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Archive for September, 2012

It’s possible that TEFL is still what I have the most expertise in and in particular it was my focus on phonics that was quirky, different and actually got real world results for a lot of my former students. This certainly isn’t the easiest system to market to most people who enroll in classes at schools that teach English as a foreign language. I should know since I used to be a partner at one and was responsible for both curriculum development and selling the parents of my students on that curriculum! But after having taught over a thousand students, many from absolute basics, I’m pretty happy with the results.

I’m no longer an English teacher since I’ve moved back to the US, drawn by the lure of the San Francisco bay area tech scene. But maybe there will be some other EFL teachers in Taiwan, China or even Korea, Japan, Latin America or elsewhere that can pick up a few things and some kids can benefit indirectly from me sharing it. It’s an experiment. I’ll try to deliver a short video each week and see how it goes. If they’re of any use, please give me feedback and subscribe to them and/or like them.

In this first video, I explain a little bit about how I did phonics drills and go over the first spelling pattern I taught– long vowel sounds in the middle of a word.

The facebook page for this blog:
The video channel:
(Sorry China-based users. I’m using Youtube, so you’ll need a VPN)

This weekend the whole area around where I live in the San Francisco Chinatown was filled with stands for the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), also known as the Moon Festival. Truth be told, it was an odd experience. Having lived for several years in Taiwan and a couple of years in Beijing, I’ve been through quite a few of these, but never one quite like this.

SF Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival

continue reading…

As both a language teacher and as a language student, I’ve been in to extensive reading for a long time. Back in 2004, when I first experienced the benefits for my students, there weren’t that many people talking about extensive reading online. I wrote about it on this blog and later used graded readers from Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press as a cornerstone of the curriculum I wrote for Pagewood.

All things considered, it was no great surprise when Cambridge UP reached out to me about work on an EFL reader. The shock was what they wanted. What they wanted for their graded reader was me.

Cheque from Cambridge University Press
They somehow found an old blog post I’d written. In it, I told how my ex-girlfriend from college had nudged me into taking an intensive Japanese course over a summer. In the past I had had no success with language learning, but she had already learned Spanish pretty fluently. During that summer, I was practically living in her apartment and I saw her using a much wider variety of language learning techniques than I’d ever considered.

I ended up with an A, the second highest grade in the course after her. I ended up going back to school, getting fluent enough in Japanese to largely understand TV and earning an entire BA in Japanese Language in only 2 years. After that, I ended up moving to Taiwan and learning Chinese. That was a long time ago, and I’ve since forgotten most the Japanese I knew and only maintained very occasional online contact with her. Still, I’m grateful. If you’re reading this, Diana, thank you! You changed the direction of my life and it’s been a lot more interesting as a result!

Sadly, Cambridge changed us into Australians and made us brother and sister in the retelling of my story. I don’t know if I’m at liberty to share the passage, but I got a good laugh out of hearing my own words leaping off the page at me with the diction of an Englishman! CUP offered me £100 and my name in the acknowledgments in exchange for using my story, so I figured why not?

I’ll definitely buy my grandmother a copy once I know which one it is. She loves that kind of thing.