Learner Diaries: Getting to Know You

Last week one of the students in my Portuguese class invited everyone around for dinner and not just any dinner, but my favourite Brazilian dish, moqueca de peixe. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great rapport with the other students in my class. This is because they are all a little more advanced than me and we don’t really talk to each other in class as most of our conversations are through the filter of our teacher. However, they seem like nice people and I can never resist that particular recipe. Furthermore, it was a very generous invitation and it would have been churlish of me not to go without a good reason, so I went.

Fish and shrimp moqueca - Day66
Moqueca de piexe, courtesy of Carla Arena (@carlaarena).

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Learner Diaries: Reading Woe & Writing Joy Part 2

I wrote here about how I battled with a story given to me by my Portuguese teacher. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you read that first, or this post won’t make much sense.

Feedback, or Should I Say Correction?

So having expressed my displeasure at the difficulty of the story to my teacher, I was interested to see how he would react. I wasn’t too concerned about his response as while he may have flaws as a teacher, but he doesn’t seem to have too many as a human being, so I felt that he would deal with it in a positive way. Fortunately, I was correct in my assumption. Continue reading

Learner Diaries: Reading, Stories & Vocabulary.

This is a picture of my Portuguese homework, which I’m showing to you as a cautionary tale. If you give a text to your students and it has as much highlighted text in it as mine does, the chances are that they are not really reading the story. They are more likely to have their heads in the dictionary than they will be getting involved in the narrative, questioning the characters motivation or attempting to understand the author’s point of view, all things that fiction is supposed to provoke.

When reading becomes solely about vocabulary acquisition, so many opportunities for debate, discussion, engagement and real intellectual stimulation are missed. So do your students a favour and give them texts they will actually enjoy reading. Trust me, I’m telling you this from a student’s point of view.

The worst thing about being a language teacher is… when you try to be a student again?

UBC classroom


A couple of months ago, I wrote about how important I believe it is for language teachers to periodically have their own language classes. That way we can experience what it feels like to be a student (you can read the benefits as I see it here). With that in mind, I had my first Brazilian Portuguese class yesterday. This was my first language class as an English teacher, and I found that it was as an illuminating experience as I had hoped it would be. I also realised, however, that this may not entirely be a good thing. Continue reading

Back to school.

Picture Source: atbaker and Animal Photos!

Reading Ania Kozicka’s excellent guest post on Ken Wilson’s blog this morning, the thing that struck a chord with me was not the main topic of her piece, but something she mentioned at the end in her biographical information.

“When you see me you may catch me…- writing a script
– listening to music
– dancing
– enjoying the sun – the best source of energy
– reading a book
– watching the Smurfs – they always make me smile!
– sitting with a Spanish grammar book – I believe a teacher cannot understand their students unless they are students themselves.” Continue reading