The Complete Alternative Dictionary of ELT and Linguistics

Or at least I hope this is as complete as it ever gets seeing as there are already nearly 400 entries in it…

ARELS – Association of Reasonably good English Language Schools

Academic word list- A secret list of words that teachers can use while speaking to put a student who thinks they are pretty damn good in their place

Accuracy – Not making mistakes in a foreign language. A student who is obsessed about having every mistake corrected, often Swiss, is called an Accurist

Adjacency pairs- the strange connection between students being sat beside each other in the first lesson and the later forming of couples

Advanced learner- a proficient user of a foreign language, usually one who can correct their teacher once or twice a term and still thinks it is clever to do so. A learner who could do so even more often but has learnt that they are actually there to learn something and move up to the next level is defined as proficiency level.

Affirmative – Viagra

Affix- In a rare but not unique example of linguistic jargon being named after a kids’ toy, affixes are named after the plastic model brand Airfix. This is due to sticking affixes onto the front of words (prefixes, mis- etc.) or end of words (suffixes, -ify etc.) being like a nerdy teenager sticks decals onto a badly painted model of a WWII Spitfire fighter plane.

Agency- In linguistics, having agency means having control over your own language learning. How ironic then that agency is also the name for the companies that sell English courses in the UK etc. abroad by lying through their teeth about likely progress, extra charges, friendliness of host families etc. etc.

Androgogy- teaching like a girly man

Anthropological linguists- Studying the feuds and other interactions of linguists as if they were a Papua New Guinea tribe

Antonyms – trying to learn all the names of the swarms of tiny kids in a kindergarten you work at

Applied Linguistics – A euphemism, from the Latin for “practical use of your tongue”

Appropriacy – only taking off your clothes in the right kinds of classes

Approximants – Sounds that are as close as your students are ever going to get to the real pronunciation of English, e.g. something somewhere between an /r/, /l/ and /w/ but usually identifiable as an attempt at one of these sounds

Aspect- ass and pecs

Aspiration- mouth to mouth resuscitation of a student who was so stressed when speaking English that they forgot to breathe

Attention – the stance with ramrod straight back and eyes directly forward that helps language learners concentrate on the language point being taught and not be distracted by other things. Experienced teachers find that shouting “Attention!” during the important part of a grammar explanation and having their students jump up and line up helps retention.

Audiolingual method – Literally, the ’sound tongue’ method. Based on behaviourist experiments such as the famously salivating Pavlov’s dog, students would be made to control the panel of a language lab booth using only their tongue in order to help them physically memorize the dialogues on the tape. This method died out when it was found that student errors are in fact contagious, and were being picked up by future students licking the same booth controls (this is also why Japanese students wear face masks on days when they are making many language errors, so as not to pass them on).

Authentic material – material that really exists (usually not the case when you say “I’m sure I have a worksheet to practice that point somewhere, I’ll try and bring it in next week”)

BAAL – The false god of Applied Linguistics

BULATS – language testing euphemism for “bollocks”

Back channeling – TEFL euphemism for anal sex

Back-reference – The technical term for bitching about someone when they are not there

Base form – This rather negative expression for the form ‘be’, ‘do’, ‘have’ etc. comes from a medieval superstition that this verb form was somehow dirty and brought bad luck. It has now been replaced by the more PC expression ‘infinitive with a different relationship to to’.

Behaviourism – the idea that skills such as speaking another language could be taught in the same way as disciplining a child or teaching a dog how to fetch. It became less popular after the last generation of makers of craft dunce hats in Cornwall died out, and using dog leads and collars in the language classroom is now only a very specialist, if well-paid, job.

Behaviourism- the idea that the kids not being naughty is about all you can expect from a kindergarten English lesson

Bilabial – Used to describe someone who will kiss people of either gender, although they’ll only go further with one

Bilingualism – having two tongues. This is still considered a negative thing in countries such as the USA, but most of us can see the obvious advantages

Bottom-up processing – As an extension on NLP theories of where people look when they are thinking and what that means about their preferred learning style, researchers have found that they direction in which you scan the face and body of good looking people of the other sex is related to how you best process the information in a text. For example, people who start looking at the arse and work their way up (bottom-up processors) tend to do well at noticing the small details of a text but less well in noticing how the information is arranged into paragraphs etc.

Boundary markers – use of textbooks to stake out territory on a desk

British National Corpus – the official body responsible for the death of UK society

Broad negative adjectives- descriptive words used by typically dour and almost indecipherable Yorkshiremen and people from the Black Country

CALL (Computer assisted language learning) – An intermediate step on the way to HAL.

CLL- (community language learning- pronounced /cululu/). Based on counselling therapy, students sit in a circle and are helped by the teacher to cooperatively produce a dialogue in English on a tape about their relationship with the local catholic priest.

CLT – Communicative Language Teaching- The idea that by communicating with your students you can avoid having to teach them

CMC (Computer-mediated communication) – When everything the teacher says goes through the students’ electronic dictionaries before it is accepted as true

Caretaker talk- “pesky kids”, “ragamuffins”, “no good scoundrels” etc

Chat bots- Teachers who are reduced to automatic expressions of “interest” by a student who keeps on going on and on

Checking moves – watching everyone else dance for half an hour or so before you decide whether you will completely embarrass yourself by joining in

Chomsky hierarchy (the) – Noam’s at the top, and whoever agrees with him most is in 2nd place

Chunks – Strings of language that are not digested properly and come out whole when you’ve had too many beers during a language exchange party.

Closed classes- ones the DoS is too scared to observe

Co-hyponym – Getting students to hypnotize each other to help with vocabulary learning

Co-ordinate clauses – When two or more clauses of equal rank are linked they are co-ordinate clauses. As well as learning to spot these, students will need the classroom language of talking about them, e.g. “Do you think this clause looks okay with this one?” “It’s a bit last year, why don’t you try it together with this?” “Does my main clause look big with this?” “Oh no, darling, just throw in this conjunction and it is sooooo you”

Cognitive code learning theory – The idea that writing textbooks with everything written in code, such as converting all the letters to numbers, was the best way of stimulating students’ logical-mathematical learning style

Coherence – The part of a teacher’s classroom language that gets worse during their career as their language gets more carefully graded

Cohesion – The tendency of students to get attached to teachers and complain if the teacher changes, even when they know they are learning nothing in his or her classes

Colligations- the offspring of a collie and an alligator

Communication Accommodation Theory- the discredited idea that host families in the UK actually speak to the students who are staying with them

Communicative competence- also “communicative/ competence”, the choice between employing someone who has spent all their time learning the language and someone who can actually do the job

Communicative strategies- ways students can avoid having to communicate in the classroom, e.g. by complaining about pairwork because “I never know when I am making mistakes”

Communicative weight- the difficulty of where to look when talking to the obese

Community Language Learning – The theory that students getting together at break time to bitch about British food and their teacher is the best way of drawing them together and increasing their motivation to learn

Compound sentence – Being forced to spend 5 years teaching in Saudi Arabia in order to afford to retire

Compounding – A way of forming words by combining two or more nouns or adjectives. Not to be confused with “pounding“, which is the technical term for when a student makes endless identical failed efforts at pronouncing a word until the teacher screams at them to stop

Comprehensible input – Teachers making their classroom language understandable by only using terms from the BASIC programming language

Comprehension tasks – the opposite of incomprehension tasks (tasks given to students by CELTA trainees in their second week of their course)

Conjunction- A street corner with someone selling fake Rolexes

Conjunctions – students who have recently hooked up and seem like they are attached at the hip

Connected speech – When the student who always starts long monologues about random topics manages, by some fluke, to say something perfectly connected to what you want to do in the next part of the lesson

Connectionism- Knowing the right people and so being able to get a university job in Japan

Consciousness-raising – Using obscure grammar questions as a path to enlightenment, similar to the Zen Buddhist use of koan such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Constructed response- A student answer that has obviously been painfully assembled word by word from their mental bilingual dictionary

Content words – vocabulary used by happy people

Content-based approaches- Doing anything that keeps your students happy

Contractions – the muscle spasms students go through when trying to pronounce “they’re” the same as “there” and “aren’t” like “aunt”

Contrastive analysis – trying to work out what the picture on a bad photocopy is when asked to talk about it in class

Contrastive analysis- comparing yourself to your partner’s ex boyfriends and/ or girlfriends

Conversational repairs – the subconscious belief that standing round and talking about fixing something is enough for it suddenly to start working again

Core lexicon – a capsule hidden deep in the earth containing key vocabulary items, to be dug up when (someday soon) the media, politicians and young people become entirely incapable of producing a sentence with meaning

Core materials- Also “hard core materials”. Kept on the top shelf of the teachers’ room

Corpus linguistics – Cutting up dead bodies to learn about language development, e.g. in the famous COBUILD morgue

Corrective feedback – Using the squealing sound of an electric guitar brought close to an amplifier as a way of memorably showing students they have made a mistake

Covert errors- language mistakes that are used by the Gestapo to spot spies and runaway POWs in WWII movies

Critical analysis- Really bitchy observation feedback

Critical period – when you’ve taught students enough language for them to be able to complain about not learning more

Declension- what you can do when you finally find a toilet

Deductive grammar teaching – Using “Elementary My Dear Watson” from Communication Games with every class you possibly can

Deep structure – a classroom grammatical explanation that makes students reconsider the meaning of life

Deep-end strategy – Saying something really philosophical in the last few seconds of each lesson

Denontation – a word that sounds particularly good on high quality hifi equipment

Deterministic grammar rules – ones you are destined never to understand

Dictogloss- Very shiny penises

Diphthongs – underwear for diphsticks

Dipshit- A Diploma qualified teacher who still can’t tell their arse from their TEFL

Direct Method –A system of language learning aimed at making Japanese students finally say what they really mean

Discourse analysis – Analyzing the language students use to slag off their teacher

Discourse journals – The opposite of “of course journals” (diaries in which students are write blindingly obvious stuff like “I got up”, “I slept at the weekend” and “I like ice cream”)

Discovery approach (the) – Finding out something your students like talking about by chance and then milking it as much as you can

Discrete infinity – a black hole that attends a house party without almost anyone noticing

Ditransitive – verbs often used with the object “Lady Di”

Drilling – Popular with Asian students who get stressed with fluency activities, this consists of making a hole in the skull to relieve the pressure

Dummy operator – An English teacher to very young learners

EAP – English for Academic Purposes- learning English to seem intellectual

EAWP – English for Avoiding Work Purposes- coming to class might be the only chance they have for a one hour lunch break

EBP – English for Babysitting Purposes- taking young kids to English classes so you can go shopping

EBP – English for Budgetary Purposes- for companies where the only way to give staff training on the cheap is to choose English lessons rather than the IT training they really need

ECP – English for Chaperone Purposes- for Turkish university students who are only allowed to stay out past the curfew of their halls and meet people of the other sex by signing on for English classes

EEP – English for Extramarital Purposes

EGSP – English for Gaijin Stalking Purposes/English for Giri Stalking Purposes- this one works for women whose list of needs in a relationship are topped by “blond hair” in both Spain and Japan

EKTRP – English for Killing Time after Retirement Purposes

ELTA – English language teaching assistants- The students you always turn to first when you are trying to elicit something

EOP – English for Occupational Purposes- Studying the language to keep yourself occupied, e.g. after retirement

ESP – English for Smart Arse Purposes- such as showing off the latest useless idiom that they have learnt

ETP – English for Therapeutic Purposes- because your teacher is the only person who will listen to your problems

ETS – The American organisation behind TOEFL and TOEIC. Many researchers are now convinced that these tests were set up in order to hold back the worldwide tendency to learn English that is useful for communication, therefore helping the USA retain its competitive edge

Eikaiwa – The Japanese for “English conversation”. This is the most frequently used term for the private language school industry as it includes the two crucial factors of “English” (meaning the ability of teachers to look like they a stereotypical Englishman) and “conversation” (meaning the ability to sustain a 45 min conversation with someone who is too shy to speak)

Embedded words- The things you said that finally got you laid

Error correction – In the same way as it is possible to win an argument with your partner or correct someone’s wrong impression of you just by telling them you are wrong, in TEFL it is possible to stop students making grammar mistakes by pointing out their errors

Evolutionary linguistics – the idea that humans will evolve to the point where linguists are capable of producing truly scientific theories

Expectancy grammar – the look on students’ faces as they realise the teacher is sneakily working their way towards a grammar elicitation

Explicit grammar teaching – The use of example sentences on the theme of sex to increase learner motivation and language retention

Explicit knowledge – Knowing swear words and sexual language

Exponent (The) – the nickname for the Functional Language Expo, first held at Earl’s Court in 1972

Exponent- a former enemy

Exposure – One of the most common reasons for the dismissal of TEFL teachers

Extended standard theory (the) – a 12 inch remix of a Noam Chomsky lecture by Tall Paul

FFI – Form focused instruction- designing your lessons just to get good marks on the categories you know are on the student evaluation and lesson observation forms

FL- foreign language. Pronounced “fleur”, with as outrageous a French accent as you can manage

FOXP2 – phrases kids have learnt from the second season of the Simpsons

Feedback – Based on the similarity with playing an electric guitar, in ELT this term is used to express the teacher’s ability to produce discord and put people on edge with the use of error correction

Felicity conditions- the circumstances under which you could get a student as foxy as Felicity Kendall

Field of Discourse (the) – the Glastonbury farm where the famous 1969 Discourse Analysis Free Festival was held

Figurative meaning –euphemistic language used to talk about the body of a fit woman sitting nearby

Fillers – breakfast foods suitable for teachers who will be photocopying through their lunch break

Flaps – Chairs with flaps rather than tables started as a Japanese S&M love hotel accessory, but has now become a standard part of the average language school. Influences that led to this change of purpose include: (a) Suggestopedia teachers patenting the use of comfortable chairs and, (b) Early Humanistic Language Teachers reading in a furniture catalogue that they “help you open up and show your vulnerabilities” and taking its meaning to be metaphorical

Fluency- the opposite of constipation

Focus on form – The problem of teachers writing down all the things students tell them during a level check interview and only remembering to notice the language they use during the last few seconds. Often contrasted with focus on forms*

Focus on forms – A teacher being distracted by the student’s figure during a level check interview and only remembering to notice the language they use in the last few seconds. Often contrasted with Focus on Form*

Foreigner talk- Students talking about all foreigners in a disparaging way, having forgotten that the teacher who is standing right next to them is one too

Formal schema- A back stabbing teacher who hides it well with their polite language

Formulaic phrases- how geeks use English

Fossilization – The immobile face and blank stare that teachers who have been in the business too long develop

Framing move – undermining the students’ faith in the textbook so you can later blame everything on it rather than you

Free talk- What students try to get from you after the lessons finished, even when the next class is waiting to come in

Fricatives – polite swear words, e.g. “fricking”

Gap filling – The favourite physical threat of drunk TEFL teachers

Gate-keeping exams- For example, the Cambridge FCB (First Certificate for Bouncers)

General Service List – General (later Field Marshall) Service’s blacklist of left-leaning linguists

Global errors- voting for George W Bush

Global query – random questions about random places from students who are convinced that foreign teachers will know everything about everywhere in the world

Glottal stop- where Londoners catch buses

Grammatical devices of orientation- torture equipment to cut down on errors

Grammatical structures – an attempt to design buildings according to Chomskyian rules

Grammatical terms – periods during which prisoners are forced to study grammar as a punishment

Grammaticalization- A random sprinkling of articles, prepositions and auxiliary verbs that students throw in just before they hand it in

Grice’s four Maxims – his theory of what makes a good lad magazine- quantity (of breasts), quality (ditto), relations (feeling you have really got to know said breasts), and (finding yet another) manner (in which to portray them)

Headwords – words you can’t get out of your brain, like an annoyingly catchy tune

Hedging – a variation on cottaging

Heteroglossia – shiny lipstick for straight guys

Heuristics- the sounds produced which vomiting

Holophrases- Also “hollow phrases”. The learning of sentences to throw into every IELTS writing with little or no thought needed, e.g. “This is a very controversial topic”.

Homesign – the non-verbal signals that mean you are about to be invited back to her place

Hybrid language learning – When strong students help weaker ones not just by explaining grammar but by contributing some of their genes with the use of modern classroom cloning technology

Hyponym – the pen name of someone who thinks the Summer of Love never finished

I + 1- As illustrated by the career of Krashen, the fact that you only need to keep banging on about one idea (i + 1) to become famous in linguistics

IATEFL – The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, usually pronounced “ayayay TEFL”

IH – International House, the chain of schools formerly known by the less successful name of “Nationalism House”

Immersion language learning – A way of increasing student motivation to speak. See also waterboarding*

Implicit knowledge of language – Students hiding the fact that they’ve known that grammar since primary school in order not to seem like a swot or to save the teacher embarrassment

Inductive approach (the) – Giving students who pause forever before speaking an epidural injection to force delivery

Inflections – Passed on in the spit of Spanish people trying to pronounce /h/

Inflexion – warm up exercises for grammarians

Innateness hypothesis – The theory that studying English is inherently boring, so why bother with games

Input adjustment- Putting it back in the right place right after you do up your flies

Input enhancement – Using a gold plated jack on the classroom tape recorder

Input – The theory that the language we expose students to should be as carefully chosen as when programming a computer or doing data input, although most experts agree that the metaphor works best if we picture the teacher trying to type with a couple of sledge hammers

Insertion sequences – the steps before getting laid

Intercambio de Lenguas – Spanish for “exchanging tongues”, often involving conversation exchange and its more literal translation

Interface – Also known as “innerface”, the internal cringing of a student who is seemingly happily taking part in a humanistic language teaching* game

Interlanguage pragmatics- the deliberate use of the pretension and hated term “interlanguage” just because you know it impresses your boss

Interlocotor- A half crazy Mexican

Interlocutor – chained between two people

Intonation – a band of panpipe-playing TEFL teachers

Jagged profile- A euphemistic way of talking about a really crap job reference supplied by a teacher who you later find you have to employ anyway when all the other applicants get better jobs elsewhere

Jigsaw listening- ELT slang for a remix

Juncture – The age of the rule of the Junker class in Germany, who were famous for pausing between each and every word to give them all strong Germanic emphasis

KAL- Knowledge “About Language”- The absolute minimum you need in order to pass the DELTA, usually gained through only reading the Scott Thornbury book with that title

L1- solo act of the last remaining member of band L7

L2- two steps to the left (step dancing instruction)

Language acquisition device – Language school slang for a credit card

Language transfer- a special kind of endless direct debit that you can’t get out of, popularized by Opening, Wall Street and Nova

Language-maven – (v) the past participle of “language mive”

Learner awareness – Suddenly remembering that you are the teacher and they are the students, despite the fact that due to all your eliciting the students do all the talking and explain all the grammar to each other

Learner centred- A class who have all turned round to look at someone who has let one rip

Learner independence – The political philosophy of the short-lived People’s Republic of Oxford Street, set up after the Oxford House revolution of 2001. Slogans of the movement included “A decent CD player for every classroom and a teacher’s book for every student!” and “Headway is the opiate of the masses”

Learner-centred teaching- The teacher aiming all their comments at one student, e.g. one who actually laughs at their jokes or contributes to whole class speaking

Levels of formality – a mispronunciation of the Japanese English expression “rebel of formality”, the worst kind of rebel in Japan

Lexical density – showing you are thick by your choice of words

Lexical errors- saying “vocabulary” instead of “lexis” when you were trying to sound impressive in a TEFL interview or article

Lexical items- Instruments of torture used by Superman’s arch enemy

Lexical pattern – wallpaper and lampshades printed with collocations, still available from the COBUILD catalogue

Lexical priming – Getting round in an American football type huddle before learning vocabulary to give each other encouragement (slapping of arses optional)

Lexical primings- hazing by lexicographers

Lexical sets – A kind of Pokemon or Top Trumps for language mavens

Lexicalised sentence stems- the correct name for liquorice sticks

Lexicogrammar – A deadly crossbreed created by the mad geneticist character in the movie “Prepositions from Outer Space”

Lexis – The plural of Lexus

Liaison – When an extra sound between a final vowel and the first sound of the next word pass notes back and forward until they get together for some really hot connected speech*

Liminality – Japanese variation on “rimming”

Linguistic Universals- now a part of Paramount pictures, and hence of Sony

Linguistic adjustment- Suddenly realising that your tongue is hanging out and so pulling it back in

Linguistic code switching- Making up new jargon to make up for the lack of real progress in the field of linguistics

Linguistics – Literally, ‘the science of the tongue’. This definition is only to be used when someone you are chatting up asks you what you do if you are both very very drunk. Ditto for applied linguistics*.

Listening skills clusters- Nut and chocolate sweets to give to students who are about to do a textbook listening so that they actually stay awake

Local query- The campest person in your nearest pub

MOI – Medium of instruction- A teacher who has developed the supernatural powers necessary to work out what a low level or shy student is trying to say.

Main stress – the thing about your observed lesson you keep on worrying about, making you forget completely about several other important things

Mathematical Theory of Communication- The formula that explains why mathematicians will never be able to communicate normally in English however much they follow the study tips you give them

McGurk effect (the) – The gagging noise made by people who have learnt what haggis really is

Meaning to form- deciding a woman isn’t too bad looking because she’s funny and interesting (the opposite of form to meaning- thinking a woman is funny and interesting because she’s fit)

Meaning-focused tasks – usually contrasted with “meaningless-focused tasks”

Measurers- people who are always comparing their own “fan club” or haul of gifts at the end of term with the other teachers’

Mental model- What lonely teachers in countries with strict laws of pornography have to imagine

Mentalist – People who follow mentalism, mainly young language teachers who use illegal substances at all night ‘Chomskian raves’

Metacognitive strategies- Ways of defeating the Transformers robot Metacog

Metacognitive –The ability to realize that you’ve just thought of something pretty damn cool

Mim-mem method (the) – replacing language practice with transcendental meditation

Minimum adequate speech vocabulary – the words “whatever!”, “I”, “was”, “like”, “yer” and “right!”

Modal verbs- short for “modern yodelling verbs”

Mode of discourse – fashion for discourse analysts

Model text – the bits of writing on page 3 of The Sun

Monitor Model – Krashen’s theory that setting his minions loose to defend his ideas on TEFL forums like a bunch of classroom monitors doing the teacher’s dirty work was the best way to still get mileage out of his few ideas

Monophthong – only one pair of pants

Multiple choice- The problem with new TEFLers who have no idea where they want to teach

Narrow listening- Having BBC Radio 2 permanently on

Nasal – a sound produced through your nase

Native-speaker fallacy (the) – The tendency of native speakers to make up reasons for why student errors are wrong, when actually all they know is that it doesn’t sound right

Natural Approach – working your way towards the grammar point of the day without your grammar-hating teenage students realizing it

Negotiation of meaning- Trying to give students who are saying something incomprehensible an alternative, if entirely unconnected, thing to say

Non-finite clause –the opposite of an infinite clause (what French students produce when trying to do IELTS or CAE writing).

Non-verbal communication – sentences like “I very happy” and “I up my salary”

Non-voiced – Negative feedback to using games in class that doesn’t come out until the end of course feedback because they always seem to be having fun

Note-taking – a way of stopping budding classroom romances

Notion- the opposite of lotion

Notional syllabus – The vague idea that you should plan and do things in order

Noun declension – The release of tension when you decide to give learning the different cases in German, Greek etc.

Old High German – as spoken by aging hippies in Hamburg

Omissive errors- failing to mention that your lover has changed her haircut. Often contrasted with additive errors (mentioning that your lover has put on weight), and substitutive errors (mentioning that you have other options)

Open vowel – the opposite end to an open bowel

Opening move – students who are wondering about the point of the lesson reaching for their textbooks

Orchestration- Using a baton to try and make choral drilling less cacophonous

Overt errors- becoming camper and camper as you get more comfortable with your students, and then going too fa

P-marker – Noam Chomsky’s rapper name, used when he hangs out with his posse

PLE- Personal Learning Environment- Making a little castle out of books around you on the table so that you can concentrate on your studies

Pacing- The caged bear routine of a teacher with too many classroom hours, too little time and money to join a gym, and too little to do in a class that is mainly pairwork

Pairwork – Getting students to work together. The expression “pairwork” is used to illustrate that double (”pair”) the effort (”work”) is needed by the teacher (to explain what he wants the students to do) and students (to understand what the hell is going on) as compared with just doing it as a whole class

Paragraphing – going beyond graphs

Paralinguistic indicators of involvement – licking your lips

Paralinguistic – speaking like a para

Parsing- RP for “overtaking”

Particle- tiny words that students randomly stick in the wrong place when they are speaking

Partitives of location- house parties

Partitives of time- happy hour

Passive voice- the tone used by teenagers who are forced to drill, act something out or sing along

Pattern grammar- knitting irregular past tenses etc into a scarf to make sure you remember them forever

Paused listening- What is going on in the brain of a student who has got stuck on one word and so doesn’t hear another word

Pedagogic corpus- boring students to death with collocations

Peer observations – When your DoS* tries to see what you are up to from outside your classroom without being seen by you

Perfective- from “perfect defective”, a teacher who makes up with their lack of social life with excessive dedication to their classes

Performance errors- the classic beginner teacher mistake of asking shy students to stand at the front of the class and act out a dialogue

Performatives- Drama queens who are both naturals from their first moment in the classroom on the TEFL course and the biggest drains on trainer time

Perlocutionary effect – The effect of real coffee on teacher performance

Personal-response item- An activity that half your students hate and half love

Phatic communion- eating too many wafers when you manage to sneak into the priest’s room during Sunday mass

Phoneme- the smallest phone on which it is possible to make yourself understood

Phonological decoding- Trying to read your TEFL teacher boyfriend’s diary that he has written entirely in phonemic script to work out if he is cheating on you or not

Pitch- the place where you play pronunciation games

Placeholder words – “Keep my seat till I get back, can you?”

Plosive sounds – The sounds students make just before they explode, e.g. the first four sounds in “bu bu bu bu..but I DID DO MY HOMEWORK!!”

Plosive- a small town in Poland

Polywords- a beginner’s syllabus that is designed to stick to things even parrots can say

Post-reading tasks – “Ask me at least 5 more vocab questions about the text” (Please! We’ve got six minutes left and I’ve run out of material!)

Postmodern sociolinguistics- The banishing of the sociolinguistics department to the horrible faux-Greek building in a forgotten corner of the campus, because no one knows where else to stick them

Postmodifications- changing the written aim of your observed lesson quickly after you try it out on another group

Poverty of stimulus – Chomsky’s description of trying to teach with the textbook Language to Go

Pre-linguistic – not yet knowing that you’ll have to take an MA to get a decent TEFL job

Pre-modification- The difficult skill of adjusting your language to exactly Pre-Intermediate level

Pre-reading tasks – “Open your books” and “Find the text on page 32″

Prefix – Before having the snip

Prefix and suffix- Affixes* that go on the front (sub-, re- etc.) and back (-able, -ly etc.) of words, named after Asterix characters that always wandered into battle at the front of the phalanx not knowing how much trouble they were getting into (Prefix) or cowered at the back until Obelix found them (Suffix).

Process writing – spending so much time thinking about how you are going to write something that you get zero down on paper by the due date

Product-oriented talk – chatting about brands

Productive features- your encouraging but slightly desperate facial expressions as you try to force language out of shy students

Proof-reading – students deliberately giving their workbook or graded reader rabbit ears so it looks like they have been using it

Psychotypology- Analysing personality from people’s position over the keyboard

Question tag – what Surrealists attach to their check in baggage

Reading for specific information – a euphemism for just looking at the pictures

Ready made elements and chunks- the before and after of a Supersized MacDonald’s meal

Receptive skill – the skills of being a receptionist ,

Reeferents – stoners

Referential meaning- The real meaning of putting loads of references in your article (wanting to get noticed by the people you mention, hoping that it will make up for a lack of original ideas, etc)

Reflective teacher – one who is taking mirroring of body language too far

Reformulation- Using the same grammar explanation in almost every class

Relative clauses- Also “Relative Klauses”. Nazis in your family who you pretend don’t exist. Particularly common problem when doing family trees with surprisingly blond Latin American students

Relevance theory – the idea that TEFL books can only have relevance to your lessons or be based on theory, not both

Relexicalisation- going through your lesson plan and replacing half the words with TEFL jargon

Revised extended standard theory (the) – the idea that ELT publishers can best serve their customers by releasing a New Headway New Edition with lots of expensive extras that will all have to be thrown away in two years when Brand Spanking New Headway Shiny Edition comes out

Rubrics- Textbook answer keys. The word “rubric” comes from “Rubric’s Cube”, because the aim is to make them as difficult to use as possible, e.g. by adding deliberate mistakes and making sure that the whole key is never on just one page

Rule-space technique (the) – Slow dancing with summer school students while keeping a regular 12 inches between you

SLA – Second Language Acquisition- The theory that you are guaranteed to learn a language if you just spend enough money on it

STT – Stupid Talking Time- How long you should let a student talk after you realize they’ve got completely the wrong idea of what you are trying to elicit or the topic of conversation.

Scaffolding – Interactional support from the teacher during a speaking activity. Teachers who specialize in this kind of instruction are called “scaffolders”, because real scaffolders are such well mannered, well dressed and well educated model employees

Scavenging- Finding your next classroom activity in the scrap paper tray

Schema – The back stabbing ADoS who will eventually fight their way up to School Manager

School Principal – In a school where the DoS* only has responsibility for academic matters, “School Principal” is often used as the title of the school’s business manager. Please note from the spelling of “principal” that the duties of this job should not be confused with “school manager with principles”, an outdated concept that died out in the early 90s

Schwa- a very small kebab

Secondary stress – caused by teaching teenagers

Self-talk- brought about by being the only native speaker teacher in a school for too long

Semantic associations- wife swapping clubs

Semi-modal verbs- as used by lower middle class social climbers in semi detached houses, e.g. “May I…?” when they mean “Could I…?”

Semiotic- half an otic (approximately 3 gallons)

Sensei – This Japanese word was originally only used for martial arts teachers such as the one in the movie Karate Kid, but was ironically extended to include Eikaiwa* teachers in order to illustrate (a) Japanese students ability to unquestioningly do years of seemingly pointless “wax on/wax off” type exercises (b) that Japanese students think that the chances of communicating successfully in English is about the same of kicking someone in the face when you are supporting yourself on your only uninjured leg

Sentence adverbials- forcing students to learn adverb word order as a punishment

Sentence builders- construction workers with a criminal record

Sentence stress – students getting more and more het up as they realise that they don’t know how to finish what they are saying

Sentence transformations- The DNA-replication type process that happens to students’ sentences between their brains and their mouths

Silent Way (The) – A largely unsuccessful attempt to teach a language by spending the whole lesson standing at the front of the class with your arms crossed staring angrily at the students like your school teacher when he’d given up on yelling as a way of making the class shut up. As with its original inspiration, the only things a Silent Way teacher was allowed to say were “I can wait all day”, “It’s not my time you’re wasting, it’s your own” and “Whenever you’re ready, gentlemen”. Other even less successful attempts to turn school teacher disciplinary tricks into entire language learning methodologies include the Hysterical Hissy Fit Way, the Throwing the Board Eraser Way and the Throat-clearing Way

Silent Way(The) – A method originating with Gattegno and widely adopted in Asia in which the teacher keeps nattering on to cover the uncomfortable silence left by the students’ incomprehension of the game and unwillingness to speak

Silent period – Krashen suggested that students, especially East Asians, should be given a silent period of 5 or 10 minutes to respond to each question

Skimming – like a stone bouncing on a lake, being able to get through the whole class whilst only having to explain three or four pieces of language, due to “concentrating on skills”

Social constructivism- Building to keep people in work rather than from a desire to build anything attractive or useful, a popular strategy in East Asia

Sociocultural theory- The idea that TEFL teachers who fit in well with their new country do so because they had no social skills back home

Sociolinguist – Abbreviation of “sociopathological linguist”

Spacing- The distant and glazed look in the eyes of students who have just finished a long textbook listening

Speech act theory – the idea that talking about it is better than doing anything

Speech rate- How much students have to pay for every word they are allowed to say in class

Stakeholders- The teachers who have been armed and told to stand by in case the night-loving and incredibly pale teacher who never seems to eat anything really does turn out to be a vampire

Stance – the way people show their personal attitude to what they are hearing or reading. As the word originally comes from how people stand, in linguistics stance language is divided into categories based on body language, e.g. ‘hands on hip stance language’ and ‘I’m a little tea pot stance language’.

Standard exercises- Stretches that teachers can do in class without making their restlessness too obvious, such as rocking back and forth on the balls of their feet like a 1950s bobby

Subordinating conjunctions- handcuffs etc.

Subskill – being able to survive covering someone’s class but not being so good as to show the usual teacher up

Substitution drill- the tool used to make a hole in the skull through which you can remove students’ reluctance to speak if they could possibly make a mistake

Suggestopedia – This method of putting language learners into a hypnotic state through comfortable chairs and relaxing music was discredited in the late eighties when the teacher scripts were discovered to consist mainly of repeated phrases like “You will not get stressed about learning nothing” and “You can increase your TOEIC score by buying your teacher a drink”

Surface structure – skimming over a grammatical explanation in class, moving onto the speaking exercise quickly before the students spot the exceptions

Synonyms – names your mother calls you when you’ve been naughty

Syntactic nut – someone whose enthusiasm for Chomsky has driven them insane

Syntax – A swear box for grammar mistakes

TBLT – Task Based Lettuce and Tomato The “strong form of TBLT” includes English mustard, while the “weak form of TBLT” only has mayonnaise

TEI – Teacher Effectiveness Index- Often confused with TIE (Teacher Index Effectiveness), which is a number to represent a teacher’s ability to put book in the teachers’ room back in order.

TLA – In his book “Teacher Language Awareness”, Stephen Andrews controversially claims that “in order to do their jobs well, teacher must be aware that there are languages”(pg.1729), to which the famous repost on the Humanizing Language Teaching website was “Hey Stevie man, chill out! Fascist!”

TOEFL – Test of English with Fluency Lacking – A test of English in which you can get full marks without speaking one word. Originally developed only for people who have physical problems with their voice box, eventually having been through an East Asian education system was accepted as a disability and it soon became one of the leading tests in Japan, China and Korea

TPR – Total Physical Response- The reaction from students to mention of a test or extra homework

TPRA (Total Physical Response for Adults) – using activities like the song “YMCA” with actions with classes such as Business English. This ultimate proof of English teaching technique is often used near the end of a TEFL career.

TTT – Teacher Talking Time. According to modern SLA* theories, the amount of TTT should be reduced, preferably at the same rate as TEFL wages are going down. This is so that the amount of effort you put in per pound remains stable.

Target language- A specialization of English for Sporting Purposes

Target language- ponsy things that will cause you to get bullied

Teachability hypothesis – Pienemann’s theory that you need to soften a student up with humiliation for a while in order to make them malleable enough for instruction

Teacher as facilitator – seeing the role of an educator as providing oversimplifications and endless meaningless encouraging noises

Tenor of Discourse (the) – the first and only discourse analysis oper

Terminology- seeing all other Applied Linguists as ants that need to be crushed

Top down processing- Only the managers getting computers

Top-down strategies- Students who go straight to the DoS to complain about anything and everything the minute they find out that they have failed the test or been caught cheating

Topic sentence – one about nuts and/ or chocolate

Transcriptions of classroom discourse- A teacher quickly writing an amusing mistake down to share with the other teachers at lunchtime

Transformation – the evangelical zeal that comes over some people when they convert to Chomskianism

Universal Grammar – formerly “Miss Universal Grammar”

Universal worksheets- Ones that you use in absolutely every class, no matter what level or how vague their connection to the topic at hand

Unstressed – the brief period between finishing your CELTA and being offered your first teaching job

Vague language- student utterances that vaguely resemble language

Vague tags – unhelpful things to hang on your luggage, such as “Property of John”

Vocabulary item – a must-have piece of vocab

Vocal tract position – a less stubborn version of a “vocal intractable position”

Vocatives – the functions on a karaoke machine

Vowels – Sounds that are made without any significant obstruction or constriction. The word is derived by shortening the phrase “v(ery loose b)owels”

Vygotskyan sociocultural theory of learning – The idea that if you tell students your classes are “Vygotskyan” and manage to pronounce and spell it right, they will trust everything you do from then, even if you and they have no idea what it means

Warmer – An activity that fulfills the role of classroom heating, such as star jumps, group hugs or burning vocabulary lists they have learnt

Washback effect – The build up of spit in the mouth by Spanish speaking students trying to pronounce /h/ properly

Weak form- the typical body type of a TEFL teacher

Weak interface position – A Japanese handshake

Word Frequency Counts – the aristocrats of corpus linguistics

Word families – households in which all members are pedants

Word order- demanding that all students produce at least one word

Word stress – anxiety caused by vocabulary in the text that the teacher knows they can’t explain

ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) – The short period of time during which it is acceptable to ask a student out on a date

Zero article – This is the ‘invisible’ article used instead of ‘a’/’an’ or ‘the’ when you are referring to something general using a plural or uncountable noun, e.g. “- apples grow on trees”. Native speakers use a tiny, almost unnoticeable hiccupping movement of the diaphragm to mark the zero article. You can develop this skill in students by having them cough or hiccup loudly when they use a zero article and then gradually reduce the noise as they go up in language level.

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4 Responses to The Complete Alternative Dictionary of ELT and Linguistics

  1. Cat says:

    Dogme – what teachers claim they are muttering when they open the course book to find a double page of question tags under the title “It was a good day, wasn’t it Sally?” or any reading text featuring a man (hopefully not real) called Seamus McSporran.

    The TEFL version of when your grandmother says, “Sh…ugar”.

  2. Alex Case says:

    Thanks, keep them coming!

  3. Cem Can says:

    One more to add:
    EFL – English for Losers

    Best,
    C.C.

  4. Tom Brown says:

    TBL – Test Based Learning – Teaching English to pass a test
    IELTS – Insane English Language Testing Syndrome – a pandemic disease in East Asian countries that forces people to spend millions of dollars on learning English

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