Jul 142013

Want to take part in the first ever MOOC for language teachers and learners?

Then come to the webinar I’ll be giving on Thursday August 22nd from 3-4pm EST. Click here to check the time in your part of the the world.

I’ll be demonstrating how video can help teachers and learners get to grips with tricky vocabulary and there will be lots of free resources and practical classroom activities.

The MOOC starts on Monday, July 29 so check out the other sessions too. It’s free to join. Just sign up here and look forward to seeing you!


 Posted by at 11:36 pm
Jun 182013

Last Saturday IATEFL’s BESIG held its first ever online conference for Business English teachers. It was an amazing day with 24 speakers and satellite events happening simultaneously in Brasilia, Brazil; Leuven, Belgium; Montevideo, Uruguay; Stuttgart, Germany and Ulm, Germany.

I am in awe of the BESIG BOT (Business Online Team) and want to say a big thank you and congratulations to Claire Hart, Kristen Acquaviva, Justine Arena, Roy Bicknell, Carl Dowse, Matt Halsdorff, Michelle Hunter, Christina Rebuffet-Broadus, Charles Rei, Pete Rutherford, Mercedes Viola and Andi White for pulling off a superb job. With a little help from help from Mike Hogan,  and Heike Philp they delivered a great program and lead the way in professional development in ELT.

The talks will be available free to the public here until June 24th 2013, at which point they will be archived  and available to BESIG members on the BESIG website.

So if you’re not a BESIG member, go check them out fast, and you might want to sign up and join.

 Posted by at 2:37 pm
Jun 082013

N+G2I’m sure many of you will be familiar with The Consultants-E and the irrepressible Nicky Hockly and Gavin Dudeney. Together they run the online training and consultancy service to do with the use of technology in language teaching.

But what you might not know is I’ve been producing videos for The Consultants-E, including an ever growing set of case studies. This is a series they commissioned where teachers share their experiences of introducing technology in their classrooms. The videos are freely available on The Consultants-E’s youtube channel and they are well worth checking out of you’re embarking on any e-learning projects.

The Consultants-E are 10 years old this year and they’re celebrating in style. This month they’re giving away a free scholarship to one of their certified online courses and the winner can choose between a Cert ICT or Cert IBET, so you get an accredited qualification. I’ve spoken to lots of teachers who have taken these courses and without exception, they’ve all thought they were terrific. (It’s actually pretty easy to make promotional videos for the Consultants-E because everyone you interview raves about them!) So hurry up if you’re interested in applying for that scholarship  because the deadlines are approaching.

But there’s more…

There’s another freebie this month! They are giving away an ebook called ‘The Little Book of Blogs’. It’s a collation of blog posts by Nicky, Gavin and many other The Consultants-E trainers, that was expertly curated by Anne Fox. (Yes, that’s the same Anne Fox who co-hosts the award winning Absolutely Intercultural podcasts.) Anne has packed the book with useful free resources and expertise for teachers and I’m honoured to say that includes some of my blog! So head here to download your free copy today.

So happy birthday The Consultants-E. And before you go everyone, please click below and check out the 10th birthday video I made. How did they manage to get all that done in 10 years? See – I told you they were irrepressible.

 Posted by at 6:12 am
Jun 052013

When I started English teaching,  staff rooms were sometimes dotted with actors, often colourful characters  who would be making ends meet by teaching EFL while they were ‘resting’. (Is that still the case?) And perhaps because they weren’t following the same career goals as the mainstream, I think it may have been easy to overlook the unique skills they were bringing to the classroom.

Rachel&Jason4I was reminded of this last week when we videoed Jason R Levine (aka Fluency MC) interviewing Rachel of Rachel’s English. If you haven’t checked out Rachel’s website yet, do. She also has a Youtube channel that has tens of thousands of subscribers for whom she’s teaching  English pronunciation very effectively, despite the fact that she hasn’t had any EFL/ESL teacher training. Really!  Rather than following what many would view as a traditional CELTA, DELTA, and applied linguistics MA route, (like me and countless others), Rachel trained as an opera singer.

Something to understand about opera singing: diction is a hard and technical discipline. In order to sound convincing as an opera singer, you need to be able to get to grips with the sounds of Spanish, Italian, German, French, or whatever language it is you’re singing in. And if you work on it for ten years or so, like Rachel, you become very aware of things like your breath, your tongue placement, rhythm and melody – and probably more importantly for TEFL, you develop language that enables you to talk about it.

So Rachel has some very cool skills. She has an excellent ear so when her students say something, she’s good at imitating it. And then after she’s done that, she can identify what needs to shift to make it sound English and then she can articulate what adjustments they need to make to their lips, tongue, voice or whatever.

I learnt something on Rachel’s site last week that I wish I’d known before. Like many British English teachers I suspect, when teaching ‘can’ and ‘can’t’, I’ve been highlighting the longer vowel sound in ‘can’t’. This works for British English, but what I was unaware of was ‘can’t’ is shorter in ‘merican because of the stop. And that’s after 14 years living here and paying attention. (Though obviously, not nearly enough!) Thank you Rachel!

So the next time you find yourself sitting next to an actor or opera singer in the staff room, make sure to tap into some of their pronunciation knowledge and ask them what aspects of pronunciation they think you should work on most with your students and why. (Rachel reckons rhythm is often crucial.)

If you’d like to watch the interview, you can sign up to see it here on June 20, 2013 at 6 pm EST.

Ah – nearly forgot! Here’s a trailer for the interview.
and here’s the full interview:

Rachel’s English meets Fluency MC

 Posted by at 8:52 pm
Apr 132013

liverpool Online
I didn’t attend the IATEFL conference in Liverpool this year, or rather I didn’t attend in person. Instead I have been following along online and the quantity and quality of the videos of talks has been spectacular. If you haven’t already done so, head on over to
http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2013/ right away and register to see the videos. Wow, what a treat.
I haven’t watched them all yet – there are so many – but already I’ve seen so many clips that I’m keen to share and comment on. So I don’t feel deprived that I didn’t go at all, but ask me about IATEFL Harrogate 2014? You bet I’ll be there!

 Posted by at 8:39 am
Nov 102012

I had a fun encounter this month. A message popped up somewhere from Grant Duncan (a TEFL teacher and songwriter in New Zealand) about his band’s latest album. I asked if he’d like us to make a clickable transcript for one of the numbers and put it on www.simpleenglishvideos.com. ‘Yes please’, he said, so we found ourselves making a music video for The Audio Justice. Ha! See below for the result. My husband plays the part of the stressed out businessman – rather too well I think.

We’re celebrating our three month birthday over at Simple English Videos dot com with the launch of a new section to the site. We have a teacher in Japan to thank for the inspiration. The regular site was too dark for her students and we realized young learners (yl) needed their own place. We wanted it ad-free and self contained to avoid them clicking off to places we’d rather they didn’t go. So it has its own subdomain with a yl prefix. In the process we came up with what we hope is a neat way of switching between computer and mobile versions. Click here to check it out.

And finally we’re delighted to announce that our one minute video English lessons are now available along with with interactive exercises on the English 360 platform. Look for the course called ‘Action’. We have a big batch of scripts for new videos ready to go. Shooting starts next week.

 Posted by at 6:36 pm
Aug 112012

I find it tricky to schedule the weekly twitter meetings of #ELTchat, plus I find Twitter’s character contraints a bit of a challenge. However, I am a firm fan of #ELTchat’s ever growing library of discussions. What a wonderful resource for teachers!  It seems #ELTchat is moving to a new home. Here’s a post by Marisa Constantinides that explains what’s happening. Over to Marisa:

For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important part of our continuous professional development.

Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.

And that is how #ELTchat was created.   

The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later. Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy eltchat.com and announced the good news to us after the fact.

A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011,  he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.

We never found out for sure. We never received a single word of response to our emails.

eltchat.com was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it

On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.

The news is really upsetting.

The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment

We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.

But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased – eltchat.org It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet

And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations

We will be back with a vengeance

We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!

See you all in September!!!

Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden

Bravo Marisa, Shaun and everyone involved. I look forward to seeing #ELTchat go from strength to strength – Vicki Hollett


 Posted by at 9:35 pm
Jul 242012

I’m delighted to say I’ve had a breakthrough with this blog today. Apparently I’d written too much so it had become too large to operate and back up properly. Just as well I’m splitting it up, eh?

Thanks to the magnificent Phil at ukservers.net (my hero) some major problems have been resolved. If you are one of the 0.1% of readers that can read my feed please ignore the frenzied posting that will be taking place in the next few days. I’ll be able to relaunch and post new links by end of the month and if you need a post that seems to have disappeared – try this link in the meantime: http://www.merican.vickihollett.com

Yay! What a good day this has been!


Well, I am indeed up and running now and there are now two different feeds for this site. There’s one for this blog which is about teaching issues and another for the ‘Learning to speak ‘merican blog’ which is about pragmatics, socilinguistics and British and American English. Please click the subscribe buttons (top right) to update your feeds.

Also, if you run into any difficulties navigating around the two sites, could you let me know? I know there are some browser  issues with IE and Firefox displaying things differently. But all the content should be here and new links should be working. So please tell me if anything’s broken.

 Posted by at 3:49 am
May 312011

I’d like to say a belated but very big thank you to all the kind folks who made me so welcome on my travels and to OUP for supporting me. There are way too many people to mention here but my special thanks go to KFUPM, where I was honoured to be the first official female guest, the warm welcome and inspiration from technical English enthusiasts at SPSP, our kind hosts at the KSAALT conference, the terrific professionals at Prince Sultan University and also to the British Council in Riyadh for their help, support and insights.

Also a huge thank you to English UK for a really interesting day on Business English in London which you can read about here. I learnt stacks of interesting stuff at Rachel Day’s presentation on business grammar from corpora and also loved the session by Richard Gallen. Rather than Wordsmith (which is also very good, incidentally) very impressively, he has been creating really interesting specialized ESP corpora with free concordance software called Antconc .

In my absence the blogosphere has been busy and there are some great new bloggers that business and ESP teachers will want to check out if they haven’t already. (Thanks Evan for tipping me off.)


Talking business internationally

The BEonomics blog

Oh and I have just discovered that Alan Firth has a blog too! It’s here.

Something I didn’t plan to do when I set off, but it turned out to be a lot of fun, was videoing C-walking. (It’s similar to break dancing but the C stands for clown) Come back soon to see the results. Until then here are the Birj Khalifa fountains in Dubai – gosh, I loved them and now I wanna be a fountain choregrapher.

It’s great to be sleeping in my own bed again, but as I think some folks from this neck of the woods once said, ‘I’m missing you already.’

 Posted by at 7:00 am