Pronunciation versus Accent: Why it Matters for ESL Teachers

Picture this: You and your friend meet someone for the first time and have a conversation with her. She speaks a little differently from you and your friend.

Now imagine scenario 1: When you finish the conversation and the woman leaves, your friend says this to you:

Where do you think she’s from?

Now scenario 2: the woman leaves and your friend says:

What was she saying? I couldn’t understand most of it.

To me, this is the difference between accent (scenario 1) and pronunciation (scenario 2).

If you’re a language teacher, you should focus on improving your students’ pronunciation, even if they say they want to speak with an American/British/Australian/whatever accent. Hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll be able to convince your students to focus on improving their pronunciation and accept, maybe even embrace, their accent.

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3 Ways You Can Use VIRTUAL REALITY in Your ESL Class!

Virtual reality is here and it’s only going to get bigger and bigger in the next few years.

If you don’t know much about virtual reality and don’t believe me, go to YouTube on your smartphone and search for “360 VR” (360 degrees, virtual reality). Choose a video that looks interesting and start watching, but move your phone around. That’s right: you’re controlling where the camera goes.

Now, that’s cool. But can you use VR to teach? I’m sure there’s going to be tons of apps and equipment hitting the markets, but you can already do some activities in class with VR that’s already available, and you won’t have to spend more than $20.

Introducing: Google Cardboard.

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Can Your ESL Students Become Fluent in 3 Months?

I recently finished Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis. As a teacher of language, I’m interested in books that claim to have tips, tricks, and yes, even “language hacks” that can help people learn a language quickly.

This book, on the surface, looks quite different than the last book I reviewed. Becoming Fluent was written by a Foreign Service Officer in the US Department of State and a professor of psychology at a major university. What are Benny Lewis’s credentials? Well, just take a look:


Pretty impressive, right? So, what are his methods?

Actually, what he writes in Fluent in 3 Months isn’t too different from some of the content in Becoming Fluent, with some basic language learning/teaching tips thrown in.

And while I?? believe that it really is possible to become very good (“fluent” is tricky to define) in just three months, I don’t think we language teachers are in danger of losing our jobs due to a sudden rise in language autodidacticism.

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5 Reasons Why You Don’t Understand Your Students

When you teach ESL, there are several barriers between you and your student. The obvious one is the language barrier. That’s not what I’m talking about here. The word “understand” in the title is not referring to understanding pronunciation, spelling, or grammar.

This post is about how ESL teachers often have difficulty understanding the motivations, attitudes, goals, and struggles of their students. I’m not trying to attack anyone, and these might not be true for everybody. But if you read one and say “oh shoot, that’s me!”, then you’ve got some things to think about.

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Why classroom seating matters: 3 seating arrangements to maximize learning

When most people think of a classroom, they think of a format something like this:

traditional seating

Students all at their own desks, all facing the teacher, who stands in front of or next to the blackboard, whiteboard, projector screen, etc.

Does this look like your classroom?

If it does, that’s OK. It’s been used for a long time for a reason: it’s effective. There are a lot of advantages of this seating arrangement.

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11 Great Teaching Tips from Becoming Fluent


Written by Richard Roberts, a Foreign Service officer, and Roger Kreuz, a professor of psychology, Becoming Fluent is a book that connects cognitive research to language learning to help adults learn a foreign language.

While its audience is language learners, teachers of English who work with adults can benefit a good deal from reading this book too. It’s extremely well-researched but also very interesting; the authors are great at mixing funny anecdotes and interesting analogies in with the more academic portions.

For ESL teachers who have done their MATESL degrees, you’ll get a refresher on a lot of contents from your courses: the Zone of Proximal Development, scaffolding, fossilization, interlanguage, and (an interesting view of) the critical period hypothesis are all here. If you’re an ESL teacher without any formal training, this book provides great explanations of all of those ideas.

The following is a list of things that I thought were interesting or useful for teachers of English or any foreign language:

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A new test-prep tutor’s guide to lesson planning

You’ve got a new tutoring gig helping some eager student improve their score on a standardized test. You did well on the test yourself and know the material you’re teaching.

But you’ve never tutored anyone in how to take this test before. Your student isn’t going to learn how to take this test by simply soaking in your test-taking genius aura. What should you actually do in your class?

This guide is a plan to help get you started.

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