Saturday, 9 November 2013



Learning a second language is no walk in the park. It’s hard, Man, hard. We do our best to teach it in the classroom, but outside the classroom we – and the rest of the English-speaking populace – do nothing but place hurdles in the learners’ path to fluency. It’s just that we kinda… don’t speak good English among ourselves like, know what I mean? We speak a sorta, um, non-classroom kinda English without any, you know, grammar or stuff like that, see? And when the learner overhears us prattling away in our sub-standard pidgin English, he is bewildered beyond measure.

We blithely disregard the grammar rules which we stipulate in class. “How’s things?” “Um, excuse me, Teacher.” “Yes?” “Didn’t you tell us yesterday that plural nouns must take the plural form of the ‘be’ verb?”

We use slang when we’re chewing the fat with our cobbers down the boozer. We use Mates-speak. “G’day ya no-hoping plonker. How’s it hanging?” We use irony. “Now he’s a sitter for next year’s Master Mind.” We use idioms. We use overly PC English. “I’m off to water the garden, use the men’s room, visit the comfort station.” We misuse, mispronounce, and mangle the good old Queen’s English which, in the classroom, we insist upon.

We could, I suppose, try to teach our students the variety of language they encounter outside school, but my guess is that this would end in tears. “Everybody repeat after me: ‘So me mate says to me, John ’e says, ya gotta lissen to this’.” No, I think it would be better to stick to standard text-book English, just as Donald Swan or Betty Azars would wish it to be.


Here’s a customer’s review of EFL minus the B.S.: “Excellent book. As a former EFL teacher, ten years in Vietnam and Indonesia, this book is spot on in giving the basic lay down of teaching overseas. The book is a quick read and should be read by every EFL teacher. Definitely a good read while on your flight to whatever country you are going to teach.” – J.D.

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