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Talk to me, Baby

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

You don’t like being patronized. EFL students don’t either.

I used to work in an English school with a long yellow hallway. My classroom was on the far end, past many open doorways. On my way in, I would overhear teachers conducting their lessons.

Sometimes I’d linger to hear the end of a heated argument, or listen to a teacher struggling through a tough grammar topic (and secretly judge them). But the thing that pissed me off more than anything was hearing teachers talk to students as if they were deaf.

“Ev-ry-one turn to page thir-ty-six,” one teacher shouted in an excruciating monotone. “Now – Do. You. See. The. Tree? What. Color. Are. The. Leaves?”

This was a class of 30 and 40-somethings – professionals, probably with families waiting for them at home – who undoubtedly knew the basic colors and how to identify them in a picture.

I tried to imagine myself in one of the seats, exhausted after a day of work, trying to engage with a teacher who insisted on treating me like someone who just suffered a severe head injury.

To me, there are only two reasons for this. First, for teachers to buy time when they haven’t adequately prepared a lesson. Second, for teachers who don’t believe in their students’ intelligence.

Both cases are unacceptable.

Teaching English as a foreign language is a profession, and paying students deserve a teacher who has prepared a practical, impactful lesson using graded language they can understand. Furthermore, teachers should never underestimate students’ capacity to intuit new language through context. We do it in our native tongues all the time.

So, if by chance you hear an English teacher (either yours or someone else’s) telling students to “Get. Out. Your. Home-work. And. Put. It. On. The. Table.” Please feel free to “Throw. A. Stapler. Di-RECT-Ly. At. His. Face.”

You have my permission.

Because you deserve more than baby talk. We all do.

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