Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Phrasal Verbs and Fiestas

A quiet Monday here in Coimbra today. The summer has definitely finished and the winds and rains are here. I can hear them howling around outside as I type. But we did have a work free day, and that is to the good. Why is it that no matter how much you love your job, your vocation, the way you have chosen to spend your life, that it is better to sit on your bum doing nothing very much at all being lazy? Or is it just me?
I don't know why we had a holiday here in Portugal today (and in Spain too I hear so I'm guessing it's some kind of Catholic thing) but having looked at the timetable for the year last week I do have some bad news for my students... we lose fewer days this year to these holidays throughout the teaching year than last. All the holidays seem to fall on the weekend. Disaster!
I have been working though, preparing a lesson I'll be using tomorrow and actually looking at the language closely of the article I am going to use as the basis of my lesson I am struck by how many idiomatic phrases and phrasal verbs that lie within. It's a toughie all right, which is ironic really because I chose the article in particular so that it would be a nice easy into to the year for my students. But they are getting it anyway as I have already prepared it and it'll be good for them, if slightly less relaxing that I had anticipated.
Which brings me to phrasal verbs. Students shouldn't try and learn too many - and by learn I mean parrot fashion, by rote as many students I have known over the years have tried to do (Asian students in particular were guilty of this). Of course learn the most frequently used. A good list of these can be found in the back of the FCE Gold text book with their regular synonyms, all more normal verbs. Instead students should try and be able to fathom out, figure out and organically try and elicit the meanings from context. After all, this is how you learnt your L1, how I learnt mine. It's one of the reasons I use a lot of authentic materials in my classes (another is that I am getting slightly bored with a lot of the text books. You students think it is dull, but I have to read them to two or three classes a year for five or six years in a row; they are however a necessary evil).
'And what is the best way to organically absorb all this language Dave?' I hear you cry. (At least in my mind I hear you cry it).
READING. Read anything you can get your hands on. Read for fun. Read the English on the back of cereal packets and sauce bottles. Put your subtitles up on movies to read those (http://cambridgeprofessor.blogspot.com/2009/10/under-utilised-language-resource.html). Read online, perhaps the news (see my links down and to the right).
Just keep reading. Read for fun, what you enjoy. The rest will follow.


  1. October 5 in Portugal is known as Implantação da República. It commemorates the proclamation of the Portuguese First Republic in 1910.


  2. Thanks David. I should have known that really!