Much to my surprise the taboo ELT post took off!
It was really just for my curiosity and I hadn’t intended on publishing at all. There are now 83 responses so I have put the new ones in this post.
I would say some people out there seem to think views which are pretty mainstream are a bit taboo. I have, where I think it’s useful, linked to blogs or academic papers which make a similar point. Perhaps if you, dear reader, know of any other links you can post them in the comments.
For various reasons, I’m not sure I will continue to update this. That said, I think this could be an interesting research project if someone wanted to go about it in a more systematic way. Anyway here are the latest results.
Approaches and methods
• Teaching the IPA is a waste of time and energy for all concerned.
• Tired of endless arguments about methods. Grammar translation works for some students. TBLT seems hopelessly confusing and unsystematic to some students. Some students hate group work.
• ‘Listen and repeat’ is no good for practising pron. You have to get physical.
• I wish you’d recognise the severe limitations of correction codes for writing.
• “Everyone learns differently,” I’m not sure they do. People may have different learning habits and different strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve seen no evidence that the process of learning isn’t basically the same for everyone. I think it’s often just lip service to seeing students as individuals……before giving them all the same task to do anyway.
• While communication is key, treating mistakes that don’t impede communication as silly and acceptable accidents so nobody’s feelings get hurt is lazy teaching and in the long run is far worse for students regardless of how or where they will use their English
• Process writing is a complete waste of our time. The teacher spends hours commenting and suggesting corrections, and students completely ignore them in their final version.
• A CELTA does not make you a qualified teacher.
• I understand the rationale behind the insistence of having a degree to be a TEFL teacher. I have found that some folks who don’t have a degree to be better teachers and are more professional in their approach. This requirement is a big barrier preventing people with potential but have no degree from entering the profession.
Native vs non native
• Too much emphasis on grammar based on native English. Books for teens written by adults who don’t appear to have any connection with their readers.
• There is a self- fulfilling prophecy to a lot of discrimination issues by which students expecting different styles from NS and NNS teachers can lead those teachers to be more effective when they adhere to their prescribed styles. Or at least being an effective teacher while breaking from a prescribed style for one’s teacher demographic would require a lot more training and experience.
• Non-natives overestimate themselves and tend to be prescriptive (and proscriptive) and this ‘World English’ nonsense just sets the bar lower for them
• While native teachers are often worse teachers, the bitterness of knowing that makes non-natives ignore any possible value or advantages that natives can bring to the table.
• Many Non native teachers make mistakes with their collocation and collogation. I have read a number of articles written by non native teachers complaining of their treatment that use unnatural expressions and contain mistakes
• Most of my colleagues don’t know what they’re doing in class and shouldn’t be teaching.
• The “subject knowledge” that English teachers are supposed to be experts in is LANGUAGE. So many teachers know jack shit about language as a system, linguistics, phonology/phonetics and it’s embarrassing. If I hear another teacher respond “Oh, it’s an exception! That’s just the way it is! Isn’t English wild and wacky?!!!” in response to a question about some aspect of language that is completely systematic, rule-governed and explainable, I will go crazy! It’s not an “exception”! You just don’t know enough about the subject area you’re supposed to be an “expert” in.
• There are teachers/trainees that will never be effective classroom practitioners because they don’t have the people skills (and such skills can’t be learnt/take too long to develop).
• Many teachers are delusional, especially those involved in Teacher training. They really see themselves as big celebrities and sometimes act as annoying divas, asking people questions like “You DON’T KNOW who I am???”. Ridiculous to say the least.
• We don’t all teach EFL as a means of living in the Far East while we decide what we want to do in life. Some of us do the job in English-speaking countries as a profession.
• A lot of unprofessional behaviours and attitudes of teachers are ignored in the name of collegiality. Some employers don’t pay teachers for prep time due to funding issues or whatever and Ts end up doing hours of unpaid work.
• The majority of teachers, especially at private language schools, are really just washed up has beens and life’s rejects, this always being the elephant in the room when issues of exploitation, unfair treatment and teacher’s rights are brought up. In other words, there may well be reasons for management at institutions, etc., treating teaching staff as interchangeable, expendable revenue generators, their attitude being that the ‘teachers’ (whom they tend to think of in inverted commas like that) wouldn’t be at their mercy without having seriously fucked up in life in one way or another (‘take it or leave it’, basically). There are indeed teachers who are passionate and go the extra mile, along with all the incompetent dross, but the rather awkward question of how most ended up long-term in what regular society regards as a silly sort of gap year job remains.
• Linguists teach best. If you’ve learned a foreign language as an English native speaker, you’ve got to have a lot to contribute.
• it is too much work for too little pay
• The lack of professionalism within the ELT industry.
• It’s mostly all bollocks. People buy into all sorts of crap with messianic vigour and preach to a largely uncritical crowd. I suspect most teachers and students would mostly prefer to be left alone to get on with it in whatever way works best for them. Don’t mind me, I have fallen from the faith. Also. pretty much every test is meaningless and all the international language exams are essentially a scam.
• .That ultimately the private language school model is useless. Teachers have very little effect on the learners and they’d be much better off watching tv and reading books in English. The results we produce are typically down to the students own motivation/talent. For that reason it’s fine to use coursebooks as it will have the same effect as not using them.
• 1. Students are very often pushed into doing exams that they don’t need, and are not ready for, in the name of profit for schools and inflating salaries at the Anglocentric exam boards. Cambridge Assessment and the British Council are ‘not for profit’ which means they don’t pay taxes, and their income can also be ploughed into massive marketing campaigns. (I once contacted Cambridge Assessment to ask about their marketing budget for a research paper I was doing, but they said this information was ‘confidential’.) This means that in the EFL industry, the most highly remunerated are those who are not actually teachers or necessarily know anything about teaching. And, for example, Cambridge writing examiners are paid peanuts.
2. ‘Management’ in ELT is just a euphemism for manipulation – how to get underpaid overworked teachers to do the job without having a nervous breakdown. All talk of ‘teacher motivation’ to me is thus senseless – pay them more and give them fewer hours- it’s as simple as that, instead of spending money on plastic red buses and gadgets like IWBs that nobody needs. To become Delta qualified is a massively costly and stressful exercise, but in London the going rate of pay at this level is only 20 quid a teaching hour gross. This is, quite frankly, very insulting and the main reason why I hope never to have to work for a language school again.
3. Native speaker teachers (with TEFL+ observed teaching practice/CELTA ) are better than their NNS counterparts in some contexts because a) high school teachers in (eg) Italy usually have NO didactic training, neither are they observed or given feedback. Just having a degree in English is enough to be an English teacher. b) high level exam prep (CAE, CPE, Ielts bands 7-9) requires in-depth knowledge of idiomatic NS-like lexical chunks since the exam boards are Anglocentric. If you don’t like this then lobby to change the exams. But who would dare to challenge Cambridge Assessment and the BC?? 4. A1-B1 levels should be taught by someone who speaks their L1 and uses it in the classroom. Zero beginners especially should be taught in L1. CELTA style eliciting and CCQ-ing is just a pointless pantomime at this level.
• There are schools in the USA that are known to be little more than student visa factories, yet they manage to get CEA accreditation (for those outside the US, this is the body which oversees the quality of ESL schools and should prevent this situation).
• the English students arrive in a course with is the English they leave with.
• I don’t like every student
• We are fooling ourselves and our students in the process into believing that it is possible to learn language structures or concepts that native speakers learn over the course of their lives and have the ideal environment in which they can test their hypotheses about what they are learning.
• That when intrinsic motivation for learning isn’t enough, there is very little I can do to motivate my students in the classroom 😦
• Some of the top academics often have trouble translating their amazing knowledge into practical application. They need to get their asses into a classroom again (or for the first time).
• Racism is a much bigger problem in ELT than Native Speakerism.
• Am also fed up of the environment as a topic. Just had to base an entire course on environmental themes and they wear very thin.
• Textbooks are a good idea. Somebody took the time to plan a course not just so that you don’t need to but because you couldn’t do a better job AND teach at the same time.