TEFL quotes of the year 2008

In reverse order by when they appeared on the blog (the first two are new):

“Now Skinner did reign in the land of psychology, and it came to pass that Chomsky smote Skinner and begat Krashen, and Krashen begat Long, and lo, Long begat Merrill Swain…”

A biblical history of SLA by Scott Thornbury, “What good is Second Language Acquisition Theory?”, English Teaching Professional magazine, March 2008

“… we need to be wary of taking SLA theory too seriously. And we should be suspicious of those who argue that knowledge of theory is a professional obligation. Teaching is a highly skilled activity, but it is not, alas, rocket science. In fact, it is probably not a science at all”

Thornbury, “What good is Second Language Acquisition Theory?”, English Teaching Professional magazine, March 2008

“I appear to be regarded as something similar to flat-pack furniture: cheap, does the job and aside from initial construction, can be left to own devices without much attention.”

“…but you would have to remember always that your work was to teach a small boy English. There is a great deal of drudgery in that. Do you think you have the patience for it?”

“Kim Min-suk, spokeswoman of JungChul Language School, said that her school does not employ Asian English teachers because she believes the students prefer Caucasians.

“The Japanese had very primitive ideas concerning the fitness of men to teach… Anyone who could speak English could evidently teach it. The idea of a trained professional foreign teacher was never entertained by them… The “Professors” at first obtained were often ex-bartenders, soldiers, sailors, clerks, etc. When teaching, with pipe in mouth, and punctuating their instructions with oaths, or appearing in the classroom top-heavy, the Japanese concluded that such eccentricities were merely national peculiarities.”

“I will practice my English with you, if you will do me the honor”

“You keep alive just to practice your English?”

‘to me, “distance learning” means an unusually long classroom’

“Harder than grad school, more nerve wracking than exam time, more warping than a CIA-experiment-gone-wrong.”

‘it is true that the European Court of Justice has ruled this practice to be “unlawful”… However, the practical ramifications of accruing holiday pay for hourly paid workers according to this principle [the court ruling] are complex and unworkable.’

i.e. Kaplan don’t agree with the law, so they won’t keep to it. So there!

“Although no one knows the number of English training organizations across the country, my source said 80 new organizations enter this industry each month, while 60 of them close monthly.”

“I’ve also had two friends come to visit me as well…I’m living the life..”

“One afternoon you could be teaching a board of banking executives in an office somewhere, and then the following morning you might be in front of a class of 35-year-olds: it could be as varied as that!”

“You do not need a teaching background or prior experience to become…an…ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) tutor….ESOL Tutor Certification Workshop: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Aug. 12, 13, and 14. ”

‘When [the family] would have an avocado salad the father would point out that the word “avocado” originates in the Aztec “ahucatl” meaning testicles and his mother would happily tell everyone that the word “salad” comes from salt and hence they were eating “salted testicles”‘

“No children, you are not seeing things. This, my little friends, is a schwa!”

‘Otaku are known for their incredible customer loyalty, while schools are known for their trouble in getting customers to keep on coming back, so I figured a school for cosplayers would achieve the perfect blend…I want to start classes for kids some time in the future, and I’ll make the teachers get dressed up in Pikachu suits.’”

“Your facial expression is also of great importance. Not smiling will certainly offend a great number of your students. Smiling, on the other hand, will probably offend them too… A terrified grimace is probably the best solution. It will at least match your students’ expressions.”

“should you go to a PR man for the truth? Most certainly!”

(said in all seriousness, it seems)

“While many teachers may attend to the questions ‘Do you like this language? Do you like this class?’, perhaps the more fundamental question for a student is ‘Do I like myself in this class?’”

“A linguistics friend of mine told me in all seriousness about what he called the C-principle- the idea that if Chomsky believes something, then it makes sense to agree with him in the absence of other knowledge.”

“What a marvellous idea…putting all of the world’s paedophiles together in one industry”

“Casually employed teachers tend to teach casually”

“standing there naked in front of the class with your imperfect knowledge of the English tense system exposed for all to see”

“When I have a book I worry about getting through it- but when I don’t have a book I worry about where I’m going”

“The kids were really enthusiastic- and totally conned”

“There are two kinds of teachers here in Korea that really make me wince. One is the native-speaker who has been here for six or nine months, acknowledges that he was lost for three months but now ‘has it all figured out’

No help, no study, no reading, no questions to other teachers, he just somehow found a way to get through his classes without bosses, parents or students complaining..

He no longer feels uncomfortable in class, so he no longer feels the need to grow, change, develop or learn. Maybe he’s hit on one or two good activities, but I sort of doubt it.

“CELTA is a faraway planet populated by descendants of space travelers. Paranormal ‘gifts’ are called Flair here and vary by… type and strength. A caste system based on those strengths has come about over the centuries…”

This entry was posted in ALT, CELTA, History of English teaching in Japan, Kaplan, KOTESOL, Linguistics, applied linguistics and SLA, Teaching English in Asia, Teaching English in Japan, Teaching English in Korea, TEFL chains, TEFL heroes- Scott Thornbury, TEFL in the UK and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to TEFL quotes of the year 2008

  1. Alex Case says:

    Oh, here’s another good quote:

    “The ultimate purpose of this course is to prepare you to share your language and culture with strange and interesting people around the world.”

    Surprisingly honest about the kinds of people you meet in TEFL, that one… From


  2. Alex Case says:

    Here’s a rather funny or sad one:

    “English-language teachers such as Alison will be heartened, perhaps, in their quest for professional respect and development, by the recent inauguration of the British Institute of English Language Teaching (BIELT).”

    They will until, like me, they suddeny notice that the article was written in 99 and BIELT in no more…


  3. David V. says:

    I like the new look of the blog, simple, understated but very cool.

    I look forward to more entertaining blogging from you in 2009.

  4. Alex Case says:

    Thanks David

    Would love to know your secret for getting so many guest writers…

    In the meantime, quotes is the best I can do for content without effort:

    ‘“I have 11 years old. It’s good to know English because c’est la language universelle,” says Remy, adding English is his best subject.’

    Not if it’s spoken by the French, it ain’t!


  5. David V. says:

    RE: Guest writers, I’ll let you know via email. Have a good new year.

  6. Alex Case says:

    Here’s a classic from Dave’s today:

    “I’m moving to Japan in the spring, and I need a school that will take anybody, and I mean anybody. No standards. No expectations… I know about AEON, but what other options are there, preferably ones with even lower standards. I have one year teaching in Korea, a bachelors, and a pulse, that’s it.”


Leave a comment (link optional and email never shared)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.