Thursday, February 26, 2015


As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Business English syllabus for English speakers

Teaching the English.........
                                      Business English

The other day a student of mine mentioned that she was dreading talking on the phone to an English business associate. Although she has improved as a learner, she is a low B1 level student, so I do understand were this insecurity may stem from. She then had another lesson with me and was very enthusiastic because she had spoken on the phone and had understood almost everything (the learner's words). She also mentioned that the English associate also offered to send a summary of what he talked about in an email and I thought, " Hmm!! How nice!!" Then again, is it?

This blog post is not about accuracy vs fluency or ELF, international English or any other  buzz term. My question and thoughts derive from a simple question, "Should native speakers receive some sort of training when doing business with non native speakers?' For me, the answer is "Definitely, yes!!"
In business, communication is everything, and whilst very often non native speakers are putting in all the effort and receiving training in Business English, what are most native speakers doing? We teach our German and French  learners how to negotiate in English, we teach them the tenses, we talk about cross cultural communication and so on, but if you are a business person and also a native speaker do you receive any training on how to be aware of the difficulties a non native speaker may have? Do native speakers assume that because their English is accurate and they are fluent, what they say is and should be crystal clear? Do they assume that they are doing good business because they are using English? I hope not. So, therefore, why not train them? I know it sounds a bit weird and you may be rolling your eyes right about now but bear with me, will you? If you ask me, business people who are native speakers need to learn a lot in terms of how to conduct business with their non native speaking colleagues.

Suggested Business English Syllabus:

Learner Profile: English, American, Australian or any other NS

  • Paraphrase and simplify
This is a very important skill. NS need to learn how to simplify what they are saying instead of repeating the same phrase 5 times (if he didn't get it the second time, he won't get it the 5th fellow NS).
  • Speak slower
No need to be in a rush. NSs need to learn how to take a breath, pause a bit. Listening to someone in real time is not easy, and a NNS only gets to listen to what you have said once, so NSs need to keep that in mind especially when doing business as every detail counts!
  • Tone down the heavy accent
Yes, when native speakers are talking to other native speakers it is OK to use a heavy accent but when you are doing business, it is essential to speak a bit clearer, toning down the heavy accent.
  • Avoid using too many phrasal verbs/ idiomatic expressions
The English language has an endless number of phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions. Using colloquial language when talking to those who understand it is a great way to communicate in an informal context. In international business communication though, non native speakers often feel perplexed by the nature of this talk. This is why native speakers may require a bit of training on what other words expressions to use when talking. It is possible that a NNS will know the word mention and not the phrasal verb bring up.

  • Summarise
Summarising points is something that people often neglect or forget to do (in my experience). In this case though, I think that emphasising the importance of summarising and training NSs on how to summarise is very important. When attending a meeting, making a presentation and in general talking for quite a while, the listener may get a bit disracted, summarising and using other words to point out the key issues is necessary.
  • Cross cultural communication
Wherever you come from you need to be aware of what is acceptable, polite or professional in one culture and comply with that. An English person may be aware of how the brits do business but does that necessarily mean that the Spanish or Chinese do it in the same way? Of course not. This is why cross cultural awareness is essential. True story: I showed a picture of an American CEO not wearing a tie to my French learners a while back and they commented on how badly (unprofessionally) dressed he was!
  • Presentation skills
Everybody in business would benefit from a few sessions on how to present. There are so many strategies and skills that go into a good presentation. It is not just about language!

I am aware that some companies do train their employees on how to conduct business with other nationalities but I think this is not enough. More training needs to be provided.

Most of these thoughts came as a result of a very long talk on Facebook in the Busines English Teachers group. Feel free to share your views in the comments section below.

Picture credits: Marina's pics

Till next time.....

As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Speaking time

Let them Speak
In today's post I am going to share with you something I did with my learners to get them to speak a bit, to take a long turn, a short monologue if you prefer. My students are intermediate level learners who feel a bit intimidated/challenged when they speak. Today though, was a completely different story, my learners had a lot of fun and actually spoke like they never had before! I was really pleased with today's session. They went from talking about something ordinary to something extraordinary. So, what did I do? 

Normal everyday pics- Stage One
I gave my students two A4 cardboard sheets with four pictures stuck on them. The pictures were of people doing everyday activities. There were lots of details in the pictures. I then gave my students some instructions.


  • Choose 2 of the pictures you feel you can talk the most about. Tell me what you see and whatever else you think connects to the picture.
  • I will give you 5 minutes to plan and make notes BUT when you start talking about your pictures I don't want you to be looking at your notes.
  • I will not help you with any words. Use the vocabulary you know and paraphrase whatever you don't know.
  • There is no time limit. Speak for as long as you can.

I also wrote a few questions on a sheet of paper and put it in front of them. I said, " You can use these questions to get ideas if you want."

                           Wh  Questions:
                                      What/who do you see in the picture?
                                          What are they doing in the picture?
                                              When was this picture taken?
                                                  Where was this picture taking
                                                      How do the people feel? How does this picture make you feel?

Five minutes later...
I told them that they should close their notebooks and just talk about the pictures. If they got 'stuck' , they could then open their notebooks to get ideas. That's what they did. After each student spoke we had a short chat about things that had been said incorrectly and they also asked me about words they did not know. They took notes (these notes have been linked to the next session).

Stage two- A painting with people
After they spoke about the everyday pictures  I showed them this painting.

Picture taken from Pablo Picasso org. Link found here

I told them to do the same thing again. The instructions and questions were the same but I gave them an extra task. I told them that this was a painting and that they had to give it a title. This is when they started turning their heads, turning the pic upside down, and trying to figure out what they see. This time my students were a bit impatient saying things like, " tell us miss what is this?"  " I can see this and that but.. hmm... what is the other thing" They were extremely engaged.

Five minutes later....
Of course they spoke to me about what they saw in the painting and they were very amused with what they were describing. I then told them what the painting was called. It's the Three musicians by Picasso. They loved it! They then tried to figure out where the musicians were, what they were playing and so on. There were a lot of Uh hu moments today.

Final thoughts
Using pictures to get your learners to speak is a great start, especially when they are not mature enough to answer questions related to 'hot topics' or when they are quite weak. Prompting them is also important and this is why I used a few questions. I did not give them any vocabulary help because I thought that it is necessary that they rely on their own language to speak, and because paraphrasing skills are important and these tasks give them the chance to do so. I started with everyday pictures to make them feel comfortable and then moved to cubism (abstract art) to challenge them and to make them use their imagination. On the plus side, you can do this with ANY learner, no matter what the context is!

The outcome
My students had a lot of fun, spoke a lot and said, " When are we going to do this again?"

What I learnt today? Maybe the most rewarding lessons come from the simplest ideas + bring abstract art into the classroom : )

Till next time.....

As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Monday, February 16, 2015

Drawing during grammar

Time line with a twist
Every once in a while, I am sure you draw a time line on the board to help your learners understand a tense. Why not jazz things up a bit and instead of drawing a time line, draw a picture time line? Also, why not get your learners to do the same? This post is about picture lines, posters and making grammar fun and creative.

The other day, I was teaching the future perfect simple and the future perfect continuous and used the example I always use. I also drew the pictures I always draw when I explain the difference between the future perfect simple and the future perfect continuous tense so here goes.

Uses depicted in this picture time line:

  • Future perfect simple: action that will be completed by a specific time in the future.
  • Future perfect continuous: action that will be going on up to particular time in the future. We emphasize duration.

Example of a picture time line. A flight from Athens to London

I draw this on the board and ask my students a couple of questions based on my lovely sketch.

Examples of questions you can ask about the picture time line:
Where is Jack flying from?
Students: Athens.
Where is Jack going?
Students: London.
By 2:30 will the action (the trip) have finished?
Students: No.
By 4:00 will the action have finished?
Students: Yes.

Why draw when making a time line?
  • Your students can visualise the grammar.
  • In this case they can also see the distinction between the two tenses.
  • It's fun cause if you are great at drawing, your students admire your drawing/sketching skills. If your drawings are terrible (like mine), your students crack up and there is a nice Happy atmosphere in the class.
  • They will probably remember the 'rule' cause of your drawing (mine do)!
Personalise the Future Perfect Tenses
So you have presented the difference with a drawing, why not make the production stage of these tenses fun and creative for your students? Give them a big sheet of paper and ask them to make a list of their future plans. Tell them they need to make little drawings and use the future perfect simple and the future perfect continuous when talking about their future plans.
You should also make your own My Plans for the Future Poster.

My future plans poster

Add a twist-back to the picture time line
Once your students have made their "My Future Plans" poster, check it, and then get them to make their own picture time lines as well. After they have made their own picture time lines, they can share them with the class. Maybe  even be the teacher and show the rest of the class their examples.

Let me know how this goes!!  Have fun drawing. Have fun with your grammar : )

Till next time.....

As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Done with the D

The emotional roller coaster aka the Delta
One day later
I am done. Finished. Hasta la vista Delta. 
In this post I am going to tell you the stages or some of the stages every Delta trainee goes through after submitting/finishing the final module. Of course, not everyone is the same, and the intensity of emotions does differ, but their is a kind of aftershock that prompted this post. So, let's see the stages.
You have just submitted the final assignment or taken the exams, and you get up from your chair.
Denial: You think, "Huh? Is that it? Is it over?" You start wondering if you actually finished. You wonder if you wrote your name correctly on the papers or if you forgot to add something. You doubt yourself. You think that something else is waiting for you around the corner. This can't be the end. No way.
Emptiness: After you have handed in your final paper and you go through the stage of disbelief/denial you feel a bit empty. It is Saturday night and there is no Delta. You can actually go out. Huh? How on earth did this happen? You have free time and you really don't know what to do with it (yeah right, as if). There is a void that needs to be filled.
One month goes by, then the second, and then results are just around the corner. That's when uncertainty kicks in. You wonder, " Hmmm, what if... What if my paper is not good enough. What if I actually did forget to write my name... what if I fail?"
Uncertainty and anxiety walk hand in hand, so yeap, you get anxious. You want to get the results. You start checking your mail 24/7 waiting... and waiting....and waiting.
Elation. Results are in and you have passed. Yeap you are done. You are on an adrenaline high. 

Back to the day after
Now what? For me, teaching is about learning. I like to learn and study. I may not be the best teacher-studentin the world, but I defo like to learn stuff. Any stuff. Since I already have an MA and now the Delta, I feel numb. What can I commit myself to?  I will find something for sure : )

One final thought
Doing the Delta is a great idea cause you learn stuff, you improve,  but it is intense, especially if you are working full time. While I have exaggerated a bit in this post, there are a lot of emotions you go through as a delta trainee and a lot as a candidate waiting for results. 
If you want more rambles on the Delta press here and here

How do you feel? Feel free to write your comments in the comments section below. If I have forgotten any 'stages', please let me know.

 Oh yeah... now it's party time. 
                                                 Done with the D.

Till next time.....
As of tomorrow (27/2/2015) I will no longer be posting any blog posts on Blogger. I am only going to be publishing via wordpress. All my posts have been moved to the new website. Please follow me there : D

Thanks for all the support so far

See you soon.....

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Teacher pep talk

I was watching the Voice the other day and noticed that whenever a young contestant was ready to perform, their family would say, " Go for it. Aim big!" Now, it is worrying to think that getting on the Voice for some is aiming big, but then again, this is the reality of the fame frenzy era we live in and this post is not one of those posts. No. Here I am going to talk about teachers and goals.

When you were young, did your loved ones tell you, " You can do it. Aim high. Shoot for the stars"? I think most of us have heard these phrases. What does it have to do with work though? If we take personal happiness and love out of the life equation, what does "shoot for the starts" mean for a teacher? What is aim big? Is it aim for the big bucks? For a higher ranking position? For fame? How high is high?

So, let's do the math
Aim for the big bucks: Now that is funny. I don't know any filthy rich teachers. I don't really think that any of us are on the Forbes list, or will be any time sooner. So, for a teacher, aim big is not money related.
Aim for fame: Well, superstar stardom is probably out of the question, but being popular among your students, being loved and respected by students and colleagues should be one of your aims. Is it aiming high? That depends on your psyche. For me, both take time and are not the easiest of goals. They are very important though. 
Aim for a higher teaching /ranking position: If you are a new teacher and you want to try something new in class, try it! If you want to become a headmaster, go for it. If you want to go from a freelance teacher to a university teacher, do it. You want to write a book about teaching? Pursue your dream! Of course it will be hard, but no pain, no gain and anyway, us teachers are tough cookies. So, these can and should be considered aiming high!
Going for it means you set a goal and try to achieve it. How do you do this?You educate yourself, you get qualifications, you listen to your superiors, your students, your colleagues. You are patient. You try to better yourself as a person and as a professional. You prepare yourself for failure, and if you fail, you pick yourself up and give it another shot.

A more personal note
I, for example, started by being a freelance teacher. I worked in both the public and private sector. I ran a business, lost a business. I initially applied for summer schools in the UK, but then thought, "Hey! I will try EAP". I did, and I got a job in the UK. I love it, I go every summer now. I started teaching online and I will now be developing materials for my company (material development is a new goal). I love blogging and have been asked to write guest posts (two very exciting ones are just around the corner), I want to start writing more and who knows where that will lead. FYI: I applied for two jobs that I probably won't get, but you know what? Big woop if I don't. At least I am setting goals and trying to make something happen : ).

So, from an 'old' teacher, this is my advice. Set goals and try to achieve them. Little ones, big ones. Whatever makes you happy, cause bottom line is that for a teacher as well, the sky is the limit! Don't settle for second best!
Picture from: link here

I would really like to hear from you. What is the 'sky' for you? Have you reached it? What are you doing to make it happen? Comments are welcome in the comments section below.

Till next time......

Friday, February 6, 2015

Blogging confessions

My blogging style
I have read a few blog posts from other bloggers about how they blog, their blogging habits/history and really enjoyed how other people go about blogging (Zhenya started the blogging habit posts, Hana Micaela , Sandy and Vedrana have written relevant/similar posts too). After reading, I thought to myself, "Hey! I am going to write a post about this as well". Let me begin by saying that I find it weird when someone calls me a blogger and this actually defines my blogging style. I am a blogger, maybe even an educational blogger, but I don't feel like a blogger (then again, what does that feel like?). Do I make sense? (Nah) So, anyway, let's get down to business! What are my blogging habits? How do I blog?

Blogging habit #1
So, I guess from what you can already see from the first lines of this post, I blog the way I talk. For me, blogging is like chatting with my friends over coffee and cakes. So, if you expect me to be more 'proper' cause I am a professional, a teacher, forget it! Actually, my blog posts are more like spontaneous speech moments (is that even a word/phrase?) and less like a written text. I have a blurt-y blog.
Coffee in Paris

Blogging habit #2
Checking: I spell-check and read my texts once, maybe twice. So, one of my weaknesses is that you may come across a little mistake, a typo or some odd dangling modifier in my blog posts (Luckily, when people spot a mistake, they let me know so I edit. You know who you are : ). Why do I do this? I do not know! I am a teacher for God's sake! I should be checking my writing already!! Maybe when you always correct other people's mistakes, you stop noticing yours, or your brain just gives up on you and doesn't respond to your mistakes or yada, yada, yada. I think it is mostly cause I don't consider blogging as part of my job. I don't think it is teaching. It is something fun for me and my ideas bubble up, so when I want them to come out, that's what they do. They pop out!! I blurt em out!!  I also do not really realise/comprehend how many or if anyone reads what I write, so I am like, "Eh, it's me writing to myself. You just need to check once, twice and then publish".
Blogging habit #3
I stay up late at night or do not take a siesta cause I want to write a blog post. You want something even worse? I wake up at night and take notes of the things I want to share. I actually have a pencil and a note pad on my bedside table (seriously... should I start worrying about habits #2 & #3?).

Blogging habit #4
To write or not to write?: I have unfinished posts. I have a lot of ideas about things I want to write about. I start writing one post and then start writing another one. The one that inspires me the most is the lucky duck post. The one that gets finished first.  The other one just sits around waiting for TLC. I often write the outline of a blog post on the post's page. That way I have the backbone ready when I come back to the post later. The posts that take longer to write are the ones that have the unfinished 'statuses'. I have a post on conditionals pending at the moment. Why does this happen? Well, some of my posts require more brainstorming, longer texts, more pictures or finding more links to connect to my texts, so because they need more work, they take more time to finish. Writing a post about an ELT thought takes much less time. I sit down, start writing and am done quite quickly (see habit #2 for more info).
Blogging habit #5
I write about the things I am interested in. My blogging is like a me, me ,me fest. I write about the things I enjoy, and hopefully someone else, in a land far, far away will like it as well.
Blogging habit #6
My writing style is simple. I don't really use fancy words. I have noticed though that when I write posts about EAP, I tend to be a bit more formal. I think that is me, being a bit more 'academic'. I sometimes cross reference, I cite, I plan more, I draft and redraft. So, while in the rest of my posts I am chatty, wordy and the worst type of blogger eva, in my EAP posts, I am sometimes even a bit proud of my writing (nope, I am not getting big headed, I promise). On a more personal note here: I do feel that my writing has improved a bit since I first started blogging, so that is rewarding.
Blogging habit #7
I like chain or blog challenges. I sometimes take part in them. They are like taking a road trip with others.
Car in rural Crete

Blogging habit #8
Playful blog posts: I use emoticons or smiley faces (sometimes sad faces : (  as well). I use direct speech. I like using bullet points but I rarely use numbers in my lists. I like using color as well. I think it adds character to my blog posts and emphasizes some of the points I want to make. In terms of theme, almost all my posts are related to education BUT I have a tab on my blog which is called the gillie side of ELT, and there I write about fun, girlie ELT topics (yeah, I know.... ).
Blogging habit #9
I try to write regularly, at least one post a week. Sometimes I stick to my plan, others I don't!
Blogging habit #10
Once I have written a blog post, I start sharing. I share on Facebook, Twitter and sometimes LinkedIn. 

Blogging habit that tops all the other blogging habits
I ramble, but I guess you already know that cause of the name of my blog : ) (see top of this page).

Notes to my future blogger self (or action plan if you prefer!):

  • I need to proof read and edit myself more, and then even more.
  • I need to get out of my comfort zone and maybe even write about something I don't really know that well. Something like a research writing blog post.
  • I want to take part in more chains/challenges. I like reading people's stories and taking part in them.
  • I want to improve my writing skill. I need to look into courses on writing (maybe even creative writing).
  • I need to stop using the word so so much.
  • I want to start using Eltpics and learn how to make infographics.
A final note
A friend of mine once told me "Joanna, you really like laughing at your own jokes" I think that applies to my blog posts as well. I smile when I write cause I think I am funny and I draw joy from my posts. I think that and the fact that I love teaching is what keeps me going. Blogging gives me the chance to talk about a great love; teaching. When you write about what you love, you write good (stuff).

Almost done....
I am really thankful to all the people who read, comment and share my posts.  I feel really happy when I get asked to write guest posts or articles for blogs/ newsletters. It feels like I am doing something right in Blogsville.
Chania, Crete

Feel free to comment in the comments section (I love reading comments btw so go ahead and write  in the comments space, that's your space). If you have written a blogging habits post, add the link in the comments section and I will then add it to this post. Thanks for reading : ).

Till next time......