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The Journal

September 2016

New Article Formats Adopted
- News, Miscellany
ESL Journal is moving with the trends of the times (unless they change again tomorrow morning, sigh). New professional articles will now appear in summary form in the Web Log, and the full contents will be available as downloadable PDFs linked from the summaries. This creates a more maintainable structure and reduces the preparation time needed for publication, so we can evaluate more articles. Hooray!

A Practical Approach to Teaching L2 Grammar
- Pedagogy
The communicative activity being introduced here has been designed for Japanese L2 intermediate level learners in mind. The emphasis is on the most frequently encountered grammatical problems that students face. The activity centers on a specific grammar point, which is clearly explained using examples and is included in the Teacher’s notes. The idea proposed is not new, but it is unique and will present grammar in a fun and interesting way. As stated by Ma Carmen Perez-Llantada (2007), if the goal of an instructor is to get students to use grammatical structures in a meaningful and constructive way, then we as teachers need to provide students with sufficient opportunities to use the grammatical structures in intriguing, thought provoking activities.

One of the most common mistakes teachers encounter with beginner level university students is with their inability to use the simple past tense correctly. This lesson addresses that issue and it also gets students to use WH-question words correctly. It is called Yumeijin (Famous person). It is best to provide and use information gap activities whenever possible because it brings students together to accomplish a specific task. In this activity, students are presented with information about the lives of two famous Japanese celebrities and in pairs they will work together to determine the missing information. The missing information will elicit responses using the simple past tense and the use of WH-question words. A more detailed description of this activity is listed in the Teacher’s Notes.

The grammar activity is flexible and can be used in classes of all sizes. In the Teacher’s Notes, there is an indication of how much time should be spent on this activity. However, it should be up to the teacher to determine how thoroughly they want to exploit it. The exercise can be used as a warm-up in the beginning of a lesson or at the end as revision. It can also be used as the main focus of a lesson if the instructor so desires. Enclosed in the Teacher’s Notes is a detailed description of what needs to be prepared before the class begins. There are suggestions on how to introduce the activity and encouragement to teachers on how to revise the grammar activities and manipulate them in a way they see fit.

With this exercise, collaborative learning is encouraged. There is a real advantage of working in pairs or groups because interaction among students gives everyone a chance to speak in a non-threatening environment. When working in pairs or groups, students can learn from each other in a natural way and are allowed to be free from the constraints of the classroom. In essence, peer interaction in activities that optimize opportunities for L2 practice, meaning, negotiation, and feedback exchange, are conducive to L2 learning.

To properly utilize this activity, the role of the instructor is to facilitate communication by spending time with each group in the class. If things are going well, students should be encouraged to move on. If things are not going well, the instructor should offer assistance and encouragement. It is wise to keep notes of the common mistakes that occur over and over again so that they can be addressed.

The activity offers an optimal environment for teaching grammar implicitly, but in order to make a lesson complete it is necessary to have feedback sessions and follow-up tasks conducted at the end of each class. It is also necessary to have some sort of evaluation process done in order to ascertain whether the students actually understand the grammar being presented. How to successfully implement corrective feedback sessions, follow-ups, and rubric for evaluating learner awareness is a topic for further discussion.

The purpose of this learner awareness activity is to introduce a grammar focus in a fun and interesting way for L2 learners. The topic is global and of interest particularly to Japanese college level students and it is organized in such a way that allows the students to feel as if they are not actually participating in a grammar activity. According to McLaughlin, Rossman and McLeod (1983), repeated practice with exercises that emphasize practical use of grammatical structures, can lead to the development of automatic routines that formulate into an innate (like?) understanding of the grammatical rules. With a heavy emphasis on interaction and implicit instruction laid out in this activity, this goal can be achieved.


McLaughlin, B., Rossman, T., & McLeod, B. (1983). Second Language Learning: An information–processing perspective. Language Learning. 33.

Ma Carmen Perez-Llantada. (2007). New Trends In Grammar Teaching: Issues and applications. Atlantis. 158.

About the Author

Originally from San Diego, Gregg Romano moved to Tokyo Japan in 1998 and lived there until 2005. He taught English at various universities throughout the Tokyo Metropolitan area during that time. Since 2005, he has been residing in Honolulu Hawaii and has been teaching ESOL courses at Kapiolani Community College. He is continually searching for new ways to increase learner performance through implicit target language instruction via the utilization of current global topics and issues. The sharing of ideas and discussions about topics related to ESL is a passion of his.

Download PDF version with aids, exercises...

April 2013

Semantic and Lexical Issues in Writings by Korean Children
- Pedagogy
This paper discusses the results of a study which investigated the lexical difficulties faced by Korean children with regard to their writing in English. The study involved 10 children aged 12 – 13 who attended an English summer camp at a university in Seoul, in which they studied both English speaking and writing skills. In terms of writing output, the students produced a total of seven written assignments, both personal and academic in nature. Thus, 70 pieces of writing, ranging in length from a page to a page and a half, were analyzed as part of this study. In terms of the lexical problems faced by the students, I used a categorization system to help create a more systematic focus (--and word choices are categorized by clarity of meaning -Ed.).

Category one involves a word choice(s) which involves a rather unnatural style; using words which did not communicate as naturally as others might, though displaying semantic clarity nonetheless. This can be seen in using expressions such as ‘the living area’ when referring to animals’ place of residence, when ‘habitat’ would clearly be a more natural, hence better, choice.

Category two involves lexical choices which lack semantic clarity and whose ultimate meaning was therefore not discernible, even from the full context of the student’s essay.

Category three involves the use of a word(s) which, while creating clarity in meaning, nonetheless results in an inappropriate meaning. This can be seen in the use of the word ‘fondled’, as in I fondled my cat, when the appropriate word would be ‘stroked’ instead.

I relied on follow-up discussions with each of the ten students in order to clarify their writing and word choices within, as a means to confirm that the correct categorization had been applied to each of their lexical choices which had been flagged as otherwise problematic.

Overall analysis reveals that the main lexical issue with the students’ writing falls within category two – words whose ultimate meaning is not made clear by the word(s) chosen. This is partly due to reliance on bilingual dictionaries, which can suggest English words for the Korean counterpart which do not necessarily translate well. However, dictionary usage was not found to be prominent among the students in general and their questionnaire responses might therefore reveal more. Specifically, the point many students made, though obvious, is that as they are clearly not native speakers of English, they simply lack the native intuition to know which might be the best word to fit within a given context, especially when confronted with a variety of choices.

A suggestion put forward, and one I acknowledge might already be seen within English classes in Korea (and elsewhere), is that there needs to be a focus in the classroom that goes beyond word definitions and grammar, and one which incorporates style – essentially, helping students to understand the importance of the context as the ultimate means to then select the ‘right’ word. The student feedback indicates an appreciation of this approach taken in their summer camp instruction, in which a three-part approach, namely grammar + meaning + style, helped them to speak, in the words of one student, like ‘a native’.

Download the full article (PDF)

December 2011

Respond, but be slow to react
- News, Miscellany
(By Prof. V. Prakash) We cannot imagine a world without communication. At the same time, from time immemorial, communication has been the cause of worry to the civilized world. There can be no prescriptions if one decides to put across the subject matter in a clumsy manner; rather many suggestions come to the fore when a cultured way of speaking is the intended method of delivery. Innumerable strategies have surfaced depending on the needs of the changing world. The workplace atmosphere paves room for learning and handling newer ways of interaction to keep the game going.

Anatomists will point out that eyes and ears are seated closer to the brain than the tongue. The signals from the eyes and the ears transmit meaning to the head and then send responses through the tongue. Hence, it is not surprising that the signaling will naturally have time delay. Shall we not accept this physical impediment and find ways to refine our communication?

Passive listening is the normal course of response when we are slow to decode the sender’s intentions. However, many a time the same type of repeated passive listening will not bring encouraging results. All of us are aware that active listening includes responses and it is good to remember the truth that a meaningful response brings forth more information and allows more time to gather facts before taking any further step. This reduces considerably the chances of letting your preconceived notions come into play.

Sometimes your reputation may be hindered due to your reaction to a minor argument. This caution helps you to cultivate a habit of responding carefully even in times of crisis. Introspection is essential especially during testing times.
Belief systems are to change about responding - “I am inferior if I do not react. I am inferior if I do not shout back.” – may not hold water for all occasions. Remaining calm is a sign of maturity, not inferiority. One cannot command respect just by shouting. Focus should be on the situation and not just on the person. Strategies are to be changed depending on the person with whom we are interacting.

“When to remain calm? How to remain calm at crucial points? Are there rules for it?” - these are questions to be answered with common sense. Sometimes you gain importance by remaining calm; sometimes decisions may go against you. You have to speak up, but let it be in the end, making yourself clear about your stand.
This attitude speaks a lot about your maturity and personality. Be flexible and adaptable. Be ready to accept that life situations are the greatest trainers. Each situation is different from the other and each one is to be faced based on its merit. However, the storage of information about communicating makes one fit to handle crucial moments.

You can launch on a smooth runner by using the frames of complimentary communication. Complimentary communication puts the listener and the speaker in the same realm of understanding. The agreement tone, soft speaking and polite language help a lot in this. Cross Communication reflects the hasty temperament of the listener. He/she will be motivated to speak rather than to listen and most often meaningful exchanges are hampered by cross talking. Cross communication doesn’t allow time to the brain to understand and to react and brings forth often unproductive results in the world of mutual understanding. While conversing one should look for content and intent and definitely time delay is a prerequisite factor. Listen, grasp and speak is the safest mode of playing the cord. On a few occasions, one can also initiate and continue with ulterior communication with an intention to get things done. An intelligent partner of a conversation can easily identify that one using ulterior communication comes with prejudices and preplanning. When the intent is evident, how can there be a healthy exchange of ideas?

Hence it is clear that responses are highly dependent on the strategies used. A ball hit on the face will cause pain, but a ball hit against the wall will bounce. Look at the three patterns of strategies used and the responses they bring.

  1. A communication block (usually a generalization or an outpour)
    We are wasting our time. This plan will not definitely work.”
    An aggressive response
    I know this will not work. You implement if you like.
  2. A weak form of communication (with a tendency to please all)
    “I request you to kindly honour my appeal with a favourable tone.”
    A submissive response
    “Since you have all decided, I fall in line with your opinion.”
  3. An effective communication
    “I expected you to be here at least by 5 p.m. We were supposed to start the programme at 5.15. Shall we start our discussions immediately?”
    An assertive response
    “I wish that the plan (could be) shelved for the time being. If most of the members of this committee feel that it has to be put into force, we can discuss various issues in detail.”

It is good to learn contexts familiar and unfamiliar, expected and unexpected, plain and tricky and to keep ourselves equipped with a sprint of thoughts.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

September 2010

TESL for the World of Work
- Pedagogy
V. Prakash argues that ESL should address the real needs of students, who primarily need English as a career skill. He points out that ESL curricula and syllabi should not but often do reflect instead the more academic aspirations of administrators and school governance entities. He argues that syllabi should emerge from the felt needs of students and the need to perform productively in the world of work.

Read the Article

Less, More, either, both? Toward practical outcomes
- Pedagogy
In her new article Less can be More, Gillian James of the University of Salford leads us toward contemporary speech and writing in frequently encountered media as a spur to encourage creative use of speech exercises promoting practical outcomes in everyday use of the new language. Clear examples are presented; any teacher should be able to expand on the theme in the context of their students' actual skills and needs.

Read the article

April 2009

Registration Form Repaired
- News, Miscellany
Our registration form is now working correctly after a temporary programming error. We invite your participation once again. Pre-existing registrations are unaffected.

December 2008

English: Not for the faint of heart
- News, Miscellany
You think English is easy? Try to explain these to a first-grader or your ESL class. Each sentence contains one word spelled the same with different pronunciation and meaning. Rules? What rules?

For example...

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce .

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse refuse.

(We have a million of 'em. Maybe not quite.)

4) Do the Polish polish their furniture?

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) A buck certainly does behave oddly when does appear.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France.

Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? Right? Wrong!

One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?

English-speaking people have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which one fills in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick'?

Let's Clear Something UP

(Or perhaps not.)

There is one two-letter word that may have more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.

We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stoppedUP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP...

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so, is time to shut UP!

One can find this opus in infinite variation on the 'net, but always - so far - without and indication of the original author. Perhaps, like English itself, it just growed.

The answer to the confusion, of course, is that English is not a local language with names for the local phenomena and nothing more. For its first 500 years it grew from the amalgamation of Britain's many groups of Celts, from Romans, from Danes and Germanic tribes, each drawing in turn on centuries of wandering and bumping into neighbors with a different way of describing and pronouncing their words for things, actions and ideas. For its latest 500 years it has been the linguistic crossroads of the world, but unlike other European languages that have dispersed around the globe, there is no central authority pretending to know best about the "true" English, the "real" English. English is what English speakers make it.

It's the greatest toy any mind will ever explore.


October 2008

'Higher' literature in the classroom
- News, Miscellany
In a newly added article, Salma Ainy of Bangladesh Open University explores how in 'literature' has come to include advertising copy, graffiti and public notices which use literary devices like parallelism, rhyme, rhythm and metaphor. require careful interpretation and may be more relevant than the usual canonical texts which sometimes use esoteric or regionally biased language. As "literature" increasingly encompasses popular fiction, advertising and film, students need from teachers those capabilities that help them make sense of their worlds, determine their own interests, and see through the manipulations of all sorts of texts in all sorts of media, and to express their own views in some appropriate manner.

Read this article

Hints for Teaching English Pronunciation to Iranian Students
- Pedagogy
Prof. A. Majid Hayati of Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Iran, provides perspective on pronunciation issues facing Iranian students in achieving pronunciation suitable for the workplace or for very public arenas. This article includes an extensive bibilography.

Read this article

August 2008

Poetry a Guide to Spoken Form
- Pedagogy
Salma Ainy of Bangladesh Open University assesses the potential of poetry in building speaking skill in a new commentary and literature review. The included bibliography is a resource you may wish to develop in your own courses.

Read it now!

July 2008

Curricular Duality Can Be Managed
- Pedagogy
In a new article, V. Prakash of India points out that rural and urban students often take a very different view of the relative importance of second-language study. Paraphrasing, the inward looking rural students see the requirement; the urban students' outward world view lets them see the opportunity. Prakash argues that the teacher can build a curriculum that serves both perspectives and offers some structural factors. -Ed.

Read it now

November 2007

Contribute to ESL Journal
- Pedagogy
We welcome articles by ESL professionals around the world. Submit articles as plain text (no boldface or special characters) using the Inquiries form. Your article may also have illustrations; if we can use your article, we will request them. Articles will be open to comments by registered users.

Ideas, tests, hypotheses, research results, and new technology are all valid topics. Unsure? Write to the editors.

'Podcasting' - Sewing a New Kind of Seed
- Instructional Technology
The rising worldwide popularity of MP3 sound files and the iPod makes it possible for sound files to be easily added to articles in an ESL Journal site. (Example)

A teacher can use MP3 files - which can be downloaded to a simple device called an "iPod Shuffle" - in two basic ways. UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article many additional small MP3 players have become available. Playback is not limited to a particular device. Most mobile phones are now (2013) capable of handling podcasts. It may be necessary to interpose another device such as a desktop computer as the interface between the source and the player. The most commonly used is iTunes (

First, the sound file can be recorded and stored on the web server as source material. The students then download the file to their own iPod Shuffle, listen to the message, and write articles about the message in their journals.

Second, a brief article in the teacher's journal can be read aloud by the student in the laboratory, captured to a sound file, and uploaded to a web server. A link to the file is then submitted to the teacher, who evaluates the student's verbal skills. Many variations are possible.

Sound-related services are an upgrade to the ESL Journal service and require special arrangements if the sound files are to be stored by Ask your representatives for details.

More about podcasting

A podcast (the near homonym to broadcast is no accident) is a new form of dissemination of news. Many radio stations around the world now prepare their stories both for immediate broadcast and for distribution over the Web as podcasts. Podcasts have the advantage that they can be read at any time and not only when the original broadcast occurs.

By adopting the combined written and spoken exercise technique described here, the classroom experience is made very real, as the same phenomenon is becoming part of young people's daily lives nearly everywhere.

Listen Now

One can also play a sound file within one's web browser if the computer is equipped with speakers and the appropriate browser plug-in. This is a good alternative if you or your students do not have access to iPods.

To hear a portion of this article read aloud, click the play button (arrow) on the control below. If your browser is correctly equipped, the reading will commence in a few seconds (depending on your connection speed); if not, your browser will display an error message, and you will have to add a plug-in to your browser. Because of the wide variety of plug-ins and computer systems we cannot be more specific. If you are unable to play the sound file ask your local technical support person for help.

(The linked file is - approximately 1.8Mbytes.)

Although listening in the laboratory is less expensive, the ability to listen repeatedly and privately without inconveniencing others makes the iPod approach very desirable where possible. Many other MP3 players work, too.

Contributor: A. R. Clark, Ph.D.

November 2006

Student Journaling on the Worldwide Web
- News, Miscellany
ESL Journal uses the latest communication technology for learning by doing. Students who participate in the ESL Journal project will incorporate classroom grammar and writing lessons and computer lab skills to publish a completed work on the Internet. Teachers can monitor and observe progress at any stage, and fellow students can act as "critics" to help each other advance.

Along the way, students will make use of the Internet and basic computer skills, including using the mouse, scanning photos, finding information on the Web, sending and receiving email and learning software applications such as "Fastype" keyboard training software, a word processor (where available) and the CIP Sitemaker™ online publishing system, a web-based publishing tool that requires little or no technical skill.

Once the entry is published in a program's ESL Journal, student articles can be read by people throughout the world over the Internet.

Your school's ESL program can have its own ESL journal. See the How To information elsewhere on the site.

Using ESL Journal in Your Classroom

October 2006

Promote Your Blogging Effort
- Tips, Support
Promote Your Blogging Effort
Whenever you post a new topic in the web log, you can invite your friends to read it. It's easy.

  1. Write, activate and save the item.
  2. Right-click (click-hold) on Link below the item. Choose the COPY option.
  3. Create an email message to your friend(s); paste the link in the body of the message.
  4. Send your message.

If you are in a participating class, this is also a good way to tell your teacher you have finished your assignment.

- Student Work
I just wrote this poem.
And now I'm going hoem.
My spelling's not grate,
But my pome is first rate.

New Format
- News, Miscellany
Welcome back! We're converting the site to an interactive web log format, supplemented by additional articles by teachers and students.

Our students will create their written and related work by typing directly into our online forms or by pasting content they have copied from a word processor or other text editing program.

Teachers and fellow students may append comments to each post. This critical feedback can accelerate learning, as it occurs in near real time.

The transition is beginning on October 16, 2006, and should be complete in a few days. Please visit again soon!