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Mixed Levels and eclecticism

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This job is objectively so interesting, but subjectively, a perfect minefield for self-abuse. In four days I have gone from thrilled, to disconsolate, to bored, to resigned, to thrilled again. That can only be because it means so much. Let me be specific. Farhad – Azerbaijani accountant living in London with family. His wife is fluent, he is not. He came to get better so he can do an MBA. In open-ended, casual conversation, he is great. His listening is amazing – both the recorded and “live” native speaker environments. Can he role play a meeting? Not in a million. He loses all his vocabulary, his structures become dislocated and almost incomprehensible and a mess quite frankly. WHY?? How do I make it better? Record him? Tried that, he TOTALLY froze – said nothing. German man, same group. Been doing business in English for years. Problem? Can’t speak in front of native speakers in a business situation. Happy to stumble round telling us crazy mad stories about his shoe fetish! Third member? Very pre-inter French woman. Role play? Great – crappy language, but she tries, pushes through the sticky bits using what she has and gets the job done. Where do I start? Where do I fit in? And is what I’m doing enough? The comments from Carl just nailed it. These students need SOME kind of language. Teaching them stuff like “Uh-huh”, “Sorry”, “ok”, “What?” “Great!” is not going to go any distance in moving them towards some sort of comfort zone in meetings. Here’s what I did today: elicited as much as I could, pulled out some more through questioning and landed up with this.

I’d like to introduce our chief engineer. Have you met each other?

Before getting down to business, I’d like to first give you all and overview of the situation as it is today.

I’d like to ask our chief engineer to tell us …… and finally we have to look at some of the obstacles we may have to face.

What are we going to do? I have no idea

I understand what you are saying, but I can’t agree.

Can you be more specific?

Where’s this going?

Have we had any input from them at all?

Try getting that said with grunts and coded speech – not going to happen. So, I’m thrilled with today! The more I do this, the more it drills home that a balance, a mixture, an eclectic, is the way to go. I learnt that in the first week of DELTA – “principled eclecticism” – from my favourite Barbara and Beth and I shall put it on my office wall. How much completely self-absorbed intransigent pontification has littered various EFL sites thse lat couple of weeks? Just do what works – if you don’t know what that is, ask yourself on an ongoing basis, “Are they learning anything?” If they are – grand. If not, change what you are doing. Self-reflect and again self-reflect. We keep on about “addressing the student’s needs”. Every single one of them is different and their needs include some consideration for how they learn, what makes them uncomfortable and what doesn’t and therefore demands from us a sensitivity about which approach, method and medium we use to meet those needs


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