I hope it works!

Posted on November 8, 2008. Filed under: Blogroll, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

ronaldoRonaldo Mangueira Lima Júnior is from Brazil. His Bolg is called I hope it works! He’s finishing his work on an MA in Applied Linguistics. He just wrote the most insightful review of Real English that I’ve ever read. As an EFL teacher in Brazil, he has the same problem that I have teaching EFL in France, and which many other sprouting digerati/teachers of the EFL world have been experiencing for many years.

Here’s Ronaldo’s review of Real English.

He brings up two very interesting questions concerning communicative language teaching and correctness, while making extremely astute observations about how these concepts are concretely related to Real English video.

Although he points out that he is a “non-native teacher teaching in a non-native country” (definitely EFL), he writes a lot better than most native-English speakers. Very clear, very succinct.


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9 Responses to “I hope it works!”

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Wow, thank you for the kind words, Mike! They are surely motivating!

Best regards from Brazil,


First, I would like to consider the following part of Mr. Magueirs’s review:

“[C]ommunicative language teaching, came to my mind when I noticed that most people in the video, when asked “what are you wearing?”, were somewhat surprised by the question, and some of them answer the questions laughing a little. This happens because the question “what are you wearing?” is not communicative, because we never ask someone we are looking at what they are wearing for the simple fact that we can see what they are wearing.”

This is true. If you wanted to present vocabulary about clothes, it would be better to have three people, with the questioner saying something like, “What is that guy over there wearing?”

The answerer would say something like “Well, I can’t see him all that well, but he seems to be wearing a blue jacket, some faded blue jeans, and a straw hat.”

Unfortunately, people studying English in Brazil, like people studying Portuguese in this country, can learn only a limited amount of the language in classrooms. To learn languages really well, you need a lot of exposure to the language by living among people who actually speak it and watching their television programs–a process that usually takes around two years.

Soap operas in English and television novelas in Portuguese are especially helpful for this purpose. A person could construct some very solid language courses around the scripts of soap operas and novelas. I would like to see a Brazilian Portuguese course constructed around the classical television novela “Roque Santeiro.”

hkyson > Harleigh Kyson Jr.

Hi hykson, I can’t find your real name on your blog, and I’m very happy to read your comment.

I just wish you were with the brainstorming team when we tried to formulate questions in a way which would work best later with our students. We do some 3rd person work, especially when we ask friends to introduce or describe each other in quite a few videos, but we never thought about asking what a 3rd person was wearing for example.

Filming’s never done. Will keep it in mind.

Thanks a lot -Mike

Excuse me Harleigh. Your name was under my nose and I do not see.

By the way, this comment deserves debate “A person could construct some very solid language courses around the scripts of soap operas and novelas”.

Maybe so, but is it not better to have spontaneity instead of acting? And is it not better to have a progression of some sort from the easiest towards the most difficult?

And do you know anyone who has created a “very solid language course” based on a soap opera?

Sponteneity is not something that can be produced instantly. A person has to master a certain amount of grammar and vocabulary first.

One good way to work toward it would be to read different parts in a play or series of rather long scenes based on common situations in life.

This gradually builds up a memory of common expressions that can be used as a student moves on to discussing a wider variety of things in a slowly expanding series of discourse domains.

Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever built a language course around a TV novela or parts of an American soap opera. They could be an excellent resource because their story lines are simple to figure out and their language is undeniably authentic and conversational.

Something close to this was done by Pierre J. Capretz for french in “French in Action: A beginning Course in Language and Culture.

Capretz apparently wrote his own soap opera, which has some rather strange sections in it, but it presents unquestionably authentic French.

It also has a lot of question-and-answer exercises, which are very useful for learning how to ask all kinds of questions in French.

A lot of conversation consists of asking questions and getting answers. Learning how to ask them skillfully also provides a student with the tools to learn more vocabulary and structure.

For example:

Robert: “What do you mean when you say xxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx?”

Peter: “Let me see if I can think of another way of making the idea clearer. What about yyyyy yyyyyyyy yyyyyyy yyyy?

Robert: “Oh yeah, I guess that’s a lot like saying zzzz zzzzzzz zzzzzz zzz in English or aaaaaa aaaa aaaaaa in French.”

Peter: “I’m not familiar with that French expression, but what you said in English covers the idea pretty well.”

(This, of course, assumes that both interlocutors share several languages in common. If a student is able to establish friendly relations with such people, he can do a lot to expand his language skills.)

By the way, I only came across your response by googling my own name. If you want to start talking with me on a regular basis, use .

(I’m just now starting to get used to gmail, but I think I can create a labels for any conversations we may have so that I can refer to all your messages to me and my responses to them.

You are also welcome to write me through snail mail at

Harleigh Kyson Jr.
1425 East First St., Apt. 10
Long Beach, California 90802

P.S. I have also started a blog titled “Interlingua in interlingua” at . It helps me maintain my writing and editing skills.

Hi Harleigh,

I enjoy reading your comments very much. I simply don’t agree with the implications you draw from this fact: “Sponteneity is not something that can be produced instantly. A person has to master a certain amount of grammar and vocabulary first”. Okay. No problem. But this is certainly not a reason to avoid spontaneous speech when learning a language. In fact it is better to prepare with the real thing instead of the artifact, just like it is better for the infant to have real people around him instead of a stage or a TV set.

The problem with encouraging spontaneous speech before a certain amount of grammar and vocabulary are under good control is that a person can become habituated to producing nongrammatical utterances.

By the way, I have studied Portuguese. Would you be interested in working with me together on projects involving the production of bilingual texts in English and Portuguese? I myself could edit the English texts to assure their authenticity, and you could edit the Portuguese ones.

If you are interested in seeing some work I am doing right now, go to .

You can communicate with me through or through snail mail at my home address:

Harleigh Kyson Jr.
1425 East First St., Apt. 9
Long Beach, Calif. 90802

You say “The problem with encouraging spontaneous speech before a certain amount of grammar and vocabulary are under good control is that a person can become habituated to producing nongrammatical utterances.”

Nonsense. There is no reason why a student can not study grammar and vocabulary using spontaneous speech. This is what we do in the Real English lessons, in fact.

HELP! I have an IB student who is desperate for a bilingual translation of a modern Englsih or American ‘classic’ novel. I have spent two nights on the Internet and achieved nothing! Any suggestions?

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