Prosody over Accent

I hear it from students all the time. “I need to get rid of my accent” or “I need a real English accent.” There’s even a whole cottage industry of people “teaching” real accents. The argument for a “real native English accent” is easy to refute. Start with the fact that a lot of those “real native accent” videos are taught by people who aren’t technically native speakers. So which is it? Do you want a “real native accent” or not? I was just watching a video series by a Nigerian gentleman with so many comments about how he […]

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Those Students: Deictic Expressions and Real-World Communication Skills

I’ve been doing a lot of presentations on pragmatics recently and thinking about how to teach students real-world communication skills in English. The problem is that in the classroom we often communicate at a very literal and direct level. Outside the classroom, we don’t! We leave things unsaid, assume knowledge on the part of the listener, even exaggerate or outright lie! We also use idiomatic language, fixed expressions, and deictic expressions, language that take their meaning from context. And maybe the hardest group of deictic expression is “insider expressions” when we talk to people. These are expressions that people […]

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Teaching Pragmatics with Memes

I recently discovered these wonderful communication-fail memes, such as the one above. But beyond being peak comedy for linguists, language lovers, teachers, and language students, this meme and others like it point to a really important point: communication happens far beyond grammar and vocabulary. So here are some of my ideas for teaching pragmatics with memes. Cultural rules play a huge role in communication. In the above picture, the flight attendant is asking a question, with most of the question left unsaid. What she means is, “Would you like coffee or tea?” Now the first part of the question […]

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Set Your Roleplay to Music

Looking for a way to make your roleplays more engaging and also help students explore communication tools more effectively? Try music. We all know the power of music to set a mood. Television shows and movies exploit this all the time. You probably know the famous theme from the film Jaws: Duh-duh…duh-duh…duh-duh,duh-duh,duh-duh-duh! It builds suspense even when nothing particularly frightening is happening on screen. The music alone tells you something bad is about to happen and evokes a mood that makes the appearance of a deadly shark even more terrifying! Soundtrack to Life Or think of a man and […]

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Kinesthetic Grammar Activities: Getting Grammar on the Move!

We’re thrilled to be publishing a book on Kinesthetic Grammar Activities from Alice Savage and Colin Ward. Kinesthetic grammar is a great way to practice language dynamically. The benefits are many: Vary the pace of the classroom Help teach nonverbal language and gesture in communication Activate embodied mind and improve the memorability of target grammar Build classroom community! I’ve included an excerpt from Alice and Colin’s wonderful blog post. I highly recommend checking out the full post, which includes some example activities. Then come back here and check out the book, 60 Kinesthetic Activities! We often talk about “grammar […]

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Storytelling for EFL Students

Storytelling is an important skill for EFL students to learn. In fact, being able to tell a story is a helpful human skill as we are constantly constructing narratives to explain what we are doing, to persuade others, to ask for help, to offer advice. Many EFL students have trouble improvising fluently though. It’s hard to tell a story, remember the right words, get your grammar correct, and speak comprehensibly all in a foreign language. So students need a lot of practice telling a story and doing so fluently, without much hesitation. So we’re giving away one of Cristian’s […]

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Public Speaking in English is Scary. Drama Can Help

Poor Emilio! He seemed like such a confident student, but when he had to give a talk in front of the class, he ran to the bathroom and was sick. Emilio’s case might be extreme, but according to the psychologist, Michelle Lynsky, public speaking is one of the most terrifying experiences of modern life, and that’s for people performing in their first language. To feel confident, speakers need to feel the audience is on their side. For this to happen, they need believe that a) they have something interesting to say, b) that the audience will understand it, and […]

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Are You Teaching the Hidden Grammar of Conversation?

We’re excited to a brand-new series, Adrift, a four-episode video drama and accompanying coursebook for learners created by Chasing Time English for C1+/advanced language learners. The videos (available for free on the Chasing Time English site) provide engaging input for natural language as well as demonstrating how body language, gesture, facial expression, and voice are used to communicate non-verbally. And the story line will get students talking as if it were their new favorite TV show: A man wakes up in a mysterious room. An unknown agent interrogates him about his last job, a job that went wrong, unbeknownst […]

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How to Put on a Play in Class

The benefits of drama in the English classroom are surprising. Students learn and practice a variety of acting skills, using their bodies and voices to make meaning. When they put on a play, what to say is given to them so they can focus on how to say it. Speaking with emotion and attitude are skills we don’t always find in our coursebooks. And when students act a role, it’s a sort of safe space where they can make mistakes. Plays are also usually written in natural language so they are a wealth of idioms and conversational expressions. They are […]

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Conversational Moves

So many speaking materials focus on micro-language: application of a grammatical form, pronunciation of a syllable, maybe memorization of a useful phrase. But students do not get much scaffolding for a macro-approach that integrates larger elements of language such as longer turns, or whole sections of a conversation with a particular purpose or theme. Richard Swales talked about analyzing written work in terms of rhetorical moves, or places where we start new sections with a new objective. We can apply the same analysis to conversations, showing students different ways we perform conversational moves such as, starting a conversation, engaging in […]

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