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Tips for Teaching Academic Writing to Non-Native Students

book pen

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 offer those services.  Lauren Gannon, an executive at EduGeekClub.com stated:

“we get a lot of customers that are foreign exchange students, I would say at least 65%.  They already have a tough time understanding their instructors and learning the academic writing style is usually too much of a burden.”

The countless nights spent agonizing over term papers before eventually choosing to pay for the service online could be avoided if students mastered academic writing before launching themselves into the academic environment. 

Here are just a few steps that might help struggling students get a grasp on academic writing:

1) Help Students Fall In Love with Reading

We don’t expect freshman academic writers to be excellent wordsmiths, but we expect them to understand the groundwork and the best way to become a better writer is to read.  As an English teacher (in the U.S. or abroad), your primary goal should be to make your students fall in love with the language and literature.  It’s like that old proverb about teaching a man to fish.  This means encouraging them to read everything.  Any reputable newspaper or website is going to have writing that’s very similar to the style expected by professors; they won’t find passive voice or overused adverbs in The New York Times.  Every foreign student should make a habit of reading something in English, they’re sure to find a topic they love.

2) Write and give feedback

Obviously, the best way to get great at anything is to practice over and over.  The first time a foreign student tries to put words on paper should not be in an academic environment.  As a teacher in a foreign country, you should have your students write every single time you see them.  And you should constantly be giving them feedback.  These students will be eager to learn and improve; you just need to guide them.

3) Try translating

Translating is a great way for foreign students to use skills they already have to develop new ones.  At first, it will be difficult and they’ll find themselves hunched over a dictionary, but that’s one of the best ways to learn new words.  It’s a tried-and-true way to have your students begin.  Don’t give them difficult sentences if they have no knowledge of the English language.  Instead, have them begin the same way you did in kindergarten, by translating sentences like “see Spot run” and then work up to more advanced sentences.  You can be almost certain that non-native speakers aren’t going to grasp American idioms or phrasing.

4) Use fill-in-the-blank activities

Fill in the blank sentences are one of the most effective ways to use a new language because the students can steadily progress.  At the beginning, give students sentences like:

“The title of my _____________ is Global Warming in Southern California and the it’s _____________ to describe the ______________ of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Then as students progress you can remove more of the words until they’re able to write their own academic sentence from nothing.

5) Focus on areas that are proven to be problems

Foreign students almost always have problems with pronoun usage and modifiers.  These are both areas of the English language that are different from most other languages, even other Latin-based languages, we’re one of the few languages without gendered prepositions.  Asian students will usually struggle with argument-based and thesis-based writing because such strategies are so different from the type of writing that they’re accustomed to.  There isn’t any point having them diagram sentences or rigorously expand their vocabulary when more basic problems can be addressed.

6) Teach editing skills

Editing is one of, if not the, most fundamental aspect of writing and foreign students must know how to edit their papers.  In editing, it’s imperative that students understand not only how to fix their diction, but also how to make their arguments and writing stronger.  Have them begin by highlighting problem sections and circling words that seem out of place, after you do this with them a few times they’ll get the hang of it.  Then, have them write their argument on the top of the paper and make sure every sentence proves the argument.  Again, it’s important to master the basics of editing rather than shoot for the stars, there’s no point in teaching them the AP-style proofreading notations when they have a paper that’s full of dangling modifiers.

Non-native speakers are going to encounter problems continuously when they first try academic writing.  American English is so complicated, that the rules sometimes seem silly; why is the plural form of goose, is geese, but the plural form of moose is simply moose?  The most important thing when working with international students is to be patient and to make sure that every session bears results, no matter how miniscule.

About the Author

Antonio is a hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world’s brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost. When not doing that he’s blogging and teaching EFL.  He will be happy to meet you on Facebook and Twitter.

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, boredom, or both. Even the most experienced educators will tell you that having years’ of experience is worthless if students are distant, disengaged and uninterested.

So What’s The Key?

Clearly, making your classes engaging and effective is paramount. Did you know that the average student only places his full attention and focus towards an object or subject for up to 10 to 15 minutes at a time?

A quarter of an hour is the only time teachers have to actually deliver knowledge to students. It’s also due to this fact that more and more schools are strict in terms of teacher applications, as evidenced by their willingness to employ only those who have the ability and experience to engage their students and motivate them through their lessons.

Here are some simple but extremely helpful tips that you can implement in your classroom to make your ESL lessons more interesting:

#1 Plan lessons that are interesting to your students

Students who are being eaten by boredom will not learn anything in class. You may appreciate the silence that boredom brings, but in reality you are failing to educate your students.

To make your ESL classes more interesting, make your lessons short and sweet. There is simply no need for long lectures as this may actually do more harm than good to you and your students.

Longer lectures tend to be less desirable, thus making it impossible for students to absorb your lessons. By keeping your lesson short and simple, you are guaranteed 100% attention of your students.

#2 Get students actively participating during lessons

There are a few students in your class who are present almost daily, but are mentally absent. These are children, teenagers, and adults who may have enrolled in your language class for reasons outside of personal interest.

For this particular group, make sure to implement teaching methodologies that will keep them engaged. Here are some suggestions:

  • Role playing between two or more students and facilitated by a teacher will push students to think creatively.
  • Playing games is a sure fire way to keep your students focused on your classes. Even grownups appreciate games.
  • Writing is another way to spark the interest of your students and hold their attention from beginning to end. Create a story and let them resume it by translating their ideas into writing.
  • Another effective way to incorporate writing into your curriculum is requiring a daily journal entry.

#3 Always interact with your students in English

If you teach an ESL class for foreign students, ask them to interact with you and the rest of the class in English. You will notice that some students are not actually bored in class, but are actually just shy to share their opinions for fear of making mistakes.

If this is the case, be supportive by providing a safe environment in which they can practice language skills freely.

Requiring everyone to interact in English will force their brains to work hard to make connections and bring their vocabulary into their fast access memory.

#4 Lead them outside the classroom

Sitting in class for hours on end is boring. Spice things up by taking your class outdoors. Taking your students outdoors will most assuredly increase their attention lifespan. In addition, educational tours help students absorb knowledge easier as they are presented with more materials and stimuli in new environments.

#5 Implement a reward system for your students

Providing students with rewards during your ESL lessons is yet another effective way of increasing their attention and boosting motivation. The concept of reward inspires students to be more receptive to learning. To keep your students more motivated to participate and engage during lessons, present unseen lesson benefits as rewards as well.

For instance, if you are teaching English, you may want to praise the many advantages of English proficiency, such as better job opportunities in the future and the ability to communicate effectively with other people.

Another form of reward is through external motivation, by way of praising your students who participate and perform in class. Tangible rewards such as prizes and certificates are also effective ways to encourage students.

#6 Build up student confidence

Continuous motivation is vital to your students’ self-confidence and ability to perform.

One of the most counter effective actions a teacher can take is criticizing (negatively) poor performance. Let students commit mistakes and then carefully explain to them where they went wrong. This may test your patience, but once you have helped them build their self-confidence, they will try harder next time to get a more positive feedback.

Help build your students’ confidence by asking them to complete simple tests that can be easily achieved by everyone in your class. In this way, their self- confidence will increase gradually, until lessons become less conscious and your students become more driven to learn more in class.

About Ryan O’Sullivan – English Instructor at The TEFL Academy

Ryan is an experienced EFL Teacher and director of The TEFL Academy. A combined love of language learning and a hunger to travel led Ryan to become an EFL teacher. Ryan advocates the practice of language teaching from the students’ perspective and believes that empathy and patience are essential for this job. Ryan has plenty of advice for new teachers, but thinks the most important thing in his job is to take a genuine interest in your students.

ICAL TEFL Resources

reader-310398_640 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 of this site or the search box at the top of each page.

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 confident teacher who knew how to communicate effectively and efficiently with the students. I wanted to learn how to communicate at my student’s pace and see an increase in not only their English level but also their confidence level as a whole. By taking this course I knew that I would have more job opportunities all over the world.

How has your life changed since you completed your TEFL course?

I have become not only more knowledgeable in this area, but I am more confident in my teaching skills. A bonus in taking this course is that I have become more marketable in this booming business.

How are you using your TEFL certificate?

Now that I have finished this course and am now certified, I can teach just about anywhere. I am teaching one on one ESL in the U.S. Next year I hope to be overseas with my TEFL certification and teaching experience on my resume.

For current TEFL students, do you have any tips or advice for once they have completed their TEFL course?

I believe it takes more than just knowing the subject matter to become an excellent teacher it takes dedication, quality work, and a love to see students obtain and or increase knowledge. I told myself to always give my 100% in my module work for what I give out now is a view of what kind of work I will give out as a teacher. My main goal is to be the best teacher that I can be. If you stay focused on your goal you can get yourself through some of those long modules.

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 us to have other human beings push us to excel.”

Motivating students to work hard is at least half the battle in getting them to achieve anything. Even the most dedicated students can get burnt out from time to time, and one of our responsibilities as teachers is to help push them to excel. Competition introduces a sense of external urgency and drama. It can make bored students more enthusiastic. It can motivate students to work harder and do better.

However, there are definite pitfalls to using competition. When it is taken too seriously it adds to the pressure felt by the students and can actually make them less motivated instead of more. Extrinsic motivation and rewards can, over time, decrease students’ intrinsic interest in or enthusiasm for a subject.

So how should we use competition in the classroom?

Creating the Right Atmosphere

Competition works best when it is fun and lighthearted, so creating the right atmosphere in your classroom is vital. Work with your class to agree on a set of clear rules for how they should behave. Some examples might be:

  • No cheating (obviously!)
  • No insulting or mocking the other team
  • No gloating about a win
  • Congratulations*

*Polite applause or shaking hands with the other team are required at the end of a game

Encourage team work and collaboration during the games. Change the members of each team from game to game or from lesson to lesson so that the students get the opportunity to work with everyone and resentments do not develop.

It’s inevitable that some members of the team will be weaker than others. Teach the students that they will get more out of their team-mates by encouraging them than by getting frustrated with them. Competition can teach students to work better in a team, but only if they get guidance and gentle correction.

The teacher should emphasize fun and learning above winning when establishing and playing any game. You can add to the fun by encouraging students to pick funny team names, rewarding them with silly medals

Choosing the Best Games

Competitive games work best when the students have already mastered a skill, not when they are still learning it. Competition can help make them faster, smoother or more accurate but it can’t teach them how to do something new. More controlled practice is needed for that. Never play highly competitive games when introducing a new subject – they are best saved for reviewing old material or consolidating things that have been learned recently.

Any game needs a well-defined goal for students to aim for. The fastest or the most are common goals, for example “Which team can solve this list of scrambled sentences first?” or “Which team can list the most irregular verbs in 3 minutes?”

Any game with points for each correct answer works too.

If you are going to be judging the winner (for example, a poster competition where you choose the best poster at the end) then be sure your students have a clear idea of what you will be looking for. If you explain to them that interesting writing, well-chosen pictures and a clear message are the goals, then they are less likely to complain or debate your decision if they lose. It also makes the game fairer if everyone is on the same page from the beginning.

In general it is best to stick to shorter competitions as these are usually more fun. Longer projects that are competitive can seem more serious and eventually become a burden instead of enjoyable. It can be as simple as splitting your class into teams and playing Taboo to review vocabulary.

Make sure when you group the students that each team has a mixed level of abilities. If the best students always work together and always win then the rest will be discouraged.

The best games are ones where every student has to participate at least once. A game like Constantinople does this well.

(If you don’t know the game: write ‘Constantinople’ in block capitals down the side of the board. Split the class into two teams and have them stand in two lines. One person from each team runs forward and writes a word beginning with C, then hands the pen off to the next in line to write a word beginning with O, and so on. The fastest team wins.)

Games where the students all brainstorm together can mean that the quietest or slowest students do not participate enough.


When praising students, put the emphasis on how hard they have worked or how much they have improved, rather than on winning or losing. If you are rewarding students then make sure to reward participation also. For example, if I am rewarding my students with stickers then I will give one sticker to every student who played well and did their best and then an extra one to the winning team.

It isn’t necessary or even desirable to give out rewards for every game – most of the time the satisfaction of winning and peer recognition is enough to motivate students. Where you do give out rewards, these do not have to be material. I often let the winning team choose what activity we will do for the last ten minutes of a lesson, or choose an English song for the class to listen to.

I balance these by also rewarding the whole class for times when they work hard, by not giving out homework one week or having a movie day.

Never use the result of a competition to grade your students, or let it contribute to their grade. Doing so will make the students focus too heavily on the outcomes of competitions and their grade instead of on the actual process of learning.

Use Competition Sparingly!

Even if you do everything else right, competition should still be used sparingly. Dialogue between students and the exploring of new ideas is an essential part of learning, and it cannot happen in a competitive atmosphere. Students should be given time for reflection and creativity.

Collaborative activities that are not competitive can also help students learn to work as a team, and build an atmosphere of camaraderie in the classroom.

Above all, teach your students to win and lose graciously. That is a lesson that will help them through life as much as any amount of English.

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 the law and what you, as a TEFL teacher, are responsible for.

The Law & the Location

We should first say that whilst there are some general rules we can use to talk about copyright, each country has their own laws and what may be perfectly acceptable in Taiwan might well be frowned upon in Ireland.

So if you are worried that what you are doing is breaking the law, find out from a local source whether it is or it isn’t.

But… having said that, we can make some fairly general comments about what you can and can’t do when it comes to photocopying (or printing off) material for you and your class.

Is It Copyright?

That’s the first question to ask: is what you are photocopying actually under copyright?

The only time you can copy and print to your heart’s content with no fear of breaking the law is:

  1. if the work is so old copyright has expired (in the US for example, it’s the duration of the author’s life plus 70 years)
  2. if the work explicitly states there is no copyright (e.g. it’s in the public domain, has a Creative Commons stamp, or the author has said anyone can copy it freely)

Otherwise… copyright applies and you have to follow the rules!

Copyright and Fair Use

So let’s assume that what you want to copy was written recently. For TEFL teachers this could easily be a newspaper article, pages from a book which you’d like to study with the class and so on.

Essentially the laws of copyright are there to protect the author and make sure they get just compensation for their work (and of course to stop you profiting financially from their work at the same time).

So really this means that if, by photocopying, you are depriving an author of chunk of income then it’s generally deemed to be illegal and you could get prosecuted for it.

But the law is also reasonable and practical and allows you to use the material in a reasonable way, especially when it comes to education.

In the USA for example if you need material for research, you can make a single copy of:

  • a book chapter
  • a newspaper article
  • a short story or essay
  • a chart, diagram, etc

So feel free to photocopy a chapter from a grammar book or a story from a newspaper, take it home and then prepare a red-hot lesson using it.

However, when it comes to giving material to your students to work on in class, slightly different rules apply.

You can give material to each student if:

  • It’s short (less than 250 words for a poem; less than 2,500 words for a short story; it’s a single diagram, etc).
  • It’s done on the spur of the moment. This means you can’t photocopy loads and loads of material during the holidays and hand them out gradually during the term. Instead it must fit in with the lesson you are giving. Imagine, for example, you give a lesson about the third-conditional and suddenly remember George Michael’s song from your youth: Careless Whisper with all those should haves and could haves. During the break you nip out and photocopy the lyrics and then hand them out. That’s fine.
  • It’s limited and not systematic. You don’t make a habit of photocopying the same material for different classes, for example, and have stacks of photocopies ready in the cupboard for each lesson, year in and year out.

Again, this all sounds very reasonable. And that’s what the law on copyright is all about when it comes to teachers. If you think about it then it does seem pretty obvious what you can and can’t do.

Common Sense

So the general ideas around copyright and photocopying come down to common sense and fair use.

An article here, a table there, a diagram here, song lyrics there… but not much more, please and never, ever do what a school I used to work for did: photocopy entire coursebooks and then have the students pay for them!

Note: the information here is presented as a general guide and is correct to the best of our knowledge. Often circumstances – especially where you are teaching – will change what you may or may not be legally entitled to do so always check with a local source before settling down in front of the photocopier for a session.

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 with it. When an English speaker for example thinks of the word “beer” they are likely to think of the type of brew they prefer, the taste, their favorite bar and perhaps the company they keep when out drinking.

And the reverse is true. Seeing a picture of the White House or perhaps Big Ben is likely to flash into your mind words and ideas associated with them.

What happens, then, if you are in an Italian coffee shop in Rome and you see a picture of your favorite beer from back home? The likelihood is that you’ll momentarily be mentally transported back to your favorite bar!

Bringing this back to language teaching, let’s take a class of Korean students in Seoul learning English. They may well have masses of Korean influences around them which will distract them from English. If they look out the window  turn to their classmates and so on they are likely to feel the subconscious pull of Korean and get distracted from English.

On the other hand, the same students in the United States will have many of those distractions removed and English will have a much stronger hold while they speak.

So what’s the answer? Perhaps what we have always advocated: make the classroom as English as possible and removed (insofar as one can) those distractions.

Useful Links

English Only – speak only English in the classroom

The Ideal TEFL Classroom – what your classroom could look like

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:

  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Sweden

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 a Scandinavian country you will generally need a good level of education – a first degree plus TEFL Certificate is an absolute minimum – plus experience and ideally a further degree.

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 supportive of me during the course. Her guidance, help and detailed explanations helped me to progress a lot, broaden my knowledge and most importantly to become an even better teacher for my students. Kateryna Lazaryeva (teaching in Kuwait) – graduated January 2018
us This was a great course for the price. I found the material to be challenging and I enjoyed completing the modules. Samuel Harvell – graduated October 2017
us Well planned out, easy to follow, good coverage of the course material. Plus timely responses, clear guidance and encouragement and fair evaluation of each assignment and follow up work.
Dave Valentine – graduated October 2017
 us Thank you for all of your help and incite. I am excited to be able to start teaching over here in Libya soon.
Hamad Hamdi – graduated September 2017
Oh my goodness! I’m so happy! I’ve finished!!! This course was very well designed and my tutor was extremely helpful with her real experience and guidance. It was a privilege to work with and learn from her. Looking forward to teaching in Japan! Jenna Baker –  graduated March 2017
us I enjoyed the progression of the course modules that gradually encouraged students to create fully formed lesson ideas and to really analyze why they were choosing specific content to help students learn English. I currently teach at a monolingual school in Japan but it was refreshing to be presented with a variety of teaching scenarios for which to plan and create lessons. Zachary Repman graduated April 2016
mx The material was easy to understand, very interesting, and useful. Cynthia Angulo – graduated April 2016
us My tutor was excellent!!! She did a wonderful job of leading me through the course and her ideas and corrections were clear and positive. A very informative course. I enjoyed it very much! Jessica Bartlett – graduated April 2016
us I really liked how concise and simple the course was. I also liked the applicability of the material to all kinds of EFL classes. The grammar guide in the resources section was great. I referenced it a good number of times while working on my assignments. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply everything successfully in S Korea soon (starting to look for jobs now!!) Haley Vartanian – graduated March 2016
ph The course did a lot for my professional growth. The lessons gave me real insight into how to deal with students of different ages, level and culture. Maria Auroragraduated March 2016
ca Thanks to the constructive feedback I received on my assignments I now have a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a TEFL teacher. Nicole Finch – graduated March 2016
za I applied with a fellow teacher here in Hong Kong to be NET teachers on the EDB scheme. They require a TEFL course with Practicum and so not any TEFL course will do (I had completed another one before, which was not accepted by them). This one is accepted, and we both took the TP course. Derik Oberholzer – graduated February 2016
de  The course was very interesting. It was a good revision of my course of study in applied linguistics and I also learned some new things. It is also good that I still have access to your resources and can stay in touch with my personal tutor after the course all the time. Agata Maleckagraduated February 2016
ca Full of good information and no time limit so you can work at your own pace whatever your schedule is. Paul van den Bijgaartgraduated February 2016
it After taking this course, I really feel more confident in the classroom. Laura Giacchigraduated February 2016
ca I lived in Italy when I began & ICAL had a great reputation with the online expat community. The course was great, a lot more challenging than I originally thought – which is good! Overall a great experience. Karen Hackenbrook – graduated January 2016
us This is a great course. I’ve recommended it to everyone I’ve met recently who’s expressed interest in TEFL. The reading material was well written and covered a lot of useful information. The homework provided excellent prompts for helping me process the reading material and put new knowledge into action. I learned so much from every assignment! The reading and homework also helped me to become more aware of and reassess some classroom habits I’ve taken for granted. Amelia Gray – graduated January 2016
ca The course was divided in stages very eavenly and did not introduce topics that overlapped each other. I found it very challenging and informative. I believe it is a very well rounded course that can help and enhance anyone who wants to teach. Salvatore Mannigraduated January 2016
ro I first wanted to take a CELTA course but I couldn’t for two reasons: in my region it is held only once a year (in August) and I want to find a job much sooner, and the second reason was price, which is much higher. Then I searched on the internet for alternatives and after a lot of searching I chose the ICAL TEFL course because it seemed to me the most interesting and of best value for money. And I’m glad I chose it! Elena Constantin – graduated January 2016
us The course is quite constructive and I’ve learned a great deal from it. In particular, I’ve learned from my tutor to pay more attention to students’needs and to analyze their progress and weaknesses. Olga Protsanina – graduated December 2015
it The course was amazing. I found it really interesting and stimulating. I’ve also appreciated the fact that there is no deadline and every student can follow his own pace. Marika Prina – graduated December 2015
kr The course is well organized and contains essential information which is explained very well.The feedback I received on each module assignment was detailed and very helpful. In fact, it was often an eye opener. Susie Habin – graduated November 2015
za This TEFL course modules are well structured and cover a wide area of applicable topics. The assignments are practical and challenging.My tutor was professional and his comments and advice were beneficial to my professional development in teaching. Stephen Moult – graduated November 2015
gb Very happy with course but most of all with the new job I got in Hanoi (VI) thanks to my TELF cert. The school is legit and the pay decent. So far so good! Robert Wrengraduated October 2015
au The course was thorough, practical, and provided me with a solid foundation with which to commence English teaching in Hong Kong! David Simmons – graduated September 2015
us The course was well written. Seemed to care about the students understanding and grasp of the concept. Travis Bowegraduated September 2015
it  I learned many useful things through the course that I was able to apply immediately at work. It has also been good to get feedback that let me know that what I am doing in my classes was/is on the right track. Sarah Rubenstein – graduated September 2015
us I am currently living and working in Vietnam, and needed a copy of my TEFL Cert emailed to me ASAP for employment purposes. ICAL Admin provided it straight away. Very efficient. Thomas Mitchell – graduated August 2015
us The course challenged me to think and deal with a variety of teaching situations that I hadn’t considered before. Jennifer Higgins – graduated August 2015
united arab emirates flag For me, this course was perfect!! It was very flexible in terms of there being no particular time limit/deadline for each module assignment. The material was also veey interesting and I have learnt a lot from it. Laura Westeng – graduated July 2015
de I began this course after my daughter was born and I shortly thereafter went back to working full time, so from my perspective the biggest positive aspect is the flexible schedule and pacing. Sarah Mikulagraduated July 2015
cn The course is practical and can be applied whenever I create new materials for my students. Teresa Chu – graduated July 2015
us My tutor was very helpful, supportive, and detailed in her responses to me. I really appreciate it! Kathryn Greene – graduated June 2015
us I am teaching at the moment in Bandung, Indonesia and have almost finished my first year. I enjoyed the help that this course gave me along the way. Andrew Grindheim – graduated June 2015
it Online courses can be quite challenging, as you don’t attend a class and have a close contact with students and teachers. However, I’ve really enjoyed this course and I think the material provided plus the help of the tutors were very useful. I’d definitely recommend it. Simona Tagliaferrograduated May 2015
cn I liked how practical everything was. It didn’t waste time trying to impress anybody. It gave you the information, offered examples, asked you to apply it, and then called it a day. My tutor was very thorough. I was surprised how involved he was. Very easy to work with. Very supportive. Matthew Hammondgraduated May 2015
id I am teaching at the moment in Bandung, Indonesia and have almost finished my first year. I enjoyed the help that the course gave me along the way. I thought it was really helpful. Andrew Grindheim – graduated May 2015
hk Very well structured; the material is not too much and it contains all the information needed. Very useful, even for people who, like me, have previous teaching experience. Luigi Vesentinigraduated May 2015
US Flag Just great! I never lesson planned before so this course was great in getting me started on how to creatively come up with lesson plans. Alexandra Snydergraduated April 2015
US Flag Can’t imagine receiving more extensive, useful feedback with any online course. I have recently completed a 15-hour (5 core 3-hr MPA courses) classroom post-graduate level certificate (Executive Certificate in Public Administration) from Florida Atlantic University and feedback from assignments was not this comprehensive and helpful. Mary Hanna – graduated April 2015
US Flag I liked that this course took a practical approach as opposed to being theoretical. And I liked being given a class scenario and asked to develop the activities and lesson plans based on what I learned in the modules. I found it easy to visualize the class and plan accordingly. Diane Mancino – graduated March 2015
Italian flag The course was very well organized and contained essential information which was explained very well. Jessica Purkeypyle – graduated March 2015
South Korea Flag I learned a lot, despite having been an ESL teacher throughout the duration of the course! My tutor was incredibly encouraging and very helpful. He had many insights and related his own experience in the classroom, which was very applicable not only to the course, but to my own classes. Nicholas Frati – graduated March 2015
ca Very informative and based on applications in real-world examples. Karen Ho – graduated March 2015
Australian flag The course was logical and well sequenced. I found it challenging and more involved than I had expected. But I am very thankful, as I feel the process has provided me with many of the tools necessary to do this important job well. My tutor was very patient and took the time to provide valuable guidance on every aspect of each assignment. She is a hard task master, but I know I have benefited greatly from her great skill and experience. Gregory Marsh – graduated March 2015
US Flag I enjoyed it a lot and it taught me a lot about different classroom and teaching situations for teaching ESL. It brought up a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have even thought about. Nina Kang – graduated February  2015
Italian flag The way in which the course was broken up into modules was perfect. It was easy to follow it and I felt each module helped build the next. I also loved the TEFL resources section. They provided great ideas about many topics and I can definitely see myself using this over and over. A wealth of information! Orazio D’Alba – graduated February  2015
US Flag Very informative input. I can’t wait to put these practices into my real-life teaching experiences. Arthur Murray – working on module 4 September 2014
Irish flag I found the course extremely interesting, user-friendly, easy to understand and very enjoyable. I particularly loved the fact that there was no deadline for completion. Laura Dolan – graduated September 2014
British flag I have experience in the TEFL field but only after embarking upon this course, did I realise that my TEFL skills were low. I found the course to be demanding, yet the support system in place at ICAL TEFL, the resources available, and my tutor’s feedback and commentary helped me to get the most out of it. Abdullah Hassan – graduated September 2014
US Flag Great course. It caused me to think about teaching in a much larger and different context than that which I’m familiar with. Timothy Kennedy – graduated August 2014
Italian flag I found the course interesting and challenging. It gave me the chance to extend my teaching knowledge and further learn about my profession. Laura D’Angelo – graduated August 2014
US Flag The course covers more than the essentials of being a prepared TEFL instructor. The course assignments give an opportunity to learn what it takes to be a solid TEFL instructor. The resources available on the ICAL website are phenomenal and well written. Jeff Turkot – graduated August 2014
Italian flag I thought the course was excellent! It was seamless and easy to understand especially because sometimes the “virtual” classroom can be difficult. Melanie Guardino – graduated August 2014
US Flag Despite already having one year of ESL teaching experience, I felt challenged by the material. Good course. Ethan Hoffman – graduated July 2014
US Flag I wasn’t sure what level of personalization I’d be getting out of this course, but my tutor exceeded even my BEST expectations. He was quick, thoughtful, intelligent, and provided GREAT feedback! Justin Rothstein – graduated July 2014
Chinese flag This course has top notch course material, an organized and easy to use website, and real and fast support for any questions. It is truly on par with a university TEFL course at a fraction of the price. Julia Pettigrew – graduated June 2014
US Flag In 4 years at college, I never got such detailed feedback. Sara Hurwitz – graduated June 2014
German flag I have begun tutoring some high school students here in Germany and I have found the lessons in this course very handy. Theresa Spindler – working on module 4, June 2014
US Flag The course is well thought out. Each module flows into the next one. I feel the assignments were thought provoking. Working through ICAL’s course made me realize there is so much more to learn before becoming a proficient teacher. Theresa Maldonado – graduated May 2014
Irish flag The course itself was put together well, and I feel my ability as a teacher has improved. Conor O’Shea – graduated May 2014
American flag For the price and time commitment, the course is great. Amongst other things, it gives a good overview of lesson planning and emphasizes teaching to different types of students, which is invaluable knowledge to a new teacher like me. Andrew Sanborn – graduated April 2014
British flag My tutor was amazing. She was very professional and supportive. She was also very prompt in marking my assignments and provided insightful comments. I believe her comments really helped me develop my knowledge of TEFL. Salma Azam – graduated April 2014
Czech flag The course is structured in a detailed and rigorous manner to allow you to achieve excellent teaching knowledge and skills. I would recommend this course to somebody new who needs a significant degree of flexibility because of work commitments but at the same time wants to acquire thorough knowledge and sound teaching skills. Albert Stifter – graduated April 2014
American flag My tutor was great! Responded very quickly every time. Had direct, effective advice. And simply knowing he’s currently teaching at the university level gave me more confidence in working with him and what I took away from the material. David Weinkauff – graduated April 2014
French flag I enjoyed the course. It allowed me to use my creativity and I learned a lot. It took me a long time to complete it due to other personal and professional obligations and I appreciated having flexibility in terms of timing, and plenty of time to complete the assignments. Therese Bonnet – graduated March 2014
Italian flag My tutor was a teacher that I could rely on whenever I needed help with the Course: she was fast in answering e-mails and provided many suggestions when correcting my Assignments. The Course was very well structured and the 5 Modules covered almost all the aspects of English Language Teaching. I really recommend it. Nicola Ravera – graduated March 2014
American flag Having a TEFL certification will really come in handy here in Germany. I found out that there might even be certain tax incentives for me!!! Chris Olson – working on the course February 2014
American flag I have accepted a job to teach English in South Korea at an English Village in Incheon. I’ll start in March. I am excited. I have learned a lot from this course and from reading all my tutor’s comments. I know there is much more to learn, but I feel more confident now. Juan Dominguez – graduated February 2014
British flag Just accepted a post to teach in Beijing from April, so I’ll be getting the last module done asap! Feeling very excited! Cassius Wortmann – working on his final module February 2014
British flag Decent, well formulated module material; the modules progress logically through the different aspects of teaching. The course didn’t feel like a pushover, but also didn’t feel unreasonably difficult, I felt the challenge of the modules developed well through the course. David Mayes – graduated February 2014
American flag EPIK has just informed me that my teaching position in Korea is confirmed! I got the job! In Chungbuk, and I leave in February. As long as I have my TEFL Certificate by then. Thank you for being a part of this whole hectic process with me and helping me learn. Mohammad Panahi – working on his final module January 2104
American flag The course was thorough and covered all forms of TEFL teaching, from monolingual school children to multilingual business people. Jaclyn Zimmermangraduated January 2014
Brazilian flag The course was very interesting and dynamic. It covered a lot of different topics and I learned a great deal. Isabella Dias – graduated January 2014
American flag I was surprised at how much this course challenged me for the price I paid! I definitely feel that I was stretched to learn, and I now feel confident to go out and teach EFL! Erin English – graduated December 2103
USA flag The course modules are full of practical information that a teacher would need. I regret not taking it sooner as this would have helped me immensely while I was actually teaching. Gustavo Ontiveros – graduated December 2013
Australian flag The course was very comprehensive, and made me realize how people with English as a second language must feel. Gloria Malouf-Marsh – graduated December 2013
American flag The course offered a good variety of assignments for all age groups, for small and large classes, and for the casual and the serious language learner. I enjoyed perusing the many sources available on the ICAL site. These were a great help when my mind needed to “re-engage” because I needed new ideas. I also appreciated the “second chances” allowed for quizzes and/or assignments. Alice Larson – graduated November 2013
Russian flag It happens very often that you don’t get what businesses advertise on their sites. But this is definitely not the case with ICAL. It was a pleasure to study here.Thank you very much! Tatiana Pichtchikovagraduated November 2013
British flag My tutor was very informative in developing my answers to the questions posed in the assignment tasks, and he provided me with some excellent feedback. James Hargreaves – graduated November 2013
American flag Very exciting news! I found a job!!! I leave at the end of the month for Changwon in South Korea! I better get going on the next couple assignments! Samantha Tabor – working on the course September 2013
USA Flag I was offered, and I accepted, a job in Bojano Italy as an ESL instructor with the British School. I need to finish ASAP as I report in three weeks. Jonathan Starling – working on the course September 2013
France Flag I taught English lessons to French students all throughout the duration of this course and I could feel my teaching style improve drastically as I advanced in the course. Ryan O’Donnell – graduated August 2013
Colombia Flag I recently graduated from the ICAL TEFL program. Having this certification has been a real help in my job search so much so that I’m now looking at taking a Masters in TESOL or Linguistics. Ken Haile – graduated August 2013
South Korea Flag I feel the course really prepared me to teach ESL. My tutor was excellent – very helpful and insightful and always very quick about returning my assignments. Stephen Mogensen – graduated July 2013
South Africa Flag I have learned more than I thought I would about both teaching and English grammar ( haha 🙂 ) Daniel Smith – graduated July 2013
netherlands flag I hadn’t completed a TEFL course up to this point in my teaching career because everyone I know said it’d be a waste of time – but I learned quite a bit and the course was much better than I expected. Kristie Lormand – graduated June 2013
saudi arabia flag Got a job with Aramco– great pay and couldn’t have done it without my ICAL TEFL! Rick Zand – graduated June 2013
chile flag I’ve never taken an online-only course before, and I imagined it would be a lonely experience. It was a pleasant surprise to have a lot of meaningful advice from my tutor. And the quick responses as well- I truly felt like he was here with me. Daniel Duke – graduated June 2103
hong kong flag The amount and variety of the resources around the website are amazing. They played a big part in helping me choose where I wanted to go. The grammar page was especially indispensable; it helped me brush up on the technicalities of my grammar and saved me hours of time bumbling around Google looking for the answers. Aaron Elias – graduated June 2013
usa flag I didn’t expect to get such great advice and teaching tips. I’ve saved all of my tutor’s responses & I’m looking forward to using some of those suggestions out in the real world! Andrew McClure – graduated June 2013
usa flag I received a one year contract with a school in China. I will try and finish the course prior to leaving, but they are aware I might need to finish it once I get there. If I hadn’t been working on my TEFL, I don’t believe I would have received the job offer. David Thurbon – working on the course June 2013
israel flag The course was interesting and informative, it has certainly given me tools to help teaching. My tutor was very friendly and approachable, he gave excellent comments and was very encouraging. Very pleased with it all. Lorraine Taari – graduated May 2013
usa flag My tutor was absolutely the best. She truly made the course for me. I felt like I had a friend looking out for me – she was always polite, kind, and put personal attention into grading my paper. If there were some kind of bonus system, I’d definitely recommend her for it! Elyse Painter – graduated May 2013
usa flag This course is a great option for people who want to get a certificate on their own time. The module assignment were surprisingly challenging and made me think outside the box.
My tutor was excellent. He was supportive and gave critical feedback when needed. His email response time was also always quick and his comments not only critique my assignment but also included suggestions and advice that will be useful in my future as a EFL teacher. Jacob Schumacher – graduated April 2013
china flag I was a little skeptical as to the extent the course could really train me for a real teaching experience. Ultimately I think it was very helpful. It forced me to research the subject a great deal, which in turn led me to some good resources that I could consider using in the future. I felt like some of the information was too obvious, but perhaps that is because ICAL has to cater to a very broad swath of students taking this course. Nancy Eng – graduated April 2013
japan flag The course was helpful in that it made me look at my own teaching strategies more critically. I definitely got a lot of new ideas from the material and have been applying it to my classes, particularly when it comes to variation in activity styles. Maggie O’Connor – graduated April 2013
united arab emirates flag The course was very informative and self explanatory. My personal tutor was always in a good mood, and professional! He responded in a timely fashion and was very supportive when tending to my queries giving me with plenty of comments and suggestions. Fazal Imamudeen – graduated March 2013
usa flag The fact that I was working with a live tutor made a huge difference when it came to choosing the right TEFL course for me. And my tutor proved to be a great help. He was patient and his feedback was always useful and easy to understand. Additionally, his own personal experience provided interesting insight that I may not have gotten otherwise. Cole Rieger graduated March 2013


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 after everyone was desperate to present something!

But check out the results below. In general, people MAKE a presentation or, slightly less often, GIVE a presentation. Whilst some people will DO a presentation, the number is pretty small compared to the other two options.

Since English teaching is all about teaching what people will need to know in order to make themselves understood, I confidently told the questioner that we MAKE a presentation.


Useful Links

Google n-grams

Google n-gram – results in full

Fossilized Errors in TEFL

The hoax skull of Piltdown Man

Piltdown Man’s Skull (a hoax perpetrated on the scientific community in 1912).

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 of errors.

What are Fossilized Errors

At its simplest a fossilized error is a mistake which a student makes again and again and appears unable to correct no matter what they are told and how you try to help them.

In many cases the student may well know they are making an error but despite their best efforts, they can’t help themself and they continue to make the error.

It is an error which is so deeply ingrained in the student that when they use correct English in its place then it sounds wrong to them.

For example, I know of an Italian‏‎ MT student whose English is almost perfect; she is able to use colloquial language, has complete mastery of all the verb tenses‏‎ and verb forms‏‎, and yet will still say things like:

* The spaghetti are ready.

* Are the money on the table?

* An asterisk at the beginning of a sentence denotes an ungrammatical sentence.

The student knows that these are wrong and can easily produce the corrected version, but the errors are so deeply ingrained in her that they come out regardless.

Where Do Fossilized Errors Come From?

You will often see that beginners don’t have fossilized errors. Of course they make mistakes, but the errors they produce can almost always be corrected and set straight.

However, as a student learns more and attends more English classes, certain errors keep on occurring and never seem to go away.

Often these are errors due to mother tongue influence‏‎ as in the example above or false friends‏‎. Other times they have picked up from other students or perhaps television or even the teacher.

Another problem here is that the teacher may not catch the error (which can often happens if the teacher is not an English MT speaker) and the student does not even realize they are making an error until too late.

Correcting Fossilized Errors

It’s not always easy to correct fossilized errors. They are often so ingrained in the student that no matter what you say or how you explain it, the student will still continue to repeat the error – even when they’ve understood and realize that they’re making the error.

So, don’t be surprised if a few of these ideas don’t work; it takes time and patience to have students get over their fossilized errors.

  • Explain explicitly what the error is and how it can be corrected. The students needs 100% understanding here of what they doing wrong.
  • Deal with one error at a time; don’t overload the student(s). Once the first, biggest, error is completely eradicated then you can move on but not before.
  • If a student makes the error whilst speaking, ask them to write down what they’ve just said. Writing focuses the mind far more than speaking and slows the production process giving students time to think about what they are producing.
  • Stop the student on that error alone. It isn’t always a good idea to interrupt a student when they make a mistake (see the article Accuracy vs Fluency‏‎) but for single and specific fossilized errors it helps focus the student who then must repeat without the error.
  • Get students to record themselves speaking and then have them check what they say and report back; they’ll often spot their own errors like this.

The idea behind these is to focus the student’s mind on the error. They become very conscious that in certain situations an error might well occur so they need to think carefully. But, importantly, they must have no doubt in their mind what the error is and how to correct it.


n-grams and TEFL

ICAL TEFLIn 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 offers searches through different corpora including:

  • American English‏‎ (155 billion words)
  • British English (34 billion words)
  • Fiction (91 billion words)

Searches can also be refined to books for certain decades and periods from the past.

The results typically show the number of occurrences of a search string. For example, looking at the American corpus for various search strings show:

  • fill in a form – 1,012 examples
  • fill out a form – 5,298 examples

Thus we can say that people are 5 times more likely to fill out a form than fill in a form.

Comparison Graphs

Google books also allows you to create simple graphs showing how word usage has changed over time and comparing different terms. For example, the following graph shows the difference in usage from 1950 to the present for TEFL, TESOL and TESL:


n-gram Etymology

In the expression, n-gram, the n part (usually in italics) stands for one or more (i.e. it’s a number, hence n); the gram goes back to Ancient Greek and means letter.

Thus n-gram means one or more letters.

Useful Links

Google Books n-grams home page

Google Comparison Graph

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 see ‘Grammar and Language’ on the right sidebar.

The Most Common Words in English

Some of the most commonly used 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 then other lists have been prepared using different corpora as a basis. The list below is from the New General Service List posted in 2013. It contains the headwords only (not variations) and comprises 2,818 words.

Rank Headword
1 the
2 be
3 of
4 and
5 to
6 a
7 in
8 have
9 it
10 you
11 for
12 not
13 that
14 on
15 with
16 do
17 as
18 he
19 we
20 this
21 at
22 they
23 but
24 from
25 by
26 will
27 or
28 his
29 say
30 go
31 she
32 so
33 all
34 about
35 if
36 one
37 my
38 know
39 there
40 which
41 can
42 get
43 her
44 would
45 think
46 like
47 more
48 their
49 your
50 when
51 what
52 make
53 time
54 who
55 see
56 up
57 people
58 some
59 out
60 me
61 good
62 other
63 year
64 well
65 our
66 very
67 just
68 them
69 no
70 take
71 because
72 come
73 could
74 use
75 work
76 then
77 now
78 also
79 than
80 him
81 into
82 only
83 want
84 look
85 these
86 its
87 new
88 give
89 first
90 way
91 thing
92 any
93 over
94 right
95 after
96 find
97 day
98 where
99 most
100 should
101 need
102 much
103 how
104 back
105 mean
106 may
107 such
108 us
109 here
110 really
111 even
112 company
113 those
114 many
115 child
116 tell
117 last
118 call
119 down
120 yes
121 before
122 man
123 through
124 show
125 life
126 between
127 lot
128 feel
129 place
130 change
131 long
132 too
133 pause
134 still
135 write
136 problem
137 talk
138 try
139 something
140 unclear
141 same
142 great
143 number
144 leave
145 little
146 both
147 meet
148 help
149 own
150 ask
151 part
152 country
153 put
154 point
155 start
156 school
157 each
158 become
159 interest
160 old
161 off
162 another
163 different
164 high
165 next
166 include
167 late
168 why
169 live
170 end
171 world
172 week
173 must
174 while
175 never
176 study
177 kind
178 report
179 play
180 house
181 group
182 might
183 home
184 course
185 let
186 case
187 system
188 again
189 hear
190 woman
191 family
192 book
193 seem
194 around
195 during
196 keep
197 big
198 follow
199 every
200 question
201 under
202 important
203 always
204 friend
205 however
206 set
207 hand
208 provide
209 small
210 turn
211 state
212 begin
213 run
214 since
215 early
216 money
217 few
218 bring
219 market
220 information
221 area
222 move
223 business
224 service
225 government
226 fact
227 issue
228 thank
229 large
230 result
231 read
232 month
233 order
234 increase
235 name
236 love
237 word
238 without
239 open
240 pay
241 offer
242 build
243 I
244 hold
245 happen
246 against
247 away
248 job
249 buy
250 though
251 today
252 example
253 believe
254 plan
255 second
256 program
257 student
258 form
259 young
260 lead
261 face
262 close
263 room
264 hope
265 cost
266 head
267 car
268 understand
269 hour
270 far
271 actually
272 spend
273 level
274 city
275 present
276 less
277 idea
278 reason
279 learn
280 until
281 member
282 process
283 person
284 experience
285 night
286 support
287 sure
288 sort
289 quite
290 bad
291 once
292 enough
293 although
294 within
295 age
296 term
297 whether
298 able
299 share
300 line
301 product
302 speak
303 side
304 train
305 soon
306 low
307 price
308 public
309 often
310 possible
311 least
312 parent
313 consider
314 effect
315 rather
316 control
317 view
318 story
319 local
320 anything
321 together
322 value
323 hard
324 stand
325 visit
326 watch
327 color
328 party
329 bit
330 continue
331 ever
332 eye
333 base
334 concern
335 letter
336 center
337 lose
338 yet
339 almost
340 development
341 already
342 test
343 probably
344 sale
345 rate
346 nothing
347 whole
348 suggest
349 language
350 deal
351 send
352 expect
353 fall
354 return
355 water
356 per
357 allow
358 cause
359 power
360 sit
361 walk
362 mother
363 among
364 care
365 subject
366 develop
367 stay
368 record
369 mind
370 remember
371 past
372 office
373 force
374 grow
375 town
376 light
377 stop
378 several
379 period
380 class
381 matter
382 food
383 social
384 require
385 political
386 win
387 decide
388 staff
389 figure
390 real
391 future
392 policy
393 answer
394 laugh
395 remain
396 ago
397 type
398 shop
399 security
400 receive
401 note
402 minute
403 fund
404 top
405 game
406 involve
407 account
408 half
409 history
410 create
411 break
412 moment
413 individual
414 across
415 either
416 music
417 further
418 reach
419 clear
420 rule
421 computer
422 wait
423 sound
424 team
425 along
426 research
427 appear
428 drive
429 activity
430 black
431 produce
432 free
433 general
434 body
435 toward
436 please
437 sense
438 perhaps
439 add
440 everything
441 law
442 easy
443 sell
444 full
445 film
446 model
447 war
448 forward
449 himself
450 maybe
451 design
452 morning
453 pass
454 condition
455 near
456 door
457 human
458 above
459 available
460 position
461 agree
462 short
463 situation
464 paper
465 cover
466 major
467 customer
468 father
469 bear
470 choose
471 main
472 describe
473 someone
474 date
475 event
476 nice
477 special
478 certain
479 phone
480 join
481 else
482 girl
483 sometimes
484 table
485 community
486 carry
487 decision
488 role
489 president
490 particular
491 cut
492 difference
493 die
494 eat
495 enjoy
496 rise
497 especially
498 detail
499 data
500 charge
501 practice
502 cell
503 improve
504 kid
505 action
506 strong
507 happy
508 health
509 economic
510 difficult
511 regard
512 travel
513 approach
514 amount
515 investment
516 white
517 draw
518 site
519 round
520 behind
521 claim
522 step
523 patient
524 true
525 teacher
526 range
527 percent
528 themselves
529 organization
530 vote
531 front
532 measure
533 trade
534 therefore
535 finally
536 raise
537 wear
538 industry
539 explain
540 relationship
541 quality
542 accord
543 outside
544 wish
545 death
546 project
547 land
548 sign
549 boy
550 news
551 risk
552 total
553 couple
554 national
555 list
556 opportunity
557 act
558 sport
559 road
560 kill
561 serve
562 education
563 picture
564 likely
565 standard
566 benefit
567 stage
568 performance
569 rest
570 certainly
571 culture
572 focus
573 itself
574 arrive
575 employee
576 upon
577 voice
578 due
579 technology
580 field
581 air
582 material
583 current
584 teach
585 financial
586 century
587 society
588 analysis
589 limit
590 evidence
591 reduce
592 listen
593 usually
594 lie
595 foot
596 single
597 common
598 space
599 realize
600 former
601 animal
602 instead
603 similar
604 thus
605 address
606 leader
607 complete
608 arm
609 function
610 chance
611 mention
612 factor
613 contact
614 response
615 demand
616 exist
617 accept
618 save
619 opinion
620 pick
621 wrong
622 apply
623 compare
624 suppose
625 choice
626 structure
627 fight
628 relate
629 firm
630 feature
631 ground
632 effort
633 source
634 pretty
635 campaign
636 check
637 okay
638 street
639 foreign
640 attention
641 personal
642 particularly
643 park
644 whose
645 knowledge
646 contain
647 official
648 court
649 bank
650 article
651 wife
652 management
653 manager
654 section
655 finish
656 guy
657 fine
658 store
659 attack
660 discuss
661 stock
662 prepare
663 fire
664 piece
665 heart
666 forget
667 police
668 recent
669 behavior
670 represent
671 growth
672 page
673 holiday
674 affect
675 establish
676 wonder
677 poor
678 manage
679 addition
680 bed
681 simply
682 recently
683 yesterday
684 surprise
685 sorry
686 art
687 method
688 fast
689 stuff
690 international
691 drink
692 purchase
693 myself
694 worry
695 whatever
696 private
697 determine
698 summer
699 evening
700 influence
701 exactly
702 average
703 everyone
704 drop
705 miss
706 significant
707 production
708 inside
709 tomorrow
710 attempt
711 region
712 cent
713 race
714 shall
715 contract
716 smile
717 skill
718 medium
719 necessary
720 economy
721 various
722 notice
723 nature
724 population
725 key
726 nation
727 hit
728 occur
729 plant
730 catch
731 election
732 director
733 review
734 military
735 statement
736 worker
737 respect
738 paint
739 capital
740 player
741 press
742 movie
743 tax
744 environment
745 son
746 hotel
747 size
748 item
749 image
750 drug
751 simple
752 indeed
753 series
754 final
755 purpose
756 window
757 treatment
758 club
759 file
760 department
761 bus
762 wall
763 direct
764 character
765 gain
766 fit
767 enter
768 agreement
769 fail
770 season
771 college
772 seek
773 achieve
774 beautiful
775 station
776 alone
777 below
778 clothes
779 attend
780 success
781 argue
782 lack
783 comment
784 option
785 pull
786 church
787 herself
788 advantage
789 identify
790 link
791 indicate
792 aim
793 income
794 specific
795 floor
796 discussion
797 associate
798 recognize
799 tree
800 unit
801 loss
802 mark
803 challenge
804 depend
805 wide
806 anyway
807 mile
808 board
809 solution
810 clearly
811 anyone
812 machine
813 relation
814 marry
815 despite
816 theory
817 introduce
818 prove
819 ability
820 popular
821 modern
822 doctor
823 release
824 score
825 access
826 television
827 target
828 ready
829 strike
830 card
831 potential
832 pattern
833 clock
834 organize
835 village
836 nearly
837 prefer
838 movement
839 propose
840 guess
841 operation
842 fear
843 hair
844 trip
845 supply
846 quickly
847 application
848 sleep
849 network
850 strategy
851 interview
852 hospital
853 husband
854 red
855 degree
856 star
857 restaurant
858 generally
859 author
860 yourself
861 pressure
862 task
863 express
864 competition
865 serious
866 reference
867 treat
868 conclusion
869 brother
870 natural
871 touch
872 everybody
873 beyond
874 define
875 basis
876 trouble
877 deep
878 energy
879 fish
880 dark
881 sing
882 sample
883 refer
884 adult
885 positive
886 except
887 disease
888 promise
889 throw
890 dress
891 worth
892 clean
893 fill
894 property
895 profit
896 somebody
897 operate
898 bar
899 advance
900 goal
901 quarter
902 central
903 cold
904 object
905 style
906 obviously
907 push
908 tend
909 assume
910 normal
911 exchange
912 suffer
913 middle
914 blue
915 match
916 officer
917 avoid
918 reflect
919 useful
920 fun
921 huge
922 instance
923 seat
924 document
925 oil
926 message
927 net
928 successful
929 box
930 resource
931 pound
932 throughout
933 facility
934 argument
935 bill
936 debate
937 speech
938 separate
939 male
940 baby
941 earn
942 maintain
943 career
944 hot
945 billion
946 doubt
947 exercise
948 previous
949 daily
950 search
951 suddenly
952 fly
953 basic
954 ring
955 asset
956 science
957 dog
958 perform
959 balance
960 song
961 weekend
962 dead
963 encourage
964 protect
965 damage
966 imagine
967 afternoon
968 estimate
969 photo
970 context
971 newspaper
972 credit
973 daughter
974 variety
975 version
976 extend
977 proposal
978 professional
979 dollar
980 sister
981 whom
982 memory
983 mine
984 ahead
985 nor
986 request
987 post
988 original
989 female
990 green
991 dance
992 dream
993 observe
994 inform
995 communication
996 discover
997 track
998 garden
999 agency
1000 screen
1001 possibility
1002 examine
1003 legal
1004 recommend
1005 university
1006 text
1007 direction
1008 responsibility
1009 conversation
1010 magazine
1011 easily
1012 favorite
1013 rock
1014 independent
1015 additional
1016 agent
1017 complex
1018 appropriate
1019 invite
1020 traditional
1021 cross
1022 sea
1023 famous
1024 reply
1025 software
1026 weight
1027 shape
1028 completely
1029 trial
1030 weather
1031 administration
1032 fix
1033 shoot
1034 judge
1035 absolutely
1036 user
1037 welcome
1038 element
1039 announce
1040 requirement
1041 glass
1042 laughter
1043 stick
1044 difficulty
1045 effective
1046 survey
1047 majority
1048 invest
1049 primary
1050 generation
1051 federal
1052 wind
1053 replace
1054 writer
1055 stress
1056 committee
1057 principle
1058 content
1059 immediately
1060 unless
1061 percentage
1062 equipment
1063 telephone
1064 title
1065 budget
1066 transfer
1067 blood
1068 scene
1069 conduct
1070 chair
1071 sector
1072 expensive
1073 executive
1074 beat
1075 wonderful
1076 warm
1077 copy
1078 none
1079 negative
1080 annual
1081 prevent
1082 rich
1083 block
1084 payment
1085 collection
1086 advice
1087 remove
1088 ensure
1089 hang
1090 politics
1091 medical
1092 relative
1093 directly
1094 count
1095 safe
1096 transport
1097 e-mail
1098 mix
1099 display
1100 ride
1101 flow
1102 highly
1103 flat
1104 leg
1105 contrast
1106 procedure
1107 straight
1108 correct
1109 connection
1110 institution
1111 admit
1112 consumer
1113 reveal
1114 video
1115 radio
1116 otherwise
1117 nobody
1118 aware
1119 appeal
1120 alternative
1121 status
1122 heavy
1123 award
1124 surface
1125 handle
1126 sex
1127 introduction
1128 deliver
1129 cry
1130 pair
1131 tour
1132 collect
1133 extra
1134 crowd
1135 intend
1136 reader
1137 cheap
1138 decade
1139 sentence
1140 farm
1141 overall
1142 moreover
1143 concert
1144 expression
1145 dinner
1146 print
1147 decline
1148 responsible
1149 grant
1150 physical
1151 trust
1152 ship
1153 speed
1154 south
1155 select
1156 category
1157 fair
1158 attitude
1159 peace
1160 truth
1161 band
1162 lay
1163 importance
1164 perfect
1165 launch
1166 wave
1167 presence
1168 crime
1169 horse
1170 progress
1171 global
1172 advertise
1173 chief
1174 slightly
1175 scale
1176 double
1177 nuclear
1178 warn
1179 extent
1180 labor
1181 library
1182 respond
1183 edge
1184 partner
1185 experiment
1186 satisfy
1187 pain
1188 slow
1189 taxi
1190 suit
1191 spot
1192 regular
1193 excite
1194 concept
1195 guide
1196 initial
1197 speaker
1198 dry
1199 secretary
1200 photograph
1201 scheme
1202 shake
1203 technique
1204 tonight
1205 apart
1206 rain
1207 cool
1208 suggestion
1209 defense
1210 distance
1211 north
1212 lift
1213 conflict
1214 excellent
1215 river
1216 expert
1217 favor
1218 funny
1219 eventually
1220 football
1221 heat
1222 mistake
1223 dear
1224 improvement
1225 chapter
1226 emerge
1227 demonstrate
1228 artist
1229 reform
1230 adopt
1231 corner
1232 audience
1233 struggle
1234 decrease
1235 roll
1236 island
1237 camp
1238 feed
1239 surround
1240 investor
1241 fully
1242 fee
1243 senior
1244 arrange
1245 expense
1246 combine
1247 cook
1248 cultural
1249 map
1250 meal
1251 shift
1252 contribution
1253 weapon
1254 ball
1255 cash
1256 entire
1257 reality
1258 solve
1259 lesson
1260 kitchen
1261 circumstance
1262 confirm
1263 failure
1264 busy
1265 contribute
1266 tool
1267 mouth
1268 objective
1269 gas
1270 lady
1271 quick
1272 currently
1273 glad
1274 driver
1275 beach
1276 commercial
1277 basically
1278 spread
1279 pop
1280 variable
1281 cancer
1282 brain
1283 reaction
1284 proceed
1285 crisis
1286 neither
1287 hide
1288 refuse
1289 consequence
1290 volume
1291 trend
1292 bag
1293 traffic
1294 mass
1295 left
1296 owner
1297 length
1298 vary
1299 revenue
1300 duty
1301 repeat
1302 mountain
1303 unfortunately
1304 survive
1305 schedule
1306 bedroom
1307 employ
1308 marriage
1309 essential
1310 critical
1311 ticket
1312 smoke
1313 fan
1314 flight
1315 relatively
1316 equal
1317 egg
1318 bottom
1319 novel
1320 somewhere
1321 plus
1322 coach
1323 pleasure
1324 promote
1325 background
1326 union
1327 neighbor
1328 provision
1329 appreciate
1330 plane
1331 topic
1332 enable
1333 package
1334 code
1335 secret
1336 manufacture
1337 shareholder
1338 investigation
1339 attract
1340 path
1341 bird
1342 bond
1343 swim
1344 afraid
1345 environmental
1346 finger
1347 anybody
1348 colleague
1349 insurance
1350 flower
1351 consideration
1352 settle
1353 powerful
1354 quiet
1355 burn
1356 engineer
1357 component
1358 waste
1359 aid
1360 extremely
1361 earth
1362 desire
1363 apparently
1364 tire
1365 breath
1366 delay
1367 strength
1368 connect
1369 nurse
1370 sum
1371 brief
1372 soldier
1373 hardly
1374 lunch
1375 religious
1376 strange
1377 whereas
1378 battle
1379 construction
1380 engage
1381 district
1382 hate
1383 boat
1384 stone
1385 gather
1386 tourist
1387 divide
1388 expand
1389 historical
1390 delivery
1391 tradition
1392 museum
1393 mostly
1394 host
1395 broad
1396 spring
1397 council
1398 shoulder
1399 troop
1400 jump
1401 healthy
1402 fresh
1403 conclude
1404 furthermore
1405 finance
1406 threat
1407 studio
1408 bomb
1409 safety
1410 active
1411 winter
1412 export
1413 acquire
1414 blow
1415 sun
1416 obvious
1417 coffee
1418 generate
1419 visitor
1420 bind
1421 tape
1422 cycle
1423 assess
1424 editor
1425 spirit
1426 scientist
1427 monitor
1428 tear
1429 location
1430 actual
1431 actor
1432 corporate
1433 twice
1434 minister
1435 murder
1436 comfortable
1437 pool
1438 wash
1439 assessment
1440 register
1441 regulation
1442 temperature
1443 violence
1444 hurt
1445 route
1446 recall
1447 impossible
1448 army
1449 sight
1450 accident
1451 error
1452 usual
1453 tough
1454 opposite
1455 wine
1456 relax
1457 characteristic
1458 noise
1459 carefully
1460 camera
1461 possibly
1462 convince
1463 arrangement
1464 shock
1465 oppose
1466 climb
1467 slowly
1468 relevant
1469 consist
1470 principal
1471 lawyer
1472 manner
1473 gun
1474 locate
1475 onto
1476 commit
1477 domestic
1478 pack
1479 kiss
1480 protein
1481 branch
1482 rat
1483 voter
1484 vehicle
1485 civil
1486 literature
1487 mainly
1488 theater
1489 stare
1490 totally
1491 freedom
1492 quote
1493 industrial
1494 significantly
1495 guest
1496 commitment
1497 description
1498 capacity
1499 fifty
1500 skin
1501 taste
1502 perspective
1503 belong
1504 normally
1505 ought
1506 participant
1507 comparison
1508 till
1509 belief
1510 dangerous
1511 representative
1512 signal
1513 fashion
1514 technical
1515 interaction
1516 deny
1517 friendly
1518 previously
1519 gold
1520 danger
1521 participate
1522 occasion
1523 square
1524 leadership
1525 gift
1526 mobile
1527 border
1528 shoe
1529 label
1530 load
1531 prison
1532 wood
1533 ad
1534 internal
1535 suitable
1536 west
1537 affair
1538 discount
1539 outcome
1540 advertisement
1541 ignore
1542 cup
1543 suspect
1544 citizen
1545 definition
1546 arrest
1547 largely
1548 destroy
1549 hall
1550 investigate
1551 desk
1552 remind
1553 familiar
1554 loan
1555 explore
1556 tea
1557 index
1558 recommendation
1559 complain
1560 poll
1561 hi
1562 wed
1563 switch
1564 escape
1565 fairly
1566 lovely
1567 permit
1568 import
1569 association
1570 dad
1571 bright
1572 predict
1573 division
1574 debt
1575 shout
1576 device
1577 wake
1578 proper
1579 definitely
1580 analyze
1581 victim
1582 necessarily
1583 commission
1584 amaze
1585 combination
1586 employment
1587 conservative
1588 guarantee
1589 rank
1590 protection
1591 mouse
1592 nevertheless
1593 abuse
1594 researcher
1595 yield
1596 root
1597 secure
1598 elect
1599 chain
1600 forest
1601 confidence
1602 frame
1603 shot
1604 identity
1605 arise
1606 afford
1607 birth
1608 tie
1609 brand
1610 instrument
1611 hole
1612 grade
1613 threaten
1614 hire
1615 moral
1616 latter
1617 phase
1618 approve
1619 typical
1620 strongly
1621 channel
1622 factory
1623 judgment
1624 proportion
1625 concentration
1626 resident
1627 selection
1628 empty
1629 opposition
1630 entirely
1631 session
1632 sexual
1633 ice
1634 master
1635 narrow
1636 graduate
1637 increasingly
1638 insist
1639 bridge
1640 license
1641 concentrate
1642 plenty
1643 entry
1644 reduction
1645 respectively
1646 farmer
1647 notion
1648 rent
1649 odd
1650 musical
1651 appearance
1652 bore
1653 faithfully
1654 adviser
1655 reasonable
1656 rely
1657 presidential
1658 sequence
1659 soft
1660 stretch
1661 considerable
1662 fuel
1663 bottle
1664 unique
1665 atmosphere
1666 practical
1667 presentation
1668 theme
1669 hell
1670 lock
1671 prior
1672 secondly
1673 peak
1674 mechanism
1675 explanation
1676 nowadays
1677 native
1678 succeed
1679 mail
1680 cast
1681 wild
1682 folk
1683 intelligence
1684 sheet
1685 ear
1686 journey
1687 tiny
1688 terrible
1689 online
1690 multiple
1691 declare
1692 engine
1693 besides
1694 chairman
1695 mental
1696 specifically
1697 relief
1698 professor
1699 yard
1700 celebrate
1701 personality
1702 construct
1703 joint
1704 via
1705 row
1706 capture
1707 justice
1708 constant
1709 youth
1710 coast
1711 expectation
1712 witness
1713 blame
1714 tone
1715 seriously
1716 honor
1717 ourselves
1718 electronic
1719 dealer
1720 disk
1721 northern
1722 chemical
1723 somehow
1724 hill
1725 fruit
1726 fellow
1727 guard
1728 sky
1729 vision
1730 impose
1731 reserve
1732 minimum
1733 surely
1734 thin
1735 variation
1736 formal
1737 frequently
1738 verb
1739 acquisition
1740 retire
1741 recover
1742 seed
1743 tip
1744 instruction
1745 chart
1746 mission
1747 absence
1748 fat
1749 east
1750 derive
1751 ordinary
1752 critic
1753 helpful
1754 gene
1755 anywhere
1756 lean
1757 glance
1758 ideal
1759 neighborhood
1760 smell
1761 silence
1762 disappear
1763 cat
1764 lip
1765 passenger
1766 compete
1767 representation
1768 rush
1769 disorder
1770 shut
1771 complaint
1772 careful
1773 column
1774 religion
1775 legislation
1776 employer
1777 widely
1778 protest
1779 ancient
1780 illustrate
1781 faith
1782 observation
1783 reject
1784 imply
1785 ban
1786 implement
1787 command
1788 approximately
1789 maximum
1790 qualify
1791 somewhat
1792 regional
1793 assumption
1794 temporary
1795 attractive
1796 plate
1797 sad
1798 frequency
1799 weak
1800 slip
1801 victory
1802 academic
1803 county
1804 circle
1805 joke
1806 hat
1807 dozen
1808 kick
1809 steal
1810 unable
1811 settlement
1812 symptom
1813 reporter
1814 accommodation
1815 household
1816 tennis
1817 merely
1818 emotion
1819 tall
1820 sick
1821 calculate
1822 accuse
1823 criminal
1824 scientific
1825 estate
1826 unlike
1827 interpretation
1828 corporation
1829 appoint
1830 enemy
1831 criterion
1832 beside
1833 firstly
1834 assistant
1835 sweet
1836 competitive
1837 consistent
1838 closely
1839 equally
1840 advise
1841 liberal
1842 meanwhile
1843 impression
1844 existence
1845 accompany
1846 output
1847 exhibition
1848 salary
1849 attach
1850 acknowledge
1851 snow
1852 properly
1853 breast
1854 prime
1855 intention
1856 ill
1857 reward
1858 bother
1859 primarily
1860 gray
1861 expose
1862 childhood
1863 discipline
1864 everywhere
1865 medicine
1866 differ
1867 input
1868 politician
1869 wage
1870 implication
1871 substantial
1872 infant
1873 permanent
1874 rare
1875 remark
1876 angry
1877 knock
1878 injury
1879 producer
1880 pocket
1881 alive
1882 currency
1883 manufacturer
1884 king
1885 obligation
1886 initiative
1887 talent
1888 breakfast
1889 resolution
1890 emotional
1891 enhance
1892 core
1893 framework
1894 found
1895 phrase
1896 southern
1897 gap
1898 storm
1899 undertake
1900 distinguish
1901 draft
1902 priority
1903 democracy
1904 pursue
1905 urge
1906 pilot
1907 shirt
1908 coat
1909 lake
1910 emphasize
1911 habit
1912 immediate
1913 yellow
1914 communicate
1915 neck
1916 vast
1917 breathe
1918 origin
1919 stable
1920 sir
1921 enormous
1922 negotiation
1923 resolve
1924 terrorist
1925 bloody
1926 retain
1927 bone
1928 mathematics
1929 supplier
1930 milk
1931 passage
1932 fundamental
1933 pupil
1934 publication
1935 winner
1936 elsewhere
1937 examination
1938 gentleman
1939 soul
1940 forth
1941 contemporary
1942 urban
1943 incident
1944 integrate
1945 swing
1946 panel
1947 ratio
1948 borrow
1949 sufficient
1950 motion
1951 exam
1952 governor
1953 boss
1954 effectively
1955 install
1956 premise
1957 abroad
1958 diet
1959 hence
1960 convention
1961 metal
1962 layer
1963 typically
1964 grateful
1965 crash
1966 incorporate
1967 formation
1968 classic
1969 aircraft
1970 highlight
1971 sharp
1972 climate
1973 disappoint
1974 fifteen
1975 defeat
1976 retirement
1977 defend
1978 truly
1979 self
1980 clinical
1981 nearby
1982 distribute
1983 reputation
1984 underlie
1985 creation
1986 specify
1987 exclude
1988 exhibit
1989 extreme
1990 appointment
1991 brown
1992 journalist
1993 lucky
1994 occupy
1995 soil
1996 educational
1997 upper
1998 slide
1999 correspond
2000 sudden
2001 gay
2002 plastic
2003 freeze
2004 peer
2005 tooth
2006 exception
2007 excuse
2008 bet
2009 plain
2010 crop
2011 equivalent
2012 rural
2013 complicate
2014 meat
2015 collapse
2016 dish
2017 enterprise
2018 luck
2019 restrict
2020 subsequent
2021 originally
2022 perfectly
2023 thick
2024 encounter
2025 invitation
2026 proud
2027 chip
2028 analyst
2029 valuable
2030 bike
2031 retail
2032 calm
2033 unusual
2034 criticism
2035 personally
2036 plot
2037 beauty
2038 preserve
2039 emergency
2040 comfort
2041 deserve
2042 repair
2043 update
2044 severe
2045 recognition
2046 secondary
2047 proof
2048 capable
2049 outline
2050 depression
2051 evaluate
2052 pension
2053 external
2054 cope
2055 emphasis
2056 restriction
2057 partly
2058 aside
2059 massive
2060 intellectual
2061 minority
2062 revolution
2063 submit
2064 prospect
2065 equation
2066 unemployment
2067 intervention
2068 delight
2069 mom
2070 anymore
2071 smart
2072 numerous
2073 illness
2074 abandon
2075 confuse
2076 wheel
2077 crucial
2078 efficient
2079 dominate
2080 database
2081 split
2082 trace
2083 isolate
2084 port
2085 drama
2086 nose
2087 rapidly
2088 dispute
2089 landscape
2090 spell
2091 ultimately
2092 inch
2093 profile
2094 phenomenon
2095 entertainment
2096 boundary
2097 gender
2098 assistance
2099 dramatic
2100 educate
2101 edition
2102 wing
2103 similarly
2104 specialist
2105 formula
2106 achievement
2107 innovation
2108 festival
2109 coverage
2110 pitch
2111 gate
2112 unknown
2113 distinction
2114 slight
2115 roof
2116 scream
2117 convert
2118 minor
2119 negotiate
2120 era
2121 episode
2122 volunteer
2123 infection
2124 preparation
2125 arrival
2126 silver
2127 electricity
2128 sink
2129 unlikely
2130 grand
2131 web
2132 transition
2133 upset
2134 forecast
2135 pollution
2136 eliminate
2137 agenda
2138 wire
2139 prize
2140 crack
2141 deeply
2142 cable
2143 apparent
2144 zone
2145 fault
2146 cooperation
2147 pub
2148 characterize
2149 honest
2150 supporter
2151 inspire
2152 whisper
2153 hunt
2154 toy
2155 welfare
2156 everyday
2157 cloud
2158 constraint
2159 perceive
2160 ease
2161 solid
2162 prisoner
2163 expansion
2164 agricultural
2165 virtually
2166 knee
2167 album
2168 bend
2169 exposure
2170 alter
2171 digital
2172 pour
2173 satisfaction
2174 tension
2175 wet
2176 perception
2177 dimension
2178 tight
2179 restore
2180 beer
2181 sweep
2182 interpret
2183 assist
2184 crew
2185 essay
2186 assure
2187 anger
2188 deposit
2189 shower
2190 string
2191 elderly
2192 extensive
2193 truck
2194 uniform
2195 mood
2196 detect
2197 beneath
2198 shadow
2199 mode
2200 territory
2201 trail
2202 nervous
2203 parallel
2204 sail
2205 sensitive
2206 hero
2207 competitor
2208 initially
2209 transform
2210 strip
2211 stream
2212 breed
2213 attribute
2214 vital
2215 awful
2216 devote
2217 stem
2218 height
2219 apologize
2220 alright
2221 owe
2222 genetic
2223 persuade
2224 recruit
2225 vice
2226 steady
2227 heavily
2228 entrance
2229 furniture
2230 strain
2231 random
2232 justify
2233 measurement
2234 rarely
2235 meter
2236 pace
2237 western
2238 constitute
2239 spare
2240 designer
2241 mature
2242 evil
2243 curve
2244 guilty
2245 jacket
2246 false
2247 demonstration
2248 wound
2249 frighten
2250 muscle
2251 grass
2252 substance
2253 pink
2254 symbol
2255 foundation
2256 cite
2257 extension
2258 tank
2259 disaster
2260 sigh
2261 routine
2262 cake
2263 efficiency
2264 membership
2265 smooth
2266 portion
2267 mirror
2268 resort
2269 withdraw
2270 resistance
2271 giant
2272 bid
2273 naturally
2274 summary
2275 radical
2276 tune
2277 van
2278 mutual
2279 boot
2280 fascinate
2281 entitle
2282 god
2283 broadcast
2284 singer
2285 platform
2286 whenever
2287 apartment
2288 conventional
2289 independence
2290 reverse
2291 illustration
2292 loud
2293 loose
2294 quantity
2295 poem
2296 damn
2297 pose
2298 depth
2299 significance
2300 planet
2301 iron
2302 gradually
2303 approval
2304 evaluation
2305 wealth
2306 visual
2307 consult
2308 sponsor
2309 stupid
2310 trap
2311 badly
2312 log
2313 crazy
2314 adjust
2315 dirty
2316 zero
2317 gaze
2318 button
2319 extraordinary
2320 hesitate
2321 establishment
2322 creative
2323 constantly
2324 probability
2325 vegetable
2326 alcohol
2327 remarkable
2328 throat
2329 dependent
2330 steel
2331 sustain
2332 ally
2333 ethnic
2334 pleasant
2335 exceed
2336 historian
2337 sugar
2338 brilliant
2339 involvement
2340 philosophy
2341 hypothesis
2342 bread
2343 drag
2344 edit
2345 inner
2346 statistic
2347 liability
2348 anticipate
2349 league
2350 seal
2351 grab
2352 flood
2353 compensation
2354 segment
2355 compound
2356 occasionally
2357 spin
2358 desert
2359 operator
2360 tower
2361 newly
2362 paragraph
2363 advocate
2364 bath
2365 blind
2366 confident
2367 overcome
2368 briefly
2369 pure
2370 regularly
2371 counsel
2372 disturb
2373 burden
2374 silent
2375 behave
2376 tap
2377 alarm
2378 fantastic
2379 valley
2380 preference
2381 discovery
2382 dare
2383 skirt
2384 eastern
2385 poverty
2386 registration
2387 cigarette
2388 criticize
2389 bowl
2390 cousin
2391 offense
2392 clause
2393 impress
2394 jury
2395 venture
2396 virus
2397 anxiety
2398 illegal
2399 wrap
2400 harm
2401 survival
2402 teenager
2403 specialize
2404 moderate
2405 limitation
2406 modify
2407 accurate
2408 angle
2409 comprehensive
2410 rival
2411 adequate
2412 universal
2413 tourism
2414 chest
2415 expenditure
2416 margin
2417 recovery
2418 mount
2419 mate
2420 admire
2421 gesture
2422 musician
2423 rapid
2424 stair
2425 charm
2426 slave
2427 scare
2428 amendment
2429 incentive
2430 format
2431 consultant
2432 deficit
2433 mortgage
2434 abstract
2435 overseas
2436 literary
2437 experimental
2438 architecture
2439 possess
2440 dig
2441 opponent
2442 evolution
2443 versus
2444 lend
2445 custom
2446 keen
2447 translate
2448 cough
2449 distinct
2450 rough
2451 surgery
2452 buyer
2453 burst
2454 pen
2455 quietly
2456 laboratory
2457 tube
2458 capability
2459 province
2460 twin
2461 adapt
2462 chicken
2463 scholar
2464 mess
2465 precisely
2466 therapy
2467 frequent
2468 wealthy
2469 journal
2470 composition
2471 mad
2472 tissue
2473 flash
2474 stroke
2475 champion
2476 sand
2477 promotion
2478 charity
2479 bury
2480 tendency
2481 barrier
2482 cream
2483 rid
2484 brush
2485 dialog
2486 publisher
2487 consequently
2488 democratic
2489 abortion
2490 govern
2491 exact
2492 hurry
2493 whilst
2494 privilege
2495 creature
2496 dismiss
2497 cap
2498 participation
2499 visible
2500 narrative
2501 classical
2502 assign
2503 regret
2504 twist
2505 impressive
2506 motor
2507 prompt
2508 ruin
2509 density
2510 resist
2511 rescue
2512 implementation
2513 coal
2514 lecture
2515 awareness
2516 maintenance
2517 greatly
2518 inflation
2519 psychological
2520 institutional
2521 dust
2522 successfully
2523 cancel
2524 functional
2525 scope
2526 species
2527 float
2528 absolute
2529 passion
2530 airline
2531 motivate
2532 module
2533 fold
2534 theoretical
2535 react
2536 wooden
2537 poet
2538 insight
2539 partnership
2540 counter
2541 stain
2542 automatically
2543 penalty
2544 rail
2545 salt
2546 contest
2547 bin
2548 violent
2549 aggressive
2550 sake
2551 opera
2552 undergo
2553 embrace
2554 divorce
2555 pile
2556 march
2557 pale
2558 acceptable
2559 literally
2560 allege
2561 grammar
2562 permission
2563 regulate
2564 cluster
2565 compromise
2566 diversity
2567 immigrant
2568 historic
2569 gallery
2570 dedicate
2571 pretend
2572 castle
2573 tackle
2574 golf
2575 celebration
2576 embarrass
2577 personnel
2578 boost
2579 extract
2580 pig
2581 roughly
2582 injure
2583 mixture
2584 announcement
2585 biological
2586 praise
2587 disagree
2588 electric
2589 excess
2590 fulfill
2591 depress
2592 fancy
2593 compose
2594 continuous
2595 complexity
2596 friendship
2597 stability
2598 accomplish
2599 comprise
2600 holder
2601 inquiry
2602 weakness
2603 noun
2604 civilian
2605 racial
2606 tail
2607 tale
2608 weigh
2609 evolve
2610 potentially
2611 mere
2612 fortune
2613 gently
2614 poetry
2615 server
2616 sanction
2617 guitar
2618 profession
2619 pump
2620 chamber
2621 veteran
2622 shine
2623 championship
2624 stake
2625 gear
2626 joy
2627 remote
2628 entertain
2629 reliable
2630 strengthen
2631 orange
2632 cheek
2633 jail
2634 forever
2635 imagination
2636 bias
2637 possession
2638 chat
2639 dramatically
2640 carbon
2641 servant
2642 curious
2643 structural
2644 neglect
2645 compute
2646 rear
2647 ski
2648 pot
2649 revise
2650 snap
2651 stimulate
2652 grin
2653 adjustment
2654 printer
2655 moon
2656 boom
2657 scan
2658 cheese
2659 shell
2660 pride
2661 grandmother
2662 situate
2663 resign
2664 supplement
2665 bunch
2666 clothing
2667 barely
2668 ceremony
2669 firmly
2670 pipe
2671 maker
2672 hopefully
2673 trigger
2674 stomach
2675 destruction
2676 craft
2677 intense
2678 pregnant
2679 logic
2680 indication
2681 subsequently
2682 presumably
2683 happiness
2684 interior
2685 magic
2686 menu
2687 mystery
2688 pro
2689 greet
2690 humor
2691 concrete
2692 flag
2693 chocolate
2694 shelter
2695 guideline
2696 cow
2697 ownership
2698 summarize
2699 knife
2700 bless
2701 trick
2702 wise
2703 motivation
2704 attachment
2705 pray
2706 strict
2707 silly
2708 catalog
2709 organic
2710 reckon
2711 uncle
2712 surprisingly
2713 regardless
2714 coin
2715 attraction
2716 athlete
2717 harbor
2718 darkness
2719 stir
2720 filter
2721 romantic
2722 determination
2723 shelf
2724 tongue
2725 reasonably
2726 transportation
2727 tender
2728 vessel
2729 piano
2730 envelope
2731 slope
2732 golden
2733 belt
2734 attendance
2735 storage
2736 pregnancy
2737 invent
2738 controversial
2739 horrible
2740 ocean
2741 uncertainty
2742 fiction
2743 lover
2744 hint
2745 liquid
2746 nowhere
2747 anxious
2748 stranger
2749 leap
2750 fool
2751 adventure
2752 carpet
2753 shade
2754 portrait
2755 hook
2756 potato
2757 reflection
2758 nerve
2759 leather
2760 qualification
2761 exhaust
2762 fragment
2763 wander
2764 distant
2765 unite
2766 bell
2767 grain
2768 monthly
2769 altogether
2770 differently
2771 universe
2772 weekly
2773 empire
2774 royal
2775 fence
2776 luxury
2777 bite
2778 comedy
2779 confusion
2780 curtain
2781 consume
2782 flexible
2783 innocent
2784 tent
2785 stamp
2786 shore
2787 voluntary
2788 genuine
2789 swear
2790 panic
2791 sheep
2792 mayor
2793 gentle
2794 precise
2795 raw
2796 wherever
2797 refugee
2798 listener
2799 weird
2800 substitute
2801 rice
2802 aunt
2803 excitement
2804 fade
2805 wipe
2806 chase
2807 slice
2808 alongside
2809 suspend
2810 autumn
2811 ugly
2812 hello
2813 fortunate
2814 insure
2815 lazy
2816 ashamed
2817 hunger
2818 thirst

Useful Links

Vocabulary‏‎ and TEFL – words and how to teach them

Words in English – what are words exactly?

The New General Service List – compiled in 2013

ESOL – English to Speakers of Other Languages


New Citizens to the US, many of whom will have been taught ESOL.

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
  • students studying at a university in an English speaking country
  • workers living and working (perhaps temporarily) in an English speaking country

The people in the photo are typical ESOL learners; they need English to live and work in their adopted country.

Compare this to EFL which is learning English as a Foreign Language, i.e. people learning English for business or travel etc but not intending to live in an English speaking country.

NB, in the majority of cases and in practical terms, there is very little difference between ESOL and ESL and EFL.

Useful Links

TEFL Glossary – a look at common acronyms and other useful TEFL terms

Teaching ESOL – a course on how to teach ESOL to students


Linking Verbs or Copulas

Sofia Coppola directing a film.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 it:

Sofia is Francis’ daughter.

In this example, is is a linking verb; it doesn’t tell us what Sofia does, it tells us what Sofia is.

True Linking Verbs

Some verbs always work as linking verbs. That is to say, they never describe an action, but always connect the subject to additional information.

The most common “true” linking verb is be (in all its forms: be, is, are, was, were, being, been, etc) with less common verbs being become and seem.

He is happy.
They are content.

The film became better in the second half.

The audience seem well satisfied.

Again, we are not describing what the subject does but what the subject is like.

Note that when we use the verb be to form other verb forms‏‎ (e.g. the present simple‏‎) then it is not regarded as a linking verb but an auxiliary verb.

Other Verbs as Linking Verbs

Other verbs can also be used as linking verbs although they have a “normal” use as well. Common ones include:

appear, become, feel, grow, look, prove, remain, seem, sound, smell, stay, taste, turn

For example:

This perfume smells fantastic!

My lunch tasted awful.

She felt unwell.

They look miserable.

She seems well.

Note that these other verbs can also work as normal verbs (i.e. not linking).

Will you smell this and tell me if it is moldy?

Look at this mess!

We can also use some other verbs as linking verbs. When a verb can work as either a linking verb or a normal verb then it’s known as a semi-copula or a pseudo-copula.

Linking Verbs and TEFL Teaching

Do you need to teach your class about linking verbs? There’s a strong chance you could get through your entire teaching career without mentioning linking verb in the classroom.

Unless your students need to know the name for this kind of verb, or unless it is brought up by one of the students, it is probably not worth bringing this information into the classroom. It might well just serve to confuse your students who could end up trying to work out what kind of verb they are dealing with when, grammatically, it doesn’t really change anything.

However, if you do need to teach it then simply make sure your students understand that

  • a non-linking verb describes an action
  • a linking verb describes the subject

And that’s pretty much it!

Image: Sofia Coppola whose surname is a bad pun on Copula which is why we have this picture.

Classroom Management

Kids on a barbed wire wall.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.

In other words, classroom management is about dealing with your students and making sure everyone in class is able to learn. It’s about making the classroom the best possible place to be for you and your students.

And as you might imagine, one major part of classroom management is discipline‏‎!

Image © Giuseppe Bognanni


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 the work either succeeds or fails.

At the chalkface means to work at the toughest end of education: standing in front of a class teaching, using a chalkboard to explain and elucidate. (Of course these days chalkboards have been replaced by whiteboards or interactive boards but the term is still used.)

Another useful related term is Chalk & Talk. This refers to the outdated, traditional practice of a teacher standing in front of the class writing things up on the board and talking and explaining. It is a teacher centered‏‎ concept of lecturing to the class who are probably dozing off after a few minutes of this.

Useful Links

Using Blackboards & Whiteboard‏‎s – some useful tips and tricks when you are using a black/white board in class.

Mini Whiteboards‏‎ – how about giving each of your students a mini-whiteboard to use.

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 all know.

But on the other hand…

If you stand there confidently, friendly, prepared, then the class will know they are there to learn and enjoy themselves. If you make a well timed joke then the class are with you. And then if you take away little Jimmy’s mobile phone you won’t have any trouble with that kind of behavior for the rest of the year.

It’s that simple.

But to help we’ve prepared the most important 5 tips for a new class. Follow these and you won’t go wrong.

1. Preparation

Find out from your school owner or Director of Studies as much as you possibly can about the class. This means age, ability, number and so on. This will help you plan because you don’t want to prepare a lesson on Justin Bieber only to find out the “teenage girls” you thought you were having are actually middle-aged businessmen.

If the class have been using a coursebook, make sure you get hold of a copy beforehand but don’t assume that the page where you need to begin is correct; I’ve done this a couple of times only to discover that the class has moved on since then. (Also you might want to photocopy a few relevant pages in case a student has forgotten their book.)

In other words, prepare as thoroughly as you can what you will do in the lesson. Have plenty of flexible lesson activities ready to use at a moment’s notice.

But remember also, you don’t know yet how the students work. Who knows what they’ve been told by the school administration or the previous teacher? Maybe half the class has forgotten their book or bought the wrong one.

If you have some extra activities to pull out and use then there will be no awkward, panic-filled silences in class where you are standing there thinking about what the hell you are going to do next.

Make sure these extra activities are as flexible as possible and useful with all ages and abilities.

See the main article: Lesson Preparation

2. Introductions

The class will be curious about you. You need to tell them who you are and establish your credibility. You could write up on the board (before they come in) your name and a few salient facts about yourself.

English Teacher for 5 years.
Degree in English from Bigname University; TEFL Certificate from ICAL TEFL.
Taught in Japan, South Korea.
Big fan of American Football. Favorite team: New England Patriots.

And you also need to know about your class. If it’s small then maybe get each student to give you a couple of sentences about themselves. If it’s larger then break them into groups. (But remember, if the class already know each other well then they don’t need to introduce themselves to each other again!) Of course at this stage you are already starting to learn their names!

3. Be Firm

Keep discipline tight. You can relax with the class later in the term, but for this first lesson you must control it all. This is important.

See the main article: Hard then Soft‏‎

4. Pre-Flight Check

Arrive early and check the classroom. Make sure there are enough desks and chairs; that any equipment you need is working and cued up. Open the windows and let some fresh air in. Or close the windows and turn up the heating!

5. Relax

And that’s it. Now take a few moments to relax and you will be fine!

See the main article: Stage Fright – Overcoming Teaching Nerves

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 the same vocabulary but pronounce the words in a different way. Effectively they have two accents.

For example, people in the north of England tend to say the word path as:


with a short vowel whilst people in the south of England tend to say:


with a long vowel. There are two different accents at work here.


Dialects, on the other hand, have differences not only in pronunciation but also in grammar and syntax. Two people may both speak English but one might say:

He did well!

Whilst the other could say:

He done well!

Here this isn’t just a difference in pronunciation but also grammar; these are two different dialects. On another tack, one person might say:

He’s talking.

Whilst another says:

He’s a-mardlin’.

Here there are differences in vocabulary which separate standard British English from the Norfolk dialect.


There is a saying that a language is a dialect with an army. Linguists often talk about language in terms of political influence and power. By this they mean that a dialect with political power becomes a language.

Take, for example, Chinese and Spanish. They are two very different languages and most people would regard them as completely separate.

However, what about Spanish and Italian? They share a great deal and are obviously related however, most people would see them as separate languages.

What about Mandarin and Cantonese which are very different (far more different than Spanish and Italian for example) and yet some people regard them as dialects of Chinese.

Finally think about Hindi and Urdu which are regarded as separate languages since they “belong” to two different nations, India and Pakistan, and yet they’re linguistically extremely similar.

So linguistically speaking there is no real difference between a language and a dialect; however politically speaking the differences become of major importance!

Useful Links

Accents and TEFL – all about accents when teaching English

A First Time English Teacher in Italy

The Italian Flag

The Italian flag flying high in Rome.

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 I really wanted to experience the Italian lifestyle far from the madding (and maddening!) crowd, and in less glamorous areas. So after finishing my TEFL Certificate course I jumped at the opportunity given to me by a small English school in Gorizia, North East Italy.

Now I bet you have never heard of this town, nor do you know it is in a region called Friuli – Venezia Giulia (it’s a bit of a mouthful, I know). Gorizia is on the border with Slovenia and Italy so you get all the cross-cultural influence as an added bonus. Actually I just learned that its name comes from the Slovene word Gorica  “little hill”.

As a first time teacher in my mid-thirties I was a bit apprehensive as I was packing my bags to leave for this “little hill”. I did not know what to expect but I felt fairly confident in my freshly acquired knowledge of sound teaching techniques and good classroom practices. So armed with that, and a few words of Italian, I landed at Trieste airport. There the school secretary was waiting for me with a bottle of Tocai – then a completely unknown wine to me but one that I soon learned to appreciate for its aromatic dryness. What a nice and unexpected touch, I thought. I couldn’t have had a better welcome. Later in my small flat when I opened the bottle to chill after all the travelling my appreciation grew even further!

But it was my work at the language school that really made my time a very pleasant one. I had researched teaching English in Italy on all sorts of TEFL blogs and forums and found mixed reviews. So now I want to give my version to encourage those teachers who like me want to challenge themselves, putting themselves in a new environment, dealing with strangers, learning a new language (I even started a course in Slovenian while I was there!) and embracing a new culture.

During my two years in Gorizia I taught 4 hrs a day, 5 days a week and after a stab at teaching young learners I was assigned all the business English classes, mainly on account of my prior experience as a business manager.

My students were very focused and motivated so I needed to work extra hard to prepare interesting and engaging lessons for them. The books available were run of the mill and so much of the teaching was down to me and my creativity. But thanks to my TEFL training I had a good idea of how to put together an effective course. My DoS gave me cart blanche and seemed to be happy with the results. The students attended my classes regularly and I had a zero dropout rate. I was quite chuffed about it considering that these were busy adults whose course was paid for by their employer as part of their standard training policy, and they had no real obligation to attend. The only negative was that the extra time I spent preparing each lesson was not paid for.

As for life outside work, I got to know a few ex-pats with whom I enjoyed the Italian ritual of getting together for an aperitivo before dinner. This is not your standard “glass of wine with a few peanuts” affair but a full blown buffet offered free of charge in every bar to accompany the customer’s choice of drink. Very often after these aperitivos nobody felt like dinner given how much we ate at the bar!

I also joined a local group of outdoor enthusiasts with whom I went on mountain hikes, and that did wonders for my Italian, not to mention my waistline!

Useful Links

Teaching English in Italy – basic facts on teaching in Italy

Weekend TEFL courses in Florence, Italy

My name is Ally and I’m British. I now live and work as a TEFL teacher at an Adult Education Centre in Wiltshire, UK. I switched careers in my mid-thirties and moved from business banking to English teaching. I have no regrets and would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a meaningful change in their life. Just make sure you get the right training before embarking on your teaching career. I trained with ICAL TEFL but there are plenty of TEFL courses out there to choose from .. just make sure you get the basics right!

A First Private TEFL Lesson


Get to know your student.

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 lesson you may well know very little about them. What are you going to do for an hour and half?

Essentially though you need to use this first lesson to find out as much as you can about your student so that you can prepare a syllabus for the rest of the time you’re together – or if not a syllabus at least then you’ll be able to prepare the next lesson so both of you will get something useful out of it!


Look up the student on Facebook. If you get lucky you might find them and discover their interests which is a good shortcut. Otherwise you have to make some simple assumptions. They may well be wrong but you have to start somewhere.

In general adults who are going to learn or want to improve a foreign language may well enjoy travel, politics, cinema, current events and so on.

Breaking it down if you have a male adult then chances are they’re interested in competitive sports, gadgets & technology, fishing, and cars amongst other things. A female adult could well enjoy cooking, dancing, fitness, crafts, and fashion as well.

(And before anyone complains of sexist generalizations here, these lists were based on straw polls amongst friends, various websites and are hugely general in approach!)

Young Learners

To those lists above teenagers will often show interest in popular music, gossip and celebrity. Meanwhile you can often remove politics and current events from the lists, especially amongst younger teenagers.

Even very young learners will be interested in things like animals and simple stories. Almost everything above can be removed from the very youngest and you will have to stick with very basic material.


After interests come learner level and ability in English‏‎. This is very hard to determine before meeting the student so really you need to plan and prepare for almost any kind of level.

And don’t rely here on other people’s opinion. When a mother tells you her teenage child has done six years of English and speaks it to almost native standard then don’t believe her!

Preparing Material for a First Lesson

Here’s where it gets real.

Beforehand spend some time collecting together a wide range of short newspaper/magazine articles on subjects which are likely to interest your student. (Keep them filed away; you can use them again and again.) These articles should range from just a couple of paragraphs to about 200 words in length. The idea here is that you are using this material to get to know your student so collect as diverse a range as possible with newspaper/magazine cuttings about:

  • a pop princess in rehab
  • wine making in Tuscany
  • the new James Bond film
  • ideas on interior design
  • a new zoo
  • labor laws in China
  • high-school bullying
  • the Olympic games

If you can, make them from different sources and of different levels so while an article on wine photocopied from an academic text book might work for one student, another will only be able to read a simple description and price list from your local wine shop.

Another incredibly useful and important resource here are photographs. These should be as provocative and interesting as possible so as to generate conversation and comment. Again they should be for all levels and ages so on the one hand you might have a picture of different animals which you can use with very young learners to ask:

What animal is this? What is it doing?

And with adults you might have a photo of a Japanese whaler slaughtering a whale and ask:

What is this animal? What’s happening to it? Do you think this is acceptable? Do animals feel pain?

In other words, you need to be able to use the material here to head off in completely different directions.

The First Lesson

With this material you should be able to spend a lot of time in the first lesson getting to know your student. Once the preliminaries are over, show them a photo and ask them to talk about it. Then another. Then maybe bring out an article to go through together. Then try a completely different subject and talk about that.

All the while remember to keep asking open-ended questions‏‎ and to give your student plenty of time to talk (don’t step in if the conversation flags but stay silent and give them time to begin speaking again).

And in this way you’ll be able to build up a good picture of how well the student knows English and what interests them.


The final step, and arguably the most important, is to really find out why your student is taking these private lessons.

  • for an exam
  • for pleasure
  • to deal with overseas customers
  • to go to university abroad
  • to help with their schoolwork

This is the crux of the matter here. You need to give them what they need and only by asking them the right questions and really letting them tell you will you find this.

And After?

After an hour and a half lesson you should really have a good idea about your students interests and abilities. This means that for the next lesson you will be able to prepare a much more solid lesson and know that it will hit the nail on the head when it comes to practicality.

See Also

Needs Analysis‏‎ – find out about your students

TEFL & Grammar Glossary

Here is a glossary of common TEFL and English Grammar terms you will find on this site. Just hover your mouse over the word and you will see the explanation. Often you’ll find a link to a full page about the subject.

  • acronym

    An Acronym is a word formed by using one or more letters of the words in a phrase‏‎. It's used as an abbreviation of that phrase, e.g. USA, TEFL, NATO. A Backronym is when we take an existing word and invent a phrase around those letters. It is, if you like, formed in the opposite way to an acronym, e.g.TEFAL = Teaching English For A Laugh. For more, see Acronyms‏‎ & Backronyms in English.
  • adjective

    An Adjective is a word we use to describe a noun:

    big, red, boring book

    For more, see Adjectives‏‎ in English Grammar.
  • adverb

    Adverbs tell us more about nouns or verbs, etc. Adverbs of Degree tell us how much: Is there enough wine? Adverbs of Frequency tell us how often: I never eat meat. Adverbs of Time tell us when: I saw him last Sunday. Adverbs of Manner tell us how: She dances badly. Adverbs of Place to tell us where: I saw him at the cinema. For more, see Adverbs in English Grammar.
  • Afghanistan

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Afghanistan.
  • Africa

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Africa.
  • Albania

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Albania.
  • apostrophes

    The Apostrophe - - is a diacritic mark in punctuation‏‎. It is used in 2 different ways in English‏‎: to show possessive nouns to show omitted letters. For more on this, see the main article Apostrophes in English.
  • Argentina

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Argentina.
  • Asia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Asia.
  • audio-lingual method

    The Audio-Lingual Method or AM Method is a way of teaching English where students are given lots of language to repeat and use in set patterns. Drilling is a major part of this. For more, see Audio-Lingual Method in TEFL.
  • Australia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Australia.
  • Austria

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Austria.
  • Balkans

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in the Balkans.
  • beginner

    Beginners are starting out learning English. They might know nothing at all in English or they might be able to say a few phrases, give their name and have very simple conversations. Read more: Beginner Level Students in English.
  • Belgium

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Belgium.
  • Bolivia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Bolivia.
  • Brazil

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Brazil.
  • british council

    The British Council is an organization set up to promote British culture around the world. They often have schools teaching English as well in most countries. For more, see The British Council.
  • British English

    British English is the variety of English spoken in Britain: England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. For more on this, see British English.
  • Bulgaria

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Bulgaria.
  • business english

    Business English is English as it is used in the business workplace. It focuses on business phrases and typical workplace vocabulary often used for negotiations, telephone conversations, interviews, presentations, meetings, etc. For more, see Business English.
  • Canada

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Canada.
  • Caribbean

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in the Caribbean.
  • celta

    The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults or CELTA is a teaching qualification issued by Cambridge Assessment‏‎. It used to be known as the RSA. For more on this, see CELTA.
  • Central America

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Central America.
  • chalkface

    Like the coalface, the Chalkface is where the real, dirty, tough, hard work is carried out. If you work at the chalkface it means to work at the toughest end of education: standing in front of a class teaching, using a chalkboard to explain and elucidate. (Of course these days chalkboards have been replaced by whiteboards or interactive boards but the term is still used.) Traditional teaching is known as Chalk & Talk - it means you stand at the chalkface and write and talk and write and talk... until your students fall asleep. For more, see Chalkface - Chalk & Talk.
  • Chile

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Chile.
  • China

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in China.
  • classroom focus

    Classroom Focus is concerned with who is the main focus of teaching in the classroom. Essentially there are two possible foci: the teacher - the class is Teacher Centered the students - the class is Student Centered Traditionally classes have been Teacher Centered however more recently classes have become more Student Centered. And this improves learning. For more, see Classroom Focus‏‎.
  • classroom management

    Classroom Management is all about dealing with the day-to-day practicalities of managing your class: dealing with discipline issues, sorting out missing coursebooks, collecting homework and so on. For more, see Classroom Management.
  • cloze

    A Cloze Test (also known as Gap-Fill) is a simple exercise where a text has certain words removed and students must suggest suitable alternatives to go in the space.

    I ___ up at six this morning.

    For more, see Cloze or Gap Fill Tests.
  • collective noun

    A Collective Noun is a noun used to describe a group of objects (things, people, etc). For example, when we talk about collections of people we can use words like:

    a group of men a gang of teenagers a mob of rioters a squad of soldiers

    For more on this, see Collective Nouns.
  • Colombia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Colombia.
  • conditional

    A Conditional is a kind of sentence‏‎ which uses a word such as if... and talks about situations which are not real and imagines what might happen.

    If they want, I can make the tea. If you ask me, it's a stupid idea!

    For more, see Conditionals‏‎ in English Grammar.
  • conditional clause

    The Conditional Clause is the clause usually beginning if in a conditional sentence:

    ...if you leave me... ...if they ask politely... ...if he wins...

    For more, see Conditional Clauses‏‎.
  • copula

    A Copula or Linking Verb links the subject of the sentence to more information about that subject (the predicate). The most common copula is BE however other verbs can be used as copulas. For more, see Linking Verbs.
  • countable noun

    Countable Nouns are nouns which can be counted and made plural, e.g. 1 dog, 2 dogs. They are also known as Count Nouns. On the other hand, Non-Countable Nouns can't be counted or made plural, e.g. water, rice, air, etc. They are also known as Non-Count or Mass Nouns. For more, see Count and Non-Count Nouns‏‎ in English Grammar.
  • Croatia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Croatia.
  • Cyprus

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Cyprus.
  • Czech Republic

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in the Czech Republic.
  • Denmark

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Denmark.
  • diacritic

    Diacritics are small signs written on top of or under a letter to show different pronunciations. English does not generally use diacritics but other languages do. These are examples of letters with diacritics:

    á ž ÿ ç Ǒ

  • dictionaries

    A Dictionary is an alphabetical list of words‏‎ with their meanings. Some dictionaries may also include the etymology‏‎ of the word, examples of usage, pronunciation (either using the International Phonetic Alphabet or some other system) and cultural notes. Dictionaries for learners will often include pictures as well. For more, see Dictionaries in TEFL.
  • direct method

    The Direct Method or DM is a way of teaching English: the students' MT is not allowed and students are encouraged to speak a great deal. It copies the way in which native speakers learn their first language. For more, see Direct Method‏‎ in TEFL.
  • DoS

    DoS is an acronym standing for Director of Studies. The DoS is a member of staff in larger, more professional TEFL schools. They are responsible for administering the academic side of the school which will often mean dealing with teachers and the material used in teaching. For more, see DoS‏‎ - Director of Studies.
  • eap

    EAP or English for Academic Purposes is usually concerned with teaching English‏‎ to students who are involved in higher education at an English speaking university or college. For more, see EAP - English for Academic Purposes.
  • Ecuador

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Ecuador.
  • el

    EL stands for English Language as in...

    EL students EL teachers

  • elicit

    Eliciting is when you gets the students to provide information rather than telling them directly. It's about asking the right questions and getting them to think for themselves. For more, see Eliciting in TEFL.
  • elision

    Elision happens when you miss out one or more sounds as you’re speaking. Sometimes it’s known as slurring or muting For example, people often say: fam-li instead of fa-mi-li. For more, see Elision.
  • elt

    ELT stands for English Language Teaching. It's a general term for teaching English as a Foreign or Second language. For more, see ELT‏‎ - English Language Teaching.
  • English as a Foreign Language

    EFL is an acronym we use to talk about English as a Foreign Language. EFL students usually live in non English speaking countries and want to learn English mainly to use it on their travels or business trips abroad and to communicate with English speaking visitors to their country, etc. For more, see EFL‏‎ - English as a Foreign Language.
  • english only

    English Only is a simple technique whereby you allow your students ONLY to speak English in the classroom. This means even if they are gossiping they are doing it in English and thus learning & practicing. For more, see English Only‏‎ in your TEFL Classroom.
  • esol

    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. Typically these might be immigrants or workers or students who have moved to a new country. For more, see ESOL - English to Speakers of Other Languages.
  • Estonia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Estonia.
  • euphemism

    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. For more, see Euphemisms in English.
  • Europe

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Europe.
  • European Union

    The EU or European Union is a collection of European countries; easy for British and Irish teachers to work there, more difficult for those without an EU passport. For more, see Teaching English in the European Union‏‎.
  • Finland

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Finland.
  • flashcard

    A Flashcard is a small card with a picture on it. It may also have the name of the picture on the reverse. They are incredibly useful in the TEFL classroom and well worth using; often teachers will make their own. For more, see Flashcards‏‎ and TEFL.
  • France

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in France.

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in the Macedonia (FYROM).
  • general english

    General English is a loose term used to describe the type of English‏‎ required for everyday situations: hold a general conversation, read a newspaper, watch television and so on. It can be compared to more specific English teaching such as Business English‏‎, English for Academic Purposes‏‎ and so on. For more, see General English.
  • Germany

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Germany.
  • grammarian

    A Grammarian is someone who studies (and sometimes writes about) grammar. For more, see Grammarians.
  • Greece

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Greece.
  • headword

    A Headword (sometimes known as a lemma) is the main word in a dictionary under which all the entries are placed. This means a headword can have different meanings belonging to different parts of speech. For more, see Lemmas in English Grammar.
  • homograph

    Homographs are words which have the same spelling but different meanings.

    bank = building full of money bank = by the river

    row = ˈroʊ = line row = ˈraʊ = argue

    Homonyms and Heteronyms are types of Homograph. For more, see Homographs‏‎.  
  • Hong Kong

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Hong Kong.
  • Hungary

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Hungary.
  • iatefl

    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 bringing together TEFL professionals including teachers, academics and researchers. For more, see IATEFL.
  • ice breaker

    An Ice Breaker is a simple activity for the first class of a group of students who don't know each other. A good ice breaker will help the class get to know each other and allow you to get an idea of how good their English is.
  • Iceland

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Iceland.
  • idiom

    An Idiom is a phrase which has a figurative meaning which is very different from the literal meaning. For example, in The Godfather famously Luca Brassi sleeps with the fishes which does not literally mean that he sleeps with undersea creatures but that he is dead. For more, see Teaching Idioms in TEFL.
  • ielts

    IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System and is a test to see how well a learner speaks English‏‎. It is generally taken by students studying British English. For more, see IELTS‏‎.
  • infinitive

    The Bare Infinitive is the base form of the verb‏‎: be, have, walk... The Full Infinitive has to at the beginning: to be, to have, to walk... Both are known as the Infinitive. For more, see Infinitives in English Grammar.
  • international school

    An International School is a school based in one country but which use a curriculum and teaching methods from another country. Most countries around the world, for example, have one or two international schools teaching British exams, in English, with British staff. American, German, Italian and French schools are also common. For more, see International Schools.
  • ipa

    The IPA or International Phonetic Alphabet is an alphabet‏‎ of sounds (not letters). It is used to show how to pronounce words‏‎. For example:

    about - /əbəʊt/ america - /əmɛrɪkə/

    For more, see IPA - International Phonetic Alphabet.
  • Iran

    For more about living, working and teaching English in Iran, see Teaching English in Iran.
  • Ireland

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Ireland.
  • Italy

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Italy.
  • Japan

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Japan.
  • Korea

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Korea.
  • language item

    Simply put, a Language Item is a discrete piece of language which you can teach or practice in a lesson. A language item could be:
    • numbers 1 - 10
    • the past perfect
    • the construction, "never before had I"
    For more, see Language Items in TEFL.
  • language skills

    The Language Skills are reading, writing, listening, speaking. For more, see Language Skills in TEFL.
  • Latin America

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Latin America.
  • Latvia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Latvia.
  • learner levels

    Students learning English are often described as Beginners, Intermediate or Advanced. Roughly speaking this is their level, i.e. how much English they know, how well they can speak and understand and so on. For more, see Learner Levels‏ in TEFL.
  • lesson target

    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.

    For more, see Lesson Targets in TEFL.
  • lexeme

    A Lexeme is the term used in linguistics‏‎ to refer to a word with a distinct meaning; it can be equated to the headword in a dictionary so there is one lexeme with a number of forms:

    lexeme: eat lexeme forms: eat, ate, eaten, eating

    For more, see What is a Lexeme?
  • lgbt

    LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. It is a hidden issue in TEFL with many teachers keeping quiet depending on the country they live in and coursebooks pretending there are no non-heterosexual people at all. For more, see LGBT and TEFL.
  • lingua franca

    Simply put, a Lingua Franca is a language used by different language speakers in order to communicate. Often these days it's English but it could also be a mixture of several different languages. For more, see Lingua Franca‏‎.
  • Lithuania

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Lithuania.
  • local language

    The language of the country where you are living/working.
  • Luxembourg

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Luxembourg.
  • Malaysia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Malaysia.
  • Malta

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Malta.
  • Mexico

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Mexico.
  • minimal pairs

    Minimal Pairs are pairs of words‏‎ (and sometimes phrases‏‎) which differ in their sound by just one element or sound. For example, these are minimal pairs:

    bus – but haul – hole baking – making

    For more on this, see Minimal Pairs and TEFL.
  • modal verbs

    Modal Verbs are used to express ideas such as ability, necessity, permission, and possibility. There are not many modal verbs: can, could, dare*, need*, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would. There are also modal constructions: be able to, ought to, be allowed to. For more, see Modal Verbs.
  • Montenegro

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Montenegro.
  • mother tongue

    The language a child learns from its parents when it first learns to speak; sometimes known as a first language. For more, see MT - Mother Tongue‏‎.
  • mother tongue influence

    MT Influence or Mother Tongue Influence is when the grammar‏‎ or vocabulary‏‎ of a student’s Mother Tongue‏‎ influence the way in which they use their Target Language‏‎ or TL. For more, see Mother Tongue Influence.
  • Myanmar

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Myanmar.
  • n-gram

    Simply put, an n-gram is sequence of letters within a corpus of language. Looking at n-grams is useful to help work out how language works and is used in everyday situations. For more, see n-grams and TEFL.
  • needs analysis

    A Needs Analysis is the process of assessing the needs of your students. In other words, finding out what they know already (how much English), what they want to know, and finally what interests them. Once this has been established, the syllabus and individual lessons can be designed to suit those needs. Put basically, you find out what your students need to learn and then teach them this. For more, see Needs Analysis for TEFL.
  • Netherlands

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in the Netherlands.
  • New Zealand

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in New Zealand.
  • North Korea

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in North Korea.
  • noun

    A Noun is a major part of speech; a good, general, definition of a noun is that it is something which is used to name an object or thing:

    car, door, elephant...

    For more, see Nouns in English Grammar.
  • ohp

    OHP stands for Overhead Projector which is a useful device for projecting material onto a white wall so the whole class can see. For more, see OHPs.
  • open-ended question

    An open-ended question is one which cannot be answered by a simple Yes or No. For example:

    What did you do at the weekend.

    They are good for getting students to speak. For more, see Open-Ended Questions‏‎.
  • participle

    A Participle is a form of a verb‎. There are two participles:

    present participle: -ing, e.g. walking, thinking

    past participle: -ed, e.g. walked, thought

    For more, see Participles in English Grammar.
  • past continuous

    The Past Continuous (also called the Past Progressive) is used in several different ways: interrupted actions in the past; parallel actions in the past.

    They were kissing when we walked in.

    He was working when we met him.

    For more, see Past Continuous in English Grammar.
  • personal pronouns

    Personal Pronouns are a subset of pronouns‏‎ which stand in for people, places, things and ideas. These include:

    I, me, my, you, their, its, themselves, ours...

    For more, see Personal Pronouns in English Grammar.
  • personal safety

    To learn more about looking after yourself, see the main article: Personal Safety when Teaching Abroad.
  • Peru

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Peru.
  • pidgin

    A Pidgin is a simplified or "broken" form of language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common. For more, see Pidgin‏‎.
  • Poland

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Poland.
  • portfolio

    This is a collection of articles, ideas, thoughts and so on you, as an English teacher, should keep to help you in your work and career. For more on this, see the main article: TEFL Teacher Portfolios.
  • Portugal

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Portugal.
  • PoS

    Parts of Speech (often abbreviated to PoS and sometimes known as Word Classes) are the different categories of words‎ in English. They refer to the way in which those words are used grammatically. Common PoS include adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs and so on. For more on this, see Parts of Speech in English Grammar.
  • pre-teaching

    Pre-Teaching is teaching a few language items before the main activity. The students will need this in order to understand the main activity. It is, essential, preparation. For example, if the students are looking at a long text, you might pre-teach a few essential definitions so that when they read the text they will understand it better. If the students are going to do an activity involving conditionals, you might quickly revise how to make conditionals before beginning the activity.
  • present continuous

    The Present Continuous is a verb form also known as the Present Progressive. It's used to describe what is happening right now:

    am/are/is + {present participle}

    I am working now. She is talking to her friend. They are running for the bus.

    For more, see Present Continuous‏‎ in English Grammar.
  • present simple

    The Present Simple is used mainly to talk about situations which are always the same or at least consistent for a long time. This includes habits, facts and so on.

    My name is Joe and I am from Ohio.

    The Earth goes round the Sun.

    For more, see Present Simple in English Grammar.
  • private lesson

    A Private Lesson or One-to-One or 1-to-1 lesson outside the normal school. It is usually 1 teacher and 1 student (but sometimes 2 or 3 students). For more, see Private English Lessons.
  • pronouns

    Pronouns are words which can be used in place of nouns in a sentence‏‎. For example:

    William took the ball and then William kicked the ball.

    becomes, with pronouns:

    William took the ball and then he kicked it.

    For more, see Pronouns‏‎ in English Grammar.
  • pronunciation

    Pronunciation is simply the way in which words and phrases‏‎ are spoken. For more, see Pronunciation in English.
  • proverb

    Proverbs (aka Maxims) 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:

    In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king.

    For more, see Teaching Proverbs in TEFL.
  • Romania

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Romania.
  • Scandinavia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Scandinavia.
  • second language

    When a student learns English‏‎ in order to live and work in an English speaking country we say they are learning English as a Second Language. Compare this to someone who does not live in an English speaking country but learns the language to do business in another country; they learn English as a Foreign Language. For more see Foreign Language‏‎ and Second Language.
  • semantic field

    A Semantic Field is a group of words related by meaning: colors, jobs, cities, animals, verbs of perception, sports, etc. For more, see Semantic Fields in TEFL.
  • singular and plural

    If we talk about 1 person or thing, this is Singular. If we talk about more than 1 then this is Plural. For more, see Singular and Plural Nouns in English Grammar.
  • Slovakia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Slovakia.
  • Slovenia

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Slovenia.
  • South America

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in South America.
  • South Korea

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in South Korea.
  • Spain

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Spain.
  • split shift

    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. For more see the article: Split Shifts and Teaching English Abroad.
  • study skills

    Study Skills are those language related skills which students needs in order to study English at University. These skills could include notetaking, summarizing, thesis writing style and so on. For more, see Study Skills.
  • 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. For more, see Survival English.
  • SVO

    SVO stands for Subject - Verb - Object which is the usual order of sentences in English:

    {subject} + {verb} + {object}

    I + love + you.

    We + ate + some eggs.

    For more on this, see the full article, Subject Verb Object.
  • Sweden

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Sweden.
  • Switzerland

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Switzerland.
  • synonym

    A Synonym is a word which has almost exactly the same meaning as another word. For example:

    student - pupil old - ancient

    For more, see Synonyms in English.
  • Taiwan

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Taiwan.

    TEFAL is an ironic term playing on the acronyms, TEFL and TESOL and meaning Teaching English for a Laugh.
  • TEFL

    TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Simply put, this is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who live in a non-English speaking country and who want to learn English for business or to take an exam, etc. It is pretty much equivalent to TESOL and TESL. For more, see TEFL‏‎ - Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
  • TEFL certificate

    A TEFL Certificate is the basic qualification to teach English to non-native speakers. Good ones are usually 120hrs and cover teaching methodology, classroom management, lesson preparation and so on. For more, see TEFL Certificates.
  • tense and form

    In grammar a Verb Tense is a form of a verb‎ used to indicate roughly the time when the action described by the verb takes place. Here we talk about 3 basic tenses: Past, Present and Future. (Some people talk about more than 3, however.) Compare this with Verb Form which is the form of a verb in a particular tense, e.g. present simple, present continuous, etc. For more, see Verb Tenses‏‎ & Forms in English Grammar.
  • TESL

    TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. It's pronounced TESL to rhyme with WRESTLE. Simply put, this means teaching English to people who are not native English speakers but who live in a country where English is the main language. For example, teaching English to Chinese speaking immigrants in Canada. For more, see TESL‏‎ - Teaching English as a Second Language.

    TESOL or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who do not already speak English. It's more commonly used by American teachers. For more, see TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
  • TEYL

    TEYL stands for Teaching English to Young Learners. Young learners are roughly 3 - 12 years old. For more, see Teaching English to Young Learners.
  • Thailand

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Thailand.

    TOEFL (pronounce toy-full or toe-full) or Test of English as a Foreign Language is a test of American English to see how well a person speaks English‏‎. It is often used by students wishing to attend American universities, etc. For more, see TOEFL‏‎.
  • TPR

    Total Physical Response (TPR) is a teaching method based on the idea that a new language can be learned through actions and that movement can help students learn and understand. For more, see TPR - Total Physical Response in TEFL.
  • transitive and intransitive

    A Transitive verb is one which takes an object while an Intransitive verb does not. For more, see Transitive & Intransitive Verbs in English.
  • Turkey

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Turkey.
  • UK

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in the United Kingdom.
  • Uruguay

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Uruguay.
  • USA

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in the USA.
  • utterance

    An Utterance is the spoken equivalent of a sentence. The only difference between them is that one is spoken whilst the other is written. For more, see Utterances‏‎.
  • Venezuela

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Venezuela.
  • verb

    Verbs tell us about an action; they are sometimes called doing words or action words. Verbs describe what is happening:

    run, walk, read, talk

    For more, see Verbs‏‎ in English Grammar,
  • Vietnam

    To read about working here, see Teaching English in Vietnam.
  • visa

    A Visa is an official document stating that a person is authorized to enter the country or territory for which it was issued and teach there. Depending on your own nationality, you may or may not need a visa to work in certain other countries. For more, see Visas for TEFL Teachers Abroad.
  • vocabulary

    Vocabulary is the number of words you know. Learners have an Active Vocabulary which are the words they use when they speak or write; they also have a Passive Vocabulary which are the words they may well understand but do not actively use. For more, see Vocabulary‏‎ and TEFL.
  • voiced

    Voiced and Voiceless (sometimes Unvoiced) describe the two different ways we can make sounds in our mouths. The basic difference is:
    • voiced sounds occur when the vocal chords vibrate, e.g. /van/ voiceless sounds occur when the vocal chords are still, e.g. /fan/
    For more on this, see Voiced & Voiceless
  • vowels and consonants

    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 this forms a vowel, written a, e, i, o, u
    • If the air is stopped at any point or the mouth then this creates a consonant, written b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z
    For more, see Vowels and Consonants‏‎ in English.
  • warmer

    Warmers‏‎ or Warm-Up Activities or Lesson Starters are quick activities used at the beginning of a lesson to get students warmed-up and ready to learn. A good warmer will introduce the subject, get the students interested and provoke questions. For more, see Warmers‏‎ or Lesson Starters.

TEFL to Adults vs TEFL to Children

Parent Child Wooden Penguins

Two different styles of learning…

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), more often than not their parents are still struggling to come up with even the most basic of foreign phrases.

Indeed the overall perception is that children find it relatively easy to learn a foreign language and educators the world over encourage parents to introduce their children to a second language as soon as possible: they younger, the better!

The reason behind this is that unlike adults, children tend to learn concepts and ideas at the same time as vocabulary and grammar, absorbing the language as a whole rather than breaking it down into parts. They also approach language learning without all the hang-ups that adults have about looking foolish if they make a mistake and being reserved in public because of this.

Their brain is still developing and as a result it absorbs speech patterns more readily and can pick up subtle differences in sounds that an adult just does not hear. And as any parent will testify, pronunciation is barely an issue when teaching very young learners if they have a teacher who speaks the language at native or near-native level.

Finally, the child’s natural inclination to fall into play and socialize easily, and their need for immediate gratification, allows language teachers to use varied and fun memory tools in their language teaching to enhance the learning process. Wise TEYL teachers use plenty of activities with movement, games, songs and so on to create a stimulating learning environment.

So it would seem that children have a head start when it comes to learning a new language.

But let’s not forget that adults also have a few advantages children lack.

Even though adults tend to learn a new language in the context of a previous language (i.e. learning by translating) they have more developed analytical abilities and greater powers of abstraction than children. Thus explicit comparison with their mother tongue and specific rule-based grammar instruction can help them in their studies. Their ability to conceptualize can also help them understand how a new language works as they can refer back to what they already know about their own MT and apply it to the new language.

Of course teachers will need to guide them through this process as it is not always possible to apply the rules of our own MT to a new language but having a point of reference can be extremely useful.

Pronunciation, meanwhile, is a sticky point when it comes to adults as many find it hard to get rid of their strong MT accent.

On this score, however, it’s worth remembering that pronunciation is not in itself an indicator of fluency and when it comes to languages the reason we are learning them is primarily to communicate with other people who do not speak our own so as long as we can do that fluently and effectively, any pronunciation problem takes a back seat. Additionally the ability adults have to analyze language in its various elements will help them with identifying and correcting pronunciation problems – providing of course they have the right guidance!

Given the same resources and guidance both adults and children can succeed in their language learning. What they both need is a stimulating learning environment, interesting and relevant resources, engaging activities, trained teachers, and expertly developed language programs.

A good TEFL teacher will be able to tailor their lesson towards the more analytical adult or the more instinctual, dare we say “natural”, child.

Useful Links

Teaching English to Adults – an overview of how this works

Teaching English to Teenagers – an overview of teaching to this age group

Teaching English to Young Learners – dealing with young learners

Train to Teach English – a training course to teach English

Principle vs Principal

Principal Skinner

The Principle of the 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 native speakers as well – who confuse Principal and Principle so here’s a simple guide to what the two words mean and how to use them correctly.

Why the Mistake?

The reason people make the mistake and confuse the two words is because when the words are spoken they have exactly the same pronunciation:

principal – prɪnsəpl
principle – prɪnsəpl

But as you’ll see, they have very different meanings.


Let’s start with the -PLE ending: princiPLE.

The usual meaning is: a general rule or law.

The principle remains the same: an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The unshakeable American commitment to the principle of unconditional surrender.

Just try swapping principle for rule and you’ll see how the word fits right in.

The rule remains the same: an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The unshakeable American commitment to the rule of unconditional surrender.

This is going to cover the majority of uses of principle but you’ll also see the word used to mean good morals which, if you think about it, is related to following good laws and rules:

He won’t take a bribe, he has principles!

Have you ever met a principled politician? No, me either.

So if you remember that when you’re talking about a law or belief or morals then it’s principle with PLE.


Let’s move on the –PAL ending now: princiPAL.

There is an old trick which helps you remember what this means and it goes something like this:

A pal is a friend and a friend is a person.

Now simply remember that the head teacher of the school is a person.

I was sent to see the Principal.
The Principal sat in the front row.

Also, if you try to put the word rule there it just doesn’t make sense:

* I was sent to see the rule.
* The rule sat in the front row.

* an asterisk denotes a sentence which doesn’t make sense.

Moving on further, when you think about the head teacher, you are thinking about the boss of course who is the most important person in the school. The Big Cheese. The Head Honcho. The Numero Uno… and we can use the word principal to mean the boss and, by extension, the main or most important part of something.

The principal conductor = the main conductor

My principal complaint = my main complaint

The principal rite of passage = the most important rite of passage

I’m principally a TEFL teacher although I do some writing on the side.

The painting consists principally of two figures dancing in the moonlight.

In these last two examples we’ve turned principal into the corresponding adverb, where it means mainly or most importantly.

principles/principals and money

Taking the meaning of principal to mean most important we can carry it over when the banks and the Sopranos (and other mob-related figures) talk about lending money.

The principal is the original sum borrowed (or lent) and … if you don’t keep all your interest payments up to date

the unpaid interest gets tacked onto the principal you owe.

and you get further into debt! This meaning of principal to mean the main lump sum of money lent or borrowed is the second common meaning of the word.

Oh, and since the banks and the mob don’t have good morals, you may well find that:

because they don’t have principles, they get heavy when you don’t pay back interest on the principal.

image credit The Simpsons licensed as fair use

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 you ask, you’ll get people telling you some of these are wrong, some are grammatically offensive, some are painfully ignorant and so on with just one or two brave souls telling you they’re all fine.

But the truth of the matter is that it depends on how you look at it. This article looks over these words and tries to separate prejudice from truth.

NB what we’re talking about here are relative pronouns; if you want to read more about those, see this article called Relative Pronouns in English Grammar.

Some Basic Ideas

Let’s start by looking at a few basic ideas about these words and when they’re usually used.


Who is perhaps the easiest one to use. If you’re talking about a person or a named animal (i.e. a pet, an imaginary reindeer, etc) then you can use who:

The girl who was here before me left her purse on the table.
David Bowie was the man who fell to earth.
My dog, who is almost 10 years old, spends most of the day snoozing.

That’s pretty straightforward and no one will start shouting at you if you use who like this.


This is easy also (if you don’t probe too deeply). If you are not talking about a person or named animal then use which.

The table which stood on this spot, had a purse on it.
The comet which fell to earth landed on my house!
The dogs which live in this neighborhood keep me awake at night.

So there you are. It’s all well and good. If you don’t use who use which.

Sort of.

that vs who

You see when we bring that into the equation then problems start to appear.

First off, you can use that to replace who.

The girl that was here before me left her purse on the table.
David Bowie was the man that fell to earth.
My dog, that is almost 10 years old, spends most of the day snoozing.

Now some more traditional grammarians will start to complain. They say that only who works with people. But the facts speak for themselves. Checking out the statistics1 we see loads of occurrences of that instead of who in the works of the literary greats (Chaucer, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, etc) right down to the facile tweets from pointless celebrities.

So since loads of people use that in place of who, does this make it right? This is a question which is part of the prescriptive/descriptive grammar debate (see the link below for more on this).

that vs which

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there are also some issues with choosing between that and which.

Some people go on about restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. But what does this mean? Look at these two utterances:

The car which I parked at the bottom of the hill is at risk of being flooded.
The car that I parked at the bottom of the hill is at risk of being flooded.

In the first example with which I am saying that I have just one car and it could flood because I parked it at the bottom of the hill and it’s raining really hard now. By using which I’m giving you more information about the one and only car I have.

The second example is saying that I parked loads and loads of cars but the one I’m going to talk to you about is the one I parked at the bottom of the hill where it could be flooded. By using that I’m telling you about one car out of many.

Some grammarians will tell you that that introduces a restrictive clause (i.e. it restricts what I’m talking about; it chooses one from many) while which is non-restrictive and adds just some more information.

But having said that, other grammarians will turn round and say it’s all completely unfounded and you can hear those utterances either way and take whatever meaning you want from them.

To further complicate matters, it’s especially common to see which in all sorts of clauses whether they restrict or not:

The car which I parked at the bottom of the hill is at risk of being flooded.

This could mean either thing. It could mean I have one car or it could mean I parked loads and loads of cars and there’s no telling which I mean.

Problems & Solutions

That’s the problem with the relative pronouns who, that and which. How do you know which one to use?

If you look at the statistics (using n-grams, for example) you’ll see that roughly speaking:

  • who is used for people about 80% of the time
  • that is used for people about20% of the time
  • that is used for things about 60% of the time
  • which is used for things about 40% of the time

But these figures are likely to be wildly inaccurate and vary a lot depending on what person or thing we’re talking about. They should most certainly be taken with a huge pinch of salt which/that will make them taste awful.

that, which, who and TEFL

But let’s get practical. What happens in your TEFL class? What do you do when faced with a class of eager learners wanting to know the difference?

Personally I’d stick to these simple rules just to keep on the safe side but I wouldn’t bother too much about straying over them or even breaking them entirely when the urge took me:

  • First off, who is for people. Keep it simple and this is.
  • Everything else can be that or which. Makes no difference.

And then only when you get a sentence which is slightly ambiguous do you want to go into it in more detail with your class.

Now having written this I know some grammarians and coursebooks will start to complain and go on about restrictive and non-restrictive clauses and the purity of the English language and all that, but at the end of the day in 99% of cases whether you use that or which will not really impede communication and lead to the downfall of society.

Language at its most fundamental is all about communication and as long as using one or other of these words does not impede communication then we’re on the right track.

Emotional Distance

An interesting final note here. In journalism schools they sometimes teach that that puts emotional distance from the subject which who does not.

The hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who died during the genocide…
The hundreds of thousands of Rwandans that died during the genocide…

Do you need emotional distance? Are you trying to write a subjective or objective piece? Does changing the relative pronoun make a difference?

Perhaps it’s something worth thinking about.

Useful Links

Relative Pronouns in English Grammar – explaining what who, that and which are and how they fit into English grammar

Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammars – do we tell people what to say or just listen to what they say?

What is a Clause?‏who, that and which introduce clauses; here the clause is explained


1. take a look at this n-gram graph of a typical example if you don’t believe me

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

Online TEFL CeritificateWe 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!

So don’t just use them to help with the assignments and the modules but feel free to ask them about teaching in Dubai, classes in Tokyo, TEFL pay in Mexico… whatever you need to know!

Remember your PT can also be your friend, counselor, big brother/sister, trusted adviser… they’re here to help!

2. Use the Resources

At last count we had almost 2,000 articles on the site on absolutely everything to do with teaching English as a second language.

The search box is at the top of every page so use it: from Abstract Nouns to Zero Articles and everything in and around, it’s here.

And if you can’t find what you’re looking for… just ask! Many of the most popular articles here were put together after a trainee asked us a question: we just researched, wrote, checked, re-wrote and then published the answer for them and everyone else!

3. Meet Other Students

Don’t take the course on your own but get involved in the ICAL Student Center and meet other students.

There you can compare notes, collaborate and help each other out. It’s always useful and working with others helps keeps you motivated, offers new ideas and perspectives and really does make a difference.


Well that was just 3 tips to help you along and to think about.

Taking an online TEFL course with us can be incredibly rewarding not just because of the qualification you’ll receive at the end of it all, but also because of what you will learn and your experience in learning it.

So do make the most of your time here!

Useful Links

Online TEFL Courses to Teach English – different online courses to teach English as a Foreign Language

ICAL TEFL Resources – thousands of pages of up-to-date TEFL resources

ICAL Student Center – about meeting other students on our courses

How Many is a Billion?

Banknote: 1 billion dollars

An awful lot of money!

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 (because of American influence) a billion is:


This means that in the UK and amongst British English speakers there’s often ambiguity as to how much a billion really is.

Alternative Billions

Other countries differ.

In most of Europe and South America a billion is long-scale; in other English speaking countries and Arabic countries a billion is short-scale.

So just remember this when you are dealing with this number in your TEFL class. What you might think of as a billion may well be different from what your students might think of as a billion and, as we’re dealing with a pretty big number here, it could make a lot of difference!

avoiding ambiguity

Sometimes you’ll see billion written as

1k million = 1,000,000,000

This makes it more international and avoids any ambiguity.

Useful Links

Numbers‏‎ in English Grammar – how to talk about numbers in English

American English‏‎ – about American English

British English – about British English

English the Most Influential Language

Language Influence MapA 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 original language and the language into which they were translated and graphed the results into the image shown here.

It shows the central hub as English (with approximately 1.5k million speakers). The second strongest hub is Russian but whilst English was the target language for almost all languages, Russian was the target language primarily for geographically related languages.

Chinese has roughly the same number of speakers as English but it lacks the interconnectivity that English has; most speakers of Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese) are native speakers and only a few geographically related languages are translated in Chinese for greater exposure. Similarly Hindi has a significant number of speakers but is fairly insular, much like Arabic.

The result is that roughly 50% of material on the internet is in English.

As an interesting side note, the study also looked at influence and found that the language a person uses affects whether that person will be important or not. A person born into English has more advantage than someone born into a similarly populous language (e.g. Chinese) or one where the speakers are relatively wealthier.

Useful Links

English‏‎ – the language we teach – about the most influential language in the world

Article in IFL Science

Free English Lessons & exercises – Free English lessons from Phil

Illustrate: The Video Dictionary – app review

PoutingEssentially 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; Mom symapthizes but notes the daughter is still pouting; and daughter sits looking angry and pouting at the whole affair.

And that’s the basic premise: a dictionary with animated explanations. It’s a good idea and the next logical step for dictionaries.

Testing the App

We installed the android version of the app on a Nexus 10 tablet and played with it for several days.

First off, it’s pretty simple to use. You look up a word and either get a fairly straightforward dictionary definition or the definition plus a video – that’s where the USP comes in. Many of the words (although not all) include this short animated cartoon which tries to help with the definition. Some of these are quite useful but some seem to animate without really adding a lot. But having said that, of course, just seeing an animation alongside the definition will help students to remember the word; it’s no longer just a dry stream of words but also a few moving images with some “spoken” language.

I say “spoken” in inverted commas. It seems like the animation includes computer generated voices, a bit of a cross between Stephen Hawking and how my SatNav sounds. Although the app is pretty simple and pleasant to use I would have preferred genuine voices rather than the slightly grating mechanical ones they have.

But that aside, it was quite fun to use and it tempts the user to explore. I sat down with a cup of coffee and spent a good half and hour just browsing away listening to various definitions and so on which I haven’t done with a regular dictionary in a very long time.

The first dictionaries had just words and explanations. Then they included pictures. Then online ones had sound files to hear the word in action. And this latest incarnation includes short videos to help out as well.

Good idea. It does bring dictionaries to life.

Contents & TEFL

There are some 20,000 words in the dictionary and these are updated daily with new videos. (And I assume that those words missing videos will have them added as time goes on.)

There’s also a daily vocabulary question which was fine as far as it went although I think it would be nice to see a few more “games” included in the app: questions on different topics and so on and more than just one question a day. For EFL students the daily quiz is a moment of fun but I can’t see it being hugely useful to them.

VespertineThe free version of the app has more than enough words for EFL students as it stands although there is an option to buy premium lists of words.

Target Audience

As for the words themselves, whilst there is obviously a lot of useful vocabulary in the app it does also contain words definitely for more advanced students only, and even then it goes beyond. Words like: sonorous, invocation, vespertine, bacchanalian… These aren’t common in the TEFL classroom and you can see how the roots of the app – for native speakers taking university entrance exams – are coming through here.

There is one area where the dictionary does need work if it’s going to take off with language learners and that is in the grammatical information offered about the words. It would be nice to see more on the parts of speech, pronunciation, usage, forms and so forth. At the moment it’s a little stark in terms of meta-information.

But don’t let that put you off. It is useful and does help and I would recommend this for TEFL students. Sure, some of the vocabulary might be a bit obscure and not really useful to them, but it also covers simple, everyday terms and the video element will certainly help out English language learners.


It’s free and useful. The animations are fun and will help students. They will need another dictionary which has more grammatical information, but in terms of playing with vocabulary and helping with explanations, this is good.

Rating 4 out of 5.

Useful Links

Dictionaries‏‎ – about dictionaries in general in TEFL

App Home – official website

Download Link on Google Play – for android devices

Download Link on iOS App Store – for apple devices

Download Link on Windoes Phone Store – for windows devices

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 students; one-to-one lessons with an heir to the throne; lessons with a shepherd; ridden a camel; eaten a camel (not the same one); traveled in the back of a military truck (great fun!); got lost in the mountains; been interviewed on local TV; fallen in love (several times); and had a deluge of experiences most people can’t even imagine.

Anyone who has taught English abroad knows that this is what happens.

But how about you? Just how many countries have you taught in? What have you done? What were the highs and lows?

Take a quick vote on our poll and then use the comments box to tell us more…

How many Countries have you Taught in?

Different Types of English in TEFL


Like pumpkins, there isn’t just one English you can teach; you need to choose the right English for the job.

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.

In this article then you’ll find a brief introduction to the different kinds of English you could find yourself teaching.

Note, for details and more on the different types we talk about, see the detailed links at the bottom of the page.

General English

This is the most common type of English you’ll teach as a foreign or second language.

It’s everyday English and you are giving your class the language they’ll need to discuss the weather, family relations, everyday news and so on. They’ll be able to talk about themselves, ask you questions about your life and have a general discussion and perform everyday language tasks.

English for Special Purposes (ESP)

This is a catchall term which covers specialized English a student might need for a specific purpose. In general terms, if you don’t teach General English then you’ll teach ESP.

ESP can include very large groups such as Business English or English for Academic Purposes (see below) or they can be highly specialized such as teaching legal English to lawyers; teaching English so a Russian cosmonaut can discuss technical issues with an Indian astronaut in space and so on. Anything specialized, in other words.

The following sections are the major areas of ESP you may well come across.

Exam English

This is common in teaching teenagers and students going for a particular English exam. The English they’ll learn tends to be General English but in a slightly more formal setting. There is more emphasis on grammar, sentence transformation and so on. The vocabulary as well tends to be slightly more advanced, certainly with the more advanced exams.

Business English

This type of English is specifically for business people. It includes specialized vocabulary about their area of business (e.g. manufacturing, business negotiations, memo/report writing, etc) and you’ll probably include plenty of practice with those slightly more specialized business skills: how to give a presentation, how to make a successful phone call, how to arrange a meeting, etc.

English for Academic Purposes (EAP)

If you have students who are planning to study in an English speaking country, then you may well run an EAP course.

This covers specialized language and skills they’ll need to attend lectures, make notes, and generally handle university or school life.

Survival English

This is English in order for someone to survive in an English speaking environment. It’s General English with the emphasis on highly practical and necessary language: how to buy a bus ticket, how to ask for directions, how to order food, etc.

How to Know what to Teach

But how do you know what English to teach?

This is simple. With every class or private student, you run a Needs Analysis. This will tell you precisely what your students need to know. And from then on you simply teach them what they need.

It really is that simple!

Useful Links

Needs Analysis‏‎ for TEFL – how to find out what you need to teach

General English

Business English‏‎ ‏‎

EAP – English for Academic Purposes‏‎

ESP – English for Special Purposes‏‎

Survival English

Making Questions with Do/Does/Did

A question of CoffeeThis 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 + enjoy + swimming?
Does + Joe + live + in New York?
Did + Amanda + work + at the local supermarket?

And of course we add a question mark to the end!

Steps to Making a do Question

First off, start with the statement we want to turn into a question. Here are a few we can work with:

I enjoy going to the movies.
You play the drums.
Luca runs really fast!
Simone loved learning English.

The next step is to identify the main verb. More often than not the subject comes first and is followed by the main verb.

{subject} + {main verb}…

I + enjoy
You + play
Luca + runs
Simone + loved

You need to identify the tense of the main verb first, either present or past (we can’t make do questions to talk about the future).

verb tense person* do/does/did
enjoy present I = first do
play present you = second do
runs present he = third does
loved past   did

* Note: as a reminder, first person is I and we; second person is you; third person is he, she, it, and they.

As you can see, if it is the past then we always use did.

If we are in the present and talk about I or you then we always use do.

If we are in the present and talk about he, she, or it, then we always use does.

do/does/did + {subject}…

Do I …
Do you …
Does Luca …
Did Simone …

Finally, change the main verb into the infinitive and add the rest of the statement plus a question mark:

do/does/did + {subject} + {infinitive verb} … ?

Do I enjoy going to the movies?
Do you play the drums?
Does Luca run really fast?
Did Simone love learning English?

And that’s it!

Ok, it might seem a long process now, but it’s very easy to pick up and in a very short while you’ll be able to make questions with do without even thinking about it!

Are all Questions formed with do?

No. If the statement has a modal verb (e.g. can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would) then we don’t use do:

I can swim
Can I swim?

Or if the statement uses the auxiliary verb be:

I am rich.
Am I rich?

See the link below to general questions for more on this.

Useful Links

Questions‏‎ in English Grammar – a general look at making questions in English

Modal Verbs‏‎ in English – more on those modal verbs which don’t make questions with do

Auxiliary Verbs‏‎ in English Grammar – more on those auxiliary verbs which don’t make questions with do

Grammatical Person‏‎ in English – a look at how we deal with person (I, you, he, etc) in English grammar

Image © anieto2k


IATQuOThe 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 retired from Trinity and the British Council. He set up the accreditation agency along with Bruce Veldhuisen of TEFL International1 in order to accredit schools in the TEFL International franchise.

However, after a couple of years Dr Moller set up his own school in Paris and following a bitter and very public falling out with TEFL International they left IATQuO. Subsequently Dr Moller accredited just a handful of schools, including his own.2

In 2004 IATQuO accredited several TEFL International centres along with 2 other schools. After TEFL International left IATQuO in 2005 they accredited 5 schools and currently accredit 6.

Dr Moller, aged 78, also runs a language teaching program in the UK.3

Useful Links

Accreditation & Recognition for TEFL Courses – a general look at TEFL accreditation

Accreditation‏‎ & TEFL Courses – accreditation agencies for TEFL courses

Official Site – the official site of IATQUO


1 the original domain name was registered by BV from his address (ref)
2 An interview with TEFL International’s Bruce Velhuisen
3 Language Home Tuition

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 peers, after the teaching is done.

As you might guess, there are quite a few authors amongst them so if you are teaching now, maybe it’s time to start making a few notes…

Bob Geldof Bob Geldof Member of the Boom Town Rats but more famously known now for raising money for Africa (some would say in a patronising way) and swearing on television.

Unqualified (he failed his school leaving certificate in Ireland) he went to Murcia in Spain where he taught English. Discipline was a problem in the class and he sometimes got physical with the students to keep them in line.

J K Rowling J.K. Rowling Joanne Rowling is an English author of the Harry Potter books.

After spotting an advert in The Guardian newspaper in 1990, Rowling went off to teach English as a foreign language in Porto, Portugal. She taught at night and wrote during the day. After 18 months she met a Portuguese TV journalist whom she subsequently married. She had a daughter with him and then divorced. In 1993 Rowling moved to Scotland with her daughter and gave up teaching.

James Joyce James Joyce Renowned Irish author and poet and regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century with classics such as Ulysses, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and Finnegan’s Wake.

Joyce moved Switzerland to teach English at the Berlitz Language School; however the job was a scam and did not exist. He then went to Trieste (then part of Austria-Hungary) on the promise of work but he was scammed again with no teaching job. With the help of the director of the Trieste Berlitz school, he found a job teaching in Pola, (then part of Austria-Hungary and today part of Croatia). He stayed there, teaching English mainly to Austro-Hungarian naval officers for 8 months or so until March 1905 when the Austrians expelled all foreigners. He moved back to Trieste and began teaching English there, remaining there for the next ten years.

jeb-bush Jeb Bush John Ellis “Jeb” Bush (born 1953) is an American businessman and politician who served as the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. He is brother of former US President George W Bush and son of former US President George Bush. He is also looking at running for US President in 2016.

In 1971 when he was 17 he went to a small village in Mexico to teach English as a Foreign Language. This was part of his high school’s summer program. While he was teaching there he met his future wife, Columba Garnica Gallo.

joe_dresnok Joe Dresnok American soldier who defected to North Korea during the Korean war. Facing a court martial for going AWOL he ran across a minefield and sought asylum in North Korea. He spent his time there teaching English amongst other things.
John Fowles John Fowles English author of books such as The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Magus and The Collector.

Fowles taught English on the island of Spetses in Greece. He also met and had an affair with the wife of a fellow schoolmaster whom he subsequently married (the wife, not the schoolmaster). In 1953 Fowles and his fellow expat teachers were all dismissed for trying to institute reforms and Fowles returned to England where he began to work on the first draft of The Magus, his novel set on a fictional Greek island (of course modelled on Spetses) about an English teacher. For the next 10 years Fowles taught English to foreign students at an all girls school in Hampstead, London.

John Mark Karr John Mark Karr Kerr worked as an English teacher in Thailand. He was arrested in 2006 on charges of child pornography and during this time confessed to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey in 1996. He was subsequently cleared of all charges.
Keith Wright Keith Wright Former Australian politician and leader of the Australian Labour Party.

Wright entered the Australian parliament in 1969 rising to leader of the Labour Party and coming within 1 seat of being Prime Minister in 1983. In 1993 he was jailed for 8 years for indecent dealing and rape1.A former teacher, he now runs TEFL courses in Asia, owns a school there and writes grammar books.

Nick Hornby Nick Hornby English author and screenwriter, most well known for About a Boy and High Fidelity.For a while Hornby taught English in London.
Paul Theroux Paul Theroux American travel writer and novelist.

Theroux joined the newly formed Peace Corps after graduating and in 1963 worked as an English teacher in Malawi. When he was there Theroux helped a political opponent of the then Prime Minister to escape to Uganda. For this he was expelled from Malawi and thrown out of the Peace Corps.

steve_toltz Steve Toltz Critically acclaimed Australian novelist who spent time teaching in Spain before moving to Paris where he wrote A Fraction of Wine in 2008, shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize and the 2008 Guardian First Book Award.
Todd Solandz Todd Solondz American indie filmmaker and Sundance prize winner for Welcome to the Dollhouse.

For a while Solandz taught English to immigrants in New York. His film, Happiness, includes a character who teaches English in similar circumstances to Solandz’ own.

Wilfred Owen Wilfred Owen Owen was a soldier and poet, one of the most influential and well known from the First World War (he was killed in France in 1918 a few days before the armistice). His most famous works include Dulce et Decorum Est.In 1913 he worked as a private tutor teaching English and French at the Berlitz School of Languages in Bordeaux, France. Later he taught private lessons.

Useful Links & References

Careers in Teaching English – it’s not just about teaching English

TEFL on Film – films involving TEFL teaching


1. Keith Wright says sorry for sexual sins that landed him in jail – from the Courier Mail newspaper

IATEFL & the Accreditation Scam

Harverd TEFL CertificateWe 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 or may not know – are a highly respected organization of TEFL professionals. They organize conferences and have special interest groups so teachers and researchers into teaching English as a foreign language can keep abreast of the latest developments and meet other like minded individuals. All in all you can look on IATEFL as the good guys.

But one thing IATEFL do not do is accredit TEFL certificates.

In fact, they are at pains to point out on their website that they do not “act as an accreditation body for organisations offering language or teacher training courses, or teacher development services of any kind.” Which doesn’t leave much room for doubt.

But unfortunately the truth doesn’t seem to both some TEFL course providers.

Take a good look around and you’ll soon see that some TEFL course providers claim, as large as life, that they are “accredited by IATEFL” and they slap on their website the well known IATEFL logo. Along comes a regular person who just wants to get qualified and they see all this and are duped into believing that the TEFL course provider is respectable and trustworthy where, of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Accreditation by Proximity

That’s one approach, the outright lie. But there is another approach, too. Accreditation by proximity, I like to call it.

Here you come across a TEFL course provider who has a page on their website emblazoned with ACCREDITATION in big letters. They go on then to talk about how reliable they are and then mention in the same breath how they’re institutional members of IATEFL and have been for about a hundred years.

And all those prospective teachers think, “Wow, they must be an awesome company!”

They’re not lying outright to you, they’re just letting you believe something which isn’t true.

A bit like keeping a Walmart bracelet in a Tiffany & Co box.

Anyone can join IATEFL. All it takes is sending off a few dollars and it’s done. So some unscrupulous TEFL course providers do that, get their membership number and slap that on their website alongside the IATEFL logo and let the unknowing believe that they are fully accredited by IATEFL and they are the most wonderful school in the universe.

So here’s the final warning. If you see any TEFL provider telling you IATEFL accredit their TEFL courses, or see the IATEFL logo on any page listing accreditation, then run for your money!. It’s a rip off!

Useful Links

IATEFL – a page about IATEFL

How to Choose a Good TEFL Course – what to look for in a good TEFL course

Accreditation & Recognition for TEFL Courses – an article about accreditation

Accreditation‏‎ & TEFL Courses – a look at TEFL course accreditation in general

This Will Revolutionize Teaching

Radio SchoolFor 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, according to Muller a teacher isn’t there to teach but to facilitate learning. A teacher’s main role isn’t to stuff a students’ head full of information but instead to help the student learn how to learn.

Which is what we at ICAL TEFL – along with many others – have known for years.

In an earlier blog (link below) I argued that the reason that MOOCs are all but dead in the water was the lack of people-to-people contact. Some argued with me on this but the facts speak for themselves.

This is why uniquely amongst online TEFL course providers, we have always given every student a personal tutor to work with them through the course.

Because it’s hard to learn from information alone, you need someone there to guide you. We believe this and so does Muller.

So check out this great video and let us know what you think.

Useful Links

Why MOOCs Fail – a look at why MOOCs are destined to fail

Purposely vs Purposefully

Beckham purposely fouling.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, it was a planned event and it wasn’t an accident.


On the other hand:

purposefully = with determination

The referee held the red card up purposefully.
The referee held the red card up with determination.

In other words, the referee held the card strongly and forcefully and in order to serve a purpose; in order to say something strong.

Purposefully vs Purposely

So very roughly speaking, purposely is about the reason you do something and purposefully is how you do something.

Meanwhile, if it helps, here are some opposites:

purposely ≠ by mistake
purposefully ≠ timidly

And just complicate things a little more before finishing, both of these words use the adjective, purposeful.

It was a purposeful kick from Beckham.
A purposeful grimace from the referee.

Chinese Whispers: Offensive or Not?


photo credit: Secrets (license)

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 offensive or not?

Take our poll and let us know…

What’s in a name?

The game is generally called Telephone in the US and Chinese Whispers in the UK. There are a bunch of other names for it as well including: broken telephone, operator, grapevine, gossip, don’t drink the milk, secret message, and so on. In China they apparently call it geese to geese and in France it’s Arab phone.

If you don’t know the game, it involves passing a message along a line of people and seeing if the original message can get through without being garbled or misunderstood.

A couple of hundred years ago in the UK the game was known as Russian Scandal or Russian Gossip. This changed over time till by the mid 20th century it was almost exclusively known as Chinese Whispers.

Various people have suggested a whole slew of different etymologies for the game. Some are patently ridiculous and fanciful, but to my mind the most likely is the association of Chinese as being an incomprehensible language to Western ears.

Some people, however, have a different interpretation. They believe that it comes from a perception of Chinese people as chaotic and incomprehensible; the first Western visitors to Japan in the 1600s brought back tales of Chinese people being noisy, the country chaotic and the language incomprehensible and Chinese was used as an adjective to reflect this. But it wasn’t just a Western perception; in Japan, for example, Chinese order still means chaos.

Offensive Poll

So it seems that whether you consider it offensive or not depends on where you believe the name comes from.

If you think it is simply because Chinese sounds incomprehensible to most people then it isn’t racist or offensive. It works in the same way as “double Dutch” or “it’s all Greek to me”.

But if you think it relates to Chinese being thought of as chaotic and unorganized then perhaps it is offensive as it implies a negative national stereotype.

Is the term "Chinese Whispers" offensive?

Useful Links

Telephone – Chinese Whispers‏‎ – the activity itself

Is TEFL in China really a Scam?

Grunge Warning Sign - Do Not Read This SignThere’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 safe and there’s no doubt thousands upon thousands of English teachers are working in China happily and scam-free.

But what’s the truth? What’s your story?

What’s the China Truth?

So that’s what we’re asking. Is China a scam?

If you are working in China, if you have worked in China, can you simply click the poll and let everyone know what happened? (The poll is anonymous, by the way.)

{minipolls id=”scamchina” title=”What’s the Truth about TEFL in China?”}I worked there & was ripped off by my agent and/or school.||I worked there & my agent & school were honest.{/minipolls}


If you’d like to leave details please use the comments box below.

Useful Links

Teaching English in China – about working in China

How to Get a TEFL Certificate Online


All you need is an Internet connection!

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 things are much easier and much more streamlined. And this article looks at exactly how you can get a TEFL certificate online and start teaching English around the world.

* if you don’t have a degree, you can still find work teaching however; see the links below

Why Online?

Quite simply, if you take a TEFL course online:

  • you can work at your own pace and take as long or as little time as you need to finish the course. If you’re working or looking after a family or studying then taking a course online is the perfect way to find time to get this extra qualification.
  • you have access to far more resources than before. As a quick example, if you take the ICAL TEFL certificate you’ll find here over 1,600 articles on all aspects of teaching English as a foreign language – something in the past only available to lucky students who happened to live near a well-stocked university library!
  • you have a wider range of tutors. If you take a traditional course you have to use the one or two tutors who work in that school; if you take a good online course the provider will have tutors all over the world and so you can work with a tutor more suitable to your individual needs.
  • it’s cheaper! Courses in traditional schools start from about $1000 USD (€791, £636) and those in online schools from about $265 (€200, £155).

So yes, there are compelling reasons to go online instead of down the traditional route.

Get your TEFL Certificate Online

But let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it all; here’s exactly how to get an online TEFL certificate.

choose a good course provider

Not all course providers (online schools) are the same so make sure you do your research and you choose a reliable provider..

ICAL TEFL, for example, were pioneers and have been providing courses online since 1998 not to mention that we were the very first fully online school. But no matter who you choose, check them out thoroughly on online forums and chatrooms and make sure you choose the best you can to get you qualified.

register and start

Payment is usually by credit card. After this you’ll have access to an online student center where you can begin to work your way through the material.

During this time you can meet other students and also start working with your personal tutor.

Note, make sure you choose a course which offers a personal tutor as you really need a well qualified tutor to answer your questions and go over any points you need help with.

take your time & learn

How long you take to complete an online TEFL course is up to you. If you have the time to work at it full time then you can complete it in as little as a couple of weeks. If you have other commitments then you can take a couple of months… a year…. however long you need.

And while you’re taking the course, be sure to ask your personal tutor questions, not just about the material but also about teaching. You have in front of your a well experienced and qualified teacher who has traveled the world and taught so make sure you take advantage of that and use them!

and then?

And then you complete the course. Most TEFL courses involve continual assessment (i.e. they don’t have a final exam) and once you’ve finished the final module you’ll receive your certificate, marksheet, recommendation letter (from your personal tutor) in the regular mail.

And Then?

And then it’s time to find a job!

So taking a TEFL course online is really very simple and straightforward. It’s designed to fit around your lifestyle and other commitments so you can get qualified and start a new life teaching in as hassle-free a way as possible.

Useful Links

ICAL TEFL Course 120hr – the most popular TEFL course

How To Become a TEFL Teacher – a guide to getting into teaching around the world

How to Choose a Good TEFL Course – tips on getting the best course

Taking a Teacher Training Course‏‎ – all about actually taking a TEFL course and what it’s like

Teaching English without a Degree‏‎ – if you don’t have a degree you can still teach English

Worcestershire Sauce Fail (TEFAL)

1 - product shot 10oz a

That’s easy for you to say!

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 in Italian now”, before pronouncing the name as it would be if it were Italian.

So we asked our voiceover actor to provide a sound file where he said it nice and clearly in British English – and he failed.

Once or twice it’s possible, but it’s easy to get tongue tied, even for a native speaker.

So let’s not be too hard on Sciarappa and do please forgive our voiceover actor who had problems too!

Worcestershire Sauce Fail


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 they are wrong. It’s alive and kicking and putting up a stiff defense!

The Grammar of Shall

Let’s get the grammar of shall out of the way first because it’s pretty straightforward.

Grammatically it’s used in the same way as will. Very simply it sits before the main verb to talk about the future:

will/shall + {verb}

I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in my class!
I shall not tolerate this kind of behavior in my class!

And to make the negative it’s also the same. Note that the shortened negative form is:

I shall not leave!
I shan’t leave!

So we can say that grammatically speaking wherever you have will you can have shall and the two – again grammatically speaking – are interchangeable.

That last point is important: grammatically speaking they are the same but it’s in usage and meaning where they vary.

The Meaning of Shall

In a very general sense, shall tends to be have a more profound meaning than will.

Will talks about the future in everyday terms. Shall makes what you say very important and prophetic.

I’ll go to the store and I’ll get a bottle of milk.
I shall cross the desert and I shall find King Soloman’s Mines!

Famously in Lord of the Rings, Sir Ian McKellen playing Gandalf utters the immortal phrase:

You shall not pass!

Which in English sounds so much more profound because it uses shall instead of will.

The Usage of Shall

But let’s talk about when we use shall instead of will.

First, it’s good to know that in American English shall is basically ignored and will is used all the time (unless you want to sound very educated indeed). If you never uttered the word shall in America you would be fine.

But elsewhere it’s a slightly different story. In British English if you are saying something slightly profound you can use shall, especially if it’s about yourself with I or we:

I shall look into it, your Majesty.
I shall never stop loving you!
We shall succeed, you watch us!
We shall not be moved!

Looking at the statistics, you can see that we shall and I shall are by far the most common occurrences of shall. Then, in descending order:

you shall
he shall
they shall
she shall

So whilst some grammars tell you that shall is ONLY used with we or I, this is simply not true. We can use it with other pronouns – although it is increasingly rare.

NB the same applies to questions; we use shall I and and shall we far more than we do with other pronouns.

Shall and TEFL

So what happens in the TEFL classroom?

As long as your students understand the meaning of shall (i.e. that it is the same as will but more profound) then they need never use it, certainly never for exam or communication purposes.

By teaching them that it’s used only with I and we and that it’s only used when dealing with something very meaningful, you will have covered the majority of uses and life will be fine.

In other words, keep things simple in the classroom and keep shall for special occasions. Explain it and move on, don’t dwell on shall because for practical TEFL purposes it’s an interesting diversion and not worth pursuing with the majority of classes and students.

Some Graphs of Shall

Shall is dropping in usage, more so in AmE, but also in BrE.

This first graph shows use of shall vs will in AmE over the past 200 years or so.

Shall Will American English

It’s a similar story in BrE although there’s less of a gap between the two.

Interestingly, if you look at this next graph you’ll see how the use of we shall and we will has changed in American writing over the past two hundred years. For many years we shall was far more popular but then in the 1960s there was a dramatic drop in the number of occurrences and essentially the two changed places with we shall dropping dramatically and we will gaining use.

We Will and We Shall in AmE

Compare that to the use of we shall and we will in BrE and you’ll see both are still very popular but again, they crossed over a few years ago, possibly because of the influence of American language on British?

We Shall and We Will in BrE

NB these graphs come from Google n-grams.

Useful Links

Future Simple‏‎ in English Grammar – talking about the future in English.

More than 1 Octopus?

An 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 are possibilities here and these three have been thrown about and used from time to time:


So which one is it?

Some Stats & Quotes

Graph showing stats for plural octopus usage.Take a look at Google n-grams (the graph is on the right) to start with and you’ll see that octopuses far outweighs the others in usage. Then comes octopi and then comes octopodes.

The Oxford English Dictionary agrees and lists octopuses, octopi and octopodes in that order but qualifies it by saying octopodes is rare. Other dictionaries pretty well stick to octopuses and occasionally one of them will throw in octopi or octopodes to keep things interesting.

Meanwhile Fowler’s Modern English Usage states that the only acceptable plural in English is octopuses, and that octopi is misconceived and octopodes pedantic.

Arguments against Octopi

Here’s where it gets interesting and where linguists get all hot and bothered.

Some people want to use octopi as a valid plural at all costs. Their argument goes like this:

1) Look at these words ending in -us which make valid and accepted plurals by changing it to –i:

alumnus > alumni
bacillus > bacilli
cactus > cacti
locus > loci
nucleus > nuclei
radius > radii
stimulus > stimuli
syllabus > syllabi

2) And since octopus ends in -us the plural can end in –i:

octopus > octopi

However, a great number of linguists get annoyed with this and object most strenuously. Their arguments go like this:

1) The first list above is made up of words which come from Latin where it’s perfectly acceptable to change singular -us into plural –i.

2) But octopus is Greek where it is grammatically incorrect to change -us into –i to make the plural!

What to do?

When there are 8, 16, 24, 32 or more legs on display, use the plural octopuses. That’s our advice.

If you use octopi you might make some pedants very angry (see above) and octopodes will make you sound like you’re showing off.

Useful Links

Singular and Plural Nouns‏‎ – all about singular and making correct plurals.

Spelling Singular & Plural Nouns – and about how to spell them.

Octopus: The thief of the deep – amazing pictures and facts about octopuses from the BBC.

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 of a sentence should be publicly flogged?

The problem is that there are so many examples of the rules of English changing over time, or being very different depending on who is doing the speaking, that it’s almost impossible to give a simple yes or no answer to any grammatical question.

So when we ask, Which is correct, on foot or by foot, it’s not all that easy to say.

on foot

Ask some traditionally minded professor at some traditional old school where they still flog students and girls are an unknown species, and he will tell you that we go:

by automobile
by steamship to the colonies
by coach
by rickshaw

but when we slip on our shoes, we go

on foot into darkest Africa
on foot to the club

Ask Michael Swan‏‎ the grammarian and he will tell you we go on foot also. Ask Google n-grams and it will tell you that around 90% of writing prefers on foot.

by foot

But language is never that simple. Ask some trendy teacher who wears flip-flops and gets the students to call him by his first name and he will tell you that we go by everything:

by eco-friendly Prius
by vegan bicycle
by methane powered bus
by foot

And check n-grams again and they tell you about 10% of modern English writing has by foot.

A Definitive Answer for TEFL Teachers

So which is it to be? You are in your TEFL class and a student asks you. What do you say?

Let’s speak practically here. If you have students taking an exam and they write:

I go to school on foot

then they will be given perfect marks. However, if they write:

I go to school by foot

then there’s a strong possibility that they could be marked down. Who knows if the teacher sitting there marking their exam paper is that same traditionally minded professor, doing some extra work for the glory of it?

So let’s keep this simple and say that on foot is never wrong and by foot could be wrong and could cost your student marks.

Useful Links

Descriptive vs Prescriptive Grammars – Talking about language and making rules. Or not.

TEFL to Blind & Visually Impaired Students


Braille font on a metal plate.

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 trainees who were preparing to teach blind or visually impaired students and have again worked with them in instructing them on the best way to approach this.

The following notes come from our experience in this field and especially from one of our personal tutors who is visually impaired himself and teaches blind and visually impaired students in Europe.

Essential Information

With every single student you teach, regardless of their circumstances, you should run a Needs Analysis. This will tell you their level of English, the reason they are studying English, and a little about their interests and so on.

These combined needs analyses will help you work out the syllabus for the class and allow you to create stimulating and useful lesson plans.

However, alongside the usual needs analysis you give to everyone, if you have a blind or visually impaired student in your class, you will also need to get some additional information from them.

Firstly you need to know specifically what their vision is like and the level of impairment. This is essential so you can tailor your teaching methods to the student (more on this below).

Although there are technical scales, for teaching we can put visually impaired TEFL students in one of several broad (and often overlapping) categories:

  • totally blind – unable to see at all
  • able to see vague shapes but unable to read large print or see pictures in a book
  • able to read large print books and see only clearly defined pictures
  • able to read normal sized print books close up but unable to read the board or see any great distance

Next you should find out when your student became blind:

  • a student who became blind in their teenage years will retain some visual memory; for example they may well know what different colors look like and so on, they will have seen a great deal and will be able to replicate much in their mind’s eye
  • a student who has been blind since birth or a very early age will not have these same visual memories; colors, for example, will mean little to them

All these factors will affect how you teach.

Braille & Technology

Next you will need to find out whether the student is able to read Braille or not.

The unfortunate situation is that there is very little TEFL material available in Braille. However there are relatively low cost Braille printers available (starting from a couple of hundred dollars) which will convert and print regular Word documents into Braille documents. You or your school might consider this option if you want to make your teaching material and handouts available to your blind students.

In addition, your students may well have a Braille display attached to their computer although these are more expensive, costing up to several thousand dollars. Almost certainly they will have a text-to-speech engine on their computer.

The bottom line is that you need to know what is available so you can use it.

On this note, if at all possible try to have a go with those technologies yourself. It is not essential that you as a TEFL teacher can read Braille, but it would certainly do you no harm to try and learn something about it, if only to be able to understand how different it is to read in Braille over print. Likewise use the text-to-speech engine on your computer to get a feel of how your material is translated into speech electronically. (There is one already installed with Windows called Narrator.)

More Tips and Ideas

Below are a selection of tips and ideas which will help teaching blind or visually impaired students in your TEFL class. Not all will apply but you should at least consider them in terms of the student(s) you will be teaching.

teaching scenario

First off, talk to the student and find out what teaching would make them most comfortable. Some will prefer one-to-one classes, others will prefer to be part of your regular class with sighted students.

use their sight to the fullest

You should always use the ability they have to the fullest.

This means that if they are able to read normal print books but not see the board, by all means make sure they only have normal print books and not large print (and are sitting at the front of the class, of course). Or if they can only read large print then make sure they have large print and don’t try to get them to use Braille instead.

Having said this, however, make sure you don’t push your ideas onto a reluctant student. If the student prefers Braille to large print, let them use it.

preparation beforehand

With blind students or those who have severe impairment, it is often best to get them to prepare the lesson beforehand.

Give them the material you will be using in class so they can go over it in their own time and take as long as they need to read and understand it. Here’s where they will use their own text-to-speech or Braille reader or screen reader; if this is the case then allowing them to have material electronically will be an advantage and you can email it or send it through Dropbox‏‎, etc.

You might also want to consider using readers. This is simply where you record the material and let the student listen to it. This is pretty easy to do (most smartphones have this capability) and like the electronic documents, you can upload the various mp3 files into Dropbox so the student can access them any time.

On this note, when recording make sure you speak clearly and slowly, see How to Speak to English Language Students for more on this.

The reason for all this is so the student has plenty of time to prepare the lesson. It takes longer to read by Braille or text-to-speech so allowing the student to do it in their own time will mean you make the most of your face-to-face time together.

braille in class

If your students use Braille in the lesson itself you need to remember that it takes longer to read than print and is less easy to skip around i.e. in a print book you can tell students to look at a picture and then come back to the text, Braille tends to run in a very linear fashion so it’s not so easy to jump around like this. When you prepare a lesson, remember this.

exam classes

If you are teaching an exam class, make sure you contact the examination authorities plenty of time beforehand to get copies of previous exams in Braille (or other format as needed). Make yourself familiar with how the exam will be run (timings for example) and as you would with any other class, run mock exams under these conditions so the student(s) can get used to the system.

In the Classroom

A few tips for teaching during the lesson:

  • Remember to be continually vocal. This means that, for example, while you are writing on the board say what you are writing. Any visually impaired student will find it useful and helpful, and many of the sighted students will also find it helpful as well!
  • Involve the student with the rest of the class. This is rarely (if ever) an issue; when putting students into groups include everyone equally and don’t single a visually impaired student out for special treatment.
  • Make sure everyone speaks so that the visually impaired student gets to know the whole class. For example, at the beginning of the lesson hold registration and call out names. You can then extend this so instead of answering just, yes, the student has to say yes and give their favorite singer or the football team they support or the actor they are in love with! This allows a blind student to understand where other students are and where they are sitting around the room.
  • Whenever possible use realia‏‎. Instead of showing a flashcard of a car, use a model car which the visually impaired student can touch and feel.
  • Make your explanations and the lesson in general as tactile as you can. Suppose you are teaching a particular verb form‏‎ and want to use a timeline to illustrate it. Well in this class you can create a model of a timeline (from felt, string, etc) so students can actually feel it and picture it in their mind’s eye.

Finally, do not patronize your students. They may be blind but they are perfectly capable in other spheres so make small adjustments where needed, but don’t treat them as though they are not capable of learning or doing anything else for that matter! There’s no need to censor words like see, watch and look! Often teachers might feel it’s inappropriate to use these words but visually impaired students can see perfectly well in other ways! If you sound uncomfortable or self-censoring the visually impaired student may well feel awkward, so carry on as usual.

Useful Links

Blindness no barrier in English language classroom when needs are shared – an article on a visually impaired student and political activist from the UK Guardian newspaper.

ICAL TEFL Course 150hr with Practicum – Syllabus

A typical lesson being videoedThis 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 are new to the subject, so the first module is particularly careful in introducing new ideas. There are plenty of examples and we use language everyone can understand – it’s not overloaded with specialist terms and where we do use them, there’s a glossary on hand for help if you need it.

Later, Module 1 talks about general approaches to teaching English and the final section is all about students and what language learning is like for them.

Module 1 is really the background to the subject. When you’ve completed it, you’ll have a good understanding of the general principles of language teaching. The next four modules will take these principles and go into more detail.

Module 2

This module looks more in detail at your students. Why are they in the classroom? What kind of English do they want to learn? How can they be motivated? How about the class make-up? All these are discussed along with the way in which differences here will make a difference to your teaching.

The module then moves on to look at how you can firstly discover what your students need to know and then how you can create a plan of action for teaching them.

Here it’s all about understanding what you need to teach to make sure you will be able to benefit your students the most.

Module 3

This module carries on where the previous module left off. Having got your plan of action, here we look at the way in which you approach each lesson with regard to subject matter, subject presentation, and teaching style.

It talks about creating enthusiasm in the classroom, alternative ways of teaching (it’s definitely not a matter of getting your students to sit and learn verb patterns parrot-fashion!) and the kind of resources you can bring into play in the lesson.

This module works towards creating an appropriate lesson plan for the class, taking into account all the factors which influence what the lesson will include – and what it will not.

Module 4

In this module, we take a step back and look at more general classroom management. For example, from how to deal with rowdy students to the best layout for your room. There are also plenty of tips on how to make your presence felt in the classroom and how to get the most from yourself and your students.

Like the rest of the course, the module is highly practical. There are plenty of real techniques and real strategies you can use in your class to make your teaching stand out and work.

The module moves on to deal with the practical side of running an activity and then dealing with the student errors which might follow. It’s not all a matter of red ink and grade at the bottom of the page!

Module 5

This is the final module. It begins by looking at the kind of things you can do in class to raise your lesson from the mundane to being a worthwhile, interesting time. There are sections on resources you can use and the best way to use them effectively. Then come useful activities and ideas such as inventive ways to use coursebooks and so on.

The module then talks about different skills areas and how to approach them: listening, speaking, writing and reading. Again, plenty more activities and ideas here on how to get the most from your students – and yourself! The module also introduces a few more advanced areas of teaching and language which open up new areas for future work!



Useful Links

ICAL TEFL Course 150hr with Practicum – details of the ICAL TEFL Course with Practicum

ICAL TEFL Course 120hr – main page for the ICAL TEFL Course 120hr (without Practicum)

Image © DUSAgov

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, Yes!

All US citizens and permanent residents (Green Card holders) are required to file US income tax returns as long as their gross income exceeds certain minimum thresholds. The following table provides the minimum income thresholds by filing category.

Filing Status Age (as of 31st Dec) Gross Income
Single Under 65 $10,000
65 or older $11,500
Married Filing Jointly Both under 65 $20,000
Only one under 65 $21,200
Both 65 or older $22,400
Married Filing Separately Any age $3,900
Head of Household Under 65 $12,850
65 or older $14,350
Qualifying Widow(er)

with dependent child

Under 65 $16,100
65 or older $17,300

Note: US expats are required to report their worldwide income (regardless of location).

Should I File Taxes Even if Not Required?

Expats should consider filing taxes even if there is no obligation to file based on the income thresholds. This is because there may be tax credits/refunds to which you are entitled (eg, child tax credit, education credits).

Note: Filing a tax return starts the clock on the statute of limitation. By not filing, the IRS can audit you anytime.

What about Moving and Teacher Expenses?

Individuals who leave the country for employment-related reasons can deduct moving expenses.

This is applicable if:

  1. you are not reimbursed by your employer
  2. you work full-time for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months immediately following your arrival in your new job location

Regardless of where in the world you live, teachers are entitled to the educator expense deduction. This deduction is worth up to $250, and covers any unreimbursed expenses incurred as a teacher.

How Can I Lower My Tax Obligations?

The US government provides various tax relief that can lower or eliminate US tax obligations:

  • The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion – this allows you to exclude a certain amount of income earned outside the US
  • The Foreign Housing Exclusion/Deduction – this one relates to additional income that can be excluded for household-related expenses tied to living abroad
  • The Foreign Tax Credit – this allows you to offset foreign taxes paid against US tax obligations


This article was provided by John Ohe, managing partner at HolaExpat. For a complete guide to your tax obligations as an American teacher abroad, you can download a free 20 page guide here.

HolaExpat helps Americans living abroad with their US tax returns and is staffed by professional IRS Enrolled Agents, experts in expatriate tax return matters.

Tougher Laws for TEFL Teachers in China

TEFL News from ChinaFrom 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 has been put in place to try and deter the “backpacker” type of teacher from coming to China to find work. This follows several scandals where unqualified and undesirable TEFL teachers were caught and deported or imprisoned.

The Chinese police have also promised to increase checks to clamp down on illegal teachers to make sure all teachers have suitable qualifications. In tandem there are tougher penalties for illegal workers in the country.

Editors Note:

This isn’t the first time that China has implemented new laws to try and raise standards. The key question is though: will they be implemented? In the past similar measures have been taken but with little real effect.

Most people within the country accept that China needs more regulation when it comes to teachers and we do to. The number of poorly qualified and frankly useless teachers in China isn’t doing the TEFL industry any good at all and the recent scandals involving untrained and undesirable TEFL teachers is tarring a lot of good teachers with a bad brush.

ICAL, for one, welcome these changes and look towards a better and more professional future for TEFL teachers everywhere!

Useful Links

Teaching English in China – a general overview of TEFL in China

Undercover TV Reports on English Teachers in China

Undercover teachers in ChinaChinese 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 official channels in issuing certificates.

The number of illegal foreign teachers in China is not known but is likely to be very high. Although there are occasional crackdowns they do little to change the situation and Chinese authorities are struggling to find an effective balance: on the one had all teachers should be fully qualified and on the other demand for teachers outstrips supply.

One teacher we spoke to on the condition of anonymity told us, “It’s a joke here. I’ve been working for five years and although I have the correct qualifications my school has not even mentioned getting me the local teaching license. In that time I’ve also seen a lot of teachers come and go and many of them don’t even have a degree let alone a proper teaching qualification.”

The CCTV report in full:

Useful Links

Expats unqualified for language teaching in China?

Teaching English in China

New Regulations for Thailand

Thai FlagUsing 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 visas, qualifications and so on. This comes in advance of the AEC setting up next year which is expected to bring many, many, more English teachers into the country. (The Asean Economic Community or AEC is essentially a free trade & movement agreement in Asia and will come into force in late 2015.)

The database move is expected to hit the large number of “illegal” teachers in Thailand who are working without the proper visa or qualifications and teachers in Thailand are questioning what should be done next.

Many of these teachers do not have the correct working visa, either because their school finds the cost of getting one too expensive or because the teachers themselves are under-qualified for the job. This has led to the common practice of “visa runs” where teachers nip across the border into neighboring Cambodia and return on a renewed tourist visa for another 30 day stay.

Useful Links

Teaching English in Thailand

Irish ELT Schools in Turmoil

Picture of Ruairi QuinnThe 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 and following strict rules concerning student visas.

Schools in Ireland are now preparing for the shake-up although some school owners have complained about unneccessary beaurocracy and confusion over the paperwork.

UPDATE: A school in Dublin has been closed in continuing investigations into visa fraud. (Ref) August 8th 2014

Hearing Phantom Free – app review

Picture of the Phantom app“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 for a while in the office (on a Nexus 10) I fear there may be a bit of exaggeration going on here.

Actually, more than a bit. Quite a lot of exaggeration in fact.


Like many apps this one forces you to start at the beginning so that no matter how good your English, you have to start with the very basics.

This is a bit of a shame as it means many users will get bored with the language and give up on the game before they start to find it challenging and useful.

You are presented with a simple puzzle: cute cartoon characters are “trapped” in a bag. You have to identify them through a small hole and then change the color of their monochromatic copies on the outside of the bag. You do this by simply saying the color.

That’s it. You look at something, work out what color it is, and then say the color out loud.

If you do this successfully you pass to the next level. So it’s not exactly three dimensional chess.


For learners the language is extremely simple. Five minutes into the game and we were just saying, red, yellow or blue.

Ten minutes later we had added a couple more colors but were losing the will to live.

So for anything but the most basic of learners this app is extremely limited in its appeal which is a shame because it is actually quite a nice, neat looking app and with a little more thought could actually be quite good for students learning English.

So rather than be too negative, here’s some useful advice to the makers on how to make this a good app and earn more review points:

  • allow users to skip levels (they get bored otherwise)
  • add more language content (primary colors get boring very quickly)
  • add more puzzle types (the same basic problem for every level is actually very dull)

But there are also two more very important points to make if this is to be taken seriously as a learning tool.

First, get someone to proof read the instructions. There are so many English grammar errors it is embarrassing.

And second, give a template. If you are teaching pronunciation you MUST give learners an example of how to say the word first! You cannot just show the word written and expect students to say it, especially with English.

We never did get to orange but suppose a learner sees this for the first time, how should they say it? Where should the stress go? Is it a hard g or a soft g? So at least give learners something to copy!


It’s an attractive looking app with potential. Unfortunately it has not been thought through so although future versions might be able to earn more, for now:

Rating 1.5 out of 5.

Useful Links

More ESOL Testing Scams in the UK

ESOL testing scamBack 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 £500 ($786 USD, €622) which opens the door for them to get UK citizenship.

The scam takes place in a testing center where immigrants to the UK take an ESOL exam which is accredited by Ofqual, the exams watchdog.

To stay in the UK, immigrants need to pass the exam. However an investigation by the paper shows how applicants are offered a “guaranteed pass” for the compulsory Entry 3 Level ESOL exam for £500 ($786 USD, €622) (which is more than 3 times the usual cost).

Furthermore, the applicants don’t even have to visit the center, turn up for lessons or sit the exam. Instead an examiner does it all for them, including interviewing a fake candidate for the spoken part of the test. (Meanwhile anyone who feels they would like to sit the test themeselves can pay the money and be given the answers in advance.)

The scam came to light after a whistleblower at the Learn Pass Succeed school based in London approached the paper. However, the owner of LPS says he’s “shocked” and that the problem was only in one branch of the school which has passed some 50,000 candidates so far.

Editor’s Comment

This does not surprise us at all and is, no doubt, the tip of the iceberg.

We have heard a lot of rumors about these types of scams going on at quite a number of different test centers and it goes to prove what many people are too afraid to admit:

  • accreditation is a joke; even government run accreditation is open to heavy abuse and is often not even worth the paper its written on
  • the government is ineffectual and unwilling to act

After the last major scam in the UK there were promises of a clamp down and more stringent checks, but where are they now? Pathetic, mealy mouthed politicians made a few promises but then when the fuss died down they did nothing.

And it will be the same here. In a few months another similar scam will come to light and, almost inevitably, nothing will be done.

Useful Links

The Daily Mail article – bringing this to light

English Grammar – app review

English Grammar emantraQuite 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

Any grammar of English written for learners (or teachers for that matter) needs to fulfill 3 main criteria.

  1. it must be accurate
  2. it must be error-free
  3. it must be easy to understand

This app fulfills none of these. It is not accurate. It is full of errors. It is not easy to understand. Thus it is pretty much useless for learners and teachers of English.

But don’t take my word for it, let’s look at a few examples.

The first problem is the language used in the app. It is very formal, verbose, and not at all suited to learners of English. For example, the introduction to the app begins:

The modern biolinguists [sic] seems to indicate that Spoken English is strongly instinctual in nature.

Who is this written for? Would any non-advanced learner of English understand this? Would any advanced learner or teacher fail to see the grammatical errors in this statement?

And who brings biolinguists into a grammar of this type?!

So within minutes of firing up this app we began to suspect that it was written by someone (or people) who did not have a perfect command of English. Which, if you’re writing an English grammar, is a bit of a problem.

The errors continue throughout the app. Take, for example, the page on idioms. Now a good page on idioms will explain for learners what idioms are and then likely give a few useful and common examples so that learners can immediately see and understand what idioms are all about.

The Emantra app begins to talk about idioms like this:

Idioms combination of words that has a figurative meaning. [sic]

So its definition of idioms contains a grammatical error which doesn’t bode well.

It then goes on to list a few example idioms. Now if I were writing a page on idioms I’d include a few common ones. The Wikipedia page on idioms, for examples, includes these:

  • She is pulling my leg.
  • When will you drop them a line?
  • You should keep an eye out for that.

and so on. Simple, common, everyday, idioms.

This app, however, decides to go a different route. In their 8 example idioms they include one in Latin, one written wrongly, and one that none of us here in the office had ever heard of before and which even a Google search failed to help explain.

Et tu Brutus – meaning: apparently the last words of Julius Ceaser

Ignoring the fact that the meaning isn’t explained, it’s hardly an idiom which beginner or intermediate English learners will come across or find particularly useful.

Clear as Bell [sic] – meaning: to be understood clearly.

Was this app even proof read by a native English speaker?

And then our favorite:

Cat bird seat – meaning: to be a vantage point

Have you ever heard of this? Does it make sense to you?


Don’t bother with this app. If you want an easy access English grammar then there are plenty to choose from. This app is full of mistakes, poorly chosen examples, links which don’t work, exercises which don’t exist and all put together in a dull, uninspiring design.

Rating 0 out of 5.

Useful Links

Learn English 6000 Words – app review

Learn English 6000 WordsThe 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 possibly forget many of the words.

Using the App

The app is small and installs quickly and easily. We tested it on a Nexus 10 tablet.

Once installed, to start with you choose your own language. Yes, there’s a lot of translation going on here which didn’t bode well.

You then choose a semantic field: appearance, shopping, health and so on. And then you choose how to see and practice the words in that field.

To do this there are several different “games” to choose from: listen & choose, listen & write, find image and so on. Simply choose your game and begin: see a picture and choose the right word; hear the word and choose the right picture; match the word in your own language with the word in English; see a picture then fill in the missing letters to write the word…

And it goes on and on and on.

Presumably dedicated users will sit there (on their own, definitely not a classroom app this one) and simply spend hours clicking away trying to link pictures and words together, repeating the same old words over and over and over again till they are pummeled into their heads in much the same way they make foie gras.

And here’s the first main problem with this app: It simply piles words and pictures onto users with no real context. Words float around in a vacuum and whilst they are broken down into semantic fields and presumably users will choose those fields which interest them, there is certainly precious little context to go with the vocabulary which is never the best way to teach or learn or practice new vocabulary.

Dedicated users, then, will find that they will learn new vocabulary simply through brute force. But I am pretty sure that most users will install this app, use it a couple of times, and then forget about it so that brute force will never really come into play since it is so uninspiring.

Problems with Levels

Another major criticism I have is the levels system.

The app is completely linear. You start off at  beginner level which you MUST complete before moving on. This means that if you are an advanced user you MUST trawl through simple vocabulary before trawling through the intermediate vocabulary before getting to the more useful stuff.

To be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to do that. I used the app for twenty minutes at Beginner level and then gave up without advancing because I was bored and I suspect pretty well all but the most dedicated intermediate and advanced users will do the same.

Which is a shame because perhaps the advanced levels include fun videos, amazing interactive quizes, engaging dialogs, or state-of-the-art learning… but I never got there so I’ll never know.


The app is free. Personally, that’s the right price because I for one would not pay for something like this.

As a serious app to help learn vocabulary, it is not useful. It’s old fashioned in its approach to learning and teaching vocabulary; it’s tedious and boring after a few minutes; and only the most traditional, staid, and conservative learners will find it engaging. The adverts are a bit annoying as well.

Rating 1 out of 5.

Useful Links

Morocco Universities move to English

A group of Students under a French sign in RabatMorocco 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 students will need to be fluent in English to graduate in in various programs including Engineering and Medicine.

Most Moroccan students welcome the change, French often being seen as the language of the former colonial masters of the country, however there are some who feel that Arabic should be promoted.

For qualified English teachers this will mean great new opportunities to head over to Morocco and work within not only the EAP university system but also teaching more general English to younger students.

Useful Links

Teaching English in Morocco‏‎ – all about the opportunities and lifestyle working as an English teacher in Morocco

English for Academic Purposes‏‎ -EAP – about teaching English for university level students

Morocco World News – more on this story

Image © Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Summer Jobs for TEFL/TESOL Teachers

summer by the pool

Perks of teaching in the summer time.

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

Most TEFL teaching contracts‏‎ are for 10 months. More often than not they run from the beginning of the academic year‏‎ (often around September) to the end of the year (around June).

Then the school usually closes down. The doors are shut and everyone goes on holiday.

Although there are no firm statistics around, one estimate suggests about 90% of regular English language schools around the world close down for summer which means no jobs for the summer.

Summer Schools

But all is not lost. Some schools do decide to run summer courses. These are short courses where students spend a few weeks learning English. Often these are not just English but also combined with recreational activities. The students may well be away from home camping out or living in hostel type accommodation while they learn.

There are jobs teaching here and places like Italy and Spain have regular summer camps where English is used and taught.

However, whilst it is possible to find work in places like these, it’s often very difficult.

Simply put, when the regular English schools close down for summer the English native teachers there will either go on holiday or – as is often the case – hang around waiting for the new term to start in September. They will often do private lessons during this down time but of course many are also available to work in local summer schools.

A school running a summer course will first look for local teachers to work there (for obvious reasons) and only when they can’t find any they will advertise abroad in the USA or UK, etc, for teachers.

This means that if you are in the USA or UK and looking for a short summer break to teach English it is very unlikely that you will see the jobs advertised and if you do there will be a lot of competition to get them, especially because the school will, of course, still be looking for qualified teachers so the usual rules apply: a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.


If you are looking for a couple of months in the sun teaching English then you may be lucky, but bear in mind that it won’t be easy finding work.

Far more likely you will be able to find a full time job for a year beginning in September and lasting through to the following summer. Then you might have the chance of working in a summer school or, more likely, going on holiday for a couple of months. So start planning now and get TEFL certified in time for September!

External Links

Canadian Island – an example of summer camps in Italy.

TEFL Job Sites


Looking for work is a job in itself!

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.

For more information on finding work, submitting your CV/Resume and suchlike, see our Finding TEFL Jobs section.

TEFL Job Sites

Sitename Notes
ESL Base Limited number of jobs.
Jobs.ac.uk Usually higher level academic jobs either in the UK or abroad. Often these are for international schools and higher positions. The British Council‏‎ advertise some positions here.
TEFL.com Often highly rated, it has jobs particularly in Europe and the UK. However, very poorly laid out site and difficult to find good information once you’re there due to excessive advertisements littering the place, some for dubious schools making outrageous claims!
Dave’s ESL Cafe The site is pretty poor, however they do have lots of jobs here. You will need to check them carefully because the site posts all sorts of rubbish and the jobs are not checked. This means you’ll see jobs with sub-standard conditions, low pay, high agent fees and so on. The jobs are definitely quantity and not quality!Avoid the forums; too much bullying.
TEFL Jobs World Limited number of jobs but they do include jobs from around the world.
ESL Employment One or two jobs added per week.

Note: if you would like to suggest another site for TEFL jobs, do please contact us. Our experts will check the site out and, if it’s decent, include it here.

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 man.

Well, it was almost like that. We did get comments like these to the professor’s remarks about commas:

“A damn Yank dictating that we should drop the comma from OUR language? Only to be expected though from a nation that has helped to demolish it.”

“The descent into mediocrity continues.”

“Anything emanating from America regarding correct usage of the English language needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.”

“The Professor of Stupid at the University of Pointless.”

“Just another dumb American professor.”

But to me, it all seemed a little off. Something didn’t smell right. Since when do professors make outrageous claims about language like this?

So I thought I’d take a look.

The Source

The whole thing seems to have originated in an article in a Slate Magazine written by Matthew J.X. Malady who writes about language and usage in a provocative, pushy way that seems designed to get a reaction.

The article was called Will We Use Commas in the Future? and posed a simple question. A legitimate question. One that has a pretty obvious answer but one that it is perfectly fine asking nonetheless.

Malady then quoted Professor John McWhorter from Columbia University who said we “could take [the commas out of] a great deal of modern American texts and you would probably suffer so little loss of clarity that there could even be a case made for not using commas at all.”

You see that? Professor McWhorter uses 3 modal verbs there; he’s very cagey about it all. He doesn’t say we must get rid of commas outright. He doesn’t say we should take reprisals against anyone who uses them. He isn’t aggressive or outrageous or provocative or threatening.

No, he merely suggests that if commas were removed from some texts then in some cases there might be no loss of clarity.

He’s a cautious man is Professor McWhorter.

Then the professor goes on to talk about how people have two different registers: formal and informal and whilst in informal writing we might drop a comma or two (especially in restricted length messages like Twitter), in formal texts he notes that his students haven’t dropped commas at all!

Again, good, reasonable arguments from the professor.


But then it went wrong.

The Slate article was picked up by the UK Independent and a few other papers.

Then a few more.

Then others.

And as the article spread around it lost all the cautiousness of the original and became bolder and more definitive. We started to see headlines like these:

“The comma may be dying out, says US professor” UK Independent

“Comma: is it time for a full stop?” Calcutta Telegraph

“Comma may be abolished from English language: US academic” New Delhi Television

“Death of the comma – the punctuation mark is dying out says US professor” Irish Independent

“Scholar says comma should be abolished” The Australian

So we went from Professor John McWhorter saying that under certain circumstances the comma might not be necessary, to him saying we should get rid of it all together!

Ok, this is a trivial example. But typical, and the fault of shoddy journalism and reactionary fools.

  1. A reasonable statement is made.
  2. It is taken out of context.
  3. It is exaggerated.
  4. Ad hominem attacks begin.

Stop and think, people… after all, we’ve seen embassies attacked and people killed over little more than simple misunderstandings and misinterpretations like this.

Useful Links

Commas in English Punctuation – how to use commas properly

Will We Use Commas in the Future? – the original article in The Slate

Death of the comma – the punctuation mark is dying out says US professor – from the Irish Independent (and no, he didn’t say that)

The death of the comma? – from the Daily Mail online; the comments are suitably Mail

The comma may by dying out, says US professor – the UK Independent; the comments are suitably Indie

TOEIC Suspended in the UK after Scam

TOEIC Suspension AnnouncementThe 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 the UK.

One immigration company in London – Studentway Education – charged £500 ($786 USD, €622) for a guaranteed pass promised even if the applicant spoke no English at all.

The director of the school, Varinder Bajarh said, “Someone else will sit the exam for you. But you will have to have your photo taken there to prove you were present.”

The “immigrant” (actually an undercover reporter) was then sent to Eden College International which was a government registered and approved test center for TOEIC and also accredited by the British Council among others.

Once the exam started an expert English speaker took the place of the “immigrant” and answered the written and oral parts of the exam. Finally the “immigrant” returned to the terminal to have their photo taken to “prove” it was they who had taken the exam.

Later the “immigrant” took the multiple-choice part of the test. When they did this an invigilator simply read out the correct answers for them, completing the 2-hour test in just a few minutes.

A few days later the “immigrant” received a certificate from TOEIC with an excellent pass.

After the scandal was exposed on the BBC, the UK government stopped all TOEIC with immediate effect whilst it looks into the way in which these (and other) tests are run and how immigrants should have their English language skills assessed for their visas.

The Players

Studentway Education – accused of involvement in the scam. Their website claims they are “a reputed and esteemed highly ranked consultancy firm located in London” but it also contains a great deal of poor English. They still advertise their involvement in IELTS but not TOEIC.

Eden College International – they strenuously deny any involvement in the scam. They still advertise their involvement in IELTS but not TOEIC.

TOEIC is run by ETS who set the exam but who do not provide invigilators. On their website they simply say, “The UK Home Office has requested ETS to suspend TOEIC® and TOEFL® testing temporarily in the UK related to immigration purposes.” They offer a refund for anyone who has the test booked.

Panorama – an investigative program on the BBC in the UK.

Useful Links

TOEIC – an introduction to the exam

IELTS – a similar exam; there was a major scandal in Australia along similar lines some years ago

IELTS Scores withheld in China – another case of misconduct

Student visa system fraud exposed in BBC investigation – news of the BBC/Panorama report

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 students down for it in another is blatantly absurd.

And many others disagreed with the Cambridge councilors and the examiners and demanded that good English should be used and the apostrophes returned to the streets. So much so that groups were formed and grammatically inclined vigilantes took to the streets and used marker pens to add apostrophes to errant signs.

Finally Cambridge council have seen sense and they have stated that they will now bring back the apostrophes to where they belong. They admit there was no good reason to leave them out and it was all a bit stupid to do so.

So presumably Cambridge Assessment will do a quick 180 and support the idea now to remove the egg from their face.

Useful Links

Missing Apostrophes Don’t Worry Cambridge Examiners – the original ICAL TEFL article

Council reverses its ban on apostrophes – more on this story from the Guardian Newspaper

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 the teacher was suspended for 3 days.

The headmaster released a statement saying, “Students were having difficulty grasping the concepts of literary devices such as: pun, simile, metaphor, so the teacher used colloquial material. This material did not meet the school’s standards and was not approved. The teacher recognizes that it was totally inappropriate for a school assignment.”

Editor’s Comments

The teacher was a fool. By all means use contemporary material which will interest your students, but even the most inexperienced teacher knows that this kind of material is certain to upset parents and cause problems.

Why did they do it? Shock value? Perhaps to try and win over the students? Perhaps to vent their own frustration at the boring material they had to use? 

Only the teacher knows. But let this serve as a timely reminder that as teachers we need to err on the side of caution when it comes to those subjects which can easily cause problems in the classroom: sex, religion, swearing and politics.

There most certainly is a time and place to include taboo words in teaching English, but it has to be the right time and place: and this wasn’t it.

Useful Links

Sensitive Subjects‏‎ in Teaching English – what subjects you should avoid in the classroom

Taboo Words‏‎ and Teaching English – how to deal with swear words and teaching

6 Foot 7 Foot by Lil Wayne

These are the full lyrics to the song in question. Do not read them if you are easily offended!

Six-foot, seven-foot, eight-foot bunch

Excuse my charisma, vodka with a spritzer
Swagger down pat, call my shit Patricia
Young Money militia and I am the commissioner
You no wan’ start Weezy cause the ‘F’ is for finisher
So misunderstood, but what’s a world without enigma?
Two bitches at the same time, synchronized swimmers
Got the girl twisted cause she open when you twist her
Never met the bitch, but I fuck her like I missed her
Life is the bitch, and death is her sister
Sleep is the cousin, what a fuckin’ family picture
You know Father Time, and we all know Mother Nature
It’s all in the family, but I am of no relation
No matter who’s buyin’, I’m a celebration
Black and white diamonds, fuck segregation
Fuck that shit, my money up, you niggas just Honey Nut
Young Money runnin’ shit and you niggas just runner-ups
I don’t feel I done enough, so I’mma keep on doin’ this shit
Lil Tunechi or Young Tuna Fish

I’m goin’ back in
Okay, I lost my mind, it’s somewhere out there stranded
I think you stand under me if you don’t understand me
Had my heart broken by this woman named Tammy
But hoes gon’ be hoes, so I couldn’t blame Tammy
Just talked to Moms, told her she the sweetest
I beat the beat up, call it self-defense
Swear, man, I be seein’ through these niggas like sequins
Niggas think they He-Men, pow, pow, the end
Talkin’ to myself because I am my own consultant
Married to the money, fuck the world, that’s adultery
You full of shit, you close your mouth and let yo’ ass talk
Young Money eatin’, all you haters do is add salt
Stop playin’, bitch, I got this game on deadbolt
Mind so sharp, I fuck around and cut my head off
Real nigga all day and tomorrow
But these motherfuckers talkin’ crazy like they jaw broke
Glass half empty, half full, I’ll spill ya
Try me and run into a wall: outfielder
You know I’mma ball ’til they turn off the field lights
The fruits of my labor, I enjoy ’em while they still ripe
Bitch, stop playin’, I do it like a king do
If these niggas animals, then I’mma have a mink soon
Tell ’em bitches I say put my name on the wall
I speak the truth, but I guess that’s a foreign language to y’all
And I call it like I see it, and my glasses on
But most of y’all don’t get the picture ‘less the flash is on
Satisfied with nothin’, you don’t know the half of it
Young Money, Cash Money
Paper chasin’, tell that paper, “Look, I’m right behind ya”
Bitch, real G’s move in silence like lasagna
People say I’m borderline crazy, sorta kinda
Woman of my dreams, I don’t sleep so I can’t find her
You niggas are gelatin, peanuts to an elephant
I got through that sentence like a subject and a predicate
Yeah, with a swag you would kill for
Money too strong, pockets on bodybuilder
Jumped in a wishin’ well, now wish me well
Tell ’em kiss my ass, call it kiss and tell

Word to my mama, I’m out of my lima bean
Don’t wanna see what that drama mean, get some Dramamine
Llama scream, hotter than summer sun on a Ghana queen
Now all I want is hits, bitch, Wayne signed a fiend
I played the side for you niggas that’s tryna front, and see
Son of Gun, Son of Sam, you nigga’s the son of me
Pause for this dumber speech, I glow like Buddha
Disturb me, and you’ll be all over the flo’ like Luda
Bitch, I flow like scuba, bitch, I’m bold like Cuba
And I keep a killer ho, she gon’ blow right through ya
I be mackin’, ’bout my stackin’, now I pack like a mover
Shout to ratchet for backin’ out on behalf of my shooter
Niggas think they high as I, I come laugh at your ruler
Cash Money cold, bitch, but our actions is cooler
Wayne, these niggas out they mind
I done told these fuck niggas so many times
That I keep these bucks steady on my mind
Tuck these, I fuck these on your mind, pause
To feed them, on my grind, did I get a little love
Keep throwin’ my sign in the middle
Hit ’em up, piece on my side, cause ain’t no peace on my side, bitch
I’m a man, I visit urinals with pride
Tune told me to, I’m shootin’ when the funeral outside
I’m uptown, thoroughbred, a BX nigga, ya heard? Gunna

Teaching English in the Balkans

Map of the BalkansTEFL/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 to the East (and Russian).

But now the Balkan countries all look to the west, learning English, and joining the European Union‏‎. If they are not already part of the EU, they are candidates or potential candidates. The likelihood is that within some years all the Balkan countries will be part of the EU.

This means that whilst it is easy for British or Irish teachers to go to the Balkans now and work, it is very difficult for non-European teachers to find teaching jobs there. 

For more on this see Teaching in the EU for Non-Europeans.

Note the usual qualifications to teach in the Balkan countries are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.

The Balkans comprise the following countries (with their EU status shown):

* Yugoslavia does not, of course, exist now; it’s left here for reference only.

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 with ICAL since the very beginning in 1998. She deals with inquiries and student administration.

Susan Schauber – Susan is our course director, overseeing the academic side of the material and the running of the courses as well as student – tutor relations.

Tom Rose – our resident tutor. Tom helps new students with their first assignments, making sure they are on the right track. He also steps in when tutors take a break or if there is a need for a super quick reply.

Daisy Murray-Smith – Daisy is our ICAL accountant.

Lucy Hewitt – Lucy is our administrative assistant, and a great help to Pete. She mainly deals with emails from people interested in our courses.

Roger Stewart – Roger is a senior tutor and one of our key material writers. He also oversees much of the ICAL online resources.

Stephany Jones – Stephy is our grammar expert! She tutors the ICAL Grammar Foundation Course and supervises the compiling and updating of the ICAL Grammar Guide.

And last, but not least, we have over 30 personal tutors working for us. They are located all around the world and are mostly American or British. Each student at ICAL has a personal tutor who works with them during the course and helps them with the material and assignments. See here for more information and feedback about our Personal Tutors.

Missing Apostrophes Don’t Worry Cambridge Examiners

Two street signs: one missing an apostrophe.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 language testing across the world.

One Cambridge student (who wished to remain anonymous) said, “This is just another example of dumbing down. People struggle with apostrophes so removing them from street signs is giving those people even more of an excuse to produce sloppy, mistake ridden English.”

Editor’s Comments

I think this is simply a matter of dumbing down. There can be no other logical reason. And now if missing apostrophes are accepted by one of the leading examination bodies in the world, what excuse do they have for penalizing them in their own exams?

Useful Links

Apostrophe free street names will not drive down standards – a statement on this from Cambridge Assessment

Apostrophe‏‎s in English – all about apostrophes in English and how to use them properly!

Image © Trevor Coultart

India pushing English Books

Logo of the Jaipur Festival“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 an industry worth keeping an eye on. If they want to publish in English, there is an undoubted market in India for English language books.

Currently of the 90,000 books produced each year in India, about 26% are Hindi and 24% are English. But English is soon slated to overtake Hindi and become the number one publishing language in India.

Useful Links

Jaipur Literature Festival – official site

Teaching English in India – how to find work & teach English in India

English Lessons lead to the Olympics

Curling by SwedenWho 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 in Sochi, Russia.

Editor’s Comment

This is a brilliant example of English in action; it was used not as an end in itself but as a way of exploring the world and this has led on to career in something quite unexpected for not only Sigfridsson but countless other students.


Caïn by Henri Vidal, Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1896

The correct reaction on seeing “grammer”.

Please… whatever else you do… spell GRAMMAR with an A at the end and not an E.

  • GRAMM A R – yes
  • GRAMM E R – no

According to Google, a search for ‘grammer’ brings up over 4 million hits.

Google results for GRAMMER

However, things seem to be getting better. Looking at Google n-grams we can see that people seem to be spelling grammar correctly better now than at any time during the past 100 years. Possibly as a result of spell-checkers on their computer, but this has to be a good thing.

Graph of GRAMMER use over 100 years.

Nonetheless, we still see teachers and students spell this word wrongly; only the other day we had a resume sent to us from a TEFL teacher with an MA and they spelled grammar wrongly. As you might imagine, their application went no further…

US Education Department Fails Language Learners

A picture of Arne Duncan.“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 America.

The report goes on to criticize Education Secretary Duncan and the way in which of the $840 billion of federal spending and tax cuts to benefit education in the 2009 ARRA Act, not one single penny was given to programs helping emerging bilingual students leading to a severe shortage of teachers qualified to teach these emerging bilingual students.

Editor’s Comments

The report makes for sad reading. It shows a complete disregard for the future by the Administration in terms of these students, students who will go on to form an ever increasing group within American society. 

It also shows a blatant disregard for the profession of TESOL. The Administration is seemingly blind to them and whilst it puts money into other less valuable projects, it simply ignores TESOL and this is a time bomb waiting to go off. The number of non-English speaking students it only going to increase in America. They are generally poor and lack the resources for a decent education so denying them English language skills there’s a risk they will simply stay within their own language ghetto with all the consequences that will bring.

Useful Links

U.S. Education Department Fails Fastest Growing Student Group – original report in PDF format



US Education Department Fails Language Learners

A picture of Arne Duncan.

Arne Duncan

“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 America.

The report goes on to criticize Education Secretary Duncan and the way in which of the $840 billion of federal spending and tax cuts to benefit education in the 2009 ARRA Act, not one single penny was given to programs helping emerging bilingual students leading to a severe shortage of teachers qualified to teach these emerging bilingual students.

Editor’s Comments

The report makes for sad reading. It shows a complete disregard for the future by the Administration in terms of these students, students who will go on to form an ever increasing group within American society. 

It also shows a blatant disregard for the profession of TESOL. The Administration is seemingly blind to them and whilst it puts money into other less valuable projects, it simply ignores TESOL and this is a time bomb waiting to go off. The number of non-English speaking students it only going to increase in America. They are generally poor and lack the resources for a decent education so denying them English language skills there’s a risk they will simply stay within their own language ghetto with all the consequences that will bring.

Useful Links

U.S. Education Department Fails Fastest Growing Student Group – original report in PDF format

The Lifespan of Words in English

Man with a lifespan chart.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 Kingdom announced that they had discovered 23 words which were 15,000 years old.

Language is a living entity in constant evolution. Words appear and disappear daily, with new words being created every 98 minutes on average.

Some dialects become endangered and some get totally lost. Languages like the Tibeto-Burman Koro, in northeastern India, are yet to be fully recorded.

But even an ever-changing entity has a core. Reading researchers identified this core in 23 words which are simple, almost basic, yet descriptive and able to suggest abstract relations.

They are: thou, I, not, that, we, to give, who, this, what, man/male, ye, old, mother, to hear, hand, fire, to pull, black, to flow, bark, ashes, to spit, worm.

Several of these words like I, thou, we, ye are to do with engaging directly with others. This suggests that, even 15,000 years ago, we were already using language for negotiation and building relationships. Indicative of our ancestors’ ability to assign abstract concepts to words is perhaps the word ‘spit’ which not only indicates the physical action of getting rid of something unpleasant or dangerous to our health, but it is also used to show disapproval and disgust.

The most puzzling is perhaps the word ‘worm’. However if we think of where we come from and where our mortal remains will end up (“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”) then even ‘worm’ makes sense.

Image © jurvetson


Vietnam Desperate to find Decent English Teachers


When the teacher’s away …

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 enough teachers isn’t the only problem. Each of the English teachers from the Philippines is due to be paid 2,000 USD per month with half being provided by the local government and half from the schools. However, the local government can’t afford their half leaving the schools to foot the entire bill.

This means students are each paying 120,000 VND (about $5.70 US) per month to pay for their teacher. Even so, this is not enough and salaries are being taken from other teachers and school budgets.

To make the best of a bad situation, some Filipino teachers are being shared between schools who cannot afford a full teacher; other schools have employed foreign English teachers working at private language schools as well.

As if this weren’t enough, there have also been complaints about those Filipino teachers already working at schools. Some have been accused of lacking suitable skills to teach at Secondary level and students are complaining they cannot understand the teachers’ English accents.

Editor’s Comment

I don’t know about you, but if I were an English teacher looking for work, I’d be emailing the Department of Education in HCM within the next ten minutes offering my services. The salary is very good and Vietnam is a pretty amazing place to live and work in for a few years. If you are qualified and looking for work… what are you waiting for?!

Useful Links

Teaching English in Vietnam‏‎

Student for a Day

Man in a school uniform.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 doing all the things students do.

But it had a practical side. Some very useful things came out of this from basic problems such as the chairs being uncomfortable to more subtle ones: the lessons were long and students (including the teachers-as-students) got bored all that time. What was needed then were a few simple changes to make the learning environment better.

Now I’m wondering now if this can be adapted to the local school where I help out; I would love to try this one out! Certainly it seems a brilliant idea!

This whole concept follows the idea that when we go into work we tend to insulate ourselves from what is around us and then as we (hopefully) move up the ladder we tend to forget what has gone on before.

All teachers went to school as students once upon a time, but it’s easy to forget and step into the role of “teacher” while at the same time forgetting that we, too, were once students. A little reminder now and then can’t be a bad thing.

Useful Links

Teachers Walk in Student Shoes – the original article from the school where this happened; well worth a read.

Student for a Day – the video which goes with the article.


Lexical Distance

Graphic of lexical differences.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.

Lexical Difference and Language Teaching

For TEFL teachers the lexical difference between English and the students’ mother tongue (mt)‏‎ will have major implications. If the student speaks a language closely related to English (e.g. German) they will be able to find many signposts in terms of known vocabulary whereas a student speaking Albanian as an mt will find it harder.

One problem to look out for is the presence of false friends‏‎ (words from different languages which seem the same but actually have very different meanings). This is more likely to be a problem for the German student than the Albanian student.

Useful Links

Mother Tongue (MT) Influence‏‎ – how the students mt can influence how they speak English

The graphic was originally posted on
the Etymologikon blog by Teresa Elms.

Jakarta to Keep English Lessons

Indonesian FlagElementary 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 begin in Middle school, however.

This move has angered many people who see learning English as important in the global environment and understand that starting English at an early age is important.

Meanwhile, it is also been seen as an opportunity for private schools to gain more students to make up for the cutbacks in state education. One private school owner saw this as a great opportunity and has already begun advertising classes for younger students.

Useful Links

Teaching English in Indonesia‏‎

Jakarta Post Article – an article from the Jakarta Post on this subject

Your Nationality when Teaching Abroad


Keep your identity.

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 a passport from the United States. When you go to, say, South Korea to teach English you will be given a visa from the South Korean Government allowing you to enter and leave the country at will.

You will not have to take South Korean nationality or citizenship and give up your American nationality. No, you will effectively be given temporary access to South Korea for work.

So in most cases when you are working in another country as a TEFL teacher you will often have a visa to enter the country and a work permit allowing you to work there. You will keep your passport from your home country.

Note that although there is a legal difference between the two words citizenship and nationality, to all intents and purposes (and for the purposes of this article) they are pretty much the same. We usually talk about someone’s nationality when we refer to the country where they come from and the passport which they hold.

Changing Nationalities

There are many people who have spent their entire working lives abroad teaching English but who still retain their own nationality, passport and citizenship. In fact, probably about 99.9% of teachers never change their nationality.

However, if you have lived in a county for many years and perhaps married a local, you may decide to give up your own nationality and adopt the nationality of your host country. This is generally not a problem to do. Sometimes you can have dual nationality and keep your own original passport but also have a passport from your adopted country. Other times you will have to give up your original nationality/citizenship in order to get a new nationality/citizenship.

Useful Links

Passports‏‎ – all about your passport when working abroad

Visas for English Teachers Abroad – all about visas to visit different countries

Intonation in Practice – intonation activity

EmoticonsIntonation 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, surprise, happiness, annoyance, boredom, indifference, and so on.

Next, put on the board‏‎ (or handout if you’ve prepared this earlier) a simple A – B dialog and get the students to read it out loud in a fairly neutral tone. Of course the dialog should be of the right level for your class. Here’s a simple example:

A: Hi, how are you?
B: Fine, thanks. And you?
A: Very good. What are you up to these days?
B: Not much, but I’m always running around.
A: I see. Well…I’ve got to go now. See you.
B: Yes, see you…bye!
A: Goodbye.

Now get your students to repeat this mini dialogue over and over in a neutral tone. It should almost become a mantra! Then have them practice in pairs, still keeping a neutral tone.

Now it’s time to use some pre-prepared scenarios which you have written down on flashcards‏‎. Each one should have a possible situation where the dialog could take place, e.g.:

  • two actors out of work
  • a sick person in hospital and friend who visits
  • two old people who are all but deaf
  • a divorced couple
  • a landlady and her overdue tenant
  • two people who have met before, but can’t remember where
  • two old friends who run into each other on a railway platform

The first time you do this invite a good student up and choose a card at random which you can show the student but not the class. Do the scene with them saying the dialog in the manner of the scene. Of course emphasize your intonation so that if you were playing the two old deaf people you would shout a lot and say the words slowly. However, remember not to change the dialog, just the delivery!

Then, of course, invite the rest of the class to guess the scenario!

Once the class understand, give each pair a card which is for their eyes only and they must not reveal its content to anyone else. Get each pair to practice the dialogue they have just learned using intonation, gestures and body language to suit their assigned scenario.

After each pair has practiced it for about 5 min call them up and have them perform the dialogue in front of the class and the class will have to guess the scenario.

The idea behind this activity is that by by giving a different intonation to the same A – B dialogue they can appreciate the importance of intonation in speaking.

from an idea by Steve O’Connor, ESL teacher in Chengdu PRC

Norwegian vs English

Norwegian airplaneThis 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 a Germanic language so there are many similarities between it and English giving Norwegian students plenty of signposts when reading and understanding an English text.

bread = brød
milk = melk/mjølk
coffee = kaffe/kaffi
tea = te

…to name but a few. However, whilst there are a great many cognates, there are also quite a few false friends‏‎ including:

aktor = prosecutor
bare = only
bra = good
butt = thick, blunt
fag = subject
hell = good luck
late = seem
love = promise
men = but
rape = burp
sky = cloud
slips = man’s tie
smell = bang, pop
time = hour
travel = busy

For a longer list, see here.


Norwegian word order is very similar to English and follows the usual SVO pattern and even with longer sentences Norwegian shows a remarkable similarity to English.

There are other grammatical similarities, too. For example to make the possessive in Norwegian they add an ‘s’ to the end of the word as we do in English:

man = mann
bike = sykkel
man’s bike = manns sykkel

One small issue, however, is with the possessive apostrophe which will have to be carefully explained.

Another common problem you will come across in teaching Norwegian students is the difference between:

it is
there are

Subject-Verb agreement‏‎ errors are arguably the most common grammar mistakes Norwegian students make.


In general, the English verb system‏‎ is more complex than the Norwegian. Time will need to be spent on this aspect of teaching.

For example, forming the passive voice‏‎ is easy in Norwegian but it is more difficult in English and this can sometimes cause issues.

Another problem you may find is when students make a negative. A Norwegian may well say:

* I not like that.

an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence indicates that it is not grammatically correct

Using the auxiliary verb to make the negative will have to be taught well.


In Norwegian grammar, a period or full stop is used after a number so, for example you might see:

we know that World War 2 began in 1939 = vi vet at 2. verdenskrig begynte i 1939.

Just make sure your students know that in English digits are treated essentially as words and are not followed by a full stop unless they’re at the end of a sentence.


Norwegian is very similar to Swedish and Danish; the written form is more similar to Danish, the spoken form more similar to Swedish. (As you can imagine, if political boundaries were different, these 3 languages would probably be as dialects rather than languages).

Image © Leoncio J

Teaching English in America

The globe showing the American continent.

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.

North America

That is, the USA‏‎ and Canada‏‎. To work here teaching English as a TEFL teacher you need to be well qualified and competition is stiff for jobs. This is especially true in Canada where experience is often required. Whilst teachers can find work in local community centers and private schools, jobs in the state sector require higher qualifications and often state endorsements.

Latin America (the Caribbean, Central America, South America)

In the Caribbean there are several English speaking countries and work here – as you may well imagine – is difficult to come by. However there are plenty of other opportunities with Mexico being one of the most popular destinations then Central America and South America, both of which are very popular places for new teachers who lack experience.

Working in Central or South America is often a first option for TEFL teachers from the US or Canada (and to a lesser extent from Australia and Europe) as demand for teachers outstrips supply and schools will take qualified teachers who don’t have experience.

Note the usual qualifications to teach in these regions 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  certificate is still usually required.

Countries in America

Those countries with TEFL teaching opportunities are linked below with details and more information.

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 don’t make a right.

Better late than never.

Each of these can be seen as a summing up of common sense and everyday knowledge and they are often used didactically. For example, a parent might well say to a child that honesty is the best policy and encourage the child to tell the truth in all matters.

Teaching Proverbs in the TEFL Classroom

It is best to teach proverbs as they arise in the lesson rather than present your class with a list of many proverbs to learn. The reason is, of course, that there are just so many proverbs and taking them out of context does not help in learning.

Fortunately proverbs (unlike phrasal verbs‏‎, for example) can often be examined and have their meaning deduced. It may take a little prompting by the teacher, but your students should be able to work out the meaning of many of them. One other useful aspect of proverbs is that because they contain so-called “universal wisdom” the students’ mother tongue‏‎ may well have a very similar proverb. In Italian, for example, you have a caval donato non si guarda in bocca which is the same as don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

So encourage your students to examine the proverb and try to reveal the underlying wisdom it contains. Suppose you come across this in a lesson:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Encourage your students to work out what it means and what it is trying to say. The language of proverbs is usually quite simple and it should not take much for the class to paraphrase it thus:

You can encourage someone a great deal but you can’t force them to do something if they don’t want to.

Perhaps then your students can come up with their own versions?

You can put a student in class but you can’t make them study.

You can send someone boxes of chocolate but you can’t force them to go out with you.

And so on.

Proverbs & Wisdom

Proverbs are used to give out words of wisdom. However, because they have been around for so long people generally use them and accept them without thinking. Sometimes the wisdom they give out can be contradicted.

English contains many pairs of contradictory proverbs, amongst which are:

Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Out of sight, out of mind.

You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Clothes make the man.

You can use these to raise discussion in your class. Are both proverbs correct? If so, when is one right and the other wrong?

Another useful exercise in class, especially with older students with good English, is to question proverbs. There is a possibility that proverbs reflect cultural values which may not necessarily apply where you are teaching, or perhaps show a blatant disregard for some aspect of life.

Take, for example, this proverb:

The early bird catches the worm.

This is used to encourage people to get up early, start work immediately and get on with the task. It is a good example of the kind of proverb that one could imagine Victorian factory owners using!

However, there is another side to it. If the worm gets up early it will be eaten; it is thus better for the worm to get up late and live a long and healthy life!

Proverbs and Maxims and…

There is no fixed definition of what a proverb is. In English we use all of these to talk about similar things:

proverb – a saying with some universal truth included
maxim – a proverb which provides a guide for how to live your life
saw – an old saying, commonly used and repeated
saying – all the above!

As you can see, the definitions of these words overlap a great deal.

Useful Links

50 Important Proverbs – a simple list of common proverbs

English Proverbs – from Wikiquote

Proverbs from Different Languages – from Wikiquote

Proverb Match‏‎ – an activity to practice proverbs in the classroom

A long list of proverbs‏‎ – a simple list of common proverbs

Teach and Travel as an English Teacher Abroad


The world is your oyster!

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 you can join them…

A Typical Plan

What often happens with English teachers abroad is this: You work in a particular city for a year. You make friends with other teachers and of course local people. And importantly, during that time, you get to know the culture, a bit of the language, the local lifestyle and so on.

And of course you have holidays: Christmas, Easter, Summer and weekends. Teachers working abroad will often spend their free time traveling around the country getting to know it better. There are often other foreign English teachers working in the city and you may well end up spending time with friends whether that’s at the beach, hiking in the mountains, walking round galleries & museums, going to nightclubs or whatever… you spend your time as you want.

(The pay for teachers will allow for this: it’s enough to live on well and enjoy yourself.)

Then after a year of teaching when the school breaks up (usually at the beginning of Summer) you will have a few options:

  1. Stay on with the school and spend another year in the same town.
  2. Move to another school in the same town.
  3. Move to another school somewhere else in the same country.
  4. Move to another school in a completely new country.
  5. Return to your home country.

Careers Teaching English & Traveling

Although there is nothing set in stone, what often happens is that a new teacher may well spend several years living abroad and traveling about, perhaps spending one or two years in each school or country.

Then something happens. Maybe they meet someone special, maybe they fall in love with the place, maybe they find a wonderful job. Whatever the reason, it’s not uncommon for a teacher to settle down wherever they happen to be and you are likely to find teachers or ex-teachers of English living in almost every town around the world!

But whatever happens, the next move is yours!

How to Start

Becoming a teacher is simple.

You first need qualifications if you are to get a job. Usually this means a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a degree; you may well be able to find work in some countries however.)

Then you decide where to go. You apply for work and… move there.

It really is that simple!

Useful Links

What Qualifications do I need to Teach English?

Train to Teach English

Where Can I Teach?

How to Find Teaching Jobs Abroad

What to Take With You‏‎

Careers in Teaching English

Why MOOCs Fail

MOOC 2.0 - that escalated quicklyA 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
  • about 96% of MOOC students don’t complete the course
  • about 80% of MOOC students are already college graduates

A few short years ago MOOCs were touted as the greatest step in education since the printing press; we were told that they would revolutionize education and bring learning to the masses.

But these statistics tell a different story. Simply put: students don’t engage with MOOCs; non-graduates don’t engage with MOOCs; MOOCs are not working.

In recent years universities and education companies have been falling over themselves to invest in MOOCs. Just like the dot.com boom/bubble some fifteen years ago, they are pouring money into an idea which seems great on paper but which simply hasn’t been thought through.

For a provider like ICAL TEFL who has been providing education online for over 15 years now, it’s obvious what is happening. At the risk of sounding smug we saw the rapid rise of MOOCs and saw schools and universities falling over themselves to join in and we knew it would fail because of several simple issues; issues we had experienced and overcome when we first set up but issues which MOOCs did not want to see.

Why MOOCs Fail – part 1

The first reason MOOCs are failing is obvious. Take a look at the statistics: 50% of MOOC students don’t even start the course; 96% of MOOC students don’t finish the course.

To paraphrase the marketing axiom: People Learn from People.

Quite simply, MOOCs lack the personal touch. A student in a MOOC is a single, irrelevant cog in a massive machine which does not care about them. (Otherwise why would so many abandon the course without a sound?) Students don’t feel valued and they feel as though their own presence on a course is irrelevant.

When ICAL TEFL first offered online education courses (back in 1998) we decided to give every single student a personal tutor to work with. No other online education provider had ever done this (and it would take many years before others would catch up with the idea) but we felt it was important for our students to feel part of a group and not an anonymous entity.

In this way, a personal tutor offers someone they can talk to, someone who is there to help, mentor, and yes, push a little to keep going.

Right from the start we saw incredibly high student engagement as the norm.The stats for MOOCs have just 4% of students completing the course; with the personal tutor model we offer we have almost 100%.

Just having impersonal videos and antiseptic material isn’t enough. If MOOCs want to survive then they need to offer a personal service and personal one-to-one contact to make their students feel valued and part of the learning community.

Why MOOCs Fail – part 2

Right now, MOOCs are free and this is partly why they are failing.

The problem is people’s perception of what “free” means. Let’s suppose your neighbor is moving away and they leave you their bicycle when they say goodbye. Chances are many people will use it, leave it out, not bother cleaning it, forget to lock it up and see it stolen. However, suppose you save up hundreds of dollars, spend weeks researching the kind of bike you want and finally put your hard earned cash down and buy yourself a bike. Almost certainly you’ll keep it locked up in the shed, you’ll clean it every time you use it, and you’ll be extra careful not to scratch it.

This is because to the majority of people, if something is free then it’s not worth much (if anything) and they feel they don’t have any responsibility for it. On the other hand, if someone pays for something then it has a value and they care for it.

MOOCs are free. People come to them, register and use them. But then many students will think that if the content is free than it can’t have cost anything to develop and therefore it isn’t worth anything. On the other hand, if a course costs money then it’s worth a lot more.

So if students have invested financially in something they feel (quite rightly) that they should get their money’s worth. In our experience this means that they use the resources we have provided, they push on with the course even when they might feel like quitting, they take full advantage of their personal tutor and everything else available because, after all, they’ve paid for it!

So quite simply students need to pay for MOOCs and this will ensure not only that they engage more with the course, but obviously they will receive more for their money: research, development, professional help, and regular updates to begin with!

The End of MOOCs?

So is this the end of MOOCs?

Not quite. Just the end of MOOCs as we know them now.

A lot of people have lost a lot of money investing in MOOCs and no doubt people will continue to do so. But if they are to survive then amongst a lot of other changes they need to make, they will need to provide a more wothwhile and valuable experience for their students.

We have done this and have been successful education providers for some 15 years now. Trust us – it works.

Useful Links

The New York Times – the original article which inspired this blog

Teaching English in Yugoslavia

Map of countries of former YugoslaviaTEFL/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.

Currently there is a great drive to join the European Union‏‎ and learning English has become a priority.

Yugoslavia broke into:

Click the links to read about teaching English in each of these countries.

Useful Links

Teaching English in the Balkans

Teaching English in Korea

A map of the Korean peninsula.

The Korean Peninsula

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.

Click to read the main article about Teaching English in South Korea.

On the other hand, North Korea is a sworn enemy of the West and incredibly resistant to outside influence. There are extremely limited opportunities for teachers in this quasi-communist state and many stories of foreigners being held there against their will.

Having said this, there are occasionally teaching opportunities here if you like the idea of a challenge!

Click to read the main article about Teaching English in North Korea.

Teaching English in Kyrgyzstan

A Kyrgyzstan couple enjoying life.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 considered a distant third language to Kyrgyz and Russian, but this is changing. 

There is a high demand for English teachers but not that many jobs to go around yet (although it’s growing). 

By far the majority of teaching jobs in Kyrgyzstan are volunteer positions with organizations like the Peace Corps or the UN, however there are a growing number of jobs in the private sector, especially in Bashkek, the capital.

The academic year‏‎ runs from September to June. Schools will usually start recruiting for the coming school year just before the summer. For volunteer openings, start dates take place all year round.

Most jobs are found online and organized outside the country; note that travelling to Kyrgyzstan without work and entering on a tourist visa on the lookout for work is not advised. 

The usual qualifications to teach English in Kyrgyzstan are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. If you speak Russian this is also an advantage as knowledge of English is not widespread outside school and nor among older people.

Note that we have also heard that some schools have put an age restriction of 40 on employing foreign teachers.

Your application for a visa should be made well in advance as it can take some time. Ideally your prospective employer will help with this.

Pay & Conditions

Pay at private language schools varies a lot and can be from 30,000 KGS (Kyrgyzstan Som) or $600 USD (€475, £382) to 90,000 KGS or $1800 USD (€1424, £1145) per month.

Private lessons are charged at roughly 250 KGS or $5 USD (€4, £3) per hour.

Most schools will provide accommodation or at least an allowance.

At an international school in the capital, Bishkek, this can go up to about 100,000 KGS or $2000 USD (€1583, £1273) per month with flights, tax and other benefits taken care of by the school.

Having said this, the cost of living is cheap in Kyrgyzstan. The country is often regarded as a place to spend time enjoying yourself rather than making money.

One of the main teaching issues is lack of teaching resources in the country. Most teaching will be with a simple blackboard and often the students will not all have a copy of the coursebook you are using.

Children in the state schools start learning English in Grade 1.

Quick Notes:

  • Punctuality is not a high priority in Kyrgyzstan and students are often late to class.
  • Keep your shoes clean, it’s polite.
  • Shaking hands happens all the time.
  • People here are famed for their hospitality and encouraging everyone to eat!

About Kyrgyzstan & Lifestyle

Kyrgyzstan is renowned as a country of incredible natural beauty. It is 90% mountains with a population of over 5 million, of whom over 1 million live in Bashkek, a cosmopolitan and vibrant city with a strong artistic streak, cafes, shops and many parks – it is known as the greenest city in Asia.

Unlike some other countries in the region, Kyrgyzstan is safe for Westerners. However, do check with your embassy before heading off there – or anywhere, for the matter!.

Image © Evgeni Zotov

Expat English Teachers


Expat Essentials Abroad

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 this article is aimed at. Maybe…

  • You are married to or living with a local person you met back home. (You might have moved to their country to be with them and once you got over the upheaval of moving you find that you are at home all day and wondering what to do to fill the time, after all you could be living in this foreign country for many years!)
  • You are with someone and you moved abroad for their job. (Many companies have offices abroad and perhaps your partner works for one such company. Chances are that they are on a fixed term contract for a few years now your partner is out at work all day and you are looking for something worthwhile to do to fill your time.)
  • You used to work in this country abroad and recently lost your job and you don’t want to go home but you need work to stay in the place you love!

Of course there are many other reasons but regardless of why you want to work, you find yourself thinking about teaching English and wonder if it’s possible… and now this article will tell you!

Can you be a Teacher?

The first question to ask yourself is: Is teaching for you?

Aside from the qualifications (which we’ll come to soon) you need to ask yourself:

  1. Are you happy standing up in front of a group of strangers and talking to them? (Ok, all teachers are nervous the first time they teach, but you need to be at least fairly confident speaking amongst strangers to be a teacher.)
  2. Are you friendly & approachable? (You can’t teach if you don’t like people! You will be teaching all sorts: young children or teenagers, adults, groups of different types… Your students must feel they can ask for your help and you must be happy giving it to them.)

Put simply, this means that if you are a reasonably confident person and like the idea of teaching this could be for you.

This settled, the next question to ask is what kind of teaching you want to do.

Private Lessons or School Teaching?

There are two main options for expat teachers. One is simply to teach private lessons. This will usually mean having one (or perhaps two) students once or twice a week for English lessons. Some teachers will teach in their own home and others will go to the student’s home.

The advantages of private lessons are that

  1. they are flexible and easy to arrange
  2. they pay better than working in a school
  3. they tend to be less stressful than working in a school

But on the other hand they aren’t always a regular source of income. Students cancel at the last moment and often it will take time to build up a regular number of students. You may find you have just one or two students for months and months and if you need the money they can’t always be relied on to provide it.

However, if you prefer a more low key approach to teaching and don’t need to rely on the money, then private lessons could be the way to go.

The alternative is, of course, to go and work for a school. Almost every country in the world has small, privately run language schools. They vary a lot in size and in the way they are run, but you can often get a decent living working regularly in a school in a more structured job environment.

If you check your local phone book or just look around next time you are in town you are bound to see English schools around the place. One of these might be perfect for you!

How Good is your English?

So once you’ve decided you like the idea of teaching English, the next question is simple: how good is your English‏‎?

If you are a native speaker of English (i.e. you grew up and went to school in an English speaking country) then you are fine. Your English will likely be perfect. However, even if you aren’t from one of those countries then you can still find work but you must be able to speak excellent English indeed.

The next thing to think about is grammar‏‎. Your students are likely to ask you questions about the different verb tenses and forms‎ and in many classrooms you’ll be expected to be able to explain things like the conditionals‏‎ and so on. Do you know what they are?

…the good news is that even if you don’t know now, it’s easy to learn! You can either read a good grammar guide and learn it as you need it or even take a grammar foundation course to really get a good handle on what it is all about.

More Formal Qualifications

If you are just teaching private lessons then just knowing English well enough will be enough to get you started. You may just be able to put up a notice in the local supermarket saying Native English speaker offers Private Lessons and away you go.

However, if you’ve never taught before, it could end up in confused lessons where you are unhappy and the student is not learning. Untrained teachers have said that it takes a good year before they really feel able to teach to a reasonable standard and during that time your students might not be getting the best from you. We, then, would always advise new teachers to get some kind of teacher training in before starting work. It will make your lessons better, you will be happier teaching and get more from it, and, most importantly, your students will get a lot more from the lessons and come back for more – and, more often than not, they will recommend you to friends and relatives!

Teacher training then is a good idea if you teach privately, but it’s pretty much a standard requirement if you want to teach in a school.

Check with the rules applying to your country, but you will find that most language schools usually ask for a degree. Often this is for the visa so if you are already living in the country (perhaps on a spouse visa) they may well waive this need if you don’t have a degree (plus, some countries don’t require their teachers to have a degree‏‎).

In addition, the majority of schools will ask for a TEFL certificate. This is a formal qualification proving that you know how to teach English and it is well worth investing in not only to get work, but also to make sure you do a good job.

Finding Work

If you have the qualifications, being an expat resident in the country does give you several major advantages when it comes to finding work in a school.

  1. Unlike teachers applying from abroad you can approach local schools in person and leave them with your CV/Résumé. You might well find them contacting you a long time afterwards if they suddenly find they need a teacher and since you live there already, you’ll be available.
  2. The schools will not have to find you accommodation, sort out your visa or do all the paperwork required for a teacher coming in from abroad. This means you are much more of an attractive option to schools.

So yes, go for it! Given the choice between employing an unseen teacher from abroad and a local teacher similarly qualified, most schools will go with the expat!

Useful Links

ICAL TEFL Course 120hr – the minimum qualification to teach English as a foreign language

How to Teach English‏‎ as a Foreign Language – don’t let anyone tell you it’s just about the ABCs!

Private TEFL Lessons. – an in-depth look at Private English Lessons; how to get them and what to teach, etc.

Do I Need To Know Grammar?‏‎ – is it necessary for an English teacher to know grammar; and if so, how much?

How to Find Teaching Jobs – an article on finding work as a TEFL teacher.

Teaching English in the Caribbean


Dream blue waters!

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 usually need a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.

Jobs are not often advertised online and many jobs are given to people who are already in the Caribbean. Thus, this is often the option taken by many teachers. Another alternative is to look through volunteer agencies but here, be careful as they are sometimes little more than expensive vacations.

Pay tends to be quite low and life can be expensive if you frequent touristic bars and shops. Schools tend to be fairly basic.

The following countries comprise the Caribbean, with the most important TEFL destinations linked.

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Cuba
  • Dominica‏‎
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Montserrat
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • Puerto Rico‏‎
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • Saint Kitts & Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Vincent
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Turks & Caicos Islands
  • US Virgin Islands

Useful links

Teaching English in Mexico – another nearby destination

Teaching English in South America – another nearby destination

Teaching English in Central America – another nearby destination

How to choose a good TEFL course – things you should look for in an TEFL course

Teaching English in Latin America

The globe with Latin America highlighted.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: Mexicothe CaribbeanCentral America, and South America. (And some countries there speak English, but are often still spoken of as being a part of Latin America.

The usual qualifications to teach in Latin America are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. In some countries you may also be able to find work without a degree‏‎ although a TEFL  certificate is still usually required (see the countries below for specific requirements).

Countries in Latin America

The links go to details of countries which have a demand for TEFL teachers.

Teaching English in Central America

Map of Central America

Central America at a glance!

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 certificate is still usually required (see the ICAL Country Guides for specific requirements in the countries listed below).

In addition, a knowledge of Spanish is helpful, though not essential.

Countries in Central America

  • Belize
  • Costa Rica‏‎
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama‏‎

For other nearby destinations, see Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.

Varieties of English Spelling

Colour or Color?

Spell it right!

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 you or your class use as long as they are consistent. This means that you can accept work from your students which is in either American or British spelling (or any other variety), but not work which chops and changes with each paragraph!

General Rules

These are a few general rules which cover the majority of spelling differences (in terms of usage) found between British and American spelling.

-our / -or

Most British English words ending in –our change to –or in American English.

colour > color
honour > honor

Note that in British pronunciation, the last syllable‏‎ of these words is the schwa sound:


However, if the word doesn’t end in the schwa sound then it doesn’t change its spelling in American English:

ˈkɒn.tʊə = contour > contour

Most English speaking countries adopt the British English spelling. This is true also of Canada but due to the close proximity of Canada and the USA you will also see American English spellings in Canadian English. In Australia it is almost exclusively –our with few exceptions.

-re / -er

Many British words ending in –re change to –er in American English.

centre > center
metre > meter
theatre > theater

-ce / -se

There are pairs of words which are nouns & verbs‏‎. For example in British English there are:

advice – advise
licence – license
practice – practise

However, with some of these American English will keep the same spelling for both noun and verb, notably:

license – license
practice – practice

 -ise / -ize

Most British spellings use -ise at the end of words while American spellings use -ize.

criticise > criticize
organise > organize

However, you will find many British and international publications using the -ize spelling as well.

-ogue / -og

This variant occurs in a number of words of Greek origin:

analogue > analog
dialogue > dialog
catalogue > catalog
monologue > monolog

-t / -ed

A number of verbs which make their participle with –t in British English use –ed in American English:

dreamt > dreamed
leapt > leaped
learnt > learned
spelt > spelled

Spelling Variation List

This table shows different spellings of common words not included above.

British English American English Notes
aeroplane airplane
aesthetic asthetic and some other Greek origin words beginning with ae
aluminium aluminum
armour armor
arse ass meaning an idiot; the animal is spelt ass in both variants
cheque check meaning financial note
chilli chili
cosy cozy
counsellor counselor
doughnut donut
draught draft
encyclopaedia encyclopedia
enrol enroll
fulfil fulfill
fuelling fueling
gaol jail British English often uses jail
gauge gage
grey gray
grille grill
jewellery jewelry
judgement judgment
kerb curb for a part of the footpath only; curb is used in all spellings to mean restrain
liquorice licorice
mould mold
moustache mustache
mum mom
plough plow
prise prize meaning lever
pyjamas pajamas
sceptic skeptic
speciality specialty
storey story a floor of a building
through thru
tyre tire on the wheel of a car

Useful Links

For a longer table of US/UK spelling differences, see this Comprehensive list of American and British spelling differences.

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.

There tends to be a great divide when it comes to language schools. In some cases you may be teaching at a high-tech university with modern facilities, or you could easily find work teaching at a small one-room school with no facilities just around the corner. In general, pay is not great in South America (although enough to live on) and it is not always easy to save… but of course this depends on where you are the kind of school you work for. There are great contrasts and you can make good money, especially with private business lessons in the major cities.

The usual qualifications to teach in South 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  certificate is still usually required.

Countries in South America

See also Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico for other nearby destinations.

  • Argentina‏‎
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Falkland Islands – English speaking with no TEFL/TESOL opportunities
  • French Guyana
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Suriname
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

See also Teaching English in Latin America.

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 Jewish nation with 75% of all residents there being Jewish. The remaining 25% of the population are mainly Arabs – both Christians and Muslims – as well as several minorities such as Druze, Circassians, and Samaritans. One third of the population are immigrants from Europe or the USA‏‎ returning to the Promised Land, but there are some with an African or Asian background, too.

In recent years Israel has invested in high-tech and exports and now enjoys a thriving economy. The most vibrant sectors are the high-tech industry and tourism. International tourism, high-tech companies and research & development facilities are those work environments where the need to speak English is greater.

Qualifications to Teach English in Israel

Professional English teachers are in high demand in Israel and the Ministry of Education is trying to get new immigrants, particularly native speakers, to teach English. However becoming certified to teach English within the Israeli school system involves many stages.

Basically if you want to teach in the public (state) school system, you will need a teaching certificate from an Israeli college or university. You will then need to attend a six month college program about teaching English in Israel (many native English speakers who took it found that only a small percentage of the course was actually relevant to them) a literature course, and a course in Hebrew. This applies to all state schools candidates, regardless of whether you are already certified and qualified to teach English in other countries or have academic-level English.

The private sector, however, is more open and there are many teaching possibilities, including private lessons and working as a language consultant for business firms or international corporations.

To apply for teaching positions at a private school you will need a four-year college degree and a TEFL certificate which is an added bonus and a way to show your potential employer that you actually put time and effort to train for the job. According to the Israeli English Inspectorate there are approximately 14,000 English teachers in Israel and interestingly not all are native English speakers.

Also note that a solid grasp of Hebrew will allow you to approach employers and look for work. Many teachers report that without their ability to speak, read and in some cases even write Hebrew their opportunities would have been considerably limited.

Salaries & Expenses in Israel

Teaching salaries are low compared to what you can find in similarly developed countries. Pay within the state school system has been inadequate for years despite countless complaints and action taken by the teachers unions. Private lessons are a way for many teachers to supplement their low school income. The going rate is ILS (Israeli Shekel) 100 or $28 USD (€22, £18) per 45 mins.

The monthly rent for an average 1 bedroom apartment is about ILS 3,000.00 or $850 USD (€673, £541). The same apartment outside the city center will set you back around ILS 2,500.00 or $710 USD (€562, £452). Here are a few figures (update Dec 2103) to give you an idea of every day prices.

  • loaf of fresh white bread – ILS 7 or $2 USD (€2, £1)
  • 1 Kg local cheese – ILS 45 or $13 USD (€10, £8)
  • Imported beer (0.33cl) – ILS 12 or $4 USD (€3, £3)
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – ILS 50 or or $15 USD (€12, £10)

Visas & Immigration

You can enter Israel and stay for up to three months on a visitor visa. A visa extension may be possible once you are in the country. Not everybody needs to apply for a visitor visa, and several nationalities are exempt so check with your local Israeli Embassy or Consulate. If you have a Jewish mother or are an official convert to Judaism, and you are interested in settling in Israel, you can apply for a temporary resident visa for new migrants at your Israeli Embassy or Consulate.

Once you have received a job offer, the next step is to get yourself a work permit and a work visa. Your employer will act as you sponsor and will help you with the procedure. A work visa usually enables you to live in Israel for up to five years.

Pearson invests $720 million in Brazil in English Education

Pearson Education LogoThe 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 offset the fall in education profits in Europe and the US due to a faltering economy.

Pearson will use the purchase to push its Wall Street brand of schools in the country.

Useful Links

Teaching English in Brazil‏‎

Pearson ESL‏‎

Wall Street Institute

Fears for ESL Collapse in NSW Australia

Flag of New South WalesFears 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 government of New South Wales has targeted funding towards ESL programs. However they have just revealed plans to change the way ESL is funded and make it part of the general budget which will be handled by school principals.

Thus it will be the individual schools who will determine where the money is spent and there are fears that ESL will be one of the first disciplines to be cut back.

In a letter to the Education Minister, a group of leading academics wrote that, “These changes are widely being interpreted as the beginning of a dismantling of the system-wide, targeted ESL program support infrastructure developed over the last four decades.”

The Refugee Council of Australia has also written to the minister citing their concerns over the planned changes.

Editor’s Comment

This is not good. We all know that for many people in Australia the idea of immigration is (ironically) an unpleasant one and this is likely to be reflected in the future decisions by principals when it comes to budgeting the resources they have. I can certainly see ESL coming low on the list of priorities for schools where students and parents don’t like the idea of money being spent on recent arrivals in Australia.

Useful Links

Teaching English in Australia

The Second Most Important Language to Learn

English & Arabic ZERO cola tins.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.

  1. Spanish
  2. Arabic
  3. French
  4. Mandarin
  5. German
  6. Portuguese
  7. Italian
  8. Russian
  9. Turkish
  10. Japanese
  11. French

The list was compiled based on economic, political and cultural factors and the UK has a worrying lack of people able to speak these languages fluently.

French and German (with Spanish a low third) are the languages traditionally taught in British schools and are in the list, but dominating it  are those languages which are almost never considered as options in schools: Arabic and Mandarin for example.

The creation of the list comes after a YouGov poll commissioned by the British Council, which found that of 4,000 UK adults polled, 75% were unable to hold a conversation in any of the languages seen as crucial to the UK’s economic standing.

More English Teachers Needed in Japan!

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Logo.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 and then 200 in 2015 so that eventually every school will have a native English speaker working alongside their Japanese colleagues.

Meanwhile, 200 Japanese English teachers are being sent to foreign universities to study English teaching techniques.

Useful Links

Teaching English in Japan – all about teaching English in Japan.

Malaysia Under Fire for Squandering Money on English Teachers

A teacher & group of Malaysian students.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 RM270m (about $84m or €62m or £52m) to 3 consultants to train local English language teachers in state schools, for between three and four hours a month.

Those consultants were the British Council, the Brighton Education Group, and the SMR HR Group. They were contracted to provide 360 English speaking mentors who over a period of 3 years would train some 7,500 Malaysian teachers from 1,800 schools nationwide.

However, testing showed that English ability of the students of these teachers fell whilst students studying in others schools without the benefit of this investment improved their scores.

MP Zairil Khir Johari said that the investment worked out to about RM36,00 per Malaysian teacher (about $11,000 or €8,000 or £7,000). Considering that a full degree in Malaysia costs around 65% of this amount those teachers could have received far more training and a higher qualification for much less.

“There is absolutely no justification for this type of expenditure,” Zairil said.

Editor’s Comment

Whilst it’s hard use test scores in this way, it does seem a lot of money to spend on so little. As Zairil points out, that money could have been far better spent on providing more structured education for those teachers rather than just a few hours each month.

Useful Links

More on this story.

Image © Roslan Tangah (aka Rasso)

School Driver Tapes Students’ Mouths Shut


Silence, please.

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.

The story came to light when two students complained. The driver had allegedly said it was a game and most of the children on the bus realised it as such. The two students who complained did so because they felt they shouldn’t have to wear the tape because they weren’t the loudest on the bus.

Following the accusations an internal enquiry is looking into the matter. School Principal Cathy Lewis says that regardless of the outcome, the driver would not be welcome back.

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 generally advise that anyone suffering from chest pains or a suspected heart attack should seek immediate medical attention.

Headway Scholarships Go Global

Headway Student's BookHeadway 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 work in one of the countries where Headway was a popular choice of textbook but now, for the first time, anyone can apply for the scholarship, regardless of where they live and work.

Editor’s Comment

Headway is a good book and has sold over 70 million copies which means a lot of income for the authors and OUP. Publishers, providers and schools these days spend too little on helping others so it’s nice to see this gesture – maybe even we can get others to help out as well?

Useful Links

Announcing the 2014 Headway Scholarship – including a link to the application form for this scholarship.

UK Spends £6m to Teach English Unconventionally

A Muslim woman in an English cafe.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 non-native speakers. Six projects were accepted.

These hope to teach highly practical English such as dealing with doctors, shopping, using computers and so on. One project aims to teach shop staff to be “sympathetic listeners” so that customers will feel safe speaking English.

Some of the projects will use volunteer teachers and it is hoped that the projects will become self-funding in the future.

Editor’s Comment

Whilst laudable, these projects do not replace the solid, structured lessons which used to be provided by the government.

And again it looks like English language teaching has been relegated: some of those involved will be volunteers which means teaching for free. Why is this? Why is teaching to be devalued like this?

This sounds like a quick fix option. The government is trying to do things on the cheap once more.

Image © Chris JL


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.


Exactly. Or I could say, “But how could this be?”

According to a report published a few days ago, the researchers examined conversations from 30+ languages across the world and discovered that whenever anyone didn’t quite get what was being said, they used the interjection “Huh,” to ask for clarification. Or a slight variation of it.


Yes, it’s true. They claim the word – the use of which is not mastered by children until they are 5 – is necessary for communication. We all need a word which means, “What do you mean?” or, “How can that be?” or some way to tell the speaker that the message they are trying to get across to you isn’t getting across to you properly.

Quite simply humans all had a need so they invented the word, “Huh” which does the job admirably. It’s short, simple, quick, easy to say, easy to hear and just so perfect for the job that every group of humans out there happened to find it fitted the bill perfectly so they adopted it.

Useful Links

Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? – the original article published in Plos One

Interjections‏‎ – words used to interrupt a conversation

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 also download or copy them for your classes as appropriate.

In effect, you can do what you want with them within reason.

(You are not allowed, however, to collect the resources together and publish them with little or no change or development and you are not allowed to publish them as is to make money out of them. They are free TEFL resources for all!)

Informal Citing and Linking

If you are writing online and quote another online resource in an informal manner (i.e. you are not writing an academic paper), you can simply link to the original page in your work. For example you might write something like this:

According to ICAL, “The word alphabet comes from alpha and beta, the first two letters of the Greek‏‎ alphabet. These in turn come from the first two letters of the Phoenician alphabet where they meant ox and house respectively.”

Note that the link title isn’t necessarily the same name as the page it links to. In the example above the link title ICAL is linked to the page we have on alphabets.

In informal citations as long as you include a link to the respective page then this is often acceptable. In this next example we aren’t quoting but paraphrasing information from the link:

The word alphabet comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta.

Here, the word alphabet links to the page we have on that subject.

Formally Citing Online Resources

In more formal contexts (notably academic work) then different methods of citation are usually used. There is no single, universally accepted method, but this is quite common:

  • Author and/or editor names (if available)
  • Article name in quotation marks (if applicable)
  • Title of the Website, project, or book in italics. (Remember that some Print publications have Web publications with slightly different names. They may, for example, include the additional information or otherwise modified information, like domain names [e.g. .com or .net].)
  • Any version numbers available, including revisions, posting dates, volumes, or issue numbers.
  • Publisher information, including the publisher name and publishing date.
  • Take note of any page numbers (if available).
  • Medium of publication.
  • Date you accessed the material.
  • URL (if required, or for your own personal reference; MLA does not require a URL).

Note this list comes from citation recommendations from Purdue OWL and because this article is an informal one, we can just use a descriptive title and link to the original URL.

As an example, here is a formal citation for the alphabet page above that we would use after quoting some of the text:

ICAL, “Alphabet”, ICAL TEFL Resources, 20/March/2013, <http://www.icaltefl.com/index.php/linguistics-for-english-teachers/alphabet.html>

Note the date we used to access the page (useful because webpages often change) and also the URL placed in angled brackets.

Of course in online writing the URL can be linked to the title:

ICAL, “Alphabet“, ICAL TEFL Resources, 20/March/2013

Automated Formal Citations

There are a number of useful websites which build formal citations automatically. One such is located at BibMe. You simply enter the relevant information in a form and it outputs the result. The form looks like this (click to enlarge):

A completed citation form from BibMe.

And the output is like this:

“Alphabet‏‎.” ICAL TEFL Courses & Resources. ICAL, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <http://www.icaltefl.com/index.php/linguistics-for-english-teachers/alphabet.html>.

Note that this same site allows you to form citations for all kinds of work including webpages, films, newspapers and so on.

Foreign Students reach Record Numbers in US

Infographic of Foreign studentsA 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

The majority of foreign students are Chinese (29%) and Indian (12%) although there are significant numbers from South Korea and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government funds the majority of Saudi students which bucks a general trend where families fund the students.

Similarly the number of US students studying abroad are at record levels with many attending colleges in the UK, Europe and China. This last destination was given a boost following the Olympics.

Useful Links

International Students Report – the report on which this article is based by the Institute of International Education.

Personal Websites for TEFL Teachers

Geeky teacher at a computer.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 need them. But more teachers are making their own websites and are finding them invaluable in their professional life.

There are a number of reasons why you might find your own website useful.

Self Promotion

If you teach private lessons then a website is an excellent idea as you can use it to advertise your services and help attract new students. On the site you can include your CV/résumé, your experience, a few quotes from happy customers, your contact details and so on. It allows potential clients to read about you and then – if they’re interested – contact you.

In the past private English teachers might have put up adverts on the noticeboard in the local supermarket. But now they do this AND include a website address to really give potential students a good idea about who they are.

TEFL Class Ideas & Resources

Some teachers use their own personal websites to put online information and resources they use regularly with their classes.

Suppose, for example, you find that you regularly have to explain how to form the past perfect simple‏‎ with your new classes. Instead of handing out worksheets and pages of explanation every time, you could have this information online and direct the students to check it out in their own time. (Of course you can still hand it out but it’s always available online to both you and your students.)

Suppose that in the middle of a lesson a student asks a question about grammar covered the previous week when they were away for some reason. You don’t want to stop the lesson so you just direct them to the website where they’ll find all they need to know.

So a teacher’s website is a fantastic place to store information for your students to access in their own time. It can include simple pages of text but being online you can also include:

Over time in this way you can build up a huge resource library for both yourself and your students.

And don’t forget that you don’t always have to create resources yourself. You can always find other online resources and link to them. On the ICAL TEFL website we have thousands of pages of free TEFL resources so, for example, on your own page about the passive voice you can simply link to our page on the passive voice‏‎ so your students can find and use it.

Jobs & Teaching Portfolios

We often advise our teachers to keep a teaching portfolio‏‎. This is a great way not only to improve your own teaching but also it can help greatly when you apply for a new job.

Of course you can keep your portfolio privately on your computer (for example by using something like Evernote) but if you are going to apply for a new job you can also keep parts of your portfolio online so that prospective employers can see it. When you apply for a job you can include a link to your portfolio along with your application so the school will see more about you and your teaching skills. This is definitely a plus point!

Social – Keeping in Touch

You can also use your website in a more social manner. Many teachers move about spending time in one city or country for a few years and then maybe moving school.

If you like you can keep a blog on your site so that friends, family and former students can keep in touch with your life. You update it when you want and you know that those you care about can see what you are up to on the other side of the world!

Note: if you have social areas of your site which you would prefer your current employer, potential employers, and students not to see it’s easy to protect those areas from prying eyes!

Making your own Teacher’s Website

These days you don’t need expert knowledge to make your own website. You can do this very simply and for no cost.

To start out you can simply search for a free website builder online. There are quite a lot of good ones out there and they change over time, but right now one of the easiest and best is WIX where you can make very attractive and useful sites for free. The usual steps are:

  1. Sign up for free.
  2. Choose a template.
  3. Start adding content.

It really is that simple and you can have a website up and running within an hour or so. Of course the real work involves preparing and adding content but this can be done slowly over time and on an as-needs basis. One day you might add a short explanation of a grammar point for several students who missed a class. The next day you might put up a short test about homophones‏‎. And the next day you might link to a YouTube video which you’ll use in class.

Then, later and once you’re familiar with creating your website, you can start to add bells and whistles. With sites like WIX you can upgrade and buy your own domain name, more space, additional features and so on.


If you find this article useful and decide to build a site, do please contact us on gen@icaltefl.com and let us know. If we think your site is useful to teachers (and students) then we’ll let everyone know about it via our Facebook page.

Image © [martin]

Christian Teachers for Thailand

Teachers being blessed by priests.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.

Editor’s Comment

Whilst this is all very admirable, there is no mention of these people being trained as teachers. Unfortunately this follows the old – and very false – belief that if you can speak English you can teach English. Perhaps in the same vein as if you can drive a car you can mend a car…

Useful Links

TEFL in Thailand‏‎

Nagaland Missionary Movement – Wikipedia article.

Church of Christ in Thailand – Wikipedia article.

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 stories without really looking at the details. If they did, they might begin to question what is being said.

In this blog I’m going to look at the report and raise a few simple points which will show you how unreliable it is and how the findings should really be taken with a gigantic pinch of salt.

So let’s ask a first question: how reliable is the EF report? It is touted as “the world’s most comprehensive ranking of English ability” and although this may be true, there are certainly some major problems with it and being the world’s most comprehensive ranking does in no way make it reliable or accurate!

Where are All the Countries?

As you might guess, ranking top are several Scandinavian and Baltic countries with Sweden coming out at Number 1. At the very bottom at Number 60 is Iraq, preceded by a couple of other Middle Eastern countries.

Fair enough. But one thing which struck me immediately was the number of countries included in the survey: 60 in all.

The problem is that there are just under 200 countries in the world; if you take away the English speaking ones (about 90 according to Wikipedia) that leaves about 110.

Which means that this report covers just over half the non-English speaking countries in the world.

To take a few surprising omissions Greece, Cyprus and many other Balkan countries aren’t in the report. Nor is Malta which, according to an EU report (see below), has better perceived knowledge of English than Sweden which ranks first in the EF report!

Not to mention that virtually all of Africa is absent from the report.

Of course EF justify this by saying there isn’t enough data, however just because EF don’t know the level of English in some countries (presumably because they don’t have schools there) does not mean that they are free to tout their report as reliable! Quite simply it means that the report is missing half the useful data.

To put this into perspective, there are 20 teams in the UK Premier League football rankings. Imagine if we could only see how 10 of them compared. This is how the EF report looks to me; as a tool for comparison it is not really useful at all!

Who is Being Surveyed?

The second major problem I have is with the people who were surveyed.

According to EF the report was taken from test data submitted by 750,000 adults who took EF tests. I can’t find any details of which countries these students came from which immediately raises my suspicions.

However, let’s look at the likely type of person who took this test because they are from a very specific group of people: adults who want to improve their English and who have a certain level of education and income.

As I see it there are a few problems with this.

  1. People who already speak (and know they speak) good English already won’t appear in the statistics because they won’t have taken the test.
  2. People who aren’t bothered about improving their English won’t appear in the statistics because they won’t be interested in checking out EF and their tests.
  3. People from lower income brackets who either don’t have the internet or can’t afford to attend a school won’t be included in the statistics.
  4. People who attend other schools than EF won’t appear in the statistics.

To stretch the comparison with premier league football again, it’s like Nike compiling some statistics about all the footballers in the world but… leaving out the best players, leaving out the underpaid players, leaving out the players who wear any other boot than Nike.

In other words, this renders the data almost worthless!

Is it Worthless?

The report is a start. It raises some questions and it’s an interesting, if flawed, read. But that’s about as far as it goes as far as I am concerned. I cannot use the findings in any serious way I’m afraid.

On the other hand, as an advertising outlet for EF it’s almost priceless!


The EF Report

EU report in full

This guest blog written by John Plum, the pseudonym of a TEFL teacher who is working in Japan right now for a major school. Plum describes himself as “annoyed by an unquestioning attitude of the press” and tries live by Bertrand Russell’s Liberal Decalogue.


Shanghai Favorite for Expats in China


Hu gets the most votes!

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:

  1. Shanghai
  2. Beijing
  3. Tianjin
  4. Guangzhou
  5. Shenzhen
  6. Xiamen
  7. Nanjing
  8. Suzhou
  9. Hangzhou
  10. Qingdao

Useful Links

Teaching English in China – our Country File on living and working in China

Expat English Teachers – a world to its own

Original Article from the English News China

Stave off Dementia with a Second Language

Two brains together.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 life.

Interestingly this had nothing to do whether the languages were spoken or written and there was no significant difference between literate and illiterate sufferers.

One theory is that those who speak more than one language switch from one side of the brain to the other when they change languages; this, in effect, trains and stimulates the brain which keeps it healthier.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 35.6 million people around the world are affected with dementia and nearly 7.7 million new cases are reported every year.

Useful Links

BBC News – a BBC news article on this story

Business & Health – further information on this story

Image © opensourceway

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 said. “English as a medium requirement at schools will create many more opportunities for our students in Higher Education.”

Just two years ago in July 2011 the British Council offices in Kabul were stormed by the Taliban leaving 12 dead.

Useful Links

Teaching English in Afghanistan‏‎

English Block for Milan

Milan Polytechnic seal

The Seal of the Politecnico

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 and point to the growing number of English courses being delivered at universities in Europe and elsewhere.

English language penetration in Italy is relatively low and many Italians do not speak any foreign languages; this has been cited as one reason why the country lags behind in international business and cooperation.

Editor’s Comment

With Italy struggling to keep pace in the modern economy, and English the de facto language of global business, this is yet another shot in the foot for a country finding it hard to keep up with its competitors. 

Useful Links

Teaching English in Italy

Politecnico di Milano – more on English in Milan

Teacher Flips Out – Swears at Student


As mad as hell.

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 the whole thing) could be heard giggling.

What does this teach us? To keep control? To avoid heckles? To make sure phones are turned off so you can’t be recorded?

I know where my sympathies lie here – but what about you? Was the teacher right? Did she handle it well? What would you do with this student and under these circumstances?

Listen to the (rude) clip: https://soundcloud.com/benjamin-demers/out-of-control-teacher

Useful Links

Taboo Words‏‎ and Teaching English – what TEFL teachers can and can’t say in the classroom.

Interchange (book)

The Interchange SeriesInterchange 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:

  • Intro
  • 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 of schools have started out with Level 1 only to discover it’s not the first in the series.

Then, each level comes with a whole array of products such as workbooks, teachers books, CDs, videos and so on. There has been a lot of confusion of what contains what and many teachers bought the CD to use in class only to find that it doesn’t contain all the listening examples. This has led to a lot of frustration so make sure you test out what you have before using it in class.

It is easy to get the impression that CUP have taken a good product and then piled on as many extras as possible (with a hefty price tag) to turn this into a money making exercise more than anything else.

To take an example, the Intro level has 27 different products ranging from $10 to $400 – there is a CD Rom for over $40 and whiteboard software for $400; there is a DVD for $158 with the basic student’s book at just over $30.


However, the series has garnered a lot of praise and is very popular with both teachers and students. The four main language skills‏‎ are covered well and the series is designed to (and does) appeal to adults and young-adults both in class and in 1-to-1‏‎ lessons.

It is generally aimed towards American pop culture and some teachers have found that the cultural references are tied to a particular time and age group which means they do not necessarily appeal to some learners. For example, it includes references from Eminem to Celine Dion to try and cover as wide a base as possible and obviously these will be alien to some users and uninteresting to others.

Because of this it’s often useful to adapt some exercises in order to appeal more to the interests and needs of your specific students.

Generally, the tasks encourage students to use language actively rather than to be listeners. This is a good thing as the more opportunities students get to express themselves in L2 the more likely they are to learn it more successfully. However while Interchange caters for more involvement of the learners in the classroom activities the majority of tasks (at least in Interchange 3rd Edition) require learners to «respond» and only a much smaller proportion require students to «initiate» using the language. This defeats the aim of getting an active class.

Another drawback that has been noticed by users is that while the series tries to draw on meaning as the basis for the learning, the activities with focus on both form and meaning are not that frequent (at least in Interchange 3rd Edition).

External Links

Interchange Intro on Amazon.com

Interchange on CUP

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 to motivate a group of students to pay attention to you by keeping them perpetually worried and afraid that you might reprimand them or call their parents, the long-term effect will be very different than if you were to approach the teaching experience from a more proactive perspective.

What to Remember About ESL Children

Like most of the other decisions on their lives, children have little control over whether they are in your class or not. Regardless, you are there to do a job, and your income depends upon your ability to produce results in even the most disinterested of ESL students.

One way or another, you have to get them to pay attention long enough to what you are saying to be able to repeat the words you teach them (and hopefully actually start to understand the principles of good English). You can either maintain this engagement through the threat of disciplinary action, or by getting your students legitimately excited about learning.

Different Types of Students

Some students will be enthusiastic learners by default, and they will be a major boon to the learning environment of your classroom. Others will seem defiant in every opportunity possible.

Always start by assuming the best about your students.

Give the benefit of the doubt that each of them is perfectly capable of transforming into an amazing learner if given the right encouragement and opportunity. This may not prove to be true for each of them in the long run, but granting them this basic courtesy will maximize your chances for making bright and enthusiastic students out of them.

Construct an Environment of Engagement

When you teach, understand that the classroom environment will ultimately be shaped by the energy you put into your lessons.

Every student plays a part in contributing to the overall atmosphere of the class, but the teacher is by far the most powerful influencer over the emotional tone in the room. You have in your hands the power to make the class fun and invigorating for all but the most stubborn and disinterested of students. To harness this ability, you need to move beyond some teachers’ conceptions of being a strict and dull disciplinarian just waiting for bad students to step out of line. Remember that learning English can be an exciting and profound process, even for children.

Understanding the Learning Process

The learning process can only best occur when students are genuinely interested in understanding the subject they are being taught. This is usually the case when adult students sign up for ESL classes, as they are frequently eager to increase their English ability for many professional and personal reasons. Very often though, children who are enrolled by their parents into an ESL class or sessions with a private English tutor are done so without any initial interest in learning to speaking English. It is up to the teacher to figure out how to plant and harvest this sprouting enthusiasm for learning English. This is the art of teaching that so many mediocre educators ignore.

Guest Author Bio: Tom Fitton is currently working for LAL Schools, providing advice for ESL learners and helping other language students to pick up techniques to improve their learning.

TEFL Certificates to Teach English

TEFL Certificates

The ICAL TEFL Certificate (facsimile)

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).

The certificate is a basic, first qualification. If you’ve been teaching a few years on the basis of the certificate, you might then go for a higher qualification.

Note that a TEFL certificate is equivalent to a TESOL certificate or TESL certificate, etc.

How do I get a TEFL Certificate?

The TEFL certificate is awarded after you have a successfully taken a short TEFL course. If you take the course online then you can usually take as long (or as little) time as you need to complete it. If you take the course in-house it is usually about 4 weeks long.

Normally a good course will cover subjects like:

  • classroom management
  • lesson planning
  • language teaching theory
  • teaching grammar
  • etc

However, there is no set curriculum and each provider (school) will organize their own curriculum based on what they think a TEFL teacher should know.


In-house courses vary in price but start at around $1000 USD (€791, £636); online courses are much cheaper and are around $265 (€200, £155).

Some in-house courses will have extra charges if you opt for accommodation, etc, with the school.

modules & assessment

Often, although not always, a TEFL course is divided into various modules. As you go through the course you will assessed on the work you do. There is not usually an exam to pass.

In-house courses will have a couple of tutors; some online courses provide tutors but you will occasionally find low-end online courses which are entirely based on multiple-choice and with no tutor support; avoid these and go for online courses with a personal tutor to deal with.

teaching practice

Many TEFL courses in-house include teaching practice, that is teaching a group of students so the assessor can see how well you do this. Sometimes these “classes” will mean teaching your peers, other times it will mean teaching “genuine” learners.

Online courses don’t usually include teaching practice, however some do such as this online 150hr TEFL Certificate with Teaching Practice.

Useful Links

ICAL TEFL Course 120hr – the online TEFL course

Teaching English without a Degree‏‎ – how to find work teaching even if you don’t have a degree

What Qualifications do I need to Teach English? – more about the kind of qualifications you need

How to Choose a Good TEFL Course – what to look for when you choose a TEFL certificate course

Taking a TEFL Course‏‎ – what to expect when you take a TEFL course

TEFL vs TESOL vs TESL vs CELTA vs… – the difference between these

329 Ways to avoid getting Ripped Off in China


Stealing it’s never been so easy!

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 out of teachers. Sometimes they’ll take the money to find you a job and then just disappear with it. Other times they’ll take a very hefty chunk of your salary each month for finding you work (in some cases over 50% of your wage packet goes to the illegal agent each month). And either way, you’re badly out of pocket.

Teaching in China can be a rich and rewarding experience but do please follow these simple tips to avoid the worst that illegal agents can do to you.

329 Good Agents

Right now there are 329 honest, good agents in China. There are also thousands of illegal and dishonest agents.

But how to tell the difference? If you go onto a forum or answer an employment post there’s no way you can see if the agent posting it is an upright citizen or someone operating from a laptop in their prison cell.

It’s not hard. Here’s how:

1. Ask for their Details

Ask them for:

  1. A scan (front & back) of their Ministry of Education or SAIC licence number.
  2. A scan of their Chinese ID card (front & back).
  3. Their full phone number & address (dishonest agents tend to operate from mobile phones with no fixed office; remember this).
  4. Their website/email address (if you don’t already have them).

Any honest agent will have no problem in sending you this information. A dishonest agent will baulk at this which means it’s time to walk away.

2. Fee

Ask them EXACTLY how much they will charge for getting you a job and when it will be paid.

3. Background Check

Do your own background check. Quite simply this means getting online and searching for the agent’s name and/or address and/or company name and seeing what comes up. Try this in conjunction with words like scam or ripoff and see if that makes a difference.

Next check on this list of blacklisted agents/schools and see if the name appears: CFTU Blacklist


Finally, remember that you should check of the contract carefully and need to have a signed, sealed and dated copy (along with your Z-visa) in your hands before you even book your ticket to China.

Remember that Z-visa comment. That’s the only type of visa which allows you to work legally as a teacher in China. If an agent suggests anything else, politely tell them what they can do with the job. (Or not politely, that’s your call!)

Much of the information on this page comes from the Chinese Foreign Teachers Union. The CFTU is a volunteer organization composed of foreign teachers working in China dedicated to promoting creative and progressive education as well as protecting the interests of foreign teachers in China. It is well worth checking out their website and contacting them directly if you’ve any questions or problems concerning teaching in China.

Useful Links

Teaching English in China – an overview of TEFL in China and how to work there

Beware TEFL Scams‏‎ – what to look out for

Teaching English in the Middle East

TEFL/TESOL in the Middle EastICAL TEFL

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, the minimum qualifications to teach in the Middle East are a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. Experience also counts for a lot and certainly many of the best paid jobs look for higher qualifications plus 3 or 4 years or more experience. Also teachers for Business English‏‎ are in demand as well as well as other specializations.

On a lifestyle note, countries in the Middle East range from those which are relatively liberal (in terms of human rights, gay rights, women’s rights, etc) to those which are relatively strict. For details on teaching in individual countries within the Middle East, click on the links below.

English Teaching Countries in the Middle East

The following countries are usually accepted as being part of the Middle East. Click on the active links to read about finding teaching work in that place.

Note that often Cyprus‏‎, Turkey‏‎ and Egypt‏‎ are regarded as being part of the Middle East also. However, for the purposes of teaching English we see Cyprus and Turkey as part of Europe and Egypt as part of (North) Africa.

Teaching English in Europe

A picture of Europe from Space

Europe from Space

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 experienced and well qualified teachers.

The European Union

One of the most important areas is the European Union. This is a most of Western Europe (excluding Switzerland) and increasingly countries in Eastern Europe. For teachers the most important implication is that, to all extents and purposes, you need to be a citizen of the EU to work in the EU. This means that most of the native English speaking teachers here are from Britain or Ireland and it is very difficult for non-EU citizens to get a job here unless they are very well qualified and experienced or are married to a local.

See the main articles, Teaching English in the European Union‏‎ and Teaching in the EU for Non-Europeans.

Southern Europe

This has been the traditional starting ground for new teachers for decades. Spain‏‎ and Greece‏‎, and to a lesser extent Portugal‏‎ and Italy‏‎, have provided the first teaching experience for thousands of teachers.

With the recent economic crisis these countries have suffered greatly and it is becoming increasingly harder for teachers to find work here; while Turkey‏‎ is still going strong here, many are now looking to Asia for a first teaching experience or, if they are staying closer to home, Eastern Europe.

Northern Europe

In Scandinavia there is very little demand for teachers while in Germany‏‎ and France‏‎, Austria‏‎ and so on there is demand but it tends to be very business oriented and also looking at experienced and well qualified teachers. This is not to say newcomers can’t work there but competition tends to be a lot higher for work.

Eastern Europe

This is the new start up in terms of English teaching. Since the collapse of Soviet Russia countries here have begun to look to the West in terms of business and friendship and this means an increasing demand for English teachers. It is becoming increasingly popular and the general feeling is that this need for teachers will grow.

English Teaching Countries in Europe

The following countries are usually accepted as being part of Europe.

  • Albania‏‎
  • Andorra
  • Austria
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia‏‎
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic‏‎
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – FYROM
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland‏‎
  • Italy
  • Kosovo
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Malta
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland‏‎
  • Portugal‏‎
  • Romania
  • Russia‏‎
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom

Note that politically often Cyprus and Turkey are regarded as being part of the Middle East; for the purposes of this list we regard them as part of Europe, especially as they are part of the European Union.

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 and Vietnam. But do not dismiss the other countries in this region where English teaching is well established.

Note that although technically part of Asia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran‏‎ and other countries in this region are grouped with the Middle East here.

Countries in Asia

The following is a list of countries in Asia with detailed information on working there.

  • Afghanistan‏‎
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan‏‎
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Burma
  • Cambodia‏‎
  • China
  • Georgia
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia‏‎
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan‏‎
  • Korea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mongolia‏‎
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal‏‎
  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Russia‏‎
  • Singapore‏‎
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • Thailand
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam‏‎

Teaching English in Africa

TEFL/TESOL in AfricaA school in Zambia with happy, smiling children.

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 smaller private schools. Often, though not exclusively, male teachers are preferred.

Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa‏‎. but including Sudan‏‎) tends, generally speaking, to be much less involved in teaching English. Although efforts are being made by many countries in this region, the schools here tend to be poor and rarely employ foreign teachers. Part of the problem is internet penetration which means that few jobs are advertised online where teachers can find them. Volunteer positions are available but care needs to be taken in choosing reliable positions.

South Africa has a thriving English language teaching business. For foreign teachers finding work here tends to be quite difficult as positions are filled by local teachers, many of whom are well qualified and have experience teaching abroad.

English Teaching in Africa

Due to the colonial past, many countries in Africa have English as a national language. However, this is often used for administrative purposes only and works alongside many local native languages. Thus there is a demand for English teachers in every country, regardless of its past.

In general the requirements are a degree and a TEFL certificate such as the ICAL TEFL certificate although this does vary and often you can find work without a degree where the demand is high. Due to limited internet penetration, jobs are sometimes difficult to find online. Local newspapers, voluntary organizations (including religious ones) and being there in person is often the best way to find work.

English Schools in Africa

Most capital cities have international schools which teach in English; there are also often good quality universities and larger schools where English is taught.

However, in sub-Saharan Africa outside the main urban areas schools can be extremely small, poorly funded and very basic. Whilst these types of schools often have volunteer‏‎ opportunities you should make sure the agency you work with is genuine and there is a real demand for volunteers (i.e. that it is not just a money making opportunity for the volunteer agency).

Country-Specific Pages on Africa

Click on the country name to read more specific information about teaching English there.

  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Republic of Congo
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Morocco‏‎
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Reunion
  • Rwanda‏‎
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa‏‎
  • South Sudan‏‎
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania‏‎
  • Togo
  • Tunisia‏‎
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
Image © jurvetson

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 latest methods and ideas for teaching English. At the end you will also receive your ICAL TEFL Certificate.

Here is the basic information about the certificate and the course:

  • worth 120 hours
  • your own personal tutor to guide you through the course
  • 100% online
  • work at your own pace – do it as quickly or as slowly as you want
  • the latest techniques and methods to teach English
  • excellent, practical advice on being a good teacher


The cost of the course is 265 USD which is about 16,600 Indian Rupees. You can pay for this in either USD or EUR or GBP, whichever is the most convenient.

To register for the course, simply click here:



Need more information?  Talk to us!

We’d love to hear from you so email us on admin@icaltefl.com and we will answer your questions and guide you through the process.

Qualify to Teach English in China

An English teacher holding up work to a class of children.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 the end you will also receive your ICAL TEFL Certificate.

Here is the basic information about the certificate and course:

  • worth 120 hours
  • your own personal tutor to guide you through the course
  • 100% online
  • work at your own pace – do it as quickly or as slowly as you want
  • the latest techniques and methods to teach English
  • excellent, practical advice on being a good teacher


The cost of the course is 265 USD (or 155 GBP or 200 EUR). You can pay for this in either USD or EUR or GBP, whichever is the most convenient.

To register for the course, simply click here:



Need more information?  Talk to us!

We’d love to hear from you so email us on admin@icaltefl.com and we will answer your questions and guide you through the process.

Image © Rex Pe

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 sense. This means we have articles on finding teaching work to world languages to classroom techniques and everything in and around those subjects. If it is of interest to English language teachers anywhere in the world.

Originality: we do not reprint articles appearing on other sites. All articles here are 100% original.

Style: chatty, friendly, informative, useful. And needless to say, in perfect English (American or British, etc).

Size: about 600 – 700 words is the usual length of our articles but of course the length is determined by the theme.

Images: usually 1 (or sometimes 2) images in an article. We can supply these if you do not have a suitable one.

Return: a link from your site to our site

We do allow external no-follow links in our articles but only to useful sites. Normally guest posts will include a short biography at the end where we allow a link to the author’s own site (or similar). Articles littered with links are simply not allowed here.

If you think you have a useful article which fits in with our site and which you’d like us to post, please contact admin@icaltefl.com with an outline of the article you’d like to write.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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 one point to another consecutively. A “sequence” of education is presumed to have been followed by the students, allowing them to progress from stage to stage.

However  as educational bodies learn more about the way young students learn language  it has been found increasingly that  as more sources and learning techniques become available  teachers have greater potential to respond to the particular needs of their students  and greater flexibility to tailor their classes in a way which would facilitate their pupils’ learning the English language.

See here for more on this.



Scaffolding will get you there safely!

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 of the activity.

Let’s explore together some of the techniques and strategies of giving effective, unambiguous instructions and how scaffolding plays a part. Here we will define scaffolding to mean anything that supports clarity of meaning.To do this we will first examine poor instructions given in French to a lower level French class.

The French teacher gives the following instructions orally:

Bonjour classe!  Ça va?  Bon, très bien, ça va.  Bon, nous allons faire une petite activité aujourd-hui.  Et ce que nous allons faire c’est que je voudrais que vous preniez un morceau de papier et que vous numérotez votre papier de un jusqu’à dix et vous allez faire une liste de priorite de vos nourritures préférées.  Allez! …….Quoi?  Vous ne faites pas ce que j’ai dit?  Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?  Quel est le problème?

English translation:  “Good morning, class.  How are you? (students respond) Good, very well.  I’m fine too.  Good, we are going to have a small activity today.  What we are going to do is I want you to take a piece of paper and number your paper from one to ten and you are going to make a prioritized list of your favorite foods.  Go ahead….. …What?  You don’t know what I said?  What is it?  What is the problem?”

A couple of students are able to comply with the instructions, but most have no idea what to do. If we were to give the students the opportunity to offer suggestions to the teacher on how to make the instructions clearer, what might they say?

Before we hear from the students, let’s consider the following: the instructions were given only orally; all of the steps were given at one time; they were spoken too fast; there was no use of gestures or visuals of any kind to support or help the students understand what to do; and finally, there was no checking of understanding by the teacher. Consequently, the activity could not move forward and time was wasted.

Here are some of the students recommendations:

•    slow down and pause between phrases, checking to see if we are with you
•    give one step at a time
•    show us what to do, not just tell us
•    model the instructions, including the activity itself
•    write on the board
•    use visuals and gestures to support meaning
•    use simple imperatives, not complex sentences
•    use simple vocabulary
•    after the instructions are given, monitor to be sure we are on task

By implementing these suggestions, the teacher would insure that the instructions are clear to the students and the activity is a success. Let’s now return to the concept of scaffolding and how it plays a significant role in making the instructions clearer.

Again, we are defining scaffolding as whatever connects concepts to meaning. Examples of scaffolding are: using a gesture to give meaning to a word, phrase or sentence; providing a definition of a word; providing a visual to support meaning; using a graphic organizer to frame meaning; simply pointing to a board example when making reference.

If the scaffold is to succeed, it must help connect the student’s previous knowledge and experience to the new information being presented. If, for example, there was a student from Thailand in the class who spoke only Thai, the use of cognates would not convey meaning. We can’t assume that all gestures and facial expressions mean the same thing in all cultures. So if there is a disconnect between the student’s background knowledge and previous experience and the new concepts being presented, there will be no new understanding or learning, nothing to build upon. Planning the instructions must take these variables into account.

To summarize, scaffolding plays a significant role in getting meaning across. It is essential when giving instructions, if they are to be effective. It takes thoughtful planning to make instructions clear. But it is well worth the effort as it will save time in the long run and help insure the success of the activity and ultimately the lesson.

Extract from: The Use of Scaffolding to Enhance the Success of Instruction-Giving by Ronald W. Bradley, April 2013

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.

How would that play out with your TEFL class? Well, considering that teachers have been fired for saying less it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and avoid using the word. You might be right, the word might be fine, but an evil boss could well use this as an excuse to get rid of you!

{minipolls id=”GermanShitstorms” title=”Would you use ‘shitstorm’ in a meeting?”} Yes, it’s fine by me|| No way! I’m mortally offended by that word!|| I’m the boss, I can do anything I want.{/minipolls}

Useful Links

The original BBC article

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

The Daily Telegraph & Yahoo Logo

Ignorant. Offensive. Cheap.

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 which talks about Real Madrid players struggling to speak English “with comedic results.”

Let me make it plain. This kind of snide, immature giggling is ignorant, offensive and cheap.

A simple question: how many of the Telegraph reporters can speak Russian? Putin apparently speaks German very well so he’s no linguistic moron – unlike, I suspect, many of the staff on the Telegraph who by deriding someone who can’t speak English well are simply expressing their own ignorance of the learning process.

And the same applies to the writers of the Yahoo article. How many of them are fluent in any language other than English?

As someone who has struggled to learn foreign languages I find this kind of attitude unforgivable. Who are these people? How dare they make fun of people who have tried to learn and educate themselves?

Shame on them.

ICAL TEFL Testimonials


We do!

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 I have learned so much since the start of this journey and I have enjoyed every second of it. I feel a little sad turning in my last assignment as it has been a great ride and I know I will miss it. Hopefully I will get the chance to teach soon and be able to use my new-found skill to influence someone’s life!

From XN23EE Diane, working on module #5.
I like being given a class scenario and asked to develop the activities and lesson plans. I find it easy to visualize the class and plan accordingly. I also like having the opportunity to create enjoyable activities and lessons.

From XN22C1 Nicholas, hoping to pursue Curriculum Development.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this TEFL course was the opportunity to develop lesson plans and structures for a variety of ages and skill levels. I really enjoyed focusing on the needs of a specific group, and tailoring lessons to suit those needs.

Having the opportunity to practice designing lessons in the course has benefited me professionally as well. Over the past few months I’ve been given some opportunities to collaborate on curriculum development at work. I have come to realize that curriculum development is something that I would like to pursue.

From XN221C Wilhelmina, happy with ICAL philosophy!
Really loved how student-centered the overall philosophy at ICAL is. Very down-to-earth approach to teaching , simple without being simplistic, the course trains you to always put the needs of the students first and that is fundamental for productive teaching and learning.

From  XN240F Justin , close to the finish line.
This has been really helpful in getting me to think about ESL lesson plans and activities, and I look forward to your comments on Assignment 5!

Experience Teaching Abroad – worth it or not?


photo credit: Pixabay (license)

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 found work when they got home.

Now this seems a little too simplistic for me. Unfortunately the article doesn’t give more details about the two groups so it’s hard to judge. And you have to PAY on the site to leave comments which seems a bit rich to me.

I wouldn’t ever deny that spending time abroad is good. Experiencing new cultures can only be a good thing in my opinion. But in my experience those people who head off to live in another country have generally got that extra bit of gumption about them. They’re go-getters and aren’t content with the usual 9-5 life. They want more. They’re the kind of people who want to see what’s on the other side of the proverbial hill.

And they’re the kind of people who, when they return home, are probably more employable than those who sit around and are perhaps a little more staid.

So possibly the article has it wrong. It’s trying to make a connection where one doesn’t exist. Those teachers didn’t get work because they went abroad. No – they went abroad because they had the gumption to go abroad. And because they were the kind of teachers with a bit of get up and go     they were the kind of teachers who could find work anywhere.

Useful Links

An Introduction to Teaching English around the World

Original Article in Education Week.

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 younger teacher to get work?

TEFL Qualifications & Teacher Age

To teach private TEFL lessons you do not always need higher qualifications. Obviously if you’ve taken a TEFL course‏‎ you will be able to teach far better, but if you are teaching your neighbor, or a friend, you can be any age. It is an agreement between you and them and there are usually no legal requirements for qualifications and so on.

Which means for private lessons you could be any age!

However, if you are teaching in a school then things begin to get more involved.

First, most jobs require you to have a degree along with your TEFL certificate. This means you will need to go to college and this means that you will graduate when you are in your early twenties. Most new teachers in schools are around this age.

But there are also jobs for teachers without a degree‏‎. In these cases you could theoretically head off and teach in a school with just your TEFL certificate. Let’s say aged 17 or so.

But there are a couple of points to think about here though.

Firstly you can’t realistically speaking head off to teach in a school until you’ve finished your own school. In most countries that means you must be over 16 before you start work.

Then, you also need a passport if you are heading off overseas. In some countries you will need your parental consent to get this if you’re under 18 years old (this figure varies depending where you are, so check it out) and some parents may not agree to letting you have your own passport if you are likely to disappear off around the other side of the world!

There is also the issue of signing a contract‏‎. If as a signatory you are younger than the age required for your signature to be legally binding then the contract you may sign could be void. You should find out first how old you need to be to sign a contract that would be be valid in the country where you want to teach. The likely scenario is that no decent school would enter a work agreement with you if you are underage, and those who get you to sign a contract even though you have no standing as a minor, are likely to exploit you. So be careful!

Finally think about what it will be like to teach in a class. Many TEFL students are teenagers. If you – as another teenager – step into such class do you think you will have the presence and authority to gain their respect? You might do, but will a school owner think the same and hire you?

And what about teaching Business English‏‎? Many classes are full of business people of all ages. Could you teach a room full of middle-aged business executives?

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: Yes, you can teach at any age but it’s probably best to start off taking your TEFL course and then doing private lessons and then taking a degree before you head off into a school.

It’s not impossible for a young teenager to work in a school and teach, but you do have to be a special kind of mature teenager to make it work!

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.

Here are a few statistics they’ve got:

  • most adult native speakers know between 20,000–35,000  words
  • most 8 year-old native speakers know about 10,000 words
  • most 4 year-old native speakers know about 5,000 words

One interesting point is that adult native speakers learn about 1 word a day on average until they reach middle age when they stop learning new words!

(That strikes me as quite sad; I hope I continue to learn when I reach middle age!)

Meanwhile, for learners of English:

  • most English language learners know about 4,500 words
  • if English language learners live abroad they know over 10,000 words
  • if English language learners live abroad they learn between 2 and 3 new words a day

So that must tell you something if you’re trying to learn English – go abroad to learn!

Finally, as you might expect, reading is the key. The more you read when you’re little, the higher your vocabulary later on. It doesn’t matter whether its fact or fiction, just keep reading – even past middle age!

And by the way, my vocabulary is 33,200 words. What’s yours?

Check out the site and take the test here and for a summary of how you compare to others, see the blog here.

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 such as German or French.

Instead of replacing Creole with standard English the two languages should exist side by side.

A good move in my opinion!

Original Article

$3,800 USD to rescue a cat in China


photo credit: Fanta (license)

First off let me say I’m a cat lover. And a dog lover. But this English teacher goes one step further.

She was teaching English in China and adopted a stray cat. Then she spent £2,500 (about $3,800 USD) to take it back to the UK when she left the country. I don’t know. I just think that she could have given a few thousand dollars to one of the many cat charities/homes in China and saved not just one cat but a whole bunch of them.

Is she being selfish? Do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?

Useful Links

Teaching English in China – how about TEFL in China?

Taking Pets with you when Teaching Abroad – some advice

More information on this story.

Cantonese (Chinese) vs English

Cantonese in English & CantoneseThere 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.

This article looks at the major issues that teachers will find in teaching English to Cantonese native speakers along with a few pointers to overcoming those issues.

Pronunciation Problems

One of the major problems TEFL teachers find when they’re working with native Cantonese speakers, is pronunciation. Whilst there are many sounds shared between English and Cantonese, there are quite a number of very different sounds and some which do not exist in the other language.

Vowel Sounds

There are two main issues with vowels‏‎. The first is that Cantonese contains only 7 of the 12 or so vowel sounds found in English so you will need to teach completely new sounds to your students.

The second issue is that Cantonese does not make the difference between long and short vowels that is found in English. Cantonese vowels tend to fall in the middle.

/ɪ/ as in ship – /ʃɪp/
/iː/ as in sheep – /ʃiːp/

/ʊ/ as in soot – /sʊt/
/uː/ as in suit – /suːt/

/ɒ/ as in pot – /pɒt/
/ɔː/ as in port – /pɔːt/

In these examples above, Cantonese native speakers may well produce something which falls in the middle of each word.

Consonant Sounds

The main issue here is that consonants‏‎ in Cantonese are voiceless. It’s not always easy for Cantonese native speakers to produce the voiced consonants we have in English, for example:

/v/ as in van
/z/ as in zip
/ð/ as in this

Other Pronunciation Issues

Some problems are not due to pronunciation per se but to the way in which Cantonese uses sounds. For example, in Cantonese many words can begin with either /l/ or /n/ and have the same meaning. In English the meaning is often different so a Cantonese speaker may say these interchangeably without hearing the difference between them. To some Cantonese native speakers these pairs sound the same:

lip – nip
low – no
lap – nap

Another problem arises with /l/ and /r/. You may well find Cantonese native speakers using the /r/ instead of /l/:

life instead of rife
led instead of red

Another common problem is using /s/ instead of /ʃ/ so saying /səʊ/ instead of /ʃəʊ/.

Finally word endings. Cantonese speakers may well drop the end of the word off and something like

/meɪ miː ə keɪ/

instead of

/meɪk miː ə keɪk/

Correcting Pronunciation Issues

There are a number of ways you can help correct these issues.

  • Make sure students are aware of how to produce the sounds; this means diagrams showing the physical shape of the mouth and the way in which the tongue and lips move, etc.
  • Use plenty of minimal pair practice to isolate the problem sound.
  • Make sure the students see the written word and explain how in English we say it fully and don’t chop it off at the end as can happen in Cantonese.

Problems of Intonation

Cantonese is a tonal language. This means it uses rising and falling tones to express word meaning.

English is different in that changes in intonation‏‎ produce changes in emotion or to show question/statement.

You will need to use diagrams to explain how intonation in English works and then, of course, practice.

Grammar Issues


Verbs‏‎ express time and meaning differently in Cantonese. In particular the concept of time is not handled in the verb form as it is in English. Thus you will likely come across many errors in the choice of verb (not necessarily in the construction).

What do you do? meaning What are you doing?
He has worked on a farm. meaning He works on a farm.

In cases like these it’s sometimes difficult to know whether the student has used correct English or not; you will have to work out exactly what the student means and whether the correct verb form was chosen.

Also with verbs, modal verbs‏‎ aren’t used in Cantonese and students are sometimes reluctant to use them. This can lead to speakers sounding a little abrupt:

Give me the pen. instead of Could you give me the pen?

Other Grammar Issues

Cantonese does not have articles‏ so they are often missed out by students.

There is no differentiation between male and female personal pronouns‏‎ so a Cantonese speaker may well say something like:

I like Lady Gaga. He is American.


Cantonese uses a very different writing system to English; words in Cantonese are not made up of individual letters but symbols which show the word as a whole. This poses challenges to English teachers and the basics of word construction need to be taught.

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 happen.

However, some French academics are up in arms about this all.

“Non!” they cry. They don’t want to see the French language sink below an onslaught of English. They look to the North, South and West and see countries like Germany, Spain and Switzerland where local languages have all but disappeared to be replaced by English.

Well, not quite.

Will allowing English in French universities signal the end of French as we know it?

No, it won’t. But you can’t tell some people that no matter what language they speak.

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!

This article is all about avoiding this problem. It’s about how to copy and make a local copy of a webpage or website so that even if the original goes offline, you have a backup copy on your computer which you (and your students) can access.

Single Pages

Downloading and saving a single page from a website is relatively easy. You just view the page in your browser and save it using the menu options as below. Depending on your browser, click on the picture below to see the usual menu selection for saving a page:

Browser Firefox Internet Explorer Chrome Opera
Notes     On the top right
side of the browser


(Click to enlarge)

Firefox Save As Menu

Save As menu in IE

Menu shot to save a page in Chrome

Save page menu in Opera

Entire Websites

The above method is fine for single pages, but what about entire websites?

To do this you will need a piece of software such as Web2Disk or HTTrack. These freeware programs allow you to take an entire site and copy it to your PC. This means that you can browse and access that site even if you are offline or the internet goes down.

This is a useful backup for teachers meaning that even if you don’t have access to the internet in your classroom your students can still browse sites and access material.



Certificate of DonationOver 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 will do the most good.

One aspect of this is offering TEFL course scholarships to teachers. Another aspect is direct financial help to schools and other educational institutions.

If you feel that your charity might benefit from our help, then please do get in touch at admin@icaltefl.com

Please note that we are completely non-discriminatory when it comes to help: it does not matter what the religion, race or politics of the cause are. We simply judge on what the cause needs and what we have available to help.

The image shows one of the first Certificate of Donation received by ICAL. This is dated 2004.


Self Grading Students

A shocked student.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 was preparing them for the First Certificate in English‏‎ exam and part of that includes a writing exercise. I told my class they were to write a story for homework which began:

It was a cold night and as we walked along the dark and lonely road, we began to get worried. Just then, we saw the headlights of a car slowly approaching…

So, what happened? Well, come the next lesson I collected the homework and took it home to grade. Some stories were good, some were bad. Some had loads of errors, others didn’t. I made some coffee and spent an hour grading the class work and then went to bed.

The next lesson I handed them back and I saw almost all the students find the grade on the paper, either smile or grunt at what they saw, and then stuff the paper into their bags. What happened to it next I have no idea.

So then I asked myself: What did the students get out of this?

And the answer I came up with was: Not a lot!

But a few weeks ago I tried something very similar but very different.

I gave out the homework as usual: Write a story beginning with… And then, exactly as before, in the next lesson the class arrived with their homework all ready for me to grade.

This time, however, I sat them all down and told them they had fifteen minutes to grade their own work there and then. They could also use my big red pen to give themself a final grade: A+ to E-. (I’m nice like that.)

At first they didn’t quite know what to do but as I went round and prodded them a little (figuratively, not literally) they got the idea. They started to go through their work and judge it. I noticed several students begin to check the work and then correct a few of their own errors which before they hadn’t even seen.

And then they started to give grades. One or two inevitably wrote A+ and handed it to me with a grin but I just nodded sagely and suggested they take a second look which they did.

Finally I collected the papers and took them home. Surprisingly the grades they had given themselves were pretty close to what I would have given them. Except, of course, many had also circled spelling and grammar mistakes as well.

So what did the class get out of the homework this time round?

Well they looked at it more closely and analysed their own work. In an exam situation this is vital as a few minutes checking can make all the difference. If we continue to do this then they’ll get into the habit of checking themselves and of course this can’t be a bad thing.

But there’s something else going on here.

They judge themselves. They look at their work and say that it is worth – in their eyes – a certain grade. If I tell them that a paper is worth B- then they can rationalise the grade and tell themselves I was being mean or something similar to justify the grade. But if they grade it themself then they are completely responsible for what happens and this makes them more involved in the learning process.

There is one further step, however. My job now is to raise their expectations and encourage them to move up. Today a student might give themself C+ but next week I want them – justifiably – to give themself a B.

Timothy Wright is an English teacher based in Madrid, Spain. He enjoys new ideas to try out with his class and when he isn’t thinking up strange new activities for the classroom he does jigsaw puzzles.

ESLdrama – Using Video Drama in the Classroom

A tense scene from ESLdramaESLdrama 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 answer is quite simple. If you look at the majority of ESL videos out there you’ll find they are either for advanced students, or they are for native speakers and adapted for ESL learners, or they are just very poorly produced. So firstly we wanted to make something for everyone which means beginners to advanced students. And secondly so much of what is already available is, to be frank, boring and banal. For me – as a former English teacher – one of the most important things I can do is interest students. These days they can watch incredible stories and superbly produced shows on television but when they step into the classroom the chances are that if they can watch something of the right level in English it’s going to be boring and banal. We wanted to change that. And that’s why we made ESLdrama.

Jenny – So how do you make a series like this interesting and accessible to all students?

Sean – Well we started with the plot – or plots I should say. Just like any soap we created an engaging storyline: troubled relationships, a marriage in crisis, money problems and so on. These are universal themes which appeal to everyone. Then we worked on the structure and dialog so that it could work at all levels. Beginner students will find they can understand the main themes; advanced students will be able to pick up more subtle language points. But a lot of thought also went into the editing as well. For example in almost every case you can see clearly the person who is speaking so the audience can not only hear them but also pick up on body language and context like this. It was made very much with learners in mind.

Jenny – The episodes are quite short, I guess again that’s to help with comprehension.

Sean – Exactly! If you’re going to use video in the classroom you don’t want the students sitting passively for 30 minutes or more and getting lost in the dialog and losing interest. It’s too easy to lose students that way. Each episode of ESLdrama is under 10 minutes so there’s plenty of time in a 60 minute lesson to introduce it, watch it a couple of times and then discuss it afterwards.

Jenny – But what about help for teachers? Is it just a matter of them showing the video to the class?

Sean – Of course not! We’ve spent a lot of time coming up with lesson plans for each episode. Because we err on the side of making these videos interesting and stimulating for students there’s a lot of conversation and discussion involved with the class. We don’t suggest boring comprehension questions and getting the class to watch for details – I mean that’s not the way you or I might watch EastEnders or The Young and the Restless or whatever.

The first episode of ESLdrama is online now with further episodes to follow; also see the professional website of Sean James Sutton.

Note: ICAL TEFL have sponsored the first episode of the series; we like the idea and the way it has been produced and we think something like this is long overdue!

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 trailer for Episode 1.




Useful Links

Video in the TEFL Classroom – how to make the most of videos and movies in your English language lessons.

ESLdrama – Using Video Drama in the Classroom

Lexical Chunks

Chunky Chili

Chunks good enough to eat…

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 reliable standards around which we can hang poetic and emotive language.

Changing Chunks

Some lexical chunks never change:

I’m fine thank you.
Enough already!

But others can have various parts substituted:

Where is the …
Pass the …

Teaching Lexical Chunks

The key to teaching lexical chunks is to treat them in the same way as individual words. So, for example, instead of having flashcards with a single word on them, have flashcards with the lexical chunk in its entirety.

Like single words, of course, they should also be taught in context. Take these typical conversations which native speakers have all the time:

A: Hi, how’s things?
B: Not bad, thanks. How are you?
A: Good.

A: Good morning.
B: Good morning.
A: I’d like a cup of coffee, please.
B: Sure

And so on. Rather than overthinking them and breaking them down into individual words, teach them as a whole and have the class practice and use them. Then, when the time comes, they can repeat them almost verbatim without thinking which is what native speakers do.

Release Letter (China)

Fascimile Release Letter

Please release me!

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 – will still be working in the first school.

The Release Letter is an incredibly important document and you must obtain one. By law the school must give it to you within 30 days from you leaving them, regardless of whether you left them on good or bad terms.

The letter needs to be completed and officially stamped by the school.


A Release Letter is free and you should not pay for one.

However, some schools demand payment for it. Some schools will even include in the contract‏‎ a clause saying you will need to pay for it and then demand between 5,000 CNY up to 25,000 CNY or about $800 USD (€633, £509) to $4000 USD (€3165, £2545)!

But this is totally illegal.

You have every right to demand a Release Letter when you leave a school and you do not have to pay a single penny for it. However, if you find yourself in a position where your employer is demanding money for it or delaying giving it, then you should contact the China Foreign Teachers Union who will be able to advise you and help with obtaining your Release Letter from your old employer.

Useful Links

China Foreign Teachers Union – their official website.

Changes to EPIK Requirements

ICAL TEFLThere 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 to South Korea to teach and, in fact, most teachers go and work in private schools there, however EPIK is a way to teach in government run (state) schools.

For foreign teachers of English there are certain qualifications you need and some optional qualifications as well. These are discussed below.

Note that these requirements apply to EPIK; to teach at a private school in South Korea you need only have a Bachelor’s degree and a be a native English speaker. A TEFL Certificate, whilst useful, is not necessary for your visa or to work in South Korea.

What are the Essential Qualifications for EPIK?

If you want to join EPIK as a native English speaking teacher then you must:

  • speak English as your mother tongue
  • have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in an English speaking country
  • have your transcripts from the university
  • have 2 letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources
  • have a clean criminal records check‏‎
  • have a valid passport

What are the Optional Qualifications for EPIK?

These qualifications may help your application, but aren’t essential.

  • a TEFL certificate
  • teaching experience

What are the Recent Changes to the TEFL Certificate Requirements for EPIK?

As mentioned above, a TEFL certificate is an optional requirement for EPIK. However, recently EPIK have said they will give more weight to certain kinds of TEFL certificate. In descending order:

  1. TEFL certificates with 20+ hours of in-class teaching practice (this has to be 60+ hours to teach in Busan)
  2. Fully online TEFL certificates or TEFL certificates with less than 20 hours of teaching practice
  3. No TEFL certificate at all

So, to clarify, firstly a TEFL certificate is an optional qualification for EPIK. Second, preference is given to TEFL certificates with more than 20 hours of in-house teaching practice and then come certificates such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate which is fully online and certificates with less than 20 hours.

See here for the main article, South Korea‏‎ – EPIK

How Many Tenses Are There in English?


photo credit: 20131107 (license)

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 look at tenses as referring to time. For them there are 3 tenses in English corresponding to the past, present, and future:

I walked in the past.
I walk in the present.
I will walk in the future.

This seems fairly straightforward until you look at other languages and some varieties of English‏‎. Then you see that this is a fairly arbitrary chopping up of time. African American Vernacular English, for example differentiates between the recent past and the distant past. Thus relating tense directly to time can produce more than just 3 tenses for some people.

Tenses & Verb Forms

Other people talk about tenses as verb forms‏‎. For them there are 12 basic tenses (but even this number varies):

I walked in the past simple.
I was walking in the past continuous.
I had walked in the past perfect simple.
I had been walking in the past perfect continuous.

And this is followed by the simple, continuous, perfect simple & perfect continuous forms for the present and the future, totalling 12 tenses in all.

But it doesn’t stop there. On to this list some people will also argue for conditionals‏‎ and the subjunctive‏‎ which take the number up. If you add to this the recent/distant past distinction in some varieties the number of tenses goes higher still.

Tenses & Verb Morphemes

Finally, some people talk about there being just 2 tenses: the past and present. They say this is the case because in English there are – morphologically speaking – only 2 verb forms:

I walk in the present.
I walked in the past.

The future, they say, is taken care of by using the present tense plus a modal verb‏‎ for example, such as might, will, could, etc. In other words, there is no specific future tense in English.

(Some people take a philosophical approach to this and talk about us being unable to know the future therefore we can only talk about it in terms of possibility, therefore we must use aspect, modality and so on. However, in Latin, for example, there is a morpholigcally marked future tense which negates this argument.)

So Who is Right?

No one and everyone.

The answer depends on who you talk to. Some people are very vociferous in championing their own definition of tense and will claim that because such-and-such a grammarian says it then it must be true. But the truth is that there is no definitive answer.

Here at ICAL TEFL we talk about there being 3 tenses (past, present & future) and a number of verb forms within each tense. Others disagree.

So why do we choose to use 3 tenses? Quite simply it’s often convenient to talk about 3 tenses because it can be related directly to reality: past, present & future. Students tend to understand these concepts easily and in teaching English, that is the bottom line.


Please vote on this simple poll and tell us how many tenses you believe there are.

How many tenses are there?

And Finally…

The final word goes to Douglas Adams in his book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveller’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually travelling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own father or mother.

Most readers get as far as the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up: and in fact in later editions of the book all the pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

Teaching English in Sri Lanka


In the land of smiles.

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 entire island which has effectively been at peace since then.

English on Sri Lanka

One consequence of peace has been a rise in demand for English teachers. About 74% of the population speak Sinhala and 18% speak Tamil. Sinhala is the official national language and although English‏‎ is commonly used in government (the island was under British control for many years) it is only spoken by about 10% of the population. By spreading the use of English the government hopes to help unite the various ethnic groups on the island.

As part of this process the island has close ties with its neighbour, India, which has provided schools and teachers of English to help spread the language.

Finding Work & Teaching Conditions

Sri Lanka is a relatively poor island country and pay is low. Basic teaching positions can offer as little as LKR 40,000 or $320 USD (€253, £204) to LKR 50,000 or $400 USD (€317, £255) per month. Whilst this is enough to live on modestly in the country you will not get rich. Flights and accommodation are sometimes paid for by the school.

The qualification usually asked is a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. Some jobs will also ask for a degree although not always required. Places like the British Council‏‎ tend to pay a lot more, upward of LKR 210,000 or $1650 USD (€1306, £1050) per month although obviously they ask for higher qualifications and several years experience.

Note: ICAL offers a part scholarship to teachers already working in Sri Lanka who want to take our TEFL certificate.

Most jobs should be arranged from outside the country. If you attempt to visit Sri Lanka and teach on a tourist visa there is a strong chance that if caught you will be deported.


There are a number of volunteer positions but if you go down this route you must examine them carefully as some volunteer positions are little more than money making scams with prices of some $10,000 for the experience; often volunteer positions demand that you take their own training course as part of the package.

Pay > Paid vs Payed


Coins… always awkward to carry around.

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 verb and write:

I pay $15 each month for my internet connection.
* Last month I payed $15 for my internet connection.
* I have payed $15 every month for the past year.

* an asterisk at the beginning of a sentence shows that it is ungrammatical and wrong.

This is regarded as wrong by most people. However, it can is still be found in all types of writing. For example, this comes from an article in The Guardian newspaper in 2004:

* …Saatchi only payed £600 for it…

And a concordance search brings up more examples so it is not just The Guardian who makes this mistake!

When is PAYED Correct?

There is one case when it is correct to use payed and when the verb pay is formed as a regular verb. This is when the word is used in a nautical sense and means, to feed out rope or to cover a boat in tar (pitch).

We payed out the rope and the boat slipped further behind us.

The men payed the boat while they had time in dry dock.


Pay comes from the Latin pacare which means to pacify, (the word peace is a linguistic cousin of pay); by paying someone for something everything is fine and peaceful. (Try not paying in a shop and see how unpeaceful it gets!)

However, when we use pay in the nautical sense (see above) it comes from the Latin word picare which means tar or pitch. This has become a regular English verb.

How Hard is it to Learn English?


Sometimes it’s just a small step between the two…

How hard is it to learn English?

Well that’s not easy for me to say since I’ve been learning it since the day I was born (actually, recent research suggests I’ve been learning it since I was in the womb1). But it got me thinking. I searched around a bit and couldn’t find much online about it until I came across the famous FSI list.

The FSI is the Foreign Service Institute which is an American government department responsible for teaching languages to American diplomats and so on who are heading off to work in another country. They compiled a list of languages and ranked them according to how difficult they are to learn for the average English speaker. This means, in effect, comparing them against English to see how similar they are.

So, in answer to the question of how hard it is to learn English, this will depend in part on where the learner comes from. If they speak a language close to English in grammar and vocabulary (such as Dutch, for example) then they’ll find it easier than if they speak Chinese which has many, many differences not only in the way its written but also in grammar and vocabulary.

The FSI List

So, to the famous FSI list. These first two groups of languages are classed as being very similar to English, I suppose in terms of vocabulary and (to a certain extent) grammar:

Category 1: Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.

Category 2: German

I’m surprised to see German in a group of its own because from the little I have studied of it (I lived there once for a while) I have found it to be as difficult as Norwegian (I have a Norwegian friend whom I don’t understand) and Portuguese (I tried to teach myself some Portuguese before I went on holiday there).

But all in all I can see the relationship between English and these languages and learners from these countries will have plenty of familiar and recognizable signposts in English when they begin to learn it.

Next up comes a group of languages which show some linguistic and/or cultural differences from English:

Category 3: Indonesian,  Malaysian, Swahili

Well yes. I attended a very short series of lectures on Swahili at university when we did comparative grammar and yes, it gets weird. Funnily enough though I’ve heard others say it’s pretty easy.

Then comes languages which show major and significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English:

Category 4: Albanian,  Amharic,  Armenian,  Azerbaijani,  Bengali,  Bosnian,  Bulgarian, Burmese, Croatian, Czech, *Estonian, *Finnish, *Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, *Hungarian, Icelandic, Khmer, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, *Mongolian, Nepali, Pashto, Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik), Polish, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Tagalog, *Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, *Vietnamese, Xhosa, Zulu

Those marked with an asterisk are harder than those without here. A sort of turbo charged Category 4.

Now a few of these surprised me. I spent a lot of time in Greece and speak the language quite well. Once the initial shock of the alphabet wears off it’s pretty straightforward (for instance reading is easy since it’s got a very phonetic writing system unlike English).

I also, for my sins, did a couple of lectures on Xhosa at university (again, comparative linguistics) and it’s all clicks and strange sounds I couldn’t make.

So for me Greek goes in Category 3 and Xhosa stays where it is to be joined by Swahili.

Finally come those languages which are most removed from English. These are the ones we find it hardest to learn and therefore, one presumes, native speakers of these languages find English hardest:

Category 5: Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, *Japanese,  Korean

Again, that asterisk takes Japanese turbo charged above the list and so, according to the FSI Japanese is the hardest language for English speakers to learn and, presumably, Japanese speakers find learning English the hardest.

Useful Links

Foreign Service Institute – about the FSI who compiled the list

1 Babies Learn Language in the Womb

Class Blogs for Reading & Writing & Fun!


Blogging? In class? YES!

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 setup – for free – a simple to use blog system for your class and have everyone participate. To do this we’ve used a site called Kidblog which is completely free for teachers.


As a teacher the first step is to set up your own blog. This is simple to do and we had a blog up and running in about 30 seconds from the Kidblog site. On this you write your first blog entry. A good idea here is to make it an introduction to the blog with a few ideas on how you and your students will use it and what it will be about.

The next step is to add your students. The good thing here is that you don’t need to include any personally identifiable information (such as emails) for your students: just a name & a password for each one. Depending on how many students you have this whole process will take just a few minutes.

Check also the privacy settings so that the blog is viewable only by you and the students.

In Class

In the next class explain to your students the idea behind blogs: that they are short texts (such as diary entries, thoughts, etc) which anyone can write, which the whole class can view and which any student can comment on. Let them know that the whole class will see what they write on the blog (so they don’t say anything too personal).

As an example, why not show them one of your blog entries? Perhaps this is a short piece you’ve written on something in the news of interest to the class, a recent holiday, and upcoming school event… Use your imagination! If you can, get a discussion going about the topic!

Now give each student a slip of paper with their name & password on it. If you have computers in the class you can get the students to log on and then either individually, or in small groups comment on one of your entries or write their own, short, entry. Then encourage others in the class to comment on any new entry.

Of course there is one rule only: English Only‏‎!

At Home

Perhaps blogs like this are more suited to work at home where the student has time to think and browse and just enjoy reading what others have written.

Encourage the students to write their own blog entries and comment on other entries. Strategies here to get the class participating include:

  • Setting specific assignments such as writing about their weekend or reviewing a film (of course the assignment will very much depend on the students’ levels and interests).
  • Asking them to leave comments on at least 2 or 3 other blog posts.

The idea is getting the students used to using the blog, reading and writing on it and participating. At the beginning it may need some pushing from you to make sure all students are participating but if you can give them a few specific tasks and let them know that they can use the blog as and when they wish, this will help make the class blog a fun area to use in their free time.

If, perhaps, you know a lot of the class are going to watch the big football game on Saturday night see if you can’t get them to log on afterwards and discuss it on the blog.

Taking it Further

Of course the ideas above are just a start. There are many ways to use a class blog to engage the students and give them plenty of free practice in reading and writing.

  • Use the blog to put out homework assignments; invite comments as well!
  • Make an entry per lesson and encourage students to post their feedback (in this way you can check on whether they have understood the lesson).
  • Personal expression: have students write reflective entries on either set or free topics.

Depending on the class and how you want to use the blog, you might also want to make the blog a “criticism free zone” or a “correction free zone” where no one will be pulled up for any spelling or grammatical mistake. The blog is there for students to write whatever they want and not worry about whether their English is up to scratch or full of errors.

Some teachers find this incredibly useful as a way of

  1. allowing students to express themselves freely
  2. silently noting spelling/grammatical mistakes which can be covered more formally in a classroom lesson

Teaching Abroad with Diabetes


This is the international symbol of 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 increasing.

This article looks at dealing with diabetes whilst living and working abroad, typically as a TEFL teacher. Generally speaking, however, having diabetes should not put anyone off wanting to find work abroad and teach English in different countries around the world.

Medical Checks

Sometimes – but not always – having a medical checkup is part of the visa or residence permit process. The check will often cover problems such as sexually transmitted or communicable diseases but may well include diabetes. Occasionally there have been cases where a diabetic teacher has had their visa refused on these grounds but foreign teachers with diabetes who are otherwise healthy will usually pass the exam without a problem.


Before heading overseas you should visit your local GP or family doctor to stock up on medication. They will usually issue a maximum of 3-6 months supply. It is useful to get as much as you can so you do not run short while you’re still settling into your new country.

Of course take your prescription with you both in case you are stopped and asked about the medication at airport security but also so you can pick up new medication later on. In most countries this won’t be a problem as diabetes is well documented and common throughout the world and in fact medication is likely to be much cheaper than at home. One teacher reported that medication costs in South Korea were 15% of what she had been paying in the US.

Note that if you do buy medication abroad you obviously go through a reliable local doctor and try to get something as similar as possible to the medication you have taken at home. Also check the dosages, foreign packing may vary in this regard!

Medical Insurance

Most TEFL teachers will have emergency health cover. However, diabetes will often be considered a pre-existing medical condition and if you arrange private medical insurance (either yourself or via the school) you need to tell your insurance company that you have diabetes. They will often cover you for an extra premium.

See the links below for more on this.


Traveling can be stressful to some people and raise blood pressure so it is a good idea to monitor yourself carefully while you are traveling to your new country and then when you first arrive.

Whilst traveling keep your medication with you at all times so you have easy access to it should it be needed. Insulin needs to be kept at moderate temperatures, of course. Some insulin manufacturers say it cannot be x-rayed however this should not be a problem for quick checks during security clearance at airports, etc. If you prefer, you can suggest to the staff that it be visually examined and of course have your prescription with you at all times. On this point bear in mind that the liquid allowance should not apply to medications; the TSA, for example, specifically state that diabetes supplies & equipment are allowed on flights once they have been screen.

In addition:

  • Remember to pack your medications in a separate clear, sealable bag if you are going by air as bags that are placed in your carry on luggage need to be removed and separated from your other belongings for screening.
  • Keep a quick acting source of glucose to treat low blood glucose as well as an easy to carry snack such as a nutrition bar.
  • Carry or wear medical identification and carry contact information for your physician

Type of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce insulin. It is mostly developed by teenagers or younger adults. It is fairly uncommon (about 10% of diabetics are Type 1) and those with Type 1 will need to take insulin injections for the rest of their lives; they may need a special diet and have to have regular checkups.

Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. About 90% of diabetics are Type 2 and overweight people are far more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes and it is also more commonly developed in older people. This kind of diabetes can often be controlled by a healthy diet and exercise however it usually gets progressively worse and will often result in having to take insulin (often in pill form) to control it.

Type 3 diabetes occurs in pregnant women. Mostly it can be controlled through diet but it may need medication also.

70% of diabetes is preventable

Infographic from the International Diabetes Federation.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you are sensible, diabetes is no hindrance to a successful and enjoyable teaching time abroad. If you prepare your medication so that you have it available when you travel and then have enough for the initial couple of months or so while you settle in, then it is pretty straightforward.

And do remember, one of the major causes of diabetes is a poor diet and many countries where you could end up teaching English have traditionally had a much better diet than the US or UK. Moving abroad to teach could be the best thing you do for your diabetes!

Useful Links

Insurance‏‎ & Health Cover – for when you are living and teaching abroad.

Air Travel & Diabetes – from the American Diabetes Association.

Travelling with Diabetes – from the British NHS.

Choosing a Good Dictionary


There’s a dictionary for everything.

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 which suits your budget and your approach. But rather than just flick through them, remember also to consider the following…

1. Monolingual or Bilingual?

Ask yourself this first. Do you want a monolingual or a bilingual dictionary? A monolingual dictionary is in English only; a bilingual dictionary translates into another language. So, for example, here are two dictionary entries for the same word:

dictionary – a book containing the words of a language arranged alphabetically with their meanings, and sometimes also their pronunciation, grammatical labels, inflections, etymologies, etc.

This first entry is taken from the monolingual Chambers Dictionary. Compare it to this entry from Collins English-Italian dictionary:

dictionary vocabolario, dizionario

For learners of English, as a general rule of thumb, a bilingual dictionary is most useful but as they become more advanced a monolingual dictionary is helpful. However, for teachers a monolingual dictionary is perhaps most useful. You can use it to look up unknown words when you’re preparing your lessons, for example.

2. Learners or Native Speakers?

A learners dictionary will have simpler explanations (often with cultural help). This is useful in the classroom and means your students will be able to look up words on their own. If you have students use a monolingual dictionary for native speakers there’s a chance they will not understand the explanation they read. Compare these two:

English breakfast – a cooked breakfast usually consisting of several courses.

English breakfast – a breakfast usually consisting of cooked bacon & eggs followed by toast and marmalade eaten in England. When fruit or fruit juice and/or toast and marmalade are offered as well as bacon & eggs in a hotel, the meal is sometimes advertised as a full English breakfast. Although it is thought of as a typical English meal, few English people have English breakfast every day.

The first comes from Chambers Dictionary. The second comes from the Longman Dictionary of Language & Culture and offers extra information which could be very useful to learners of English.

3. Grammar & Phonetic Information

Does the explanation include extra information aside from a basic definition? It will need to have a pronunciation guide (either in the IPA or using the dictionary’s own system) and it’s also useful to have some basic grammar‏‎ information as well. Do you need etymological information? Some dictionaries have this but is it really that useful for your class?

Here you need to ask who will be using the dictionary. If it’s the students on their own then a simple phonetic & grammar guide could prove invaluable.

4. Words, and More Words

Flick through the dictionary and make sure it’s up to date. Is it up to date and include new words? These are all recent additions to the 2012 Oxford English Dictionary:

dance-off, digipak, echinacea, paywall, retcon, Urbanite

Technology is advancing all the time. Does the dictionary contain up to date definitions of words like tweet, social networking and so on?

And then is the dictionary British, American, Australian or Canadian or some other variant? For teachers overseas it should really include both British English and American English‏‎ words and spellings. And idioms. Does the dictionary have idioms, phrasal verbs‏‎ and so on? These could be really useful if you have the students use the dictionary on their own.

5. Compare the Words

Take a word, any word, and look it up in several different dictionaries. Which has the best explanation? Do you understand them all? Now ask yourself which explanation is best for your class.

The author Richard McKenna once said that he would buy any dictionary which explained the word ontology so he could understand it but he never found one. Why not make a list of words you come across but don’t fully understand and then take that list along and use it to choose a dictionary.

Other Considerations

Here are some other considerations you might want to think about before handing over your money.


Are you going to need to carry it about? Size can be important here and if you’re expected to take it from home to work each day make it small! Then again, perhaps a Smartphone dictionary app is the way to go here.

And on the subject of size, how many words does it define? A pocket dictionary may well have just 2,000 or so entries. A large single volume dictionary could be about 300,000. If you’re using it for teaching then the pocket dictionary will be too small and the larger dictionary too big perhaps.

sample sentences

If the students are going to be using the dictionary on their own, it often helps to have definitions which also give examples of the word used in context.

reference materials

What’s in the back of the dictionary? Verb tables? Proper nouns? Metric conversions? Ask yourself if this is a waste of space or whether it’s actually useful!

specialized dictionaries

Does your class need a specialized dictionary? Business English perhaps? Or a dictionary containing scientific explanations?

Teaching English and Living in Thailand

Boats on a sun-kissed beach in ThailandThe 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’ (as Thailand is also known) is a great place for a new teacher to dip their toe into the world of TEFL.

As well as giving you valuable first-hand classroom experience, teaching here will provide you with a comfortable salary and a work-life balance that allows you the free time to experience everything Thailand has to offer. While very different from the West, you’ll still find enough of a taste of home (especially in familiar brands like McDonalds, KFC, Tesco, Boots, Dunkin’ Donuts etc) that you won’t be too badly hit by culture shock. Plus, if you are sensible with your finances, you can even come away with a bit of money saved.

As a first-time teacher, the two main types of work for which you will be suitable are working privately in a language institution, or working in a government or private grade school. Positions do exist at university level, but they tend to require more years of experience and/or a master’s degree in an appropriate field.

Working in a grade school means you will be teaching larger classes (usually thirty to forty students), and that their motivation will often be lower as they are obligated to be in your class as part of their compulsory education. The benefits to these positions are that you will have national holidays off as well as a longer holiday between the two semesters. This gives you the time to really explore your surroundings. Teaching hours at a grade school are usually within a standard Monday to Friday 9-5 time range.

While some grade schools do hire direct, the prevailing trend at the moment is for schools to award their contract to a third party who then recruit the necessary teachers, and who are responsible for the teachers’ paperwork and so on. The role of this third party, or agent, varies greatly.

Positions in private language institutes are available year-round in Thailand, but the beginning of the grade school year is in May. This means that February and especially March are when you will see the most job opportunities as schools and recruitment agencies look to fill all their positions ready for the start of a new term.

Giving an accurate figure of what you are likely to earn is very tricky due to so many factors affecting your earning potential. The best way to get a feel for the average salary when you are ready to find employment will be to look online at job sites. At time of writing, a very rough figure for the average salary you can earn would be around 30,000-35,000B (baht) a month, although you should expect more than this in Bangkok.

Make sure that your TEFL CV/Résumé is of a good standard and of course spell-check it! The level of professionalism in the Thai TEFL community is not always high, so little things like having a well-prepared application pack will make a big difference. Putting in a little extra effort to project a professional image and personalising your correspondence can go a long way to making you a desirable candidate for work.

Remember, the demand for TEFL teachers is high, so DO NOT just jump at the first job you are offered while counting your blessings that you found someone who will take you! Keep applying for work and then weigh up from the responses which company you think will treat you the best.



<a href='http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009XR5JEI/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B009XR5JEI&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=teachertrainingn' target='_blank'>The Essential Guide to Living & Teaching in Thailand</a>If teaching in Thailand interests you, then consider buying the newly-published e-book The Essential Guide to Teaching English and Living in Thailand. Ajarn.com, the no.1 website for teaching positions in Thailand had this to say about it in their review: They’ve set about creating the ultimate guide for new teachers in Thailand and they have succeeded on virtually every count…… This is a book for the new arrival. And for the newbie ‘fresh off the boat’ it’s a treasure trove of essential info.

For more on teaching English in Thailand, see the main article TEFL in Thailand‏‎.

Image © MikeBehnken

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 at their front page. There are sections on politics, business, markets, tech, opinion, money, life, and so on. There are sections on entertainment, sports, arts, and faith. And it’s the same with most other news outlets.

Of course there’s one startling omission: where’s education in all this?

Which got me thinking. These news outlets are giving people what they want: a celebrity in a bikini and some photos of a disaster are all that are needed and hey presto, there’s the front page sorted for the day. In other words, they don’t really care that much about education (unless it’s a teacher who seduces a student or complaints about how exams are too easy now) because the general public don’t care that much about education.

I’ll repeat that accusation: the general public don’t care about education. Even parents don’t. Sure, they’ll look at the grades on their children’s report cards and they’ll go to an occasional parent/teacher day, but do they actually care about how education is being delivered to their students and trends and innovations in education?

Of course not. If they did then the news outlets would cater for them and we’d see on the news about amazing new apps to help students, or the latest research into student behavior, or front page spreads on how this or that school is helping/hindering the world of education. If they did care, parents and the general public would get involved and be interested in what happens in the wider world of education… but they don’t.

Which seems surprising when you consider that pretty well every single person in the developed world has been to school and been a part of the education system. Don’t they care about that? Don’t they worry about education? Don’t they understand that education is arguably the most important resource for the future of everything?

As long as there’s a picture of Kim Kardashian or a tsunami on the front page, obviously not.

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 reason suggested for this is that a learned language is more distant from us and thus provides a psychological distance which makes us less emotionally involved in the question and thus more able to analyze it logically.

So I guess this means we can discuss emotional issues (politics, religion, etc) more dispassionately in a foreign language than in our own language! Not to mention going to the casino!

Useful Links

Original Article – from the Scientific American

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.)

Where Can I Teach English as a Foreign Language?

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