Beginners’ Etymology

I joined the etymology game pretty late, and my complete lack of grounding in Latin or any Romance languages doesn’t help. It wasn’t until I was 15 or 16 that I actually got my head around which words were verbs, nouns and adjectives, and that was only through studying Japanese. Having taken the red pill and started down the linguistic root rabbit hole, I now find it impossible to see the world of language at face value. This has crept it’s way into my teaching, and surprisingly I’ve had a good number of students who have actually found my ‘lectures’ interesting, so I thought I’d share some of the highlights that I’ve shared with people that seemed to go down well. It’s all fresh in mind, as the following is all taken from things I shared with a lucky Japanese 19 year old who sat next to my on an 11 hour flight from New Zealand to Osaka…

Continue reading “Beginners’ Etymology”


8 Ways to Improve Writing in English Class

Writing is a really important skill and it’s a great way for students to improve their meaning focused output when they do not have a chance to talk. Since I’ve been in Japan, one thing I’ve noticed is that there is less focus on writing in all subjects, not just language study. There is far less creative writing, formal writing and making speeches in Japanese. My impression is that part of the reason for the difference is assessment is that writing is harder and less accurate to mark, as there isn’t a set answer. It is also time consuming to mark. (If you really want to, you can take it back to Confucius’ influence, but we won’t go there right now…)

Here are some tips to add variation to your writing tasks that will make it more interesting for the students, improve their writing and make marking easier.

All of this then comes together for overall improvement. Here I’d like to introduce a few tips for getting the most out of writing tasks.

Continue reading “8 Ways to Improve Writing in English Class”

Testable grammar vs useable grammar: many passive sentences

Everyone knows that teaching to tests can be problematic. Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the nature of those tests. Tests are of course useful in terms of having goals and setting benchmarks. However, as Japanese tests tend to focus on multi choice grammar questions, they need to have questions that are suitably difficult, but don’t have to necessarily represent how English is generally used.
One example of this is the focus on ‘much’ and ‘many’. It’s easy to spend too much time on this distinction because there are so many strange rules around whether we’re talking about countable or uncountable things, which is why it’s perfect for sticking in tests. However, the result is that after rote memorization of the various rules for the test, and the subsequent forgetting of said rules, learners are left with ‘many’ and ‘much’ as their only way to demonstrate a lot of something. This leads them to the situation where they end up trying to remember if they should say ‘He has many money’ or ‘He has much money’. After letting them run through that internal struggle for while, I then have to remind them about ‘a lot of’. The third and final quantifier that they learn as more of an afterthought than anything.

Continue reading “Testable grammar vs useable grammar: many passive sentences”

Creating a Balanced Lesson Plan

The Four Strands of Language Learning is a framework designed by Paul Nation. It involves a balanced lesson or curriculum consisting of four main areas (Nation & Newton, 2009). This kind of lesson planning is beneficial in that it compliments technical language study with practical use, treating language as a language and not just a subject.

Continue reading “Creating a Balanced Lesson Plan”

Correcting use of ‘Enjoy’ with prefixes and suffixes

Every English teacher in Japan has their own pet peeves. Some people can’t stand the strangely common phrase ‘I want to go to shopping.’ Other people find the overuse of the full stop soul crushing in sentences like ‘I’m hungry. Because I didn’t eat.’

One of mine comes from the way bits and pieces of English are picked up and turned into Japanese. It’s the word ‘enjoy’ and it gets my goat up to constantly hear ‘Shopping is enjoy’ or have the question ‘Do you like English?’ answered ‘Yes, enjoy.’

Continue reading “Correcting use of ‘Enjoy’ with prefixes and suffixes”

The Best Book For ESL Teachers

Originally posted on iaccidentlyatethewholething :
I couldn’t yell it at my Japanese co-workers so I’m gonna write it here: people don’t learn a language through tests! I say this from experience. English is my second language. Until the age of 8.5 I could not speak a word of it. In fact, I loathed the damn gibberish I couldn’t decrypt. So much so, that I remember crying… Continue reading The Best Book For ESL Teachers