Your Secret Weapon

For loads of us in a (largely) monolingual EFL setting, there is an amazing resource available under our noses. I’d argue that a lot of people feel it’s a bit rude but I’m going to argue that rude or not, you get to maximize engagement in lessons through greater relevance and also at least partial schema activation.
Eavesdropping on your learners when they’re using L1.
If you can do it, this pays dividends. You get to give them what they are already thinking about but may not be able to do in English. For example, are people on your business class complaining on the phone? Can you help them do it in English, with appropriate language and pragmatic competence? How about the young learners talking about cartoons? Can they explain the plot, the characters or the appeal by involving you in a real conversation?
“What about the syllabus?” you might say.
Can you postpone that item? Work it in? Abandon it? I think we need to remember that syllabi are guides not commandments. And if we make things a bit closer to learners real lives they might want to work through that syllabus a bit more.

4 Replies to “Your Secret Weapon”

  1. I don’t know if that makes me rude, but I’ve used my students’ random discussions about this and that many many times (especially when there was so much lack of enthusiasm for every other possible Speaking topic). Great point, Marc and thanks for pointing it out!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Maria.
      It doesn’t sound rude at all. I do think that maybe this is one of the things that prevents some NEST teachers find Dogme harder to implement in monolingual settings.

  2. I do that all time! It’s a great resource and they feel empowered to learn how to say things in English that they feel connects to what they really would like to say, but they can’t do it in English. What I see over and over again is that the content they are have to learn because it is in the book, it’s not as memorable as the language they learn according to the topics/situations they would like to talk about. I noticed that especially with my adult learners.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rose, especially at this busy time!
      It does help learners to feel empowered to say in English things they would generally want to talk about in their L1. Sometimes it might be really hard to express in English but if there’s a little exposure to it, the difficulty can be felt out and might become a target (or not, depending on their prerogative). And as for books, do we want the learner’s output to be facilitated or the book’s contents to be regurgitated? I totally agree with you!

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