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Teaching Tips 154

Imaginative Links
International Mother Language Day
Longer Readings


Imaginative Links

An effective memory is clearly an important tool when learning a language. Tony Buzan, in his excellent book 'Use Your Memory' (BBC Publications), says 'Quite simply, if you want to remember anything, all you have to do is to associate (link) it with some known or fixed item ...calling upon your imagination throughout.'

He then goes on to give the following Memory Principles:

order and/or sequence
positive images

One of the simple memory systems is the Link System. As well as the above principles, or elements, you will also use the following:


With the Link System he says 'using these Principles you will be exercising the dynamic relationship between you left & right brain cortex & thereby increasing the overall power of your brain.'

The Link System is a way of remembering lists through creating an imaginative story, combining the Principles.

Here is part of the example Buzan gives:

'Imagine, for example, that you have been asked to shop for the following items:

a silver serving spoon
six drinking glasses
pure soap
biological washing powder
dental floss
wholewheat bread

Instead of scrambling around for little bits of paper (everyone has either done it himself or seen others desperately fumbling through their pockets for the missing slip) or trying to remember all the items by simple repetition and consequently forgetting at least two or three, you would simply apply the Memory Principles in the following way.

Imagine yourself walking out of your front door perfecting the most amazing balancing trick: in your mouth is the most enormous silver-coloured serving spoon, the handle-end of which you are holding between your teeth, as you taste and feel the metal in your mouth.
Carefully balanced in the ladle-end of the spoon are six exaggeratedly beautiful crystal glasses, through which the sunlight reflects brilliantly into your bedazzled eyes. As you look with delighted amazement at the glasses, you can also hear them deliberately tinkling on the silver spoon. Going outside into the street, you step on the most gigantic yellow and brown coloured banana, which skids with a swish from under you. Being a fantastic balancer, you barely manage not to fall and confidently place your other foot groundward only to find that you have stepped on a shimmering white bar of pure soap. This being too much for even a master, you fall backward and land seat down on a mound of eggs. As you sink into them, you can hear the cracking of the shells, see the yellow of the yolk and the white of the albumen, and feel the dampness soaking into your clothes..........'

This is obviously for the native speaker, helping them to remember lists. I very much doubt any of us would ask our students to memorise the above list!

So could this help our students? Very much so. Clearly if we present vocabulary in lexical sets in the first place it helps this Link System enormously - we're starting the process off for the students. Talk to your students about this, giving them the Principles & get them to work out examples of their own for a given set of vocabulary, discussing the scenarios with each other - not only memory but language practice here. And get them to share with each other the ways they use. Then they will be better prepared to use this technique outside of the classroom not only with their language learning but with any aspect of their lives.

Use Your Memory - Tony Buzan (BBC)

Use Your Head - Tony Buzan (BBC)


Dewi Sant
March 1st is St David's Day, the patron saint of Wales, as good an excuse as any for a lesson centred around the often overlooked country of Wales.

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International Mother
Language Day

It's the UNESCO 'International Mother Language Day' on 21st February. This is what they say at their site:

'International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by UNESCO's General Conference in November 1999. The International Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.'


To see the UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger:


A sad article:

Ancient tribal language becomes extinct as last speaker dies

Death of Boa Sr, last person fluent in the Bo language of the Andaman Islands, breaks link with 65,000-year-old culture, Thursday 4 February 2010

The last speaker of an ancient tribal language has died in the Andaman Islands, breaking a 65,000-year link to one of the world's oldest cultures.

Boa Sr, who lived through the 2004 tsunami, the Japanese occupation and diseases brought by British settlers, was the last native of the island chain who was fluent in Bo.

Taking its name from a now-extinct tribe, Bo is one of the 10 Great Andamanese languages, which are thought to date back to pre-Neolithic human settlement of south-east Asia.

Though the language has been closely studied by researchers of linguistic history, Boa Sr spent the last few years of her life unable to converse with anyone in her mother tongue.

Even members of inter-related tribes were unable to comprehend the repertoire of Bo songs and stories uttered by the woman in her 80s, who also spoke Hindi and another local language.

"Her loss is not just the loss of the Great Andamanese community, it is a loss of several disciplines of studies put together, including anthropology, linguistics, history, psychology, and biology," Narayan Choudhary, a linguist of Jawaharlal Nehru University who was part of an Andaman research team, wrote on his webpage. "To me, Boa Sr epitomised a totality of humanity in all its hues and with a richness that is not to be found anywhere else."

The Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, are governed by India. The indigenous population has steadily collapsed since the island chain was colonised by British settlers in 1858 and used for most of the following 100 years as a colonial penal colony.

Tribes on some islands retained their distinct culture by dwelling deep in the forests and rebuffing would-be colonisers, missionaries and documentary makers with volleys of arrows. But the last vestiges of remoteness ended with the construction of trunk roads from the 1970s.

According to the NGO Survival International, the number of Great Andamanese has declined in the past 150 years from about 5,000 to 52. Alcoholism is rife among the survivors.

"The Great Andamanese were first massacred, then all but wiped out by paternalistic policies which left them ravaged by epidemics of disease, and robbed of their land and independence," said Survival International's director, Stephen Corry. "With the death of Boa Sr and the extinction of the Bo language, a unique part of human society is now just a memory. Boa's loss is a bleak reminder that we must not allow this to happen to the other tribes of the Andaman Islands."

Boa Sr appears to have been in good health until recently. During the Indian Ocean tsunami, she reportedly climbed a tree to escape the waves. She told linguists afterwards that she had been forewarned. "We were all there when the earthquake came. The eldest told us the Earth would part, don't run away or move."


Some people might criticise us as contributing to the decline in languages around the world. We spend our working lives helping learners to become proficient with the dominant world language which will eventually lead to the extinction of many minority languages.
Others argue that instead of seeing this in a negative light, we should see our activity as providing opportunity for the poorer peoples around the world. By providing them with English, we are providing them with opportunities for economic & political growth.
This might well make for an interesting discussion with your advanced students. Begin with the article above about Boa Sr & then move on to a discussion of English & its consequences & the importance of keeping minority languages alive.

Here are a couple of past Tips related to using the mother tongue in the classroom:


For an excellent translation activity book:
Using the Mother Tongue - Sheelagh Deller & Mario Rinvolucri (First Person Publishing)

But I don't speak their language!


Valentine's Day just gone:
Lots of classroom ideas & links at the past tip 'Valentine's Day' at:
And then there's a lesson plan for the Day at:

Chinese New Year - takes place on the 14th February this year. 2010 is Year 4707 in the Chinese Calendar & is the year of the Tiger. There's a lesson plan at:

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Longer Readings

Do you use long reading texts in class? Some teachers don't as they feel that valuable time is taken away from more enjoyable & useful activities, much the same that is generally felt about long-ish periods of student writing. Students do need to tackle longer texts now & again such as short stories & longer articles as they will come across them outside of the classroom & reading is one of the main ways they can develop their English. We want to encourage them to read as much as possible.

We can simply ask students to read the texts, giving them an extensive task, so that they read for gist, & giving them a time limit to speed up their reading to help them read quicker in chunks, drawing them away from trying to understand every word. As with anything, don't forget to discuss this approach with them - letting them know why they are doing it like this, which they can then transfer outside the class.

The length of the text might well intimidate them so here are a couple of other things you can do:

- You could split the text up into several sections, & in between sections pre-teach any crucial vocabulary & get the students to anticipate what might happen in the next part. They then read quickly to see if their predictions were correct.

- Integrate it with listening skills by having some sections for the students to listen to instead of reading. Don't forget to give a clear manageable task here or they may switch off if it is challenging.

- To integrate with the writing skill, the students could be asked to summarise each section into a given number of words before proceeding to the next part.

- Similarily, after each section, get the students to write some comprehension questions about that section. Through their choice of questions you will be able to tell if they have understood the main points, & you have some questions ready for when you use the same text with different students.

- The time given to each section could vary, some simply for extensive reading & then others for extensive & intensive reading followed by noticing tasks that pick up on useful language.

- The reading could be spaced out over several lessons, a section covered each lesson, followed by some interesting task that connects with the topic of the text or language that crops up in the text.

- If your students need reading aloud skills, then the odd section could be read aloud. Careful as it could take a while.

- Designate reading buddies - each could take it in turns to read the next section & then orally report it to their buddy, who then goes on to read the next part. They slowly build up the whole text, integrating reading & speaking, & very probably teaching each other quite a lot along the way.

- For more speaking, you could get students to roleplay certain sections through the text, or discuss topics that come up before continuing.

- For a strategy to pass on when your students have to deal with a book in both English & their mother tongue, see the past tip 'SQ3R':

And then similar tasks to the above can apply when dealing with
longer listening texts.

However you tackle the text, the first consideration must be your choice of text, that it must be interesting for the students, that they want to read it. Don't make it a chore as you'll put them off & it will all backfire on you.


Valentine's Day on the 14th:
Lots of classroom ideas & links at the past tip 'Valentine's Day' at:
And then there's a lesson plan for the Day at:

Chinese New Year - takes place on the 14th February this year. 2010 is Year 4707 in the Chinese Calendar & is the year of the Tiger. There's a lesson plan at:

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