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Phrase of the day: cut your teeth
I usually try and avoid central London at this time of year. Streets like Tottenham Court Road are jam-packed at
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Intermediate word of the day: agenda
Today’s word is agenda. The main meaning of agenda is a list of all the things that need to be
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Phrase of the day: all the trimmings
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over twenty years of teaching foreign students here in the UK it’s that English
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Intermediate word of the day: restore
When you restore something, you make it good again or make it exist again after a time when it was
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Phrase of the day: smash it
Every now and then, a phrase comes along that makes you feel really old. I’m not talking about things like
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Intermediate word of the day: anniversary
An anniversary is a date when you celebrate something good that happened on the same date in a previous year
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Word of the day: bling
When I was in the last two years of secondary school, I did History A-level, and spent quite a lot
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Intermediate word of the day: resignation
When someone resigns from a job, they publicly say they are going to stop doing it. The noun is resignation. 
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Word of the day: bolshie
Last Wednesday marked the centenary (the 100th anniversary) of the 1917 Russian revolution. In March that year, Nicholas II, the
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Intermediate word of the day: suicide
Suicide is the act of deliberately killing yourself. There are a number of different ways that people usually commit suicide:
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Word of the day: faff
Over the last few days, I’ve been in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, running a teacher development seminar for around
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Intermediate word of the day: allegation
An allegation is a public statement saying that someone has done something wrong or illegal, even though this has not
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Chunk of the day: famous last words
As some of you may know, my father died recently after a relatively short battle with cancer. He was 87,
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Complicating the coursebook debate: part 4
In this post, I’m going to look at how I would use the material from Outcomes Intermediate that I mentioned
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Intermediate word of the day: mortgage
A mortgage is a special kind of loan – money we borrow from a bank from a bank – that
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Word of the day: hardcore
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to run a two-day teacher development course in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. One evening, a few
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Intermediate word of the day: embrace
Embrace literally means to put your arms around someone, but in conversation we more often use the word hug –
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Word of the day: kinky
To use one of those understatements that we’re apparently so well known for, the English are not exactly famous for
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On the over-use of concept-checking questions: part 2
I recently wrote a post outlining why I’m not a fan of using concept-checking questions – CCQs – when dealing
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Intermediate word of the day: peak
If something peaks, it reaches its highest or best point, value or level of skill before then becoming worse, lower
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Phrase of the day: slap bang in the middle
Onomatopoeia is a strange thing. Officially, it’s the use of words that supposedly sound like the sounds they refer to.
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On the over-use of concept-checking questions: part 1
There aren’t many things that I think should be comprehensively banned from EFL classrooms, but the use of closed CCQs
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Intermediate word of the day: ban
If you ban something, you say officially that people must not do, sell or use it. People can also be
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Word of the day: hangover
Now I know what you’re probably thinking: this is bound to be a post about the kind of hangover you
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Intermediate word of the day: protest
When you protest against something or you protest in support of something, you do something to show that you are
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Phrase of the day: either or
As many of you will know, prepositional use in English is a particularly problematic area for learners. Imagine your frustration
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Something better change: taking a stand against gender bias in ELT
Earlier this year I spoke at the very first International Language Symposium in Brno, the second-biggest city in the Czech
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Intermediate word of the day: negotiations
Negotiations happen when different people or organisations both want one thing to happen – they want to form a government,
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Phrase of the day: one for the road
As you may have noticed from our last post, we ran our first-ever Lexical Lab summer school in London this
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Phrase of the day: I think not
One of the courses we ran this July as part of our very first Lexical Lab summer school was ADVANCED
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Word of the day: off grid
Like many people, I find it difficult to turn off and may even suffer from a mild version of what
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Perspectives: a brand new high-school series!
For much of the last year, one of our main writing projects has been the Upper-Intermediate level of a forthcoming
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Teaching lexically
July 2nd – July 13th 2018 40 hours* £640** Outline Our Teaching Lexically course offers you the opportunity to take
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Advanced language and culture
July 2nd – July 13th 2018 48 hours including visits* £680** Outline Advanced Language and Culture is a short course
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Developing materials
July 16th – July 20th 2018 25 hours* £385** Outline Most teachers will write for their class at some point,
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Better testing and assessment
July 23rd – July 27th 2018 25 hours* £385** Outline All teachers are involved in testing and assessment of different
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English Boost
July 30th – August 10th 2018 48 hours (including visits)* £680** Outline Do you feel your English has gone a
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Grammar nonsense 5 (and some curiosities): indirect questions
I can’t quite decide if the EFL view of indirect questions is pure foolishness or more a question of a
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Word of the day: atrocity
Like many of you, I suppose, I woke yesterday morning to the appalling news coming out of Manchester. American pop
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Phrase of the day: rule of thumb
My mother turned 70 last month and to celebrate we took her to Majorca for a week-long break. We rented
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Complicating the coursebook debate part 3: coursebook use
Today’s post follows on from another recent post that looked at some of the so-called false assumptions that supposedly lie
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Phrase of the day: go pear-shaped
Last night I was at our local pub quiz. For anyone who hasn’t experienced this, basically it’s an excuse for
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Word of the day: ransom
Over the last few days, the news here in the UK has been dominated by the hackers currently holding the
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When porridge is not porridge: dealing with culturally specific phenomena in English
It happens to me almost every time I’m in Russia. In fact, it’s happened so many times now that I’ve
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Word of the day: landslide
As you’ve probably noticed, France has elected a new president. From a British point of view, the French system is
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Word of the day: professional
When I was in Norilsk, in the far north of Russia earlier this year, I was lucky enough to have
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Phrase of the day: a big If
We use the phrase that’s / it’s a big if to show that we realise that what we are about
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Phrase of the day: Time is of the essence
Over recent weeks, we’ve been taking a fair few bookings for what will be our first ever London summer school.
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Word of the day: pimp
A few weeks ago, I ran a teacher development course in Norilsk, Siberia. In one session, we were talking about
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Complicating the coursebook debate part 2: can’t we just be friends?
This week I thought I would take a break from the grammar series (to be continued!) and pick up on
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Phrase of the day: two-fingered salute
At some point during most courses we run, we end up taking whichever students are up for it to the
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Word of the day: snap
For many years, Britain had a reputation around the world for stability. Rightly or wrongly, it was widely believed that
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Word of the day: allotment
Is it a sign that I am fully middle-aged, not to say old, that I have just nipped down the
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Phrase of the day: deeply divided
Last Sunday, Turkey went to the polls to vote on whether to approve 18 proposed amendments to the Turkish constitution that
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Phrase of the day: the mother of all
Last week, the US military dropped the largest conventional (i.e. non-nuclear) bomb it has ever used in combat on an
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Grammar curiosities 2: relative clauses
Too much choice So in my last post I did ask if anyone had any good ideas about contexts for
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Phrase of the day: second wind
I spent last week at the annual IATEFL conference, which this year was held in Glasgow. I’ve been speaking at
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Phrase of the day: do time
I was chatting to a Spanish friend of mine the other day and she was telling me the sorry story
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Phrase of the day: have a good innings
In one of my classes recently, we were looking at vocabulary connected to illnesses and there was a sentence about
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Word of the day: palaver
During my trip to Norilsk last week, I managed to squeeze in a day trip to Dudinka, a small port
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Phrase of the day: pots and kettles
Going dutch and other negative traits So last week I was in the Netherlands and I was chatting with a group
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Phrase of the day: above and beyond the call of duty
One of the delights of teaching foreign students in my home city of London is that I get to see
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Phrase of the day: to all intents and purposes
I was lucky enough to spend all of last week in Norilsk, the most northerly city in the world. I
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Grammar nonsense 4: relative clauses
This is less a post about the craziness of description and more one about the way grammar is presented and
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Word of the day: vanilla
These days, there’s no shame in looking online for a partner. Indeed, it’s all the rage in certain circles. The
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Phrase of the day: get (back) in the swing of things
I hate goodbyes. Always have done, and always will do. I’ve certainly never understood where there’s a good in goodbye,
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Teaching in troubled times: Trump, tackling tensions and resting easy!
We live in troubled times. We’re living through an age in which immigrants are routinely scapegoated and blamed for all
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Phrase of the day: hair of the dog
For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to see the world. It’s been one of my burnings
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Phrase of the day: forewarned is forearmed
I’ve spent the last few days working with some wonderful Russian teachers in the city of Saratov, which is on
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Grammar nonsense 3: the use of the word grammar
So the other day, I opened my inbox and found an email encouraging me to celebrate March the 4th, ‘World
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Phrase of the day: damn with faint praise
I was chatting to a friend of mine the other day about the school he’s recently started working at. I
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Phrase of the day: anything but
I was flicking through the in-flight magazine on the plane home from Spain last Sunday evening and came across an
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Phrase of the day: on the town
As you may have read in yesterday’s post, I spent the weekend in Elche in Spain. I flew out to
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Phrase of the day: even if I do say so myself
I’ve been lucky enough to have spent this weekend in the beautiful city of Elche on the south-east coast of
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Grammar nonsense 2: stative verbs
Exceptions – it’s not you, it’s me. A lot of grammar nonsense comes from labels that we use and that
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Phrase of the day: make a (right) meal of
Some people have sensible hobbies that help them relax in whatever time off work they manage to get. Maybe they
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Word of the day: baby boomers
Over 400,000 British people people died during the Second World War, the vast majority of them men. Now, while this
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Phrase of the day: in a home
The initial spark for this word of the day came from a discussion we had with a user of our
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Phrase of the day: get the hang of
Yesterday morning, I took my four-year-old son trampolining. It was the first time he’d ever been and even though he
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Grammar curiosities 1: reported speech
The first post in our series on grammar nonsense got quite a lot of discussion going and it seemed that
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Phrase of the day: can’t get the staff!
We’ve had quite a hectic week this week. We’re putting the finishing touches to a high school book we’ve been
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Word of the day: endorse
Like many of you out there, I suspect, I’m a rather reluctant user of LinkedIn. The site bills itself as
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Word of the day: mecca
As you probably know, the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is of vital importance in Islam. It was
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Phrase of the day: You wait ages for a bus . . .
London has much to to be proud of, but you’d be hard pushed to find anyone willing to praise the
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Grammar nonsense 1: reported speech
Is there anything that is more bizarrely and unnecessarily taught in ELT than reported speech? There have been many times
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Word of the day: bugbear
A bugbear is a pet hate – a small thing that annoys you and that you probably moan about to
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Word of the day: snowflake
London had its first real sprinkling of snow last weekend. It wasn’t that exciting, to be honest: a couple of
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Word of the day: crush
It’s Valentine’s Day today, the one day of the year when married men panic buy the last sad bunches of
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Word of the day: zero hours
It’s the question every father dreads being asked by their children. “Daddy?” a little voice will ask one day, “what’s
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Phrase of the day: Not just a pretty face
Not just a pretty face originated following the Second World War with the beginnings of feminism. It was used by
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Word of the day: radicalise
If a person is radicalised, something or someone makes them become more radical, more extreme in their political or religious
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Word of the day: tipping point
I don’t know about you, but I love the game Jenga. I mean, what’s not to like? It has everything you
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Phrase of the day: in the wake of
About two minutes’ walk from my house in north London is a wonderful Turkish supermarket and bakery called Yasar Halim.
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Word of the day: pardon
I started teaching English as a Foreign Language back in 1993, and over the years I’ve learned lots of things
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Phrase of the day: the straight and narrow
I’m not a huge fan of Twitter, but one of the real pleasures of the service is Very British Problems,
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Phrase of the day: Shame on you!
The idea of shame is a strange one. Traditionally, shame was usually associated with an uncomfortable and unpleasant feeling of
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Phrase of the day: the gig economy
Last Saturday night I went to see some old friends from France playing in a great rock’n’roll band called Chrome
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Phrase of the day: not on speaking terms
Over the weekend I saw a friend of mine who last year had some similar experiences to me as he’d
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Phrase of the day: It keeps me off the streets
I was chatting online with a friend in Ukraine the other day. She’d asked me what I’d been up to
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Phrase of the day: Onwards and upwards
The publication of this post marks the end of our first full week of WORD OF THE DAY over here
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Phrase of the day: Tell it to the judge!
A couple of weeks ago, as part of the ADVANCED LANGUAGE AND CULTURE course I was teaching at the time,
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Word of the day: pivot
There’s an ancient Greek myth about a king called Sisyphus, who committed a terrible crime against the gods and was
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Phrase of the day: a weight off my mind
The last few weeks have been particularly stressful. Firstly, there’s my father-in-law, who suffered a terrible fall at the end
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Phrase of the day: bite off more than you can chew
About a year ago, after a chance meeting with a friend of a friend, who had a beautiful Grade II
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It’s all in the Mind: Neurobiology and the Lexical Approach
Today we’re proud to present a guest post from Bruno Leys, who works at VIVES University College, Bruges, Belgium. Bruno
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Phrase of the day: against all odds / against the odds
If you haven’t heard already, Leicester City won the Premier League title this week against all odds. They have one
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The best improvisation is prepared improvisation
One of the great delights of the annual IATEFL conference is seeing young teachers find their own voices and deliver
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Phrase of the day: come in for criticism
President Obama has come in for criticism from BREXIT campaigners after commenting on the upcoming referendum The government has come
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IH Torun Teacher Development day: April 2016
I’m just back from three wonderful days in the beautiful Polish city of Torun. Great to meet so many people
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CELTA, the native-speaker bias and possible paths forward
Last week at IATEFL, Silvana Richardson delivered a rousing, righteous plenary tracing the historical roots of – and critiquing –
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Seville, Spain
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Krakow, Poland
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Phrase of the day: What time…?
Now, some of you may have been thinking that ‘chunk of the day’ had turned into ‘chunk of the month’
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When are questions and teacher talk too much?
We recently had a query from a reader regarding the kind of language-generating concept questions we advocate. Basically, he had received
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Everything you ever wanted to know about snowclones, but were afraid to ask.
Several years ago now, I wrote a conference talk entitled – rather wittily, I felt – What have corpora ever
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5 Different collocations or units of meaning = different networks of words
We saw in the second post in this series that coming up with clear-cut definitions of single words is difficult
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Complicating the anti-coursebook debate: Part 1
As some of you may be aware, there’s been a fair bit of coursebook bashing going on in the blogosphere
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Making active and creative use of all the languages in your classroom.
I was recently at the third annual BELTA Day conference in Brussels, organised by the excellent Belgian English Language Teachers’
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Politics, pronunciation and the pursuit of perfection
Tomorrow is election day here in the United Kingdom, and it looks set to be one of the most unpredictable
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Asking more: why some questions are better than others
There’s an old saying that claims questions are never dangerous – only answers are. Well, a recent presentation I saw
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Questions about words
In my talk at IATEFL (and International House London, where a video was made of it), I explained some of
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Van Gogh’s ear and wordlists
We’ve had a suggested adaptation of some material from a teacher, Amber Nowak, in the Netherlands. It’s a little bit
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The Lexical Approach and natural selection
Today we’re pleased to be able to bring you a guest post by Dr. Ivor Timmis. Ivor works at Leeds
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In so many words: on the importance and shape of vocabulary lists
Today we’re delighted to feature a guest post by Bruno Leys. Bruno works at VIVES University College in Bruges, Belgium.
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Phrase of the day: in the run-up to
As many of you may be aware, there’s a general election here in the UK in just a couple of
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When less is more: freeing students from the burden of choice
There’s a reason why Starbucks will never catch on it Italy. Go to any branch of the global chain and
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Two-way translation in the multilingual classroom
I’m just back from Turkey, where I delivered a one-day workshop on teaching grammar through International House in Izmir. One
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Thoughts on teaching grammar: part four
I finished teaching the Focus On Grammar course I’d been doing one evening a week at IH London last night.
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If you ask me … the problem with opening gambits
Many moons ago, I enjoyed a brief and intense love affair with a book by Eric Keller and Sylvia Warner
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4 Language is patterned
We have already see that one problem with the grammar + words view of language is that words are difficult
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Phrase of the day: on the way
I went to visit my parents yesterday and on the way there, I was thinking about the number of times
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Phrase of the day: It’s alright for some!
This week, a friend of mine in France sent me a message via Facebook asking if I’d got a copy
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Phrasal verbs: myths and realities
Last year I was lucky enough to attend the PASE conference in Warsaw, where I saw a locally based teacher,
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Phrase of the day: would’ve thought
Last Wednesday evening, I took a train from Preston back home to London. As we were nearing Euston station, I
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Yet more thoughts on teaching grammar
I’m now four weeks into the Focus on Grammar course I’m teaching at International House, London, which means only two
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The bottom line revisited
As with single words, we should look for opportunities to revise or recycle chunks. When we do so, it’s good
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ELT: In need of family therapy?
In my previous blogging incarnation on the CELT training site, I wrote about why lexical sets may be popular and
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Chunk of the day: the bottom line
In class yesterday, we looked at some vocabulary for describing different roles and duties people have at work. Students then
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3 Language is norm orientated
This use of the word norms here is inspired by Patrick Hanks’ recent book, Norms and Exploitations. It’s just the
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Further thoughts on teaching grammar
Last week, I posted up a few thoughts I’d had on starting to teach (at IH London) a part-time, six-week
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Phrase of the day: It’s not as though
I had two conversations last night which featured this chunk. The first one was with a friend who was moaning
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Some reflections on the universal panacea
Last week I started teaching a six-week evening course at International House, London. For someone with such a keen interest
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2 Words are difficult to define
We recently had an email about the text on one part of our website, where this question was asked –
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Chunk of the day: Where’s the best place to …?
This weekend sees the big match in north London between Arsenal and Tottenham. Among discussions about who has the best
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Word of the day: pop
One of the best things about adopting a more lexical view of language is that you start to appreciate more
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Still cutting up cards! Activities for storing and retrieving chunks
We’re delighted to feature our very first guest post. At IATEFL Harrogate last year, one of the sessions we enjoyed
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Exploiting self-study phrasal verb exercises in the classroom
I’m very pleased today to be able to respond to the first request we’ve had in from a visitor. Patrick
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Phrase of the day: What’s not to like?
We’ve often said that what strikes us most about the many incredibly competent non-natives we meet in our field is
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Phrase of the day: nothing if not
Listening to a Radio 4 review programme the other day, I was struck by the description of quirky Icelandic singer
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Saying it is one thing; meaning it is another.
Jon Wright is the author of the wonderful Idioms Organiser, for our money perhaps the best self-study book on idioms
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Phrase of the day: What’re you doing later?
Lots of very common chunks don’t get taught early enough in many course because they are seen as somehow being
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1 Lexis is more important than grammar
Absolutely central to lexical teaching is a view of language. A starting point on the road towards understanding this view
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Patterns beyond the past simple
The following grammar exercise on the past simple is from our book Outcomes Elementary (National Geographic Learning). Students complete the
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Chunk of the day: Just because . . . it doesn’t mean
We’ve both often had students act more than a little surprised at our apparently un-English ways. Smiling and being friendly
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Why teachers shouldn’t prefer blonde
I recently asked a couple of colleagues which word they thought was more frequent – arise or blonde. Almost immediately,
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Welcome to Lexical Lab
We were at a conference in Poland last year and a teacher we got talking to mentioned how excited he’d
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