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lundi 24 août 2015



Some days ago I got an email from a former student of mine telling me he found my weekly posts quite useful because they help him to expend his everyday vocabulary.A bit of buttering up probably, but I must confess I was absolutely elated. I guess it was the highest reward blogging had bestowed upon me since the early days of The Adventures of Dany The Perky Busy Bee.It really made my day !
It is true that all throughout my posts I try to use new words,new phrases, because most adult English language learners I've taught said they were constrained by a lack of vocabulary, and were often stuck for words. I also manage to arrange frequent encounters with new words. According to a recent survey, four exposures to a new word are necessary to remember it :

. You never saw it .
. You have heard of it, but you don't know what it means.
. You recognize it in context,it has something to do with ...
. You know it.

In my opinion, the more exposures students have to a word, the more likely they are to store it and use it properly.

Indeed,the size of your vocabulary matters when you want to talk about this and that. Low vocabulary can turn into a trap.That's one of the very first things I noticed when I started teaching adults. So, let me tell you how.

I had been teaching for hardly one year when one Friday my boss asked me if I could stand in for another teacher who was on a sick leave.I agreed to do it, so he gave me all the instructions for my one-week mission starting the next Monday.
As soon as I read the information, my heart started pounding,my knees shaking and some butterflies went through my stomach : the week after I had to give one-to-one tuitions to Kellogg's Human Resources manager,four hours a day from Monday to Friday !
The only thing I knew about Kellogg's was the cornflakes I put on the breakfast table every morning. My knowledge of cereals stopped there !!
I was scared because, first, Human Resources managers are not people you can clap on the back, and secondly, my food-processing vocabulary would not hold water over one hour !I was in a fine mess !!

I spent the whole weekend cramming for my " impossible mission ". I learnt all  I could about wheat,buckwheat,oats,maize,barley,rye and so on ...I spent two hours in the nearby supermarket reading the English lists of ingredients on packets of cereal bars, fruit-flavoured snacks, etc

On Monday morning I was so sick of all those cereals that I let the children help themselves with their favourite ones. All the way to Kellogg's headquarters I was all at sea !
My knocking at the manager's door was just like " For Whom The Bell Tolls ", but what else could I do ? Take a French leave ? My boss would have fired me.
So, there I was, expecting the door not to open, but of course it did !

To my " Good morning, Sir ", the man answered in French and explained that apart from food-processing vocabulary, he was hopeless at English, and , to top it all, at the end of the week he had to entertain his American bosses every evening, treating them with good meals and showing them around Paris.
He was really stressed out, unlike the Perky Busy Bee who perked up in 
a wink.
The first hours were a real nightmare for him : he was as red as a beetroot and all in a sweat, but little by little he gained confidence, got used to paraphrasing when stuck for words, and last but not least, stopped 
preparing speech in his head before speaking !
I hope after that intensive training he could enjoy Paris by night with the
American team ..

Anyway, for me that was a kind of trigger for my teaching methods and I hope it is still useful.

Enjoy yourselves and make the most of the last days of August !

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