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Interview at a Callan School


delphiandomine 88 | 18,455  
13 Mar 2009 /  #31
That's strange. We had to teach grammar as a matter of course. If it came up as part of the new work, we couldn't just skip it. It's not that hard to teach really. Callan will teach you how to shortcut the teaching of it.

To be honest, I just don't like teaching it. Callan's explanations are truly dreadful and outdated, and it seems a fair bet to say that barely anyone could understand it from the grammar questions 'in the book' alone anyway. And I still haven't found a textbook that actually makes it interesting. Until I do, I'm refusing to teach it ;)

I do like revising grammar with people though - it can be good fun to show them different ways in which the rules can be broken in speech, as well as showing them how I'd use the language as opposed to what the rules say. But Callan grammar?...no words can express my loathing for that.

I actually think Callan realised after writing two of the books that he needed to start introducing grammar, but it's clearly obvious that he didn't understand what he was writing about. The 5th stage is so badly written, even for his times.

The maximum at any time is 12. I found 6 to be a good number. 2 to your left, 2 in front of you and 2 to the right. 12 with a beginner group is a nightmare, so exhausting it was. You cannot take the foot off of the gas pedal for long with them.

I'd be inclined to say that any less than 5 is a nightmare, to be honest. I've found that with larger groups (though again, one of my agreed conditions is not to teach book 1 classes!), they're more willing to make comments about the language. But this does depend on the group dynamics - there's a group in my school who have nearly finished the 10th stage, yet you can see the way that Callan just teaches people to be parrots rather than actual speakers. But then again, there's a stage 3 class who are constantly using their knowledge in various ways and it's great fun - so I think it's a personality thing.

Bloody hell for once I agree with you!!!
Callen on its own is a lost method and needs to be supplemented with grammar lessons that need to be assessed at each stage level throughout the book. There is even a need for extra English coursework to be included, because the callan method is mainly focused on oral improvement and doesn't really take into account the in depth use of writing and grammar use of English.
At least that is what we used when I was teaching Callan for over four years and our school had a 100% success rate in FCE and ADV English.

Exactly the same method is used in my school. We all teach different things - I'm interested in getting people to use English creatively, so this is what I focus on. Others will concentrate on their knowledge of irregular verbs, others might concentrate on their actual hard grammar knowledge. It works - at least to a certain extent.

I've also started experimenting with different methods in the class - for instance, making people stand up when they have to read. Or making them turn the chairs round to face the wall when doing a dictation. Or even simply making them do part of the class in the corridor - and I'm thankful for having a boss that lets me experiment in such ways.

But the fundamental problem with Callan, at least in my eyes, is the fact that people can get to the 10th stage and still not be able to use the language at all.
MrBubbles 10 | 614  
13 Mar 2009 /  #32
Best advice for the interview?

Say everything ten times over, really really quickly. Write a script and don't deviate from it.

But the fundamental problem with Callan, at least in my eyes, is the fact that people can get to the 10th stage and still not be able to use the language at all.

Amen brother. I wonder how Mr Callan incorporates aspects of discourse into his grammar explanations.....
mafketis 29 | 9,528  
13 Mar 2009 /  #33
What little I know (and have seen) of Callan, it seems designed to produce people who'll answer questions, take orders and not (be able to) talk back.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
13 Mar 2009 /  #34
There is some truth to that. As a trainer of the method, I was expected to somehow make the higher levels work better for students. It was all just too random for me. There was very little of practical utility for the students. I can't imagine how they'd use such structures in real life, especially if they are not going abroad.

To me, language acquisition is, first and foremost, about what you can meaningfully use in a variety of contexts. Callan just didn't allow for that. In the earlier stages, subject-verb agreement was very well taken care of. Matching auxiliaries is the main strength of the method in stages 3,4 and, to a lesser extent, 5 and 6.

For me, university really taught me to think out of the box. Extrapolation etc etc. Callan's learning parameters are just too restrictive. Avalon sought to change that but wasn't entirely successful I gather from those that use it.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455  
14 Mar 2009 /  #35
What little I know (and have seen) of Callan, it seems designed to produce people who'll answer questions, take orders and not (be able to) talk back.

To be fair, the problem lies both with the method and the individual in this respect. It is a rather nice way of teaching new vocabulary, especially as a good school will allow teachers to really explain the words in depth, using whatever means are available. Combine this with adventurous teachers who will promote discussion and a good, inquisitive class and it can work.

But as I said - people can reach stage 10 and still be unable to use the language. In my opinion, it would make much more sense for schools to weed these people out after the 6th stage and make it clear that they have to start putting in the work at home - and not being afraid to remove people from the class/school if they refuse to.

It's clearly obvious in the later stages just who puts the effort in outside the class and who expects miracles from their 4 hours a week.

'Pure' Callan is nothing short of dreadful, though. He's got some rather hilarious rules written in the books that are so obviously nonsense - and any school abiding by them really are just after people's money.

To me, language acquisition is, first and foremost, about what you can meaningfully use in a variety of contexts. Callan just didn't allow for that.

This is the entire problem with Callan. People with a sense of adventure will use the language to make a point, and will use whatever words they can to answer even the most ridiculous questions. But equally so, the dull people will simply want to be parrots - and this is where it fails.

My favourite trick at the moment is to ask some daft questions in among the serious questions - asking someone 'is this a chair?'...getting 'yes, it's a chair' in response...then looking at them with a serious face and asking why. I've had some amusing responses to this, and it makes life far more fun.

Having said this, I'm becoming rapidly of the opinion that Callan is for young people. I've seen so many older people struggle with it that it's obvious that while the structure appeals, the actual 'method' is simply too flawed for people to benefit from it. Younger people however will appreciate deviating from the norm and have much less expectations of what it'll do for them - and these are the people it works for.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
14 Mar 2009 /  #36
I agree with that. Older people don't have the element of spontaneity and are likely to mark you down in surveys. However, I found many groups of Poles to be like one big tribe. The oldies rolled with what the young uns were doing. This was the exception to the rule though.
VaFunkoolo 6 | 654  
14 Mar 2009 /  #37
Older people don't have the element of spontaneity

Absolutely

Ive long believed that setting fire to old people could go a long way in solving the energy crisis
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
14 Mar 2009 /  #38
Sir, I recommend the Dmowski thread. It was just such a laugh to see how seriously they took the method. Yeah, they were paying customers but they saw Callan as the Bible. Eyes/cotton wool, eyes/cotton wool.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455  
15 Mar 2009 /  #39
I agree with that. Older people don't have the element of spontaneity and are likely to mark you down in surveys.

Yup, or even better, the old bag in one of the groups who complained about not being able to understand my accent, complained about not being corrected enough (she's bad enough to the point where demanding complete correctness would take all week!) and complained about everything else. The temptation to tell her to simply shut up and accept that she'll never speak as good as me is..well...overwhelming at times :P

It's very telling that in our most advanced (nearly at the end of stage 10) group - the older ones are very bad at using the language and almost never ask questions, while the younger (20's/30's) ones are forever enquiring and probing into the use of the language.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #40
Precisely. They are disgruntled old sods. Correction is the bane of my existence!
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455  
15 Mar 2009 /  #41
Correction is the bane of my existence!

The old bag in question even tried to tell me that my pronouncation of 'am' was wrong.

Definitely one of those 'errm...look out of the window...try not to laugh in her face...' moments. It transpired that she didn't even realise that American and British accents are significantly different.
pgtx 30 | 3,156  
15 Mar 2009 /  #42
I have an interview at a Callan school on Friday.

so how did it go? got the job?
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #43
Their level of naivety knows no boundaries. It drives me nuts when they talk of THE British accent. WTF is THE British accent?

Forget England, let's just look at Scotland. I can think of many distinct accents. You can pinpoint where people are from. Needless to say, England is the same on a bigger scale.

I have actually told a student just to use her natural accent and stop imitating. It sounds frankly laughable when they put it on.
mafketis 29 | 9,528  
15 Mar 2009 /  #44
Two things most Polish learners of English seldom (if ever) learn:

1. English like German and Spanish is pluri-centric (there's more than one standard and the areas they're used in sometimes overlap).

2. Many native speakers see no need to model their usage (especially pronunciation but grammar too) on any particular standard.

Even many of those that 'know' those two facts don't come to terms with all the implications.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #45
True enough. We don't aim for RP at all. We just use what we have, plain and simple.
mafketis 29 | 9,528  
15 Mar 2009 /  #46
Not that there aren't occasional problems

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1162099/I-dont-speak-Glaswegian-Labour-chief-racism-row-Can-translate-remark-Scottish-activist.html
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #47
With posting a link you mean? ;) LOL
dtaylor 9 | 823  
15 Mar 2009 /  #48
You should use the accent you are born with, that's one of the main reasons you get paid as a native speaker, not to speak the BBC english which is spoken no where.

I had my family over last year, and they visited the school i worked at. They fell on their knees laughing at what Polish English speakers spoke like:D
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #49
I can only imagine. It borders on the absurd. It's all practice for the students. Go to Scotland and they are not gonna neutralise their accents just to accommodate foreigners.

I don't get on with many Polish teachers of English. I want to observe some. I was an observer and would like to formally observe them.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
15 Mar 2009 /  #50
You should use the accent you are born with,

I lost my accent many years ago and wouldn't make a penny, if I had kept it.

Teaching 'Mid Atlantic' is the way to go.

BBC English is a thing of the past. It no longer exists as it did in the past.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808  
15 Mar 2009 /  #51
I lost my accent many years ago and wouldn't make a penny,

Where was the last place you saw it?.

Teaching 'Mid Atlantic' is the way to go.

The future is bright, the future is Irish!.
dtaylor 9 | 823  
15 Mar 2009 /  #52
BBC English is a thing of the past. It no longer exists as it did in the past.

Have you hard what every Polish masters student is taught when learning the accent? It is the worst kind of English ever. How now brown cow :D:D
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #53
Nothing like slipping racism into teaching ;)
dtaylor 9 | 823  
15 Mar 2009 /  #54
What racism? U know it as much as me. They are taught Queens English, which no one speaks. Do you hear that in London or Manchester? cos if you do, i doubt you use ur ears. One of the main difficulties for students is that they are taught with this BBC accent, they understand English great, but once they get there, they don't understand a thing. Again on the racism thing mate, pin point where in Englisnd they speak like this?
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #55
How now brown cow was somehow taken as racist by some, LOL.

They are out of touch with Use of English. They are stuck in their dated books.
dtaylor 9 | 823  
15 Mar 2009 /  #56
Let them stick to their dated books, but this shit is being taught at the highest level, masters english ect. I mean come on, they will be understood by us, but they wont ever understand us.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Mar 2009 /  #57
Hiding behind books is never the way forward. Spending some time in amongst people is the best way.

Truth be told, much English teaching here is McDonalds English designed to make money. They don't appreciate the diversity of English.
dtaylor 9 | 823  
15 Mar 2009 /  #58
I had to hire folk from Poland back in Scotland to work in hospital (Glasgow) within a week almost all would be asking for a transfer down south. Like that would help. This is where a native speaker should be used. To make students used to the accent, and even better, know what they're talking about when it comes to grammar.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,384  
15 Mar 2009 /  #59
Have you hard what every Polish masters student is taught when learning the accent?

To be honest, if I hear a bad accent I make a point of knocking it out of them.

The point of mid atlantic is to help the student fit in... wherever they go. A false BBC accent simply makes them sound like an idiot.

However, most of my teaching time is spent coaching younger folk for exams.

Have any of you guys noticed students who after some time start to copy your mannerisms and speech.
time means 5 | 1,310  
15 Mar 2009 /  #60
Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?
Clarence Darrow (1857 - 1938)

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