Monday, 30 September 2013

European stereotypes

I showed these "Learn about Europe" clips to some (older) students a few years ago when talking about stereotypes.

They are certainly entertaining.

everything you wanted to know about Europe and you won't need a guide book next time you visit....

First, the French:

Then the Germans:

And finally, the English:

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Benny Lewis - Languages hacker

I've just read an article from The Irish Mirror about a man, Benny Lewis, who can speak 12 languages.

He's the man behind the Fluent in 3 months website and is known as the Irish Polyglot (although I'm sure there must be others!)

The thing that drew me to this article was the fact that Mr Lewis uses "unconventional techniques" to learn languages.

Mr Lewis admits that he is not a naturally gifted linguist.

He studied German at school and learned nothing and lived in Valencia for 6 months without picking up any of the language.

There are some great quotes from him in the article, but the one which had the most effect on me was this:

At school you’re taught not to make mistakes with pronunciation or grammar and it makes you scared to try.To learn you should speak the language and speak it badly, you shouldn’t be afraid to talk like Tarzan, it’s all about communicating.

I wonder how many students are turned off languages for the same reason?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Skinny jeans, baked potatoes and petechial haemorrhages.

Yes, I know. 

The title of this post sounds like I've had a really interesting weekend. 

Sadly, it's educational...

Today I was asked, "How do you say skinny jeans in French?"

I had no idea. 

The dictionaries at my school were published sometime in the late 1980s (and I even have a German dictionary on my shelf dating from 1948!) and are often worse than useless when looking for contemporary language.

So what did I do?

Usually, in a situation like this I use wikipedia.

When you search for something in wikipedia in English you'll find that, on the left hand side, there is a list of languages. This means that there is an article in each of those languages which corresponds to the one you're reading in English.

It is an ideal resource for every languages teacher and promotes independent learning.

If it weren't for wikipedia, my students would never have found out the French for:


or petechial haemorrhage (don't ask!)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

One of the most important days in the MFL calendar is, obviously, International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

OK, I'm not being serious, but can you think of a better way of capturing the imagination and holding the attention of younger students?

TLAPD as all the cool kids are calling it, was started in 1995 by 2 Americans, Mark Summers and John Baur (pictured below), and is, officially, in the words of its creators, the only holiday to come about because of a sports injury.

You can find the background to TLAPD here on wikipedia and the official TLAPD website here.

There is an English to Pirate online translator here and there are even Android, Apple things and Windows apps, too. 

Sadly, Pirate is not recognised by Ofsted as an official modern foreign language, but, don't fret, I've found some links to foreign language pirate sites for you.

Here goes: 

Lots of pirates phrases and vocabulary in French here.

There are some amazing German phrases and a vocabulary list here.

And for all you scurvy dogs with a hankerin' for the Spanish Main, there's this.

Have fun, me buckos!

PS. About 10 years ago, I actually spent the whole day at school speaking with a traditional "pirate" accent much to the amusement of my colleagues and the frustration of the management team.

Friday, 13 September 2013

My new hat.

This is my new hat.

It's very smart but makes me look like Stan Laurel so I don't wear it outside.


A bowler hat is a very English thing and that is why I bought it.

In my classroom this year, the wearer of this hat is allowed to speak English.

Nobody else.

No hat, no English.

My year 7 students like it.

The idea for it was subconsciously stolen from two people:

Firstly, Alex Bellar's Union Flag Shield and the fact that only when Alex stands on the shield is he allowed to speak English to his classes. (see #MFLSAT post)

Secondly, as a child, I saw the comedian Eric Sykes on stage doing a routine with a "magic hat" which when placed upon his head makes him unable to speak.

So far, the only person who has been allowed to wear this hat is me.

That may change.

I doubt it, though.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Excuses, excuses...

Some years ago I signed up to receive daily emails from linternaute.

It's an online French news/magazine which publishes some very good current affairs articles (really good for teaching A level French) and, often, some incredibly funny features.

Today I was sent this article, a collection of notes from parents to teachers entitled: LES MEILLEURS (ET LES PIRES) MOTS D'EXCUSE DES PARENTS

So I thought of a fun starter activity for advanced level students:

  • Give the students a few of these excuses
  • Get them to rank them in order of silliness, etc.
  • Explain their reasons to a partner or a group.
  • Create some of their own excuses
It's a great way to practise different tenses, too.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

100000 visits

At some point early this morning this blog received its 100000th visit.

After three and a half years, that's not too bad.

In fact, it's pretty amazing.

There are approximately 650 million websites in the world and, according to, mine is currently ranked number 22,085,532.

I don't know which percentile I'm in, though. (UK Teacher joke!)

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that anyone would want to read anything I wrote

Thank you all very much for visiting, reading and commenting. It is very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


In the past I've been accused of not being a fan of linguascope.

This isn't true.

I've not been a fan of lazy teachers using it in lessons on an interactive whiteboard with one student while the other 29 students sit doing nothing. 

I've actually seen it used this way in lessons.

I like students to use linguascope as an independent learning/revision tool. If you have access to computers or tablets (there's an app!), it's an ideal site to get even the least motivated students playing and learning simultaneously.

The whole site has been recently updated and revamped. The graphics are much better and there are new sections with more games and activities. It seems much smoother and looks much more professional. All of the activities are available in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. There are sections for primary pupils and secondary pupils. Personally, I like the GCSE pages.

Linguascope costs £250 (+vat) for a year's subscription but if you have 1000 students it works out at 25 pence per student - the cost of an exercise book. With the school's login and password pupils can also access the site and play the games from home. Students can even play on their phones by using the mobile site. There is a preview page here with access to a lot of activities in each language and at each level.

It's much more educational and fun than making powerpoint presentations.