Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, August 03, 2006


by AJ

Listen To This Podcast

After a nice break from blogging, I took a peek at Steve's Linguist Blog and whoa... its jam packed with fantastic and interesting posts.

One general theme I picked out was his frustration with the established ESL "Industry"... including most academics.

I share his frustration. In fact, I'm almost to the breaking point. Though I generally enjoy teaching at the school where I work, I increasingly question the efficacy of the traditional school environment.

Also, as seems inevitable, small, innovative, interesting places grow-- and without fail begin to take on more bureaucracy and regulation. My school just hired a "teacher supervisor" who will begin regular observations of our classes. Usually these sorts of administrative bureaucrats favor the typical "industry" approach-- ie. plenty of tests, grammar-analysis, contrived exercises, and artificial textbooks. I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, but my gut tells me it will soon be time to move on.

Luckily, my private teaching opportunities are suddenly taking off. I'm having an amazing time working with The Linguist, and am getting private students here in San Francisco and on the internet as well. What I love most about these opportunities is that they allow me to use and encourage learning methods that are more fun, more interesting, and more effective. No matter how much money I'm paid, I simply can't enjoy a job unless I feel good about what I'm doing and believe its the best possible approach.

The ESL/EFL industry approach is not the best. Not even close. Its a massively expensive and inefficient system. This industry has a horrible success rate. Learner (ie customer) satisfaction rates are abysmal. Students are made ever more dependent on the industry. A massive number of textbooks are sold at outrageous prices. Countless tests are created, taken, graded, and passed. Students learn a dizzying array of complex grammatical terms.

And after all is said and done, their progress with English is much poorer than Linguist students who pay a fraction of the price, ignore complex grammatical terms, have no teacher-bosses, use no textbooks, and are extremely independent & autonomous.

For the price of an ipod, a $35/month Linguist membership, and access to a computer lab, a learner can learn more quickly and effectively than one who spends $600+/month on school fees, $50 for a textbook, and endures a tremendous amount of boredom and nonsense in the process.

In the ESL/EFL industry, folks like me, Steve, David Long, etc. are considered heretics. So be it. I long ago tired of wrestling with entrenched teachers and bureaucrats. I'm not very interested in their dogma, to be honest. My concern and enjoyment lies with enthusiastic learners-- those who are actively learning a language... whatever their level. These folks are where the energy, innovation, and enjoyment lie. The school industry is peopled by the undead. Don't become one of them.

Abandon industry dogma. Abandon expensive schools. Abandon irrelevant and boring textbooks. Abandon large classes. Abandon teacher/administrator as boss.

In order to learn a language effectively and enjoyably, become a heretic.

San Francisco, CA