(19 of 50)   MODERN LANGUAGE TEACHING (CLT) & TAIWAN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT: A Conversation with Someone who Disagrees (iv)


This person doesn’t look like they agree with me, right? In fact, he/she/it doesn’t look convinced at all. But you always have to ask yourself, who are these people? Do they really know about language learning? Are they qualified in this educational field? Do they have credentials to give an informed judgement? Are they making LOTS of money by keeping things exactly the same as 50 years ago – nice and easy for everyone, but resulting in no learning for anyone.

A Conversation with Someone who Disagrees (iv)

Let us continue our imaginary conversation with that person who strongly disagrees with everything I have said. They are like the picture above, and they certainly don’t look happy, right? I will list their comments, and give my answers.

Their 5th Comment

Everything you say is ridiculous. If you just get in pairs and talk, all you hear is junk from other students.

My Response

Firstly, maybe you should respect your fellow students more, and realise that that ‘junk’ is actually a sincere and decent person attempting honestly to communicate with you. I’d say that deserves a lot more respect than you give it. It certainly gets a lot of respect from me as a teacher. I love hearing it; and I listen to it, too, noting down errors in grammar, word-use, and pronunciation, so that I can give feedback at the end of this speaking activity.

I say, well done young student, for having the initiative and courage and willingness to want to try to use a language as it is meant to be used: for real communication. You are truly beginning to ‘drive the car’. You have my respect and gratitude, and the person making that comment has a very bad attitude, and one which you should ignore.

My second thought about this ‘junk’ comment is that you don’t understand what’s actually happening in the classroom. Pair work is not just putting students in pairs, and saying ‘talk’. The CLT approach means spending a lot of time setting up the conditions to help those students talk. There is usually context setting, with pictures, question cues or structural guidelines, pre-teaching of important vocabulary, and drilling or ‘open pairs’ so that students can hear and practise first. In other words, there is effort and skill needed, and that’s why it is important to have a skilled, qualified, and experienced teacher managing the class.

For example, in my IELTS Speaking Course, you practise (1) functional use of language (such as expressing regrets, past advice, and past possibilities), (2) tenses (such as talking about what you last did, usually do, or what you have done), (3) conversational strategies (such as using discourse markers, buying time, or cueing), and topic-based speaking. Every activity is carefully set up and guided with PowerPoint slides to provide the framework for that speaking to happen, often with a careful exploration of the grammar involved. Remember,  I have over 20 years experience in doing this, and getting better all the time.

So, in response to that ‘junk’ comment, the answer is that you don’t hear junk at all. You develop your fluency, vocabulary, pronunciation, as well as grammar (in the feedback stage). That’s good for IELTS. The IELTS examiner will give you a mark for each one of those categories. That’s how you get a better overall mark in the IELTS Speaking Test, right?

We will look at another (critical) comment in the next post.

Now, check that you know the meaning of the underlined vocabulary (also repeated below).

  • to be ridiculous (adj)
  • initiative (n)
  • a context (n)
  • to regret (v)
  • a strategy (n)
  • to cue (v)

If you want to find out more about me, go to aisielts.com .