In association with Pilgrims Limited
*  Would you like to receive publication updates from HLT? Join our free mailing list
Pilgrims 2005 Teacher Training Courses - Read More
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching

Talking to Yourself in English

Mario Rinvolucri, UK

Mario Rinvolucri, is a Pilgrims associate, who co-authored around 20 EFL methodology books between 1974 and 2010. Nearly all his collaborators were strongly Pilgrims-connected and they have ensured that these books are rich and multi-focussed.


The ideas
For more...


The set of ideas, drawn from the work of Chris Sion, a prolific writer in the early days of Pilgrims, is around the huge area of self-talk or inner monologue and dialogue. Sion's work offers ways of engaging the student in foreign language learning via their intra-personal intelligence. In my own case the setting for such inner talk is often when driving, in a warm bath or when walking for my own pleasure.

Chris, as you might guess, was an inward-turned person and a great reader of philosophy and psychology. ( Sadly he died of a brain tumour at the turn of the century- Pilgrims is much the weaker for his loss.)

Let me cut the cackle and share his short, sweet, sharp ideas. Thhey can be used in class at first and then set as homework.

The ideas

  1. Look around you and count everything you can see in the room, like curtains, light bulbs, coffee cups etc... . Do this quietly to yourself in English. You may want to do it silently, speaking purely mentally or maybe mumbling half aloud. You may want to look up things you can't yet name in English. Stop the exercise before your dreamy attention wavers.
  2. If you come from a language that has no TH sound you might want try repeating a number sequence like this one:

  3. If you already know a children's poem, a ditty or a song in English, shut your eyes and silently recite it or sing it to yourself.
  4. Mentally list some the words or phrases that you particularly like in English. As you do it,marvel at why you have these quirky likings. Do the same with words and phrases you feel negative about.
  5. Look at yourself in a hand mirror, or gaze at a selfie and start a silent dialogue with yourself.
    Listen to the you in the mirror/selfie's responses. Mumble your part of the dialogue in silent English.
  6. Summon up a mental picture of a person you like, a good friend. Gaze at the person silently.
    Think of what makes them happy and tell yourself in silent English what sort of things you would like to do over a day to make them feel really happy. Describe these things in a really soft inner voice.
  7. Think of a recent short conversation you had in your mother tongue with some one.
    Now replay it internally as best you can in English.....if you can't find a word or phrase leave it blank.Repeat this English version of the conversation several times, changing and modifying as you go. You will find that this inner text gets more flexible and fluent as you repeat it. Nobody can judge you when you speak within! You are free of the teacher...
  8. Think of some one who once did something kind to you but whom you never managed to thank. Thinking in,conjure up what you would like to say to this your gratitude for what they did for you, imagining that English is their favourite language.
  9. Maybe you have been clumsy with somebody, maybe you said something to them that you are sorry about. Imagine they are now with you. Using English, mumble your apology.
  10. Mentally list any opposites you can bring to mind: eg light/dark, long/short, Godly/demonic/overbearing/self-negating etc...... Say the pairs to yourself silently, colouring each word the way you feel it.
  11. Mentally list things that seem complementary to each other , eg: mother/daughter,wheel/hub, river/source, thief/policeman etc...As you say them to yourself notice just how they complement each other.
  12. Think of a person in your family you often argue with. Bring back to mind a recent argument. With the help of English create more ways of convincing them your view is right!
  13. Think of the bridges you can remember. Choose one of them you like, for whatever reason.Since this bridge speaks English tell the bridge what you like about it.
  14. List a few things that you find adorable and sweet. Silently explain why you have chosen these things. Now mentally list things you find revolting. Explain why you feel this way. ( this idea is taken from The Pillow book of Sei Shonagon, a tenth century AD Japanese court lady.)
  15. Try talking to yourself in English internally

    very fast and then very slowly
    very deep, and then veryhigh
    sadly and then happily
    as if you were big and asif you were small
    pushily and then very gently etc......
  16. Tell yourself jokes you know. Pay attention to the way you pace the joke in English....get the punchline right. Tell the joke to yourself several times until you feel you have mastered it.
  17. Let a scene from the past drift back into mind. Imagine you are describing it to a person who knew you then. Enjoy the scene and their company.

For more...

Both Chris Sion and Bernard Dufeu suggest that a good way of "revising" a lesson is to allow seven to eight minutes at the end of the lesson for

  1. a short relaxation exercise
  2. the suggestion that the students close their eyes and allow the lesson, or the good bits of it, to re-play on their mental screens.

Some of them may well want to talk to themselves about moments in the lesson, some may want to savour new words and phrases learnt etc......

In this short text I have been able to give you a little sniff of what Sion is proposing.
To find out more you might want to google "Chris Sion + talking to yourself"
Chris has left us two books:

Talking to yourself in English - an Alternative approach to EFL Advanced Published 1993 by Training Etc, Netherlands


Talking to yourself in English - an Alternative approach to EFL Intermediate, 1993, Training Etc, Netherlands. (which you can also download from epub)

Other books include:

Recipes for tired teachers, Alta Book Centre Publishers, Cal, 2004, (first published in the 80's by Addison Wesley). More recipes for tired teachers, Addison Wesley, 1991. Creating conversation in class, Delta Books 2002.


Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Back Back to the top

    Website design and hosting by Ampheon © HLT Magazine and Pilgrims Limited