ELF 5 Part 3 – Learners, Materials, Idiomaticity & Pronunciation

Claudia Borghetti spoke on ‘Language versus Intercultural Learning through ELF Interactions: Higher Education Students’ Perspectives’.

Emphasising that NS might not know how language works, let alone how to explain the rules to others, Claudia states that if one feels less judged by their use of English, it would affect their confidence and ability to use English positively. She then goes on to outline the use of Byron’s criteria of measuring intercultural competence in terms of attitude, knowledge, skills and awareness, showing that a successful intercultural speaker is one that is able to negotiate meaning, take an external perspective of oneself and adapt.


Reiko Takahashi was up next with her presentation ‘English as a Lingua Franca in a Japanese context: An analysis of ELF-Oriented Features in Teaching Materials and the Attitudes of Japanese Teachers and Learners of English to ELF-Oriented Materials’.


Using the following criteria, Takahashi measures how ELF-Oriented the materials used in Secondary and High School English education in Japan:

  1. Number of characters featured that are from outer circle and non-Japanese expanding circle countries;
  2. Number of words uttered by these characters;
  3. Use of either outer or expanding circle country other than Japan as location for dialogues;
  4. Type of communication existing between NNSs with no NSs.


It was found that some of the materials in Japanese coursebook indeed featured outer circle English usage, illustrating with an example that showed the use of Singlish, with a focus on how Singlish is more simplified than English, e.g. ‘Cheaper, can or not?’


Although NNS characters are found in Japanese coursebooks, no NNS varieties were found in the audio materials.
In a survey, most students wanted to have more of a variety of nationalities in their coursebooks (e.g. 1 NNS, 1NS and 1 Japanese in conversation).


However, Japanese teachers expressed fears about including ‘non-standard’ varieties as it might be dangerous, or not needed by high school students.


Purposes of using ELF-oriented materials or introducing ELF features should thus be clearly communicated, and students should know that they are not to be imitated but are there for the purpose of awareness raising and exposure.


Takahashi’s conclusion seemed to favour the use of NS-normative standards in the language used in coursebooks, while featuring a variety of characters from different countries.


After a break, Valeria Franceschi gave a talk on ‘Culturally-loaded language and ELF: Idiomaticity in Cross-cultural student interaction in university settings’.


In examining a sample of 130 tokens, of which 103 types of idiomatic language had been identified (phrasal verbs and routine formulae were excluded from her definition of ‘idioms’), she demonstrated the following by categorizing idioms into social functions, communicative strategies and managing content (not ELF-related):

  • Frequent use of pragmatic markers noticed (kind of, like, something, something like that), and often used as a distancing device;
  • Idiom use was related to re-phrasing in communicative strategies: Repetition and rephrasing was used to increase explicitness;
  • Idioms were used to reinforce concepts, for topic introduction (cataphora), for gettings attention, and for buying the speaker time to think;
  • Idioms were used to mitigate criticism and potential face threats, and controversial topics;
  • Idioms used to build solidarity and social cohesion, often through use of humour;
  • These findings coincide with the VOICE corpus findings that pragmatic markers tend to cluster around the use of idioms.

Franceschi also found that speakers often signaled comprehension by backchannelling, and backchannel items were frequent in the data;

In the Q&A to Franceschi’s session, Mauranen  commented that if we relax our criteria as to what we consider idioms, we would see creative language use everywhere.  Marie-Luise Pitzl then questions how we draw the line between what is idiomatic and what isn’t and suggests that this line on its own could be seen as NS-normative.


Valeria Franceschi on Idiomaticity

The day ended for me with Milan Stanojevic’s research findings in her talk ‘Profiles of Successful and Less Successful Learners of English Pronunciation in Croatian Primary Schools’.


She found that…

Best pronouncers (using the Lingua France Core as a basis for measurement) were:

  • Not always the most highly motivated;
  • Knows what L1 Englishes there are;
  • Are aware of Global English;
  • Have extensive exposure to external sources such as uses of Web 2.0 tools e.g. Facebook, where they can interact and produce English.


Meanwhile, the less successful pronouncers were:

  • Not particularly motivated;
  • Completely unaware of inner circle Englishes (They think that English = England and that’s it);
  • Unaware of Global English;
  • Have only passive exposure to English, e.g. through songs and film.


Milan Stanojevic on Pronunciation

Suggesting future research possibilities that look into the question of whether a successful learner = a successful speaker, Stanojevic then goes on to ponder a question from the audience as to whether students from her monolingual Croatian class would use different pronunciation features when talking to other people who do not have the same L1, leaving the audience to think about the accommodation skills of our students when put in an intercultural scenario.


A full day of useful research findings and lots to think about…

But meanwhile, I must go worry about the findings of my own research that I will be presenting tomorrow morning…


No one has cracked a joke or shared a personal anecdote in the presentations I have seen today…this is a far cry from the TEFL talks that I am used to…


Do I tweak my presentation so that I do it straight-laced?

Or should I stay as the mad hyperactive Chia that the TEFL world is more used to seeing?


Funny how I am often told that I am too academic in the TEFL world, and now I feel like I am not academic enough…


Neither here nor there…

A familiar feelings of diaspora sets in…

Or is it just nerves?

ELF 5 Part 2 – Teacher Education

The gorgeous view from the conference centre at Bogaziçi University

The elective sessions  at ELF5 are grouped into blocks of 2/3 speakers, each with about 30 minutes to present their research.

For the first elective session of the day, I chose 3 sessions on Teacher Education and ELF.

First up was Marie-Luise Pitzl’s talk – Preparing teachers for an ELF future: What we CAN tell them. Having read quite a few articles by Marie-Luise Pitzl, I found myself quite star-struck to sitting in front of her.

Quoting Dewey (2007), Pitzl reminds us that we can no longer regard language norms as fixed, pre-determined, and tied to a particular geographical or cultural centre, and that teachers should adopt a different approach to ELT, reassessing the way we select materials, methods, and approaches to testing, and promoting a pluralistic approach to competence and a flexible view of language.

On one hand, you have a global phenomenon,

And on the other, local contexts and local conditions.

And it is thus important to raise awareness amongst teachers and teacher trainees of this sociolinguistic reality and its teaching implications.

Marie-Luise Pitzl

Here, Pitzl outlines the ELF component of here teacher training course.


  1. Familiarising sts with core concepts (ENL, ESL, EFL, World Englishes, ELF, lang variation, variety, speech community)
  2. Intro some descriptive ELF findings and linking them to ELF local contexts.
  3. Raising awareness of what an ELF perspective might mean for ELT – shifting perspectives
  4. Giving sts the opportunity to try out diff cooperative teaching methods.
  5. Triggering reflective processes (on predominant NS models, own experience, own ideals, goals and standards discrepancies, challenges)

Course schedule

  1. Into and organizational matters
  2. The roles of English today – past and present developments, models for international English
  3. World English : Basic notions
  4. The ownership of English : From ENL, ESL, EFL, to ELF
  5. ELF description 1: Phonological characteristics – Intelligibility, the Lingua Franca Core and suggestions for teaching
  6. ELF Description 2: Lexico-grammatical characteristics: Processes of language variation and change (Jigsaw method)
  7. Implications for the conceptualization of ELF – variety
  8. Implications for ELT – Teaching ELF?
  9. ELF Pragmatics and Basic notions
  10. ELF Pragmatics : Negotiation of meaning and strategies for achieving understanding
  11. ELF Pragmatics: Correctness, effectiveness and multilingual repertoires
  12. ELF Pragmatics: Idioms, metaphors and metaphorical awareness
  13. ELF, teacher identity and communities of practice.

Activities used include Jigsaw activity (lexicogrammar, Interviews (teacher identity), Roleplays, etc.

Next up was Lili Cavalheiro on Bringing New ELT Policies and ELF to Teaching Training Courses.


Lili Cavalheiro

Aims for teaching ELF

  • To challenge the appropriateness of the NS model
  • Reconsider the inner circle as no longer providing the only adequate cultural content and the need to include materials from one’s own source culture
  • Critically analyse the cultural content and reflect on one’s own culture in relation to that of others as a crucial exercise.

While emphasizing the NNS teachers’ advantage of sharing common cultures and common goals with their learners, Cavalheiro reiterates Tim McNamara’s point made at the opening plenary about the inappropriacy of CEF descriptors, giving the following example:

C2 – Appreciates fully the sociolinguistics and sociocultural implications of language used by NSs and can react accordingly.

She then goes on to remind us of Seidlhofer (2011) paper on CEF’s lack of differentiation between the study of modern languages and EFL and ELF.

Still referencing Seidlhofer (2011), Cavalheiro then suggests that on a macro-level, teacher training courses should not only look at the nature of language and communication through language awareness, but also through communication strategies, intercultural communication, and sociolinguistics.

On a micro-level, we should take our teacher trainees’ context into consideration and develop a curriculum that fits into a more general framework of communication.

Last but not least, we should help trainees develop critical thinking of materials, and help them with not just what materials are being used, but how they are used.

The third presenter was Lucilla Lopriore speaking about ELF and Early Language Learning: Multi-lingualism, Language Policies and teacher Education

Lucilla Lopriore


Early introduction of English to YLs mean plurilingualism. This means that classrooms will no longer be monolingual.

Parents want a NS teacher because they think it means their kids would pick up the ‘right’ pronunciation.

Multilingualism in Europe

The primary classroom population in Europe is mainly multilingual and multicultural.

The realities of early language learning implementation vary widely due to variety of factors:

  • National language policies
  • The assumption that earlier is better
  • Parental pressure
  • New media (access to foreign lang through the internet)
  • NNS teachers
  • Emerging new literacies

(Hoffman 2000, Edelenbos et al 2006 etc)

She appropriately draws the 3 sessions to a close with a quote from Henry Widdowson (2012):

The first step is to raise awareness of teachers that there is an alternative way of thinking about the subject they teach, based on an understanding of English as a lingua franca. We need to overhaul our descriptive systems and deconstruct our established concepts…and this involves quite a radical re-thinking about the relationship between what we know about the language and what we do with it…between the teaching and learning of the language as a subject.’

ELF 5 Part 1 – Opening Plenary by Tim McNamara

Opening the conference : Music as a Lingua Franca

The ELF conference starts today in Istanbul, Turkey, at the gorgeous Bogazici University.

After a smooth registration and a few welcoming opening speeches, Professor Tim McNamara delivers his opening plenary on Assessment and ELF.

Here is a summary.

Previously, much has been written about ELF and testing.

Jenkins (2006) challenged Cambridge in resisting implications of ELF.

Taylor (2006) wrote about the difficulties and challenges with applying ELF to testing.

Leung & Jenkins have recently stressed again the importance of recognizing ELF in language testing (in press).

Critique on how criteria of language testing has acted as a roadblock has also been articulated by Seidlhofer.


Here are some surprising descriptions in the CEF descriptions

B2       Conversation – Can sustain relationship with NS without unintentionally amusing or irritating them or requiting them to behave other than they would with a NS.

B2       Informal Discussion with Friends – Can keep up with an animated discussion between NS.

Whole section on ‘Understanding conversation between NS’ in CEFR, with no description for those of A1 level (as if to say forget about it).

Assumptions are that

–       The interlocutors are assumed to be NS

–       The responsibility for successful communication is held to lie with the NNS

–       English treated only as a foreign language, like other foreign languages (Seidlhofer, 2011)


What would ELF test look like (Harding, 2011)

–       Ability to tolerate and comprehend diff varieties of English

–       Abiltiy ot negotiate meaning

–       Ability to use Phonological features crucial for intelligibility

–       Awareness of appropriate pragmatics

–       Ability to accommodate

These are reflected in ICAO language proficiency requirements

Because international aviation is an ELF setting,

And air traffic controller communication with pilot, either of whom may be NNS.

Simultaneous communication going on between single air traffic controller and several pilots.

Recognition of ELF character of communication : compulsory requirements

1. Standard radiotelephony phraseology: Standardized set of words and phrases for use in all routine communication (restricted language)

2. Plain language:

  • The spontaneous creative and non-coded use of a given natural language used only when standardized phraseology cannot serve an intended transmission.
  • User with high prof must accommodate their uses of English
  • Use of a lot of repetition verbatim e.g. readback and hearback

ICAO’s analysis of language as a factor in fatal avaiation accidents

–       incorrect use of standardized phraseology

–       lack of plain language prof

–       the use of more than one language in the same airspace
Thus ICAO prof test policy

Criteria : Pronunciation, structure, vocab, fluency, comprehension and interactions.

If NS, then immediately highest level and not need to test

Lack of faith in validity of tests and policy

Doing the ICAO tests in


–       Test content in multiple versions published online

–       Repeated attempts allowed until version prepared for appeared

–       All personnel now compliant


–       Professionally made test for Level 4 rejected

–       80% of personnel would lose jobs

–       Easier test used

–       All personnel now complaint

Study into miscommunication (fatal!) in Korea

–       Miscommunication due to failure of NS to adhere to ICAO policies

–       Use of fixed phrases vs spontaneous speech

–       Accent, word choice, speed of NS pilots.

–       Preference of Korean pilots for communicating with  Japanese ATCs, *(because the Japanese adhere to ICAO convention with  meticulous precision) cf problems in US,  e.g.LAX

–       Miscommunication often due to NS waffling, or lack of professional competence (he didn’t know about the adjacent airways).

–       An experienced controller is able to know what is happening with just one word.

Tim McNamara on Professional Competence affecting Communicative Effectiveness

Lack of validity with ICAO prof tests (and designers are NSs)

Strong performance criteria

–       Judging performance against real-world criteria

–       Incorporating ability for use (Hymes 1972)

–       Testing all participants (NS and NNS)

Weak performance criteria:

–       Focus on lang prof alone, narrowly conceived

–       Judging against lang criteria only

–       e.g. using ELF stimulus material in listening

–       cf Korean pilots pre for new destinations by listening to Vietnamese voices.

Tests need to:

–       Define difficulty/ability measurement continuum

–       The more challenging the task that a person can manage, the higher their ability.

–       Ability and difficulty are measured on a single scale

–       Cf high jump – ability expressed in terms of the height of the bar.

Test takers need to :

–       Negotiate

–       Deal with variation

–       Accommodate

–       Repair

–       But traditional criteria still used

–       Issue of pairing –cf diving – build in ‘degree of difficulty’?

–       Issue of distinguishing contributions of individuals for score reporting purposes.

Assessing NS Perf

–       Research on NS performance on communicative tests (Most NS can’t get 9 on IELTS)

–       Problem of requiring NS to be tested

–       Problem of motivation – hospital example – assessment of moral qualities.


Thinking about testing and ELF raises broader issue in language testing: performance tests.

Cost and complexity of performance tests have seen return of indirect measures. E.g. in Pearson Test of automated assessment of speech – NS norms central

There are constructive directions in language testing research which can inform ELF testing

But change won’t happen without a struggle – we may be in for a long wait


At the end of his talk, Ana Mauranen says the issue of testing NSs is a valid one, so as to ensure equal starting point.

Tim McNamara answers: NS have a strong political & social advantage so do not expect them to give it up without a fight.

Another audience member asks how he seems to be talking about specific purpose testing. But what about general English testing?

His answer: We can apply specific purpose context to general context. e.g. emphasis on communicative competence, ability to accommodate with our language use and accents, etc.

And with this opening plenary, ELF5 is now in full swing…


My introductory post with ELT Knowledge

ELT Knowledge is the website that houses the big ELT journals like ETp (English Teaching Professional) and MET (Modern English Teacher), and archives the previous issues of each journal.

And I am ever so privileged to be blogging for them!

Click here to read my first introductory post about Continual Professional Development (CPD)!

The Teach-Off – Student Questionnaire Findings

A Teach-Off-less classroom
Photo by Shelly Terrell


The Teach-Off feels like something that happened a decade ago.

As intense as it was when it was taking place, the end of it has suddenly left a gap in my life.

But yet, it has far from ended. For now, the fun begins…

It has taken some time for me to compile these results (thank you for your patience) and in the spirit of full disclosure, here are the answers to the questionnaires that we carried out.

I have left out the description and the rationale behind the research methodology (which will be published in an article elsewhere), but suffice to say that this piece of research is purely qualitative and seeks to obtain as full a description of experiences and perceptions of their Dogme and coursebook-based lessons as possible.

I have also avoided drawing any conclusions as yet because I was hoping that you the reader might formulate your own conclusions as you read this. If so, please do contribute in the comments section.

The following student questionnaire was given out to students twice. Once at the end of 2 weeks of Dogme lessons, and again at the end of two weeks of the Coursebook-based lessons.

…………………………………………………………………..Yes                                       No






1. The course was well-organised.
2. The teacher was well-prepared.
3. The topics were interesting.
4. The language covered was useful and easy to    understand.
5. I felt motivated to learn and to speak English.
6. I learned a lot of new things on this course.
7. I am happy with the progress I made in this course.

There were 9 respondents to the 2 weeks of Dogme lessons, and 10 respondents to the 2 weeks of coursebook lessons. 2 out of the 10 were new students that were not present during the Dogme phase.

Although these numbers are not enough for the qualitative data to be in any way statistically reliable, here are the answers to the above questionnaire.

Remembering that (1) is the extreme end of ‘yes’ and (5) the extreme end of ‘no’:




1. The course was well-organised. 6/9  answered (1)

3/9 answered (2)

4/10 answered (1)

5/10 answered (2)

1/10 answered (3)

2. The teacher was well-prepared. 9/9 answered (1) 8/10 answered (1)

2/10 answered (2)

3. The topics were interesting. 7/9 answered (1)

1/9 answered (2)

1/9 answered (3)

5/10 answered (1)

2/10 answered (2)

3/10 answered (3)

4. The language covered was useful and easy to understand. 7/9 answered (1)

2/9 answered (2)

3/10 answered (1)

5/10 answered (2)

1/10 answered (3)

1/10 left it blank

5. I felt motivated to learn and to speak English. 6/9 answered (1)

3/9 answered (2)

6/10 answered (1)

2/10 answered (2)

2/10 answered (3)

6. I learned a lot of new things on this course. 7/9 answered (1)

2/9 answered (2)

7/10 answered (1)

3/10 answered (2)

7. I am happy with the progress I made in this course. 7/9 answered (1)

2/9 answered (2)

6/10 answered (1)

3/10 answered (2)

1/10 answered (3)


More importantly, the qualitative data from the comments that students wrote to the questions provided a more in depth description of how they perceived their experience with both Dogme and the coursebook.

What did you like best about this course?  



‘I like discussions with my partner. I don’t like to speak English. But I had a good opportunity to speak and explain something.’

‘Probably I’m increased vocab and speaking, and all English skill.’

‘I always study like a game, specially vocabulary. It’s really interesting and makes me fun.’

‘I learned a useful words and grammars.’

‘I liked the dynamic of the course, the activities that were applicated in practice.’

‘The way to improve my listening the conten and vocabulary revise with white boards.’

‘My teacher teach us like a game. Teachs me many vocabulary that I need in out real life. My teacher give me confidence to speak English.’

‘To listen about Tesco many times (until we all understood).’

‘I learned a lot of many useful vocabularies.’

‘I could get various experiences. Speaking skill is increased.’

‘The kind of teach, the patience and security to teach from the teachers’

‘The book has good topics and difficult things.’

‘To learn things that I can use in my professional life, expressions, etc.’

‘I’ve learned that I don’t have interest things. For example: political things, etc…’

‘Ms Varinder is so nice. Speaking clearly, beautifully. And I met many friends from different countries, that was very good experience for me.’‘To use coursebook is more organised than not to use it. I can review using the course book.’

‘It teaches us more grammar.’

‘The teacher’s teaching style is really engaging for the whole group of people, it leads students to interact with each other and with the teacher herself.’

‘Varinder teach me what a fun, what a happy read a book in this class. It’s my best happy things.’


How was it different from your previous learning experience?  



‘In Japan, we had never speaked in English. I don’t know the reason. At first, I was surprised. I didn’t know what happened every lessons. But it’s very good.’

‘Previous class was not interesting. Chia’s teaching is participate in class.’

‘When use the textbook, I take a time to solve the question. But you don’t use it, so always thinking about something in English.’

‘Previous course was strict. Only books.’‘A course without a script motivated me to study at home and learn more out of the school ambiance.’‘It’s more dynamic and our lesson make me more interested.’

‘In my previous learning experiences, I learnt something but I forgot them very soon.’

‘In Japan, never speak each other. Never make sentence. Never listen. Never had a teacher as friendly as you. Never as beautiful as you.’

‘The teaching was different, more bored. This was more fun and interactive.’

‘We’ve had two teachers. First I confused to learn to two ones. But they have a different talent. I’ve got a pleasing result.’

‘The school have a professional staff and this is enough for all the students improve the language. For me, the time spended here was perfect because, generally, I’ve spend just 3 hours/week in English classes in my country.’

‘Not so different, we have a book and we follow that.’

‘We followed a script on the book, but make different activities during the course.’

‘Everything! I usually study English with text book and remember vocabulary and do exam many times. I think it’s just for the score of exam.’

‘In my previous, in Japan, most important thing was grammar, but I thought hearing is the best way to learn English.’

‘To use course book is difficult for me. Many topics doesn’t familiar with me.’

‘It is better than my previous learning.’

‘Even though the class teamwork is extremely interactive, it is not competitive at all. Instead, it gives you the opportunity to get to know other nationalities people which have got lots of different accents.’

‘In Japan, there was not speaking, hearing, game… It’s a pain.’


The following question might have not been understood by some of the students and judging by some of their answers, some might have interpreted the question to mean, ‘What did your teacher do to help you learn more?’

What do you think the teacher could do differently to help you learn more?  



‘I think your teaching style is very nice. I had to speak somebody and listen to your speaking. I learned lots of things from you.’

‘Limited time. I learned a lot of vocabulary.’‘I think teacher was ready to answer any questions that I asked to her. So, she looked happy every day!’

‘More listening!’

‘I have no idea.’‘She teach how study more things.’

‘Maybe show more video for listening.’

‘I think, it’s good way. I can feel that they try to teach.’

‘In this case…nothing…she works very well.’

‘More dynamic. Maybe the book limit me to learn many thing and the class can’t be more dynamic.’

‘Use different resources, like video, audio, motivate us to watch/listen TV and radio programmes, etc.’

‘I think we can know more. If you use ‘for example’ when explain some vocabulary or sentence. It’s my opinion.’

‘I can’t understand this question, I’m sorry. How do I say that? Anyway, I’m satisfied with this class and my teacher.’

‘I think it was interesting. But it confused me.’

‘She is very good teacher. Very kind.’

‘She should check the homework.’

‘It is necessary to change teachers and method if we have to maintain the standard of teaching. I want to study more grammar.’



It seems as if many of the response to the following question after the ‘coursebook phase’ of the course were directed either at both teachers, or focused on the communicative element of the teaching methodology, rather than the ‘coursebook’ element of the course.

Please write a few comments on how you feel about this style of lesson.



‘I appreciate for your lesson. I understood how to learn Engish. I  must study to watch dramas, and speak more in English. Thanks very much. I’m looking forward to see you next week.’

‘I really like her teaching style, really!’‘Nothing special.’

‘The topic every day changed. Course was flexible. But sometimes I can’t learned deeply.’

‘Nowadays, I think that some methods of learn can be revised. This is the only way to make the students of the ‘new generation’ feel motivated to learn and study English at the class or at home.’

‘I think this is a good way to learn but when you are not in the same level as your colleagues, you learn the same things you’ve have been learned.’

‘I am very happy in this style.’

‘It’s interesting. It motivates me a lot. You are the first person that taught me how to study. The lesson about Tesco was interesting for me.’

‘I think is very interesting and not bored. More interactive with the student.’

‘I’m really lucky. I used to change teacher, when I thought that he wasn’t helpful. But two teachers very satisfied. Thank you.’

‘I really happy with I’ve found here. My expectative was less than the things I got. I believe that I’ll be back. Congratulations!!’

‘This style has been teaching for a long time and of course that is work. But nowadays we live in a very different world, maybe try a new style is good and we need to use the technology as an advantage. Many teachers don’t use the interactive board.’

‘I think that this style of lesson is interesting when is combinated with another kind of teaching, with interactive activities, speaking and writing activities in group or individual, etc.’

‘In IH, teachers teach me the way of English to use in our life. More comfortable and also for business. In my country, they teached me how to get a score in exam, it’s terrible. I impressed by you.’

‘I feel this style is exciting. If I tried other styled, I always thought with my mother tongue, but here I couldn’t. It’s the best way to understand English.’

‘Teaching style changed every 2 weeks. It confused me. But I think I could have a good opportunity to study English.’

‘It’s good style but the book can be more interesting with more interesting topic and subject.’

‘Although occasionally, it is difficult to follow what is happening in the lesson, it is without any doubts really engaging and put students in a comfortable atmosphere as soon as the start of the course. She encourages students to ‘dive in’ without being worried or afraid of making mistakes.’

‘With book. I love. For me it’s…easy study English if there is book. If there is book, one can maintain a continuation of teaching. One can maintain the quality and the standards. On the whole, I like the book, but I like the improvised class too. It’s very fun. I want to be give more handouts about grammar. Vocabulary I can study in Japan. I love it!’


From the answers to those questions, it seems that although it is easy to compare the maverick Dogme lesson to the learners’ previous learning experiences and for them to comment on this methodology and style of learning, the same questions asked regarding a coursebook lesson might get less-focused answers since the use of course books might not necessarily be anything new for the students. Thus, many answers tended to be about the teaching style and the communicative approach to teaching.

In order to get students comparing the two methods in a more focused way, we gave out another questionnaire, encouraging a comparative analysis.

There were 7 respondents, all of whom were present for both the Dogme and the coursebook phases. If you find that the total for any of the questions do not add up to 7, it is due to some questions not being answered.

Here are the results.

.1. I was more motivated to learn in the lessons…
(a) Using the coursebook  1/7

‘Because I think Dogme method make me more confidence that I can speak English good.’

(I suspect this student misunderstood the question)


(b) Without the coursebook  3/7

‘Because the teacher could feel what was more important in that moment.’

‘For Japanese, we learn many grammar and writing. I think without the coursebook has a lot of chance to speak.’

‘I am more motivated without the book. Because teacher give interesting things.’


(c) It depends 3/7

‘It depends of the theme that we talked about in the class: If I’m interested, I think it doesn’t matter.’

‘I think that people who want to go to university or work in the English speaking countries, they need to study English using coursebook and the grammar associated with each of the topics. I thought Dogme style teaching is good because it is more fluid and closes the gap.’


.2. I had more chances to speak and practise my English…


(a) using the coursebook 0/7


(b) without the coursebook 6/7

‘Because in Dogme method, I should push myself to speak in English so I try to use everything that I learned before.’

‘Because I could talk about things that I find more interesting.’

‘Using the coursebook is focused on grammar and writing.’

‘Until now, all the time I have been bound to the coursebook when I studied, so I’m interested in not using one.’

‘Because I could ask when I want. I could speak when I want.’


(c) It depends 1/7

‘It also depends of sometimes one method can instigate you more than the other.’


.3. I listen to the other students in the class more when…


(a) using the coursebook 0/7


(b) without the coursebook  4/7‘Because in Dogme, there is a challenge so all student try to speak.’

‘The teacher gave more opportunity because she didn’t have script.’

‘I think that course book makes the conversation difficult, because to follow a script.’

‘Because I could ask when I want. I could speak when I want.’


(c) It depends 2/7‘For Japanese, Dogme is the best way to study English. But people who come from other country, they want to learn another things’ (respondent is Japanese)


.4. I was more interested in the topics when…


(a) using the coursebook 1/7

I think that there are topics that I don’t want to learn but I need to learn them, so I should be forced to do it.’


(b) without the coursebook 4/7

‘Because I think the topics in Dogme method are more real. So I can use them in my life.’

‘Dogme use daily conversation.’

‘Chia could give us things that was interesting for us.’


(c) It depends  2/7

‘Sometimes in Dogme, we learn just things that we are interestd and with course book we must learn things that sometimes are boring but it is necessary like in real life we must learn thing that we don’t want.’

‘It depends on the theme.’



5. Conversations were more like real life conversations when…


(a) using the coursebook 1/7

‘A lot of chance to speak English.’


(b) without the coursebook 6/7

‘The book has things like ??? that we don’t talk about every day.’

‘Using the course book you are not instigated to learn how to speak in real life, expressions, etc.’

‘The teacher is always thinking of the students. Once we have a course book, there is too much time to think alone.’

‘Everyone speaks about real things.’


(c) It depends 0/7



6. The lexis/vocabulary I learnt was more useful for me when…


(a) using the coursebook 0/7


(b) without the coursebook 4/7

‘Because the vocabulary is used with our daily life but the vocabulary on course it’s necessary as well.’

‘Using the coursebook isn’t familiar with me.’

‘When not using the coursebook, we study more vocabulary.’


(c) It depends 3/7

‘Both methods helped me when it was necessary.’

‘For technical words, the coursebook is useful. For daily conversations and general vocabulary and phrases, Dogme is better.’



7. The grammar I learnt was more useful for me when…


(a) using the coursebook 3/7

‘Within grammar, especially the tenses are easier to study when using course book.’‘I don’t know why.’


(b) without the coursebook 0/7.
(c) It depends 4/7

‘In using the coursebook I learn more grammar. But dogme method can help me to use the grammar in my speaking.’

‘Both but without book is more natural.’

‘It depends of the theme of the day.’



8. Understanding the lexis and grammar was easier when…


(a) using the coursebook 2/7

‘The text book explains grammars.’


(b) without the coursebook 2/7

‘Without the coursebook, the teacher is not bound or restricted, so there is more time explanation I felt we were able to really explore the language more deeply.’


(c) It depends 3/7

The theme and the role of the class can make this easier or not.’

‘Grammar – with book. Vocabulary – without book. There is a risk that when not using the book, the class will study only vocabulary. Therefore, be careful.’



9. I remember the lexis and grammar more when…


(a) using the coursebook 1/7

‘The coursebook is organised to teach grammar.’


(b) without the coursebook 1/7

‘In this case, remember the expressions was easier without the book.’


(c) It depends 4/7


‘I believe it depends on my own effort.’

‘Grammar more – book; Lexis more – without book.’



10. I had more chances to practise the lexis and grammar I learnt when…


(a) using the coursebook 0/7


(b) without the couresbook 4/7

‘We could speak more.’

‘I want to learn how to speak English.’

‘It was simply more enjoyable and I could really enjoy the lesson.’


(c) It depends 2/7

‘The two methods have qualities.’

‘Grammar more – book; Lexis more – without book.’



11. I preferred the structure of the lesson when…

(a) using the coursebook 1/7

‘If Chia is teaching without the book, it’s good. Although she is young, she is talented and she is a genius. But normally, all the teachers teach with books, we can learn more things. For me, only Chia is able to teach without a book and not lose quality and standards of teaching. I don’t want other teachers and all the teachers to do it. They will lose direction easily.’


(b) without the coursebook 4/7

‘It depends on students. I want to know speaking and lots of words from daily conversations.’

‘The coursebook makes difficult when the theme is not interesting.’

‘More natural and dynamic.’


(c) It depends 1/7



12. I felt the teacher focused more on me and the students when…


(a) using the coursebook 1/7

‘Normally yes – using the coursebook. But Chia never gives us stress.’


(b) without the coursebook 3/7

The teacher don’t need to follow script.’

‘Because of the use of a script, only.’

‘Because it was a lesson focused on conversation, there was more time for real communication.’


(c) It depends 2/7



13. Are some coursebooks better for you than others?


(a) Yes 5/7

Because some coursebook use factual language, better construction, etc.’

‘People has a lot of reasons. If someone want to study grammar or writing, using coursebook is the best.’

‘I can understand some better than others in my life.’

(b) No 1/7

‘I don’t know  other coursebooks.’



14. Would you prefer a course that...


(a) uses the coursebook 0/7


(b) doesn’t use the couresbook 2/7

‘I think Dogme is better to study speaking.’

‘I think the fact that I could study by having conversations with people and through getting to know each other is a wonderful thing.’


(c) does both 4/7

‘Both completes our knowledge.’



One student answered this question with :

‘I love use the coursebook with other teacher, doesn’t use the coursebook with Chia.’


So, what do you make of these findings?

Devil’s Advocate vs Marjorie Rosenberg on Learning Styles

This series is inspired by a conversation between Mike Hogan and myself about examining the controversies in ELT. We wanted to consider the different positions taken by different members of the industry. However, to do so, we’d need a debate, a disagreement of sorts. And it became apparent that we either tend to agree with members of our PLN (flying creatures of the same feathers and all that), or would keep an open mind and be fairly polite and supportive of one another (that is why we tweet and blog). Seeing that, the only way to get a real debate going was to actively play Devil’s Advocate (DA).

The following debate took place as an Instant-Messaging Chat on Skype. The statements of here are of the DA and in no way represent my beliefs about teaching. This is merely a tool to spark a dialogue between you, the reader, and all those involved in this project. You can find previous instalments of DA here.

So the seventh victim on the hot seat is Marjorie Rosenberg.

Marjorie Rosenberg has been teaching English in Austria since 1981. She has worked in a variety of settings in adult education and currently teaches at the University of Graz as well as working with corporate clients and doing teacher training.

Her interest in making business English fun and accessible to a large group of learners prompted her to write the photocopiable business English activity book Communicative Business Activities which is now available on English 360 http://learn.english360.com. She has also written In Business, two Business Advantage Personal Study Books and is a regular contributor to Professional English Online, Cambridge University Press.

Marjorie’s work with NLP brought her into contact with different models of learning styles and she is currently working on Spotlight on Styles, Delta, which is due out some time in Autumn this year.

Marjorie is the coordinator of the IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group.


Chia:  Hi Marjorie, it is such an honour to have you on the DA hotseat today!

Marjorie:  Good to be here.

Chia:  I hear that you are quite the NLP expert and that you have a book coming out soon about learning styles?

Marjorie:  Right. I did my Master Practitioner and Trainer’s Training in NLP with Robert Dilts in Santa Cruz, California where it all started.

Chia:  Wow…that’s impressive! I know we talk a lot about learning styles in our teaching and even in teacher training, but could you give us an overview as to what we are talking about here?

Marjorie:  Sure, NLP and learning styles are actually two separate things. In NLP we look at what has been called ‘representational styles’ meaning how we ‘re-present’ the world to ourselves. These are basically the visual, auditory and kinesthetic modes. …

They also include gustatory and olfactory which are more important in some cultures than in others. That’s why it is sometimes called the VAKgo model. …

These representational systems are used in NLP to help us establish rapport and have some idea of ‘how’ another person perceives the world but certainly NOT what they are thinking.

Does the use of colours indicate a visual learning style?
ELTpics: Picture by @acliltoclimb

Chia:  But learning styles are often considered part of NLP, aren’t they? Could you perhaps give a quick definition of NLP just so our readers could understand the subject at hand and see the difference between the two?

Marjorie:  Learning styles are a much broader field as they include the sensory modalities of the VAK model but they also go on to include cognitive processing which deals with how we think and process information – either globally or analytically) as well as the models which deal with our behavior.

These models include our preferred style of learning something new for example. One way to look at this is a model I use, which is divided into four parts depending on how we perceive and then organise the information we have received. This is based on research done by David Kolb and Anton Gregorc but reworked by April Bowie in the US.

To explain the four types in Bowie’s model, I usually give an example of instruction manuals: some people write them, some use them constantly, some have no idea where they have put them as they just push the buttons till something works and others just need to know someone who has read the manual and can explain it to them. These are four distinct styles.

Chia: That, I am assuming is the general definition of learning styles. What about NLP?

Marjorie:  I realised I didn’t answer your question. NLP began as a short-term therapy and then quickly moved into the business world as a communication model and eventually into the classroom. …

NLP makes use of the representational systems as I mentioned, but in order to improve communication, not necessarily to teach someone something new.

Chia:  Okay, for the purpose of today’s DA debate, let us focus on learning styles then, shall we?

Marjorie:  No problem.

Learning styles were around before NLP but I actually learned about them in an NLP for teachers’ course.

Michael Grinder, whose brother John was one of the founders of NLP, runs classes for teachers where his aim is to help educators find out how their students perceive, store and recall the information they receive. Michael says that school success is actually based more on where we have information stored, rather than what specifically we have learned.

What he means with this is that once we have received information, we need to have access to it and if we are auditory for example, we remember best what we hear or say but if we got the information in visual form we may not be able to access it easily.  This is a bit like a computer, data is useless unless we know where we have saved it.

Is the cat an audio learner? Or is the seat in front of Underhill’s IPA chart simply warm and comfy? Is it even a real cat?
ELTPics: Picture by @Senicko

Chia:  Surely that must depend on the type and nature of the information at hand? If we are trying to learn about the geographical location of Sao Paulo, it clearly would be easier to use a visual way of teaching than an auditory way?

Conversely, if one is trying to get their learners to produce the phonological chunking of a text and the correct placement of the tonic nucleus, it would be easier to drill and do it the auditory way?

Marjorie:  That depends on your style and how well you have learned to adapt. Michael also talks about teaching – which is teaching to all styles in the VAK model – and ‘re-teaching’ which means breaking down a lesson into one of the three (VAK) modes in order to make it accessible to someone whose primary system is not the one which was addressed in the original presentation.

An auditory learner may still need to say the places on the map aloud whereas the visual learner probably just needs to look at the map. And the kinesthetic learner may actually need to draw a map or move bits around to really understand it.

Chia:  But saying the places on the map out loud isn’t exactly going to help the learner know its geographical position though…and draw a map and moving bits around just to figure out that Sao Paulo is in Brazil seems like an awful waste of time…

Is there a non-visual way of learning this?
ELTpics: Picture by @SandyMillin

Marjorie:  It may seem like a waste of time to someone who understood it right away but for someone who didn’t, this may be the only way to really learn the material.

A few years ago we helped out the son of friends of ours who couldn’t learn English vocabulary. He did the usual, writing a list and trying to remember the words but as a kinesthetic learner it didn’t help him. I suggested he write the words on flashcards and move them around. He immediately started tearing up pieces of paper, played with the words, his English grades improved and in the end, he went on to study English.  His parents were also surprised at this fairly simple solution.  Another young person recently told me that she doesn’t like having to learn everything from books and would really prefer it if someone would just read everything to her. I have known her since she was four, she’s now 22 and has always been auditory.

Chia:  But are we really either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learners? Aren’t most of us just a mix of all of the above?

Marjorie:  To some extent, we are a mix.  But the latest brain research is actually showing that we are born with one stronger tendency. We learn to adapt but tend to go back to our strong channel in stress situations. It could be that ‘stress’ is the important word here, when we are relaxed we have access to all our channels but when faced with an exam or answering a question, it is exactly then that we need to tend to rely on our strongest channel.

However, learning styles are NOT an excuse. We still have to put up with whatever is done in the classroom, we just have to find the best way for ourselves to deal with it.

A classroom that is always ready to deal with different learning styles
ELTpics: Picture by @mrsdkreb

Chia:  You use the phrase ‘put up with whatever is done in the classroom’, which seems to suggest that most teachers are not very attentive to their students’ learning styles. Do you think most teachers do not take this into consideration?

Marjorie:  I think a lot of teachers don’t have the time to try and accommodate all the students they have. When a teacher has a group of 20 – 30 students, it just isn’t possible to do activities in three different ways. And most of us tend to teach in the way we learn.

I co-train with a friend who is auditory – kinesthetic (motoric) and I am visual and kinesthetic but emotional. We once started a training session and there was no flip chart, which didn’t bother her at all, but I insisted we find one. She goes running at lunch and I find someone who I can talk to who I like.

Chia:  I can see the benefit applying our knowledge of different learning styles and varying our lessons so that most of the students feel motivated and catered for. But don’t you think it is a bit essentialist and categorical to say ‘You are visual’ and ‘You are kinaesthetic of the emotional sort’? Surely, everyone reacts and learns well when what they are presented information they can connect emotionally too and can discuss that with a partner?

Marjorie:  Not everyone connects emotionally to material, this is also dependent on type. This is one of the reasons I wanted to do a book on learning styles. The idea is to give teachers more insight as to the different styles in their classroom and expand their repertoire to try out activities aimed at specific styles. As a non-auditory type, I don’t do a lot with listening comprehensions I have to admit, even though I used my guitar for years in class. But CDs were not at the top of my list of teaching tools.  Pictures and photos were, however!

Chia:  I don’t think I’m a visual learner at all, considering the fact that I tend to think in words rather than pictures, I can never remember faces and I always dream in black and white or sepia tone. But I see the words, rather than hear them. And although mindmaps don’t work for me, I often have a photographic memory of lists and paragraphs with words. So I’m visual only when it comes to words. Does that make me a visual learner or not? It’s all so ambiguous!

Could memorising all this be a turn-on for some? Am I just weird? Or plain nerdy?
ELTpics: Picture by @acliltoclimb

Marjorie:  This still sounds visual to me.  However, you may be an analytic learner as well rather than a global one, which would mean that the individual words are more memorable than a picture. VAK is only part of the mix – we have to look at the whole picture. …

Having said that, however, I never analyse my students unless they are having problems learning something and ask for advice. Then it may help them to suggest that they approach a task in a different way and that just may do the trick.  However, using a variety of tasks taking these different styles into account or allowing groups to organise themselves when it comes to completing a task gives them the chance to make us of their individual strengths.

Chia:  That’s interesting that you say that because on the CELTA course, one of the criteria states that trainees have to show an awareness of different learning styles in their assignment ‘Focus on the Learner’. This means that most CELTA tutors deliver an obligatory input session on learning styles, coupled with multiple intelligences and the different kinds of motivation, just to fulfil the criteria. But CELTA trainees never seem to know what to do with this information, and neither do the tutors, to be honest. The end message, of course, is always ‘VARY YOUR LESSON AND METHODS’ but that message can be delivered without mentioning learning styles at all. Do you agree?

Are cuisenaire rods for the visual or the kinaesthetic learner? How can we better connect emotionally with the rods?
ELTpics: picture by Scott Thornbury

Marjorie:  Yes, I do agree. It would be good to actually teach the background of VAK which means that teachers can determine the input and output of the information but not the storage.  That is up to the individual.

Then if someone is more global and needs the big picture or more analytic and prefers details, that also makes a difference in how they learn/remember information, for example.

Then we can look at David Kolb’s model of those who perceive concretely but reflect on the information or need to actively experiment with it and those who prefer abstract concepts and then reflect on it or experiment with it – these are the four styles April Bowie worked with which I mentioned earlier.

Chia:  …or we can also talk about learners with more organic learning styles and those who prefer systematic approaches, couldn’t we? There are just so many…

What then should we teach on CELTA training courses, if any of these models…?

Marjorie:  Good question. I am concentrating in the book on the VAK, global-analytic and the model of the four styles April researched. In my opinion, these are the models which come up most often and include academic research. I haven’t touched multiple intelligences as they are more talents for me although some of the categories overlap with the other models. …

Visual-spatial, for example, is similar to visual but the standard visual model does not include the spatial aspect. This means that although I recognise a house on a street I still get lost because my spatial orientation is not very acute.

Chia:  My spatial orientation is terrible! Ask anyone who knows me! I could walk into a shop on the high street and by the time I walk out of it, I would have no clue which side I came from!

My teachers should have done more spatial orienteering with me when I was at school. I blame them!
ELTpics: Picture by @Raquel_EFL

Marjorie:  I understand as I have the same problem. However, to sum up some of this discussion, I would say that what is important for me in the whole learning style debate is that it is important for teachers to recognise their own preferred modes and to be able to stretch out of them from time to time in order to reach more of their learners. We also need to be tolerant of someone who does something in a different way. We criticise students who mouth words while reading, for example, but auditory learners may actually need to do this.

Since I began working with styles I find my students to be fascinating as I observe the way they do things when left to their own devices. There is a jigsaw puzzle game with phrases on it in one of the photocopiable books. I gave out the game to two groups – one read the phrases aloud and put the puzzle together based on the phrases which matched and the other group simply looked for the pieces which went together and looked at the phrases at the end. That was really interesting to watch!

Chia:  I love doing tests that help me know my learning styles, etc. But a lot of the time, these tests are so obvious to the people answering them that I wonder if they are really testing my learning style, or what I THINK my learning style is and reaffirming my assumptions about myself…in a placebo effect sort of way? Also, doesn’t categorising people and letting them think they are a visual or auditory learner close them off to other ways of learning? I know people who would say stubbornly, ‘That just won’t work for me because I’m not auditory!’ before even trying things out.

I love doing personality tests from these magazines…! Oh, have I let on that I am a bit of a bimbo…?
Photo from http://meggiecat.blogspot.co.uk/2004_08_01_archive.html

Marjorie:  I was just thinking about that. One possibility is to have students or learners observe themselves in relation to any learning style survey before actually ticking the answers. And, as I mentioned earlier, it is really important to remember that this info is most important in a stressful situation. I can listen to the radio in the car when I am not stressed but the minute I have to park, it goes off.  My partner, however, is auditory and the radio is on non-stop as it relaxes him. I collect photos – he collects CDs. But again, styles ARE NOT an excuse.  In order to be successful we all have to learn to accommodate to the world around us.

I would say that the goal of the teacher is to help a student (who is having problems) to learn how to stretch out of one mode if that is what is holding him / her back and learn to work in other ways which are necessary for the task at hand (looking at a map for example or learning chunks of language).

Chia:  And will your soon-to-be-published book be showing us teachers how to do that?

Marjorie:  That’s the plan.  The first section deals with the general information about styles, then there is a transition part with surveys, learning characteristics and learning tips and the middle part is full of activities for the different styles including ideas on adapting the activities to suit more than one style …

Chia:  That sounds brilliant! What’s it called and when can we expect it on the shelves?

Marjorie:  It is called Spotlight on Styles, being published by Delta and is about 3/4 done. Hopefully out in the late fall this year.

Chia:  I’ll definitely be looking forward to getting a copy!

Thanks so much for taking time to be subjected to the DA grilling today.

Will you still sign my copy despite me playing DA with you today? : )

Marjorie:  Thanks for asking me.  I hope that some of the ideas I presented will help teachers to work with types who are different than they are. It takes patience and tolerance but the end result is worth it. And yes, I will sign your copy, no problem.

Chia: Fantastic!

Hmmm…does my obsession with this picture make me a gustatory learner? Feed me and I will learn!
Photo by Chia Suan Chong. Food courtesy of http://www.highlife.ie

Epilogue: Marjorie’s views are her own and do not represent any organization she is associated with. Chia was mainly playing DA but did have some genuine doubts and queries about the topic in question. Marjorie hasn’t kicked Chia out of IATEFL BESIG yet, so that must mean that they are still due to have those few drinks together at the BESIG Summer Symposium in Paris in June.

The Teach-Off – Related Posts

Thank you everyone for following the Teach-Off so closely in the last month.

It has been a truly intense experience for me, and I’m sure for Varinder too.

‘Sorry guys, I’ve got to use the book today…’
‘God knows why Chia is apologising! It’s a great book – this Global Intermediate!’

While the results are still being compiled, here are some of the blogposts that have emerged as a result of, are connected to, or simply mentions the Teach-Off.


The first to appear was Naomi Epstein’s blogpost  ‘Pondering the Dogme Teach-Off’.


Following that, Shelly Terrell observed my Dogme Day 2 lesson where I spent some time getting to know the students and getting them acquainted with each other, and videoed a section of the lesson and posted it as part of her 30 Goals – Share an Activity.


Phil Wade then posted this post ‘Perfect Students?’, when the coursebook part of the Teach-Off started.


Shortly after, Phil posted ‘My last response to Dogme criticism‘.


Phil Wade also created a whole series of conversations parodying the Dogme class that had me rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

Here are some that paralleled the day-to-day proceedings of the Teach-Off.

On The Teach-Off – The Twist Part 1 where I go in with a coursebook:  Materials Addiction

On The Teach-Off – The Twist Part 2 where Varinder goes in doing Dogme:  Going Dogme

On the overall Teach-Off :

The Terminator (apparently, that’s me…not a good look…)

Dogme Jedi

More on the overall Teach-Off (This is one of my personal favourites!):  The morning after the night before

and then The Dogme Avengers (who sound suspiciously like they are in IH London)

Oh and not to forget this classic about the Coursebooks Anonymous.


Another post the Teach-Off inspired was David Warr’s Dogme and Game Theory

And from the other camp (there’s always one, eh?), there was Hugh Dellar who posted ‘Dissing Dogme‘.


If there are any more that you know of or have written that I have missed here, please let me know. I’d be happy to include it!