Field artillery

Written by: Daniela Dobreva, Land Forces Academy, Shoumen Introduction
Artillery makes up a massive 80% of the army’s offensive firepower and it is used to neutralize, destroy and demoralize the enemy. It provides reliable firepower whenever and wherever it is needed and it is mobile and versatile. Field Artillery supplies supporting fire to meet the different needs of infantry and armor under varying conditions and in doing this it demonstrates four of the ten principles of war – surprise, concentration of force, flexibility and economy of effort:

  1. Surprise, because artillery can fire without warning over the whole of the immediate battlefield.
  2. Concentration of force, because artillery can be widely dispersed but the fire of its guns highly concentrated.
  3. Flexibility, because the weight of fire can be varied from that of a single gun to fire from all guns within range.
  4. Economy of effort, because a great weight of fire can be switched quickly and almost effortlessly from one target to another.


The main characteristics of Field Artillery are as follows:

  1. The ability to locate the enemy.
  2. The ability to demoralize the enemy by shock action.
  3. The ability to reduce the enemy’s battlefield mobility.
  4. The ability to deploy rapidly and bring its guns into action. SP guns can move quickly over rough terrain and modern survey methods and computers have increased speed into action
  5. The ability to fight over a considerable area, both within the immediate battle area and beyond. Field Artillery weapons can produce effective fire at ranges from 17 to 32 kms and this is being extended by ammunition technology.


  1. Field Artillery fights in both the contact and deep battles and can be divided into Close Support /CS/ Artillery and General Support /Gen Sp/ Artillery.
  2. Close Support Artillery is made up of the Field Artillery regiments found in divisions. In the attack, it destroys the enemy’s morale and restricts his mobility. In defense and delaying operations, artillery fire disrupts the enemy’s advance and leaves him vulnerable to the direct fire weapons of infantry, tanks, helicopters and aircraft.
  3. General support Artillery consists of regiments equipped with Multiple Launch Rocket Systems /MLRS/ and the FH70 field howitzer. The main roles of General Support Artillery are:
    1. Depth fire to attack targets in support of operations deep behind the enemy’s front line. Such targets have to be acquired by intelligence, by observation post parties and by artillery locating batteries using sound-ranging equipment, remotely piloted vehicles /RPVs/ and radar.
    2. Counter battery fire /CB/ to destroy and neutralize the enemy’s artillery and heavy mortars.

Command, control and communications /C3/

  1. Command and control of artillery is based on the principle of command at the highest level and control at the lowest level. Command includes matching the artillery available to the operational plan. Control involves the application of fire.
  2. It is essential to have reliable and secure communications between observers and guns in order to provide commanders with accurate and up-to-date information. Here is an example of Field Artillery C3 in a Battle Group. The Battery Commander /BC/ of the artillery battery affiliated to the Battle Group, forms a Fire Planning Cell /FPC/ to coordinate all indirect fire support /artillery, aviation and mortars/ in support of the Battle Group Commander’s plan. A Forward Observation Team under command of a Forward Observation Officer /FOO/ – a Captain from the Battery – will be located with the forward element of armor and infantry in a dug-in position, in an armored vehicle or helicopter. Laser ranging instruments are used to find the exact location of the target, which is passed to the gun position by radio. The FOO then adjusts the fire of the guns on the target by observing the fall of shot. If necessary, he can ask for the fire of all other guns within range to be brought to bear on the target.

Warming up
Why did you choose to become an artillery officer?
Is there a tradition in your family to be with the military?
Exercise I. Listen to the text and say what it is about. What are the key words in it?

  1. Play the recording once and ask the students to answer the questions. The anticipated answers are:
    1. The artillery demonstrates the four principles of war
    2. The characteristics of the artillery
  2. Play the recording a second time if you don’t get satisfactory answers. Let them take notes.

Notes to the teacher: Hand out the text. Allow about 10 min. For the students to read the text. Explain the unfamiliar words, if there are any. Ask different students to answer different questions.
Exercise II. Read the text carefully and give answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the % of Artillery in the Army’s offensive firepower? /80 %/
  2. What is artillery used for? / To neutralize, destroy and demoralize the enemy/.
  3. What does Artillery provide when needed? /reliable firepower/.
  4. What are the two adjectives used to describe Artillery in general? /mobile and versatile/.
  5. What principles of war does Artillery demonstrate? /surprise, concentration of force, flexibility and economy of effort/.
  6. Describe each of the four principles.
  7. What are the other principles of war? / Selection and maintenance of aim, Maintenance of morale, Offensive action, Security, Co-operation, Administration/.
  8. What are the main characteristics of Field Artillery?

Exercise III. Look through the text again. Find all borrowed /international/ words in it. /artillery, offensive, neutralize, demoralize, mobile, demonstrate, principles, concentration, economy, characteristics, shock, action, reduce, methods, computers, modern, terrain, effective, kms, ammunition, technology/.
Exercise IV. Give synonyms or explain in English:

  1. make up – constitute /invent, compensate
  2. effortlessly – without any effort, easily
  3. disperse – scatter, spread in different directions, place at different points.
  4. destroy – damage, ruin
  5. with many different uses, skills or abilities – versatile
  6. effective – with positive, desired results.

Notes to the teacher: if they cannot produce satisfactory explanations, let them use their dictionaries.
Exercise V. Find all the passive structures in the text. Transform them into active, where possible. /is used to neutralize,…; is needed; can be widely dispersed; can be varied; can be switched quickly/.
Exercise VI. Write the appropriate word in the blanks. Clues are given for each gap.

  1. One of the characteristics of SP guns is that they can move quickly over rough ……………….. ./surface/
  2. Artillery fire can disrupt the enemy’s advance and leave them vulnerable to the direct fire ………….of infantry/arms/, tanks, helicopters and …………. /flying machines/.
  3. Artillery, being a massive 80% of the army’s offensive firepower, is used to …………, destroy and demoralize the enemy. /to cause to have no effect/
  4. Field Artillery demonstrates four of the ten principles of war – surprise, concentration of force, ………….. and economy of effort. /the ability to change or to adjust easily/
  5. Speaking about the characteristics of Field Artillery, one should start with its ability to ………………. the enemy. /find the position/

Exercise VII. /Optional/ Use the “missing words” from the previous exercise to make sentences of your own.
Notes to the teacher: If pressed for time, this exercise can be given for homework
All four skills are practiced during the lesson: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Since our main objective is communication, the writing tasks are quite simple. If a teacher wants to expand on writing, students may be given as a written task to describe by what means any of the abilities is carried out. Some research may be required, too.

Lesson Planning in ESP/Subject Teaching

Written by: Elka Goranova & Stefka Kitanova [toc class=”toc-right”] Don’t agonise, organise.
Authors try to discuss why it is necessary to plan the lessons in advance, as well as the content of an efficient plan: what to teach (subject/language) and when and how to introduce and practise it. An analysis of the most frequent difficulties students face during their post-prep years in subject learning is made. An example lesson plan is given to illustrate the authors’ ideas on lesson preparation – how teachers can organise their lessons and help their students’ learning process.

Why plan?

If you ask a teacher “Do you plan your lessons?” the answer will be “Of cousre I do”. And when you ask him/her “How do you plan?” or “What is your plan like?” you will receive different answers. Some teachers follow step by step, letter by letter the coursebook; others feel it is not enough and look for additional materials and techniques and methods; and still others pay special attention/focus to the organisation of the lesson not only to the content.
Different teachers make different plans in terms of format – not necessarily written. Although, if an organisation of a lesson turns out to be good, why not write it down in the form of notes, schemes, text, whatever to help further work, to share with colleagues, to use it as a base for self-improvement.
The focus of our discussion is not the format of a lesson plan but its content. To plan means to take decisions beforehand, to set an aim and prepare the steps to achieve it.
Different ways of planning:
Some teachers have in their head the title of the lesson and the information (the facts) they have to tell their students. These teachers often follow a book (or lectures i.e. another text) letter by letter. The problem with such a plan is that it does not give any methodological and linguistic help to the teacher. Besides what is the use of telling the students facts they have in their books – it is neither motivating nor interesting. We suggest that it is better to try to make use of the book by assigning reading comprehension activities on the lesson text  – this will develop students language skills  – skimmimg, scanning, intensive reading, receptive reading and extensive reading.
Is a rough plan enough for an ESP teacher?
Our answer is NO and that’s why we would like to share some practical ideas with you.

How detailed a plan should be?

The most important questions the teacher should take into consideration are the following:

What? When? How?
– subject content – during the lesson – exercises
– language focus – which language   with which content and vice versa – introduction
– links
– visuals and audio materials
– homework


Usually teаchers pay more attention to the content of the lesson, which has to do with the subject taught, and probably less attention is paid to the language if considered at all. One of the reasons for the neglecting of the language is the teachers’ lack of linguistic confidence. Which may be due to:

  • insufficient language knowledge and skills
  • insufficient practice and experience.

Because of this they talk less and expose their students less to the target language, do not talk in English all the time, do not insist on using the target language in class.
What can be done to help teachers be more confident?
Courses, diplomas, seminars, workshops, etc. They help but …

Advantages Disadvantages
– practice – expensive
– experience – time-consuming
– contacts – regularity
– sharing ideas – do they meet subject teachers’ needs?
– school time/holiday
– not enough information about them
– diploma does not always mean knowledge or skills

As you can see the disadvantages exceed the advantages. This does not make them less useful but rather difficult to realise.
For example:

  • you never know the quality of the course
  • the course may take place at a time when the teacher has classes
  • not all diplomas are accepted by school authorities
  • all courses and seminars and workshops are short and teachers need linguistic help during the whole year for each lesson
  • some teachers have language certificates but are not as fluent as they need to be; and others do not have diplomas but are
  • most exams do have listening comprehension but do not have a speaking component; those with such are often too expensive for the teachers.

That is why to prepare the linguistic part of the lesson in advance is helpful and much easier because:

Advantages Disadvantages
– independent work – lack of materials
– time – convenient for you
– possible collaboration
– does not give feed-back on practice
with another subject teacher/ language teacher
– prediction of language needs
– gives a linguistic frame to the lesson

No comment.
When planning carefully and in details the teacher decides beforehand what will be the focus both of the content and the language. This will help the teacher feel prepared and confident. Some examples:

  • Biology
    • hygiene –ways of expressing obligation
    • ecology – specific vocabulary – names of plants, animals, relief, geographic terms, conditional sentences
    • evolution – past tenses, ways of expressing possibility and probability
    • biochemistry – subordination and coordination – while, after, when
  • Chemistry – while introducing the names of the elements and substances you can practise pronunciation and the alphabet, rare colours, degrees of comparison, everyday language while discussing the application of matters,
  • Physics – numbers, measures,
  • History – past tenses, perfect tenses, sequense of tenses, conditional sentences
  • Geography – physical, economical, human, social geography terminology, topographical names – spelling and pronunciation

These are only examples and some of them overlap, e.g.

  • most processes are suitable for practising passive voice,
  • common vocabulary – words used both in general and science but with different meanings:
    • precipitate, nucleus, wave, branch, trunk, inspire, islands Langerhaans
  • possible collaboration between teachers of different subjects.

Another problem is that everybody expects the teacher to be perfect whеn delivering the lesson. Even he/she does. However, nobody is. But it does not prevent teachers from correcting EVERY student’s mistake they notice. Planning the lesson the teacher can focus on definite items/areas from the content and the language and stress, develop and correct only them.
The fact that a teacher is not perfect does not mean that students have nothing to learn from her/him. Students will learn a lot from a well-prepared and managed lesson even if their teacher is not proficient in the target language. Also – the better the preparation, the better the performance.
Once the content of the lesson is clear and the language focus is thought about there come the next questions – WHEN and HOW.
The question when concerns which language will go with which content and vice versa. It also concerns the part of the lesson in which they will appear – beginning, middle or end. We do not think that there is a universal rule or a genuinely perfect place for language teaching and content teaching. Teachers will make different choices for different reasons. If the academic content is heavy with a lot of terminology, it might be helpful “to give students a break” with a “linguistic” activity and then go back to the subject. While doing the linguistic activity students can go through the content again, recycle it immediately, think it over from another point of view and thus learn it more easily and, which is more important, better.
Examples of language activities: Write 5 sentenses in the passive voice which are true/ false for … Write 5 sentences using … construction.  If you were a cell, how would you present yourself in 5 sentences, imagine you were … – describe yourself, how would expalin to your little brother or sister why…, how,… what is/are …, explain words with gestures/mimes (charades).
Another reason for giving your students such a linguistic exercise is that sometimes the language is the impediment because of which students do not understand a lesson. Doing some language work and clarifying certain points immediately in class will help them. And by language work we do not only mean giving them the menings of the unfamiliar words, but also practising them, the difficult constructions, word order, register and style.


As the subject is taught in a foreign language, it is convenient, useful and easier to employ techniques used in language teaching in subject lessons for checking comprehension. Thus the teacher can check the knowledge in the subject and in the language at once.
Examples of reading comprehension activities used in language teaching: you have a text in the book anyway. You can use it for reading comprehension:

  • true and false questions
  • open questions
  • title for each paragraph
  • match sentence, tiltes, phrases, etc. with paragraphs
  • correct some sentences/statement after reading the text
  • find in the text words or phrases (synonyms or antonyms) for paraphrasing from given beginning/word, etc.

All of these are traditional exercises; easy to prepare and do not necessarily involve waste of money for photocopying, only some time for preparation.
Planning this way will help get over the lack of habit and time because saying that the subject is taught in English is not enough…
All these things would be easier for a subject teacher to prepare if s/he actively communicates with a language teacher. Which, on the other hand, will be a challenge for the language teacher. The good news is that it will save time and will help both of them come up with ideas and… will give an easier answer to the question who is responsible for the result of the education; the teacher, the student, the parents or… just laziness.
To be continued…
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Mr Keith Kelly for the support.

The thorny path of philological reading: prosodic images

Written by: Dr. Elena Yakovleva, Lomonosov Moscow State University
The question of what happens when we, philologists, meet with the task of dealing with a sample reading of a text of verbal art or teach our class find interest in the process of reading the voices of the characters arises again and again. In the dimly remembered 1967 D.Abercrombie described at least three classes of markers that reveal personal characteristics of the speaker. Today we can safely refer to them as social markers, physical markers and psychological markers respectively:

a) those that mark social characteristics, such as regional affiliation, social status, occupation and social role;
b) those that mark physical characteristics, such as age, sex, physique and state of health;
c) those that mark psychological characteristics of personality and affective states.

11 years later one further category was proposed: ‘those that reveal changing states of the speaker’. Lyons calls this category a ‘symptom’, recalling the diagnostic use of signs in medicine:

“Any information is a signal which indicates to the receiver that the sender is in a particular state, whether this be an emotional state (fear, anger, etc.), a state of health (suffering from laryngitis, etc.), a state of intoxication, or whatever, can be described as symptomatic of that state (Lyons, 1977)”.

The notion of “symptom” might be useful as it is the one that refers to a transitional state of the speaker which is difficult to characterize precisely: the acoustic information is bound in this case to be “polysemantic”.
Although voice production and identification are our primary interest (how many voices and of what kinds can be produced by one speaker and easily identified by his listeners), it might be to the point to avail ourselves of some of the basic notions concerning speech production.
The respiratory system supplies the vocal tract with a stream of airflow; the vibrating vocal chords constitute the phonatory system; the pharyngeal system controls articulatory activity at the bottom of the vocal tract; the velopharyngeal system makes our voices nasal; formation of sounds in the mouth cavity constitutes the lingual system ; last but by no means least, an important role in producing various voices is played by the labial system (lip movements) and the mandibular system (movements of the jaw).
On the level of perceiving speech it is described in terms of pitch, loudness (intensity), tempo (length or duration) and quality (timbre). And here again more examples can be given in order to show how different systems can interact. Thus it is well-known from the literature on the subject that pitch ‘jitters’ and loudness ‘shimmers’ (that is, aperiodic cycle-to-cycle variability of fundamental frequency or intensity around the main value) are both heard as contributing to auditory quality, giving a ‘rough’, ‘harsh’ auditory texture. Loudness, in its turn, is the sum total of all the frequencies and one must take into consideration that a stretch of whisper may sound “louder” at a short distance from the listener than a stretch of pure tone somewhere in the distance. Tones, as distinctive suprasegmental units, on the acoustical level, therefore, should be understood as combinations of fundamental frequency and overall intensity since the latter can affect the former.
Now, what can be regarded as already more or less known about the correlation of the prosodic features with the above mentioned physical, psychological and social characteristics in phonetic literature?
And here the concept of voice-quality arises as described and named by G. Fairbanks in 1960. It should be emphasized, however, at once that the approach adopted by Grant Fairbanks is fairly different from ours: we are interested, first and foremost, in sound production by a normal speech apparatus, whereas Fairbanks was primarily interested in speech pathology. He was quite explicit on the subject saying he identified four types of voice quality disorders: harshness, breathiness and hoarseness (defects of tone generation) and nasality (a defect of transmission). All these qualities were viewed against the background the neutral or clear voice, which is particularly praiseworthy.

“Irregular, aperiodic noise in the vocal-fold spectrum. A common cause is excessive laryngeal tension. Harsh speakers tend to initiate phonation abruptly, with obtrusive glottal attacks in which the clicks, or sharp transients are unduly prominent. Some harsh speakers, especially when fundamental pitch is very low, exhibit trains of such clicks that are ratchetlike in sound (This is what in our notation is called creak and, as practice shows, it appears not only at the bottom of one’s voice. The italics are ours). Probably more adjectives have been applied to this quality than to any other vocal characteristic. For instance: coarse, discordant, dissonant, grating, guttural, hard, metallic, noisy, rasping, raucous, rough, strident” (pp.175-177).


“In breathy quality the vocal folds vibrate, but the intermittent closure fails and air-flow is continuous. The firmness of the basic glottal closure is insufficient for a given airflow (or the force of the airflow is excessive for a given closure). Breathy quality is almost invariably accompanied by limited vocal intensity. Vocal attacks tend to be aspirate (the italics are ours), in contrast to the glottal attacks of harshness” (pp.177-178).


“Whispering, or voiceless speech, is often used as a means of restricting intensity to a small area. Some speakers develop a “delightfully confidential manner of speaking”, as one teacher calls it sarcastically. Such a speaker may use a low pitch and low intensity. This now-I’m-going-to-tell-you-a-big-secret kind of speech may be just the thing for a fairy-tale hour” (pp.179-182).


“Universally familiar as a symptom of acute laryngitis, hoarseness combines the features of harshness and breathiness. Some call this combination husky. The harsh element predominates in some hoarse voices, the breathy element in others” (p.182). (The term ‘husky’, as we see, seems to fall between two stools and its aesthetic value is somehow dubious: there are so many “creaky” voices, as will be seen a little below, that adding one more term ‘husky’ is of no great help, though in future it might acquire a proper definition; the italics are ours).


“Excessive nasality, or hypernasality is one of the most common voice problems, but mild nasality is heard in many good voices (the italics are ours). It may be a virtue, in fact, although the evidence is inconclusive. Nasality is imparted to the vowel spectrum by lowering the velum and coupling the nasal cavity into the system” (p.172).

Since in principle we do not see why ‘whisper’ cannot be made a specific characteristic of a personage’s voice, we compare the definitions of breathy and whisper again, this time on the basis of the book “The Gift of Speech” by John Laver.

“The mode of vibration of the vocal folds is inefficient, and is accompanied by slight audible friction. Muscular effort is low, the glottis is kept somewhat open along most of its length. There is a close auditory relationship between breathy voice and ‘whisper’ (the italics are ours)” (p.203).

Now, what about the above-mentioned correlation of qualities, on the one hand, and their functions in actual speech, on the other? Here, we are afraid, the situation is even more complicated.
Let us now concentrate on the correlations, which have been established by now with a fair degree of certainty. We shall proceed from physical to social and psychological markers.
Physique and height are probably judged accurately because of the good correlation that seems to exist between these factors and the dimensions of the speaker’s apparatus. A tall, well-built man will tend to have a long vocal tract and large vocal folds. His voice quality will show low ranges of formant frequencies and correspondingly a low range fundamental frequency. His large respiratory volume will be reflected in a powerful loudness range (cf. Laver, p.242).
Age can be also indicated by voice quality, although the correlation is fairly accurate only if associated with the ‘breaking’ voice of puberty (vocal mutation may result in whispery voice) or with extremely old age (tissues become less elastic and this explains the appearance of shrill or thin voices). In the latter case to achieve better phonation, greater effort has to be exerted, as a result rather often a harsh voice can be heard… Together with a tendency to chronic bronchitis hacking, coughing and throat-clearing may more often than not indicate an old person, all these are not permanent characteristics as compared with harshness, and, therefore, are less reliable.
The situation seems to be more encouraging in the case of sex differentiation. Females have on average one octave higher fundamental pitch as compared with men.
Specialists are of the opinion that “because voice settings are under potential muscular control, they are learnable and imitable (the italics are ours).” The adoption of a particular voice setting often acts as an individuating marker, when its use is idiosyncratic to a particular speaker. But voice settings often form part of the typical vocal performance of particular regional accents, and can thus also act as social markers.
It is well known in the book “Sociolinguistic Patterns in British English” P. Trudgill has clearly shown that the speech of working-class, in contrast with that of middle-class speakers, is marked by the habitual use of a ‘creaky’ phonation, a high pitch-range, an increased loudness-range, a particular type of nasality and a relatively high overall degree of muscular tension throughout the vocal tract (the italics are ours).
Obviously, if the problem of social markers boils down to imitating dialectal deviations there is hardly any hope for philologists to read a dialogue convincingly enough, although certain deviations are well known. Leaving this aspect of voice production for the time being alone, let us now turn to voice qualities as psychological markers.
We know already that the fundamental frequency of vibration of the vocal folds is perceived as “pitch”: the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch is perceived and vice versa, so during pronouncing a sound (a vowel or a resonant) – to say nothing of larger segments: syllables, words, simple rhythm groups (feet), syntagms or sentences – pitch is either raised or lowered or sustained and in this way can form various configurations. If it happens within a sound or a simple rhythm group (a foot) the configuration is referred to as “tone”, if the unit is higher, then the corresponding configuration is already a “tune” (“contour” or “intonational contour”, “melody” or “melodic pattern” etc.).
The term “range (diapason)” is used to refer to the whole band frequencies which it is possible for the individual to produce from the lowest to the highest (some scholars prefer to speak of the “total diapason” but stratify it into “registers”).
It appears to be of great interest that normally we speak only within one third of our total pitch range (its lowest part). Men, for instance, if they go beyond this third, can imitate women or even children.
“Loudness” is the product (with some reservations, of course) of the amplitude of vibration of the vocal folds brought about by differing intensity of air pressure from the lungs. Perceptually loudness is the sum total of all the amplitudes of the constituent frequencies of a sound and thus pitch and loudness depend on each other, only within certain limits they can be regarded as independent parameters (and consequently demonstrated as such). From this point of view the request “Speak up!”, in actual fact, often results merely in raising one’s pitch.
There are some more prosodic parameters (which play a very important role both on the syntactic and the suprasyntactic levels of English speech): “pauses (junctures, disjunctures)” of different length (the absence of voice or phonation, although one can also speak of “voiced pauses”) “tempo (length, rate, duration)” of speaking, “stress (accent)” and “rhythm” (the last two being obviously complexes of the previous parameters).
In the case of the human voice the note is given its quality (or timbre) by certain variations in the generation of the vocal-fold pitch and by its distribution among the resonators – oral cavity, nasal cavity, larynx and pharynx. The modulation of these resonators and the distribution of the note among them are susceptible of an almost infinite variety of states. We shall never tire of repeating, however, that not every variety is actually functionally burdened or even actually perceived.
What has been said above is meant to serve an illustration to what students of philology are dealing with when confronted with the direction of research popularly known as “Philological reading” pursued by the scholars of the English Department at the Philological Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University.

Helping and Supervising Fellow Professionals in ELT

Written by: Simona Mazilu [toc class=”toc-right”] (or Teacher Training Re-visited)


A. Why Teacher-training?

1) Over the last years I had a golden opportunity – to watch my peers (professional colleagues) and “under-peers” (read “student-teachers”) at work training each other. I have also had the concomitant chance to learn more about my own teaching and training styles.
Such beneficial and shaping exposure in terms of both professional and personal growth has mainly been possible as a result of my involvement in mentoring – the initiating, follow-up, and follow-through stages gradually leading my way from the level of “mentee” or “teacher-trainee” to that of “mentor” or “teacher-trainer.”
2) Last summer (16-29 July 2000) a new coordinate was added to the golden opportunity mentioned above. I attended a top-quality course for teacher trainers and/or mentors at Hilderstone College, in Broadstairs, the U.K. Hilderstone is a state college which specialises in writing programs for teachers, trainers, and students from schools, universities, and government agencies all over the world. These courses are credited by the British Council.
The Teacher Training Program in July combined a Language Development component with a choice of Special Interest Options, allowing participants to update and enjoy their English while developing their particular area of preference.
From the wide range of offers by the Hilderstone College team of teacher-trainers (Tessa Woodward, Seth Lindstromberg, Andy Caswell, Deborah Robson, John Carr, and Paul Bress) I opted for “Trainer Development” with Tessa Woodward.1
Being designed for both native and non-native trainers, educators, mentors, and course-directors, this course seemed to combine well with my training/mentoring background. The real thing, however, was beyond all expectations, making me wax lyrical about the experience.

B. Why “Helping and Supervising Fellow Professionals in ELT”?

Focused on

  • mentoring and supervising,
  • helping teachers plan,
  • observation,
  • discussion and feed-back,
  • listening and handling conflict,
  • working with different styles,
  • running workshops and refresher courses,
  • trainer support materials,
  • participant case studies, the course addresses anyone who has, or will have, responsibility for helping and supervising fellow-professionals in ELT.

In conclusion, the two-week immersion in such issues, in conjunction with my own experience and insight – limited as they are – in the province of mentoring, formed the basis of my topic choice for this Conference.


1) Sharing Information.

The section includes a series of suggestions for eliciting and transmitting information, ideas, opinions, and awareness in teacher-training sessions from and to all participants in the learning event.
The assumption that no trainee comes into the training room as a “tabula rasa,” upon which the trainer writes, that everyone in a group has knowledge and experience inside them, and that everyone present – the trainer included – can learn from the “encounter” and from one another lies at the very basis of the following selection.
a) Story Starters

  • We can start off the session by telling a story, an anecdote, or a parable that is related to the theme under discussion. Here are a few examples: “How I became a teacher,” “A lesson that went disastrously wrong ” or “How I feel when there’s someone observing me in my classroom.”
  • Trainees can either ask questions and comment or keep silent. They are invited to contribute anecdotes of their own to the same subject as a follow-up.

The stories can also be told at the end or in the middle of a session. The rationale for this activity is mainly given by two aspects: being fairly easy to tell. anecdotes, enable participants to learn something about the lecturer, and promote independence as the individual feels the need to make their own sense out of the message.
b) Lecture Discussion Scales
The preparatory stage consists of the following:

  • Selecting central points from a talk you intend to give.
  • Phrasing them as provocative statements to be agreed or disagreed with. For example, the main issues to be touched upon in a talk on the subject of translation could be made to sound debatable in the following way:
    • Though it is most natural activity, translation is out of date in language teaching.
    • Every word or phrase is translatable into the target language.
    • There is no such thing as a perfect translation for a particular word in a language.
  • Writing or typing central points and, under each, drawing a line or a scale like this: Agree <——–Disagree
  • Photocopying the completed sheets of statements and scales, cutting them into strips, so that each strip has a statement and a scale on it.

The procedure is equally simple:

  • Each trainee is given one statement and scale (one strip).
  • Everyone reads their own statement slip first, reflects on it, then marks the scale with an X according to whether and how much they agree or not. Strong agreement, for instance, will look like this: Agree <-x——Disagree
  • Participants now share what is on their slip and their feelings about it, in an attempt to find someone who is of the same opinion to the same extent.
  • Once all of them have spoken to several others, give your talk. Try to pay particular attention to your listeners’ reactions: they will tend to respond especially well to the part of the talk that deals with “their” perception of the issue. They may also show interest in your position towards the topic under discussion.
  • The last stage, when the lecture is over, sees the trainer encouraging the group to pool the key points they have been able to identify throughout. As an alternative, the talk may finish a little earlier then expected, leaving trainees to the open-ended discussion thus created. The chance is that individuals will readily, and strongly, recall the central aspects of the lecture referred to on their own sheets of statements and scales.

This activity of sharing information is particularly useful when content is likely to go against established opinions, the initial stages of reading, thinking, and exchanging ideas
making participants aware of their own knowledge or opinions on the theme while keeping their attention focused on the task in which they are engaged.
Knowing they have already got the key-points through discussions between them, trainees can finally relax and enjoy the lecture – a well-deserved reward and also the best part of this training encounter, as nothing compares to the excitement given by the sense of achievement.
c) The Mind-Map Lecture
There are mainly five procedural steps in this information-sharing activity:

  • The title of the talk is stated and written in the center of the chalkboard.
  • The chief areas to be covered are specified. While explaining them, the trainer is drawing main branches out from the central title on the board, giving each one a label to show the main area it represents. The labels are written in CAPITALS along the branches.
  • As the lecture progresses, more branches, and even sub-branches, are added in order to map further ideas and information onto the board. The result is continuous talk and visual support. Any statistics or heavy detail are to be recorded separately, in note form, on another board.
  • Any extra points that arise via questions or comments are instantly recorded in the mind map.
  • The colour code and graphics are sure to enhance perception: main ideas are to be written up in one colour, side details in another colour, arrows and lines being drawn between related points.
  • The rationale behind this strategy of sharing information may reside in the following aspects:
  • Being non-linear, the mind map does not force a particular sequence onto the lecturer, who can develop or extend it according to what comes up in the monitored lecture and in the group. Despite the continuous flow of additional data, it still retains organisation and overview.
  • Visually appealing, easy to rewrite or reorganize if too disorderly, mind maps are especially good for showing priorities as well as networks of possible connections between numbers of points.

The Curran-Style Lecture, the Buzz-group Lecture, Pre-lecture Unfinished Slips, Lecture Key-words, Socratic Questioning, the Interactive, or Interrupted Lecture, Listen, Read and Rest, Participants Mini-Lectures are as many enjoyable options to look at for a profitable interaction between trainer-trainees, both engaged in the process of sharing information.
Possible adaptations to the main idea :

  • The trainer drawing their mind map before the lecture, to serve as a pool of prompts from which to speak.
  • Trainee drawing their own mind maps before or after a lecture with a view to measuring how much they know or remember of the subject.
  • A volunteer trainee standing at the board and drawing a mind map for the lecture while it is being delivered, thus providing the trainer with an immediate visual feedback of what is being understood by one trainee, the others being able to check on their group simultaneously:
  • The trainer distributing copies of an incomplete (half filled-in, for instance) mind map before a talk, for trainees to contribute the missing information as the lectures progresses.

d) A Question Matrix
This can be regarded as a variation on the mind-map lecture, the main areas to be covered in the talk being phrased as questions. The rationale behind choosing this format is based on a well-known truth: one way of spotlighting a subjetct so as to think about it in detail is to ask a number of simple, fundamental questions and then to generate a variety of answers to them. Here are some possible questions on the topic of being a teacher trainer:

  • What is a trainer?
  • Are trainers necessary?
  • What does a trainer have to be/do/have/know?
  • How do people become teacher trainers?
  • How do trainers continue to progress/ develop once in the job? What do they need for this?
  • What useful frameworks/constructs can there be used throughout the training session?
  • Where is the language learner in all this?
  • What are the current approaches to training?
  • Are there any dark sides to them?
  • How do people get trained in other fields?
  • What can we learn from their methods?

Those who do not feel attracted to such linear formats can always have recourse to the mind-map display.
A mind map display.
Being a teacher trainer

  • Where is the language learner in all this?
  • What useful frameworks/ constructs are there to use in our job?
  • How do trainers continue to progress/ develop once on the job?
  • How do people in other fields get trained?
  • What is a trainer?
  • Are trainers necessary?
  • What does a trainer have to be/do/have/know?
  • How do people become teacher trainers?

2) Observing Teachers at Work

As many terms in any field, observation can be defined in different ways, strictly or broadly speaking.
It can cover a wide range of possibilities, from visiting a class to observe different aspects of teaching to “seeing with your own eyes,” as Woodward explains it (“Observation and Feedback,” The Teacher Trainer, 1989), that is from the traditional to the newer approaches to the issue.
Imparting knowledge and constructing it are two different worlds, and the distinction between them has a strong, far-reaching impact on teacher development. Therefore, the entire teaching program should be organised in a way that trainees play an active role in the process of becoming a teacher and/or, further on, improving and growing as one.
Irrespective of the form in which observation is carried out, it involves a lot more than the physical time spent visiting in the classroom or watching a recorded lesson or reading a lesson transcript. It can not be restricted to the events seen or heard during a particular lesson or series of lesson, as it is not a linear reality. It is a process that has to be followed both on the surface – preobservation sessions, where various aspects of observation are discussed, and feedback sessions as well, where the experience is analysed and commented on – and on a deeper level, where it becomes an invaluable learning tool, by which teachers can learn and develop, as it is where high cognitive processes as involved. Thus observation helps trainees make their own constructions of the world explicit and add newly acquired information to the already existing schemata. Needless to say that the next step will inevitably engage learners in relating the fresh data gained during observation to their past experience in analysing and reinterpreting it. Such processes, complex and long-term as they are, lead teachers to form their personal theories of teaching and learning, which will represent a solid basis on which to make informed judgments in any teaching situation.
It is exactly this learning aspect of observation that will be looked at in this section.


1. Tessa Woodward: Professional Development Coordinator at Hilderstone College; Teacher, trainer and ELT author of international standing; Editor of The Teacher Trainer; Publications include: Loop Input, Models and Metaphors in Language Teacher Training, Ways of Training.

American reading and grammar: a TV and on-line hybrid

Written by: Gary Roelofs Chemeketa Community College [toc class=”toc-right”] Abstract
The presenter will discuss the design and delivery of an intermediate-advanced reading course at a community college in Salem, Oregon, USA.
Like all instruction, this class is a work in progress; and the presenter welcomes observations that bear on the experiences described here: any empirical research that supports or refutes the usefulness of this approach; any personal experience that does the same.


Chemeketa is a public two-year postsecondary facility in the high-tech corridor of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. It consists of a central campus and 5 outreach campuses.
Chemeketa is a comprehensive community college and thus issues several types of diplomas: Associate of Arts, Associate of Science (the two-year “transfer” degrees for students pursuing a university education), and a variety of Certificates in technical subjects or applied sciences (e.g. one and two year programs in nursing, auto mechanics, machine tools, electronics, computer networking, vineyard management). Classes also include community education, high school completion, and Adult Basic Education. The college also contracts with local business and industry to provide short-term and ongoing training for employees both on- and off-site.(You are invited to visit the college website for a more complete description: .)

The ESL Program

The ESL curriculum is designed to move students through a succession of courses to a level of competence that matches their personal goals. It is offered at times and locations that ensure the largest possible student participation: morning, afternoon and evening; on the main campus and satellite facilities, and at a variety of community meeting places, e.g. public schools and churches. ESL at Chemeketa is a two-tiered program: levels 1-3 present a “survival curriculum” of life skills including consumer economics, health, civics, and occupational knowledge. Students can attend the core classes of Reading/Writing and Speaking/Listening for 15 hours per week in the day program or 9 hours a week in the evening; in addition, the students have access to computer labs throughout the district and a fully equipped language lab (audio and video) on the main campus.
The second tier, levels 4-5, is a transition curriculum that presents academic and cultural experiences designed to equip the students for further study at the college. At these levels, the course offerings are more specialized and carry college credit, level 5 being the equivalent of first-year college work. The course to be described in this presentation is at a level 4 and is considered a “developmental” class at the beginning-advanced level.

The Students

The student audience for the course has a very wide variety of backgrounds and goals. Although the students are at the same level of development in their English, their academic experience varies, at the extremes, from a few years of formal schooling in their native countries (with a few years of attendance in the first tier of the ESL program) to advanced degrees in a wide variety of fields obtained abroad. This range of experience with formal education results in a wide range of study skills.
In addition to refugees and immigrants, there are international students who are attending the Chemeketa Language and Culture Institute or the college or both..
Their goals for attending also vary widely; some will continue at Chemeketa for a one- or two-year certificate in a technical field, others for a two-year transfer degree. There is also a small number of students who have no further academic goals and are attending for personal reasons.
Their previous experience with computer technology (a significant portion of the design of the class) also varies: there are students with their own websites (two Arab students actually had their own internet server set up in their apartment); and there are students who have no computer experience at all.

Teaching on TV

The Chemeketa instructional television system (CTV) consists of a one-way video feed from a specially equipped classroom on campus to viewing rooms at each of the outreach centers, where large monitors are located for student viewing. The students in outreach have a two-way telephone link to the classroom on the main campus for audio connection. They can be heard but not seen by the on-campus class.
And this arrangement presents some special challenges for the instructor: in planning for the 2.5 hour class, I have to continually ask myself, “What will the students in outreach be doing? Watching TV? Sleeping? Talking to each other in their first language about what they did on the weekend? Taking notes? Doing their homework?” Activities must be designed to actively engage the students in outreach (much like any classroom): group and pair work with reports to be presented orally, comparing notes after a lecture demonstration, correcting homework, problem-posing for other groups. A special teambuilding effort is necessary to make the students in outreach (groups as small as three students at times) feel a part of the class.
I learn the students’ names and visit each site at least once during the term to meet them. After the first couple of weeks, I know a bit about each student from their homework and postings on the class Webboard and can address them by name to answer questions and ask about their progress.

Teaching Online

The online portion of the class is facilitated by the use of a class WebBoard®. Students attend two and a half hours weekly in a computer lab, either on campus or in the outreach centers (which are staffed by lab assistants to help the students). You are invited to log on as a “guest” and explore the assignments and postings of the students, bearing in mind that this part of the class is accompanied by instructions and handouts which you will not have. The online portion is not designed as a stand-alone website, but as a part of the instructional strategy.
In order to use the class webboard, students need to have an email account, and the first class session in the lab is dedicated to an orientation to the internet and the students’ getting such an account. There are numerous sites on the web that offer free email and the students are invited to choose from a list that I provide. Those that already have accounts are encouraged to partner with those who don’t. Having signed up for an email account, the students are ready to create their accounts for the class. Then they are ready to navigate the web and complete the assignments.
All of this presents some technical challenges for those who have never used a computer before: managing several open windows and navigating among them, select-copy-paste, “point, click and drag”, etc. And the whole dimension of reading on the web necessitates the adaptation of some old skills to a new environment: skimming the visual organization of a web page, scanning for key words, and learning the conventions used for search (I use search engines — Google — directories — Yahoo — and site searches — CNN), hyperlinks, advertisements, navigation and scroll bars, etc.
These skills are integral to the class, but not prerequisites. I use the more experienced students to tutor the others. With some simple instructions this works well: use English, don’t touch the mouse or the keyboard (use English to give instructions to the learner and point to the screen), ask questions to establish what the student knows and doesn’t, have fun, and don’t forget to smile. I have also been fortunate in finding at least one student at each remote site who can act as the tutor for the others with less experience on the web.

The Reading

I present reading to the students as a “psycholinguistic guessing game” in which the knowledge (language as well as “world”) of the reader interacts with the text allowing the user to make predictions about what will come next. The point of view is useful in getting the students to relax—it is, after all, a game. The readings on the web are drawn from a variety of sources; but my favorite site is that of PBS—the Public Broadcasting System. There is a variety of formats and issues; the sites are well organized and professionally done, there is little advertising, and the locations are stable. In addition, there are links to audio and video sources that the students find interesting.
I also use national and local news cites, mostly to demonstrate how unfriendly news copy is to readers in terms of the conventions of connected discourse: the number of one-sentence paragraphs, the dislocation of time, and the lack of transitional devices.
However, I sometimes overestimate the problem-solving skills of my students and make web assignments that are too obscure. These assignments often fit the stereotypical teacher question pattern: “What am I thinking?” (This remains a problem in all teacher-centered education, where the person with all the answers asks all the questions.)

The Grammar

“Grammar” is presented to the students as a set of conventions that English speakers use, not as the “rules of the language.” At a level 4, it is expected that the students have a firm grasp of the basic terminology of grammar and to confirm this, the first exercises are a review of the parts of speech and sentence types. The texts used for these early grammar review exercises are taken from websites that present Native American legends, chosen because of the universality of their themes and the simplicity of their language (a very low clause/T-unit ratio).
Sentence types are the next focus; and it is here that students begin to encounter grammatical information that aids in the understanding of text. Choosing the “main subject and verb” often helps them distinguish between main ideas and supporting details. The dependent clauses are then analyzed in terms of their function in the sentence: adjective clause, noun clause, adverb clause. The most problematic for students are the reduced relative clauses that are so common in academic writing, but so uncommon in the speech and writing of the students.
Thus, the focus for the advanced grammar exercises is the analysis of reduced relative clauses: how they function in the sentence, which types of relative clauses may be reduced and which may not, and the way in which the use of reduced relative clauses makes writing more compact or “meaningful” (that is, carrying more information with fewer words). Exercises here include both expansion of clauses (taking dependent clauses out of a sentence and transforming it into an independent clause) and reduction of clauses (e.g. transforming a radio script into a narrative—direct quotes into reported speech).

Final Thoughts

Interactivity between the students in remote sites and the instructor and students on the main campus continues to be a problem. Taking a TV class is not an easy task for many learners, especially those who need high-context environments that include face-to-face, personal contact. But the students in remote sites who can learn in the environment imposed by TV and the Internet no longer have to be told to quit their day jobs and move to Salem. They can continue their difficult journey toward more skills in English and training-education that will equip them for more responsible, better-paying jobs.
Students build confidence in their abilities to solve complex problems, help others, and commuincate effectively with (at least one) native speaker. I used to think I was building confidence by saying, “This is easy. You can do this.” When the students found it difficult or impossible, the real message became, “Your skills [and by extension, you, yourself] are inadequate,” or “You must be stupid.” So I’ve changed to, “This is really tough, maybe impossible.” When one of the students gets it, and shares that with the others (I encourage this type of cooperation), that builds confidence.
I believe that my hidden agendas for the class are realized—reading becomes a pleasure, a guessing game; grammar becomes a tool, not a set of rules; and computers become doors to comprehensible input.

Teaching and learning culture

Written by: Desislava Zareva, New Bulgarian University
Nelly Yakimova, University of Sofia
This paper aims to outline the rationale and the content of a new ‘Studying Culture’ course successfully implemented in the curricula of four Bulgarian Universities, and to introduce a set of specially designed teaching materials it makes use of: a student handbook and three self-study units.
‘Studyng Culture’ is a completely innovative course which has no precedence within the study programmes of Bulgarian Universities. It has been initiated with the support of the British Council, Bulgaria, and has been designed by five university teachers, members of the English departments of four academic institutions – Milena Katzarska (University of Plovdiv), Elena Zlatanova (University of Veliko Turnovo), Nelly Yakimova (University of Sofia), Desislava Zareva (New Bulgarian University) and Leah Davcheva (The British Council).
The course is geared primarily at teacher trainees at B.A and at students of British and American Studies at M.A. levels. However, its wide scope of subjects investigated and research methodology applied could make it equally appealing to those with other academic interests.
‘Studying Culture’ aims to raise participants’ cultural awareness, provide techniques for describing, analysing, and comparing cultures, sensitise students to the key aspects of the cultural learning and teaching process and develop their skills for materials design and materials evaluation.
Those of the students who sucessfully complete the course learn to describe and analyse, interpret and compare from a great range of perspectives; conduct field work and complete small-scale research tasks; apply the theoretical models and practical skills acquired into their language classrooms; design their own materials for raising their students’ cultural awareness and for developing their intercultural competence.
The course has been designed around six modules, each of them dealing with a particular aspect of culture, its relationship with language, and the respective implications for the language and culture classroom. We must point out here that the writing team have adopted Byram’s (1999) view of culture as:

‘… beliefs, values, and behaviours of a social group, where ‘social group’ can refer to any collectivity of people from those in a social institution such as a university, a golf club, a family, to those organised in large scale groups such as a nation state or even a ‘civilisation’ such as ‘Western/European’. The ‘beliefs’ in question are the ‘shared meanings’ which underpin their behaviours, and the ‘values’ are those which are attached to their beliefs and behaviours. Some of all this may be accessible to conscious analysis but much of it will not.’

‘Studying Culture’: content and methodology

The first module, Language and Culture, focuses on the relationship between language and culture and provides the starting point for the debate about language as a culture carrier. Just as language and culture are closely related in human society, so are language learning and culture learning. We take it for granted that culture learning has to take place as an integral part of language learning, and vice versa. However, the mere acquisition of information about a foreign country, without the psychological demands of integrated language and culture learning, is inadequate as a basis for education through foreign language teaching. Thus, in planning, directing and evaluating culture learning and teaching in the language classroom, teachers should be aware of the general nature of culture learning as a process and the major variables that stimulate or hinder its progress. Module Two, Intercultural Learning, introduces the factors involved in learning for intercultural communication and a model for intercultural communicative competence, based on Byram (1997).
The third module, Language and Society, is based on the view that language cannot be understood, taught and learned out of its social and cultural context. Culture reflects in language and at the same time language is the instrument for shaping our social order. One aspect of this interrelationship is that language varies according to situation. Different contexts can be characterized by different forms of linguistic expression and thus be identified by language users. Language also varies according to its users. This kind of diversity can be approached by exploring the differences between men and women in the way they speak. Yet another aspect of the relationship between language and culture in a social context can be traced on the level of personal communication.
In Module Four, Teaching the Media, we look at ways of exploring the media as the source of the programmes, films, music, books and magazines that we watch, listen to and read. We try to analyse the ways in which we consume and use media products, how we are shaped and influenced by the meanings and values which circulate around us, and how we, in turn, make sense of the world we live in.
The study of Popular Culture, which the theme of the fifth module, draws upon two definitions of culture: the broad, anthropological definition, which presents culture as a whole way of life of a people and their values and beliefs, and the narrow, aesthetic one, according to which culture refers to the best that has been produced in the fields of art, music and literature. The focus of this module is upon cultural forms and practices that have wide social currency, since no picture of a society’s culture would be complete without attention to popular as well as minority tastes.
The sixth module, Exploring Cultures through Literature and Art, aims to sensitise students to cultural implications in literary texts. We introduce the key theoretical aspects of ‘reading’ cultures through their literature and art and try to explore the manner in which literary texts may be shaped by a sense of cultural identity related to locality.
Throughout the course students are involved in different types of academic input and practical work: lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, reading assignments, field work and project work.
It should be stressed that teaching and learning processes are student-centred and experiential in nature. The principles of interaction, interdisciplinarity, collaboration, independent study, sharing and openness have been employed. The best way to describe the methodology of the course is not so much as a source of definitive answers but as an opportunity to discuss productive and important questions of cultural teaching and learning.
Continuous assessment based on the successful completion of self and peer evaluation tasks, an assessed exercise at the end of each module and a final project work on a topic of students’ choice has proved so far the best method for evaluating students’ progress.
Being a team of representatives of four different Bulgarian universitites, we have tried to design this course in such a way, so that it is flexible and can be adapted to the needs of a particular academic curriculum. On the other hand, if we take into consideration the particular needs of a given target group of students, the focus of the course can shift from highly theoretical input (e.g. for M.A. students) to more methodology-oriented and practical tasks (e.g. for student teachers). It is also worth mentioning that the self-contained nature of the modules allows them to be further expanded or condensed according to time constraints and students’ interests.
As regards the content of the course, we have adopted an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon a number of academic subjects, such as linguistics, sociolinguistics, culture and media studies, civilisation, literature and art. We rely on examples from different cultures and encourage cross-cultural comparisons. We have also made our priority to enable students to acquire skills rather than teach facts. They learn to explore aspects of different cultures, compare and contrast examples of social behaviour and use various methods for data collection and analysis (e.g. ethnography). In addition, they find out how to deal with texts and design their own teaching materials.

‘Studying Culture’: courseware

We have designed the teaching materials in order to facilitate classroom sessions as well as to promote independent learning. The student handbook outlines the rationale of the course and the individual topics, highlights the key concepts dealt with in the respective modules and informs students about the forms of assessment and the assessment criteria. It also contains a practical guide to research methods and quotation conventions as well as bibliographical notes at the end of each module.
We also make use of a set of offprints with the basic reading materials and a plan for each session.
Since the framework of the course is based on a broad definition of culture as the beliefs, values and behaviour of a social group, it is impossible to thoroughly explore the representations of culture in all the different spheres of life within the allotted time of 60 academic hours. Therefore, we rely heavily on individual work as an indelible part of the learning process. We are convinced that facilitated independent learning not only enables students to catch up with what they have missed from their classroom activities, but it also allows them the choice of time, place and pace of their own learning. To this end, we have designed three self-access units, each containing a body of learning materials that can be used independently, as a supplement to the learning process conducted in the classroom. The three topics, ethnography of communication, popular music and communities in literature, are derived from the broader themes of the modules Language and Society, Popular Culture, and Exploring Cultures Through Literature and Art, respectively. They are supplementary to the course and aim to develop further students’ knowledge and expertise in those areas. They follow the rationale and course description, as outlined in the Student Handbook, draw upon the background of students’ classroom experience in the course, and introduce topics and activities which are of relevance to the course content. The concluding activities of the self-access units are bound with the graded assignments for the three modules. Each unit provides mechanisms for self-evaluation of students’ progress and contains clearly flagged instructions to facilitate independent work.
The present volume of self-access units, being the most recent of our teaching materials, has undergone a trial period and we are now thinking of developing and expanding it further by including new topics not only relevant to the content of the course, but also interesting and intellectually challenging to students. In this respect we would like to emphasise that we are constantly trying to update and improve our course, drawing upon our teaching experience as well as the feedback which we get from our students through specially designed evaluation questionnaires.
In conclusion, we believe that our shared experience can be of use to many enthusiastic educators who are seeking new approaches to the teaching of language and culture.


Byram, M. (1999) On Being Bicultural and Intercultural, unpublished
Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence, Multilingual Matters.

Women In Shakespeare

Written by: Teaching Assistant Bianca-Oana Petrut,
‘Petru Maior’ Univeristy Of Tg. Mures, Romania


This essay intends to prove that the female character is just as significant and full of meanings and symbols as the male character in some of the most important Shakespearean tragedies.

In order to proceed in exploring the women’s role in Shakespearean plays, one should consider first the social context to which they belong, i.e. the Elisabethan society, as well as the theme and the plot in which they appear. Despite the power of Elisabeth I, women during this time had very little authority, autonomy, or recognition. Women gained their status based on the position of either their father or their husband. Even more restricting than economic rights were the social and political rights of women. They were expected to be silent observers, submissive to their husbands. Women who attempted to assert their views were seen as a threat to social order. This is significant in that the maintenance of social order was an extremely important aspect of Elizabethan society.

Shakespeare is highly sensitive to his target audience in every step of the writing process. He actively plays upon the beliefs and fears of the Elizabethans. With characters such as Goneril and Cleopatra, Shakespeare demonstrates the devastating effects of female rebellion against social order. Shakespeare invokes sympathy in the audience by creating characters of extreme feminine virtue such as Cordelia, Miranda. However, Shakespeare often creates ambiguous emotions in the audience by introducing an element of intelligence and boldness in the case of Isabella and Desdemona.

Despite the relative insignificance of women in Elisabethan social order, Shakespeare uses them in many significant ways. He seems to be extremely sensitive to the importance of women in society even though they are often overlooked. The idea that men are often a product of the women in their lives is indirectly suggested in the significant impact women have on men in the plays. Isabella has a profound influence in the lives of Angelo and Claudio; Desdemona, by no true fault of her own, turns out to be both a blessing and a curse in the life of Othello; Cleopatra is a major cause of Antony’s downfall. Although having little respect in the social order of Elisabethan society, Shakespeare recognises women as a real and significant part of society. Like all aspects of Shakespeare’s plays, the female characters play a significant role in contributing to plot and theme.
Therefore, both the comedies and the tragedies bear the mark of women, one way or another. In Shakespeare, women do not constitute main characters and yet, they play main parts, meaning that beside every strong male character, there is a woman. For instance, the tragedy of Othello is unlike many other Shakespearean plays, in that the leading female characters are wiser and more rational than the main male characters. Throughout the play, quite often the women are the ones who offer reason to the chaotic world led by men. Emilia continually attempts to convince Othello of Desdemona’s innocence, but he will not listen to her reasoning. Desdemona, despite Iago’s innuendoes, is an ideal wife to Othello. Iago, with his devilish plans and Othello, with his uncontrollable jealousy represent the evil in the play while the women reflect the goodness and sanity.

Desdemona is the prototype of womanhood[1]. She is very charming, symbolising the woman ready to face the unknown of marriage being lured into the mystery that surrounds her husband. Very beautiful and tender, she is a true gentle woman, but becomes the naive victim in this tragedy. She falls in love with a man who is older, poorer, and uglier than she is. She pities him because of his tragic life and respects him for his endurance for pain. She displays her rational and brave characteristics when she stands up to her father and tells him that, like her mother, she must show her ‘duty’ to her husband. This young woman also boldly asks the Duke if she can go with Othello to Cyprus so that she will not just be a ‘moth of peace’ while her noble husband is fighting for their country. The Duke, like all of the characters in the play, respects Desdemona and her wishes and allows her to leave with Othello.

Every person, both male and female, respects and praises Desdemona. Iago repeatedly speaks of Desdemona’s ‘honest’ and ‘goodness’. Both he and Cassio agree that she is a ‘most exquisite lady’. Emilia also shows her admiration of her when she defends Desdemona’s honour to Othello. She tries to convince him that his wife is ‘honest, chaste, and true’. Desdemona is a loyal spouse who will do absolutely anything for her husband. Even when he is falsely accusing her of adultery and sin, Desdemona defends Othello. Desdemona does not blame him; she tries to understand what has upset him. She is an unselfish victim who defends her husband to the very end of her life. Even when Othello kills her in a jealous rage, Desdemona does not want her husband to be responsible for her death. She claims that ‘nobody, I myself’ committed this tragic deed. Her death does not destroy either the ideal of the ideal marriage, or that of love, but only that of the impulsive and hazardous marriage.

Another important female character in Othello is Emilia. Like Desdemona, she is a brave and respectable character. However, she is not naive like Desdemona. Emilia repeatedly attempts to teach the innocent Desdemona about the evils of life. She has to convince Desdemona that there are women who betray their husbands. Carefully watching over Desdemona, Emilia constantly tries to warn her that jealousy is a ‘monster’. She is not at all afraid of men and does not think twice about defending Desdemona’s honour to the raging Othello. Emilia is confident, calm, and rational when dealing with the men in this play. When Iago mocks her uncontrollable ‘tongue’, Emilia does not overreact to his insults. She mostly ignores his comments and says just enough to defend herself. She knows that her husband is just trying to make himself look better, showing off for the people around him. Emilia is a loyal wife to Iago and helps him unknowingly carry out his evil plans. However, when she discovers the truth behind his lies, she fearlessly exposes him and all of his schemes. Emilia is a stout-hearted woman who will do anything to defend innocent Desdemona and the truth.

Another important gentle-hearted female character is Ophelia, Hamlet’s unfortunate lover. She is a naive young woman, who seems lost in the world surrounding her; she is an obedient, childish and loving woman through her clothing, yet maiden through her desires. She is involved in a tensioned human world, always torn between fateful decisions. She seems to belong to another world, to another dimension; therefore, she does not belong to the world she has to live in. This will eventually kill her, as she is incapable to fit in, to understand her own father and her lover. Because her naivety, she is lost in a world too cruel for her fragile soul. This character, who seems like having feminine perfume running in her veins rather than human blood[2], lives an unhappy life, being torn between her father’s death, her lover’s not respecting her deep feelings and her brother’s treating her like a child.

The very same tragedy is also marked by another feminine presence: i.e. queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. She is trapped into living with her husband’s murderer, but her gesture is not to be justified in any way. She becomes the prisoner of the secret she has to keep, thus becoming the symbol of sin she displays with duplicity. Her behaviour, wrapped up in some mysterious deeds known only be herself, constitute the example of virtuosity of those possessed by power. She is constant with herself, but fate has her killed by the very same poison and by the very same man who caused her husband’s death. Therefore, fate’s fury, does not allow her to live anylonger. She has to die, and her death does not aggrieve anyone.

Another female character even more obsessed with power, is Lady Macbeth. She is a ‘sexless’ character who seems to have forgotten that she was born a woman. Together with her husband, she seems to have been built after a devilish pattern. Evil and ambition gradually take control over her soul and deeds, worsening her consciousness. We assist to a process of desperation, slowly gliding towards death. She is pushing her husband towards fulfilling the witches’ prophecies, as her strongest desire is that of becoming queen at any costs. As a consequence, her soul is emptied by feelings, becoming insensitive to murder. Therefore, she does not hesitate to push her husband into killing the king. She even humiliates him, calling him a coward; her strong will destroys Macbeth’s doubts, as she’s the one leading the dagger in her husband’s hands: his hands are but tools of her criminal mind. Very self possessed, (at least, in the beginning), she directs the whole crime stage, but little by little, her security seems like fading, as internal turmoil fills her soul and marks her behaviour. She loses control and becomes insane. Therefore, Lady Macbeth, who used to think that consciousness is only for the coward ones, is ruined by the sentiment of guilt, and her only salvation is death. But the one who dies is not as much the female as it is a person dominated by the distorted sense of power.

Another female characters obsessed with power, but not to such a great extent as Lady Macbeth, are King Lear’s elder daughters, Goneril and Regan. Their deeds are wicked, their morality is overridden, trampled, their cruelty has no limits. They develop the Godly feeling about themselves, considering that they are allowed to encroach upon the obligations towards their father, that a kingdom can be ruled according to their own wish, without any sense of responsibility. After becoming powerful, their character becomes primitive, selfish.

With all the evil residing in this play, Cordelia is the epitome of goodness. She is loving, virtuous, and forgiving. She also demonstrates law and order in that she is a devoted daughter and has great respect for her father and his position. Cordelia, though, is a tragic character, for her kindness and her staying on the boundaries of the social norms of the Elisabethan age, ironically turned out to be her tragic downfall. Many people have been quite moved and bemused by her death, many of which deemed it as injustice.
Cordelia’s role in the play may be that of an angel – like the character who makes the distinction between good and evil more visible, or who makes us more aware of a crumbling society where many things were opposite to what one might think it should be, with evil generally prevailing over the good (which to some degree is prophetic to today’s society). The truth is that her presence is needed in order to counterbalance the effect of her two elder sisters’ cruel deeds.

Somewhere in between Cordelia’s tenderness, on the one hand, and Lady Macbeth’s cruelty, on the other, lies the ‘Queen of love’, Cleopatra. Her character is one dominated by love. She’s forever waiting for the man, and even though she’s a queen, her kingdom is limited to her love. She embodies the feminine eternity. The wars outside are but ‘children’s play’ as compared to the wars inside her soul. She takes control over life through love’s strings but when something happens and she loses control over theses strings, she becomes heartless, cruel. She’s both an angel and a demon in the same time. Tenderness and cruelty mingle in her soul and these two keep inter-reacting all the time under different shapes. Shakespeare also emphasises on how, by acting in such an aggressive manner, Cleopatra upsets the natural order of a male dominated society. By encapsulating in one person what all men want, sex and power, Shakespeare created a character that can direct men even if they are not aware that they are being used for her selfish goals.

Cleopatra is contrasted by Octavia who yields in every matter to men. This would parallel the Jacobean mindset that women were subservient to men and should not voice their own opinions. Octavia is the chaste and pure ‘white beauty’, while Cleopatra is the ‘black’ seductress. It is these exotic qualities that lure Anthony back to Egypt like a moth to a flame. It is this tension between two opposing natures that adds tension to the tragedy. By placing importance on their differences Shakespeare covers a broad spectrum of womanhood.

Another well-defined representative of womanhood is the character of Miranda from ‘The Tempest’ who is extremely compelling for two reasons. First, it is important to note that Miranda is the only female character who appears in the entire play. This is the only Shakespearen play where a character has this kind of outstanding distinction. This is not just a fluke on the part of Shakespeare, for it is very important that the character of Miranda appears by herself. The reader is not able to compare her beauty and virtue to any other female in the world of ‘The Tempest’, and this serves both to show her value as a character and the fact that no other living women has the virtue of Miranda. While Miranda may not have many outstanding lines or soliloquies, she makes up for this in sheer presence alone. Miranda’s character encompasses all the elements of perfectionism and goodness which is lacking in all the other respective characters. All of the other characters in ‘The Tempest‘ are reflected by Miranda, and even if she did not speak one line she would still serve this important purpose.

Secondly, Miranda also serves as the ultimate fantasy for any bachelor. She is extremely beautiful, intelligent and she has never been touched (or even seen) by another male. Shakespeare makes Miranda even more desirable by including the fact that she has never seen or even talked to another man (with the obvious exception of Prospero). Miranda personifies the ultimate source of good in the play, and provides the ultimate foil for the evil character of Caliban. Finding a woman this humble in the world of Shakespeare is almost impossible. Miranda shows a positive attitude which is almost awkward when compared to the other characters. In all of the collected works of Shakespeare, not one character is as overwhelmingly pure as Miranda. Even the nun Isabella in ‘Measure for Measure’ wouldn’t perform the virtuous act of sacrificing her virginity to save her brother’s life. Miranda certainly would perform this act, because unlike Isabella she would place value on another person’s life before protecting her own ego. In this and all the facets of her character Miranda appears almost Christ-like, and it is this extreme propensity towards goodness and purity which enables Miranda to become an unreplaceble character.

The analysis of Shakespearean female characters is, by far, complete. What I intended to do in my essay was to bring into the foreground only some of the most important women in Shakespeare’s tragedies. I am aware that I couldn’t have taken all of them into discussion, nor that I have said all there is to say about them. In the same time, I did not intend to draw a final conclusion as to whether Shakespeare was looking down on his female characters (as someone might think) or that he was giving them too much power. The only conclusion I considered to be fit is that his plays couldn’t have existed without them, they wouldn’t have had the same value.


  • Dumitriu, Corneliu Arheologia Dramelor Shakespeariene, tragediile, Editura Allfa, Bucuresti, 1996
  • Knight, Wilson Studii Shakespeariene, Editura  Univers, Bucuresti, 1975
  • Levitchi, Leon Istoria Literaturii Engleze si Americane, vol I,II, Editura All, Bucuresti, 1998
  • Olaru, Alexandru Shakespeare si Psihiatria Dramatica, Editura Aius, Craiova, 1997
  • Vasiliu, DanDe Ce Surade Shakespeare?, Editura Aius, Craiova, 1994
  • Web sites (Google search)

Corneliu Dumitriu, Arheologia Dramelor Shakespeariene, tragediile, Editura Allfa, Bucuresti, 1996, pg. 83
idem, pg. 84

Work in English for developing life skills

Written by:
Valentina Angelova, In-Service Teacher Training Dpt, “Dr. Petar Beron”, Varna
Svetla Trendafilova, Varna University of Medicine

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude”
Scott Hamilton

Foreign language learning is a natural way of achieving self-awareness, it is also one of the most viable vehicles for communication between people representing different cultures. The European Year of Languages 2001 comes as celebration of the recognition that “there is a need to increase popular knowledge and understanding of the diversity of the languages of Europe, and of the factors affecting their maintenance and growth. There is a need to generate a greater interest in and curiosity about languages. There is a need to enhance linguistic tolerance within and between nations.”
Foreign language teaching and learning is an ongoing process both in the public and the private sector of Bulgarian education. It is common practice for parents to send their children to learn a foreign language both at the state school and a private school. There are, however, children who are motivated to learn a foreign language but their families cannot afford the tuition fees.
The Beginning
An association was founded by a group of Bulgarian teachers of Arts, Computers, English, French and German who, sponsored by a Japanese businessman, set up a private school in Varna with the aim to cater for the needs of children from disadvantaged families and to provide opportunities for them to attend extra lessons in Foreign Languages, Arts and Computers for free. The name of the school is Ocarina and it is the only one of its kind in Bulgaria, but part of a chain of schools in Armenia, Albania and Macedonia. The “experimental phase” of the project was in May-July 2000 and starting from October 2001 the school is doing its best to help disadvantaged children in their whole person development.
Classroom environment
A favourable classroom environment was created, “a clean, well-lighted place” with a warm, pleasant atmosphere with a whiteboard, posters on the wall that are periodically renewed, pictures, decorations made by the students, a cassette recorder and a video. Children can be immersed in the language and feel good. A number of resource books with supplementary materials were purchased including audio and videocassettes, paper, coloured pencils, some CD ROM materials, etc.
Recruitment Procedure
All schools of this type have agreed on the principle of teaching the 8-18 age group.  The members of the association in collaboration with social workers, directors and form teachers were responsible for the recruitment of these children. The schools approached were all in Varna: Gavrosh, a school for Roma children, the School for Children with Health Problems, Nadejda Orphanage, and a few middle and secondary schools situated in close proximity to Ocarina. All students fill in documents giving the family status in compliance with other Ocarina schools.
Group Profile
Most of the children already learn English at school using coursebooks such as Venture, Go, etc. The language level varies leading to a range from absolute beginners to pre-intermediate level of English in one group. The children generally have a positive attitude towards English language learning but most of them have a very short attention and concentration span and lack confidence and self-esteem as well as skills for autonomous learning.
All children need a lot of attention and understanding. Some of them come from single-parent families and tend to be aggressive and very egocentric, others have health problems to cope with. A very high level of intolerance to “the other”, “the different”, is observed at times, especially a couple of 11-12 year old girls who sometimes tend to be very aggressive. Some children have a very strong “can’t do” attitude that the teachers are trying hard to change into a positive one.
Upon analysis of all characteristic features, both subjective and objective, it was decided to form 3 groups of approximately 10 children each. The existing 2 groups of the first month were regrouped into 2 groups with 8-13 year olds who have classes of 2-hour lessons twice a week and one group of 13-18 year old students comparatively more advanced in English, with a longer concentration and attention span who have a 4-hour lesson each Saturday.
Aims and Objectives
In this particular classroom alongside with the learning of the foreign language one of the major aims is to help develop the whole person by building new relationships outside the traditional classroom where most children seem to be underachievers or at least feel disadvantaged. Building a positive attitude, flexibility and tolerance to each other seems to be another major aim. Life skills like communicating with each other, turn taking, sharing with others, problem solving, conflict resolution come to the fore in the teaching process.  Simple everyday activities like learning to write on a whiteboard, cleaning the floor, decorating the room, working with a cassette and a video recorder, punching and organising materials in a file, stapling, fiddling with the blinds, etc. are all skills that students imperceptibly acquire alongside the language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Methods and Approaches
Starting with the communicative approach with a clear focus on developing the oracy skills we are trying to establish a classroom full of spontaneity, negotiation of the syllabus and generally a child-driven learning process as much as possible. More often than not Curran’s counselling approach is being applied in the process of teaching and each individual child’s needs are taken care of.  “Learning is viewed as a unified, personal and social experience.” Community language learning advocates a holistic approach to language learning since “true” human learning, also termed whole-person learning, is both cognitive and affective. Elements of language awareness raising are constantly present in the process allowing both teachers and older learners to have insights into the way English and Bulgarian correlate and work.
Since students do not attend classes regularly for various reasons Project Work has turned out to be vital for establishing a meaningful progress. After November each lesson was focused around a small scale project aiming at a tangible product that also involves the development of communicative competence and the whole person of the learners.
Here are some of the completed mini-projects:

  • make a snowflake (all the instructions given in English);
  • make a Xmas angel, an activity involving drawing, cutting out, glueing, decorating, singing, etc.;
  • make a Xmas cracker which involved writing wishes (according to the level and the pace);
  • make a Xmas postcard with wishes and a song;
  • organising a Xmas party and shooting a video of it;
  • St Valentine’s songs and wishes;
  • making a postcard for Baba Marta with appropriate wishes;
  • learning a poem and a rhyme for Easter that implied colouring and cutting out Easter bunnies, demonstrating the action rhymes as well as describing them;
  • making an Easter chick and decorating an Easter Egg;
  • celebrating St Patrick’s Day;
  • writing a letter to a 9-year old child in Britain who has cancer and sending him a Martenitza;
  • drawing and describing their flat, their room, etc.;
  • working on a rhyme, a song and a play on the topic Going on a picnic and actually organising a picnic.

There is an ongoing informal assessment especially of oracy skills while watching films, eg fairy tales. Individual students insist on getting marks and have produced special grids for the teacher to put a mark for their homework or performance in class. The process of teaching involves a lot of praise and positive feedback. Constant negotiation in terms of students’ language and personal improvement allows them to discover their own selves and abilities as well as to further develop skills that they already possess.
Extra individual work is done with children who have problems with their assignments at school and related to their preparation for a forthcoming test in English.
There were some “extra-curricular” meetings with children from the School of the Blind and Visually Impaired Children for the Xmas and Spring parties and the picnic that further helped in establishing a more tolerant and understanding attitude to others.
Each time a memorable experience both for teachers and learners is offered related to children’s life experiences. English language learning is viewed as an awareness-raising process of self, of others and of the language, an enriching life experience.  It helps students feel useful members of society, makes them more self-assertive, “can do” persons.

Humour in the EFL classroom

Written by: Ivan Sokolov, Foreign Languages Department,
University ‘Prof. Dr. Asen Zlatarov’, Burgas, Bulgaria
Why do people laugh? And why do different people find different things funny? Are there any special linguistic mechanisms that humour understanding involves?
To answer these questions, I will briefly analyse the following joke using the Semantic Script Theory of Humour, proposed by Victor Raskin (1985).
There was a competition to cross the English Channel doing only the breaststroke. Just three women entered the race: a brunette, a redhead, and a blonde.
After approximately 14 hours the brunette staggered up on the shore and was declared the fastest breaststroker. About 40 minutes later the redhead crawled up on the shore and was declared to be the second place finisher. Nearly 48 hours after that, the blonde finally came ashore and promptly collapsed in front of the worried onlookers.
When the reporters asked why it took her so long to complete the race, she replied, “I don’t want to sound like I’m a sore loser, but I think those two other girls were using their arms.”
The main hypothesis of the theory is that ‘a text can be characterised as a single-joke-carrying text if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. The text is compatible, fully or in part, with two different scripts,
  2. The two scripts with which the text is compatible are opposite (…).

The two scripts with which some text is compatible are said to fully or in part overlap in this text’ (Raskin 1985: p. 99).
A script is an organised chunk of information about something in the broadest sense. It is a cognitive structure internalised by the speaker which provides him/her with information on how things are done, organised, etc. This information is usually typical, such as well-established routines and common ways to do things and to go about activities. There are two basic types of scripts: lexical and non-lexical. Lexical are those which give information pertaining to words (lexical knowledge) and non-lexical – those which give information pertaining to the world (encyclopedic knowledge).
For example, the lexical script for BLONDE is the following:
Subject:                      [+Animate] [+Human] [+Female]
Characteristics:            Has fair hair
Opposites:                   Redhead, brunette
‘A blonde is a person, especially a woman, who has blonde hair’ (Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary)
This is the general information that the script contains. For most competent users of English, however, the word will have a number of connotations (associative meanings):
Characteristics:            Is sexually attractive / has good figure / pretty face / long legs / big breasts / Is silly
When a person reads a joke, or any literary text, different senses, that is different scripts, of the words in the joke are evoked. They are normally the general, linguistic scripts that a competent user of the language will know. Through the activation of combinatorial rules, these scripts combine according to compatibility (i.e. the reader will look for words which evoke the same script). Jokes and anecdotes have a single point of culmination. It is usually the final line, called the punch line, which brings together two contrasting scripts – one which appears to be logically correct and another one which is the opposite of the first on some basis but can also be seen as a logical interpretation. To ‘get’ this logical interpretation the hearer/reader may sometimes have to go back to some previous point in the text and reevaluate its script(s). For a piece of text to be seen as humorous, it is also important that the two opposing scripts overlap in the mind of the person.
In our case the phrase ‘the other two girls were using their arms’ is the punch line, which faces the hearer with a puzzle: if it is a swimming competition, one has to use one’s arms. Why, then, does the blonde girl think that it is against the rules to do so? The hearer might decide that she is just stupid (the stupid script is activated) and thus fail to get the whole joke, or, more likely, will go back to the first sentence and read the rules of the competition. Obviously the girl misinterprets ‘breaststroke’ (‘a swimming stroke which you do lying on your front in the water, moving your arms in a horizontal, circular movement below the surface of the water, and kicking like a frog’ – Collins COBUILD) with ‘breast stroke’ (stroke with the breasts, or to use a combination of two definitions: ‘repeated actions, in swimming or rowing, of pushing out and pulling back of the two soft, round pieces of flesh on a woman’s chest that can produce milk to feed a baby’ – Collins COBUILD). The reason why most people find this joke funny is probably because the pun activates several scripts: (1) breaststroke; (2) breast stroke; (3) silly, which explains the girl’s behaviour (the opposition is silly – intelligent and therefore, misunderstand – understand), and (4) big breasts (she did manage to finish the race without using her arms!)
There are, however, even more scripts which might be activated by this joke and they can account for the fact that some people would find it very funny or, on the contrary, feel offended by it. Figure 1 shows the different types of scripts as distinguished by Raskin (1985: 135).

Figure 1

The circle in the centre shows the linguistic scripts, i.e. those which are supposed to be known to any native speaker of the language because of his/her being a native speaker. The external circles represent the non-linguistic scripts in order of accessibility to the speakers in general. General knowledge scripts are those which are generally known to speakers, but do not directly affect their use of the language (e.g. Bulgaria is in Europe). The same is true of restricted knowledge scripts, that is those which are known to a small number of people because they are specialists in a certain area, or members of a particular group of society, etc. These two types refer to our knowledge of the world (encyclopedic knowledge), not to information pertaining to words (lexical knowledge). The larger one’s encyclopedic knowledge is, the better chance s/he has to understand a piece of humour or work of literary art. Individual scripts are those which are probably unique to a person.
In our case, the fact that some people, usually men, think that blondes are stupid and sexually attractive, therefore probably endowed with big breasts, is a general knowledge script, but the association with any particular blonde one has met and is thinking of when hearing the joke (your next-door neighbour, a friend’s wife, you yourself) is an individual script. This individual association is very often the cause to see something either as very funny or downright silly.
Another theory which offers a plausible explanation of humour and humour perception is Thomas Veatch’s theory of humour (Veatch 1998). He states that in order for something to be perceived as humorous, there are three elements that need to be present:
‘The necessary and (jointly) sufficient conditions for the perception of humor are:
V The perceiver has in mind a view of the situation as constituting a violation of some affective commitment of the perceiver to the way something in the situation ought to be. That is, a “subjective moral principle” of the perceiver is violated.
N The perceiver has in mind a predominating view of the situation as being normal.
Simultaneity The N and V understandings are present in the mind of the perceiver at the same instant in time.
(…) humor occurs when it seems that things are normal (N) while at the same time something seems wrong (V).’
Veatch gives a possible reason as to why some things may not be perceived as funny. According to him, ‘That’s not funny!’ has two meanings: (1) ‘It is offensive’ or (2) ‘So, what’s the point?’
A perceiver would find a situation offensive because s/he might be too close to the principle which is violated. For example, racist or sexist jokes are often perceived as offensive. The people who feel offended are too committed to the principles behind or against racism or sexism to be able to find jokes on them humorous.
When a perceiver has the question ‘So, what’s the point?’, it indicates that s/he has no moral or emotional attachment or commitment to the principle being violated. There is no V-element in the interpretation, and thus the situation is not perceived as humorous.
Implications for teaching and use of humour in the classroom
1. Humour is in most cases a linguistic phenomenon. As such, the ability to make and understand humour in a foreign language can be seen as part of the communicative competence and therefore, should be taught in the FLT classroom. Vega even claims that humour competence can be considered ‘the fifth component of the theoretical framework for communicative competence’ and it involves knowledge of the semantic mechanisms of humour, grammar, discourse rules, communication strategies, social norms of language use and world knowledge (Vega 1990).
Since to understand humour, one has to possess the correct semantic scripts and a good deal of the general knowledge shared by the majority of native speakers, the teacher should try to teach his/her students this lexical and cultural knowledge. It should include:

  • Scripts commonly used in the humorous discourse of a nationality (e.g. Americans think that Polish Americans are stupid; the British think that the Irish are stupid; Jews are stingy, etc.).
  • Appropriateness of subject matter, related to setting. There are scripts which are unavailable (tabooed) for humorous discourse in a particular situation, but may be all right to use in another. This appropriateness is culture specific.
  • The possible existence of genres of humour in the FL which are non-existent or different from those in the mother tongue (e.g. limericks and spoonerisms).

2. There are certain psychological benefits of humour and laughter which can be exploited in the EFL classroom.

  • Humour causes laughter and laughter helps to release emotion and tension. As the saying goes, ‘laughter is the best medicine’.
  • Laughing invokes feelings of happiness and joy. Under conditions of happiness, joy and merriment, it is much easier to think creatively around a problem than when our mind is filled with a sense of helplessness and inadequacy.
  • Laughter helps to bridge gaps and promotes unity when people work in a team.
  • Humour and laughter can be used to provoke more real and risky communication. A humorous comment may enable people to talk freely about uncomfortable issues or concerns.
  • Humour is believed to be beneficial to our health.

3. What should teachers be careful about?
Very often people laugh because a particular person or character has a defect or is at a disadvantage. If they like or feel sorry for the person, the humour will be compassionate, that is it will not make the person feel embarrassed or humiliated; if, though, humour is used in such a way that feelings of hostility, distress and negativity are aroused, then it is called caustic humour, humour meant to put somebody down. This hurtful type of humour should be avoided in the classroom.
People are different, therefore they do not find the same things funny. What is funny for one student may be offensive to another. Take your students into consideration, bearing in mind the following:

  • Gender. Sexist humour should be used with great caution in the classroom, because it is often rude and causes feelings of humiliation and resentment.
  • Maturity and age. Since there is a certain amount of intelligence involved in ‘getting’ a joke, our sense of humour develops with age. Until about 8 or 9, children discover the world around them. The things they find absurd and pleasantly surprising are perceived as funny. The jokes of this age consist of short and simple concepts (e.g. ‘elephant’ jokes). Children also appreciate jokes where cruelty is present and that boost their self-assertiveness. During the preteen and teenager years we discover more about being human. The jokes of the age feature sex, food, the people in society that threaten us (authority figures) and any ‘taboo’ subjects – thus jokes are often perceived as a form of rebellion and humour is often used as a tool to protect or to feel superior. Adults usually use a more mature humour with experience behind it. Humour is usually subtler (e.g. playing on words) and no longer judgmental, accepting and taking advantage of the differences between people.
  • Culture. Have you ever tried to tell a foreigner a joke and failed to arouse laughter? This would often be the case simply because they have not lived in the country and have no experience of what is being made fun of, or to use Veatch’s terms, they have no moral or emotional attachment to the principle being violated. To understand humour, therefore, one has to know about the culture of a country. Economical, political, religious and social issues are often the focus of jokes. If, however, it is only the people in a specific native language community who can understand them, they’d better not be taught in the EFL classroom. Jokes which might be offensive to the students because they violate a principle, religious, political, etc, that they are too close to, should also be avoided.
  • Timing. The teacher has to be aware of his/her students’ mood. Will they be receptive to a joke or will they experience it as annoying?

To sum up, humour can play a vital role in the teaching/learning process. First, it is an important part of the communicative competence and as such, should be studied in the EFL classroom. Second, when used carefully, it can be extremely useful to create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, stimulate the students, increase their satisfaction and productivity and enhance learning in general.
Raskin, Victor. 1985. Semantic Mechanisms of Humor. Dordrecht – Boston – Lancaster: D. Reidel.
Veatch, Thomas C. 1998. “A Theory of Humor”. Humor. Vol. 11 – 2, pp. 161 – 216.
Vega, Gladys M. 1990. “Humor Competence: The Fifth Component”. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of TESOL (24th, San Francisco, CA, March 6 – 10, 1990).

Beyond Cinderella: using stories with secondary and adult learners

Written by: Ian King Introduction
Using stories is mostly associated with fairy stories for young learners, for older learners we often use rather artificial texts to practise specific language points. However, stories may take many forms, and can have a significant intrinsic value. A traditional and effective way of teaching, they can stimulate the imagination and bring the language alive. This presentation sets out to explore how stories may be used in practical ways to help our students to learn.
Stories have always played an important part in all cultures. One traditional role of stories is to offer an explanation of the world and our place in it; these stories have contributed towards each culture’s religion (for example, the story of Genesis) and folklore. A second role is to pass on cultural values and beliefs, in all social units: individual, couple, family, peer group, company, nation. On an individual level, every person has a life story, and each life story contains significant episodes. Couples, families and peer groups have their traditional memories of past experiences which together help to form their separate identity. Companies and organisations similarly have stories which help to define their culture. On a national level, children learn, and adults remember, episodes from history which typify and perpetuate certain national characteristics and values. An example is that of Sir Francis Drake playing bowls while awaiting the threat of the Spanish Armada. When a messenger hurries up with the news that the dreaded Armada has been sighted, Drake coolly observes that there is time to finish the game first, before venturing forth to do battle with the enemy.
That’s all very well, you might say, but how important are stories to us today, how relevant are stories to adults living their busy lives at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Let’s have a look at what we do frequently, if not every day. We read newspapers: stories. We listen to the news on the radio, or watch it on television: more stories. We meet neighbours, colleagues and friends, and exchange personal anecdotes: stories again. We read comics, short stories, or novels: yet more stories. We go to the cinema or the theatre, and watch films, series and soaps on TV: so many stories. Finally, if we work for a company, we may receive some form of in-company training, in which stories play an increasingly important part, owing to the growing recognition of the power of metaphor; a case in point here is the recent phenomenal success among business executives of a simple little story of a couple of mice who lose their supply of cheese.*
How do stories help our students to learn? First of all, they enhance the memory through the identification of patterns, the stimulation of the imagination and emotions (situated next to memory storage in our brains), the association of ideas, and the stimulation of different senses. Secondly, language is modelled and reinforced through the rich grammatical mix offered by stories, their chronological nature, the central role of context, and their rhythmic qualities. It is also important to observe that stories enable a stress-free (non-threatening) learning situation which induces an optimum state of relaxed awareness, allowing for more learning to take place, including at an unconscious level. Furthermore, stories encourage participation and student-centred learning; students may not only interact with each story through a series of right-brain activities, but stories also have an exponential quality in that they stimulate the telling of more stories. Finally, they are flexible in that they may be suitable for all types of student and with different levels (including mixed ability classes), and can practise and combine the four skills and exploit the five senses…
Stories may operate as vehicles to practise language (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation), to pass on information and ideas, to send messages (i.e., the moral), to foster certain values and beliefs, or even to transmit subliminal messages. However, we should not forget the importance of simple honest-to-goodness enjoyment, perhaps the key to the effectiveness of the story as vehicle.
The appeal of good story-telling has recently been demonstrated yet again, in the teeth of conventional wisdom, by the success of the Harry Potter books. Turning to EFL, a phenomenally successful coursebook in the 1970s, Kernel Lessons Intermediate by Robert O’Neill (Longman, 1971), contained an ongoing story, The Man Who Escaped, a well-crafted tale which not only served as a relatively unforced model for the grammatical content of each unit, but which was also a gripping adventure story, which had many students reading ahead in the book in their anxiety to know what happened next. The 80s saw the publication of the Streamline English series (Oxford University Press), in which simple and effective stories played a key role, even if today we would probably prefer to exploit them in a rather more communicative or student-centred way. If we look at recent and current TEFL practice, we find relatively few stories on the whole, in spite of the number of excellent graded readers on the market. In course books, stories often only appear as short vehicles to practise specific language, with a tendency to be irrelevant, uninspiring, childish or patronising. We can often see the result of this sort of approach (for it is symptomatic of a general approach, not only related to the use of stories) in the English language classroom: boredom, lack of interest, a negative attitude towards learning, an absence of stimulation to actively use the language and an inability to associate the classroom subject with the wider language, communication, themselves and the world. Within the limits of using stories, what solution to this problem may we propose? I would suggest giving priority to the story and its meaning, on the basis that inspiration leads to assimilation. A good story will be remembered and passed on.
What are the qualities, then, of a good story, for our purposes? It should not be just a convenient peg to hang some grammar practice on, but should appeal to the senses, have a rich vocabulary, be imaginative, have cumulative qualities to aid comprehension, memory and participation,  perhaps have some metaphorical function and possibly help us tap into our inner emotions and feelings.
We also need to recognise that stories may take many forms. Fairy tales, folk tales, fables and Zen stories are fine, but we can also make use of anecdotes, jokes, urban legends, poems and songs. With the probable exception of poetry, all these story forms are good to exploit because of their very familiarity, and because of their clear potential for enjoyment. Most students enjoy working with music, which also helps to engage their emotions. Instrumental music may tell a story, or at least set the scene for one. There are a lot of songs which tell an anecdote or explain somebody’s life in some way. One useful activity is to look at the ways on which stories existing in different forms (for example a Zen story and a pop song, a newspaper article and a folk tale, a poem and an urban legend) deal with the same basic theme, and compare and contrast them. Another stimulating classroom activity is to use the story – in whatever form – as a basis for a discussion of the issues arising from it; a story will usually provide a much more powerful springboard for this kind of discussion activity than direct questions about the issues themselves, This is partly because of the more indirect, metaphorical and subtle nature of stories, but also because the story provides a stimulus to the imagination and the emotions, as well as supplying a convenient initial frame of reference which may be readily understood and appreciated by all the participants. All forms of story may be used for this purpose, although I find Zen stories particularly suitable in terms of being short and simple while at the same time offering a veritable feast in terms of food for thought, and containing lessons which are highly relevant to all our lives. Many poems have similar qualities, and searching through the Penguin Modern Poets series, for example, will yield a rich and varied harvest. Finally, guided visualisations are a wonderful way of allowing students to give free rein to their imaginations, and enter a special world of their own, where they may discover all kinds of riches which will benefit them in and beyond the classroom. As William Wordsworth said:

“Pleasure and learning go hand in hand, but pleasure leads the way.”

J. Morgan and M. Rinvolucri, Once Upon a Time (Cambridge University Press, 1983)
Wright, Creating Stories with Children (Oxford University Press, 1997)
E. Taylor, Using Folktales (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
J. Revell and S. Norman, In Your Hands (Saffire Press, 1997)
J. Revell and S. Norman, Handing Over (Saffire Press, 1999)
M. Parkin, Tales for Trainers (Kogan Page, 1998)
M. Berman and D. Brown, The Power of Metaphor (Crown House Publishing, 2000)
Penguin Modern Poets series (Penguin)
*S. Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1998)