About / FAQs

Hi – my name is Paul Emmerson. I am a well-known figure in the Business English world: I work as a writer, website owner, teacher and teacher-trainer. I do this from home (Worthing, on the south coast of England), and at The English Language Centre, Brighton.

I created this site in November 2010 as a free resource for busy teachers wanting practical ideas to use in class tomorrow morning.

You can find my many books published by Macmillan and Cambridge University Press in the Store area. Look under Books (printed). In the Store you will also find my self-published ebook (PDF) called Management Lessons.

Please feel free to contact me via the Contact tab – I always enjoy hearing from people.

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions.

My availability for talks/teacher training

Can you come to my country and speak at a conference/do some teacher training?
I travelled all over Europe doing this for more than ten years, but now have the role of daddy to add to all my other roles. So, the answer is … probably not, but you can try. However one conference I nearly always go to is BESIG (held every November) – if you see me there please come up and say hello.

In the UK I do run a two-week teacher training course every July and October at the English Language Centre, Brighton (click here). I would be happy to see you there – we always have a great time. Please deal directly with ELC about this course and mention my website in any enquiry. Comenius or Erasmus funding may be available for this course.

Business English

Do you have an overall teaching philosophy?
Yes. It is that all approaches and methods and techniques are valid and good in moderation, and that variety is everything. What should you do in class today? Whatever you didn’t do yesterday. Students will learn and improve in their own way at their own pace – and what you teach is only partially related to what they learn. The teacher’s job is to provide a language-rich environment, at the right level, with plenty of activities for noticing language and plenty of opportunities for interesting and personalized speaking activities. After that what the students learn is up to them and their own internal cognitive processes.

I believe that learning a language is very similar to learning any other skill (eg playing a musical instrument, driving a car etc). For example, the fluency and freedom of expression of a Jimi Hendrix or a John Coltrane was achieved by hours of practice at an early stage of learning (perhaps mindlessly and routinely going up and down scales). There is no magic bullet to fluency.

I believe that students cannot give attention to meaning and form at the same time, and so (for example) they can read a text for content and then discuss it, or go through the text looking at lexis. But not both at the same time. The two activities should be clearly separated in class, and students should not get mixed messages about what the point of an activity is.

In the same way, I believe that post-task rather than during-task is the best place for language feedback: post-task students are attending to form, during-task to meaning. Requiring them to switch constantly between the two modes is unhelpful to both.

I believe that students have only a certain amount of attentional resources when they speak, and that these are divided between accuracy, fluency and complexity. I believe this is a zero sum game, and that giving more attention to one of these necessarily means giving less to another.

Finally, I believe that a major factor in language learning is memory (or rather some complex process involving neurones and synapses, and connections between short and long term memory, and all sorts of other biological processes in the brain). Some people have this internal system working well, others less well, and this is yet another factor beyond our control.

One thing that is, however, very much under the teacher’s control is the use of diagnostic language feedback following speaking activities. I call this technique ROLO (Reformulate Output Lightly but Often), and I believe it is a key element in effective language acquisition. There is a slideshow about ROLO (shorter) and an article (longer) posted on the site.

The Site

How should I follow the site? Newsletter? FB? Twitter? LinkedIn?
The newsletter is best. I will send it as soon as there is new stuff on the site. I’m not very active on FB or Twitter – problem of time. I am a little more active on LinkedIn and when I have time I contribute to discussions there.

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