Not Ready to Make Nice

Bullying is seen across all cultures;

Bullying is omnipresent;

Bullying is prevalent in all walks of life and is not limited to school settings.

While some are targets of physical violence or threatening words, others are face the possibility of being ex-communicated from social groups.

Bullying is a topic that is familiar to people of all nationalities and can be a springboard to many a meaningful discussion in the language classroom.

The American country band Dixie Chicks made a comment at a concert in London in 2003, and quickly became the target of bullies in their home country. The bullies started acting as a mob, as they often do, and soon, Dixie Chicks were receiving death threats in the mail and were banned from country music radio stations.

Picture taken from dixiechicks.com

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In response to the bullying, the band started to write an album. However, when it was suggested to Natalie Maines, the lead singer, that perhaps the songs should be about how everyone ought to just get along, she found herself unwilling to back down and instead produced the hit single Not Ready to Make Nice.

The song went on to win 3 Grammy Awards, and the album Taking the Long Way ended up winning 5 Grammys, perhaps all a sign of support for the girls who have been the target of bullying.

Being a song very close to my heart, I have felt it appropriate to create a lesson around it. However, unlike most receptive skills procedures seen in more recent approaches, this lesson takes a more bottom-up approach to listening, allowing students to use their linguistic knowledge to piece together the lyrics of the song.

In what way do you think a bottom-up approach to this lesson could make a difference to the usual top-down approaches?

(Notes for teachers are in brackets.)

Lead-in:

Picture taken from http://www.safenetwork.org
Click on picture to read more about bullying.

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(Elicit lexis: Bullying, a bully.)

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Discussion questions:

  1. Why do people bully others?
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    (Possible Answers: insecurity, jealousy, prejudice, etc.)
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  2. Where can bullying occur?
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    (Possible Answers: at school, at the office, online, etc.)

    .
  3. What kind of things might a bully do?
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  4. What can we do if we are being bullied?
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Pre-listening

(Hand-out)

Fill in the gaps with the appropriate word. Use your knowledge of language and rhyming words to help you.

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Forgive, sounds good

Forget, I’m not sure I c_____

They say time heals e_______

But I’m still waiting

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I’m through with doubt

There’s nothing left for me to figure o___

I’ve paid a price

And I’ll keep paying

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Chorus:

I’m not ready to make nice

I’m not ready to back d____

I’m still mad as hell and

I don’t have time to go round and round and round

It’s too late to make it r_____

I probably wouldn’t if I could

‘Cause I’m mad as hell

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I s_____

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I know you said

Can’t you just get o____ it

It turned my whole world a______

And I kind of like it

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Bridge:

I made my bed and I sleep like a b____

With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’

It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her

daughter that she ought to hate a perfect st________

And how in the w______ can the words that I said

Send somebody so over the e_____

That they’d write me a l______

Sayin’ that I’d better shut u__ and sing

Or my life will be o____

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Chorus (x2):

I’m not ready to make nice

I’m not ready to back d____

I’m still mad as hell and

I don’t have time to go round and round and round

It’s too late to make it r____

I probably wouldn’t if I could

‘Cause I’m mad as hell

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I s_____

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Forgive, sounds good

Forget, I’m not sure I c_____

They say time heals e_______

But I’m still waiting

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Listening for specific information

Listen to the song and check your answers.

(Note: the teacher might use the feedback stage to clarify some of the more useful or crucial lexical items)

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Forgive, sounds good

Forget, I’m not sure I could

They say time heals everything

But I’m still waiting

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I’m through with doubt

There’s nothing left for me to figure out

I’ve paid a price

And I’ll keep paying

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Chorus:

I’m not ready to make nice

I’m not ready to back down

I’m still mad as hell and

I don’t have time to go round and round and round

It’s too late to make it right

I probably wouldn’t if I could

‘Cause I’m mad as hell

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

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I know you said

Can’t you just get over it

It turned my whole world around

And I kind of like it

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Bridge:

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby

With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’

It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her

daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger

And how in the world can the words that I said

Send somebody so over the edge

That they’d write me a letter

Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing

Or my life will be over

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Chorus (2x):

I’m not ready to make nice

I’m not ready to back down

I’m still mad as hell and

I don’t have time to go round and round and round

It’s too late to make it right

I probably wouldn’t if I could

‘Cause I’m mad as hell

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

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Forgive, sounds good

Forget, I’m not sure I could

They say time heals everything

But I’m still waiting

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Reading for Detailed Understanding

Read the lyrics again, and answer the following questions

(Note: There are no right and wrong answers here. Every question offers a chance for the student’s own interpretation to come through.)

  1. How does the singer feel about being bullied?
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    (Possible Answers with song lyrics in quotations: Angry, ‘mad as hell’, and not ready to forget. But she feels that her conscience is clear and she knows she has not done anything wrong because she says ‘she sleeps like a baby’.)
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  2. What kind of things do you think the bullies did?
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    (Possible Answers with song lyrics in quotations: They wrote her a letter to tell her to ‘shut up and sing’ or they’d kill her.)
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  3. Why do you think the bullies did that?
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    (Possible Answers with song lyrics in quotations: She said something the bullies didn’t like. ‘And how in the world can the words that I said send somebody so over the edge’)
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  4. Does she blame the bullies?
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    (Possible Answers with song lyrics in quotations: No, she blames society. ‘It’s a sad sad world when a mother would teach her daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger’)
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  5. What is she going to do?
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    (Possible Answers with song lyrics in quotations: She is not going to blame herself but she is not going to give up fighting against the bullies. ‘I’m through with doubt. There’s nothing left for me to figure out’; ‘I’m not ready to back down’)
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  6. What do you think the mood of this song is?
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    (Possible Answers: Angry? Sad?)

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Follow-up Productive Task

(This follow-up task requires students to have access to the internet. They could either make use of their mobile devices, i.e. smartphones or tablets, or this could be conducted in the Self-Access Centre, where students have at least one computer per group)

In groups of 3, use of the internet to find out more about this song and the band, Dixie Chicks.

Answer the following questions.

Report your findings back to the rest of the class.

(Note: the answers can be found on Wikipedia pages on ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’ and the lead singer ‘Natalie Maines’)

  1. Is this song based on a true story?
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    (Answer: Yes)
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  2. Why were the band targeted by bullies in the 2003?
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    (Answer: The vocalist made a comment at a concert in London, UK, on the eve of the Iraq invasion that they were ashamed that their President George Bush was from Texas, where they are from. This angered a lot of Americans.)
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  3. Why did the band write the song?
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    (Answer: They wanted to write their reaction to the bullying mob.)
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  4. What kind of things did the American public do to the band?
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    (Answer: They were banned from many country music radio stations and received death threats in the mail.)
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  5. How did the lead singer Natalie feel after writing this song and the album?
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    (Answer: She felt that the album was like therapy and helped her to find peace with everything and move on.)

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When presented with a reading or listening text, students can either utilize a bottom-up processing approach and use their knowledge of words and grammar to build up an understanding of the text, or attempt a top-down approach where they make use of their knowledge of the genre, the situational and cultural context, and the background knowledge about the topic as clues to comprehension (Thornbury, 2006).

Many argue that the tendency for students when reading in a foreign language is to cling on to the individual words of the text and try to decipher its meaning, and therefore it is the responsibility of the teacher to encourage top-down processes through the use of activities that activate content schema, such as prediction and gist reading tasks.

Upon examining the current approaches to teaching reading and listening in ELT, from CELTAs to the design of activities in coursebooks, there is perhaps enough evidence to show that the focus is largely on using top-down approaches, before integrating bottom-up approaches for detailed understanding.
Have a look at the following ‘receptive skills procedure’ that is often seen on CELTA courses and in coursebooks.

  1. Lead-in and/or Prediction Activity (Activating the Schema)
  2. Skimming (Gist) and/or Scanning Tasks (Extensive Reading)
  3. Reading for Detailed Understanding (Intensive Reading)
  4. Follow-up Productive Task

It becomes apparent that the Extensive-to-Intensive, Big-Picture-to-Detailed-Information, Top-Down-to-Bottom-Up approach to reading and listening has not only gained a strong foothold in ELT, but has also been taken for granted by some in our field as the best way of integrating the top-down ‘higher level’ skills with the bottom-up ‘lower level’ skills to form an integrated approach.

But is this necessarily always the best way of integrating the two?

While the use of top-down processing approaches is certainly a valid and useful way of integrating the two, it is also perhaps important to occasionally offer practice of bottom-up processes where learners are able to practise making use of their existing linguistic knowledge to try and make sense of a text.

In this sample lesson, I took the song, Not Ready to Make Nice, and get students to use their linguistic knowledge (bottom-up data-driven text-based processing) to fill in the gaps in the lyrics, after a short lead-in to contextualize the general topic.

Through piecing together the lyrics (and learning some new collocations and phrases along the way), they start to gain a detailed understanding. This understanding would hopefully generate interest in getting more information about the interesting background story to the song.

In a song like this one, the focus on bottom-up processing could create suspense and perhaps be more interesting for students when the story reveals itself as they re-construct the text.

Are there any other times you would choose to use such a bottom-up approach to reading or listening?

References

Thornbury, S. An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Further Reading:
Nuttall, C. (2005) Teaching Reading Skills in a foreign language. Oxford: Macmillan.

Silbersteing, S. (1994) Techniques and Resources in Teaching Reading. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

It’s an Anniversary!

Some of you might be wondering why I have suddenly changed the layout of my blog.

Well, it’s been a year.

Courtesy of #ELTpics. Photo by @mkofab

April 30th 2011.

The day I started blogging. The day I started this blog.

I started this blog because I love writing.

Through writing, I am able to organise my thoughts because I am given the opportunity to articulate them.

Through the banter you provide me with, I am able to decide on what I believe in because I am allowed the chance to challenge the attitudes and views that I encounter.

Through the support of my PLN (Personal Learning Network), I am able to find the courage to say the things that are not necessarily popular or cool, to write about issues I really care about, and to express a part of me.

I would like to thank all the people who have viewed these pages and watched the videos, the people who have read, commented and like the posts, the people who have tweeted, shared, and used the ideas and articles here.

Thank you all for your support.

Courtesy of #ELTpics

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To celebrate, here are some facts and figures to help recap the year:

Total hits: 62,950

Views on Busiest Day: 976 (25th April, 2012)

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The Top 5 Most Commented on Posts are:

1.    The Teach-Off – My reaction to coursebooks and Uncount nouns  (51)

2.   Why are Business English Teachers paid so badly?  (50)

3.   10 Things Teachers Should Never Forget  (48)

4.   Devil’s Advocate versus Vicki Hollett on ELF  (42)

5.   The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 1  (36)

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Aside from myself, the Top 5 Commenters (and their respective twitter handles) are:

1. Phil Wade @phil3wade                 (53)

2. Chiew Pang @acliltoclimb                      (27)

3. Varinder Unlu @varinderunlu             (26)

4. Dale Coulter @dalecoulter             (23)

5. Mike Hogan @irishmikeh                (20)

Thank you so much for taking time to comment. You have contributed more than you can ever imagine!

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Excluding the Home Page, The Top 10 Posts (according to hits) are:

1.   Intercultural Dining Etiquette and Table Manners

2.   Devil’s Advocate versus Phil Wade on Exams and Testing

3.   Why I brought back the foreign language lesson to the CELTA

4.   Learning English Through a TV Series

5.   Dogme in Exam Preparation Classes

6.   What is Systemic Functional Grammar (Part 1)

7.   What is Systemic Functional Grammar (Part 3 – The Experiential Metafunction)

8.   10 Things I do with my mini-whiteboards

9.   What is Systemic Functional Grammar (Part 2 – The Interpersonal Metafunction)

10.   What is Systemic Functional Grammar (Part 4 – The Textual Metafunction & Conclusion)

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The Most Watched Videos (according to hits) are:

1.   IATEFL 2010 Presentation on Dogme

2.   BESIG 2010 Interview on SFG

3.   BESIG 2012 Interview on Politeness and Pragmatics

4.   Chiew’s 2011 interview with me on IaskU

5.   IH DOS Conference 2012 Presentation on ELF

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My top 5 personal favourites are:

1.   In defence of Callan (and other behaviourist methodologies)

2.   Making student-centred Dogme student-friendly

3.   11 things I learnt in London – a pseudo-ethnographic exploration of British vs Singaporean culture

4.   Gaellic – To save or not to save?

5.   Cringing at Cheese this Christmas?

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There has been 4 series on this blog thus far.

The first was a series inspired by a conversation with Mike Hogan, and still continues till today.

Devil’s Advocate is now at its 6th instalment and they are:

1.   Devil’s Advocate versus Mike Hogan on Business English Teaching and Training

2.   Devil’s Advocate versus Dale Coulter on Dogme for Newly Qualified Teachers

3.   Devil’s Advocate versus Phil Wade on Exams and Testing

4.   Devil’s Advocate versus Anthony Gaughan on Lesson Aims & Plans in Teacher Training

5.   Devil’s Advocate versus Vicki Hollett on ELF

6.   Devil’s Advocate versus Rakesh Bhanot on Non-Native Speaker Teachers of English

There will be more Devil’s Advocate instalments to come right after the Teach-Off is over!

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The second was a series of posts about my Pre-Advanced Dogme classes:

1.   MLearning, Mini-Whiteboards, and Emergent Stuff

2.   Only in a Dogme Class

3.   All Because I Hoped I Didn’t Fall in Love with You

4.   I left my head and heart on the dance floor

5.   Wham! Vroom! And things that jet setters do…

6.   And then my students said…

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The third was a series of posts about the IATEFL Glasgow conference 2012:

1.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 1

2.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 2 – PCEs

3.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 3 – Adrian Underhill’s Plenary

4.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 4 – Dave Willis on Grammar

5.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 5 – Anthony Gaughan on the Se7en Deadly Sins of ELT

6.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 6 – Jacket Potatoes, MLearning, ELearning & Skype

7.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 7 – 52 Subversive Activities & lots of parties

8.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 8 – Diana Laurillard’s Plenary

9.   My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 9 – A Smorgasbord of Prezi, Metaphors, Drama and the Passive Voice

10.  My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 10 – Willy Cardoso on Sociocultural Perspectives to Teacher Training

11.  My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 11 – Steven Thorne’s Plenary  THE ONE THAT GOT ME MY BRITISH COUNCIL AWARD!

12.  My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 12 – Digital Devices, Digital Storytelling, and the NNS Teacher

13.  My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 13 – Pecha Kucha Evening

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And the fourth, as many of you might know, is the Teach-Off that is taking place as we speak:

1.   The Teach-Off – The Premise

2.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 1

2.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 2

3.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 3

4.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 4 

5.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 5

6.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 6

7.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 7

8.   The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 8

9.   The Teach-Off – The Dogme Observer’s POV

10. The Teach-Off – Introducing the Coursebook Round

11.  The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 1

12.  The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 2

13.  The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 3

14.  The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 4

15.  The Teach-Off – My reaction to coursebks and Uncount Nouns

15.  The Teach-Off – Coursebook Day 5

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Thank you so much for reading and for being a part of this blog…even during times when I was unable to blog regularly.

Thank you for an amazing year.

And here’s to the next!

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Now, pardon me while I go off and sing Happy Birthday to myself…

The Teach-Off – Dogme Day 5

Here’s today’s boardwork in two pictures.

Can you guess what happened in class?

Board before the break
Board after the break

It was raining this morning as I went to school and it was miserable.

I commented on the weather as I entered the classroom, and the students agreed in unison, expressing their dislike for the wet weather. One student started voicing his worries about the weather for the rest of the week, saying that he was booked to do a Jack the Ripper walk in a couple of days. I took out my iPhone and checked my London Met Office app while eliciting the lexis ‘weather forecast’, and to his disappointment, it stated that there would be heavy rain showers every day till Saturday, with a tiny reprieve of a light rain shower on Thursday (shouldn’t we all be thankful for that!).

At this point, I asked students to move their chairs in the usual horseshoe, joking that I felt like they were judges on Xfactor judging me if they all sat in a straight line. A student asked what that was, and I said it was a singing competition on TV. Another student asked it that was like ‘The Voice’, a new TV show I know very little about, and I threw the question to the rest of the class. Another student asked if it was like ‘American Idol’. In the meantime, the Japanese students seemed rather clueless about all these TV programmes, and so I got the Brazilians to explain the concept of audience participation to their fellow classmates. While I fed in lexis such as ‘the one with the least votes’, ‘to get kicked out of the show’ and ‘the ratings are high’, the students told each other about the talent shows that also existed in their countries.

A Korean student then said that they get the British programmes XFactor and Britain’s Got Talent in Korea, and a lot of young people download the programmes because everyone talks about them and the newspapers talk about them too. I fed in the phrasal verb ‘to hype something up’, and highlighted that ‘hype’ could also be used as a noun. Here’s the example scenario I gave to clarify:

 

When the film Titanic first came out, everyone was talking about it and the media kept covering it.

There was a lot of hype about the film.

Some people watched the film and felt disappointed.

They felt that the film was less than what everyone had said.

They felt that the film did not live up to the hype.

 

I then asked students for other films that the media really hyped up and did not live up to the hype.

We ended up with ‘Inception’ and ‘Sex and the City’ (both part 1 and 2, I’m afraid).

I then elicited other object nouns they felt would collocate with the phrasal verb ‘live up to’, and they cleverly volunteered ‘expectation’.

I then prompted them further with this example:

I went to this language school because everyone said it was really good.

It had a good name.

But when I was there, I was disappointed.

I did not think the school was as good as its name.

I think the school did not live up to its r_______________.

After some more prompting, a student shouted out ‘reputation’, giving us a total of three object nouns that collocate with ‘live up to’.

I then asked students whether they were more likely to use ‘live up to’ with in a negative or positive sentence and we agreed that we are more likely to comment on something if it did not live up to our expectations.

Someone mentioned the 3D version of Titanic at this point, and I said that I had heard it was really good and worth watching. A student looked at me puzzled and said that he had heard quite the opposite about the 3D release, saying that there was not much 3D effect in it, except the moment when the ship crashed into the iceberg and the ice comes shattering into the audience. Another student grimaced at the mentioned of Titanic and didn’t seem impressed.

I was reminded at this point of a bar I was in recently that was commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic sinking by having their guests all turn up in 1920s outfits, and students seemed amused by that. I tried to elicit ‘fancy dress party’ and got ‘costume party’ instead.

Funnily enough, when I proceeded to write ‘fancy dress party’ on the board, a student asked, ‘But “fancy” also means expensive, right?’ The rest nodded.

Rather than brushing it aside by saying ‘There are many meanings of “fancy” but we are only dealing with one now,’ I decided to address the students’ confusion.

I first clarified that ‘fancy dress party’ was a fixed expression and cautioned students not to try and dissect the meaning of ‘fancy’ in the above phrase.

I said, ‘If I go to a fancy restaurant, what kind of restaurant is it?

The students said, ‘Expensive?’, ‘Elegant?’

I said, ‘Yes. What’s a word we use for “upper class”?

A student contributed ‘posh’.

I elicited, ‘What part of speech is “fancy” here?

Students volunteered, ‘Adjective’.

I drew a mindmap on the white board with ‘fancy’ in the middle circle.

I then asked, ‘Can “fancy” be a verb?’ and the students looked at me, puzzled.

What if I said to you, “Do you fancy a pizza?” What am I asking you?

(I figured it was a common enough question and since the students didn’t know it, it was time they did.)

After hazarding a few wrong guesses, I decided to put them out of their misery.

Equating it to ‘Would you like a pizza?’, the students then said, ‘Oh, it’s the same as “Do you want a pizza?”

Pushing this mid-int class further, I said, ‘It’s the same as “Do you feel like a pizza?”’

The students laughed. I realized the double meaning embedded in that statement.

So I explained, ‘Do you think I am asking you if you have the same feelings as a pizza?’

The students continued laughing as they said, ‘no’.

I then said, ‘Is it the same as “Are you in the mood for a pizza?”’

The students agreed.

I asked, ‘Does this all mean “Do you want to have a pizza now?”

And the students got it.

A quick controlled practice was called for, so I asked, ‘How do you ask your friend if she wants to go out?’

The students replied, ‘Do you fancy going out?’ and ‘Do you feel like going out?

I said, ‘The weather is awful. You want to say no. How do you say it?

The students replied, ‘I don’t fancy going out,’ and ‘I don’t feel like going out.

I decided to leave more controlled practice for tomorrow and moved on to another meaning of ‘fancy’.

I included ‘I really fancy Angelina Jolie’ on the mindmap and asked students to deduce what it meant. After a few goes, they finally settled on ‘like’ and I added that  I not only ‘like’ her but would like to maybe kiss her or more… (I was appealing to overwhelming majority of men in the class here and was definitely not alluding to my sexuality in any way!)

We were now ready to go back to the topic that we had left to explore ‘fancy’ as students were clearly still interested in it.

I asked students, ‘What reality TV shows or talent shows are there in your country?’ and ‘What do you think of them?’

In groups of 3 or 4, students shared with each other, explaining the concepts of programmes like Big Brother, Survivor, and the Apprentice as they went along.

A Japanese student said that reality shows were not as popular in Japan, despite the one weird example of one where girls were put into a house and competed to see who could cry the most by collecting their tears in test tubes (I am not lying! Honestly!)

So I prompted her to talk about TV shows that were popular, or shows that colleagues would talk about at work. The conversation soon led on to popular soap operas and quiz shows. We talked about the origin of the expression ‘soap opera’ (They used to be day-time programmes targeting housewives and therefore featured many soap ads), before taking our 15-minute break.

When we came back, I told my two Korean students about the ad I had seen of a Korean cultural festival on the door near reception. I asked if they were going and the other students were curious as to what might be featured in such a festival. The two Koreans speculated that there might be some karaoke or some Korean food and drink, but I noticed that some of the students looking quite perplexed and so I asked, ‘Have you ever tried Korean food?’

Only the Japanese students replied in the positive.

I realized at this point that many of my students hardly knew much about their fellow classmate’s countries or cultures.

So I wrote on the board – Brazil, Japan, Korea, Iran, and said, ‘These are the four countries in our class. Apart from your own, write a sentence about something you know about each country. You have 3 minutes.’

As I monitored, my suspicions were confirmed. The students didn’t know much beyond the fact that Japan was famous for sushi and was where samurais originated, that Brazil had carnivals and Iran had oil.

After they had written their sentences, I put them in groups with students from countries other than their own, and they shared the sentences they had written.

Students were instantly keen to inform their classmates about their countries and tell them more than the superficial sentences that had been written.

As the levels of conversation and the decibels in that class increased, I heard the quietest student in that class passionately telling his fellow classmates about how sad he was about the missile that was launched by North Korea last week, and then explaining the reason for the North and South Korea divide. This student arrived in London not too long ago and was clearly having teething problems with dealing with a communicative approach to language learning for the past week. Like many students from the Far East, he tended to think carefully before forming a sentence, and preferred keep quiet unless he had something important to say. He now clearly did…

Using complex sentences and impressive lexical items like ‘Capitalism was led by the USA and Socialism was led by USSR’, he certainly surprised a few of his classmates with his level of English. I couldn’t stop smiling. This was the trigger I had been waiting for.

Open class feedback about the different countries brought the topic on to football, and we spoke about the rivalry between neighbouring countries. I told students about how the Scottish wore T-shirts that said ‘ABE’ (Anyone But England) in jest when England would play in the World Cup, and how the Irish would rather support Aliens if they played England. A student at this point asked, ‘Sorry, but the Irish people don’t speak English, right? They have their own language?’

This brought us on to a whole new discussion. I explained the attempts of the UK government to keep Welsh and Gaelic (Scottish and Irish) in the education system with varying degrees of success, and how many of the Highlanders, after the Highland clearances, no longer see Scottish Gaelic as their language, while although the Irish continue to see Irish Gaelic as their language, do not speak it as much as the Welsh speak Welsh. (see here for my post of Gaelic)

Seeing the interest the topic has generated, I asked the students to prepare something about their country as homework so as to share with the others the next day. Finally, a task. The task I have been waiting to set.

In the last 30 minutes of the lesson, I had students bring out the photos of adverts that they had previously taken on their mobile phones as homework, and had one in each pair describing it to their partners while their partners drew the advert on a mini-whiteboard.

Students then discussed the following questions:

What is the advertisement about?

Where did you see it?

Who is it targeting?

Why did you choose it?

In open class feedback, the partners showed the class their drawing and reported what they had been told about the ad while the mobile phones were passed around so that students could compare the original photos to the drawings and compliment fellow students on how well they have done.

With the huge amount of lexis to be revised, the task to be worked on, and only half the class having shared their photos of adverts, it certainly looks like tomorrow’s lesson has already been cut out for me.

Or has it?

With a Dogme class, you just never know…

My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 7 – 52 Subversive Activities & lots of parties

Tuesday, 20th March 2012, Glasgow Conference Centre.

IATEFL Day 1

The last session of the day was one that everyone had been waiting for – Luke Meddings and Lindsay Clandfield’s 52: A year of subversive activity for the ELT classroom. Fearing a repeat-scenario of Anthony Gaughan’s talk where the majority were left unable to enter the jam-packed room, some of us literally ran (yes, I mean it literally. We legged it!) at the end of Bruno’s session to Luke and Lindsay’s (as fast as the conference wind would take us!).  Thankfully, the room was big enough to house those that wanted in, and there was no scary bouncer/prison warden/riot control police-like presence in sight (Oi! @Scotchbouncer! Stop tweeting us! It’s scary!).

After the Twitteratti made neat little rows with their iPads and iPhones ready to team tweet and blog (@sandymillin, this was the moment I realized we worked fantastically as a team! Looking forward to more!), Luke and Linsay start their talk by roasting each other. Lindsay, being a famous coursebook writer, and Luke, being a famous founder and advocate of Dogme, were indeed an unlikely collaboration. However whether it be for coursebooks or for materials that act as a departure point for Dogme lessons, it was important to have topics that are stimulating and activities that engage and challenge our learners.

Photo by Mike Hogan

Introducing the concept of the book 52, Luke and Lindsay get the audience to break down the famous acronym PARSNIP, i.e. topics that publishers would like writers to stay clear of.

P is for Politics

A is for Alcohol

R is for Religion

S is for Sex

N is for Narcotics

I is for Isms (some said Israel)

P is for Pork / Pornography

While 52 is about subverting the norm and embracing the PARSNIPs, the co-authors warn that it is not necessarily for everyone and neither is their presentation.

Here are some ways to be subversive:

Subverting dress codes: Teachers could come to class wearing what they don’t normally wear. See if students notice and use that to stimulate discussions. Often, this could lead to conversations about expectations regarding what people wear, e.g. hoodies, veils, etc.

Subverting language points like ‘present simple for daily routines’ could be presented in a subversive and memorable context, e.g. a daily routine of an innocent person in jail, or a corrupt civil servant.

Subverting the special day: Discussion topic – What is a ‘Hallmark holiday’? It is one that exist only for the purpose of selling greeting cards or flowers. Do you agree?

Subverting the typical business coursebook activity: Telephone roleplays – Student A is the vice president and calling his company. You have been kidnapped and you need to speak to the president. Student B is the receptionist. The president is unavailable at the moment.

Subverting expectations using visuals and images: Use this to teach the 2nd conditional!

You can also:

Practice comparatives by asking the following questions –

Which is better? Love without sex? Or Sex without love?

Which is better? Money without love? Or love without money?

Love, sex, money. You can only choose two. Which would you choose?

Or get students to notice the chunks of language used on protest signs! Talk about the lexical approach!

52 is available as an E-book on Amazon for 5 Euros or you can go to smashwords.com and search with the word ‘subversive’.

If you prefer the T-shirts that Luke and Lindsay revealed to us in their version of a semi-striptease, they are available on the Round’s website in 2 colours: black and white.

Photo by Mike Hogan

But what is the Round?

The Round was formed to produce books that might not otherwise get published. Books like 52.

And offers writers more autonomy (and a bigger cut too!) over their books, while providing careful assessment and professional editing for projects.

For more information about the Round, click here.

Leaving the crowd cheering for more, Luke and Lindsay end their presentation with a little book trailer for 52 and getting teachers all excited about being subversive…

Photo by Mike Hogan

And so ends Day 1 of IATEFL Glasgow…

Or maybe not!

That evening saw the International House 50th Years of Teacher Training Anniversary Party.

All week long, International House had been giving out wonderful little blue badges at their stand at the exhibition hall. Badges that said ‘I trained with IH’!

(I sneakily wore two because I figured I should have one for my Celta and one for my Delta!)

The TEFL celebrities present at the party certainly spoke volumes about the results of the IH teacher training courses and the evening was spent amongst delicious nibbles and wine nostalgically reminiscing the days gone by in the different locations that International House London occupied and the memories of the people there. Simon Greenhall introduced the audience to three speakers, Ken Wilson, Susan Barduhn, and Jeremy Harmer, each of whom shared with us a memory of IH London, including the one where Luke Meddings apparently forgot to hand in his assignment on coursebooks.

After a fair bit of catching up with IH colleagues and ex-colleagues based in different IH schools around the world, a few of us proceeded to the ELTChat party where champagne and good vibes filled the room. The best news of that evening was of course the fact that ELTChat has been nominated for the ELTons.

Congratulations, @ShaunWilden, @ShellTerrell, @barbsaka, @rliberni and @Marisa_C ! You deserve every bit of this!)

As we drank the night away (some of us more than others…oops!), we came to the end of Day 1 of IATEFL Glasgow…

Watch this space for Day 2…

…to be continued…

My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 6 – Jacket Potatoes, MLearning, ELearning & Skype

Tuesday, 20th March 2012, Glasgow Conference Centre.

IATEFL Day 1

Part of our amazing Twitteratti queueing for jacket potatoes

Lunch on this day was quite an experience.

First, we had to round up the Twitteratti after Anthony Gaughan’s talk, including those that didn’t manage to get past the surly female ‘bouncer’.

Then, we had to decided what our lunch options were. It turned out that we only had a café Costa that served sandwiches, a bistro/restaurant that was already full, and a jacket potato stand to choose from.

Next, we had to painfully recognize the fact that there was no way 50 members of the Twitteratti would fit in any where and that we had to split into smaller groups.

A group of us decided to go with the jacket potato option and after braving the long queues, we ended up sitting on the floor with our lunches. (not realizing that there was a hall full of tables that we could have sat at!) In any case, we certainly enjoyed bonding in front of the vending machine and feeling like the hippies that we were. Carol Goodey and I even attempted to go to the exhibition area to ‘score’ some desserts (in the form of boiled sweets) from some of the stands, before heading off early to all the respective rooms our talks were being held in for fear of being confronted by scary Scottish bouncers again (Fiona Mauchline, are you sure that was Genghis McCann’s mother?)

Not all teachers are champagne socialists! Some actually walk the walk!

Most of my afternoon was an exploration into technologies for learning, an area I must admit I know very little about (hence, the curiosity).

The first was the Learning Technologies (LT) SIG’s presentation by Maria do Carmo Ferreira Xavier of Cultura Inglesa – Ideas to implement mobile phones in the English classroom. In a very practical session where Maria talked of the project she has been working on over the last 18 months, where she used different types of mobiles, including smart phones, to motivate and engage her learners, allowing them to interpret the materials in the coursebooks in a personalized way.

Here are some of the ideas she put forward:

Get students to…

…use their mobiles to take photos of objects in odd positions and get to work in pairs guessing what each other’s photos are of.

…send a text message to their classmates inviting them to a party.

…actually have that party, take photos of it with their mobiles, and describe the party the following day to those who couldn’t make it.

…take photos of someone with piercings, with tattoo or body art, and bring it to class to talk about.

…bring photos of their holidays or places they have travelled to and talk about it.

…take photos of what they think represents the world’s biggest problems and or problems with their local area, and use the photos as discussion prompts.

…use iPods, smartphones, and iPads for vocabulary lists, and for Twitter/Facebook contact with native speakers.

Following in the theme of technology and learning, I then headed to Przemyslaw Stencel’s Which is better? F2F or ELearning? Apples or Oranges?

International House London, partnered by Cambridge, launched the Celta Online about a year ago, and more and more teacher trainers are making that move into online distance learning and teaching. I myself did the Distance Delta many years ago and had a great experience on it despite having initial reservations of there not being a Face-to-Face (F2F) element. I was thus curious what Przemyslaw had to say on the topic.

At the start of his talk, Przemyslaw introduces the audience a website called nosignificantdifference.org (no this is not one of those comedy hashtags, James…it is an actual real website with real statistics and stuff…) and it showed that there was in fact no statistical difference between distance learning and F2F.

Learning is after all the result of motivation and of opportunities, and learning happens best as an active process where there is interaction with others.

In ELearning, we can invite all kinds of people, including those outside the group, to join in and this allows for more interaction with a wider variety of people, hence increasing motivation. An example of this is MOOT (Massive Open Online Course) where the platform is opened to the public and anyone can join in.

Przemyslaw goes on to assert that unlike in F2F where we prefer to have a small number of learners/trainees, in ELearning, the more the participants, the more interesting the experience. We use Moodle or Blackboard because it allows us to retain control and assign tasks, but in fact we should get rid of the limitations and use ELearning to let students guide their own learning.

Often, a criticism of using online forums is the lack of immediacy and the delayed responses, but this could be seen as a good things as this means allowing for thinking and pondering time for the learner. Recommending the use of online tools such as Edublogs, Glogster, Youtube, etc, ELearning can be made an active process, and online projects can be bigger and involve more people than any F2F project can.

We tend to peg F2F as more ‘real’ and ELearning as ‘artificial’, when in fact we often create artificial environments in the classroom to teach students what to do in real life. Such classroom tasks are often artificial. On the contrary, we can give authentic real life tasks online, such as using google maps to teach directions, getting students to plan their holidays by using websites, etc.

A convincing talk by the end of which it is clear which of the two Przemyslaw is biased towards…and it’s certainly not Oranges.

Next up was another very exciting and popular event, especially amongst the Twitteratti. LT SIG Scholarship winner Bruno Andrade (Cultura Inglesa), also known as ‘That amazing guy who is running the Brazil #ELTChat?’,  presents ‘Technology speaks volumes: Enhancing Integration, Participation, and Speaking Activities’.

Bruno’s digital immersion project started off with him offering his students a range of tools to choose from, allowing them to select what they felt comfortable working with. When Skype was chosen, he gave the students further responsibility by asking them when in their lessons they would like to use Skype. In a presentation-style that was inspiring enough to make us go forth and try and move mountains, Bruno says, ‘When students are given responsibility, it becomes a driving force for them, and amazing things happen.

In their 1st Skype session, students simply exchanged trivial conversations, but by the 2nd session, they started to talk about the geographical and cultural aspects of their area.

In their 3rd Skype session, students started to play drama games, e.g. where they were only allowed to carry on a conversation with only 1 word at a time, or by only making questions.

By their 5th session, there was evidence of the encouraging of critical thinking through the discussion of violence in schools.

Here are my top picks of Bruno’s wise words:

  • Skype could make the class less teacher- and coursebook- centred.
  • Do not forcefully stick to the plan but take advantage of teachable moments and go with the flow (or what Dogmeticians would probably call ‘Dogme moments’?)
  • Encourage critical thinking in the classroom.
  • Play back the conversations for the students as this can help them with self-awareness, self-correction and increased self-confidence with talking to others.
  • Remember that when working with YLs, ensure you ask for authorization from parents when embarking on such digital immersion projects.

However, my favourite part of Bruno’s passionate presentation must have been when he played us videos of his learners, some of whom were too shy to even make a sentence in English prior to his project, talking about their learning experience with Skype in perfectly intelligible communicative English on camera.

But the best part wasn’t just what the learners were saying…

…but that big smile on Bruno’s face when that video was playing.

It was a smile that could have lit up a thousand Skype screens!

We know that look Bruno…and that is why we teach!

Thank you, Bruno, for reminding us of that!

(I feel all warm and fuzzy inside just recalling that moment…but Day 1 is not quite over yet…watch this space…)

…to be continued…

My IATEFL Glasgow Diary Part 4 – Dave Willis on Grammar

Tuesday, 20th March 2012, Glasgow Conference Centre.

IATEFL Day 1

 

After Adrian Underhill’s plenary, the thousands of TEFLers filtered out of the auditorium towards the different talks.
The first I went to was Dave Willis’s ‘Focus on Grammar: learning processes and teaching strategies’. Dave Willis had come to my IATEFL talk last year on Systemic Functional Grammar and through the Q & A session, it beame obvious that we had similar views on grammar (if I had read his book ‘Rules, Patterns and Words’, I really would have noticed that sooner…what kind of teacher am I?) and the way they are oversimplified and dealt with badly in most ELT coursebooks.

In his 2012 IATEFL talk, Dave Willis highlighted that current pedagogic methodology often focuses on ‘recognition’ but only touches lightly on ‘systems building’ and often even neglects the ‘exploration’ stage of the learning of patterns. With specific reference to the English verb system (tense, aspect, modality), Dave asserts that making contrasts, e.g. between the present continuous and the present simple, can lead to false generalisations. Using examples of the present continuous for daily routines and habits, e.g. ‘We are usually having breakfast around then’, he warns against the overgeneralization of grammar rules that gives rise to students saying ‘English has so many exceptions’.

 

Another issue contrastive teaching (What is the difference between the past simple and the past continuous?) is that it ignores the major useful generalisations and uses of the aspect, e.g. the interrupted-ness as a feature of all progressive aspects. Other useful generalisations about the progressive aspect might include: something temporary, something new, describing of something changing or developing.

 

Many coursebooks tend to look at specific tenses, but fail to look at the aspect as a whole. Dave then goes on to recommend that coursebooks start with the present continuous, avoid contrasting it with other tenses, but instead feed in slowly the different features of the aspect.  Here are some useful generalisations of the tense and aspect system.

 

Present tenses often used to :

Talk about the present and future;

Talk about the past when we are telling a story;

 

Past tenses often used to:

Talk about the past;

Talk about hypotheses;

Be polite.

 

Perfective Aspect often used to:

Look back

i.e. present perfect shows how something continued to the present,

past perfect shows how something continued to a particular point in the past.

 

Although general guidelines are worth giving to students, Dave Willis cautions against offering precise rules and tells us that successful pedagogic grammars are good at constructing examples (clearly contrived ones to boot) that fit the rule of the language they want to have. Instead he suggests that we get students to look at authentic texts and examine the choices made in real contexts, while considering the contextual features that are motivating that choice the speaker/writer makes.

 

Here is an example of a text that he uses. Notice how there are no correct answers and the options given can all be correct depending on the point of view of the speaker/writer, and the emphasis they want to give the different subjects and themes of the text.

Stating that we need to expose our learners to the different genres of texts in different registers, and get our learners to see how time is talked about with different tenses, Dave provides a viewpoint of language that seems to be continuously echoed throughout the rest of the conference, a viewpoint that I have expounded on in my talk about politeness and pragmatics as well, and that is:

 

Stop overgeneralizing and offering fake formulae to learners. Instead get them to discuss and notice the patterns of language use.

 

Raise their awareness of pragmatic/discourse issues and allow them to understand that it all depends on the context and the intentions of the interlocutor.

 

For more updates on the rest of Day 1 at the IATEFL Conference, watch this space…

 

…to be continued…

Wham! Varoom! And things that jet setters do…

No. I’m sorry. This is the last of my misleading blog titles. This is not a post about the me and my partner’s imaginary jet setting lifestyle. It’s a continuation of the saga about the use of music in my Advanced Class.

Previously,

This is what happened next…

Part Five

The next day, the students were put in groups to recall what they had done the day before, and this naturally led to them discussing their interpretation of the Lady Gaga music video. We started to discuss the use of colours in the video and the parallels they could draw to Lichtenstein’s work, alongside those of his contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, all of which represented, albeit sometimes ironically, the pop icons and all that is wholesome and desired in the modern American world.

Some of the students had not just gone and researched Roy Lichtenstein, but had googled ‘Analysis of Lady Gaga’s Telephone’ and found other views on what they thought the video meant. Suggesting that ‘mind control’ could be a theme of the video, a student went on to explain the literal visual cues of Lady Gaga’s wearing of Coke cans and then a telephone on her head, and this bloomed into a discussion about the significance of the products placements featured in the video…

(There are so many! Here is a list: Virgin Mobile, LG – Mobile Phone, Coke and Diet Coke, Chanel – Sunglasses, Polaroid, Monster – Beats Headphones, Plenty of Fish – dating website, Miracle Whip – Mayonnaise, Wonder Bread…can you spot any more?)

We wondered whether the product placements were actually there to promote the products or as a tongue in cheek social commentary on the way our minds were controlled by advertising and marketing firms. One student then mentions the portrayal of food in the second half of the video. We discussed if it was Lady Gaga and Beyonce poisoning the people in the café, or if it was American food culture and eating habits that were doing the poisoning… Some thought that the use of the American flag colours in the Super Hero costumes Lady Gaga and Beyonce wore while they were dancing around the dead people confirmed that the video was a dig at American consumerism and materialism, and questioned the authenticity of the product placements.

The discussion about consumerist societies and our susceptibility to being influenced soon turned into one about advertising campaigns and strange ways that companies used to market their products and gain publicity. In pairs, students shared with each other the most notorious advertising campaigns in their countries, and this got students quite excited. Even those paired up with partners from the same country brought up different adverts that they remembered, and reminisced about how good (or bad) they were.

It was time for our usual 15-minute break, and so I gave them the task of finding their ad on Youtube so that they could show the class after the break. We were entertained with mini-presentations from the different students who talked about ads that gave rise to publicity coming from :

1) the extreme bad acting of a Uruguayan alcoholic beverage,

2) a Brazilian real estate company’s owner talking about his family and his phrase ‘My daughter is in Canada’ being made famous nation-wide

3) a car ad that featured a catchy jingle and animated ponies dancing around in the engine as a play on the word ‘Horse-Power’

4) A Peruvian tourism board short documentary filmed in Peru, Nebraska.

The class was made up of mostly Peruvian students, with the exception of one Uruguayan and two Brazilians, and so when the students played the video, which was in Spanish, most of the class understood what was going on quite well. Although I speak some Spanish, some of the funny moments were lost on me, and suddenly it dawned on me that this was a great moment to introduce some translation work.

Now, I know that the taboo of grammar translation methodologies still hovers over many of us teachers. And if you find yourself gasping at either the use of L1 in the classroom or the encouragement of translation, I’d urge you to read on and see if this changes your mind.

I paused the video after about one and a half minutes, and said to students, ‘You are all working as subtitlers and in charged of subtitling those one and a half minutes for an English-speaking audience. You can’t just translate word for word. You need to get the jokes, the connotations, the style of the genre across to the audience.’

I asked them if they ever did any translation work in their English classrooms previously and all of them said no. So I then proceeded to explain, ‘Many of you said you need English because it is now an essential tool to have to get a good job. So how many of you do you think would be asked in your jobs to translate an email from Spanish into English, or vice versa? Or perhaps your boss might say, ‘I need this report to be translated. You speak English? You do it!’ You might not need to be a professional translator, but at some point, you’d be asked to translate something or other into or out of English, don’t you think?’

I asked the following questions for them to ponder upon.

Is translation an easy skill? Do you think it needs practising?

Can we just translate word for word? What happens when we do?

I then played the video again sentence by sentence for the students, giving them time to write their translations into their notebooks. The Brazilians were given help by their Peruvian partners.

In pairs, the students then compared their answers and discussed the differences between the way they have translated the sentences, and the different effect that creates.

Some fascinating discussions took place here.

Some students translated ‘Peru. Nebraska. Population 569. A gas station. A restaurant…a train station that now has another use.

Others translated ‘Peru. Nebraska. Inhabitants 569. One gas station. One restaurant…a train station that now has a different use.

We discussed the use of ‘Number of inhabitants: 569’ to make it fit the genre; the differences between emphasizing the number ‘one’ versus using a general article ‘a’; and the use ‘another use’ versus ‘different use’ or even ‘different purpose’ and the subtle differences in style they create.

I could go on and on here about the different discussions we had about the very short translated text, but it would only be relevant to this text and you would be bored.

More importantly, it was the discussions it provoked and the awareness it raised of the differences in language use and the different norms in the same genre.

When the translation exercise was completed, the conversation went back to advertising campaigns and marketing products. I had picked up the DVD of ‘Business Nightmares’ during their break, and proceeded to show them a short video of Sunny Delight’s successful, but not so truthful, marketing campaign.

This led to an interesting discussion about the responsibilities that companies and corporations have towards their consumers, nicely wrapping up our three-day journey that started All Because I Hoped I didn’t Fall in Love with You.