Have we lost our way in ELT?

Bogotá, Colombia, April 2010
School – studied English language and literature
..... and then
University degree in history.
Holiday job teaching English to children.
Studied Law
4-week course to teach EFL to adults.
3 years’ experience teaching in Italy and England.
Diptefla: a one year course, 2 observations and 2 written
20+ years in Mexico in ELT and formal education.
Masters in Business Administration 2002.
English is not an easy language to learn or
About 200,000 words are in common use
An educated person has a vocabulary of
about 20,000 words and uses about 2,000 in
a week’s conversation.
Level 5 C2 (Mastery)
Level 4 C1 (Effective proficiency)
Level 3 B2 Vantage
Level 2 B1 Threshold
Level 1 A2 Waystage
A1 (Break
You need a good level of English to teach the
language: minimum B2 on the Common European
You need a solid formal education to teach,
preferably a university degree.
You need to be trained to teach English and have a
good level of general education – one month is a
minimum of training but not enough except to get
you started in the profession.
Native and non –native teachers need a career path
which for non-native teachers includes language and
The teacher understands basic TEFL principles and practice, and is able to
work competently with adolescents and adults up to intermediate level.
Evaluating criteria
Activities in the lesson have a clear learning objective
Instructions are suitably handled
Effective use of didactic material
Appropriate error correction
Variety of activities and dynamics
Use of target language
T. provides learners with opportunities to use English for communicative
Objectives of the class are achieved
All students actively participate in the class using language communicatively
Clear evidence of learning
The example of Finland.
Children start school when they are 7.
They spend the fewest number of hours in the
classroom in the developed world.
In 2006 they scored the highest average results in
science and reading in the whole of the developed
In the OECD’s exams for 15 year-olds (PISA) they
came second in maths only beaten by South Korea.
Children also develop a good command of English.
How do they achieve this?
Teaching is a highly respected profession and
teachers are well trained and qualified.
Students stay together regardless of ability and
additional teachers help students who have
difficulties with any subject.
Primary and secondary schooling is combined.
Teachers stay with the same group of children
for several years.
‘Se logra de la misma manera que aprendimos
nuestra lengua materna.’
‘¡Vuélvete bilingüe en un año!’
‘Enseñamos a pensar y hablar en inglés, sin ver
nada escrito, sin reglas gramaticales y sin
tareas en casa.’
‘Aprenderás viendo la televisión.’
‘Aprendes inglés hablando con la computadora.’
‘100% conversación.’
You cannot learn English in the same way
you learned your mother tongue.
You cannot ‘master’ English in 6 months.
You cannot be bilingual in 12 months.
You cannot become proficient in English
talking to a computer or listening to
cassettes while you are asleep.
Learning any language involves exposure to
the target language, opportunities to use it,
motivation to learn and, if possible,
proficient instruction.
Like anything you study, learning a foreign
language requires time, work, and
commitment on the part of the learner.
You need linguistic and generic
competencies in order to learn a language .
CLT is not necessarily the only or best way to teach
Accuracy and fluency are equally important in
learning a language.
You need a knowledge of grammar and vocabulary
in order to communicate in any language.
Affective elements are as important as questions of
In monolingual classes, the teacher’s role as a model
for the language and motivator is extremely
Published materials are much better now that
they ever have been and teachers have more
choice than ever before.
But, there are more components than ever
before: SB, TB, WB, RP, CD Rom, website etc.
It is impossible to use so much material in the
time available on most courses.
An experienced, professional teacher will
probably want to use some material he or she
prepares for the group.
Technology can provide opportunities for
independent language learning.
Technology should not just add another layer
of content but provide a balance with other
types of material.
There is no hard evidence that it is possible to
learn a foreign language with 100% online
The best option in this case is probably a blend
of face to face classes and DL using the right
kind of content.
What competencies need to be considered
in teaching a foreign language?
Four Pillars of Teaching
Learning to know-knowledge
Learning to do-skills
Learning to live together - values &
Learning to be
What competencies need to be considered
in teaching a foreign language?
Linguistic competencies.
- Skills related directly to the language e.g.
reading comprehension.
 Generic competencies.
- Problem solving, time management, using
technology, effective study habits etc.
The bilingual approach. The evidence
suggests that it is.
Recent research in Spain shows that
students studying Spanish and English in a
bilingual system obtain better results in
tests of L1.
These results are similar in studies by the
OECD of bilingual groups in 15 countries.
In bilingual contexts it is important that
there is a common approach to how English
is handled-Content and Language Integrated
Learning can play a key role in this process.
Linguistic and generic competencies have
more chance of being successfully
implemented in this context.
A few hours of English a week. The evidence
suggests this is much harder to achieve
competency in a foreign language.
Insufficient time is provided to learn English
although many countries now provide English
from primary level.
Teachers in general do not have the support
and training to teach English effectively.
As a result, the vast majority of students
studying English in in this way do not learn
English well.
Linguistic and generic competencies can be
taught but need careful thought because of
the limited time students are studying
English and the time between classes.
With YLs it makes sense to concentrate on
encouraging reading outside class, linked to
dictionary work and listening to audio CDs.
Electronic links to programmes and tapping
into students familiarity with technology
are other avenues worth exploring.
Creating ‘deep-end’ readers.
 Motivate children to read by:
- setting aside time in class for silent reading
- avoid subvocalising.
- valuing any reading material.
- working with parents to create a reading culture at
home e.g. reading to children, letting children see
adults with books .
- effective use reading strategies and graded readers.
- making use of technology to encourage reading e.g.
Flips on Nintendo DS Consoles.
Language teachers need minimum B2 level of
English proficiency.
All language teachers need a pre-service course
plus in-service training within 2 years.
Help should be given to teachers to reach these
levels of proficiency.
Language teaching institutions should not be
allowed to make impossible and dishonest
Students need orientation about how long it will
take to get them to the level of language they need.
Methodology should vary according to age and level
but in an EFL context the teacher still has a key role
to play.
Linguistic and generic competencies are important
in ELT but need to be adapted to different scenarios.
Reading competence can be a linguistic competence
which can be successfully developed in scenarios
where learners have fewer contact hours.
Technology will be a useful tool to complement
classroom based courses and increase
exposure and practice opportunities.
Course material should be designed to fit the
number of hours available as well as
encouraging learning outside class. There is no
point in producing so much published material
that much of it is never used.
Technology will make it possible to put
components online and reduce the amount and
cost of printed materials.
If we are part of a profession, we have to be
professional in the fullest sense of the word.
Thank you for your interest
[email protected]

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