. Don’t give any homework, or set loads. Teach a class without a textbook, or fire-up a laptop.

But, whatever you do, don’t let yourself get bored!