Tuesday, March 25, 2008


In preparation of our China trip we are getting certified in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) instruction. We are taking the CIE.CA course. It's just around the corner from us. Basically the class teaches how to teach anything but with special focus on teaching English to foreigners.

Dr. Cotton has accumulated various techniques from around the world and has implemented them in a single class for a week. The premise is that the current education systems do not really teach students. Students sit in one spot for hours on end (literally) and grow bored and lose 90% of the instruction. Studies show that they remember the first 5 minutes and last 5 minutes of class.

So he teaches how to keep the students involved throughout the teaching cycle using various techniques. One of the techniques is teaching in 15 minute increments. Another technique is to get the students to use what vocabulary they know right away. He teaches how to teach the students to teach one another. Since an instructor can't possibly get all his students to repeat the words back to him, he divides the class and they teach each other.

Did you know that a foreigner only needs to know 850 English words to be fluent? Two English men (Ogden and Richards) proved this by translating the Bible using only 850 words (sans the special place and people names which required only 350 more words). Have a look here at this very readable text.

I'm going to translate those same 850 words into Chinese. I wonder if it'll work? Then I'll start on the Chinese Bible.

(Added some scans from my notebook.)

"Drill to you kill, analyze 'til you paralyze." - Dr. Cotton on the current education approach.