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Tips for Teaching Academic Writing to Non-Native Students

For years, foreign students have been coming to the United States to earn valuable degrees that can translate into a great job in their home country.  However, these students often experience difficulties adapting to the culture and struggle enormously learning even the basic tenets of academic writing. 
Students sometimes get so overwhelmed that they resort to buying their essays online from one of the dozens of sites that…

6 Tips to Make your ESL Classes More Effective

Teaching is undeniably a challenging job, in fact many consider it one of the most difficult careers you could choose. Nevertheless, being a teacher is an enriching experience. Through quality education and effective teaching methodologies, teachers play a crucial role in shaping a bright future for the entire world!

In the world of ESL, a major hindrance that keeps students from reaching their full potential is lack of interest…

ICAL TEFL Resources

Knowledge is Power

The ICAL TEFL site has thousands of pages of free TEFL resources for teachers and students.

These include:
The TEFL ICAL Grammar Guide.
Country Guides for teaching around the world.
How to find TEFL jobs.
How to teach English.
TEFL Lesson Plans.
… and much, much, more.

To find what you’re looking for, you can either use the links in the right-hand sidebar…

Hear some tips and advice from Samantha: For current TEFL students

Samantha is a previous student of ICAL TEFL on the 120-hour course. Based in USA at the moment, Samantha is looking forward to the future and where she could be using her certificate next …

Before completing your course, what were your aspirations for teaching once you had your TEFL certificate?
My goal in taking this course was to become not just a teacher who speaks English, but a…

How To Use Competition to Motivate Your TEFL Students

Today we have a guest contribution from Victoria Hughes. Victoria has been a TEFL teacher for 5 years and has lived in Poland, China and Turkey. She writes about job hunting, lesson planning and the joys and frustrations of teaching. 
Enter Victoria
I was watching the inspiring “Dead Poets Society” the other day, and I was struck by something the teacher, John Keating, says. “For me, sport is a chance for…

Copyright and Photocopying in the TEFL Classroom

There is a persistent image that crops up again and again when it comes to teachers: a sad and lonely figure standing at a photocopier printing off a huge pile of material for their class.

But is that sad figure breaking the law? Could the teacher who supplies their class with copies of an Auden poem to analyze be fined?

This article looks at copyright and…

Keep the Classroom English

I’ve just been reading a very interesting article about language interference.

It recounts the story of a Chinese student in the US who, during a fluent English presentation, happened to glance over to her Chinese professor and accidentally used a simple Mandarin word instead of the corresponding English word.

Further studies showed that when we speak a language we have a lot of cultural baggage associated…

Teaching English in Scandinavia

Scandinavia is a collection of countries in Northern Europe with a common heritage. Although there are different definitions of which countries Scandinavia comprises, a good general list is:


Generally speaking the people of Scandinavia have a reputation for excellent linguistic skills. English is taught in state schools to a very high level and to work in…

ICAL Student Testimonials

Over the years we have collected a lot of positive feedback on our TEFL certification courses and now, with the students’ permission, we proudly share it with you.

The course was very interesting with a lot of useful information. Besides, it was well structured and organized. The assignments were well designed as well. I really liked the course and enjoyed studying it. My tutor was very…

Make or Do a Presentation?

I was asked this question the other day by a learner of English; quite simply, do we MAKE or DO a presentation?

If you go online there are different stories, but as usual I went along to Google n-grams and checked out what they had to say.

It’s interesting. Prior to 1960 nobody really did anything with presentations. They didn’t often make, do, or give them. But soon…

Fossilized Errors in TEFL

If you’re a TEFL teacher then chances are you have had to deal with Fossilized Errors in your classroom, especially if you deal with older students or those past the Beginners‏ stage.

Basically a fossilized error is a mistake a student has made so many times that it has becomes part of their natural speech.

This article, then, is all about how to deal with these kinds…

n-grams and TEFL

In the fields of computational linguistics an n-gram is a sequence of items from a corpus‏‎ of language.

An n-gram could be any combination of letters, phoneme‏s, syllable‏‎s or words‏‎, etc. Looking at n-grams is useful to help work out how language works and is used in everyday situations.

Google Books offers an n-gram search online. This allows users to see how a word, etc, is used. It…

The ICAL TEFL Grammar Guide

The ICAL TEFL Grammar Guide is a huge selection of articles which are all about English Grammar. They have been especially written for TEFL teachers and students and are presented in a user-friendly format.

The main areas are:

You can search any grammar item on the ICAL TEFL Grammar Guide by using the Search Box.

For a list of the most recently viewed grammar articles…

The Most Common Words in English

In 1953 the General Service List was published. This was a list of about 2,000 most commonly used words in English. For many years this was used as a basis for materials writing.

This list was useful in learning because anyone who knew all the words on the list would understand about 90% of spoken general English and about 80% of written general English.

However, since…

ESOL – English to Speakers of Other Languages

ESOL is an acronym meaning English to Speakers of Other Languages.

It is all about people who do not have English as a mother tongue, learning English.

A more common term to ESOL is ESL which means English as a Second Language and refers to people learning English to live in an English speaking country, e.g.

immigrants who have moved to a new country…

Linking Verbs or Copulas

A linking verb links the subject of the sentence to more information about that subject (the predicate). A linking verb is also known as a copula (plural copulas or copulae.)

In English most verbs‏‎ describe an action. For example:
Sofia directs her new film
The verb here tells us what the subject does. However, a linking verb doesn’t describe an action, it describes the subject and gives us more information about…

Classroom Management

If only teaching were all about teaching and not about keeping order in the classroom or, as it’s sometimes known, Classroom Management.
A major part of teaching has nothing really to do with imparting information and helping your students learn. Instead it’s all about the lesson-to-lesson issues of running a class. This can be anything from late students, missing coursebooks‏‎, forgotten homework, noisy roadworks outside, malfunctioning air-conditioning and so on…

Chalkface – Chalk & Talk

Chalkface is a term believed to have been coined by Professor Ted Wragg in the Times Education Supplement in the 1980s. It is a reflection of coalface, the toughest point in coal mining where coal is hewn from rock.

Like the coalface, the chalkface is where the real, dirty, tough, hard work is carried out. All the planning and preparation leads to this point and it is here where…

Five Tips for your First Day of TEFL

It’s your first minute in front of a new class. You have a room of expectant faces looking up at you waiting.

First impressions count. If you stand there and falter the class will know what they’re dealing with. If you allow little Jimmy to answer his mobile phone then the class will know they can do what they want. If you don’t know what you are doing, they…

Accent, Dialect & Language in English

What is the difference between Accent, Dialect and Language?

This article looks at the differences between the three terms. People often confuse them and there is a certain degree of overlap (even linguists don’t always agree on what the difference is between them) but generally speaking we can talk about:
Accent is all about pronunciation. Two people may use the same grammar, the same syntax and…

A First Time English Teacher in Italy

Welcome to Ally – a former ICAL student – writing this guest post. Ally began her  TEFL life after a career in banking; here she talks about her first experience teaching English which happened in a small town in northern Italy.

Living in Italy had been my dream for years, but I never wanted to go down the usual trodden paths – Tuscany, Umbria, Rome, Naples. Instead…

A First Private TEFL Lesson

You’ve been asked to give a private TEFL lesson to a new student. You know virtually nothing about them but you know you’ll be sitting in a room with them, one on one, for an hour and half.

This article is all about how to prepare for a First Private Lesson.
What Interests Them?
First lessons with private students are often difficult since before going into the…

TEFL to Adults vs TEFL to Children

Do children have all the advantages when it comes to learning a foreign language?

This article looks at the fundamental general differences between language learning amongst adults and children.

Talk to any family who have moved abroad with young children and you’ll soon find out that whilst the children have had no problem learning the language of the new country (and have often become almost bilingual)…

Principle vs Principal

At the —– School of English, we believe in the principals of accuracy, hard work and having fun.
I came across this snippet the other day whilst looking at a school website and it frightened me.

If they can’t spell properly, how can they believe in the idea of accuracy?

But it’s an easy mistake to make and you’ll find many people – not just learners but…

Who or Which or That?

People often confuse Who or Which or That and when they start to talk about when to use them, grammarians and supposedly learned people often talk rubbish.

Take these sentences for example:
The guy who stole your wallet was an actor.
The guy that stole your wallet was an actor.
The wallet that you lost was empty anyway!
The wallet which you lost was empty anyway!
Depending on who…

Top 3 Tips to Make the Most of your Online TEFL Course

We get thousands of students each year taking our online TEFL course and a lot of new trainees joining us don’t quite know what to expect so here are 3 simple tips to help you make the most of your training.
1. Use your Personal Tutor!
Our tutors are experienced, knowledgeable and have often taught in many different countries around the world. They know what they’re talking about!


How Many is a Billion?

Simple question: How many is a Billion?

Awkward Answer: It’s not always what you think it is.

First, if you are American, then a billion is one-thousand-million:
This is known as a short-scale billion.

However, many British people regard a billion as one-million-million:
Which is known as a long-scale billion.

This is despite the fact that “officially” in the UK since 1974…

English the Most Influential Language

A new study has mapped the global influence of different languages and as a surprise to absolutely no one, English comes out as the most important and influential language.

Russia, somewhat more surprisingly, comes in second with other languages following up well behind.

The data was collected by researchers at MIT and essentially looked at texts which had been translated from one language to another. They mapped the…

Illustrate: The Video Dictionary – app review

Essentially Illustrate – The Video Dictionary is a dictionary. But it does things slightly differently.
After you look up a word you have the option to watch a short animated video.
Let’s say you look up the word POUT. You see an explanation and there’s also the option to watch an animated video which helps illustrate the word: up pops Dad explaining to his daughter that he has to cancel their appointment…

Where have You Taught English?

Anyone who has taught English abroad knows that TEFL is a fantastic way to travel and experience life in different countries.

I started teaching three weeks after I graduated from university. I got on a plane and headed off to Spain and the start of an incredible journey which has seen me working in Spain, Italy, Thailand, India, Tunisia, Mexico and the UK.

I’ve had classes of 40…

Different Types of English in TEFL

When you teach English as a foreign language you don’t just teach “English”.

No, you teach a specific type of English depending on your class: different people need different English.

You can view this in the same way as dance. If you go to a dance class you don’t just learn to dance in general but instead learn Latin or Ballroom or Jazz or Modern, etc…

Making Questions with Do/Does/Did

This is all about Making Questions with DO or DOES or DID:
Do you like coffee?Does he speak Italian?Did she just ignore me?
A standard English statement follows this pattern:
{subject} + {verb}…
You + enjoy + swimming.Joe + lives + in New York.Amanda + worked + at the local supermarket.
If we want to make these kinds of statements into a question, we simply follow this pattern:
do/does/did + {subject} + {infinitive}…
Do + you +…


The International Accreditation of TESOL Qualifying Organisations or IATQuO is an accreditation organization for TEFL certificates and similar courses.

Currently IATQuO accredit 6 schools and have done for the past few years.

Note that IATQuO does not accredit online TEFL courses.

Although a limited company, IATQuO Ltd says on their website they are not-for-profit.
IATQUO was set up by Dr Alan Moller in 2004, after he…

Famous TEFL Teachers

Ever think that TEFL doesn’t lead anywhere?

If you have ever wondered what happens to all the TEFL teachers who close their grammar books for the final time and lock the classroom door behind them, then here’s a selection of former TEFL teachers who have made their way to fame (and sometimes infamy) and occasionally fortune, and have, in some cases, even won the respect and admiration of their…

IATEFL & the Accreditation Scam

We had an enquirer write to us the other day asking about our accreditation and IATFEL.
He could not decide which TEFL course to take: ours or another one. And one of the factors which worried him was that the other TEFL course was “accredited” by IATEFL.
Now you’ll notice I put “accreditation” in inverted commas. I did that quite simply because it was a scam.
And here’s why…
IATEFL – as you may…

This Will Revolutionize Teaching

For years they’ve been telling us that new technology will revolutionize teaching.

First it was film. Then radio. Then TV. Then video. Then computers. Then MOOCs…

And they were wrong. Wrong every time. Wrong all the time.

In this insightful video from Derek Muller he explains that the reason why all these ideas failed was simple: they got the role of a teacher wrong.

You see…

Purposely vs Purposefully

This one crops up all the time. Someone writes something like:
I made that mistake purposefully.She stood there purposely and refused to let me pass.
And all the grammar fiends come down on them for such basic errors.
So once and for all, here’s the difference between these two words.
purposely = intentionally = on purpose
Beckham purposely kicked the Argentinian player.Beckham intentionally kicked the Argentinian player.Beckham kicked the Argentinian player on purpose.
In other words…

Chinese Whispers: Offensive or Not?

We have a TEFL teaching activity on our site called Chinese Whispers or Telephone.

Some say it’s a demeaning and offensive title, if not outright racist. Others say it’s fine and that it’s ridiculous to question it.

So opinion is divided which means, of course, that we need to ask the question outright and try and find an answer for sure: Is the name Chinese Whispers…

Is TEFL in China really a Scam?

There’s a lot of hype these days about TEFL teaching in China. This poll is to try and find out what the truth is.

Some say that it’s full of scams and if you go to China through an agent you are destined to be ripped off and end up being deported for the wrong visa, the wrong qualifications or some other reason.

Others say that it’s perfectly…

How to Get a TEFL Certificate Online

If you want to teach English abroad then the two basic qualifications you need are a degree* and a TEFL certificate.

Twenty years ago if you wanted a TEFL certificate this meant spending several weeks at bricks-and-mortar school, attending class in the traditional way, taking your exam and then hopefully coming away with your certificate at the end of that time.

Nowadays thanks to online learning…

Worcestershire Sauce Fail (TEFAL)

It’s doing the rounds of the internet – an Italian YouTube chef shows how frustrating and impossible the English language can sometimes be.

In the video quite simply he just wants to say “Worcestershire Sauce”.

But Pasquale Sciarappa fails and in the end he gets fed up and comments, “I don’t know what kind of country this came from, but I’m Italian – so I’ll read…

All About Shall (vs Will)

When we talk about the future, most often we’ll use words like will or be going to:
They will arrive tomorrow afternoon.
I’m going to see the match.
However, there is an alternative: shall.

These days, people often talk about shall as though it’s on its way out and that before long it’ll be consigned to the garbage heap along with other archaic words like foresooth and verily but…

More than 1 Octopus?

An octopus has 8 legs. Or arms, depending on your point of view. The name octopus comes from Ancient Greek and is made up of 2 parts:
ὀκτώ = okto = 8
πούς = pous = foot/leg
So octopus is originally Greek. Remember that, it has implications later in this article!

Now when there is more than just one octopus confusion arises over how to make the plural. There…

On Foot vs By Foot

Oh language! Do we want to go down the route of there being no rules, just a few nebulous suggestions which change over time? Are we like the freethinking parents at sports day who declare that every child wins because they are all special? Or are we on the side of traditionalists who don’t split infinitives‏‎ and who think anyone using a preposition at the end…

TEFL to Blind & Visually Impaired Students

This article looks at a few ideas you should bear in mind if you have blind or visually impaired students in your TEFL class.

Over the years we at ICAL TEFL have had a number of blind and visually impaired teacher trainees taking our course and we have worked with them in preparing material and instruction based on their individual needs. We have also had sighted teacher…

ICAL TEFL Course 150hr with Practicum – Syllabus

This page has the full syllabus for the ICAL TEFL Course 150hr with Practicum (Teaching Practice),
Course Syllabus
Module 1
In this first module, we introduce the subject of English Language Teaching. The module begins right at the beginning by talking about what it means to be an English teacher. It then brings in some basic ideas, words and concepts you will need to know to do the job.
We realize that many students…

American TEFL Teachers & Tax

For many Americans teaching abroad, the first year away can be both exciting and challenging.

Hopefully, however, filing your US tax return will not be one of the challenges!

The following FAQ addresses some basic tax-related questions for American teachers. (Note, for a more general look at TEFL and tax, see the article Taxation for English Teachers Abroad).
Do I Need to File a Tax Return?
Almost certainly…

Tougher Laws for TEFL Teachers in China

From October 31st, 2014 new regulations come into force in China which will affect all TEFL teachers.

Notably teachers will now need a TEFL certificate to prove they have qualifications to teach English.

In future, all English teachers will need:

a bachelor’s degree
a clean criminal record
to be aged between 18-60
a TEFL certificate

This final requirement for a TEFL certificate…

Undercover TV Reports on English Teachers in China

Chinese Central Television CCTV, went undercover to report on how English schools in the country often employ under-qualified teachers without the official paperwork.

This video report from CCTV shows what happened and promises further official crackdowns on illegal teachers.

Many teachers don’t have the correct local teaching license or employment certificate. This often happens because of the huge demand for teachers in China and the slowness of the…

New Regulations for Thailand

Using Thai security concerns as an excuse, the Teachers’ Council of Thailand (TCT) has announced (on 5th August 2014) that they will be setting up a database of foreign teachers in Thailand. Meanwhile The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has voiced concerns about the granting of licenses to foreign teachers.

The TCT database is expected to include teacher details including the school where they are working, their…

Irish ELT Schools in Turmoil

The Irish ELT business is in turmoil following the closure of a number of English language schools after allegations of visa fraud.
Hundreds of students were affected by the fraud and the Irish government is stepping in to try and regulate the market.
Ruairi Quinn, the Irish Minister for Education, has said that from next year a new accreditation body will be used to make sure English schools in Ireland were genuine…

Hearing Phantom Free – app review

“Do you wanna be a hero with magic power?”

The blurb tells you that this is the first Android game which uses your voice to control the action. Actually, to be precise, it says this is the first game which uses your voice to “control, navigate the action. Hope it’s funny!”

It’s billed as being an aid to pronunciation helping you learn and practice. Having played the game…

More ESOL Testing Scams in the UK

Back in February, the British Government suspended all TOEIC testing in the UK after it was revealed the exam was being scammed.

Well it’s back again. An investigation by the British Daily Mail newspaper has revealed how people who do not speak English can buy a ‘pass’ on an English language test for  which opens the door for them to get UK citizenship.

The scam takes place in…

English Grammar – app review

Quite simply, English Grammar by Emantra Technologies is not worth downloading and installing on your tablet or smartphone. In fact, it appears to be little more than a sparse, poorly written grammar guide put into an app full of incredibly annoying and intrusive pop-up adverts.

We installed it on a Nexus 10 tablet, gathered around and gradually became more and more incredulous as we used it.
Language Problems

Learn English 6000 Words – app review

The backbone of learning a language is learning vocabulary and this android app aims to simplify that. As it says on the tin, it helps learners get to grips with 6,000 English words so theoretically if you spend hours upon hours upon hours trawling through the whole app you will hopefully increase your vocabulary.

However there’s a good chance you’ll also become bored out of your mind and quite…

Morocco Universities move to English

Morocco is set to change its university system, making English the main foreign language taught there.

Currently universities in the country concentrate on French, but the Moroccan Minister for Higher Education announced late last week that in future universities will give preference to English to bring Morocco in line with most other countries and secure a place for the country in the global business community.

In future, Moroccan…

Summer Jobs for TEFL/TESOL Teachers

How do you fancy teaching English in the sunshine? A few weeks over in Italy or Mexico or somewhere else nice and hot, teaching in the morning then changing into your swimwear to grade homework while you lie on the beach?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the idyll of a summer job teaching English is unlikely, if not impossible. And this article explains why.
Usual Term Times…

TEFL Job Sites

There are a several good job sites for TEFL teachers. There are also a lot of terrible sites which charge money to join and offer nothing in return.

The sites we list on this page have been carefully reviewed by our expert panel and offer worthwhile jobs for TEFL teachers.

If you are looking for work, remember it’s worth going back to these sites on a daily basis…

Bad Reporting of the Day: All Commas will Die!

A professor of comparative English at Columbia university said that commas should be abolished. He said we should get rid of them and no one would care. He says we should kill them. Destroy them. Take each one and murder it in cold blood.

And the reaction? Pages of internet newsprint devoted to the story and angry responses from members of the public leading to personal attacks on the…

TOEIC Suspended in the UK after Scam

The UK government has suspended all TOEIC testing in the UK after a TV investigation showed how the system was riddled with fraud with fake sitters taking the test on behalf of English language students.

The investigation by Panorama (a respected BBC investigative program) uncovered how immigrants to the UK were able to buy a pass in the TOEIC test which they could then use to get a visa to stay in…

Apostrophes Return to Cambridge

Earlier in the year we reported on how Cambridge city council in the UK had decided not to use apostrophes in street signs and how examiners for Cambridge Assessment (the ones who do all the TEFL exams) had supported this idea.

It was, of course, ridiculous of them to do so.

You see, the idea that an examining board could condone bad English in some situations but mark…

English Teacher Suspended for Explicit Lyrics in the Classroom

An English teacher in Florida has been suspended after giving their 8th grade class (13-15 year olds) explicit lyrics to analyze.

The students were having problems understanding concepts such as puns, similes, and metaphors so rather than continue using more traditional material to explain them, the teacher brought in the lyrics to Lil Wayne’s song, 6 Foot 7 Foot which contain a number of taboo words.

Parents complained and…

Teaching English in the Balkans

TEFL/TESOL in the Balkans
The Balkans is a generic term for an area in south east Europe with a rapidly growing demand for English teachers.
The reason is historical. Many of the states here were occupied for many centuries and it’s only in the past 20 years or so that they have become truly independent.
Some states, such as Greece‏‎, traditionally looked to the west (and English) whilst others, such as Bulgaria‏‎, used to look…

ICAL People

This page is all about the people who work at ICAL. To get in touch with anyone here, please see our contact page.
ICAL Staff
Jenny Scott – Jenny has worked for ICAL for the past few years and deals mainly with our online presence. She handles our social media and also writes and collates our TEFL News section.

Pete West – Pete is an ICAL veteran! She has worked…

Missing Apostrophes Don’t Worry Cambridge Examiners

Like other cities in the UK, Cambridge City Council are not going to bother with apostrophes in street names anymore.
In the future, then, you might well see “Brookes Drive” and “Paxmans Close” instead of the grammatically correct, “Brooke’s Drive” and “Paxman’s Close”.
“Removing apostrophes from street names in Cambridge is unlikely to have an effect on English learning standards worldwide,” said Roger Johnson, an executive of Cambridge Assessment, who provide English…

India pushing English Books

“India may dream in Hindi, sleep in Hindi, but it aspires to read in English.”

So says Aditi Maheshwari, Director Vani Publications. And this leads to the Indian Publishing industry (currently worth about $1.6 billion) looking to publish more titles in English.

At this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival, talk was about English and the publishing industry in India. And with a predicted growth of 30% a year, it’s…

English Lessons lead to the Olympics

Who knows where English classes can lead?
For Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson it has led to the Olympics. Her English teacher at school was passionate about curling and so he organized a one off English class which took place on the ice rink. The students were so enthusiastic that it became a regular weekly lesson for the class.
This has led to Sigfridsson becoming the captain of her country’s national team at the 2014 Olympics…

US Education Department Fails Language Learners

“US students who speak a language other than English at home and are still learning English have received scant support from the federal Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.”
So says a report published by the University of Colorado a few days ago. The report is highly critical of the education these students are getting and predicts major problems in the future as emerging bilingual students are the fastest growing student group in…

US Education Department Fails Language Learners

“US students who speak a language other than English at home and are still learning English have received scant support from the federal Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.”

So says a report published by the University of Colorado a few days ago. The report is highly critical of the education these students are getting and predicts major problems in the future as emerging bilingual students are the fastest…

The Lifespan of Words in English

Did you know that even words have a life span? This ranges from 1,000 years to 20,000 years.
A word like “throw” is expected to have a lifespan of about 1,000 years, while words like “I” and “who” are likely to reach the 20,000 year mark.
Until recently the life span of a word was known to be around 9,000 years.
In May 2013 researchers from the University of Reading in the United…

Vietnam Desperate to find Decent English Teachers

A number of schools in Ho Chi Min City (HCM, the largest city in Vietnam) are struggling to find English teachers.

Originally the HCM City municipal Department of Education and Training tried to recruit 100 English teachers from the Philippines to teach at Primary and Secondary level. However they have only managed to find 13 so far with another 26 slated to arrive soon.

But finding…

Student for a Day

What an excellent idea this is!
I came across this blog article the other day on how several teachers in Vermont, USA, spent the day as students in their school. As it says on the tin, they simply went into school as students instead of teachers and spent the day sitting in class listening, queueing for lunch, hanging around lockers, smoking in the toilets (well, maybe not that last one) and…

Lexical Distance

Lexical Difference shows how languages are related in terms of vocabulary.
As a simple example, the English word bread is very similar to the German‏‎ word, Brot and both of them derive from the same root. However the Italian‏‎ for bread is pane which is very different. (In fact, about 80% of the most commonly used English words come from Germanic roots.)
The graphic (top right) shows the lexical difference between the main European languages.

Jakarta to Keep English Lessons

Elementary schools in Jakarta, Indonesia will be offering English as an extracurricular activity only while elementary schools elsewhere in Indonesia will not have English on the curriculum at all.
The announcement, made late last year (December 2013) means that English lessons at Elementary school level will either not be offered at all or limited to just one hour a week as an extracurricular activity in Jakarta schools. Regular English lessons will…

Your Nationality when Teaching Abroad

This article answers a question we’re asked quite a lot: do you have to give up your nationality or citizenship when you go and work in another country?

The simple answer which applies 99.9% of the time is: No.

The rest of this article explores this topic in more detail.

As an example, suppose you are a citizen of the United States and you hold…

Intonation in Practice – intonation activity

Intonation in Practice is a simple exercise which you can do with almost any class to help them understand what intonation‏‎ is and how it works in English. It’s easily adaptable to all learner levels‏ and abilities.

Explain that in English you have to give stress (or emphasis) to certain words to deliver certain meanings. Go through a brain storming session to elicit some of the feelings we can convey through the appropriate intonation: disappointment, excitement, anger…

Norwegian vs English

This article looks at different aspects of Norwegian compared to English for TEFL teachers with Norwegian students.
It’s often said that Norwegian is closely related to English and if you know one language it is easy to pick up the other. 
However, there are differences and if you are an English teacher in Norway then the kinds of errors you might come across from your students may well look like these.
Like English, Norwegian is…

Teaching English in America

When it comes to teaching English in America (or the Americas as it’s sometimes known), there are two main groups of countries. This page offers an overview of working in America with links to more specific information on each country where you can read about how best to find work, qualifications you need, pay and working conditions along with a little general information on the lifestyle in those countries…

Teaching Proverbs in TEFL

Proverbs are simple sayings which are used to show common sense and popular wisdom. They are regarded generally as informal rather than formal language. Thus they’re mostly used in common everyday spoken language.

There are hundreds and hundreds of proverbs in modern English‏‎ (and of course in other languages) but a few common examples include:
An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.
Honesty is the best policy.
Two wrongs…

Teach and Travel as an English Teacher Abroad

Do you want to travel the world? Experience what other cultures have to offer? Visit the greatest sights on Earth?

Well English teachers working abroad get to do that.

As a teacher you can work right across the world and experience some incredible places and cultures. Quite simply this article explains how many teachers live their lives, teaching and traveling around the world.

And how…

Why MOOCs Fail

A recent article in the New York Times has highlighted a number of disturbing statistics that shake the current craze for those free online educational courses known as MOOCs.

Basically put, an appalling number of students are dropping out. MOOCs are being abandoned in droves. But why is this happening and how can it be reversed?

about 50% of MOOC students don’t look at any material…

Teaching English in Yugoslavia

TEFL/TESOL in Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia was formed in 1918 and existed through most of the 20th century. For much of this time it was ruled by the communist General Tito who tended to distance his country from the west.

Following his death internal tensions rose and the country divided and broke up into various states. In general those states began to look to the west and learning English.


Teaching English in Korea

Korea is an East Asian territory that is divided into two distinct and very different countries: North Korea & South Korea. Both sit on the Korean Peninsula.

There are many, many thousands of English teachers working in South Korea. Although they are mainly American, you can find many different nationalities here. In general you’ll need a degree and a good TEFL Certificate to teach in the south…

Teaching English in Kyrgyzstan

TEFL/TESOL in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It was under Soviet control for almost 80 years until it became independent in 1991.
During Soviet control the language of choice was Russian (along with native Kyrgyz) and today it is still an official language.
However after independence English became more important and there is a drive to teach and learn English with teachers in high demand.
Finding TEFL Work
At the moment, English is…

Expat English Teachers

There are many reasons why people move abroad, but it often happens that someone abroad is looking for work and stumbles over the idea of teaching English. This article is a quick guide for expats thinking about teaching English as a part-time or full-time job while they are abroad.

But first, a quick word on who we are talking about here; that is, the kind of people…

Teaching English in the Caribbean

Many of the countries in the Caribbean have English as an official language and there is little or no need for TEFL teachers, especially as ELL tourism hasn’t really taken off here.

However, there are still options with some of the islands Spanish speaking and thus with openings for TEFL teachers.

In general, although there are some volunteer positions which may take you with less qualifications, you will…

Teaching English in Latin America

TEFL/TESOL in Latin America
Latin America is the part of America where Romance languages are spoken. This is mainly Spanish and Portuguese (and can include French).
It is a very popular destination among American teachers, however you also find other nationalities heading there. There are many teaching opportunities, especially for newly qualified teachers.
Loosely speaking it is made up of several regions: Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. (And some countries there speak English, but are often…

Teaching English in Central America

Central America is a very popular destination for American teachers (but you will certainly find other nationalities there).

Conditions tend to be fairly basic and sometimes you will find schools lack the most essential facilities, especially in poorer districts.

The usual qualifications to teach in Central America are a degree and a good TEFL certificate. In some countries you may also be able to find work without a degree‏‎ although a TEFL…

Varieties of English Spelling

There are several major varieties of English‏‎: American, British, Australian and so on.

This article looks at differences in spelling between these. It is a general guide which covers the majority of cases, however remember that there are exceptions which will need to be taught to your TEFL class on an as-needs basis.

On that note, in general it does not matter which variety of English spelling…

Teaching English in South America

South America is a very popular destination for new TEFL teachers. Generally speaking it’s popular mostly with American teachers but you will certainly find other nationalities there.

Although some jobs are advertised online, many schools in South America do not have an internet presence so they tend to rely on more local contacts. Often you stand the best chance of finding work if you are actually in country.


Teaching English in Israel

When you start your expatriate life in Israel, you will join around 7.7 million people currently living there. The majority of the population has settled in the coastal plain, along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Considering the country’s urbanization rate of over 90%, it shouldn’t surprise you that the most populous areas are the three cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, and Haifa.

Israel is a predominantly…

Pearson invests $720 million in Brazil in English Education

The British Pearson group is buying Grupo Multi, the largest provider of private language education in Brazil, in a major move into education in South America.Peason will pay $720 million in cash to buy the company which currently has over 800,000 students and last year posted a profit of almost $70 million. This in a country with around 25% living below the poverty line.Some see this as a move to…

Fears for ESL Collapse in NSW Australia

Fears are growing in that ESL programs are likely to close leading to a loss of jobs for ESL teachers but also increased difficulties for immigrant and refugee students who will not have the opportunity to learn English.
Proposed budget changes in NSW, Australia are likely to leave schools without funding for ESL. Academics and representatives are up in arms but the government seems unlikely to budge on this issue.
Since 1969…

The Second Most Important Language to Learn

English is the most important language anyone can learn today. That’s not really in question as it dominates the world. But what is the second most useful language anyone can know?
The British Council published a list today of which languages are the most important after English and here it is.


The list was compiled based on economic, political and cultural factors and the UK has a worrying lack of people able…

More English Teachers Needed in Japan!

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan may seem a long way off, but in Japan the Tokyo authorities are already beginning to plan for the influx of foreign tourists and athletes.

And the first step is increasing the number of English teachers in the country.

Right now in Tokyo state schools there are just 5 native English speaking assistants. This is set to increase to 100 next year…

Malaysia Under Fire for Squandering Money on English Teachers

The Malaysian Education Ministry is under fire after results from state school tests showed an overall decline in English standards despite recent massive spending on training from the British Council, the Brighton Education Group and the SMR HR Group.”There is absolutely no justification for this type of expenditure,” says MP Zairil Khir Johari who is questioning what happened to the $84m investment.Between 2011 and 2013 the Education Ministry gave some…

School Driver Tapes Students’ Mouths Shut

A bus driver in Maine, USA, has been suspended after complaints she made noisy students put duct tape over their mouths to keep them quiet.

The driver worked for the First Student bus service and ferried children from Surrey Elementary School in Surrey, Maine. Apparently she either taped up loud students herself of passed the tape around and had the students tape their own mouths shut…

British English teacher dies in Thailand

British English teacher Roy Tucker, aged 49, died of a heart attack last Friday in Bang Saray, Thailand. He was an English teacher in several Satthip District public schools.

Mr Tucker was with his girlfriend at the time and suffered from heart problems for which he was taking medication. After feeling pains in his chest Mr Tucker took some of his prescription pills however they were not effective. Doctors…

Headway Scholarships Go Global

Headway is one of the most popular ELT coursebooks around today with sales topping 70 million. The authors have recently announced an extension to their scholarship program helping 2 teachers a year in their professional development in the UK.
Since 2004 the authors (John & Liz Soars) have funded scholarships for 2 TEFL teachers each year to spend a couple of weeks studying in Oxford. Originally recipients had to live and…

UK Spends £6m to Teach English Unconventionally

The UK government has awarded £6m ($9.5m or €7m) to various projects teaching English to non-native speakers in the country.
The projects are aimed at some 24,000 speakers in so-called ‘priority areas’ in London, the Midlands and the North of the country where many immigrant groups do not speak English.
One hundred and twenty four projects were put forward for funding where they were tasked with putting English into everyday life for…

The Word Which Unites the World!

Q: Which word unites the world?
A: Huh?

In English we say, Hello, and in Italian they say, Ciao, and in Greek they say, Gia, and on and on. Even the universal act of greeting has a thousand different forms in a thousand different languages.

But Dutch researchers have claimed to have found a single word which exists in all languages. And that word is Huh.


How to Cite Online Sources

We often get asked if users can quote parts of our resource library in their own work. This page explains how you can do this and more generally, how any online source can be cited in your work.
Quoting ICAL TEFL Resources
The resources on this site are free to use. You can quote them in any reasonable way in your work (although copyright, of course, remains with ICAL). You can…

Foreign Students reach Record Numbers in US

A report released today shows how the number of foreign students studying in the US has reached and all time high, up by about 40% from 10 years ago and up 7% from last year. This accounts for about 4% of the total student population and contributes almost $25 billion to the economy.
The number of foreign students coming to the US declined following 9/11 but has since built back up

Personal Websites for TEFL Teachers

More and more these days we’re asked about websites for teachers. Are they a good idea? Do they work? Why are they necessary?
This article looks at why teachers might need a website, what you can do with your website and then how to create it.
And no special computer programming knowledge required!
Do you Need a TEFL Website?
This is the first question to ask. Most teachers don’t have websites and many don’t…

Christian Teachers for Thailand

The Church of Christ Thailand have signed a memorandum of understanding to recruit English teachers from the Nagaland Mission Movement based in northern India.
According to CCT the need for English teachers is paramount. To overcome the shortage they will hire teachers based on 3 main criteria:

belief in Jesus Christ
good knowledge of English
bachelor degree in any discipline

New teachers will go through 6 months of orientation followed by 18 months of teaching.

Can we trust the English First Rankings?

English First (EF) have just released their EPI or English Proficiency Index. Essentially it is an analysis of English language ability in countries around the world. But how truthful is it? After just a quick look there are some real concerns that what they’ve done is incredibly unreliable.

They’ve produced this report for the past few years and many newspapers take the findings and repeat them verbatim as news…

Shanghai Favorite for Expats in China

Shanghai (Hu for short, also known as Shen) has again topped the list of preferred cities in China for expats.

The survey was published by the Beijing magazine International Talent Monthly and the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel. Some 72,000 expats participated in the annual survey and again, Shanghai came out on top.

The top 10 cities for expats in China are:


Stave off Dementia with a Second Language

A recent study has found that people who speak more than just one language and who develop dementia, tend to do so up to 5 years later in life than those who speak just one language.
The study looked at some 650 sufferers of dementia and analyzed when they first developed it and how many languages they spoke. In general, those who spoke more than 1 language developed dementia later in…

English Teachers PD in Afghanistan

The Afghan government has signed a major deal with the British Council in Afghanistan to begin training over 16,000 teachers in the country. This is designed to help facilitate the country’s move towards offering an English language university curriculum.
“We are very pleased that the British Council is able to support the future generations of Afghanistan and we are happy and committed to support these educational programmes,” Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai…

English Block for Milan

The prestigious Milan Polytechnic has been delivered a blow in its attempt to teach all postgraduate courses in English. A local court has ruled that making English obligatory is not constitutional and courses must be delivered in Italian.

Both students and the Polytechnic administration are frustrated with this blow. They see English as a way of advancing the status of the courses and the opportunities of students…

Teacher Flips Out – Swears at Student

I think we’ve all been there (at least in our heads, even if we didn’t say what we were thinking).

A teacher in California was giving a class on race and ethnicity. A student kept heckling and interrupting. The teacher had enough and suddenly flipped out, swearing at the student and finally telling her to “get the fuck out” at which point the student (who was recording…

Interchange (book)

Interchange is a four-level, multi-skills English series for adult and young-adult learners. It was written by Jack C Richards and is published by Cambridge University Press‏‎ (CUP) and is currently in its 4th edition.
The series comprises a large number of components. There are 4 levels confusingly called:

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3

So if you are starting out, make sure you get the Intro before you move on to Level 1. A number…

Controlling Your Classroom Through Enthusiasm, not Fear

In this guest blog, Tom Fitton explains how to approach teaching so that the students – and you – get the most out of the experience.

The basic rules of human motivation tell us that everything we do is in the pursuit of something enjoyable or the avoidance of something unpleasant and children attending ESL classes are certainly no exception to this rule.

While it is certainly possible…

TEFL Certificates to Teach English

A  TEFL Certificate is the basic qualification you need to teach English as a foreign language or teach English as a second language.

This means, if you want to teach English abroad, you’ll need a TEFL certificate. In addition, many jobs also require a degree (however, if you don’t have a degree you can still sometimes find work – see the links below for more on this)…

329 Ways to avoid getting Ripped Off in China

There have been a lot of problems with teachers getting ripped off in China by unscrupulous agents and illegal agents.

In fact, one reliable estimate from the CFTU (more on them later) is that only around 20% of agents in China are authorized and legal – the other 2,000 or so agents are illegal and unauthorized!

And these illegal agents are making a LOT of money…

Teaching English in the Middle East

TEFL/TESOL in the Middle East
The Middle East is traditionally where the best paying jobs have been found for English teachers.
However, in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring of 2012 there have been increasing demands for the “Arabification” of teaching in Arab countries and learning English is seen partly as a political act with Arabic‏‎ being more desired. Whether this will have much long term effect remains to be seen.
In general…

Teaching English in Europe

Europe, for TEFL‏‎ teachers, can be divided into several distinct areas. These sometimes overlap. For a list of individual countries and the TEFL situation in each of them, see below.
English-Speaking Countries
In other words, the United Kingdom and Ireland‏‎. There is a demand for English teachers here, mainly dealing with short-term groups of foreign students who come for a short course to learn English. Usually jobs are filled by…

Teaching English in Asia

Asia has some of the major world destinations when it comes to TEFL teaching.

China is the new big player in this field and thousands of English teachers work there from all the English speaking countries (as well as a notable number of non-native speakers as well from other countries). With a longer history of welcoming English teachers, the other big players in this region are South Korea, Japan…

Teaching English in Africa

TEFL/TESOL in Africa
To read about teaching English in specific countries in Africa, see below.
Generally speaking Africa can be divided into several distinct areas when it comes to English teaching.
There are a great number of schools across North Africa from Morocco‏‎ in the west across to Egypt‏‎ in the east. (And then on to the Middle East after that.) Although there are a few universities in this belt most jobs are in…

Qualify to Teach English in India

Do you want to teach English in India?

With ICAL TEFL you can become qualified to teach English. The ICAL TEFL Certificate is your key to getting a teaching job, earning money and making a difference!

This course is ideal if you want to teach English in India. It is the basic qualification for teachers of English as a Second language.

With this course you will learn the…

Qualify to Teach English in China

Do you want to teach English in China?
With ICAL TEFL you can take our TEFL Certificate Course and learn how to teach English and get the most from yourself AND your students!
This course is ideal if you want to teach English in China. It is the basic qualification for teachers of English as a Second language.
With this course you will learn the latest methods and ideas for teaching English. At…

Guest Blogs – write for us

The ICAL TEFL Blog and the ICAL TEFL Resources are hugely popular destinations for English language professionals. Although we have added our own articles, we also welcome submissions from individuals and organizations outside ICAL TEFL.

If you are interested in writing an article for our Blog or Resources, typical requirements are:
Content: related, obviously, to teaching English as a Foreign or Second language in the widest possible…

Changing Structure of English Curriculum

There is growing evidence that the “linear” English languages courses are declining in usage in favor of more clustered materials and returning to the same basic sources when learning.

Fueled both by a demand for more efficient and faster delivery and more improvements being made constantly in the field  there is a gradual shift being made from the traditional course structure which flows almost like a line, leading from…


I think we have all found that giving clear instructions to our students, especially lower proficiency students, can be a real challenge. We quickly learn that giving only oral instructions can be futile in getting our students to understand what it is we want them to do. The temptation is to explain the activity again, only to find that our students are even more confused, resulting in failure…

German Shitstorms are not Vulgar…

An interesting sideline to the eternal debate about taboo words‏‎.

The BBC reports that the English term, shitstorm, considered by many to be vulgar and not a word to be used in public as such, has entered the German‏‎ vocabulary. However, it has entered as a perfectly acceptable term and, for example, was used by Angela Merkel at a recent public meeting and no one batted an eyelid.


Ignorant. Offensive. Cheap. Yahoo & the Daily Telegraph.

In the past week or so I’ve seen a couple of videos posted online which feature famous people speaking English.

One was in the British Daily Telegraph newspaper and was of Russian president Vladimir Putin talking about the World Expo. The Daily Telegraph sneer and giggle and make snide comments about the way he speaks English.

And again this morning I saw a Yahoo sports article…

ICAL TEFL Testimonials

A random collection of students’ feedback. Thanks to each and every ICAL student for sharing their course experience with other TEFLers.
What ICAL Students Say
From XN1C3B Paul, working on mod3.
What I’m learning in my ICAL studies has already helped me very much with my teaching in China, especially the information about developing a lesson plan.

From XN24CF Jacob, submitting his final assignment.
I feel like…

Experience Teaching Abroad – worth it or not?

An article in Education Week (see link below) says that when a group of teachers spent time abroad they were much more employable when they returned to the US than a comparable group who did not spend time abroad.

The actual figures quoted were 20% of graduate teachers who had not experienced life abroad got jobs whilst 100% of graduate teachers who had spent time abroad had…

Am I Old Enough to be a TEFL Teacher?

If you know English well enough, you can theoretically teach English at any age. You can get involved in TEFL‏‎ (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) whenever you want.

On the ICAL TEFL Certificate Course, for example, we have had students from 16 to well into their 80s! But after the course, once the teacher is trained, how easy is it for a…

How many words do you know?

How many words do you know?

There’s a fascinating web project which hopes to find out not only how many words you know, but how many words everyone else knows as well.

Since it began it’s measured over 2 million people and the results have just been published. They make fascinating reading, especially as it’s divided into native speakers of English as well as English language learners…

English and Creole; not English or Creole

I read an interesting article on teaching English in Trinidad and Tobago today. Essentially Creole is spoken in TT and by some it’s regarded as a “sub-standard” English. In schools children learn to speak standard English which means erasing the mistakes they’ve learned at home speaking Creole.

There’s a move now  however  to teach standard English in the same way students would learn to speak any other foreign language…

Cantonese (Chinese) vs English

There is not one single Chinese language as such but several varieties which are more or less mutually understandable. In all, these are spoken by over 1 billion people (making it more popular than English).

Of the different varieties of Chinese, Mandarin is the most widely spoken version with over 800 million speakers. The other major variety is Cantonese which, along with English, is the official language of Hong Kong…

The Death of French is Greatly Exaggerated

Until recently English was all but banned in universities in France and only English language courses and visiting dignitaries were allowed to use it.

But now the French government is about to lift restrictions and allow English to spread into teaching. In reality many universities already use English to teach various subjects (notably science) but this was previously done behind closed doors and everyone pretended it didn’t…

Making a Local Copy of a Website

Imagine this. You are standing in front of your CALL‏‎ class and tell them to visit a certain online resource on which you’ve based an entire lesson.
The students start work and then one by one tell you that the website you’ve told them to visit no longer exists. It’s offline and can’t be accessed.
This leaves you standing there, wondering what you are going to do for the rest of the lesson!


Over the years ICAL TEFL has given away many thousands of dollars in charitable donations to causes we feel are worthwhile and beneficial to the community.

These have ranged from schools in Africa to books in Mongolia to help for inner-city students in the USA.

Each year we set aside a percentage of our turnover to give away to deserving causes related to education where we feel it…

Self Grading Students

Guest blogger Timothy Wright explains what happened when he got the class to grade themselves.
Want to improve your student grades? Simple, have your students grade themselves. It may shock them and it may shock you, but it works!
It’s not as crazy as it first seems and it’s something which makes a difference. In a good way. And I know because I just tried it.
Let’s take my class last year. I…

ESLdrama – Using Video Drama in the Classroom

ESLdrama is a brand new web series produced especially for learners of English.It’s stylish, clever and well produced. I watched the first episode earlier and found it completely engaging. Then I spoke to Sean James Sutton, the director of the series, to find out more…

Jenny – Sean, why produce a series like this? Surely there are plenty of video resources for ESL learners already?

Sean – The…

ESLdrama Web Series

ESLdrama is a web series (a drama for ESL students) designed specifically for learners of English.

It is essentially a soap opera built around the lives of half a dozen or characters. Each episode features several short scenes and the language used is basic. It has been designed to be both entertaining and also useful for all levels of classes from beginners‏‎ to advanced.

The video is the…

Lexical Chunks

A Lexical Chunk is a unit of language which is made up of two or more words.

Here are a few examples of lexical chunks:
Good morning.
Nice to see you!
What’s the time?
Other lexical chunks can include phrasal verbs‏‎, idioms, collocation‏‎s and so on.

Lexical chunks are the common coinage of English. They’re the bread and butter, the everyday and the mundane. They’re the…

Release Letter (China)

When you work in a school in China your details are registered with the authorities. If you leave this school and want to move to another you must obtain a Release Letter from the school. With this, your new employer will be able to register you. Without it, you will not be able to be registered at the new school and – in the eyes of the authorities –…

Changes to EPIK Requirements

There have been rumors floating around about the recent changes made for any teacher joining the EPIK scheme to teach in South Korea‏‎.

This blog post explains exactly what those changes are and exactly what you need to join EPIK.
What is EPIK?
EPIK is a program run the by the South Korean government to supply English teachers to South Korea.

It’s not the only way to go…

How Many Tenses Are There in English?

How many Tenses are there in English? It sounds like a simple question, but, unfortunately, it isn’t.

This is because different people – including both students and TEFL teachers – have different definitions of what a tense actually is and there is no single, accepted one.

However, in English there are 3 general definitions of what a tense is all about:
Tenses & Time
Some people…

Teaching English in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island country off the south coast of India.

It has a population of about 20 million from several different ethnic backgrounds. For some 26 years there was a state of unrest between various factions resulting in many deaths amongst government and insurgent forces as well as innocent civilians. However, in 2009 the government defeated the insurgents and re-established control over the…

Pay > Paid vs Payed

What is the past form of pay?

This often causes problems for students. The verb‏‎ pay means to give money to someone and it is usually an irregular verb.
I pay $15 each month for my internet connection.
Last month I paid $15 for my internet connection.
I have paid $15 every month for the past year.
However, some people will assume that pay is a regular…

Class Blogs for Reading & Writing & Fun!

As TEFL teachers, we all know that getting the class to engage is vitally important and also that engagement comes through enjoyment.

This means that anything which lets your class practice English in a fun, non-didactic way is going to be a hit. And we have just been playing with class blogs which are a brilliant way to do this!

This article is how you can…

Teaching Abroad with Diabetes

Diabetes is a medical condition where a person has high blood sugar (glucose) levels.

There are 3 types of diabetes (see below) and the incidence of diabetes is increasing significantly in developed countries. It has been described in terms of “epidemic” proportions in the US and since most TEFL teachers are from the US, this means the number of TEFL teachers likely to suffer from diabetes is…

Choosing a Good Dictionary

For both teachers and students a dictionary is one of the most important books (or apps) you can own. This article offers tips for choosing the best possible dictionary for help in the classroom and with preparing lessons.

If you’re buying a dictionary then the best approach is to go into the shop and spend some time comparing the different dictionaries on offer till you find one…

Teaching English and Living in Thailand

The Essential Guide to Teaching English and Living in Thailand. Guest blogger and author Michael Plews gives us just a taste of what it is like to teach and live in Thailand.
Sun-kissed beaches, amazing cuisine, a rich cultural heritage and some of the friendliest people on the planet; Thailand‏‎ is truly an amazing place to live. With a continuing need for English teachers, you’ll find that the ‘Land of Smiles’…

Celebrities vs Education

I go on the news sites each morning to catch up on what’s happening in the world. And yesterday I tried a new site: Reuters. They have a bit of a reputation of being there with the scoops, pretty fair minded when it comes to reporting and they’re well regarded in the industry.

However, like all news services, they couldn’t give a damn about education.

Take a look…

Reasoning stronger in a Foreign Language

According to an article in the Scientific American (link below) people are more logical and reason better in a foreign language than their native tongue.

Basically they looked at questions where reasoning was required (financial decisions  gambling and so on) and found that if they were asked in the subject’s native tongue they were analyzed more emotionally than if they were asked in a learned language.

The main…

Where Can I Teach English Around the World?

This simple flowchart graphic shows where you can work as a TEFL teacher. It’s general in approach and there are many exceptions. (For more on this, see the useful links under the graphic.)

Useful Links
Where to Teach‏‎ English as a Foreign Language – general destinations for English teachers

Teaching English without a Degree‏‎ – if you don’t have a degree, here are some likely destinations…

TEFL and Travel – Is it Possible to Combine the Two?

We’d like to welcome guest blogger Evelyn Robinson; in this first blog for ICAL she writes about traveling the world as a TEFL teacher and the opportunities available out there!

Every TEFL teacher gets frustrated when their friends and family see their job abroad as a holiday, or a relaxing jaunt. After all, when you’re dealing with lesson plans, marking and the politics…

Listening for Pleasure

Listening‏‎ is one of the four major language skills‏‎. This article is about listening for pleasure.
Often as teachers we’ll give our class a very specific listening task which will often run like this: listen to this short dialog between a shopkeeper and a shopper; I’m going to ask you at the end to tell me how many sausages the woman bought and what the total cost was of all her…

Its vs It’s in English

Its and it’s are often confused, not only by learners but also native English speakers (the picture on the right comes from one of Disney’s theme parks). This article explains the difference between them.
Very simply, its (without the apostrophe‏‎) is a possessive pronoun meaning, “belonging to”:
The tablet surprised me with its quality.
Its fur was soft and lightly colored.
Both these show something belonging to: in the first example quality belonging to…

ICAL TEFL Community

The ICAL TEFL Community gives a voice to TEFL teachers and other guests wherever you are.
Let’s start with…
If you’d like to start a discussion or ask a question about TEFL then visit the ICAL TEFL Forums. Here you’ll find discussions about absolutely anything to do with English and teaching English. It’s free and easy to join in here.
You can also find here the TEFL News section. This…

Space Rocket explained in 1,000 Words

It’s estimated that the most common 1, 000 words in the English language are used in 89% of communication. Well, to prove it’s possible to say almost anything using those words the folks at xkcd have taken a blueprint for the space rocket Apollo 5 (or Up Goer as they call it since apollo nor space nor rocket are on the list) and reduced it to use vocab from just…

Old Fashioned Teachers & Music

Most teachers are old in comparison to their students. And because most teachers choose materials for their class, this often means that the materials they use are old. And by old, I mean stuck in the past and out of date.

When a TEFL teacher decides to use music in the classroom it inevitably means dredging up music from the past – the Beatles in particular seem…

Affect vs Effect

Learners of English (and native English speakers too) often confuse these two words: Affect vs Effect. They also confuse forms of these words: Affectively vs Effectively; Affective vs Effective and so on.

Part of the problem is that they are pronounced almost the same: /əˈfekt/ and /ɪˈfekt/. Some English accent‏‎s in fact will produce them exactly in the same way. Since they are often confused, this article…

Wall Street Institute

The Wall Street Institute is a massive global group of schools. It was founded in Italy‏‎ in 1972 by Luigi Tiziano Peccenini and now operates over 400 schools in 27 countries around the world. WSI are currently owned by Pearson.

They report teaching of 1.5 million students throughout their history and in 2010 posted gross sales of 375 million USD. They have a strong presence in teaching Business English‏‎…

Inductive vs Deductive Methods in TEFL

In the TEFL‏‎ classroom, inductive and deductive teaching methods are two different approaches used in teaching grammar.

Inductive teaching (sometimes known as inquiry or discovery teaching) involves giving the students examples of language and working with them to come up with grammatical rules. It is a more student centered approach to learning.

Alternatively, deductive teaching begins by giving students the rules and working with them to produce…

Coco Juku

Coco Juku is an English conversation school (eikaiwa) in Japan.

The company was founded in 2012 by Nichii Gakkan, which also owns Gaba Corporation. In April 2012 is opened 6 locations and by October there were 62 locations. They plan to open further locations over the following months.

In line with their opening they have invested heavily in marketing and advertising both for students and teachers.
Interview, Pay…

Instant Gratification & TEFL

Prof. Goodnight is the pen name of a senior ESL trainer working at a major North American university. Here he discusses the rise of technology in the classroom and how bad it is.

The NY Times reported earlier this week on two recent studies which suggest that students nowadays have far shorter attention spans than in the past.
One reason, they suggest, is the overwhelming use of technology, notably the internet.
I agree…

Well Travelled TEFL Teachers are Sexier

Well travelled TEFL teachers are sexier- it’s true!

Well sort of.

In a recent survey by an Australian online dating survey it was found that those who traveled were sexier than those who stayed at home. Perhaps it was the idea of someone with independence and adventure in them which made them more appealing but as TEFL teachers we often spend years away from home living…

Teaching with Chopsticks

Guest blogger Jonathan Last presents an extract from his autobiographical book, Teaching with Chopsticks, an honest, funny, and insightful account of a year spent teaching English in South Korea.

Lunchtime. I’m trying to hide my growing weariness at rice every day, and fantasising about getting scouted by Seoul FC and seeing out the rest of my time in Korea as the first English superstar in the K-League, when the staffroom chatter…

How to Speak to English Language Students

New teachers often have problems trying to decide how to speak to students so they understand them best.

Should they keep their grammar‏‎ really simple? Should they avoid unusual words‏‎? Should they slow down? Should they speak to students as though they were speaking to young children even if they are adults?

First to remember is that the way in which you speak to your students…

Preparing to Go Abroad & Teach English

So, you’ve got your qualifications, had your interview and now you’ve been offered a job teaching abroad.

And you suddenly realize that in just a very short time you’ll be climbing aboard an airplane and heading off into the unknown and suddenly you’re thinking, What should I pack? How much money do I have to take with me? Do I need any inoculations?

In other words…

English Teaching in Korea – not as straightforward as you may think!

One of our ICAL students blogs about her duties as English Teacher in a public school in Korea. Writing under the pseudonym of Elsa Kellenbence, she gives a straightforward and honest account of her on-going struggle to keep discipline in the classroom, get students to stay awake (literally) in class, win her Korean co-teacher’s support, etc.
But you won’t find only problems here. Elsa is very determined to make a difference…

Tips for Reading with Young Learners

Reading with very young learners often demands a different approach to teaching reading‏‎ skills with older learners. For one thing young learners may not yet be able to read well in their own language‏‎ so dealing with a different language (and possibly a different alphabet‏‎) may bring up extra difficulties.
Another issue is concentration. Young learners have much shorter attention spans than older learners so keep things simple and keep them short.

Group Work: Are You Doing It Effectively?

We’d like to welcome Larry Jarocki, MA Applied Linguistics, as a guest author of the ICAL Blog. Larry has been an ICAL tutor for over a decade. Here he talks about his recent findings on effective group work in the ESL classroom, following an eight days seminar on Cooperative Learning.
As a practicing ESL and English teacher for nearly two decades, I’d seen and conducted many lessons involving group…

TEFL Teachers & Local Laws

Living in a foreign country it’s sometimes easy to assume you are above the law. You feel slightly outside local society and it’s not hard to pretend that the local laws simply don’t really apply to you. After all, you are from the USA‏‎ or the UK (or wherever) and you abide by your laws.

This was exemplified a few years ago when some female American soldiers…

Adverb Position in English Grammar

Generally speaking – and there are exceptions – adverbs‏‎ can come in 1 of 3 positions in a sentence‏‎:

1) At the beginning:
Hurriedly I got dressed.
Never go there again!
Always look on the bright side of life.
2) Between the subject and the verb:
I hurriedly got dressed.
They never visit us.
We usually eat dinner very late.
3) At the very end.
I got dressed hurriedly…

Aptis Assessment Test

Aptis is an examination and assessment test developed by the British Council‏‎. It is targeted towards businesses and organizations (and is not available to individual users) in order to test a students ability in the four language skills‏‎. However clients can adapt the test to show bias towards one or more of those skills.

The test is mapped to the CEFR and it can be taken online, as a paper…

Teaching English in Libya

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Libya depart immediately.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Libya due to the ongoing fighting, threat of terrorist attacks and kidnap against foreigners from ISIL-affiliated extremists, and deteriorating security situation throughout the country. British nationals in Libya are strongly urged to leave immediately by…

TEFL Coursebook Evaluation Form

The following is an example Coursebook Evaluation Form.
If you are thinking of using a TEFL coursebook with your class and want to see if it might be suitable, complete this kind of form to find out.
Obviously this is a general example, but with a little tweaking you can make it suitable for your school.
Basic Information

[the name of the book]
[name of author]

[who published it]
[what learner level is this for?]

Length of Course:
[how long…

Compound Words in English

A compound word is a word made up from two or more other words joined together. They are often created to describe a new concept or idea and are thus neologisms‏‎.

As a simple example, take the words foot and ball. These were brought together to describe the game: football. Likewise the following are just a few of the many, many compound words in English:
eyesight, airport, overtake, earthworm…

LGBT TEFL Teachers – where do you fit in?

In our article on LGBT teachers (link below) we quote Scott Thornbury who suggests that TEFL attracts a higher percentage of gay teachers. In his article Window Dressing vs Cross Dressing in EFL Sub-Culture he actually talks about the relatively high proportion of gays & lesbians in TEFL.

We haven’t seen any research on this subject and wonder if it is actually true. So we have put in this…

The Sopranos comes to ELT

One of my favorite shows was The Sopranos, a tale of modern American mob life. In one episode Tony Soprano’s right hand man, Christopher Moltisanti, has to sit an exam which it would be impossible for him to pass. The solution? Get a bright college kid, forge some identity documents and have this kid sit the exam in Christopher’s name.
The result? A somewhat dumb Jersey mobster has a stockbroker license.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning is a teaching strategy in which small teams‏‎, each with students of different abilities, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject.

Although cooperative learning takes place within teams of students it is not to be confused with mere group work. The main difference between the two is in the cooperative nature of the learning. In fact, cooperative learning has been found…

Russian vs English

Russian is spoken by over 150 million people, mainly in Russia itself and the countries of the former USSR.

It is part of the Slavonic branch of the Indo-European language family and as such is very different indeed from English. This article looks at those differences and how they affect Russian mother tongue speakers when they come to learn English.
A certain amount of Russian vocabulary…

Don’t Pay Your Agent!

Another story today of someone who lost a healthy lot of money by paying an agent to find them work… and the agent did nothing.

In today’s Guardian news paper is the sobering story of a teacher who paid to an agency called ESL Job Finder to find them a TEFL job.

And the agency basically won’t refund their money and has done nothing to help.

This is…

Teaching the /θ/ and /ð/ sounds

A number of students have difficulties producing the /θ/ and /ð/ sounds found in words like:
think – /θɪŋk/
thought – /θɔːt/
threw – /θruː/
this – /ðɪs/
that – /ðæt/
those – /ðəʊz/
Note that the main difference between these sounds is that one is voiced and the other is voiceless. Other than this they are produced in the same way with the mouth and tongue in the same position.
Making the /θ/ & /ð/ Sounds
First you…

Voiced and Voiceless in English Pronunciation

Voiced and Voiceless (sometimes Unvoiced) describe the two different ways we can make sounds in our mouths.

The basic difference is this:

voiced sounds occur when the vocal chords vibrate
voiceless sounds occur when the vocal chords are still

An Example of Voiced & Unvoiced
The best way to explain this is with an example. Take these two words:
van – fan
To make both…

Teaching English in Iraq

The recent turbulent history of Iraq is well known. However, for the past few years the country has been trying to rebuild and part of that process has involved education including English language teaching.
The American Embassy in Baghdad, for example, runs a scheme to train Iraqi teachers to teach English.
Although some areas of the country are still very unsafe (for both locals and visitors) the northern autonomous Kurdistan region…

Elision in TEFL

Elision happens when you miss out one or more sounds as you’re speaking.
Sometimes it’s known as slurring or muting but the important point to remember despite what some people say, it is not a sign of “bad pronunciation” or poor education, but simply the natural way in which words are formed and put together. Everyone elides words regardless of their education, background, accent, or upbringing!
Why Elision?
Elision occurs because English is…

Present vs Present Perfect

There is sometimes confusion over which to use of these verb forms: the Present Simple or Present Continuous vs Present Perfect.
The cat is here.vs The cat has been here.
Simon is writing.vsSimon has been writing.
Generally speaking we would use the present simple or present continuous to talk about something which is happening as we speak. In the examples above I can see the cat on the chair and maybe I can…


Simply put, Psycholinguistics is the study of how psychological factors and neurological factors influence the way we learn, understand, and use language.
It tries to answer questions like:

How do our brains process language?
How do we recognize speech and how do we produce it?
How do we perceive letters, words, sentences and so on?
How do we store and recall language in our brains?

Then it can be taken to a more practical or applied…

Lesson Targets in TEFL

A Lesson Target is the focus of an individual lesson. It is, if you like, the single main point that you are trying to teach in that particular lesson. Often it can be summed up in a single sentence thus: At the end of the lesson the students will know how to… …order a pizza. …ask the time. …apologize for being late. These targets are all language functions‏‎. Sometimes more…

Why the English can’t speak Foreign

I read a very interesting article the other day on one man’s theory why British people (and let’s expand this to pretty well most native English speakers) don’t speak foreign languages well, if at all.

I read a very interesting article the other day* on one man’s theory why British people (and let’s expand this to pretty well most native English speakers) don’t speak foreign languages well…


The world of teaching English is full of acronyms‏‎. One question which pops up all the time is: what is the difference between TEFL and TESOL and TESL and CELTA and… and also: should I get a TEFL certificate or a TESOL certificate?

This article explains what these terms means and looks at differences between them when it comes to qualifications and finding work.

Reflections On Learning CALL

The following is a paper written by Rebecca Rose Orton on her CALL training and experience. Rebecca volunteers at the English Language Institute (ELI) at Gallaudet University, in Washington, DC. The following is a paper written by Rebecca Rose Orton on her CALL training and experience. Rebecca works at the English Language Institute (ELI) at Gallaudet University, in Washington, DC. Memoirs of My CALL Training and ExperienceBy Rebecca Rose Orton Introduction…

Korea, People, Racism

Korea is a unique country that has a lot of offer. But one thing the country does lack is diversity. As a result, you feel isolated, belittled and often times, hated as a foreigner. Especially a black foreigner…
We’d like to welcome Tate Nanje as a guest author of the ICAL Blog.Originally from Cameroon, Tate grew up in the USA and first worked in Korea as teacher in…

Drilling in TEFL

Drilling is a simple technique used in EFL and ESL classrooms to practice English. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. And drilling is certainly practice. Essentially it is Repetition; the teacher says something and the students repeat it all together. Then the teacher says something else and the students all repeat that. Although it’s been used for hundreds of years in all kinds of classrooms, drilling really took off…

Learn to Teach English in Spain

Teach English in Spainwith the ICAL TEFL Certificate Course
In the past couple of years the economy in Spain has begun to pick up after suffering badly. The demand for English teachers is increasing and more people are taking an ICAL TEFL Course and becoming qualified to teach English in Spain.
To teach English in Spain you need:

to have a degree (a BA/BSc in almost any subject is fine)
to have TEFL certification…

Learn to Teach English in Italy

To teach in Italy you need:

to have a degree (a BA/BSc in almost any subject is fine)
to have a TEFL certificate
to be a native English speaker

The ICAL online TEFL Certificate Course will give you a thorough grounding in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Our online TEFL course covers all major aspects of TEFL and TESOL…

Qualify to Teach English in Greece

{seog:disable}Teach English in Greecewith the ICAL TEFL Certificate Course To teach in Greece you need: to have a degree (a BA/BSc in almost any subject is fine) to have a TEFL Certificate like the ICAL TEFL Certificate The ICAL TEFL Certificate Course will give you a thorough grounding in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Our online TEFL course costs just €200 (or $265 or £155) and covers all…

South Korea – TALK

TaLK or Teach and Learn in Korea is an opportunity for undergraduates who are seeking a personal, professional and educational experience in South Korea. It allows students to spend time in rural locations teaching English. Approximately 500 people take part in the program annually.

To be part of the program you need to have at least 2 years of college education and be from one of the…

Contact Hours for English Teachers

A contact hour is an hour actually spent in the classroom teaching and working with students. (It is also sometimes ironically referred to as an hour at the chalkface.) Many schools will employ TEFL teachers for, say, between 20 – 30 contact hours per week (this is moderately high; some will be less). Thirty hours is already quite a lot and more than this will mean you are spending too…

Learn English

We get many people asking to learn English with ICAL. Please note that we mainly run courses for teachers wanting to teach English. We also run the ICAL Grammar Foundation Course for those wishing to learn English grammar. However, if you would like to learn general English, then please click here. Of course, remember also that our TEFL Resources can be used by anyone whether you are a teacher or a…

Got a TEFL or Language Question?


What’s a past participle?
What on earth is the third conditional?
How can I find work in Thailand?
Do I need a degree to be a teacher?

Do you have a question about teaching English or even English itself?

Then ask us and we’ll let you know the answer. We’ve been in this business for years (we’re the…


Emoticons are a modern form of English punctuation.

Essentially they are a pictorial representation of a human face which are used to give nuance to a text.

For example, I could write:
See you on Thursday.
In itself, this seems fairly innocuous. However, if next Thursday we plan to attend the leaving party of an old friend I might add a “sad” face thus:
See you…

Dashes or Hyphens

Although they look similar, dashes and hyphens are used very differently. In traditional typography, a hyphen is half the length of a dash although in handwriting and often on computer keyboards they are the same size. Hyphens are used in two ways: to split a word or to join words. When they are used there’s no space between them and the word or word part. Dashes are used to emphasize a…

Brackets and Parentheses

Brackets and Parentheses are punctuation marks in English which everyone knows, but many people get wrong. Even native speakers.

But before getting on to how to use them, we’ll begin by explaining exactly what the difference between them are.
Types of Bracket
There are 2 types of brackets common in English.

First come Brackets which are straight which is why they’re sometimes called Square Brackets…

Colons in English Punctuation

A Colon is a punctuation mark in English. It consists of two round dots, one above the other (although occasionally these are small squares). The colon immediately follows the word before and there is a space between the colon and what follows. Note that the colon is a very different punctuation mark to the semicolon‏‎ and although they have similar names (because they look similar), they are not really related…

Business Cards for English Teachers

If you are thinking of visiting a school in person to find work or maybe looking out for a few private lessons to supplement your income, it’s well worth getting a few business cards printed up for yourself.

These days it costs very little (or even nothing) to have cards printed online and they’re delivered almost anywhere in the world.

The card can look something like the facsimile…

Euphemisms in English

Using a euphemism is a way of hiding something bad, offensive or tasteless behind a good word or phrase.

So, for example, instead of saying that someone died, we say they passed away. Instead of saying that a girl is pregnant we might say the girl is in trouble.
Why Use Euphemisms?
Euphemisms are used essentially to put a good spin on something. Instead of presenting the…

Homework and TEFL Teaching

Homework is simply work your students do at home rather than in the classroom.

Many teachers give it to their students as a matter of course.

Almost all schools will expect you to give it, often with a time caveat: “Give them at least 30 minutes of homework after each lesson!”

And almost all students will expect it with most not liking the idea at…

Abbreviations in English Writing

An abbreviation (from the Latin, brevis, meaning short.) is a shortened form of a word or phrase used almost exclusively in print. For example:
LOL = laugh out loud
mins = minutes
abbrv = abbreviation
As you can see, abbreviations are often either the full word shortened or the first letter of each word in the phrase (aka acronyms). They can contain letters and numbers, upper and lowercase.
BBI5 =…

Grammar Nazi

A Grammar Nazi is a pedantic soul who takes pleasure in finding grammatical errors and pointing them out to people. Whether asked or not. Collectively they can be known as the Grammar Police. Grammar Nazis will know it is spelled grammar and not grammer. They will know the difference between they’re vs their vs there and they will certainly know how to use apostrophe‏‎s correctly. Cultural Note Considering the atrocities…

Transitive & Intransitive Verbs in English

Here are two sentences, the first with a Transitive Verb, the second with an Intransitive Verb:
She held her breath.
She laughed.
This illustrates at a glance the basic difference between the two types of verbs‏‎.
Transitive Verbs
Quite simply transitive verbs must take an object‏‎. We can say:
She held the puppy.
She held his hand.
She held the door open.
But we cannot say:
* She…

Peter Mark Roget

Peter Mark Roget FRS (18 January 1779 – 12 September 1869) was a British doctor, writer, and inventor but also most famous nowadays as a lexicographer and author of Roget’s Thesaurus. Background to Roget’s Thesaurus Although he had no lexicographic training or experience, in 1805, aged 26, he began to catalog words and organize them according to their meaning rather than their spelling as in traditional dictionaries‏‎. To do this he kept…

Roget’s Thesaurus (book)

Roget’s Thesaurus is an English language thesaurus created by Peter Mark Roget in the 19th century. It was first published in 1852 and contained some 15,000 words. Subsequent editions have enlarged on this. Although there are other thesauri, the term Roget is often almost synonymous with thesaurus (in much the same way as the brand name Hoover is synonymous with vacuum cleaners). Since first being published it has never been out of…

Teaching English Abroad as a Single Parent

This article looks at the practicalities of being a single parent and working as a TEFL teacher abroad with your child living there with you as either a single mother or single father.

At first glance it may seem very difficult but there are solutions to many of the problems and it has certainly been done before so it’s by no means impossible to do!

Assuming you have…

Adverbs of Time in English Grammar

Adverbs of Time are those adverbs which tell us when something happened. For example: now, then, later, yesterday, today, tonight, tomorrow, etc.

The position of a typical adverb of time within a sentence varies according to the relevance the speaker wants to give to the time element.


start of sentence
Yesterday her closest work colleague handed in his resignations…


Berlitz is the brand name of a well-known chain of English language schools.

From its humble beginnings in Rhode Island in 1878, the company has become a global corporation with both company-owned and franchised locations in more than 70 countries, and revenues of hundreds of millions of US dollars.
What It’s All About
All Berlitz language schools use the “The Berlitz Method”. This teaching method is a natural approach…


Monolingualism is knowing and using just one language. This language will be the speaker’s mother tongue‏‎.

Contrast this with bilingualism. where someone knows and uses 2 languages as mother tongues and also multilingualism‏‎ where someone has more than 2 languages as their mother tongues.

A person who speaks just one language is a monoglot. Although no reliable statistics are available, anecdotal evidence suggests that native born…

Japanese vs English

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 125 million speakers, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language.

According to recent research by the FSI Japanese is the hardest language for English speakers to learn and, presumably, Japanese speakers find learning English the hardest also. This article then is about the kind of problems and issues Japanese speakers have when they learn English.
Word Order in…

Tony Buzan

Born in London in 1942, Tony Buzan is the originator of mind mapping and one of the pioneers of the “Brain science”. He topped his education with a double Honours in Psychology, English, Mathematics and the General Sciences from the University of British Columbia in 1964. He is the author of the million−copy bestsellers‚ Use Both Sides of Your Brain‚ Use Your Head and The Mind Map Book. He lectures…

Use Both Sides of Your Brain (book)

Although the first edition of this book was written in 1974, it is still considered as an ideal presentation of the “modern approach” to mind mapping. Use Both Sides of Your Brain: New Mind-Mapping Techniques uses the latest research on the workings of the human brain, Buzan provides step-by-step exercises for discovering the powers of the right side of the brain and learning to use the left side more effectively…

CEFR – Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The Council of Europe divided learners into 6 main bands (A1, A2; B1, B2; C1, C2) as part of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages:

A Basic User
A1 Breakthrough
A2 Waystage
B Independent User
B1 Threshold
B2 Vantage
C Proficient User
C1 Effective Operational Proficiency
C2 Mastery

Note: the CEFR applies to people learning…

Teaching English in Uganda

TEFL/TESOL in Uganda With 52 ethnic groups in Uganda, each with its own dialect, English‏‎ has been for years the official language of instruction in all school years. In major multicultural urban centers, like Kampala, the capital of Uganda, English is the medium of instruction in schools, with students being taught one local language as a subject as well. However a government policy introduced in 2007 has brought about a further…

Semantic Fields in TEFL

A semantic field (sometimes known as a lexical field) is a group of words related by meaning. In teaching a semantic field could be:

verbs of perception‏‎

In practical terms the definition is quite loose and general.

Sometimes a word will belong to just one semantic field but more usually it will belong to several. For example the…

Used + Infinitive

The phrase used + infinitive is often confusing for learners of English. This article explains what it is and how we use it. Here are typical uses of the phrase: I used to live in Toronto. I have an idea he used to go out with Nicole Kidman. You can see that the phrase used + infinitive describes a situation in the past which is no longer true; these are habits…

Teaching in Greece

This is a first-hand account of what it’s like to teach English in Greece‏‎ written by an English teacher who went out there many years ago… and never got around to leaving!
What’s it like?
Damn fine! Teaching English in Greece is one of the better choices one can make in life. In one fell swoop you’re taken from some overcrowded, smelly city and dumped in a serene calm paradise…

Teaching the /r/ and /l/ sounds

Quite a number of Asian students have problems distinguishing between the /r/ sound and the /l/ sound. Essentially this is because the difference in these sounds does not exist in their mother tongues‏‎ and so they are unable to “hear” the difference. Thus some students will say led – /led/ red – /led/ i.e. they sound the same. This simple tip will help to show your students how to make…

Lip Reading

Lip Reading is a fun activity which can be used with all ages and class levels. On the one hand it teaches the “speaker” to carefully pronounce words and on the other it helps the “listener” in predicting what is going to be said. Both these skills are useful when it comes to listening and speaking in English, of course, in everyday situations. Introducing the Activity First off, you’ll want…

TEFL Job Adverts

ICAL posts here occasional jobs sent to us by schools around the world. We do not charge for this service. If you are looking for a TEFL/TESOL teacher (or you are a teacher looking for work), then please use this TEFL Job Posting Forum. You must include all relevant contact details and we will edit the post to make sure it complies with our posting rules. And don’t even think…

Truth or Lie – question making activity

Truth or Lie is an activity which is used to practice the Present Perfect Simple and also giving students practicing making questions.
Prepare a number of flashcards on which you have written a present perfect simple question, have you ever…

Have you ever met someone famous?
Have you ever stayed awake all night?
Have you ever played poker?

The questions should…

The Goodies’ Bag

This is a “show and tell” activity for the TEFL teacher who wants to encourage young learners to produce language in a natural way and create a more spontaneous response than the traditional “repeat after me” approach. How it works Take a large cloth bag (a black bin liner will also do – the important thing is that it is not transparent). Place different items related to the topic of…

TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TESOL is an acronym  standing for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Generally speaking it is the same as TESL‏‎ or TEFL‏‎ and it is used as an umbrella term primarily in the USA‏‎.

TESOL refers to the teaching of the English language to students whose mother tongue‏‎ (MT) is not English‏‎. Typically these students live in an English speaking country (such as Canada or the USA‏‎) and need…

Teaching English in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a small country on the island of Hispaniola which it shares with Haiti. It is the second largest Caribbean country (after Cuba‏‎) with a population of around 10 million people with Spanish being the native language. Qualifications & Pay The usual requirements are a degree with a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. The better jobs also usually ask for experience as well whilst other…

Teaching English in Haiti

TEFL/TESOL in Haiti Haiti is mostly known for a history of political instability and more recently the 2010 earthquake, but there is still a thriving industry of English teaching and there are certainly jobs to be found there for the right kind of TEFL‏‎ teacher. The country itself is something of a peculiarity in the American continent as it is one of only two countries where French is spoken as an official…

Homestay TEFL Tutors

Homestay is when students spend time studying at a school abroad but rather than live on campus or in a hostel, stay with a local host family where – it is hoped – they will learn more English. Homestays are most popular in English speaking countries: the UK, US, Australia and so on and many schools offer options to their students to stay with local families while they’re attending lessons…

TESL Canada

TESL Canada is a national federation of teachers based in Canada‏‎. They are a well respected organization who have, amongst other things, developed a set of minimum standards for training teachers working in Canada. Programs which meet these standards are recognized by TESL Canada. Jobs in accredited language schools in Canada normally require as a minimum a TEFL Certificate which has been recognized by TESL Canada. TESL Canada post a…

Trinity CertTESOL

The CertTESOL or (to give it its full name) the Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is a TEFL certificate.

It is roughly equivalent to the CELTA and is probably best suited for teachers with a couple of years experience under their belt.

The course was designed by Trinity College London and is offered by a number of schools around the world which offer…

Music in the TEFL/TESOL Classroom

Songs and Music are great tools to use in the TEFL‏‎ classroom. Everyone likes listening to music and the right song can not only be fun for the students (and the teacher) but also be used in an effective way to teach.

Popular song lyrics are often very simple and mostly in the first person. They use rhyme which can help in remembering and the language is often…

Lexical Verbs in English Grammar

Lexical Verbs are basically the main verb‏‎ in a sentence. They carry some kind of real-world meaning and are sometimes actually known as the main verb:
You laughed.
I ran.
They are basically an open-class of verbs; in other words, we can add new verbs to this class‏‎. In recent years new additions to this class include:
She twerked in public.
I googled my answer.
So lexical verbs carry a…

Direct & Indirect Questions in English

We can ask a direct question: What time is it? Or, if we want to be more formal or polite, we can ask an indirect question: Do you know what time it is? We make an indirect question by using a phrase and then a statement. Note that even though this is a question, we do not invert the subject and verb or use an auxiliary verb: {indirect phrase} +…

Politecnico di Milano – in English

I was reading today that the Politecnico di Milano in Italy‏‎ is changing to an English-speaking university only. Quite a remarkable move considering the level of English penetration within Italy. This is a country, after all, which is in the bottom third of English knowledge within Europe.

The university is one of the largest in Italy with about 36,500 students and from 2014 most of its degree courses (and…

Taking Pets with you when Teaching Abroad

Taking Pets Abroad is generally not a good idea when you as a TEFL teacher go away to teach and this article explores when it’s best to leave them behind and then those rare occasions when it’s actually a good idea. Above all, remember that the well-being of your dog, cat or other pet must be your main concern! So, the first thing to do before taking any animal abroad…

TESOLANZ – New Zealand

TESOLANZ – Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Aotearoa New Zealand – is the New Zealand‏‎ association of ESL‏‎ teachers in all areas of education. They are a major representative of the sector lobbying for the language needs of migrants and refugees.  External Links TESOLNZ – official website…

The Present Tense in English Grammar

The Present Tense is one of the three main verb tenses‏‎ used in grammar‏‎. It is used to talk about the current situation, i.e. now.

Here we introduce to the four main forms of the present tense and look at when we use them. The links at the bottom of the page go to more detailed looks at the individual forms.
When do we Use the Present Tense?…

Humor / Humour in the TEFL Classroom

Using Humor (or Humour) in the classroom is always good and a good joke can really make a difference.

It’s an excellent way of breaking the ice with your students, getting the class relaxed and generally fostering a friendly atmosphere to work in.

However, don’t over do it – you’re a teacher not a stand-up comedian – and be careful with the jokes you use. Some…

Gestures in Teaching English

Imagine you’re in a TEFL class and a student is speaking and they say something which is wrong.

The obvious mistake a new teacher makes is to stop them there and then, interrupt them, and correct them. But this is bad teaching on a number of levels not least because by interrupting the student the teacher is breaking the flow. It’s the verbal equivalent of tripping someone…


A thesaurus (plural thesauri or thesauruses) is a book of words collected together according to meaning and similarity. In other words, words grouped according to semantic field. Compare this to a dictionary which lists words alphabetically and then gives their meanings. A typical dictionary might show the word, it’s word class‏‎ and then an explanation: teacher noun someone whose job is to teach, especially in a school. On the other…

ICAL TEFL Course 120hr – Syllabus

This page has the full syllabus for the ICAL TEFL Course 120hr.
Course Syllabus
Module 1
In this first module, we introduce the subject of English Language Teaching. The module begins right at the beginning by talking about what it means to be an English teacher. It then brings in some basic ideas, words and concepts you will need to know to do the job.

We realize that many…


TOEIC or Test of English for International Communication is an English exam designed to test a user’s ability in the workplace.

The test consists of a 2 hour multiple choice test of 200 questions on listening‏‎ and reading‏‎ comprehension. There is also a TOEIC writing‏‎ and speaking‏‎ test as well.

It was developed in Japan and first produced in 1979 following a deal between the US based ETS…

ALTE – Association of Language Testers in Europe

ALTE is the Association of Language Testers in Europe.

It has developed a set of descriptors for language exams which say what a language learner at a particular level is able to achieve (i.e. understand or produce, etc).

ALTE was founded by the Universities of Cambridge and Salamanca for the Cambridge exams; however other exam boards have related their exams to the same system. It now includes over…

Pronunciation in English

Pronunciation is the way in which words and phrases‏‎ are spoken. Words & phrases can be said in different ways by different groups of people or individuals and under different circumstances. Several factors influence the way we pronounce words, from the way we have been brought up to the shape of our mouth. Education plays a big part. People who leave school early or who do not attend school at…

Context in TEFL

Context is the positioning of a word‎ or phrase. This can be used by the teacher to help students gain an understanding of its meaning.

For example, look at this sentence.
I saw a bright red fligret in the sky.
This contains the unknown (and non-existent) word, fligret. However, we can look at the context in which it occurs to try and work out the meaning.


Modals – Possibility

If you want to talk about how possible something is you can use Modal Verbs of Possibility. Let’s say, for example, that you are 100% certain that you are going to win: I will win a million dollars if I put everything on red! Chances are though you will lose. Being more cautious you could say: I may win a million dollars if I put everything on red… So you…

Student Loans & English Teachers Abroad

Many new teachers are often recently qualified and have the burden of student loans to pay back. Normally the pay for an entry-level job teaching English is enough for you to live on reasonably well and save a little. But is it enough to pay back your loan? Loans received normally attract very little or no interest rate but do increase with the inflation rate. Many teachers who work overseas can…

Data Is or Data Are?

The Wall Street Journal published a blog post in which it decided to class data as a singular noun‏‎ which, according to the rules of subject-verb agreement‏‎ goes with a singular verb‏‎, much like information. For the WSJ this is good English: the data is collected However, many traditionalists contend that data is in fact the Latin plural of the singular, datum, and therefore we should be saying: the data are…

Language Items in TEFL

TEFL teachers often talk about Language Items. But what exactly do they mean? Simply put, they are small self-contained pieces of language which you can teach or practice in a lesson. (That’s the most usual definition in TEFL.) Once you have the language item, you can prepare one or more activities to present and practice it with your class. Language Items, then, are the building blocks of a lesson. Arriving…

Teaching Idioms in TEFL

An Idiom is a phrase which has a very different meaning from what it appears to be. It has a figurative meaning which is very different from the literal meaning. For example, in The Godfather famously Luca Brassi sleeps with the fishes This doesn’t literally mean that Brassi sleeps with the fishes, it’s a mob related euphemism meaning that he is dead. It’s very important for learners of English to…

Multilingual Classes & TEFL

Generally speaking, we can divide language classrooms into two types: monolingual and multilingual.

In a monolingual TEFL class all the students speak the same mother tongue‏‎ and are learning English‏‎.

In a multilingual TEFL class, however, the students speak a variety of different languages and the only thing they may have in common is that they all are learning English!

This article then is all about teaching in…

Monolingual Classes & TEFL

As a TEFL teacher, you will be faced with one of two types of classroom: Monolingual or Multilingual.

In a monolingual classroom, all the students speak the same first language and they are all learning English. This type of classroom is typical in countries like South Korea, Spain and Brazil‏‎ where English speaking teachers teach the classes in the students’ own country.

The second type of…

Multiple-Choice Questions in TEFL

Multiple-Choice Questions are a tried and tested method of checking how much your students know.

This article looks at the practical side of things for TEFL teachers: writing a good question and preparing your students for multiple-choice questions in exams.

Before going on, a couple of items: the first part of a multiple-choice question is called the stem; then come (usually) 4 responses; within these there are usually…

Finnish vs English

Finnish is spoken by the majority of people in Finland (92%) and ethnic Finns outside of Finland. It’s one of the two official languages of Finland (along with Swedish). It is related to Estonian and a few other minority languages in the region. Finnish uses the Latin alphabet with å, ä, and ö in addition to the 26 letters of the English alphabet‏‎. Finnish, unlike English, is also a phonetic language…

Direct & Indirect Objects in English Grammar

Sometimes we can have a sentence‏‎ with 2 objects‏‎. We call these the direct objects and indirect objects.

In sentences with 2 objects, the subject gives the direct object to the indirect object:
{subject} + {verb} + {indirect object} + {direct object}
I + bought + my sister + a present.
The man in the hat + took + the mechanic + the broken car.
We can…

Paragraphs in English Writing

A paragraph is a collection of one or more sentences‏‎. It is used to group ideas in a piece of writing or text. A paragraph, then, is part of the structure of a text: 1 or more words > 1 or more sentences > 1 or more paragraphs = text There’s no standard definition for what makes a paragraph, but people generally accept a paragraph to be one or more…

Commas in English Punctuation

Commas are used as part of the punctuation‏‎ system of English. This article describes how and when we use them. Talking generally we use commas in two main ways. First, to separate lists of words or similar items in a sentence‏: He was a big, bad, bald, belligerent, dog. Second, to separate clauses‏‎ in a sentence; it’s used to show a slight pause and, if you like, to give time…

Grammar Tests for British Children

The British government wants to introduce more formal grammar tests to schools in the UK. However this is being countered by the main teachers’ unions who say it is an attack on teachers. The British government wants to introduce more formal grammar tests to schools in the UK. However this is being countered by the main teachers’ unions who say it is an attack on teachers. Since the 1970s British…

Teaching English in Uruguay

TEFL/TESOL in Uruguay Located on the southern border of Brazil‏‎ along the Atlantic coast and bordered by Argentina‏‎ to the west, Uruguay is an attractive prospect when it comes to teaching English in South America. Economically, the country is in a great period of growth after a slow start to the new century, which was mainly brought on by the troubles in its larger neighbor, Argentina. The country has a…

Teaching English in Venezuela

Venezuela (or officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) is a beautiful country in the very north of South America, looking onto the Caribbean. It is a very urbanized country with most people living in the capital city of Caracas. It has large reserves of oil which benefited the country financially but it also has a history of mis-management, political instability and social problems and unrest.

The political…

Spanish vs English

¿Hablas español? About 470 million people do! In fact Spanish is the second most popular first language in the world (after Mandarin; English is third) and also the third most popular language on the internet (after English then Mandarin). As a first language it is mainly spoken in Spain, Latin America and the USA but it is also a popular second language with 78 million people speaking it; it is…

Corpus Linguistics

Simply put, Corpus Linguistics is the study of language using computer programs which analyze millions of lines of texts held in a corpus (pl, corpora). To begin with masses of samples of language are collected: from newspapers, books, transcripts of the spoken word, etc. These can then be marked up, that is, tagged to show the various parts of speech they consist of. Life + is + a + long…

Applied Linguistics

Applied Linguistics is all about using the results of language study in real life teaching.

Linguistics‏‎ is the formal study of language. When the results of these studies are applied to TEFL at the chalkface, then this is applied linguistics. It is a relatively recent science and began to come to prominence in the 1950s in Europe and the United States.

Generally speaking, applied linguists ask a number…


Semantics is the study of meaning. This can include the meaning of individual words‏‎ and also the way in which their meaning may have changed over time. Meaning in languages is mainly studied by linguists. In fact, semantics is one of the main branches of contemporary linguistics. But there are also strong connections to philosophy. In the last century much work in semantics was done by philosophers, and some important…


In linguistics‏‎, a filler is a sound or word in speaking‏‎ used by someone to show that they haven’t finished speaking yet but are either forming their thoughts into speech or mentally searching for the right word‏.

Common fillers in English are:

um – /um/
er – /ə/

However, we can also use words (and sometimes phrases‏‎) which don’t add any meaning to what we say…

Fluency and TEFL

Fluency (or what some people might call Volubility and Loquaciousness) is the ability to speak smoothly and at length about a subject without effort. And if there are pauses, these are to gather thoughts or allow a point to sink in rather than to search for the right word. A fluent speaker can be understood by a native speaker easily even though what they say may contain grammatical or other…

Paraphrasing in TEFL

Look at the picture of Winston Churchill on this page. It’s not the man himself but rather a waxwork of him. It’s a less rounded, less detailed, copy of the real thing. In essence, this is what Paraphrasing is all about. Simply put it is taking what someone has written or said and reforming it in your own style. The finished result is usually much simpler and shorter than the…


The usual qualifications‏‎ for newcomers to TEFL‏‎ are a degree and a TEFL certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Course. These are usually enough to secure a decent job in teaching English as a foreign language. However, after a few years experience, some teachers will want to go for further study. The two main options here are a Diploma or a Masters Degree. By far the most well known and…

Converse Terms

Converse Terms are pairs of words which refer to the same thing but from opposite sides.

Take for example the picture on the right. There is one action taking place here: a balloon is being passed between two people. However, we can describe this action in different ways depending on whose perspective we look at it from:
The boy gives the balloon to the girl.
The girl takes the…

Reporting Verbs in English Grammar

When we repeat what someone has said before, we usually use say or tell: Jeff said he was never going to eat meat again after that meal! Susan told us the most amusing story about the pigeons in her garden. And with direct speech we almost always use say: “No,” said Jeff, “I can’t face another hamburger.” “In the end my clothes were all ruined,” said Susan. So say and…

Quotation Marks / Inverted Commas

Quotation Marks or Inverted Commas (known more informally as Speech Marks) are used in writing to show what someone actually says. They separate actual speech from comment, in other words. John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” As MItch Hedberg said, “My fake plants died because I did not pretend to…

Interrogative Adjectives in English Grammar

Simply put, Interrogative Adjectives are adjectives which modify a noun (like all adjectives do) and also ask a question.

These are the interrogative adjectives:
Any sentence which begins with an interrogative adjective is a question:
Which coat is yours?
What time is it?
Whose car is blocking the drive?
Like all adjectives, interrogative adjectives modify a noun:
{adjective} + {noun phrase} + {…}
whose + dog…

Teaching English to Teenagers

There are 3 approximate (and overlapping) groups when it comes to TEFL: adults, teenagers, and young learners.

This article is all about teaching English to Teenagers, possibly the most likely scenario for new teachers and arguably the most difficult… but also quite possibly the most rewarding!
Who Are Teenagers?
Teenagers are students in your class from about 13 to 18 years old. Obvious really!

But it’s…

Taxation for English Teachers Abroad

Tax for TEFL/TESOL Teachers

Unless you have a lot of money, tax is unavoidable. This article discusses the tax situation for teachers working abroad.

Please note that information here, whilst true to the best of our knowledge, is not legal advice and when dealing with taxes you should seek the help of a qualified tax lawyer or accountant who will make you pay for the privilege of…

Teaching English in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in central Asia bordering with Afghanistan‏‎, Kazakhstan‏‎, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan has worked towards strengthening its economic relations with many western powers, and consequently has invested heavily in English language training. Recently there has been a major shift from Russian to English with all teachers and students having English lessons. It used to be…

Teaching EFL Exam Classes

Exams are big business and a great number of students work towards one of the major English exams; many more work towards local exams.This means that preparing students for exams is also big business and many teachers either take this on with classes approaching and exam or specialize entirely in the subject.

This article looks at the ideas behind Exam Preparation classes and how they differ from…

Eliciting in the TEFL Classroom

Eliciting is when a teacher gets the students to provide information rather than telling them directly.

For example, in an EFL beginners‏‎’ class a teacher could hold up a ball and say, “Ball. This is a ball. Ball.” Alternatively, the teacher could hold up the ball and ask different students, “What is this?” and using gestures and expressions go around the class until one student finally says…

Study Skills

Study Skills are those skills useful for students at university, college, and suchlike to increase their ability to study and pass exams.  They range from organizing and retaining information to understanding assessments; from effective reading to concentration techniques; from examination taking techniques to time management. With EFL/ESL students who want to go and study abroad this needs to be taken a step further as they will need to know enough…

Salutations & Valedictions

A salutation is a greeting used in a letter or other text (email, SMS, etc). Salutations can be formal or informal. The most common form of salutation in a letter is Dear followed by the recipient’s given name or titles‏‎.

For each style of salutation there is an accompanying style of complimentary close, known as valediction.
These are common pairings of salutations and valedictions.


Placement Tests

A Placement Test is simply a test of English which a student will take to determine their learner level. They are often used during a needs analysis‏‎ and when a new student joins a school. The result of the test will give the school a good indication of which class is most suitable for the student. Some institutions such as universities in the USA‏‎ and United Kingdom will use tests such…

TEFL Lessons

Quite simply, a TEFL Lesson is a set period of time where you – as a TEFL teacher – work with your class in learning English.
It is part of the hierarchy of learning English where the yearly syllabus is divided into short periods:
English > Syllabus > Lesson > Activity

TEFL Lesson Length
The length of a typical TEFL Lesson is usually either 60 minutes or…

Role Playing in the TEFL Classroom

Role Plays or Simulations are an extremely valuable method for learning and practicing the English in your TEFL/TESOL classroom.

Essentially the students are placed in a certain fictitious situation where they must use English. It allows creativity on the part of the student and offers a freer practice than written tests. The role play situation is easily chosen but should be related to the current language level…

Oxford English Dictionary (book)

The Oxford English Dictionary (or OED) is one of the major English language dictionaries. It is published by Oxford University Press (OUP). Apart from defining words, it also traces their history and is used not only by people wanting to learn word meaning but also by scholars and academics wanting to understand more about the English language and how it has developed over the years. The OED claims that it…

Typographical Conventions

This page describes the typographical conventions we use in the Grammar Guide and generally on the ICAL TEFL site. Examples Examples are shown thus: This is a grammar example. Following common convention, ungrammatical sentences are marked with an asterisk: * This is grammatical not. Note that In some grammars‏‎ (although not ours) you can also see this shown as strikethrough: This is grammatical not. In cases where there is doubt…

Spelling Singular & Plural Nouns in English

This article details the spelling rules for turning singular nouns in plural nouns. Note, for a look at the general principles of singular and plural nouns, see Singular and Plural Nouns‏‎. Most nouns in English are regular. To make them plural we simply add -s to the end: singular plural 1 book 2 books 1 car 4 cars 1 house 8 houses In some cases, however, we need to do more…

Regular and Irregular in English Grammar

Words in English are either Regular and Irregular.

Regular means that when they change their form (for example, when they become plural) they follow the usual pattern. Irregular means, as you might expect, that they do not follow the usual pattern of most words.

Fortunately most words in English are regular, but a significant number of everyday words are not. In the TEFL classroom students just need to…

Sound Stress in English

Stress is used to talk about the emphasis given to certain sounds, words or phrases‏‎ when we speak. In English there are basically 2 times we talk about stress: on words in an utterance; and on syllable‏‎s in a word. Stress on Syllables Take the word, august, as an example. It is made up of 2 syllables: au + gust If we stress the first syllable then the word is pronounced august…

Audio-Lingual Method in TEFL

The Audio-Lingual Method is a method of teaching foreign languages popular in the mid 20th Century.

It is similar to the Direct Method (and is in fact descended from it) in that the teacher presents the students with plenty of language practice and examples in English and the students’ MT is not used at all. This, of course, is the way that native speakers learn a language…

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian inscribed stone from about 200 BCE.

It was inscribed with a decree issued on behalf of King Ptolemy V. What is important to linguists is that the same decree appears in 3 different languages.

The top is in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics; the middle is in Demotic (a form of early Egyptian) and the lower text is in Ancient Greek‏‎.


Cambridge Young Learners English Tests

Cambridge Young Learners English Tests is touted as a series of fun, motivating English language tests, aimed at children in primary and lower-secondary education (age 7 – 12).

They are run by UCLES.

The examination has three different levels: Starters Exam (typically for age 7, or Year 1 to 2 elementary students), Movers Exam (typically for ages 8 to 11, or Year 3 to 4 elementary students) and…


BULATS stands for Business Language Testing Service which is a commercial service run by Cambridge Assessment‏‎.

It is essential a method of testing the English ability (as well as French, German & Spanish) of business people. After the test users are given a score which relates to the CEF. The tests are held at a number of locations around the world.



KET – Key English Test

The Key English Test or KET is an international examination looking at beginners learning English. It is offered by Cambridge Assessment‏‎. There are 3 parts to the exam: Reading & Writing Listening Speaking The total time for the exam is 1hr 50mins and there are 3 passing grades: pass, merit, distinction…

PET – Preliminary English Test

PET stands for Preliminary English Test. PET is an exam for people who can use everyday written and spoken English at an intermediate level. It covers all four language skills, providing practical language practice in a variety of everyday work, study and leisure situations. This examination if offered by Cambridge ESOL, a department of the University of Cambridge (UK). Level of Proficiency PET is at Level B1 of the Common…

Clare McDowell

Clare McDowell is an Australian ELT author specializing in IELTS‏‎ preparation books. McDowell graduated with a BA in French & Spanish language and literature from the University of South Wales in Australia in 1979. This was followed by an MA in Applied Linguistics at the University of Sydney. She also has a DELTA‏‎ which she took in 1981. Following graduation McDowell moved into teaching and then language testing, test design and then…

Vanessa Jakeman

Vanessa Jakeman is an ELT author most well known for her IELTS books published by CUP.

Vanessa worked as an EFL teacher for many years including 10 years in Hong Kong where she taught and worked for the HK Examinations Authority as well as UCLES. During this time she worked on IELTS exams…

Old English vs Modern English

Old English was the language spoken in what is now England from around the 5th – 11th centuries and is the origin of modern English.

Back then it was called Englisc and the people who spoke were the Anglo-Saxons; Old English is also known as Anglo-Saxon.

Old English is essentially the first recorded version of English and it is the forebear of the language we speak…

Runes vs English

Runes are the letters in the runic alphabets. Runic alphabets were alphabets used by various Germanic tribes not only to write their own languages but also in divination and magic. They were used throughout northern Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland before Christianity spreading from Rome took over and made these tribes abandon their runic alphabets to adopt the Latin alphabet.

The earliest runic inscriptions date back…


William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His surviving works consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets and several poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. The language of Shakespeare is (mostly unknowingly) still…

Grammatical Case in English

Grammatical Case is used to talk about how nouns and, especially, pronouns‏‎ change their form when they have a different role in a sentence‏‎. For example, look at these: John loves Leslie.Leslie loves John. The subject of the first sentence is John. The object of the second sentence is the same person, John. The name is exactly the same and does not change whether it’s a subject or object. On…

Latin vs English

Latin was the language spoken by the Ancient Romans around 2,000 years ago. It developed in the Italian peninsula specifically in Latium, the region of central western Italy, in which the city of Rome was founded and grew to be the capital city of the Roman Empire. The original people living there were the Latins and the word, Latin in fact means the “language of the Latins.” Latin quickly reached…

Frisian vs English

Frisian refers to a closely related group of Germanic languages: West Frisian spoken in the Netherlands Saterland Frisian spoken in Lower Saxony, Germany‏‎ North Frisian spoken in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany East Frisian Low Saxon, the dialect of East Frisia in Lower Saxony, Germany Although the language was at risk of being eroded by German‏‎ there have been moves to spread its use and now about 350,000 people speak it, mainly in the…

Dutch vs English

Dutch is one of the closest relatives to English and the two languages share many facets. But this article is about the main differences between the two languages so that if you ever happen to teach students with a Dutch mother tongue, you’ll understand why they make certain errors and what aspects you need to pay close attention to.

To begin with, a little about the language…

Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammars

Grammar‏‎ books can generally be divided into two different types: Descriptive or Prescriptive. This article looks at the difference between them.

Very simply, a descriptive grammar looks at what people actually say in real life and then lays out a series of statements describing what is said. With modern technology helping a lot, huge collections of language examples have been made and analyzed using programs known as concordancers‏‎. These have…

Computational Linguistics

At its simplest, Computational Linguistics (or CL) is all about trying to create a computer which uses language in the same way as a human does. The Holy Grail would be a human having a conversation with a computer but thinking they were talking to a another human.

But this is just the tip of a giant linguistic dark continent which has never been fully mapped and since it…

French vs English

The English‏‎ language was heavily influenced by French in the past and there is a great deal of overlap between the two languages, both in terms of vocabulary and grammar.

However there are a number of major issues that French native speakers have when they learn English and this article is all about the common problems you’ll have when teaching English to French speakers and how to overcome…

Azerbaijani vs English

Azerbaijani or Azeri Turkish has over 30 million speakers based in both Azerbaijan‏‎ and the surrounding countries.

It’s closely related to Turkish and is, to a certain extent, mutually understandable.

Although there are a couple of major varieties (Northern Azerbaijani and Southern Azerbaijani) and many local dialects, they do not differ substantially and speakers don’t usually have a problem understanding each other.

Northern Azerbaijani is spoken by…

How to Keep in Touch When Teaching Abroad

TEFL teachers head abroad all the time to spend a year or more teaching in a new country.

During that time it’s important to stay connected by phone and email and on the internet, not only to keep in touch with family and friends back home, but also to access the myriad of TEFL resources online which you can use in your lessons.

This article is all about…

International Schools

International Schools are generally schools based in one country but which use a curriculum and teaching methods from another country.

For example, in most countries of the world you will find schools which teach all subjects in English, with British teachers, with a British style uniform, based on British school structure, and which run exams overseen by British exam authorities. These schools – often just one or…

Teaching English in Laos

TEFL/TESOL in Laos Laos (capital Vientiane) is the poorest and least developed country in South East Asia so it definitely is not a place for teachers who wish to earn well and put money aside. However, if what appeals to you is Laos’ culture with its Buddhist thinking, attitudes and behavior, or Laos itself, a landlocked, mountainous country, widely covered by largely unspoilt tropical forest, then getting a job as a…

Teaching English in Myanmar (Burma)

Do you want to teach English in Myanmar?

This article looks at what you need to work as a TEFL teacher there. You’ll find out about the qualifications you need, how to find work, the pay and the teaching conditions, and also a little bit about the lifestyle and culture you can expect to find while you are working there.
A little bit about Myanmar
Myanmar (formerly called…

Mandarin (Chinese)

There is not one single Chinese language as such but several varieties of Chinese which are more or less mutually understandable; the language is spoken by over 1 billion people (making is more popular than English). Of the different varieties Mandarin is the most widely spoken version with over 800 million speakers. This includes “Standard Chinese” which is the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. (The other major variety is Cantonese.) MT…

The Ideal TEFL Classroom

The Ideal TEFL Classroom is the best possible place where you can give your lessons.

And remember that since it’s probably the most important room in your professional life so it’s worthwhile getting it right!

In the world of TEFL‏‎ it’s not easy to predict exactly what your next classroom will be like. You could be teaching in an ultra-modern school in the Middle East with air…

Survival English

Survival English is a term we used to talk about the essential English someone needs to know in order to survive – live or work – in an English speaking environment. Typical students of Survival English might be: going to the US on holiday taking an English course in Australia where they will live for 3 months with a host family going to a conference in the UK attending a…

Teaching English in your Gap Year

A lot of students take a year off after finishing high school, or during their university studies, and spend the time working or traveling abroad in what is known as a Gap Year.

The idea of warm seas, exotic locations and eye-opening new cultures is difficult to resist and it’s no wonder that many students think that working abroad teaching is a good idea.

However, there…

Units of Measurement in English

Units of Measurement are used to talk about quantity. Common units include:

length: meter, mile, kilometer…
weight: pound, stone, kilogram…
liquid: liter, gallon…

Singular & Plural
Units of measurement usually have a singular and plural form:
I’ve lived here 1 year.
That wall is 3 meters tall.
This tank will hold just 2 liters.
However, if we use the unit of measurement…

Possessive Apostrophes‏‎

Possessive Apostrophes are added to the end of a noun to show possession‏‎. This car belongs to John. It is John’s car. That dog belongs to that girl. It is that girl’s dog. Note, a Possessive Apostrophe is sometimes known as a Saxon Genitive. Plural Nouns If there is a plural noun‏‎ which ends in an -s, then we add just an apostrophe after it (no extra -s). In this…

Who vs Whom in English Grammar

Who vs Whom often comes up and sometimes causes confusion. This article explains the difference between these two.

Who and whom are both pronouns‏‎ and while they mean the same thing (a person or group of people) they are grammatically different.
Subjects vs Objects
The subject of a sentence‏‎ is the “main actor” in the sentence and normally it comes at the beginning of the sentence:
Louisa sang a…

Authoring for Computer Assisted Language Learning

Authoring is the term used to describe the ability to change the content in a CALL computer program.

For example, some off-the-shelf CALL programs come supplied with a bank of questions in English. However, these may not quite be suitable for a class in terms of level and content.

An authorable program, however, will allow the teacher to write their own questions and set different levels, etc. These questions…

Crossword Compiler‏‎s in English Language Teaching

A Crossword Compiler is a program which allows you to produce crosswords for the class – or have your students produce them for each other. There are a number on the market which include features such as: alternative layouts easy printing and/or publishing automatic grid filling In using crossword compilers the important thing to remember is to make them suitable for the level of the class you are teaching. First…

Dropbox for TEFL Teachers

Dropbox is a simple – and free – method of keeping your files up to date between your computer, laptop and smartphone.

It’s incredibly useful for English teachers (amongst others) in many ways, not least because it means you can work on materials at home and have them instantly available in the classroom or any other location for that matter.

It also syncs your work so…

Future Perfect Continuous‏‎ in English Grammar

While it is not one of the most commonly used verb forms‏‎, the future perfect continuous does occur quite often in conversations between advanced English speakers, and in classes and exams it shows knowledge of the language that is above average for most students. Usage The verb form is used to describe events that will start at one point in time and continue until a second point in time in…

TextSTAT‏‎ (CALL Software)

TextSTAT is a simple text analysis program. The first step is to make a corpus. This can be done by adding files from a PC in HTML, TXT and WORD format, etc. In addition, there is also the ability to add in web pages using a spider to collect them from a particular site. The program can then do word frequency searches and concordances. It is fast and simple to…

Stative & Dynamic Verbs‏‎ in English

We can group verbs in different ways. One method is to divide them into Stative Verbs and Dynamic Verbs. Briefly, verbs which refer to a static or unchanging state or condition are called stative and verbs which talk about a moving or changeable condition are known as dynamic (or sometimes Action Verbs). A couple of examples help explain this difference: I’m eating just a single piece of toast for…

Chatroom Lesson‏‎ for your TEFL Class

The following is a basic chatroom lesson you can use with your CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) class. Ideally this is best with a class who all know each other fairly well. Preparation First off, prepare a list with all the names of the students in the class. Then, before the students arrive, set up a private chatroom (see Instant Messaging & Chatrooms for English Teaching‏‎ on how to do…

AntConc‏‎ (CALL Software)

AntConc is a freeware concordancer and is very useful for searching through large swathes of texts to look for patterns of usage and so on.

As an example, the screenshot on the right shows a concordance search for the word, word. The program has searched through a number of corpora (collections of texts) and displays where the word word has occurred in context (known as KWIC or KeyWord in…

Strange English (TEFAL)‏‎

Strange English is a collection of statements about English which deserve more thinking about. If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented? If people from Poland are called “Poles,” why aren’t people from Holland called “Holes?” Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery? If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled? Why is the man who invests all…

Example Lesson Plan

This is an Example TEFL Lesson Plan which illustrates some of the ideas presented in the article on TEFL Lesson Planning‏‎.

It will give you a good idea of how to approach the subject and lay out your plan. Obviously what we show here will need to be tweaked and changed for a particular class, but it’s a good start and will give you a good idea…

QVC‏‎ – the Shopping Channel Activity

QVC is a tv shopping channel which is famous for showing short segments where presenters talk about a product for several minutes, describing it in detail and explaining everything one could possibly want to know about it. The concept can be transferred to the English Language Teaching classroom. Here students either individually or in small groups can do the same to practice fluency and presentation skills; ideally this should be…

Spelling Chequer Poem (TEFAL)

English spelling is easy. We all no that as this poem demonstrates.
Eye have a spelling chequer, it came with my pea sea,
It plainly marks, for my revue, mist aches I cannot sea.
Each time when eye have struck the quays I weight four it to say
If wot eye rote is wrong or rite. It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid…

Backpacker Teachers in TEFL

Backpacker Teachers is a derogatory term for unqualified, casual teachers who take on a job teaching English‏‎ because they happen to speak English and need the money while they are, generally, backpacking around a country.
Some 30 years ago there was a tremendous, new demand for English teachers to work in various countries around the world. There were simply more posts to fill than qualified teachers to…

Stripes – Basic English (TEFAL)‏‎

Can we teach like this?

Of course not because we’re mere mortals. But Harold Ramis in the 1981 film classic, Stripes, can.
Stripes – Basic English
The film opens with Russell Ziskey (played by Harold Ramis) teaching a brand new class to speak English when he himself has never taught before. (In actual fact, Ramis, an English Lit graduate, was a substitute teacher in Chicago during the late 1960s.)…

Oxford Comma‏‎s in English Punctuation

The Oxford Comma (sometimes known as the Serial Comma or the Harvard Comma) causes a lot of debate and controversy in grammatical circles. On the one hand is British English where a list of items in a sentence are separated by commas unless there is a coordinating conjunction (usually and or but) following. For example: John, Henry, Tom, Dick and Harry all came to the party. In this case we have…

MemoryLifter‏‎ (CALL Software)

MemoryLifter is a freeware program which displays flashcards. Although it’s not specifically for English, there are English modules and you can create your own set of materials for your students allowing them to study and learn the items appropriate for their level and needs. The program can use not only standard text flashcards but also images and sounds to enhance, speed up and improve learning. Free flashcard sets for English…

Just a Minute – speaking activity

Just a Minute is a very popular British radio quiz game which is ideal for the TEFL classroom and great for practicing speaking skills.

It’s very simple to prepare and great fun to play. Best for small groups but it can be played with larger groups if you prepare it well. It works best, perhaps, with Intermediate and above level students.
The principle of the game…

Mind Your Language (TEFAL)‏‎

Mind Your Language was a British sitcom about an EFL teacher to a stereotypical collection of students.

It was made in 1977 and ran for two years averaging huge audiences (over 18 million per episode) but because of the offensive stereotyping, it was cancelled.

Let’s see, we had…

a sexy French girl
a macho Italian man
an “efficient” and hard German au pair…

Talking Pictures‏‎

Talking Pictures is an activity for your TEFL class which involves the students from the outset and is guaranteed to interest them as they provide the impetus for the class. This is important. Often students can feel left out of the class; in this activity they are the ones who supply the essentials for the activity and the ones who make sure it works. Preparation Since these days virtually everyone…

Since… Ago…

Since and Ago are often confused and used wrongly by learners of English in the TEFL class. But there are some simple rules which show how they should be used.
The usage is quite simple: since is followed by a specific time.
since + specific time
I’ve been waiting here since 3 o’clock.
I’ve had this toothache since yesterday morning.
I’ve lived here since 1991.


Television from Back Home for TEFL Teachers Abroad

Sometimes living in a foreign country can be lonely but one way to keep in touch with home and get a little light relief is to watch On Demand Television (or Catch Up Television) on your computer. It’s the perfect way to keep up with current affairs back home as well as your favorite television shows while you’re living and teaching on the other side of the world…

Banned Commercial (TEFAL)‏‎

The following commercial was apparently banned for the taboo language it used: Banned Commercials – Learn English 

Don’t listen if you’re easily shocked.

The commercial was made for the Soesman Language Institute and entitled, A Day Trip. It features a middle aged couple and their children going away in a car and listening to the radio. They sing along to a song, unaware of its meaning.

It was designed…

Detective Reading

Detective Reading is a simple reading exercise to give your students practice in intensive reading. The students will check for details and clues in the text to answer several questions. Preparation Find a text which is of suitable length and level for your class. It can be as long or short as you need, but the class should be able to understand much of it and (if necessary) use dictionaries…

Sweet Incentives in TEFL Teaching

Many teachers like to use Sweets or Candy as Incentives for their students, especially with younger classes. TEFL teachers heading abroad will often fill their bag with candy from back home not only to motivate their class but also offer a little bit of cultural input as well.

But is giving candy a good idea? Is this praising and rewarding your students or is it just bribing…


IATEFL is the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. It is a respected organization set up in the UK in 1967. It brings together over 4,000 teachers & administrators, writers, publishers and other professionals involved in teaching English as a foreign language. It holds regular conferences and also includes over 3,500 more local groups in 100 countries. These are both general groups as well as SIGs…

Teaching English in Bosnia‏‎ and Herzegovina

Bosnia (or to give it its full name, Bosnia and Herzegovina) is a relatively new country in the Balkans in South-East Europe which, by all recent accounts, is looking for TEFL teachers as the demand for English grows.

Although situated in Europe, Bosnia is not part of the EU yet so it is relatively easy for Americans and other non-European passport holders to get a visa to work here…

Instant Messaging & Chatrooms for English Teaching‏‎

Instant Messaging (also IM or Chat) and Chatrooms are a way of sending messages online and having a real-time text conversation. Instant Messaging is usually one-to-one while Chatrooms are usually with large groups of people. For the TEFL teacher, the goal of IM/Chat is to have your students interact with other students from different locations and cultures. It is, if you like, an update on the penpal system. It offers…

Should Of

The following are errors in English:
* I should of known better.
* They could of beaten us.
* He must of left by now.
* an asterisk in front of a sentence denotes an ungrammatical sentence.

In good, grammatical English we say instead:
I should have known better.
They could have beaten us.
He must have left by now.
All these examples use the correct past forms of…

Production‏‎ in TEFL

Production, in TEFL terms, is simply producing language; in other words, speaking or writing. It is taking the raw material (language) and forming it into coherent utterances and sentences for others to hear or read. Language learning often follows this pattern: INPUT > COMPREHENSION > PRODUCTION In general terms, the process works like this: The teacher introduces a new language item, for example the Past Simple. The teacher explains it…

Dogme in TEFL

Dogme language teaching is a methodology (and also sometimes thought of as a movement) for teaching English which encourages teaching through conversation and without textbooks in a naturalistic fashion.

It aims to take language teaching back to its roots and was initiated by Scott G. Thornbury‏‎ in an article for IATEFL some 10 years ago (see here). The idea was that teaching had become too reliant on textbooks and…

Vowels and Consonants in English

Vowels and Consonants are the sounds which go to make up the English language.

If air passes straight through the mouth without being stopped or constricted anywhere, this forms a vowel sound.

If the air is stopped at any point or the mouth is constricted somehow, then this creates a consonant sound.

For example, take the word too. It begins with the…

Qualifications for EFL/ESOL Students‏‎

Qualifications for Students indicate how well a person knows English.

NB For qualifications in order to teach, see Essential Qualifications to Teach English.

There is no single, standardized qualification system showing how well a person can use English, however over the years a number of qualifications have risen in popularity and have become de facto standards in this area. Whilst by no means universal, these are…


ACTDEC stands for the Accreditation Council for TESOL Distance Education Courses. It is a limited company which accredits TEFL certificate courses.

As of July 2012 they accredit 7 schools with a further 3 schools holding applicant status.
On its website, ACTDEC says it is a “non-profit making independent body” however it is registered with Companies House in the UK as a Limited Company No. 06713832. The registered office…


There are a couple of main areas of concern regarding LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people and issues in TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language).

being LGBT in different countries
being an LGBT teacher
LGBT materials

This article looks into each of these areas.
LGBT Teachers & Countries
Of course there are LGBT teachers. However, it is not so much about being an LGBT…

Teaching English in India

India is the largest democratic republic in the world with a population of just over 1.2 billion people. The official language of India is Hindi with the second official language being English. However, there are a many regional languages (numbering millions of speakers) and especially in smaller cities and towns neither Hindi nor English can be heard.

Although there is a good demand for English teachers jobs…

Recreational Drugs & TEFL Teachers

By drugs we are referring to so-called recreational drugs such as cannabis and alcohol etc.

This article looks at traveling with drugs and using them while you are living in a foreign country as a teacher of English.

Note that this article does not discuss the moral issues of using drugs but looks at the practicalities of the situation. The information presented here is true to…

Masters Degrees for Teachers of English

The usual qualifications‏‎ for newcomers to TEFL‏‎ are a BA degree and a TEFL certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.

However, after a few years experience, some teachers will want to go for further study.

The two main options here are a TEFL Diploma or a Masters Degree (or MA).

The MA is considered a higher qualification than a Diploma and is often a requirement for…

Vietnamese vs English

If you are teaching English in Vietnam, or teaching English to Vietnamese speakers, you may well face a few problems when your students use English.

Let’s take a simple example. Your Vietnamese students may well say things like this:
* Yesterday he go school.
* Tomorrow I go doctor.
* an asterisk at the beginning means it’s grammatically wrong
If you know nothing about Vietnamese you may…

Native Speakers

A native speaker of English is a person who has grown up speaking English‏‎ as their first language or mother tongue‏‎. In terms of English teachers this usually means from one of the major English speaking countries: the USA‏‎, the United Kingdom, Ireland‏‎, Australia, Canada‏‎, New Zealand‏‎ or South Africa‏‎.

A non-native speaker is someone who has learned English at school and knows English in addition to their mother tongue…

Speak as if…‏‎

Speak as if… is a great speaking activity which gets the students talking and repeating without realizing it. It is a great as a five minute filler activity or to use anytime you want to practice a certain few phrases with the class. It works with almost any class and is great fun with younger, more outgoing classes who are ready to enjoy themselves. Of course, if the class is…


Lingro is a useful online tool allowing language students (and teachers) to read a webpage with immediate access to dictionary definitions of unknown words. For example, this is a screen shot of a TWW page after a number of words have been clicked on using Lingro. In this case it shows words from English to Italian. In this case above, you can click on anyword on the page and see…

Have You Ever? – present perfect simple activity

Have You Ever? is a simple game to practice the Present Perfect Simple verb form using the “have you ever” question construction.

It’s very easy to set up and run and is ideal for reinforcing when we use and how we construct the verb form.

To begin, write up on the board
Have you ever…
and then put up a couple of endings (which should be…

Rosetta Stone (CALL Software)

Rosetta Stone is the name of proprietary piece of software for language learning. The name comes from the Rosetta Stone, a large carved stone from Ancient Egypt‏‎ with a single text in 3 languages which was used as an aid to translation.

The principle of the Rosetta Stone software is the Audio-Lingual Method, that is using set phrases over and over again until they are drilled into the brain…

What to Take With You when Teaching Abroad

What to Take With You is a checklist of what you should pack when you are heading off to a new job, possibly a new country.

It isn’t exhaustive, of course, and many of the items below you’ll want to leave out, but it’s a good start.
Medicines, Drugs & Hygiene Products
Take a good supply of your personal medicine and prescription drugs, the pill, etc…

Lesson Snapshot for TEFL Teachers

Lesson Snapshot is a method by which you as a teacher can try to look objectively at the way you teach and check out your style and methods from the point of view of your students.

Basically you video a typical lesson to provide a snapshot of your lesson which lets you see how it works from the students’ point of view.

It is an invaluable…

Audacity – sound recording software

Audacity is a piece of freeware software which you can use to record audio. This can later be incorporated into a Podcast or used as a simple audio file for playing in class or mixing with other media.

This article explains how to get the software, install it on your computer and then make a first recording.
First visit the Audacity Download Page and select the right…

Teaching English in South Sudan

South Sudan became independent in 2011 from Sudan. The area had English‏‎ as a state language for many years as a result of British political & military influence in the region. However in 1956 with a policy of “Arabization” this was replaced by Arabic‏‎. Following the country’s independence in 2011 English was reinstated as the official language. Although English language teaching in the country is regarded highly and teachers are in…

Take a Letter‏‎ – business dictation

Take a Letter is a simple dictation practice which allows your business English students to practice the form and style of business letters. Business letters are often formulaic, using set words and phrases and layouts. This exercise gives your students practice with these and familiarizes them with the usual content and form of these letters. As a bonus, the students get practice in speaking and listening as well. Preparation You…

Insurance‏‎ & Health Cover for Teachers Abroad

Insurance/Health Cover is a very important issue, but also a personal one. Some TEFL‏‎ teachers will not travel without, other teachers don’t even think about the idea.

This article looks at different sorts of insurances you might want to consider before heading overseas and teaching. What we present here are common scenarios but you should of course check to make sure of the details about what your school…

Split Personalities‏‎

Split Personalities is a fun TEFL‏‎ activity which helps students practice their speaking‏‎ skills, specifically in describing how people look, their clothes and so on (although it can also be adapted and used for other descriptions). It is ideal for lower level classes but again can be adapted for higher levels, too. Preparation First you need to find a pile of pictures from magazines. Ideally these are clear shots showing a…

Deficit Paradigm‏‎ in TEFL

The Deficit Paradigm has been used to explain why students misbehave in class and underachieve. Essentially it means that the reason students perform badly is because they have problems with their families, their backgrounds, their community and/or their culture. They lack certain stabilizing elements and the theory goes that to raise their achievement levels they need to have those missing elements put back. This is often contrasted with deficiencies in…

What Teachers Say (TEFAL)‏‎

Teachers mess up as well. Many of us have spent time teaching in a foreign country and grappling with the problems of the local language. Here are a few problems which arise:   A class were playing a word game where they had to explain a word to the rest of the class. The teacher gave an Italian student the word tramp. As the student did not know what the…

Infinitives in English Grammar

The Infinitive is the base form of the verb‏‎:
be, have, walk…
Often the infinitive is introduced by the particle, to:
to be, to have, to walk…
Note that when the infinitive is on its own it’s sometimes known as the Bare Infinitive; when it’s with to then it’s sometimes known as the Full Infinitive.
Full Infinitive Usage/Infinitive Clauses

We use the full infinitive (the infinitive with…

Among vs Amongst‏‎

There is no difference in meaning between among and amongst – these two words can be used interchangeably. However, amongst is less common in everyday use than among and is considered slightly more educated. In spoken American English‏‎ among tends to be used almost exclusively; however in writing amongst can still be found. The n-gram below shows the relative use of these two words over the past 50 years or so. As…

Shane English School‏‎

Shane English School (SES) is a chain of schools operating in Asia. The school originally started in Japan and came about after an English teacher, Shane Lipscombe found he had too many private students and thus set up a school to deal with them all.

Since then it has joined with the Saxoncourt and operates primarily in Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and China. The group is also known…

Fake TEFL Certificates‏‎

Fake TEFL or TESOL Certificates are a fact of life.

This article explores why they exist, where they come from, ways in which they are being used and methods by which legitimate companies are combating their use.

(PS click here if you need to get a genuine TEFL Certificate.)
In the past – some twenty or thirty years ago – many teaching jobs were available…

Lyric Lineup – listening activity

Lyric Lineup is a fun game for young learners. It’s useful to practice listening‏‎ in TEFL.
First choose a song suitable for the class. This means it needs to be the correct level‏‎ in terms of vocabulary and grammar and also suitable subject matter. For younger learners you can use simple nursery rhymes even.

Print out the lyrics in a large font and then cut…

TEFL Jokes (TEFAL)‏‎

Although there are jokes we can use in the class to drive home a language point and make the lesson more engaging, these are jokes about teachers and students in general and especially about the English language and the way we use it.

Some of them are terrible and will get a good groan. Others are a little better. The good ones are sometimes attributed (where we know)…

Tag Mix‏‎

Tag Mix is a straightforward way to practice question tags with your class. It is all about having students identify the two parts of the sentence (the statement and the tag) and then mixing and matching them. As an activity it works best with intermediate and above students; the level can go up as you can make it more inventive for more advanced students. Preparation Quite simply collect a…

Tattoos‏‎ and English Teachers Abroad

The attitude towards teachers with tattoos varies according to country and school. Even in the west where tattoos are fairly common, school owners will often look down on teachers sporting obvious tattoos. In many countries tattoos were often used in the past as signaling membership of a criminal gang (e.g. the Yakuza in Japan or the Mafia in Italy‏‎) and whilst we are more familiar with images of popstars or sports…

Quick Spell‏‎

Quick Spell is an ideal activity if you find your class has problems spelling a particular word. If you notice that the same spelling mistake crops up again and again it’s time to play this game! The idea behind the activity is making the spelling of this word so natural that students don’t even have to think about it. First write the word up on the board and check with…

English Teachers – the series‏‎ (TEFAL)

English Teachers – the series, is a fictional webseries about the lives of English teachers in a language school in Japan. The first episode aired in September 2010.

It is directed and produced by Anthony Gilmore who teaches English part-time at the Nagoya University of Foreign Studies in Japan and has also worked at language schools in Japan and South Korea.

Note: although the first season is still…

PoS Swap‏‎ – parts of speech activity

PoS Swap is an activity to practice different parts of speech. For TEFL teachers it’s well worth using as it requires little or no preparation and can be used any time there’s a slight uncertainty amongst the students over a particular PoS. Running the Activity Write up on the board a sentence structure which includes the PoS you want to practice. For example, suppose you wanted to practice adjectives and…

Brain Teasers‏‎ in the TEFL Classroom

Brain Teasers are ideal classroom activities and can be used in loads of different ways. They’re easy to adapt and you can tweak them to be just right for your TEFL class. Basically a brain teaser is a puzzle where your students have to think to find the solution. There’s often an element of thinking laterally (or in an unconventional way) so it isn’t always the case that the best…

Irregular Threes‏‎

Irregular Threes is a quick game to practice and remember Irregular Verbs- it’s ideal for a younger class: it’s noisy, chaotic, energetic and great fun, too! (There are some quieter versions of this game at the bottom of the page, however!) Running the Game Firstly go over a few irregular verbs and make sure the students understand the way in which they work and the three parts to each verb…

Teaching English in Sudan‏‎

Sudan is in north-east Africa with the Nile river dividing it east to west. It is an ancient country with a population of about 45 million. Note that In 2011 the southern part of the country gained independence as South Sudan which is now a separate country. In recent history English‏‎ was the official language until independence in 1956 (when it was replaced by Arabic‏‎). More recently it was made an official…

The 7 Commandments of Effective TEFL Teaching

TEFL Commandments are simply basic teaching rules which TEFL teachers follow in the classroom. Some call them maxims, others call them aphorisms, others still call them sayings.

But whatever you call them, they are useful to read over and think about every so often and can help both new and experienced teachers!

1. Repeat, repeat and then repeat again.

In giving new material to students, the…

Vowels to Bosnia (TEFAL)‏‎

During the war in the Balkans (1992-1995), much was made of the spelling and pronunciation of placenames in Serbia and so on. This satirical news item was popular at the time. {AF}Before an emergency joint session of Congress yesterday, President Clinton announced US plans to deploy over 75,000 vowels to the war-torn region of Bosnia. The deployment, the largest of its kind in American history, will provide the region with…

Find the Comparative‏‎

Find the Comparative is a good activity for your class to practice making comparative sentences. It’s best used as an activity for pairs or small groups. Preparation Begin by making a series of cards. On each one write a pair of words which are related somehow; they should be two words which can be used in a comparative sentence. For example: elephant – mouse boy – girl Ferrari – bicycle…

Materials & Materials Writing

Materials is a general term to describe the TEFL coursebooks‏‎ and exercises used in teaching English. The author of such is known as a Materials Writer.

Materials can include:

exercise books
grammar books
various exercises & activities
listening tapes

The TEFL‏‎ industry today is massive and worth billions of dollars around the world and much of this is…


Yes/No is a simple game that helps get your class asking and answering questions and doing plenty of speaking and listening‏‎. The beauty of it is that it can be extended! Gameplay Write up on the board YES and NO in bold letters. Now tell your students that these words are illegal for the next few minutes and cannot be used. There are different ways to play the game, but…

Conditional Mashups‏‎ – conditional activity

Conditional Mashups is a simple activity to have your class practicing conditionals.

It also encourages your students to use their imaginations which is never a bad thing!
For this you’ll need loads of slips of paper. Each slip should have a dividing line right down the middle. Later a conditional sentence will divide them:

Later you will get your class to come up with unusual, weird…


Wipeout is a simple end-of-class activity which is good for practicing pronunciation and speaking. It is a good activity for low level classes and can be used from beginners up. It’s better with smaller classes but with a little variation can be used for large classes as well. Start by writing up a sentence on the board. This should be of the right level and content for the class. They should be…

Non Sequiturs in English

Non Sequitur is a Latin phrase we use in English which means it does not follow.

It is mainly used to describe a statement which has nothing to do with what was said before.

For example, this is logical and sensible.

Socrates was a man.
All men are mortal.
Therefore Socrates was mortal.

However, the last line here is a non sequitur…

Good News, Bad News‏‎

Good News, Bad News is a simple game you can play with almost any level of class. It’s useful to practice both listening and speaking. Students need to listen carefully to what was said before and prepare their own ideas as well. With your class, go through the concept of “good news, bad news” with an example: The good news is that I won a million dollars.The bad news is…

Spelling Mix – spelling activity

Spelling Mix is a simple TEFL activity for students to practice the spelling of words in a semantic field.

It’s suitable for any age and level as long as the words the students are looking for are of the right level.
Select a group of words of a suitable level and in the same semantic field. For this example we can use the semantic field WEATHER but…

Facebook for TEFL Teachers

The chances are that you have a Facebook account and there is more than a fair chance that some of your students do too.

But this raises a number of questions and if you get the answer wrong, it can sometimes have dire consequences.

Do I become “friends” with my students?
Can I post photos of me on holiday?
How can I tell…

Visas for TEFL Teachers Abroad

Quite simply a visa is a document stating that a person is authorized to enter the country or territory for which it was issued.

If you intend to go abroad to teach depending on where you go and your nationality you may or may not need a visa to enter the country and stay there.

For example, British citizens can enter Italy‏‎, part of the European Union‏‎…

Fortune Telling‏‎ – verb forms activity

Fortune Telling is a fun way for your class to practice using future‏‎ verb forms: will, be going to and suchlike. It is probably best with intermediate or above although you can adjust the level as appropriate. It is also a useful speaking‏‎ activity. The basic idea is that the students will tell each others fortune. This can be done in a number of ways but it is important to…

Passports & TEFL Teachers

Your Passport is arguably the most valuable document you possess whilst living and working abroad and it should be carefully handled. This article offers some good, sensible advice regarding handling and using your passport.

As a general rule never send your passport through the post (unless you’re renewing it which you will do via courier anyway) and never leave it with anyone for any time. It’s your…

Reading for Pleasure‏‎

Think of the way most EFL‏‎ students read. In classrooms across the world they pick up English books in order to study them. After students have read a text they know that the next step is likely to be them being tested on the meaning of various words‏‎, some grammatical constructions‏‎ and then their comprehension‏‎ of the text as whole. In other words reading is a job. It’s work. What’s Wrong…

Student Generated Tests‏‎

Student Generated Tests are a good way to prepare quick tests or quizzes for the class but with little effort from the teacher. Ten minutes before the end of the lesson ask each student to individually write down 2 or 3 questions based on the material they have learned over the past week or so (note that this will depend on how often you teach the class, but the questions…

What Students Say (TEFAL)‏‎

The following gems were picked up over the years by English teachers around the world.

The interesting thing is that if you look at them, often they make profound sense in a strange way. Comments like When I grow up I’d like to be a kindergardener do somehow ring true.

Anyway, if you have any bloopers of your own you’d like to share, please do get in touch and either…

TEFL Teacher Portfolios

A Teaching Portfolio (sometimes also called a Teaching Dossier or Teaching Profile) is a valuable tool used by TEFL teachers to document who they are, what kind of teacher they are and what they have achieved.

It’s also a great tool to help you get that TEFL job!

That’s because it’s often used by teachers to support their application for a job. Along with their TEFL/TESOL CV/Résumé…

The Non-Native Teacher (book)‏‎

Author: Peter Medgyes Publisher: Hueber Macmillan Prentice Hall Phoenix ELT Details: paperback, 144 pages; pub 1998 ISBN: 3190066310 Despite the many advantages that a teacher sharing the students’ MT can bring, native speakers are always preferred when it comes to hiring. Yet teachers who are non-native speakers can bring a lot to the classroom. This book examines the differences in teaching attitudes between teachers of English who are native…

Split Shifts and Teaching English Abroad

Split shifts happen fairly often in schools that teach English. Most commonly it means you have to work for a few hours in the morning, then take a long break, and then start work again in the evening. First you should check your teaching contract before you sign it to see if there is any mention of the timetabled hours you will be required to work at the school (and ask…

Teaching English in Tanzania‏‎

TEFL/TESOL in Tanzania Although Swahili is the de facto official language, with its history as an British colony Tanzania has a strong English presence and the language is the official language of the courts and higher education, for example. However Children will generally speak their local tribal language and Swahili. There are many volunteer teaching positions in Tanzania; some better than others. However, recently the government of Rwanda‏‎ has requested help in…

Verifying Tags‏‎ – question tag activity

Verifying Tags is an activity which gets your TEFL class practising using question tags. Question Tags are often used to verify information of which we are not 100% certain. For example we might be discussing holidays and ask someone, “You went to the Seychelles a few years back, didn’t you?” It’s not a direct question but we are looking for confirmation for what we believe to be true. This activity…

TEFL Teachers: Appropriate & Inappropriate Touching in School

Touching, has the power to enrich lives but also to ruin them and touching children is a potentially thorny issue and one which can cause difficulties across cultures.

This article looks at various aspects of the way in which teachers and children can interact and how this works teaching English as a foreign language.
“Hands Off” Approach
Due to a number of high profile cases in the…

Move Them on Day 1‏‎

This is an excellent tip for teachers concerned about classroom discipline‏‎. It is best for Day 1 of your new class. With slightly noisy classes it’s often a good idea to move the disruptive students away from each other or to the front of the class. However, if you try this in middle of term then it’s likely to lead to more noise and possibly downright refusal from the students…

What is a Lexicon?

In general terms, a Lexicon is a list of words. It is almost synonymous with vocabulary. For example, we can talk about: a personal lexicon – the words which an individual knows a social class lexicon – the words used by a certain class of person; of course this can be extended to talk about the lexicon of any group of people a lexicon of English – all the words…

The International Phonetic Association

The International Phonetic Association or IPA is the major as well as the oldest representative organization for phoneticians. It was established in 1886 in Paris.

The aim of the IPA is to promote the scientific study of phonetics and the various practical applications of that science.

One of the major contributions of the IPA to the world of linguistics has been the International Phonetic Alphabet or…

Hidden Relations‏‎

Hidden Relations is a way to get your class into groups using a more extended vocabulary activity.
Suppose you want to divide your class into 5 groups of 3 students each. You need to prepare 5 sets of cards and each set will consist of 3 cards. On those cards write related words.

For example, for a low intermediate level class, you could prepare 5…

Laying Down the Law‏‎

Laying Down the Law is an activity which lets your class practice modal verbs used for permission. Running the Activity Firstly break your class into small groups of 3 or so. Then have each group brainstorm everything that is wrong with their town. Make them write down all the niggles and problems they can find, e.g. There aren’t enough buses at night. People smoke too much. It’s very noisy in…

What I Did at the Weekend‏‎

What I Did at the Weekend is a common activity used in TEFL classrooms. At the beginning of the lesson as a kind of warm up the teacher will typically ask a few students what they did last weekend, or yesterday, or during the holidays, etc. This can be a useful activity, but it is often little more than excuse for one or two students to speak and the rest…

Curriculum (pl Curricula) in Teaching English

The curriculum (plural curricula) is the program of work for a student in school. The hierarchy is this: the entire English language > what the student needs > curriculum > syllabus > lesson > activity Although in general usage curriculum and syllabus overlap, curriculum tends to be used more generally thus a curriculum will talk about general aims in teaching whilst a syllabus will talk about more specific aims in…

What’s Missing?‏‎

What’s Missing? is a very simple extra activity you can play with any set of flashcards you use. Quite simply, whenever you use flashcards in class, save this for a quick 5 minute activity at the end just go over the vocabulary you’ve been practicing. It requires no preparation and the side-effect of the game is that the students unconsciously practice the vocabulary on the cards as they try to…

Price Comparison‏‎ (CALL Activity)

Price Comparison is a simple activity designed for all levels‏‎ of class from beginners‏‎ to advanced and from General English‏‎ to Business English‏‎, teenagers to adults. It can be used to practice skimming‏‎ as well as reading for specifics. Best done as a CALL‏‎ activity, it can also be adapted for a normal classroom (see below). Preparation Your class are going to find comparative prices for a range of products. The…

Lawyer Talking‏‎

Lawyer Talking is a simple activity which allows students to practice making questions and then using the third person. With a small adaptation it can also be used to practice reported speech. In Class Preparation Get the class into pairs and have them write up 3 or 4 questions on slips of paper. These must be questions that can be asked about other members of the class: How old are…

If I Were – conditional activity

If I were? is a simple activity to practice the second conditional‏‎ and it can, with some adaptation, also be used to practice other conditionals‏‎ forms.
Prepare a few flashcards‏‎ on which you have the name of someone or something which would fit in suitably to the conditional sentence:
If I were… I would…
For example:

President of the USA

Unique People‏‎ – present perfect simple activity

Unique People is a game to practice the present perfect simple verb form. Firstly you’ll need to make sure your class are familiar with the Present Perfect Simple verb form, both formation and usage. Ideally the game can be played after teaching the it and can be used to practice it. Explanation Explain to your class that you believe that are unique. Tell them something really unique you have done…

Taking a Teacher Training Course

Taking a TEFL or TESOL Teacher Training Course is part and parcel of training to teach English‏‎.

Thousands of potential teachers take a short TEFL Course and this article offers some basic advice on how to approach the course and how to get the most out of it.
Grammar & Vocabulary
Before beginning the course – or as soon as you can after starting it – get…

Random Stories‏‎

Random Stories is a good activity for letting your students use their imagination and exercising all the skills. Preparation Cut out a large selection of random, unrelated objects from magazines. It’s a good idea to make flashcards out of these so you can build up a collection and use them again. Make sure you have enough so that each group in your class (of, say, 3 students) can have 5…

Sticky Fingers – is a noun countable or non-countable?

Sticky Fingers is a simple way to demonstrate to your class whether a noun is countable or non-countable.

The idea here is that you begin by telling your class whether a noun is countable or non-countable. Then you have a visual sign for this along with telling them. Then you just use the sign.

There are several advantages to this:

you speak less; less…

Intermediate Level Students in English

Defining a student as intermediate is a very approximate classification of how well they speak English. There is no set definition of what intermediate means, however as a very rough guide students at intermediate level‎ can talk and read about a wide number of subjects using appropriate vocabulary‏‎ and fairly correct, if basic, grammar‏‎. They can confidently use all the main tenses‏‎, and are beginning to use phrasal…

Who’s Lying Now?‏‎

Who’s Lying Now? is a gameshow type of activity which encourages question and answers from students. It is based on similar television shows and require little or no preparation. The activity can be used for intermediate and above classes, from teenage to adult. Running the Activity Tell the class about some aspect of your life that is unknown to them. This can be almost anything (though keep it away from being…


Heinemann is a publisher of professional development books and resources for teachers, from kindergarten through college. The titles published include books for theatre professionals, general books on education, and quality works of world literature. Heinemann Publishing was established in the spring of 1978 on New Hampshire’s seacoast, as a U.S. subsidiary of Heinemann UK. In 1996, Heinemann merged with Greenwood Publishing Group, to create Greenwood-Heinemann…

Pronunciation Whispers – pronunciation activity

Pronunciation Whispers is a quick and effective variation on the Chinese Whispers/Telephone game where students pass a message along a line to practice pronunciation.
First, identify a pronunciation issue with your class. This will depend on their background and level, but for example the class may have difficulties with the various vowel sounds so you might write up this list on the board:



The DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) is an advanced qualification run by Cambridge Assessment‏‎ (formerly UCLES) for teachers. It was formerly known as the DTEFLA or the RSA Diploma. The DELTA is for teachers with several years experience teaching; it is regarded as the equivalent to an Masters Degree and is thus ideal for those teachers wishing to advance in the industry. It covers not only advanced teaching methodology…

Teaching and Assessing Phonics (book)‏‎

Author: Jeanne S. Chall ; Helen M. Popp Publisher: Education Pub. Service Details: Paperback; 163 pages; Pub.1996 ISBN: 0838823149 Teaching phonics should be done in small incremental steps, though teachers should be somewhat flexible and open to go back or forward a few steps if it helps their students. There is a generally accepted order in which phonics is taught though choosing what to teach and when is not always…

Your vs You’re

Confusing Your and You’re is one of the classic grammar mistakes in English and even native speakers will make this error.

This article explains the difference between them and when to use each one so you don’t get tagged by the pedants of grammar out there!
Firstly a few words on the difference between these two very different words.
your = possessive
Your is a…

Charles Hadfield‏‎

Charles Hadfield has worked as a teacher and trainer, administrator, and consultant in many places including Madagascar, Tibet, China, and France, with shorter visits to many African countries, most of Europe, and Japan. He often collaborates with his wife Jill on education projects as colleague and co-author. He studied at Southampton, London, and Bordeaux, and is currently teacher-training coordinator at the English Language Academy at the University of Auckland, NZ…

Can You Do My Job?‏‎ – modal verb activity

Can You Do My Job? is a simple game which allows your Business English‏‎ students to practice modal verb constructions. As with all activities, you should introduce this to your class in stages. What do you do? Using simple declarative sentences, write on the board a few statements about what you – as a teacher – do in your job. I mark homework every night. I prepare lessons. I give grammar…

In Common‏‎

In Common is a quick game which can be used as an ice breaker or warmer or perhaps at the end of a lesson to fill 5 minutes. It’s easy to set up, requires little or no preparation and is suitable for all ages and levels of class. The activity helps TEFL‏‎ students practice questions‏‎ and answers. You can leave it wide open or restrict the kind of questions and information that…

Japan – JET English Teaching Program

The JET program or Japan Exchange and Teaching program is a teaching and exchange program which has been running since 1987.

It allows foreign teachers to come and work in Japan as TEFL teachers. It grew quickly and in 2002 at its peak over 6,000 teachers came to Japan through JET. In 2010 it brought almost 4,500 teachers to Japan. Over 50,000 teachers have passed through the JET system…

The Academic Year for TEFL Teachers Abroad

The Academic Year is when a school or learning institute is open for business.

In many countries this is from September/October to the following May/June.

In some countries in the Southern Hemisphere, the academic year runs from February/March to November/December. Obviously then an academic year for most schools lasts about 10 months or so (including holidays).
Most schools divide the academic year into either 2…

Chambers Dictionary‏‎ (book)

Publisher: Chambers Details: Hardcover; 1825 pages; Pub.2003 ISBN: 055010013X This edition of the “Chambers Dictionary” combines the long-established virtues of its predecessors with a modern design and updated content. It offers coverage of English vocabulary, ranging from rare and archaic words to the latest slang and technical terms, and contains appendices with information from chemical elements to first names, and the plays of Shakespeare to the Greek and Hebrew…

Time and the Verb: A Guide to Tense and Aspect‏‎ (book)

Author: Robert I. Binnick Publisher: Oxford University Press Details: Hardcover; 584 pages; Pub.1991 ISBN: 019506206X Hailed as one of the most important books to have appeared on tense and aspect, Binnick’s guide provides the reader (whether student or advanced scholar) with a comprehensive perspective, both diachronically and synchronically, into this very complicated area. From classical Greek and Latin grammar through to the latest proposals in formal semantics, the range…


Lineups is a simple concept which can be used in many different ways. They are useful as an icebreaker activity so the class can get to know each other, but also to help practice certain language items. Finally, they are useful for a quick 5-minute activity at the end of the lesson. Concept The basic idea is that all the students have to line up in a certain order. At…

New International Business English‏‎ (book)

Author: Leo Jones ; Richard Alexander Publisher: Cambridge University Press Details: Paperback; 176 pages; Pub.2003 ISBN: 052153173X This course has 15 topic-based units which cover a wide range of business situations and provide frequent opportunity for discussion and thorough vocabulary development. The Student’s Book comes with a free BEC Vantage Preparation CD-ROM that contains an introduction to the BEC Vantage exam and a full practice test including audio. The Teacher’s…

Animals‏‎ in English Grammar

This article looks at how we talk about Animals in English grammar‏‎. The main issue for learners of English are personal pronouns‏‎ and animals. Do we talk about an animal as he, she or it? Personal Pronouns To begin with, when talking about animals we generally use the personal pronouns‏‎ it and they: Where’s the dog? It’s run off again, I think. The birds are flying south for Winter; they are leaving early…

A Curious Visitor – relative clause activity

A Curious Visitor is a simple activity to practice relative clauses‏‎ with your class.
Prepare some flashcards‏‎ with pictures of local objects, people or items specific to the country or region you are working in and the name of those items or people. For example, this could include:


If you were working in South Korea, for example, you might…

Sherlock Holmes – tefl activity

Sherlock Holmes is a fun ice breaker, ideal with a new class on the first day of school, ideally a class who do not know each other.

The idea is that the class guesses the answers their partner will give to certain questions; from this the class can get to know a little about each other. With a little thought it can work well with all ages from young…

Classroom Motivation & TEFL

Classroom Motivation is concerned with getting your students involved in the lesson and enthusiastic about learning.

To be motivated the students must be engaged. This means that they must feel personally involved in the lesson. If they are not involved then this opens up a distance between them and the material, them and you, and oftentimes, them and other students.

A number of factors influence motivation…

Picture Word Match‏‎

Picture Word Match is a very simple activity ideal for young learners. It helps reinforce vocabulary and spelling. Preparation Cut out and prepare a load of flashcards. These should be in pairs. On one put a picture of an item and on the other, the written name of the item. The level should be fairly basic so it can be used with beginner classes (i.e. dealing with concrete nouns only)…

Lyric Swap‏‎

Lyric Swap is a fun activity for intensive listening. Depending on the song you choose, you can also use it to practice certain semantic fields or grammatical constructions. Preparation Firstly, select a song you think your class will like; as mentioned above, if you want to look at a particular grammatical construction or semantic field, the song you choose should contain plenty of good examples of those. One thing to…

Building Diagrams

Building Diagrams is an activity to help students with reading comprehension‏‎ and speaking‏‎. It can be run in a similar way to jigsaw reading‏‎ in that groups of students come together to pool their knowledge to build a diagram.

Basically the students are given a series of written statements which explain several relationships. They come together as groups to try and reconstruct a diagram based on those relationships.

Double Negatives‏‎ in English

A lot of people don’t like Double Negatives and quite a number of people aren’t sure what they are. This article addresses both those concerns. What is a Double Negative? Simply put, a Double Negative is when you use a negative form of the verb along with a negative quantifier (see below for the most common quantifiers). {negative verb} + {negative quantifier} For example: You are not going + nowhere…

Pig – Goat‏‎ – word game

Pig – Goat is a traditional game which is easily adapted for your TEFL classroom. Sometimes it’s boringly called the “last letter word game” or “word chains” but whatever the name, it’s ideal as a filler activity at the end of the class. Playing the Game If the class don’t know the game then it’s best to play it all together with you leading. Later they can play it in small groups and…

Sentence Completion – sentence activity

Sentence Completion is a TEFL activity which can be used to practice different forms of sentences‏‎. It works well with different verb forms‏‎, conditionals‏‎ and so on.
Write out a series of sentences which are examples of the kind of sentence/verb structure you want to practice, and put them onto flashcards‏‎ (so you can use them later with other classes).

For example these are for…

Letter Hunt‏‎

Letter Hunt is a great TEFL game which helps with spelling, vocabulary and – of course – the alphabet. It needs no preparation and can be played in a variety of ways. Running the Game The first time you play this, it’s better to demonstrate to the whole class. Later they can play the game in small groups. Firstly draw a line down the middle of the board. On one…

Stenhouse Publishers‏‎

Stenhouse Publishers started in 1993 with two employees in a one-room attic walk-up in York, Maine. That fall six titles were published. Today, Stenhouse Publishers has a catalogue of more than 200 books and videos. Stenhouse publishes professional development books and videos by teachers and for teachers. Their titles cover a range of literacy topics, from reading comprehension to classroom management. Their books and videos help K-12 teachers deepen their…

Distance Dictation‏‎

Distance Dictation (sometimes known as Energy Dictation) is great for a young class who need to work off some energy. It involves all the skills: reading, speaking, listening and writing and with an added element of competition it’s a good all round activity for the class.
As with all dictations, find a text of suitable length and content for your class. This means it should be just above…

Advanced Level Students in English

Advanced is used to refer to learner levels‏‎ for students who can hold extended conversations and write extended texts. It is by no means a strict definition and there can be a great deal of overlap between advanced and intermediate students.

Generally speaking, however, advanced students should be aware of differences between formal and informal English and whilst they may make occasional grammatical mistakes and their pronunciation…

Superheroes – speaking activity

Superheroes is a good speaking‏‎ activity for the TEFL class.

This is all about the students inventing a new superhero and testing them out in various scenarios to find out who has the most successful.
You will need to prepare beforehand a number of threatening scenarios in which a superhero can help. Try and make these as unusual as possible and, to make it more…

Talking Dictionaries‏‎

Talking Dictionaries or Describing Words is a simple word game which teaches students how to describe words. It’s a useful skill which lets students talk about something they do not necessarily know the correct word for. Preparation Either on slips of paper or flashcards, have a number of nouns ready which are of suitable level for your class. They can be almost any word but obviously concrete nouns are easier…

WordWeb (CALL Software)

WordWeb is an extremely useful piece of freeware dictionary and thesaurus software.

It installs on your Windows PC or as an Android App (however, it’s not available for Macs) and runs in the background. Then, each time you want the definition or the spelling of a word, a simple hotkey combination will bring up the software and give you the answer.

It can also look up words from…


Banana is a fun activity for young learners (and even above!) to help practice asking and answering questions‏‎. It needs no preparation and is easy to run. Pre-Teaching With your class, go over how to ask and answer questions. These can be as simple as you like but should be of the right level for the class: What’s your name? How old are you? What color is your dog? The…

Ad Break – project activity

Ad Break is a simple activity which gets students working together in a project-like way. It can be completed in a longer lesson (say 2 hours).

The idea is that students will practice language they’ve been learning by putting it together to create a television commercial. You can tailor the subject, setting or specific aspects of the dialogue to suit the class.

The activity then allows…

Crazy Comparatives‏‎

Crazy Comparatives is a simple activity to practice comparatives with your class. It can be used with most levels. Preparation Prepare a set of flashcards. On each one have a noun which will be used for comparison. You should make as many as you can and there’s no need to have the nouns related. Remember to make the nouns applicable to the class and of the right level! Explaining the…

Remembering Student Names

Remembering Student Names is important in building up a good relationship with your students. If you know their names and use them it makes you more approachable.

Over time you will remember their names, but it’s important to try and get them off pat as soon as you can.

With a new class who don’t know each other, it also helps bond the students if they…

Split Infinitives in English Grammar

Split Infinitives are a construction in English‏‎ when the infinitive of a verb‏‎ is cut in half by another word. For example:
Infinitive: to see
Split Infinitive: to barely see
The infinitive is most often split by an adverb‏‎ or adverbial phrase‏‎.
I attempted to carefully remove the plug.
She began to frantically and almost hysterically rip at the packaging.

The first written record of a split infinitive…

Alphabet Dictation‏‎

Alphabet Dictation is a simple way to have your students practice pronouncing the letters of the English alphabet‏‎. This is ideal with a beginner level class as what they learn in this activity will help later when it comes to you spelling out new words for them. Preparation Prepare two short texts of a suitable level and content for your class. Above all make the text interesting: a good idea…

Teaching English to Adults

Teaching adults (or mature students) offers different challenges and rewards to teaching teenagers and young learners. This article looks at some of the issues and considerations involved.
With many teenagers and young learners the needs of the students are fairly standard. Often teenagers are in class in order to prepare for an examination or perhaps they are beginners‏‎ starting out with the language and expecting to go…

TEFL Battleships‏‎

TEFL Battleships is a game played by two players. In the original version of Battleships (a game dating from World War I) a grid of squares contains some “ships” and the players must try to guess their location and then sink them (see here for more on this game). However, this game can be adapted for use in the EFL‏‎ classroom and used with words‏‎ rather than ships. It is good…

Spain‏‎ – CAPS

CAPS (Conversation Assistant for Spanish Schools) is a privately run program placing teachers in Spain for 3 – 6 months to work as au-pairs and also teaching assistants in primary or secondary schools. Candidates for the programme are: 18 – 27 years old have A levels or equivalent friendly and outgoing The work includes acting as a teaching assistant to primary or secondary school classes for a maximum of 25…

Living Sentences‏‎

Living Sentences is a fun exercise for younger children to give them practice in the way sentences are put together. Preparation On A4 sheets of paper write single words which will go to make up sentences which are an appropriate level for your class. THE – DOG – CHASED – THE – CAT. I – WENT – TO – THE – CINEMA – ON – SUNDAY. And so on. It’s…


Constantinople is a traditional word game that can be easily adapted for the ESL classroom. It works as an ideal filler activity at the end of class and can also be used to tire out lively students! It practices vocabulary but can also be adapted for semantic fields. Running the Game Divide the board into two halves. At the top of each half write in capital letters, well spaced: C O…

J.C. Wells‏‎

Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London, John C. Wells’ interests centre on the phonetic and phonological description of languages but also extend to lexicography and language teaching. He directs UCL’s annual Summer Course in English Phonetics. He is a frequent contributor to BBC radion (R2, R4, R5, BBC English). Based in Britain at UCL throughout his career, he has over the years given invited lectures in many different…