jueves, 24 de noviembre de 2011


What day is it...? Where am I...? Are those my feet...? Is Nixon still President...? 
Is it too late to nominate favourite blogs for the Whatsisname Awards...?

Having decided not to nominate anybody (too hurtful, as Chiew Pang says), 
a couple of glasses of Ribeiro have forced me to change my mind...

I hereby nominate

for the category of 

Voice of Sanity in a World Full of Twats. 

[OK, he doesn't actually blog about teaching, but he is an ESOL teacher.]

A VOSIAWFOT performs a great public service for us all: Follow the blog and you will read all about the Mormons, the Privatisation of Little Chef, the Overbearing Husbands, the Littel Priques and much much more.

[Edit - Apparently the category of VOSIAWFOT has been removed this year. Just read the blog.]

lunes, 21 de noviembre de 2011

Do You Accept Reality Cheques?

It's one in the morning. My partner and toddler are snoozing together, and it's blog time:

I had come home tonight grumpy and depressed; I have a small group of teenage girls whom I had bawled out this evening for failing to participate in class, and I was already mentally composing my rant/moan/cry-for-help on the road home: How can I get them to apply themselves? How do other people find time to read blogs, never mind write them? Why can't I find anything about teaching YL on the net? Why is everybody on my PLN brighter and better and faster than me?

(I wish I could remember which novelist wrote something about the shiny moon-face of self-pity.)

Recently, I've only had the time to speed-read my EFL blogs, not any of the others that I follow. My mistake. But tonight while waiting for the computer to update, I finally got round to them.

While I'm moaning about a slightly scatty group of girls, other people are organising their Christmas in November because they might not still be alive a month later.

And still others are passing on timeless wisdom:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

Guess who said that?

So thanks again, not just EFL bloggers, but to all the rest of you for the bigger picture.

Oh and Brad's pics were pretty refreshing, too.

miércoles, 2 de noviembre de 2011

Nothing Compares to U

In this post, I'll be looking at the relationship between the spelling and sound of the letter U, and trying to make sense of it.

This post is the second in the series that started with I Don't Claim to Be an A Student.

Have a look at this cross below, and the phonetic symbol in each part. Do you remember the sounds they represent?

Try to place each of the following words in the right quarter:

slum, curse, ruse, rush, cure, buck, sure, mule, curl, puny, fur, lure.

Your answers will depend on your own accent, but if we take RP (standard British English) as our model, we'll probably say:

/ʌ/ - slum, rush, buck
/uː/ - mule, puny, ruse
/ɜː/ - fur, curl, curse
/ɔː / - lure, sure, cure

Of course, life (and English spelling) are never THAT simple! Even with RP, there are two complications:

In the /ɔː/ part (with R and magic E) older speakers and northerners tend to say /uə/ rather than /ɔː/.

And in the /uː/ section (with magic E) it's by no means clear when we say /juː/ rather than simply /uː/.

But as discussed in the other post, I strongly feel that some fairly good rules with exceptions are a hell of a lot better than nothing at all :)

My classroom procedure is fairly simple:

On the board draw the cross and the 4 symbols. Elicit/check and practice the sounds on their own. For many many learners of English, all four sounds are absolute buggers to get right, so it may take some work and some patience on the part of everybody.

Write (or spell out) the above list of words, and simply ask the students in pairs to take a few minutes to try and place them in the right quarter. Of course, you may be able to add appropriate words from your own coursebook or notes: basically any word whose stressed syllable - or sole syllable - includes u.

If you do try it out, let me know how it goes. Lots of luck to U.