Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Everybody speaks English, don't they?

One of the problems of trying to teach languages in the UK is that many students "don't see the point because everyone speaks English".

But do they?

I recently arrived home from a short break in Edinburgh.

Whilst I was there I met lots of interesting people from all over the world (and I have the flyers to prove it!)

The European tourists were mainly Spanish, German and French.

One thing I noticed in the various cafés and shops (by which I mean pubs, obviously) I frequented was that many of them didn't even attempt to speak any English.

So, could they speak English, or not?

There was a lot of pointing and hand signalling and financial transactions mainly involved using credit cards or risking handing over the largest denomination note in the customer's wallet.

One morning a couple at the bus stop outside my hotel asked me if I knew what time the bus was due to arrive and how much it would cost.

Nothing strange about that - except that they asked me in French.

Of course, I answered them in French.

They couldn't possibly have known that I spoke their language and weren't in the least surprised that I was able to answer them.

It made me think how important it is, financially speaking, for businesses to employ people with even the most basic language skills. Greetings, prices, directions, food, etc.

When are we, as a nation, going to realize this?

Is it really so hard?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Class Dojo - an update

I discovered ClassDojo almost a year ago. 

I love it and blogged about it here

Now those nice people at ClassDojo have put together a pack of resources so that it is now even easier to explain the concept to your colleagues, pupils and their parents.
The pack can be found on their website here.

It contains everything you could possibly need to spread the word about ClassDojo to colleagues, parents and students.

It contains: a flyer, a poster, a presentation (available as a powerpoint or streamed online), a comprehensive training pack for CPD sessions, a letter to parents, and best of all, an image bank.

You can also contact and receive updates from ClassDojo on twitter, on facebook, or if you have any questions, comments or ideas, you can email them directly at

If you still aren't sure you can read about the experiences of other teachers from around the world on the ClassDojo blog.

That's pretty much everything you need to know and it's still free, so now there is no excuse for not using or sharing.

What are you waiting for? 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Healthy eating and 5 a day.

It's the school holidays. The one time of year when I get to watch television.

A couple of days ago I saw a repeat of QI where the inimitable Stephen Fry asked a question about how many portions of fruit and vegetables we should eat. 

It turns out that 5 a day is a made-up figure. I was both shocked and fascinated by this and put down my Sainsbury's chocolate doughnut and googled "5 a day" almost immediately.

The QI website has links to 2 articles, one from the Guardian: Is five a day enough? (sic) and one from the Times which both claim that the figure is completely different in other countries and that in Japan, people are encouraged to eat 17 portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

One of my tasks for this summer is to put together a "Healthy Eating" topic for year 9 French students.  

I've done some research and found some useful websites with information, not just French, on healthy eating and the "mythical" 5 a day.


One of my favourite sites is It has a lot of information on healthy eating and lifestyle, in particular a section called Fruits et légumes: au moins 5 par jour

I also came across this site which has an amazing wealth of information, recipes and  even quizzes. This site claims we should aim to eat 10 a day!

An article on doctissimo also claims we should aim to eat 10 portions a day. This page also has links to information about healthy living and a page all about fruit and vegetables.

This official Guide alimentaire Canadian site has a chart giving specific information on age and gender and the amount of fruit and vegetables should be eaten.
The Swiss site 5amtag has a page in French entitled 5 par jour which has lots of information and a link to Olympics recipes, too. This site is also available in German.


This site, focus online has 10 pages of healthy eating information including one on 5 a day.

5xamtag is an Austrian site with lots of information and a children's section with interactive activities.

This site Apotheker gives information on what constitutes a portion.


5aldia has a lot of information including pages with games specially for children.

This Mexican site cinqopordia has some good information and games for children to play, too.

This site fruitsandveggiesmorematters has a Spanish downloadable brochure with lots of nutritional information and statistics about the kinds of things we should be eating. 


Yes, I'm still under the illusion that I'm learning Icelandic, so here are some links just for me...

5 á dag a poster with advice on what constitutes 5 a day. I think! has lots of information about organic farming and healthy eating.

Now where did I put those doughnuts....