Friday, February 29, 2008

Changing gear

Nina and Anton are off to the Seychelles for two weeks and it will be another 3-4 weeks before I see them.

In their last session - I was trying to imagine some of the questions people here and guests in the hotel might ask them - we practised things like:

When are you going to the Seychelles?
to South Germany

(Nina tends to say: "When you going...."

(I'm going to the Seychelles in) March

I'm trying to get them to answer with one word "March" and not the whole sentence, which sounds very stilted to me.

(I am going away) this weekend.

(We are going to South Germany) next month.

I don't know /when we are going to South Germany).

"I don't know seems a useful expression to know!

When did you last go to Kazakhstan?
South Germany?
the cinema?
a concert?

We played the "Now you ask me" game - always good for a laugh. "No. You ask me." Nina repeats: "You ask me."

(I last went to Kazashstan in) 2000.

I can't remember.

What time do you usually go to school on Mondays?
get up on Sundays?

(I usually go to school on Mondays at) 7:30.

I try to make all these examples things Nina might well have said, or want to say. I'm trying to ensure that I teach her, assist her to learn, what she wants to say or might want to say. This is the principle that guides me, not covering particular structures, tenses or lexical items.

Now, with the hiatus of the Seychelles visit, I feel the need for a change of gear. Perhaps I will switch to talking about paintings - I know she is especially fond of Russian art. I'm wondering, too if we shouldn't work a bit with recordings - from the BBC, for example. News items. I must think this through

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nina and Anton here after a break of one week - my wife was in hospital and I was not available.

Nina pleased that she can understand parts of what I say.

Leaving she said: " Understanding comes first, pronunciation can come later. Grammar I can do at home. What is really good is that you speak to us in English."

What is amusing is to see Nina and myself adjusting our positions and moving them as far as we can in the direction of the other person's position.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Nina is contented

Nina was here the day before yesterday. She said she was feeling extremely pleased with the way we were working. "First, I'm pleased with myself. I've studied all my life, but I feared I could not study any more. But I've shown myself that I can. Only three lessons and I feel I can already recognise some words when I hear them. Then I want to thank you for teaching me in the way that you do. I enjoy it so much. For years I have wanted to learn English, and now I'm learning it."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Lesson 4

Today is Saturday. On Monday I had another lesson with Nina, who had been away for a few days.

Basically I attempted having a conversation with her about whom she had visited and about her family in general. What I was trying to do was provide her with the lexical items to give basic information about herself.

I was born in Kazakhstan.
My son was born in Dnepropetrovsk.
I've got a sister and a brother. Both of them are older than me.
Anton was born in Osnabrueck.
We visited Anton's mother-in-law, his first wife's mother.

We also used as much of the old stuff as I could bring in:
days of the week, months of the year, ordinals, cardinals.

I also recorded the lesson and hope to post a bit of it to this blog.
We ended singing:

"One, two, three, four, five
Once I caught a fish alive."

Now the "but" bit.

Nina, like the Russian student I tried to teach in English from Zero 1, said whenever she had learned something before she was used to having homework and things to learn at home. (I'd reassured her at the beginning of the hour saying the bulk of the learning would go on during our lessons together and that there dangers about learning at home alone, i.e. embedding the wrong pronunciation. She did say, though, that she wanted to continue, and to continue doing it my way - for the time being.

She is bringing some Kazakhstan English CDs next week for us to look at together and decide if they are appropriate for her to use. "The man on the CD has written and sings all the songs himself, not classical songs but purpose-made to illustrate what he is teaching."

I'm going to have to make a few compromises, though some of them will only be cosmetic.

I think I'll make a list of all the words I have introduced first and, terrorised by the written word, she can learn them by heart and practice them with Anton getting the pronunciation wrong.

Friday, February 1, 2008

How they teach pronunciation in Thailand

Teaching pronunciation in Thailand

I think this video is sitting on the British Council's server in China.