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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 5; Issue 3; September 03


Mario Rinvolucri

I experience many different types of pleasure in editing HLT but a serious joy I have felt in editing this September 2003 issue is the breadth of opinion among the writers of the magazine.

In Major Article 2 Antony Bamber launches a fierce attack on the COMMON EUROPEAN FRAMEWORK ( CEF), lashing out particularly at the negative effects he feels it has had in EFL classrooms in Italy. His attack is important, as 75 million people from the Baltic to the Eastern Mediterranean prepare to become citizens of the European Union, and as EFL teachers from Poland to Cyprus prepare to get to grips with the CEF.
In Short Article 1 Sue Hackett from Dublin, analyses the principles behind a marvellous new Irish exam that uses the CEF to supply its level framework.
Sue takes the CEF for granted, as one might do with the weather.
She stresses that the new exam gives test takers a load of initiative that is denied them by more conservative tests and claims that the new Dublin exam, TIE, is a genuinely humanistic exam with outstandingly positive classroom backwash.

While Sue Hackett champions a new concept of what a test should be, in Major Article 3, Coping with exam stress, Judy Churchill accepts the constraints of traditional tests as facts of life and looks at ways of preparing students to deal with their miseries. She speaks from her own personal experience of suffering bad exam stress.
Sue and Judy come to the sad defects of most testing from quite different angles.

What is the point of exams that qualify people for certain types of job, asks David Young in Short Article 3, if academic cheating is rife, as he asserts it is in Poland?
Could it be that test cheating is rife across the World? At an ELT conference in Canberra in October 2002 I watched exam board officials strenuously deny that IELTS candidates in China were dab hands at cheating. In their situation, what else could the exam guys do but deny, deny and deny again?
Don't we cheat in UK? A year ago the Guardian Newspaper listed “26 steps to better results.” Here are some of the ways in which primary teachers, the paper says, rig the conduct and thus the results of state tests in UK:

  • Silently indicating to children if they have got a question wrong by grimacing or head shaking. A nod means the answer is correct.
  • Tapping children's exam scripts to indicate an answer is wrong.
  • Reading out the questions with meaningful intonations
  • Opening the exam paper early and going over certain questions with the class before starting the test.
  • Becoming a marker in order to see the tests in advance


Not only do HLT writers hold strongly differing opinions about a wide range of topics, they also present their readers with spectrum of different styles, which, I guess, are often culturally determined.
At one end of a spectrum you have an Italian writer deeply influenced by French thinking, who writes in long, complex sentences and who aims to fully explore what she is thinking and writing about. This would be the case of Enrica Piccardo in Major Article 4, Creative Computing in EFL. At the other end of this spectrum a Dutch writer expresses herself with such concision that I feel forced to add explanatory words here and there. Here I refer to Betsie Scheper van Loon 's piece on Intervision, Short Article 6.
To me as a reader, there is real pleasure in the totally different ways that Betsie and Enrica's minds think and write, coming, as they do from very different rhetorical mindsets. I have no wish to editorially homogenise or iron out such differences.

In Major Article 1, Does English have a future? A UK professor delivers an inaugural lecture which he has artfully written to sound spoken, while in Short Article 7 Jim Wingate uses a welter of two and three line paragraphs to attack linguistic imperialism and Corpus linguistics.

Enough of my excitement at HLT's writers' ways of writing English.
Many of you come to HLT for practical, classroom ideas and this issue is packed with them.
In Major Article 5 Hanna Kryszewska offers you close on a dozen lexical chunking exercises.
In this issue Ideas from the Corpora brings you practical classroom activities, devised by John Morgan and to appear in his revised edition of Vocabulary, that OUP will be bringing out in April 2004.
An Old Exercise deals with a really humanistic form of both teaching and correction: Re-formulation, and Peter Wilberg explains the thinking behind this technique.
Teacher's Resource Book Preview let's you into Gill Johnson's thinking on how to arm students to understand a foreign culture. Half a dozen rich exercises here.

Time passes and I cannot expect people to either read or write for HLT for ever.
Yet it is with regret that I have to let you know that Michael Rundell, who has written nearly 30 articles for Ideas from the Corpora, is so snowed under with projects that he cannot continue the column. He says, though, that he will let us read occasional pieces.

Michael, thank you for having been HLT's most prolific writer over the past five years of our existence. Your articles have brought me fascinating and good-to-read news from an area of thinking that I cannot, as a language teacher, afford to ignore.
I hope your work helping to build up and expand the corpus of Irish English is really successful. A thousand thanks to you!

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