quarta-feira, 8 de abril de 2009

Interview - Jack Scholes

Never stop studying!

That's the main message Jack Scholes leaves for teachers and students in this interview, in which he talks about his career, students' (lack of) motivation, methodologies and learning strategies.
Jack was born and bred in England and has over 35 years experience in the field of English Language Teaching in many different countries around the world. He is now a freelance writer, trainer and ELT specialist.

How long have you been living in Brazil and how did you end up here?
Jack -
I’ve been living here since 1976! I came to São Paulo to work for the British Council on a two-year contract and have been here ever since.

How did you start working with ELT here and what was your first book?
Jack -
After graduating in German and Russian from Liverpool University, I started my teaching career as a teacher of German in England, and then went to Germany to teach English. After that I taught English in many different countries around the world and later did a post-graduate in Education and EFL at London University before coming here, so Brazil was a continuation of my previous experience in ELT.
My first book was a Reader for adolescents called Guitar Glory and was published by Editora Saraiva. I’m now finishing my ninth book and expect to have ten completed before the end of this year (check all his books at the end of the interview).

Is there "the best way" to learn English (or other language) in your opinion? When is it more suitable to attend regular courses, private classes, study abroad...?
Jack -
The simple answer is - No, there is no ‘best way’ or a more suitable time for specific learning situations. We all learn in different ways and even the world’s language teaching experts admit that there is so much that we still do not know about the mysteries of language learning. What every learner needs, though, is to study hard, enjoy the learning process and have patience. Nobody learns another language in a short time. They also say that whatever you learn quickly, you also forget very quickly.

And is there "the best methodology" in your opinion? Does it vary according to students' needs?
Jack - The best methodology is the one that works! Every situation, every teacher and every learner is unique. We need to know what methodologies are available to us, and keep up-to-date with the latest ones. But we also need to choose carefully what works best for us as teachers and our students as learners, and be careful not “throw the baby out with the bath water.” Now there’s a lovely expression!

Many Intermediate students feel they aren't improving anymore (the intermediate plateau). What can teachers and students do to "break this barrier"?
Jack -
First of all, teachers can explain to students that after the intermediate level there isn’t much new grammar. Just more of the same thing at a more difficult level. In terms of grammar, what they really need at this level is to concentrate on correcting their errors, on accuracy.
Perhaps more importantly, at this level students can usually communicate most ideas, but what they lack is being able to express themselves fluently, as they do in their native language. What they need most is a lot of high-frequency words and phrases, lots of chunks of language. They also need to be able to speak as much as possible during the lesson. It is highly motivating for students to feel they are finally really being able to use their spoken English.
Although true for all levels, it is crucial at this level to make learning English a lot of fun, with content that interesting and exciting for the student.

How can students be independent learners? How responsible should they be for their own learning?
Jack -
Teachers should always encourage students to be independent learners and take responsibility for their own learning. One way to encourage learner autonomy is to make full use of the growing use of technology in people’s lives and incorporate English learning into the normal everyday lives of students. Learners nowadays have fantastic opportunities for exposure to the target language via the web. On the web they have access to a vast variety of amazing resources in English, including, for example, digital language games, interactive exercises, electronic dictionaries, films, song lyrics, online communities etc. etc. Most students are prepared to spend five minutes or even much longer on a website when they might not be too keen to read a book or do exercises in a workbook. However, I think it is very important for teachers to find out exactly what is available for learning English on the Internet and clearly explain to the students about which resources to use and how to make the best use of them.

What should teachers and students do to keep on improving?
Jack -
Never stop studying. I’ve been studying and teaching English all my life and I learn something new almost every day. Also, do what you find most pleasurable. I like reading lot and I also love watching films. I also do a lot of research for my books, which I find fascinating. Whatever it is, enjoy it to the full!

Check all Jack's books: