How do you keep language learners learning?

I have a theory...

I'm sitting in a cafe because the internet went down at home. So even though I guess I could just go pop on over to Google and find some amazing article or find out who's already dug out a perfectly expressed quote from some Second Language Acquisition tome meant for the Dip., written in 1987, I'm not in the mood.

You and I both know, don't we, that it's good old fashioned common sense:

Happy students learn better.


Business English
Whether they're five or fifteen, twenty five or fifty five, motivated people learn more than those who aren't.

So what sorts of things can we, as language training professionals, do to keep adult learners from looking like this?

EFL student

How do we get them actively participating?

Getting them to feel a real sense of pride in their learning accomplishments?

How do we encourage them to conscientiously do their post- and pre-task activities (a.k.a homework)?

Can we encourage them to enjoy learning English more? How?


p.s Yes... these are totally staged pics but not only do I have permission to use them, this posting was actually suggested by my great students, M & P... and they took the photographs themselves!

13 Responses to “How do you keep language learners learning?”

  • Tobius says:
    July 28, 2009

    I think we're lucky if we teach English. . . it's much easier to 'use' English in the classroom than it is to 'use,' say, physics or psychology or even 'sex ed' in the classroom.

    As long as my students are doing things that are natural for them--discussing, playing a game, complaining--they are quick and eager to pick up vocabulary and grammar. It's when I'm required to teach them vocabulary about, say, their neighborhood that we all begin to lose interest.

    My advice: be motivated as a teacher, that's contagious. And beyond that, actively try to have fun with your students. The rest will take care of itself.

  • Anne Hodgson says:
    July 29, 2009

    Dear Karenne,
    I have a story for you to go with this: I once taught a top manager in her 50s whose company had just been taken over by a US conglomerate. She'd successfully avoided English all of her professional life, but now, from one day to the next, everything was in English. She'd put so much into her job that the new environment shut her up completely. Quite literally: No words came out when she tried to express hrself. Not even a 2-month total immersion course in England did the trick. I was singularly unsuccessful with her - my Waterloo.

    So I decided to take a course in Suggestopedia, or brainfriendly teaching methods, that included more than active/passive language concerts and relaxation. My teacher-trainer gave us ideas for games, posters, TPR, storytelling - and lots of reasons for laughter. I may not use all of her methods these days, but I definitely found that laughter and relaxation were key to unlocking those mouths gently, de-stressing the learning environment and allowing the brain to work the way it should.

    Have a good day, Karenne, and I hope you get back your Internet!

  • Marisa Constantinides says:
    July 29, 2009

    Hi Karenne and Anne

    I want to reinforce your comment, Anne, about suggestopaedic techniques.

    I have recently been advising tutors working on one-to-one business English courses that we offer to use this particular technique as we have two cases of adult learners who are going through what I sometimes call, the post-traditionalist traumatic period.

    These are very keen learners - do not think they are not.

    So, as I have quite a good bank of lesson plans using SP, jmy tutors have started trying them out.

    Their reports have been enthusiastic.

    The learners amaze themselved with their new-found eloquence and ability to retain content (AND the attached language!)

    I would warmly encourage anyone teaching adults to experiment.

    The next step, of course, is to think, well, if my shy and retiring learners can benefit so much, what will happen with those who are doing just fine?

    The sky's the limit I think!

    At the moment, I have some DELTA trainees experimenting with a combination of Syggestopedia and the Lexical Approach.

    Will report results soon!!!

  • The TEFL Tradesman says:
    July 29, 2009

    I find it's a good idea to shout at them and try humiliation to the nth degree. Show them who's boss, and get them to clean your shoes for you when they enter the classroom. I'm thinking of patenting this approach - 'The Violent Way'? Or maybe 'Agressopedia'?

    What do you think, Karenne?

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Mark says:
    July 29, 2009

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Mark says:
    July 29, 2009

    If there was one simple answer to that question that we probably wouldn't be having this discussion. It's a case of different strokes for different folks I suppose. Toby's point about teacher being motivated is an important one - we need to be well organised and prepared as our students know when we are not.

    Interesting comment Anne. I'd love to try out suggestopedia as teacher and student one of these days.

    Karenne, I hope you don't mind but I thought this was a relevant topic one for my in-service trainees so I posted something related on my blog.

    July 29, 2009

    I think that your holiday was obviously too long, Sandy.

    July 29, 2009

    Great response Mark, enjoyed reading it:

    Teacher Motivation


  • Jason Renshaw says:
    July 30, 2009

    Very interesting points about the (de)suggestopedia!

    For adult English learners in business settings, creating the right philosophy in their minds and overcoming trepidations and inhibitions is probably more important than the actual language/lesson material itself. In many cases, most of the English is already all in there, locked away, needing a key to unlock it and let it free.

    Not enough attention is paid to this essential "teaching" skill, IMHO!

    Great comments - an enjoyable read (and like the pics, Karenne - staged or not!).


    ~ Jason

    August 01, 2009

    Anne, Jason, Marisa - suggestopedia sounds very interesting and am off to go find some good texts on this, do you recommend any in particular?

    I like honing in vocabulary to be honest as that's what most people want, isn't it - give me the words and put them in my mouth - I find that grammar comes quite naturally as long as you work on it but not drum in incontextual rules.

  • Tobius says:
    August 01, 2009

    I'm also really interested in suggestopedia after hearing about it here and reading about it in Wikipedia. So, if you do get any texts, pass them on!

    As for vocabulary. . . I don't worry about it too much when I teach. I mean, obviously, I help my students say what they're trying to say, but I figure they can get 'vocab' from a dictionary or website. The 'feeling' of 'Toby would tell me to say it like this' is what they can only get from a native speaker, and that's what I try to focus on giving.

  • TeachESL says:
    August 10, 2009

    Well, this got me curious - I had never heard of Suggestopedia before. So, I did some googling and found some things on it. There is no way I could put Baroque music on, though! Getting them to laugh and to act silly and childish in English does help them to open up to the language. As I was an actress years ago, I have little difficulty doing this with my students.

    August 10, 2009

    Hi ya Toby & Chaya, have persuaded M (the greek commenter ;-) to write us a guest-piece on suggestopedia - should be up end month/early September!

    Looking forward to learning more on this subject too!



Visitors and Regular Readers


FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed

Communities of Practice

Directories, catalogs and Back Links

Adult Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites

The EFL ESL Blog List - ESL/EFL/TEFL Teaching Jobs and Teacher Resumes

International Blogging Directory

Recent Posts

Simply Conversations

Pedagogically sound materials designed to get your students actively talking:

Free Samples
Conversation Control

General English
Business English

Learn more on why these work