The weak interface | (Steve Smith)

What is meant by the “weak interface” in second language acquisition research? Why is it significant for language teachers?

The balance of opinion among second language acquisition scholars is that the large majority of second language is acquired implicitly, i.e. sub-consciously as learners hear, read and communicate meanings. In this regard second language acquisition is much like first language acquisition. You know yourself that you only became fluent once you were immersed in the language for lengthy periods. You would not have got there by learning vocab, doing grammar practice and…

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Different ways of doing dictation | (Steve Smith)


Dictation can be described a s a technique where pupils hear some spoken material, hold it in their memory for a short time, then write down what they heard.

It is one of the ancient crafts of language teaching. L G Kelly, in his 1969 book 25 Centuries of Language Teaching traces it back to the early middle ages.

Some like it, some hate it. Some accuse it of being boring and uncommunicative, a relic of the past when grammar-translation ruled the world; others argue that it has a valuable place, reinforcing phonological memory, improving grammar, spelling and listening skills….

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GCSE video listening resources | (Steve Smith)

From the feedback I receive from French teachers, a popular resource on my site are the video listening worksheets. Finding appropriate video material for this level is a bit of a challenge, certainly harder than sourcing A-level video clips. In nearly all cases the worksheets would suit pupils aiming for Higher Tier at GCSE. I base the choice of videos on a number of factors:

– Interest level of the material
– Clarity of language
– Difficulty of language
– Length of video
– Relevance to GCSE topics

With these criteria in mind I have built up a set of worksheets linked to external videos….

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Dolanguages A-level film storyboards | (Steve Smith)

Some of you will be familiar with the Steve Glover’s brilliant site which has support materials for all the A-level languages films and books. Each unit he writes for films features a choice of resources you can purchase. These include:

Comprehensive questions on each sceneContextualised grammar exercisesQuestions on technique for film analysisMatching quotations to themes to prepare for paragraphingAn essay planning guideAn essay plan and sample essayAnalysis of individual scenesGapped summariesCharacter guidesA detailed summary of the film with gapped exercises
A new…

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Three ways to help A-level students enrich their spoken language | (Steve Smith)

One of the benefits of leading exam board training sessions is that you get to pick up new ideas from the attending teachers. In this case, while leading a a session for AQA with teachers in York today, I was talking about ways to get A-level students to produce more sophisticated language in their speaking assessments.

I suggested that one way of varying pair work practice on an A-level sub-theme was to interrupt pairs of conversing students after, say, four minutes, then to display on the board five idiomatic phrases or complex syntactic structures which the students have to include in…

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Everyday MFL | (Steve Smith)

This is a plug for an excellent blog I was reminded of today while refreshing and weeding my list of French teacher blogs from around the world.

Everyday MFL is a rich source of very practical lesson ideas for language teachers. the anonymous author writes:

“The vision for this blog was to create something that MFL teachers can use. My hope is that the ideas are practical, adaptable and easy to use in your classroom. Perhaps, you will stumble across something you have never tried before that inspires and enthuses your students. Maybe, you will happen upon an idea long forgotten. …

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Enjoying sounds (3) | (Steve Smith)

This is the third and last post in the series about teaching listening. Like the others it is adapted from the forthcoming book Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. I am grateful to Gianfranco Conti who provided many of the ideas presented in this post and which have featured in posts on his blog The Language Gym.

This blog looks at how to develop listening and grammatical skill at the same time and suggests questions you can ask yourself regarding why your pupils may be struggling with listening tests. I also suggest some tech sources which can enhance the development of listening…

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