TEFL Newsletter – April


What a mixed bag of emotions April arouses! Yet the Romans considered the month to be sacred to Venus, goddess of love; its name may be taken from that of her Greek equivalent, Aphrodite.

We play tricks on the opening day, for TS Eliot it was “the cruellest month”, for Edna O’Brien it was “a wicked month”, while gardeners eagerly await its showers.

Whatever the weather, enjoy — now there’s a word that gets my goat! See what I mean about mixed reactions!


For whatever reason, more and more non-British nationals are prepared to take an oath of allegiance to seal their acceptance as British citizens.

A student of mine from Indonesia recently did just that but proved the transformation is not an overnight sensation, if at all: the day after her ceremony she left the classroom several times in quick succession for private nasal decongestion. Fully aware of her predicament from a cultural point of view, I reminded her jokingly that she was now a UK citizen and “permitted” to blow her nose in public. Her reaction of stifled embarrassment was cut short when I played down her dilemma.

It’s as Beattie says in Arnold Wesker’s play “the things that make you proud of yourself — roots!”

Just as Lord Tebbitt’s cricket challenge would always found out Indians or Pakistanis wishing to change allegiance, so we must maybe accept that some aspects of culture will remain for ever sacred and immutable. It is after all the richness and diversity of culture that enriches a nation.


Whilst handwriting is a matter of personal choice, subject to a gamut of vagaries in terms of letter formation and styles, phonetic symbols should be respected and copied uniformly.

The formation of phonetic symbols in the IPA should be strictly adhered to to avoid confusion and in the interests of standardization.

Symbols often “abused” and malformed are the schwa, /z/, the voiced “th” and the letter “a” in diphthongs.

As certain symbols “include” the long sound often reproduced in orthographic English by the letter “r”, it is worth remembering that phonetic transcription replicates the sound of words rather than the spelling.

If in any doubt, consult the introduction to each module of each unit of Practical Phonetics.


What with the lack of any logical correlation between the spelling and pronunciation of the English language, not to mention the added problem of countless homophones, spelling will forever be a challenge to learners of English.

While advocating extensive reading as a long-term method of self-improvement, I find that my students appreciate the odd word dictation as a way of focussing their attention on recording the written form from a heard word.

Having to choose the correct version from a selection of two or more options also concentrates the powers of recall.

More advanced classes can test their proficiency with word jumbles, in which only the initial letter is identified.

Problem words can be dwelt on for stress recognition, correct pronunciation and spelling aloud.

Special beneficiaries of such practice are those learners used to symbols rather than letters and Spanish speakers, who regularly write a single consonant when a double is correct in English.

Practice makes perfect — so cast your spell and work your magic!

Ken Milgate
Chief Examiner

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