Language Teaching : what it is all about ... 

Language is use. A language which is not used dies. For language learners this means that the target language must have jobs to do !! For most people language work is mostly speaking and listening. For a scholar, reading and writing may be more important. In Korea (and many countries) foreign language learning is often not very successful because the language is only used in a classroom. If a Korean uses English (for example) with another Korean he may be criticized, even though they may both be trying to learn English! Thus everyone loses a learning opportunity. My job as a language teacher is to create situations where learners feel encouraged to use English, and to step in with help when they strike problems.

Learning the rules of chess does not make a chess player. Learning the rules of football does not make a football player. Learning the rules of English does not make an English speaker. The way I learned to play football was to get out there on the field and start kicking the ball around. I made mistakes, but I gradually figured out what was going on. Sometimes other players gave me a bit of advice when it was needed. This was also how I learned to speak English as a child. After thirty years of teaching English as a second language I'm also pretty sure that this is a good starting point to learn a foreign language. As people become intermediate or advanced, some of them (not all) may benefit from more formal information about the underlying rules.

What about the details of a teaching program? This depends very much upon the clients, their particular needs, and their abilities. In China, where my students were nearly all studying PhDs and Masters degrees, they liked to be challenged with quite difficult communication tasks. In Korea, where I spent three years teaching two-year college students of very low academic ability, the trick was to overcome their sense of failure and engage them in calibrated language activities (mostly dialogues) where they could succeed; (my more recent Korean graduate students, like the Chinese, have preferred more challenge). The children I have taught, even very bright children, have been happiest with very concrete activities like songs, games and tasks where the language itself was just a supporting tool.

A detailed record of my teaching & lecturing experience may be seen at