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What is “telephone language”? Well – says my 2IC, looking at me over the top of her little glasses – I don’t think there is such a thing – or it isn’t what our students need when they say they need it. I think it is more a question of improving listening skills. I teach them to ask for clarification, to spell it out, to rephrase, to explain further, to give more details. But THEN, the student starts to speak and speak and speak and ever speak. Jean Francois – we need to focus on your telephone English. I don’t want – I want speak about my job. I never can speak about my job. Okay, but we need to do some work. This is work – I need this – I need to speak. But then it becomes a therapy session – there was an abusive parent, an alcohol problem and a firing related to that. I can’t get him to come back to the lesson. He won’t let it go. What do I do? Be a listener and comment quietly on his story, add in vocab he may need, correct his grammar(!?) or be even more unfeeling and drag him back to the purpose of the lesson? Will he be able to concentrate if his mind is so far in his past? Will it mean anything to him if he is thinking about something else? At the end of the day, will he walk away having gained something – anything – to justify the money he has paid, the time we have both spent? I don’t know. Needs-based (well his own needs at least), student-focussed, student-led – that was surely done, but to what end? The guilt, the sense of not having fulfilled requirement, the feeling of failure at not being able to manage the lesson more effectively. Yet he is happy, he leaves having unburdened yet again. I really don’t want to know all this, but perhaps he really DOES just need to speak – to prove that he can.


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