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).

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.

Materials and methods in teaching ESP in tourism

Written by: Irina Petrovska, MA, Senior Lecturer of English Language
Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality, Universiry of Bitola SUMMARY
The cultural content in language teaching has recently moved to the interest of many textbook writers and EFL teachers. Different subjects as varied as national identity, national language policy, language and politics, language and gender, etc. are being introduced through the materials and methods in the EFL classroom.
The paper examines some ways in which culture is reflected in course materials for teaching ESP in tourism. Culture of learning shows certain paradoxes in a way it is represented in the textbooks and materials. It is generally expected that second or foreign language textbooks should include elements of the target culture. However, our analysis show that a target culture is not always represented; some books include topics for non-English speaking cultures, some of them stress more international uses of the language.

Intercultural competence and language teaching

The cultural content in language teaching has recently moved to the interest of many textbook writers and EFL teachers. Different subjects as varied as national identity, national language policy, language and politics, language and gender, etc. are being introduced through the materials and methods in the EFL classroom.
The paper examines some ways in which culture is reflected in course materials for teaching ESP in tourism. Culture of learning shows certain paradoxes in a way it is represented in the textbooks and materials. It is generally expected that second or foreign language textbooks should include elements of the target culture. However, our analysis show that a target culture is not always represented; some books include topics for non-English speaking cultures, some of them stress more international uses of the language.
Until recently, the concept of culture has been predominantly monocultural and ethnocentric and not involving student’s personality to any significant extent. If we take a look back to the grammar -translation approach, or latter at the situational versions, or even communicative models, as an alternatives to structuralism, we can come to a conclusion that cross-cultural content is not given explicit priority, that is these approaches have been trivial. So what content in the EFL textbooks should be promoted? What methods should be used in the classroom in order to implement intercultural education?
Well-known sociolinguists like Byram, Kramsch, Valdes, Robinson, etc. claim that language learning and learning about target cultures cannot realistically be separated. The term culture can have different meanings. Some language teachers use the term to refer to cultural products (e.g. literary works, works of art), whereas others use the term to refer to background information (e. g. facts about the history or geography of countries where the target language is spoken). The term culture may include ‘such aspects       but it also includes behavior and attitudes, and the social knowledge that people use to interpret experience’ (Cortazi &Jin, 1982:197).
In the contemporary world, a person does not need to travel to encounter representatives of other cultures: popular music, the media, large population movements tourism, and the multi-cultural nature of many societies combine to ensure that sooner or later students will encounter members of other cultural groups. With these points in mind one would expect EFL textbooks to reflect a range of cultural contexts and to include intercultural elements. But this is not very often a case.

Functions of the course materials

For many teachers the textbook is the major source of culturalcontentbecause
suplementary materials on target cultures are not available. So, the textbook is a resourse, which means a set of materials and activities from which the most appropriate or useful items will be chosen. It can be seen as an authority, as a very reliable, valid and written by experts. Less experienced teachers understandably rely on them without having any critical attitudes towards them.
A textbook is also a trainer for unexperienced or untrained teachers it is of great help by giving step by step instructions, explanations and guidance. According to De Castel, a textbook can be seen as an ideology because it can express a worldview or cultural system that may influence teachers or students’ view of culture.
Richards (1993:490) clearly defines the resource based view of the use of textbooks:

“I see textbooks as sourcebooks rather than coursebooks. I see their role as facilitating teaching, rather than restricting it. However, in order to be able to serve as sources for creative teaching teachers need to develop skills in evaluating and adapting published materials.”

Textbook and culture

Target – Perceived benefit
– talk to visitors
– directly reinforce own identity
– talk to visitors
– be a visitor
– develop knowledge, awareness of other cultures
– indirectly reinforce own identity
– talk to others
– develop knowledge, awareness, skills of other cultures
– develop intercultural skills
– indirectly reinforce own indentity
According to Cortazzi and Jin (1982:204), there are three patterns in English textbooks reflecting cultures. C1 refers to learner’s own culture, the source culture. C2 refers to a target culture where the target language is used as a first language. C3,4,5… refer to cultures that are neither a source culture nor a target culture; these are varieties of cultures from English or other countries around the world, using English as an international language. These can be termed international target cultures.
No doubt that the three patterns play an important role in designing EFL courses. Prodromou (1992:42) supports this hypothesis by stressing the importance of cultural foreground, cultural background, and cross-cultural understanding and multi-cultural diversity. For a classroom teacher, cultural goals should comprise a greater awareness of and a broader knowledge about the target culture, understanding differences between the target culture and the students’ culture.
A textbook titled English for Tourism and Hospitality (Petrovska, 1999), has a text describing the cultural and historical heritage of the city of Ohrid – yet this can hardly be new content information for the Macedonian faculty level students with whom the book is used. When students practice asking for and giving explanations to foreign visitors the setting is in Ohrid, or Ohrid area. So, prime attention is given to the source culture that is of the learners, rather than to target cultures. The implication is that students learn English to talk to visitors who come to their country, but they are not expected to travel to target countries or to learn about target cultures. The reason for this approach could be a need for learners to talk about their culture with visitors. Another reason for producing these kind of materials is to help students become aware of their own cultural identity, according to Cortazi & Jin (1982:205).
However, incorporating local culture in the teaching materials and methods of EFL raises the question of local culture submergence into the dominant culture of the foreign language. In this position it is desirable of having ‘bilingual/bicultural teachers’ (Alptekin:1984:14). As opposed to target or local culture, some course designers give emphasis on cross-cultural issues.
There are a large number of EFL textbooks that focus on target culture. The content of these textbooks is designed to promote awareness of race, gender, environmental issues, etc.
Here students are asked to role-play and imitate the target behaviour rather than synthesise it with their own experience. Robinson (1985:100) therefore proposes a multilingual/multicultural model of education rather than a bilingual/bicultural one.
A third category of cultural content in EFL textbooks involves those materials that include a wide variety of cultures set in English – speaking countries or in other countries where English is not a first or second language, but is used as an international language. The reason for composing such materials could be that English is used in international situations by speakers who do not speak it as a first language.
Robinson (1985) for example, believes in the importance of developing cultural versatility to help learners meet the demands of an increasingly multicultural world; the ‘cultural background’ approach is criticized for its alienating effect on the learner, because cultural instruction does not usually build bridges between the home and target culture.


It has been argued that foreign language teaching should carry the responsibility
of teaching culture as an educational objective, and that teaching language involves teaching culture automatically whether you like it or not. The target language culture teaching is to meet the purpose of enhancing communication between nations, visitors, and other cultures, avoiding problems of miscommunication in the areas of business, and social communication in addition to giving the learners the opportunity for critical analysis of their own culture that will create sensitivity and positive attitude toward other culture as points of view and not as right or wrong. However, the final objective of culture teaching is social or job survival in the community, which comes as a result of acculturation, that is the integration of the individual into the community.
Local culture can be included to enrich the new linguistic experience, encourage (motivate) learners by providing them with something familiar to them, and train them to talk about their own culture to other foreign language – speaking people for exchange of ideas, values, and knowledge.
The analysis suggests that there is a place for materials based on local culture, and target culture in the course materials of EFL classroom. But beyond these two approaches, there are other cultures, for which English is an international language and English teaching as a global profession are natural media. (Prodromou:1992:49). In a time of global intercultural communication in any field of learning, it is a growing interset in learning multi-cultural diversity.
“In teaching any language we are imparting information and therefore power: in teaching English we can impart to learners not only the present perfect, but also the power of knowing and caring more about the world they live in. English is at the center of international and global culture. It is a cultural activity: it is an important activity.” (Prodromou:1992)
The same implies for the teaching materials and methods used in the EFL classroom for future tourist experts. Having in mind their future careers in tourism industry, with many interactions with clients form different multi-cultural backgrounds, traveling abroad, acting as tour operators, animators, or hospitality managers, – it is an imperative for them to use textbooks with wide range of not only source and target culture, but international cultures. As for the textbook designers in ESP for tourism industry, they should follow a sequencing of topics that begin with an exploration of the home culture before contrasting values, expectations and behaviors of the target or international culture. Because once we are aware of how culture determines our lifestyles and behaviors, we are all in a better position to reach across many borders.


  1. Alptekin, C &Alptekin, M, (1984), “The Question of Culture”, ELT Journal. 38/1: 14-20.
  2. Brennan, M.,&M. Van Naerssen (1989), “Language and content in ESP”, ELT Journal 43:196-205.Oxford:Oxford University Press.
  3. Chambers, F. (1980), “A Re-Evaluation of Needs Analysis in ESP”, ELT Journal1:25-33.USA:Pergamon Press Ltd.
  4. Cortazi &Jin. (1989) “Cultural Mirrors”, Cultural Studies in Foreign Language Education, Multilingual Matters.
  5. Frydenberg, Gro (1982),”Designing an ESP reading course”, ELT Journal 36:156-163.
  6. Gonzalez, J.A.(2000), “In search of synergies in ESP: agents involved and their invaluable contribution”, Procedures of the ESSE5-2000 Conference, Helsinki.
  7. Jones, G.M (1990), “ESP Textbooks: Do they really exist? “English for Specific Purposes 9:89-93.
  8. Prodromou, L.(1992 “What Culture? Which Culture?”, ELT, V 46: 39-49).
  9. Robinson, S in Prodromou, L.(1992 “What Culture? Which Culture?”, ELT, V 46:39-49).
  10. Richards in Prodromou, L.(1992 “What Culture? Which Culture?”, ELT, V 46: 39-49).
  11. Swales, John (1980), “ESP:The textbook problem”, ELT Journal 1:11-23. USA:Pergamon Press Ltd.

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)

“False Friends of the Translator” in the Terminology of the European Union

Written by: Dr. Alexandra Anissimova, Lomonosov Moscow State University We are well aware of the fact that international contacts are “phenomena vulgaris” in the modern world. The European Union has been established, and the borders between European states have become transparent. English being an international language gains more popularity.
Thus, we live during the epoch of wide and intensive international contacts, so in communication between the representatives of different linguistic communities translation gains the same importance. The translation and the translator are necessary during any interlinguistic contacts, since there does not exist a metalanguage, which could be used by people speaking different languages. And despite the development of computer technologies and computer software, it is still impossible to substitute a translator (and profound research in the field of machine translation has proved it).
It goes without saying that a translator’s work is a difficult enough and there are no certain prescribing rules for translation. In his/her work a translator faces different problems arising from divergences of languages in their grammatical, syntactical, and lexical structures. One of these problems is a special category of words, and the so-called “false friends of a translator”. These words can be found in every pair of languages: for example English and Russian: English partisan which means “a person who belongs to a political party, group or course” does not coincide with Russian “партизан”, English decade which means “a period of ten years” does not coincide with Russian “декада” – “ a period of ten days”; German – Bulgarian (all Bulgarian examples are transliterated): Bulgarian konkurs which means “competition” does not correspond to German Konkurs (insolvency, bankruptcy).
It should be noted in this connection that “false friends of a translator” are a problem not only for learners of foreign language but also for those whose command of foreign languages is excellent. And it is quite natural because the first reaction of a person to a foreign word resembling his/her native word is to consider its meaning as coinciding with the meaning of a similar native word. Moreover, the existence of the international vocabulary and borrowings can be misleading. The only way for a translator to distinguish “false friends of a translator” from international vocabulary and borrowings is to learn and to know them.
In any case their structure in general is the same for a native speaker of each of contrasted languages, varying only in terms of interlinguistic paronymy. For example, adjectives “absolute” and “абсолютный” coincide completely or quite completely in the majority of meanings and they are interchangeable in translation but it does not mean that the same correlation exists between adverbs absolutely and “абсолютно”: the Russian word “абсолютно” is rarely translated by the English word “absolutely”, usually it is rendered by the following words: entirely, perfectly, totally, utterly, at all, quite, irrespectively.
It should be emphasized that the cases of interlinguistic homonymy and paronymy and paronymy play an important role within “false friends of a translator.” Interlinguistic homonymy is always reversible, i.e. it is perceived as such by native speakers of both languages. It can arise directly from by native contact and confrontation of languages.
Interlingiustic paronyms can also be reversible and bilateral, i.e. they can mislead native speakers of both languages, as it is often in cases when interlinguistic paronymy is based on intralingiustic paronymy. For example, English specially – especially can make difficulties even for Englishmen and certainly for the Russians who identify it with Russian “специально”. But, as a rule, the interlinguistic paronymy is unilateral (one-way). Thus, the confusion of words history-story, mayor-major is possible for a foreign learner.
Before we go any further it should be mentioned that a necessity arises to take into account the possible divergences in stylistic characteristics. These divergences can accompany partial semantic differences of words. That is why we can not understand a word completely and use it correctly not knowing its functional-stylistic and emotional expressive overtones and in some cases limitations of its usage. The divergences in functional-stylistic overtones, i.e. in permissibility of word usage mainly or exclusively in certain styles of speech can be seen in English – Russian confrontations. For example, “meeting of specialists” English consultation and Russian “консультация” do not coincide completely, since the former is stylistically neutral and the latter is bookish.
Although the problem of “false friends of a translator” has attracted attention of many scholars, there has not been any thorough and profound investigation of this category of words for most languages. However, there are several dictionaries of “the false friends of a translator”, as for example:

  • English-Russian and Russian-English dictionary of “the false friends of a translator” by Aculenco V.V.
  • German-Russian and Russian-German dictionary of “the false friends of a translator” by Gotlib K.G.
  • Russian –French dictionary compiled by Muraviev V.A. Faux amis или ложные друзья переводчика.
  • False friends of a translator in Czech” by Zhuravlev A.I. and Zaharov S.S.

Generally speaking, these dictionaries contain only one specific lexical category, which makes the process of translation and foreign language study easier – words similar in form in both languages but different in meaning.
In its definitions the dictionary follows the tradition of unilateral bilingual dictionaries which consider the meanings of a word of one language in terms of meaning of the other language. The meanings are described mostly as explanations, short as a rule, and then as equivalents existing in the other language. For example,

accompany vt 1* сопровождать (кого-л.); провожать (кого-л.). They were accompanied by Mr. N. Г-н Н. проводил их./ You will accompany me to the station. Вы проводите меня до вокзала. 2 Сопровождать пение музыкой или игру на одном музыкальном инструменте игрой на другом музыкальном инструменте; аккомпанировать. The singer was accompanied at the piano by Miss N. Мисс Н. аккомпанировала певцу на рояле. 3* выполнять одновременно ряд действий, процессов.
аккомпанировать гл. перех. = to accompany2.

As far as their typology goes “false friends of a translator” can be divided into the following groups:

  • Words which are formally (graphically or by sound) similar and semantically different. For example, accurate – “аккуратный”, decade – “декада”, formal – “формальный”.
  • Words which in the plural have another meaning. For example, difference (различие) – differences (разногласия), development (развитие) – developments (события, обстоятельства), security (безопасность)– securities (ценные бумаги).
  • Words which, in English and Russian, do not coincide in number. For example, policies – “политика”, weapons – “оружие”, elections – “выборы”.

It goes without saying that differences in lexical combinability of the corresponding Russian and English words make considerable difficulties in the process of language teaching and translation. For example, in English in collocations of the word accurate the words description, information, translation, timing, watch can occur and in Russian in collocations of the word “аккуратный” one can see the following words: “работник, комната, почерк, человек”. The English word extra is compatible with words “качество, класс”; the English word familiar is compatible with sight, face, while Russian “фамильярный” is compatible with “тон, обращение, поведение”. The word general can be seen in collocations with words education, meeting, usage, reader, impression, terms, idea, while Russian “генеральный” is usually used in the following word combinations: “генеральный директор”, “генеральная репетиция”, “генеральная уборка”; English intelligence is mostly used in the following collocations: Intelligence Department, Intelligence Service, intelligence officer, while the Russian word “интеллигенция” can be used with the following words: “трудовая, русская, нового типа”.
The word dramatic is often rendered by a translator as “драматический” instead of “внезапный, волнующий”. While rendering dramatic into Russian a translator transfers the usual meaning of a native word to the foreign word which has another meaning. As a result the content of the original is distorted. Repeating the form of the international word a translator often forgets that complete identification rarely exists on the level of content and gives a false equivalent. But if a translator pays attention to the collocations of Russian and English words then it is obvious that these words can not be interchangeable since English dramatic is usually used in the following collocations: dramatic change, dramatic possibility, dramatic progress and Russian “драматический” is used with the following words: “актер, произведение, кружок, театр”. Examples can easily be multiplied:

  • actual – in actual fact, actual number, actual investment, actual exports,
  • актуальный – актуальная тема, актуальный вопрос, актуальная проблема, книга, статья;
  • address – opening address, formal address, address on current problems,
  • адрес – точный адрес, переменить адрес, служебный адрес, дать адрес;
  • audience – to delight one’s audience, to interest one’s audience, wide audience, large audience,
  • аудиенция – дать аудиенцию, просить аудиенцию, получить аудиенцию, частная аудиенция;
  • mayor – mayor of a city
  • майор – звание майора, майор милиции;
  • meeting – meeting of powers, private meeting, meeting in camera, plenary meeting,
  • митинг – митинг протеста, митинг в поддержку кого-л. или чего-л.
  • panel – panel of experts, federal panel, panel of judges,
  • панель – деревянная панель, полированная панель, дом из крупных панелей;
  • popular – popular government, popular election, popular opinion, popular will, popular opposition, popular ballot,
  • популярный – популярный артист, популярный журнал, популярная песня;
  • service – diplomatic service, bus service, security service, financial service, secret service,
  • сервис – приятный сервис, ненавязчивый сервис.

To conclude, various translation models have been studied and analyzed, and we have come to the conclusion that none of them can be fully applicable to such a translation phenomenon as “false friends of a translator”. Thus, it should be emphasized that in the process of teaching translation “false friends of a translator” are to be considered as a specific category, are to be classified and streamed, and taught and learned in collocations.

Meta-cognitive strategies in foreign language academic reading: eight case studies

Written by: Marina Samalieva, The University of Plovdiv [toc class=”toc-right”]
1. Introduction
Academic reading in a foreign language requires in-depth comprehension, which is often associated with the requirement to perform cognitive and procedural tasks such as writing a paper, giving a speech etc. For most foreign language learners the main problem is the gap between what they know and what the native speakers know in relation to the language and content of the text written, as nearly all authentic texts are for native speaking readers or people possessing excellent linguistic competence. Adult, academic foreign language readers, even those with considerable knowledge of the language, still suffer from deficiencies at the level of identification which interfere with their attempts to comprehend the texts they must read. Research has shown that academic reading is a complex process which involves a whole range of conscious and active metacognitive strategies (Cohen, 1998). According to Flavell, “metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes and products or anything related to them” (Flavell, 1976 : 232). The metacognitive strategies involve the active monitoring and consequent regulation and orchestration of the cognitive processes in relation to the cognitive objects or data on which they bear, in the service of some concrete goal or objective. In other words, learners have knowledge about their cognitive processes and are able to use that knowledge to choose the most efficient strategies for problem solving. As Williams and Burden point out, “the metacognitive strategy is the ability to step outside one’s learning and look at it from outside” (Williams and Burden, 1997:148). The process-oriented studies in foreign language research have increased our knowledge of metacognitive processes of students in EFL training programs. Nevertheless research on the reading process in a foreign language during which the learners control and monitor their reading more constantly then when they read for general purposes has been still limited.
In this paper are presented results from an experimental study which aim is to investigate the application of metacognitive strategies by learners in the process of reading comprehension of a specialized academic text in a foreign language (English).

2. Methods

2.1. Data collection
Two methods were applied in the research- interview and think-aloud sessions.

3. Description of the experiment

3.1. Participants
Eight students non-linguists from Plovdiv University learning English as a foreign language participated in the experiment, their level of proficiency in English being advanced.
3.2. Tasks
3.2.1. Think-aloud sessions
In the present study the reading materials were carefully selected for the purposes of the experiment and they included specialized texts teacher selected. In each think-aloud session the student reads the material, the teacher follows and silently reads the same text. She frequently interrupts the participant during task performance to ask the participant to verbalize what she or he was thinking or what activities he was doing while reading. Example questions of the teacher: Do you read the material for the first time? What activities do you perform in order to understand the meaning of the text? Two think-aloud sessions were conducted. The average length of a think-aloud session was 60 minutes.
3.2.2. The interviews
The interviews consisted of: a) open-ended interviews. In this case the participants had to point out the learner strategies which they applied in the process of reading in a foreign language (English). For example, ”Can you tell me the strategies you used when you read your texts?” etc. and b) questions focused on information already familiar to the participants: For example, “What do you mean by translation? Can you give me examples of background knowledge?”, etc. Four interviews were conducted which averaged 20 minutes each.
The think-aloud and interview sessions were recorded on a tape recorder and were analyzed.
3.3. Data analysis
The data collected for this study were analyzed through open coding i.e. a process of breaking down, examining, comparing, contextualizing, and categorizing data (Strauss and Corbin 1990:61).
The categorizing of the reading strategies is done according to the well known classifications of Adamson (1990, 1992), Block( 1986, 1992), Carrell (1989) and O’Maley and Chamot (1990). The categorized strategies were checked by a second teacher.

4. Findings

During analysis of the context of the academic reading materials 15 metacognitive strategies were synthesized by the participants. (Table 1). The most frequent strategies mentioned were : using contextual clues to predict, using background knowledge, translation (87.2%), picking out key words, self-questioning (75%) etc. (Table 1). The strategies were categorized as follows: a) pre-reading strategies – previewing b) while-reading strategies – 13 reported strategies and c) post-reading strategies – evaluation and personal response.
Table 1. Metacognitive strategies in academic reading and frequency of their application

Type Student No. Frequency
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (%)
1. Previewing v v v v 50.0
2. Repetition v v v 37.5
3. Paraphrasing v v v v v 62.5
4. Using prediction and contextual clues v v v v v v v 87.5
5. Skimming v v v v v 62.5
6. Comparison and contrast to L1 domain v v v v v v 75.0
7. Picking out key words v v v v v v 75.0
8. Scanning v v v 37.5
9. Self-questioning v v v v v v 75.0
10.Looking for purposes and important information v v v v v 62.5
11.Visualizing v v v v 50.0
12.Using background knowledge v v v v v v v 87.5
13.Translation v v v v v v v 87.5
14.Summarizing v v v v 50.0
Post -reading
15.Evaluation and personal response v v v 37.5

1. Use of prediction and contextual clues
The learners were able to use contextual clues to guess unknown words or phrases in the reading texts. The following think-aloud protocol shows how they used contextual clues to predict: For example student No.5 said: “when I read the word ‘posterity’ I know that the first part of the word means after, next. Then I transferred the meaning to the noun. Then I guessed that the meaning of the word is something coming next or after.” The learners said that sometimes after the prediction, they would look up the words in a dictionary to make sure the guessing was accurate. They skipped words that were considered not significant to the understanding of the entire passage.
2. Translation
In spite of their high proficiency in English all students still used translation as a strategy to improve their reading. During the pauses in the think-aloud sessions when asked why they stopped reading they answered that they had been thinking about what they had read in their first language The interview data revealed that by translating, the participants were referring to thinking and comprehension processes in Bulgarian. The participants said that when reading for fun they did not use translation. In spite of the fact that they had not received any formal training in translation they reported that they very often applied the translation strategy while studying English at school. However, they realized that translation was not necessarily effective at all times because it was not always possible to find an equivalent idea in their first language.
3. Use of background knowledge.
It was found that the participants in this experiment frequently used the strategy of background knowledge while reading in a foreign language. They gave much credit to this strategy for academic reading in a foreign language and realized that lack of relevant background knowledge impeded their reading comprehension. The participants were aware of the inconsistency between their own background knowledge and the required for foreign language academic reading. They believed that this deficiency impeded their reading comprehension and they attempted to improve their background knowledge with additional reading.
4. Self-questioning
This is also one of the most frequently used strategy in our research. The participants ask themselves questions about the meaning of different unknown words which they come upon in the text. Asking questions means they the learner controls through monitoring his comprehension of the material he reads. Most frequent questions are: What does this mean? Why this is so? What? How? When we asked them why they stopped and asked questions the students answered that they read in a language which they have not wholly mastered and in a context within which they did not have enough prior knowledge. So they asked in their minds whether comprehension was happening or not. If not, they had to remedial their reading.
5. Key Words
When the students were reading they usually picked out some words that were important for understanding which they called “key words’. During or after reading they would reflect on these words trying to connect them with their mental schemes. They explained that the key words were not new or unfamiliar vocabulary but were important for reminding them of what they read or in other words “the key words gave the students the skeleton for understanding”. There were no criteria for how many words the students will select. This depended on the difficulty of the reading material.
6. Comparison and contrast to L1 Domain
The learners reported that they used this strategy to see the difference and the similarity between L1 knowledge and foreign language knowledge on a given topic. This also helps comprehension. For example when they read about the ecological problems in England they compared it with Bulgarian ecological problems. Thus one can see clearly the similarities and differences. They reported that while comparing they similarities in what they read at the moment and what they had read in the past. They speeked differences in both systems and thus they got a better idea of both. This according to the learners, “makes you think more deeply than the surface meaning of the reading”. The participants distinguished the strategies “translation” and that of the “comparison and contrast to L1 domain”. They said that when they used translation they were thinking in their first language to clarify the meaning. While in comparison and contrast they were thinking in English but they used the knowledge of the topic in our country.

5. Conclusions

5.1. It was found that in order to overcome their problems in the academic reading in a foreign language the learners pointed out 15 metacognitive strategies. The strategies were categorized as pre-reading strategies, while-reading strategies and post-reading strategies.(Pearson & Fielding, 1991).
5.2. The data analysis shows that the participants in the experiment varied their strategies according to how well they understood the reading materials and according to how difficult the materials were. These data confirm Cohen’s findings (1998) that the academic strategies do not exist independently, only in relation to a particular content reading.
5.3. The learners used strategies from a number of sources, for example from their native language. These data are in relation to Adamson’s findings that ”some of the metacognitive strategies applied by native speakers will not necessarily be the same as those employed by foreign language learners.The foreign language learners use the strategies they have acquired in their first language”. (Adamson, 1991).
5.4. This investigation lends sufficient information about the individual application and finding of metacognitive strategies in academic reading in a foreign language of students at advanced level of linguistic competence. It would be useful to carry out more studies directed to students from different disciplines and a lower level of linguistic competence to develop a thorough picture of academic reading in a foreign language.


Adamson, H.D.(1990). ESL students’ use of academic skills in content courses. English for Specific Purposes, 9, 67-87.
Adamson, H.D.(1991). Academic competence. English for Specific Purposes, 5, 55-79.
Adamson, H.D.(1992). Academic competence. Theory and classroom practice. New York:Longman
Block, E.L. (1986). The comprehension strategies in second language readers. TESOL Quarterly, 20, 463-494.
Block, E.L. (1992). See how they read: comprehension monitoring of L1 and L2 readers. TESOL Quarterly, 20, 463-494.
Carrell, P.L. (1989). Metacognitive awareness and second language reading. The Modern Language Journal, 73, 121-134.
Carrell, P.L. (1991). Strategic Reading. In J.E. Alatis (Ed.), Georgetown University Round Table on Language and Linguistics 1991, Georgetown University Press.
Cohen, A.D. (1998). Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language. London: Longman
Flavell, J.H. (1976). Metacognitive aspects of problem solving. In L.B. Resnick (Ed). The nature of intelligence (pp. 231-235) Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
O’Maley J.M. & A.U. Chamot (1990). Learning strategies in second language acquisition. NY:Cambridge University Press.
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Pearson, P.D. & L. Fielding. (1991). Comprehension instruction. In Barr,R et al. (eds) pp. 815-60.
Williams, M. & R..L. Burden. (1997) Psychology for language teachers. A Social Constructivist approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The future of Englishes

Written by: David Crystal
A paper based on David Crystal’s contribution to the Plovdiv Conference
This is an exciting time, for linguist observers of the world scene. No language has ever had such global exposure as English has, so there are no precedents for what is currently taking place. We do not know what happens to a language when it becomes a genuinely world language – recognized as a prestige language in all countries, and used in aggregate by more people (especially as a second or foreign language) for more purposes than any other language. Let us pause for a moment, and reflect on the statistics (bearing in mind that statistics on world language use are notoriously approximate). The number of people who use English as a first language must currently be about 400 million – more accurately, between 350 and 450 million. The chief reason for the uncertainty is whether creole and pidgin varieties derived from English should be included in the total: if you consider these to be ‘varieties of English’, then you will include them, and you will move towards the higher total; contrariwise, if you consider that they are, in some sense, separate languages now, you may wish to exclude them, and you will then move towards the lower total. It should also be noted, in passing that, of these 400 million people, about 230 million of them live in the USA – well over half. 56 million live in the UK – very much a minority dialect of world English now!
But the issue of British versus American English begins to seem very dated when we consider the next total – the number of people who speak English as a second or foreign language. Here the figures are even more difficult to be sure about, for the obvious reason that fluency is a continuum, and we have to decide how much competence in English somebody needs before being allowed to join the community of world English users. A criterion of native-speaker-like fluency would clearly produce a relatively small figure; including every beginner would produce a relatively large one – such as the British Council estimate that, at the turn of the century, about a billion (thousand million) people will be learning English, somewhere or other. That figure cannot be ignored – the people are, after all, learning English, as opposed to some other language – but plainly it needs to be interpreted cautiously. The commonest estimates I see these days hover around 300-400 million for second-language users, and around 500-700 million for foreign language users. That makes 1200-1500 as a grand total, which is about a quarter of the world’s population, and far larger than the cumulative total for (the eight languages which comprise) Chinese.
This is not the place to review the reasons for the remarkable spread of English. I have gone into these in my English as a Global Language (1997), so there is no point in repeating them here – other than to remind you that we are talking about different forms of power. Languages spread, not because of any intrinsic structural characteristics – inherent notions of logic or beauty or simplicity, or the like – but for one reason only: the power of the people who use them. You can see this at the very outset of the global English period. At the end of the 16th century, English people travelling abroad would reflect on which languages would be of most use to them. Latin, Italian, French, and Dutch were among those listed – but English, never. ‘Our English tongue’, says Richard Mulcaster in 1582, ‘is of small reach – it stretcheth no further than this island of ours – nay, not there over all’. There must have been only about 5 million speakers of English then. And there was no reason for anybody abroad to pay much attention to what was written in English. But, ironically, Mulcaster made his remarks in the same year that an aspiring actor married a Stratford girl called Anne Hathaway, and just before Raleigh sent the first of his three expeditions to America (1584). Within a generation, the status of English would have fundamentally changed. Within a century, the British Empire would be a reality. And in addition to this military, colonial application of power, we then find three other applications: in the 18th century, a technological, industrial power (the Industrial Revolution, where we must remember that over half of the pioneers were working through the medium of English); in the 19th century, economic power, with the USA eventually taking over the world lead from Britain; and finally, cultural power, with the USA again predominant in the present century, as is evident in such domains as advertising, broadcasting, and the Internet.
That, in a very tiny nutshell, is the history of English as a world language. It suggests that the prospects for English, and its relationships with other languages, as David Graddol has pointed out in his British Council survey, The Future of English (1998), are totally bound up with world economic and demographic trends. And one of these trends is already very significant. Analysis of the population growth of the countries involved indicates that (on average) countries where English is used as a second language are growing at approximately three times the rate of those countries where it is a mother-tongue. For example, even though only 3 or 4% of the people of India are fluent in English, with a population fast approaching a billion and a growth rate of 1.9% per annum, there will soon be more people speaking English in India than there are in England. And certainly, the world total for second-language speakers will soon pass – it has probably done so already – the world total for first-language speakers. What this means, in short, is that English has gone well beyond the stage where it can be said to be ‘owned’ by anyone – a fact which many people (especially those in the UK), recalling their national past, find unpalatable. Even 230 million Americans comprise only about a sixth of the world language total.
No language has ever been spoken by so many people in so many countries before. No language of such sociohistorical prestige has ever had its mother-tongue speakers so significantly outnumbered. There are therefore no precedents to guide us about the likely outcomes. And there are precious few facts. We have to be on our toes – and that means all of us, academics, consultants, journalists, teachers … We are at a crucial observational stage in English linguistic history, and all we can do to cope with the riot of linguistic speculation is fall back on well-established theory to guide our practice. Speculation? You will have seen the headlines. Will the English language fragment into mutually unintelligible languages, as it spreads around the world? Will English kill off other languages? Will our teaching models survive?
To begin answering these questions it is essential to adopt an appropriately general perspective. And chief among these is the need to broaden our views about the functions of language. What is language for? The conventional answer talks about people ‘communicating’ with each other, in the sense that one person sends a meaning, a message, a thought, an idea, and another person receives it. The whole point of language, it is assumed, is to foster the transmission of knowledge, however this is defined – as concepts, facts, opinions, emotions, or any other kind of ‘information’. Why use language? – for ‘the expression of thought’, says the Oxford English Dictionary; for ‘expressing thought or feeling’, says Chambers; for ‘communicating ideas or feelings’, says the Longman Dictionary of the English Language. Let us call this the referential function of language.
The referential function is certainly important, at a global level, because it underpins the notion of standard. A standard guarantees mutual intelligibility. That is what it is for. But there is another function which, although it is always with us, has brought into the centre of our attention by the issue of world English, and that is identity. Indeed, on any scale of relative importance, where importance is judged in terms of what people are prepared to do, identity emerges as light-years ahead of intelligibility. People do not usually go on hunger-strike, take part in protest marches, invade parliamentary buildings, and kill themselves for intelligibility – though there is the occasional famous exception, such as the public shredding of government forms in Parliament Square by the Plain English Campaign in 1979. But people do do all of these things for identity – to preserve their language, whether collectively or individually, in the face of a perceived threat. The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, formulated at Barcelona in 1996, and currently the focus of a great deal of international attention, is devoted to this matter. And a concern for identity has fuelled many of the trends we notice in the use of English, as it increases its global presence.
Chief among these trends is the growth of new national standards – the so-called ‘new Englishes’ in such countries as India, Singapore, and Ghana – whose role is to preserve national identity. These have now been well discussed (MacArthur, 1998), though still only superficially described, and I will not go into them here, other than to draw attention to the recency with which this phenomenon has emerged. Recall that in 1956 there were only 80 members of the United Nations; now there are over 180. Most of the new members are the result of the independence movements which date from the 1960s. With newfound independence comes an urge to manifest your identity in the eyes of the world. And the most convenient way of manifesting this identity is through the medium of the language you use. Many of the new countries, such as Ghana and Nigeria, found that they had no alternative but to continue using English – the alternative was to make an impossible choice between the many competing local ethnic languages – over 400, in the case of Nigeria. However, we can also appreciate their view that to continue with English would be, in the eyes of many, an unacceptable link with the colonial past. How could this dilemma be resolved? The answer was to continue with English, but to shape it to meet their own ends – adding local vocabulary, focussing on local cultural variations, developing fresh standards of pronunciation. It is not difficult to quickly accumulate several thousand local lexical items, in countries which have a wide range of local fauna and flora, diverse ethnic customs, and regular daily contacts with different languages. And I mean ‘accumulate’ – several regional dictionary projects were launched soon after independence, as part of this expression of new identity. And the emerging literatures of the Commonwealth countries – the novels from various parts of West Africa, the poetry from the countries of the Caribbean – illustrate how quickly new identities can emerge. The term ‘New Englishes’ reflects these identities.
The new varieties attracted enormous debate in the 1970s and 1980s. The question of which kind of English to write in – or even, whether to write in English at all – was a real problem facing many creative authors. But these days, with the first generation of post-colonial development behind us,
the issues are settling down, and repeatedly one encounters the view nowadays that it is not a necessary either/or choice. It is not a matter of having to choose between intelligibility and identity, but of allowing the coexistence of both intelligibility and identity. To be a happy language-using individual (or community), both dimensions are essential: we need to be able to talk to others outside our community, and to understand them, if we wish to trade with them, and have access to their goods and services; at the same time, we need to be able to demonstrate, through our speech, that we are not the same as them. There is no inevitable conflict, because the two functions of language respond to different needs. But the demands do appear to be contradictory, and when people do see them as contradictory, or are not sensitive to the needs of all the linguistic communities with whom they live, there is always trouble, in the form of acrimonious debates about standards in the school curriculum or in society at large, widespread anxiety about the survival of a local language or dialect, and – in the extreme cases – language marches, rioting, and deaths. Wise language planning can avoid the contradiction, and reduce the tension – even (though this is unfortunately rare) eliminate it: it is possible to have your linguistic cake and eat it, as can be seen in such countries as Switzerland and Finland, where policies of sensitive multilingualism recognize the strengths of individual languages, and the different purposes for which they are used, and real support is given to developing bilingual ways of life. More appropriate, in the present discussion, would be to talk about bidialectism – and this too can be sensitively promoted. However, positive approaches are often not easy to implement: they are bedevilled by complications arising out of individual national histories, whereby the political aspirations of minority groups come into conflict with national government policies. A bilingual or bidialectal policy can also be extremely expensive. But it is the only way in which the otherwise competing demands of intelligibility and identity can be reconciled.
These are important issues for anyone interested in language, at any age, to address; and certainly any curriculum should give its students the opportunity to do so. The issues are important because everyone is affected by them. No-one can avoid being part of the current of linguistic change or – to extend the metaphor – can avoid bathing in the sea of linguistic variety. Nor can anyone escape the variations of attitude which people express in reaction to what is happening, as some try to swim against the current, while others blithely let it carry them along. Everyone, at some time or other, will have their usage challenged by someone else, whether it be a parent, teacher, peer-group member, neighbour, editor, colleague, or boss. The contexts might be local, national, or global. To cope with such challenges, or to respond to them coherently, people need confidence – and confidence comes from knowledge, an awareness of what is happening to language and what the issues are. A linguistically informed curriculum, whether in mother-tongue teaching or in foreign-language teaching, can provide the foundation on which such confidence can be built, because it gives people insight into principles which can make sense of the multifaceted and potentially confusing linguistic world which surrounds them.
And so, to take one of the questions regularly asked: will the English-language fragment? The history of language suggests that fragmentation is a regular phenomenon (as in the well-known case of Latin); but the history of language is no longer a guide. Today, we live in the proverbial global village, where we have immediate access to other languages, and to varieties of English, in ways that have come to be available but recently; and this is having a radical effect. A British Council colleague told me recently that he had just come back from India where he had seen a group of people in an out-of-the-way village clustering around a television set, where they were hearing CNN News beamed down via satellite. None of these people, he felt, would have heard any kind of English before – at least, not in any regular way – other than the Indian variety of English used by their school-teacher. With a whole range of fresh auditory models becoming routinely available, it is easy to see how the type of English spoken in India could move in fresh directions. And satellite communication being, by definition, global, it is easy to see how a system of natural checks and balances – also well-attested in the history of language – could emerge in the case of world English. The pull imposed by the need for identity, which has been making Indian English increasingly dissimilar from British English, will be balanced by a pull imposed by the need for intelligibility, on a world scale, which will make Indian English increasingly similar – to CNN, at least! And this could happen anywhere.
And how does balance manifest itself in community terms? This is where the notion of multilingualism comes into play. It is an axiom of contemporary sociolinguistically informed language planning that the only way to reduce the tension between language communities is to recognize the importance of linguistic diversity, and place multilingualism at the centre of language policy and planning. In the case of English, as I have said, we should be talking about multidialectism rather than multilingualism, but the issue is the same: joint respect for the two principles, intelligibility and identity. During the 21st century, people with an international presence who speak English as a first language will find themselves adding a third variety to their repertoire. Many people already have two. They speak a national formal variety, or dialect (‘I speak British/US/Australian… English’) as well as an intra-national informal variety, which is often regionally biased (‘I speak the colloquial English of Liverpool, Glasgow, Boston, New Orleans…’). Those who are bidialectal in this way slip into each of these varieties without thinking about it. In future, they will become tridialectal, with the international variety offering them a further option of an English in which national usages have been replaced by regionally neutral forms – to be used, of course, only when circumstances are right.
I feel it happening to me. At home, I speak my personal brand of Welsh/Liverpudlian-influenced English. At a national conference I drop the local Welsh/Liverpudlian expressions, and adopt an accent more in the direction of RP. And at an international conference, such as this one, I go a stage further, and drop as many of my national Britishisms as I can – especially the colloquialisms – which I sense might pose problems of intelligibility. Even the accent changes. This is not ‘foreigner-speak’ – a conscious simplifying or talking-down. It is a new variety, as complex as any other variety I know, but geared towards a different audience. And, as I said at the outset, it doesn’t exist in stable form as yet. I am conscious of it growing within me. But it takes a long time for a new set of norms to become internalised. It requires feedback from others, of the conversational kind, and very little of this has yet happened to me. I have probably used several Britishisms in this talk today without intending to. But I do know that the variety in which I have given this talk is different from the corresponding variety I would be using were I giving it in Birmingham or Manchester. I sense the constraints.
What becomes especially interesting, of course, is to speculate about the way a genuinely international standard English will develop. It will undoubtedly adopt fresh forms of lexical expression, as national regionalisms come to be avoided. Some of these will come from the nature of the interactive context itself: I am told that there is a growing distinctive technical and slang vocabulary in English in the corridors of the European Community these days – words and phrases which only the diplomats and bureaucrats use when going about their business. Huge numbers of terms beginning with the prefix Euro-, for example. In that microcosm, we see the members of an international, multilingual community changing a lingua franca to suit themselves. And because it is a microcosm, with relatively small numbers of people involved, the changes are taking place quite quickly. It could take a hundred years for it to happen on a world scale, though once the Internet comes to be voice-interactive that could change. Even pronunciation is affected. I have heard a conversation where the linguistic accommodation between the multinational participants was so great that everyone adopted a range of phonological modifications – such as articulating final consonants carefully, and speaking in a more syllable-timed way. Even – and this is the point – the British participants picked up these speaking patterns. I have heard myself do it many times – slipping into the syllable-timed speech being used by everyone else. Indeed, given that varieties of syllable-timed speech is the norm for most languages in the world, and has emerged through language contact in so many varieties of second-language English (such as the Caribbean, South Africa, India), it may well be that international standard English, at the end of the next century, will be a syllable-timed variety of English. That would certainly save us all a great deal of time worrying about patterns of word stress!
That is enough speculation for one talk. I hope the principles which fuelled the speculation are clear. There is always a tension between unity and diversity, and the only way it can be resolved is by understanding the processes which foster both. A developed concept of language function is critical, and within this, an appreciation of the complementary notions of intelligibility and identity. If our job, as English language teachers, is to do the best for our pupils, to put them in the most powerful position possible to cope with the demands of an increasingly complex world, then – the more we can familiarise them with varieties of the language, the better. And the more we can prepare them for the realities of tridialectal English-language use in the 21st century, the better. It isn’t going to make our job any easier, of course. But then, if you’d all wanted an easy job, you wouldn’t be here.


Crystal, David. 1997. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: CUP.
Graddol, David. 1998. The Future of English. London: The British Council.
MacArthur, Tom. 1998. The English Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ecological education

Written by: Roumenka Chapkanova Sustainability – a world ethic
What is environment?
The natural environment
The social environment
The personal environment
What is environmental education?
Learning how to care for our environment. It involves understanding concepts ABOUT the environment, developing sensitivities THROUGH the environment for fostering values that commits to acting FOR the environment.
Principles of environmental education

  • It’s interdisciplinary
  • It’s holistic
  • Incorporates concepts that are integral to an understanding and values that accompany such understanding; builds awareness of the interrelatedness of local and global environments
  • Encourages problem solving
  • Examines issues of local and global significance
  • Generates actions
  • Uses variety of teaching and learning strategies and resources
  • Is student centered
  • Has a community orientation
  • Is coherent and progressive
  • Is exemplary – students and teachers have a special responsibility to model the behavior that they are promoting.
  • Is inclusive, providing subject matter, language, learning opportunities and assessment methods that meet the needs of all students;
  • Has direct experience at its core.

Teachers can contribute by incorporating the principles underlying EE in their learning and teaching programs and learning and teaching environment.
Students will:

  • use all their senses to explore a variety of environments;
  • evaluate and reflect on these explorations;
  • observe and record information, ideas and feelings about Environment;
  • investigate and communicate concern about environmental matters;
  • gather, analyze and synthesize information logically;
  • present information in oral, written and graphic form;
  • view environmental matter from variety of perspectives;
  • discuss and debate alternative viewpoints on environmental issues
  • identify, clarify and express value judgments that relate to the environment.
  • Attitudes
  • Knowledge

Frameworks for investigative learning in environmental education
How to teach; What to teach – an active investigative process;

  • the student’s choice and negotiation
  • the incorporation of reflection with learning /and teaching/ process
  • an emphasis on critical thinking and active life learning.

Types of teaching/learning approaches

  1. Action research;
  2. Social investigation strategy
  3. English Language Art Model
  4. Investigating environmental issue


  • blindfold trust walk
  • cartoons in the classroom
  • cause and effect wheel
  • cooperative squares;
  • cooperative faces
  • development consequence chart
  • diamond ranking
  • field work
  • flow chart
  • futures timeline
  • group roles
  • road map
  • role-playing and drama;
  • space time grid
  • values scales;
  • woolly thinking

Work on lnguage skills development

  1. Criteria for well -written biography
  2. Developing and improving interviewing skills
  3. Achieving a balance between information and values
  4. Presentation of biography
  5. Reflecting on the unit of work
  6. Interviewing

Work on specific science matter /chemistry, biology, physics/

  1. People and environment
  2. Gathering and recording of data
  3. Comprehension analyses and application
  4. Synthesis, evaluation and decision making
  5. Reporting


Situational language training /SLT/ Imitator
Context setter
Error corrector
Audio linguism /AL/ Pattern Practicer
Accuracy enthusiast
Language Modeler/Drill Leader
Communicative Language Teaching /CLT/ Improviser
Need analyst
Task designer
Total Physical Response /TPR/ Order Taker
Action monitor
The silent way/SW/ Inventor
Problem solver
Natural observer
Community Language Learning /CLL/ Collaborator
Whole Person
The Natural Approach /NA/ Guesser
Props User
Suggestopaedia /S/ Relaxer
True believer

A meaningful science and technological teaching is envisioned as interdisciplinary critical thinking – problem solving and decision making, oriented teaching and consequently High Order Cognitive Skills /HOCS/ learning in the science-technology-environment-society /STES/ interface context learning to a capacity to transfer beyond the subject/s/ or discipline/s/ specificity.
A STES oriented HOCS teaching should not only be consonant with the environmentally imperative interdisciplinary HOCS orientation in teaching but it also should foster HOCS learning. It is vital to develop the HOCS of students and not simply to force them learn to apply algorithms and “exercise” sets.
So that the only necessary precondition for the people’s reasonable environmental behavior and action of teachers and students alike as partners in a collaborative interactive reflective science-technology- teaching – learning oriented process.

Sing it with me – Alternative uses for songs in the EFL/ ESL classroom

Written by: Mauricio Ortega G.
Teaching EFL/ ESL in a non-English speaking country is a challenge. Aside of having to prevent students, even advanced ones, to go their mother tongue in the classroom, we still have to do something in order to keep their interest high in the class and have them practice the English language. There are many ways in which Teachers can turn a boring class into a lively one and amongst others, there is the use of songs.
Just by playing some music in the classroom we can get our students involved in something different and attractive to them. Music alone provides the mood that can enhance a friendly atmosphere and gives learners another option for promoting and enhancing learning because both the left and right side of the brain are active at the same time. Now, if we add songs to the class we will include a wonderful tool that combines visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles with musical and emotional intelligence. Songs are highly motivated, especially for children, adolescents and young and adult learners. Popular music in its many forms constitutes a powerful subculture with its own mythology, its own rituals and its own priesthood. As such is part of the student’s lives in a way that so much else we use is not. If we can tap into it, we release unsuspected positive energy (Murphey, 1981).
Using songs in the classroom can be quite an experience for both teachers and students. Presentations, grammar reviews, vocabulary input, and other activities can be done through the relaxing and fun way of songs. Most of the times our students enjoy songs very much, since they create a nicer atmosphere than that of other classes.
But how can we use songs? There is no reason that justifies the use of songs as merely an escape activity or –worse- a time filler when students are definitely not in the mood to work or when teachers did not have enough time to prepare the lesson properly. Songs can be used in lots of different ways.
Most of us have both seen and used the traditional “fill in the gaps” exercise. But this is definitely not the only possibility. Here is a glimpse to more possibilities:

  1. Listen and write. Designed for elementary level activities. Students listen to each line and write the lyrics themselves or dictate them to the teacher who will write them on the board and thus make sure students will keep their attention focused. When the song is over, they are allowed to copy the lyrics down. This kind of exercise provides elementary students with the necessary motivation to realise they are actually learning, reading, writing and singing in English. Some picks for this kind of exercise are the songs by “The Beatles” such as And I love her, Love me do, and Love by John Lennon.
  2. Jumbled lines. This activity can be used by both elementary, lower intermediate and even intermediate students. The lyrics are arranged in, for instance, alphabetical order and the task is to listen to the song and number the lines as they listen to them. The exercise provides an insight to the scanning strategy most commonly used in reading comprehension activities. The kind of songs I have used with this activity are both ballads or slow songs such as Dust in the Wind (Kansas); More than words (Extreme); as well as more snappy songs such as The Future’s so Bright I gotta wear Shades (By Timbuk-3) and Lovefool (performed by the Cardigans).
  3. Error correction. Students get the lyrics of the song, but full of mistakes. The level of complexity will depend on how the mistakes are presented. I usually present the song for upper intermediate and advanced students and the mistakes in the lyrics are most of the times words with similar sounds. Students then, while listening to the song, have to a) Identify the mistake and b) correct it. This is perhaps one of the best ways of using songs with listening comprehension purposes. It also provides an opportunity to work with pronunciation and vocabulary. The choices may vary, but some of the exercises I have developed are with Lemon Tree (Fool’s Garden); Fast Car (Tracy Chapman) and Hotel California (The Eagles).
  4. Morgan’s game. This activity can be used with practically any level. The lyrics will be posted at a certain place in the classroom. Students work in pairs: one of them is Morgan while the other is the secretary. Morgan has to run to the lyrics, read the first line, go back to his/ her secretary and dictate it to him/her. Then the roles are swapped. The songs that can be used here may vary and believe it or not, students accept all beats from Memory (from the musical CATS), to the King, Elvis Presley’s Don’t be cruel.
  5. Sentence transformation. A new release in this series of activities, the exercise is designed to work in the same way and exercise from a FCE test would. This is, students are provided with sentences and are given certain words so they will transform the sentences and the product will be as close as possible to the lyrics of the song. This is a real challenge students love to take. So far the activity has been done with Ribbon in the Sky (Stevie Wonder); My one and only love (from the soundtrack of the film LEAVING LAS VEGAS, performed by Sting); and More than a woman from the soundtrack of the film Saturday Night Fever, performed by The Bee Gees).

Learning English through songs and TPR activities such as mingling, running and singing and dancing provide entertaining oral and written activities that practise and develop the language in the songs. Re-activation and transfer exercises in class teach learners to handle and produce language learnt in the action songs independently. The unforgettable melodies and strong rhythms of these original songs help to accelerate permanent memorisation while favouring correct pronunciation and boosting motivation. Yet, there are some hints that should always be present:

  1. Make sure you pick a song that you know or listen to before presenting it as an activity.
  2. Use activities you feel at ease with. It is not very recommendable to have students do something we would never dare to do ourselves.
  3. Create the mood little by little with warm ups and a friendly atmosphere. This usually helps students and teachers feeling comfortable before starting any activity.
  4. Sing along with them! Students feel twice motivated if they see teachers participating and having fun with them.
  5. Last but not least. Keep your song stock updated. Music and songs are changing constantly and we have to keep up to the times to ensure an attractive activity.

Murphey, Tim. Music and song. Resource books for teachers. Oxford University Press.

Contemporary issues in mentoring

Written by: Brian Gay The use of mentoring in the field of teacher education and development, as currently practised, raises issues around the areas of development and standards and the role of the established teacher as not only mentor but also as assessor of the classroom practice of developing teachers.  Four main areas will be considered, what is mentoring?, can anyone mentor?, why do we mentor? and, how can mentors know what they know?

What is mentoring.

From the early 1970’s an interesting conjunction began to emerge involving humanistic psychology, learning theory and organisational development. Increasingly, issues around human development, the development of “potential” and the translation of potential into effective behaviour were being addressed. Some of us who were involved in the field of human resource development were experimenting with one to one development of employees, mainly graduate management trainees, but did not have a either clear conceptual framework within which to locate our activities or a specific name to give to those activities. Then in 1978 a book appeared, the culmination of a longitudinal study of 10 years into the practice of career development in the United States. This seminal book, The Seasons of a Man’s Life ( D. Levinson et al 1978 ), gave us a name, Mentoring, and an operating definition that was critical to our thinking;

“The mentor relationship is one of the most complex and developmentally important a man can have in early adulthood. The mentor is ordinarily several years older, a person of greater experience and seniority in the world the young man is entering. No word currently in use is adequate to convey the nature of the relationship we have in mind here. Words such as “counsellor” or  “guru” suggest some of the more subtle meanings but they have other connotations that would be misleading. The term “mentor” is generally used in a narrower sense to mean teacher, advisor and sponsor. As we use the term, it means all these things and more.”

Mentoring is of course neither new nor American in origin. If we look into the mists of Celtic history/mythology we find Merlin, a figure of legend. It was he that showed Arthur the responsibilities and obligations of kingship and helped to prepare him for, and guide him in, that demanding role. Later in factual history we see the role of the “anamchara”, the spiritual friend of the young monastic in the Celtic Church. Here an older monk was the “friend” of another, yet like Merlin, was outside the formal authority structure of the organisation within which they were located. I said earlier a younger monastic, and it is worth noting that even the abbot of the monastery had an anamchara, a spiritual friend in whom he could confide in confidence. Outside the formal structure, operating beyond judgementalism!
If we ask mentors today just what it is that they see themselves as doing in their relationship with a mentor certain key words come to the fore;

  • Exploring
  • Revealing
  • Guiding
  • Advising
  • Teaching
  • Coaching
  • Training
  • Directing

As we move down the list we notice that the nature of the relationship changes from one of a more equal power sharing position, of a learning partnership, to one in which the power shifts increasingly to the mentor and from the mentee. The freedom to jointly explore moves incrementally to increasing constraint upon the relationship. Discovery is less and less the objective, “covering the ground” is more and more the goal. This new source of power and authority can lie in the syllabus, that has to be covered, and the assessment requirements that have to be fulfilled. Development is now subordinated to standard. Whilst individuals more grow greatly as a consequence of the mentoring relationship will they actually attain the standard for professional practice? If the mentor has an assessment role in this process of professional development will the mentee really be open and trusting in there exchanges with the mentor. Can we expect our learning partners to really explore their fears and hopes with us, if we are now not complementary to the mainstream structure but an integral  part of it ? To return to the monastic model the anamchara has now become the novice master, complete with disciplinary role. There is lesson here for the teacher as mentor and as assessor.
So the one to one, confidential, learning partners model is increasingly subject to modification in the light of institutional and professional requirements and the pressures of funding. Of course standards are important, but the freedom to move up and down our mentoring range according to mentee need is being increasingly restricted. Mentoring is at risk of becoming coaching and only coaching.

Can anybody mentor?

We have already raised the issue of a prospective mentor’s location in the assessment process as a matter that needs further investigation, however there are some major personal attributes that mentors require that may not be part of our personal armoury of interpersonal skills. The most informative description of the attributes of the effective mentor that I have come across is recorded in V.I.Armstrong’s book, I Have Spoken, American History Through the Voices of the Indians.(1971). Here the great chief Dekanawidah, is recorded, in 1720, as having sworn in the new rulers of the confederation of the five nations with the following words;

“We do now crown you with the sacred emblem of the antlers, the sign of your lordship. You shall now become a mentor of the people of the five nations. The thickness of your skin will be seven spans, for you will be proof against anger, offensive action and criticism, with endless patience you shall carry out your duty and your firmness shall be tempered with compassion for your people. Neither anger nor fear shall find lodgement in your mind and all your words and actions shall be tempered with calm deliberation. In all your official acts, self interest shall be cast aside. You shall look and listen to the welfare of the whole people, and always have in view, not only the present but also the coming generations-the unborn of the future generations.”

So how do we measure up to this benchmark of personal characteristics ? Are we thick skinned against criticism and anger, yet sensitive to the needs of others ? Are we patient and compassionate? What about our anger and fear, and our capacity to manage anger and fear ? Are we comfortable to be challenged ? What of our self interest- do we really see our mentoring as an investment in the future of our society and for the betterment of the common good? So many issues. Clearly mentor training is essential, not just desirable, if we are to explore our relationship with the necessary professional and interpersonal skills that mentoring demands. It may well be that we do not have, and cannot develop that range of required abilities. So be it, we are not mentor material. Not all can be mentors. That is not “bad”, it is just as it is.

Why do we mentor ?

Well if Dekanawidah is right in his analysis and mentors need to possess a long term view of development, and a wide social perspective it implies a belief in the worth of what is being done, the inherent worth of people and the value of developing each to realise their potential. Mentoring is a powerful  development process that looks to us to create relationships that allow individuals, including ourselves, to grow. It may well be that we mentor because for us, this is the contribution we believe we can make to make a difference in both the life of the developing teacher and also to the lives of all those students that the developing teacher will themself teach and develop in the future.
A 10th century Chinese Buddhist abbot named Gaoan of Yunju wrote on one occasion to Commander Lee of the army about students, and in this context we are all both students and teachers;

“There are no wise and foolish students-it is just a matter of the teacher refining them to bring out virtuous actions in them, testing them to discover their potential abilities, bringing them out and encouraging them, to give weight to their words, taking care of them to make their practice complete.
Over long months and years, the name and reality will both grow rich.
All people have the spirit, it is just a matter of careful guidance. It is just like jade in the matrix, if you throw it away it is rock, but if you cut and polish it, it is a gem. It is also like water issuing from a spring; block it up and it makes a bog, open up a deep channel for it and it becomes a river.
Therefore we know of the abilities of students and the ups and downs of the times, that they will peak if treated well, be exalted if encouraged, decline if oppressed, and die out if denied. This is the basis of the dissipation or development of students.”
(T. Cleary, Zen Lessons in the Art of Leadership, 1989)

Combining our values our knowledge and expertise we too polish rocks and dig ditches.

How can we know what we know?

Finally we need to reflect upon our practice as professionals if we are to understand the foundation for our mentoring practice. It is here in the heat of our mentor training that the power of the reflective personal journal comes to the fore. We need to explore what we have learned, how we have learned that, what we have learned about learning in the process of learning and what we have learned about ourselves in that process.
As was said 2500 years ago;

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not: he is a fool-shun him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not: he is simple-teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows: he is asleep-wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows: he is wise-follow him.