Helene Combe

Through my journey as an English teacher and a language learner

Month: February 2018

The Language Experiment: 300 days later

If you follow my little blog regularly, you may be aware of that crazy experiment I started almost a year ago now: learning two languages at the same time (maybe even more), to feel like a student again. I even wrote an article in EL Gazette about it a few weeks ago ( http://digital.elgazette.com/december-january-2017/we-can-easily-forget-about-the-students-2.html

First of all, I can’t believe it’s been almost a year! I wanted to wait until the exact day to write about it, but 300 days is still a milestone, so here is some fresh news about the experiment.

You may recall that I was learning Italian and German at the same time, and I was planning to start Japanese in January. That was the initial plot. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out. I stopped learning German at the end of December 2017, because I couldn’t focus enough, and I was stuck. I needed a real teacher, someone to help me break this glass ceiling, but I couldn’t afford one, and I didn’t have enough time on my own anyway. I didn’t like the language enough to “fight” for it, to find long term solutions.

Concerning Japanese, I had another disappointment: my teacher bailed out. We were supposed to begin in January, but she never called me or answered a text, so I guess she wasn’t interested anymore. Finding another teacher is purely impossible right now, especially with my current timetable, so I decided to postpone this adventure.

The bright side of the experiment is definitely Italian. I fell in love with this language, I love listening to it (even if sometimes they speak way too fast) and I love talking in Italian (even if my grammar is weak). I found a way around it, and I am really proud when I am understood by natives (and non natives, of course). I have been encouraged a lot last week end (I was in Sicily), so I feel like I am actually learning for a good reason. They even told me that they didn’t really care about grammar because it was really rare to meet a foreigner who could pronounced Italian correctly!

Sorry, I have been out lately

My dear fellow teachers,

I started this blog almost a year ago, and I promised myself, back then, to share my experience as much as I could. And lately, I couldn’t do it, so first of all, I apologize for the inconvenience and I’ll try to sum up what’s happening right now.

  • I still have to hand out my CertIBET paper. It’s not an essay, it’s really practical, but there is a lot of work to do and failing is not an option. And I haven’t write a single line yet. I have my plan though (yay, me!).
  • I am taking the IELTS in ten days, so I am studying a lot currently.
  • I AM GOING TO YALE ! Holy crap, that was the biggest news I ever received in my professional life. I applied to Yale’s TEFL seminar just in case, because the program is strictly for non natives and I GOT IN! I was so happy when I got the e-mail that I hugged the waitress of the restaurant I was in.

Of course, besides all this madness, I still teach 20 hours/week adults. I have them for a while now, so I am getting used to it, but still, the job needs to be done. I am mostly teaching A1 and A2, a couple of B1 but now it’s getting interesting, because they are gaining confidence and they are less afraid of making mistakes.

Concerning the CertIBET, I am glad I did it, but I think it wasn’t enough. We just grazed the subject of IBE and English as a Lingua Franca, and even if I do understand it’s CPD, so it cannot be longer than two weeks, I don’t think we covered everything. My tutors strongly advised us to do a DELTA afterwards, which is a good idea, but taking a DELTA without enough experience is a waste of time, so I guess I should have wait a little more to do my CertIBET.


Thank you for reading my articles and following my adventures as a newbie ELT teacher!

Some thoughts on CertIBET

As the course is already ending tomorrow, I was thinking that I could share some of my thoughts concerning it before it actually ends. Without further ado, here we go:

-TBL, TBL, TBL. If you got it, it’s fine, because it is a huge part of the course. The lexical approach is also a big chunk, but definitely, Task Based Learning (if job experienced learner, if he/ she is a pre experienced learner, a text based learning) is a must do when it comes to teach Business English.

-The learner can be your teacher. You provide your knowledge of a language, but you are not a walking dictionary; it’s okay to ask them to explain. It’s even better, actually!

-They need to speak! Speaking is a huge part of teaching IBE (International Business English) and we must provide, as teachers, a lot of speaking activities. Presentation, PPT, whatever, they must speak.

-Cultural awareness is a huge part of teaching IBE. That means having a good culture, but also to be able to switch roles for a moment, and not to be just a cold distant teacher (which you aren’t, I bet) but also a colleague, someone who can provide advice on real life.

-International English is not about natives or non natives teachers. English as a Lingua Franca is not about that precise point: there is a huge percentage of chance that your learner won’t ever talk to a native speaker. Make them listen to several accents and work on the pronunciation: the whole point is the intelligibility, not if they sound native or not!

-The learner must be autonomous. If he/she doesn’t work by himself/herself outside the classroom, it is not going to work. It’s easy to work around authentic materials, but it’s easier to show them where to find those articles. Don’t give a man a fish, teach him how to catch a fish!

-Use authentic materials. This is real life, so using only course books isn’t appropriate, but using articles, pictures, clips, whatever, it must be real and authentic. Realizing that you can decipher a authentic article from City A.M (for ex.)  is more rewarding than read about an invented situation on a course book.

-It may be only two weeks, but it’s intense. It’s not CELTA intense, but still, there is a lot of information, and a lot of thinking around different case studies or specific questions. Be prepared, and check your accommodation, mine has been a nightmare and that rubbed off on my revision.

I will write more about the CertIBET course, notably on the learner autonomy part and the English as a Lingua Franca part, which I really enjoyed. Of course, it’s technically not over, since I have to hand over an assignment to get my certificate (I also have to survive tomorrow, which will be another story considering that I went to see Young Frankenstein tonight) but still, tomorrow is my last day in International House London, and I really enjoyed every minute of it. (More that I enjoyed Long Day’s Journey into the Night, despite Jeremy Irons. 3 hours, in bad seats, come on!)

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