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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 4; Issue 3; May 02


Mario Rinvolucri

Teach English and Individualism, reads the main slogan of an advertisement inserted by the British Council in a recent issue of the London based EF Gazette.
The advert copy continues:
At the British Council we aim to employ English language teachers from a mix of backgrounds and ages. In this way we'll send out signals that in Britain we believe in the right of individuals to pursue their particular lifestyle.

If a Japanese person enrols in a B. Council English language course in Kyoto are we sure that they really want to learn how to become "an individualist" despite belonging to a highly successful , group-oriented, Confucian culture?

Does the above slogan represent UK foreign policy, since the British Council is partly financed by a grant-in-aid from the UK Foreign Office?

When I read Teach English and Individualism I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Is this really part of the mission of us 5 million people who teach E nglish as a foreign language? A balder statement of UK cultural imperialism would be hard to find.

The Portonovo Conference

If you happen to want to spend 4 days by the Adriatic sea in Italy, Portonovo is the place for you from August 28th 31st 2002. I challenge you to find a stronger animation team in the area of EFL methodology than this year's Portonovo bunch:
Alan Maley, Lucilla Lopriore, Eva Jonai, Nick Owen, Luke Prodromou, Herbert Puchta, John Morgan, Mario Rinvolucri, Adrian Underhill, Jane Arnold and Jim Wingate.
It is rare to find this lot together in one place. Go to www.lend.it/portonovo2002/


If you want to learn more about individual words the Wordsmith site is a very good place to visit: www.wordsmith.org/words. So, where does the word quack come from? This is a bit of what Wordsmith had to say about this on May 24th, 2002:

From the obselete Dutch ( now kwakzalver) from quack ( boast) + salve ( ointment).

Did the quackslaver hawk their concoctions of quicksilver ( mercury) as a panacea to earn the name quacksalver. While the connection with quicksilver is enticing, it's their duck-like behaviour while peddling the snake oil that gave us this colourful synonym for charlatan..

This issue of HLT

And now it is time to welcome you to the May Issue of HLT.

Apart from Lesson Outlines, Old Exercise and Teacher Resource Book Preview which , by the their nature, offer you exercises to take into class, two out of the three major articles this time are highly practical:

In The Burden Basket, Michael Berman offers you a range of stories to read or tell your students and suggests pre- and post- telling classwork. If you want a constant flow of stories to use with students then you may want to go to Michael's tale site: www.thestoryteller.org.uk

In Part 2 of Brain Gym, Tom Maguire offers you a set of simple physical exercises to do with your students. Part 1 of his article gives you a very full rationale for the use of these activities, that have proved useful with students with behaviour disorders, dyslexia and the like. Brain Gym seems an elegantly simple tool for dealing with very complex learning states.

Under Short Article you will find the second instalment of Lou Spaventa's reflections on teaching , The Heart of the Matter 2, as well as a piece from Paraguay on morality in teaching: Bending Rules.

My own report on a teacher Trade Union meeting Are Exams Child Abuse? links strongly with the fierce and balanced attack on exams by a UK 18 year-old in Student Voices : I have been robbed of the chance to enjoy my subjects.

The second student voice, A Student in Mourning echoes the Paraguayan article in showing how it can be a teacher's duty to bend or modify rules.

Pilgrims Course Outlines tells you how marvellous the July-August Teacher Training courses in Canterbury, UK are ( this is the commercial bit of HLT! ) but also introduces you to a widely applicable NLP thinking framework.( Logical Levels- Bateson)

On the language side, Mike Rundell, Ideas from the Corpora, looks at the uses and limitations of pumping a lot of newspaper copy into a language database while Seth Lindstromberg, Sometimes against the Grain, explores the huge store of nautical English and its metaphorical uses.

In the leading Major Article, Peter Wilberg offers a powerful insight into the nature of listening, and on the way, he takes a refreshing sideswipe at the manner, in his view, in which NLP philosophy perverts and reduces listening.

An editorial aside: in working on this issue I have become aware that my policy of very light editing of what people write results in HLT being a genuine vehicle of international English, of people from many different L1's and cultures using English to express their own cultural mindsets, their own way of feeling , their own values. Compare for example a Scandinavian voice in Autonomy in Adult Education with its clarity, its simple words, its rather oral quality, to the Latin voice in Readers' Letters, with its heart quality, its lyricism, and its more complex syntax.

Both pieces of writing take me to the lands of their authors , to the values and feelings of those lands, and they do this through the medium of English, so wrought as to convey all this. Marvellous! Thank you, Monica Cardholm and Marina Fraga!

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