BTB Blog for Teachers

About this blog

Welcome to the BTB Blog for Teachers. Every month, we will be posting an article related to language teaching or learning. I hope that other teachers will join in with comments to make this an interesting forum for discussing the challenges faced by language teachers everywhere, but particularly in Japan. Most of the articles will be written by David Barker, but there will also be entries written by guest contributors from time to time. Please feel free to post a comment or use the “Contact Us” button on the home page if you have any feedback on the blog.

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How the Two “L”s Stifle Reform in English Education in Japan August 4th, 2014 | Author: David

How the Two “L”s Stifle Reform in English Education in Japan

The other day, a Japanese colleague mentioned how he had noticed that it is becoming more and more common to see university job advertisements for teachers with expertise in English education. As he pointed out, this is a relatively new development. Traditionally, English teachers at the university level were required to be experts in either linguistics or literature. More

Hunters & Gatherers November 19th, 2013 | Author: David

Hunters & Gatherers

I’m guessing that most of you are familiar with the idea of a “hunter-gatherer” society. According to Wikipedia, this is a society in which “most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals.” One feature of this kind of society is the division of labour between the sexes, with men tending to be hunters, and women more likely to be gatherers. More

Don’t sweat the small stuff November 19th, 2013 | Author: David

Don’t sweat the small stuff

I often ask students whether they have any problem understanding “small” English words like “a,” “the,” “it,” “at,” and “in.” They invariably reply that they do. Luckily, I have some great advice for them: More

How to Write Numbers March 13th, 2013 | Author: David

How to Write Numbers

Last weekend, I was working on a book that contained a lot of numbers. I frequently found myself unsure as to whether to write numerals (e.g., “50″) or whether to spell the numbers out (e.g., “fifty”). More

Sowing the Seeds of Grammar March 6th, 2013 | Author: David

Sowing the Seeds of Grammar

This article was originally posted on the “Teacher Talk” blog at

People often ask me how long it took me to learn Japanese, and I normally tell them that it took me about six months. When they look surprised, I add, “But it took me about two years to learn how to learn it.” More

The “New Car” Phenomenon March 6th, 2013 | Author: David

The “New Car” Phenomenon

This article was originally published on the “Teacher Talk” blog at

When I was about ten years old, my father announced one day that we were getting a new car. Now, there is very little in the world more guaranteed to arouse the interest of a 10-year-old boy and his younger brothers than a new car, and naturally, we wanted to know what my father was planning to buy. He told us that we were getting an “Opel Manta.” More

How to Give a Good Presentation February 15th, 2013 | Author: David

How to Give a Good Presentation

This is a video of a presentation that I gave to Japanese learners of English at a conference on self-access learning held at Nanzan University on February 2, 2013.

The aim was to teach some simple guidelines that I hoped would help them when they did their own presentations later in the day. If you disagree with my approach or feel that I have missed something important, feel free to leave a comment. I hope that those of you who like the video will recommend it to your own students. More

What Is “Conversation” and How Can You Teach It? November 29th, 2012 | Author: David

What Is “Conversation” and How Can You Teach It?

Every English teacher who comes to Japan will, at some point, find themselves having to teach a “conversation” class. To many, the word “conversation” simply means “chatting,” but for those who are serious about doing a professional job, the reality is far more complicated. More

Teaching Students How to “Take” a Lesson November 3rd, 2012 | Author: David

Teaching Students How to “Take” a Lesson

Here is a video of the presentation I gave at the 2012 JALT Hokkaido Conference at Hokkai Gakuen University in Sapporo. Apologies for the occasional focus problems. I have posted a video of the slideshow below the main video. The notes for the presentation follow the videos. More

How Not to Give a Presentation October 16th, 2012 | Author: David

How Not to Give a Presentation

Thank you to everyone who attended my presentation at the JALT National Conference in Hamamatsu last Saturday. Even though it was labelled as a commercial presentation, I think there were around thirty people there, so it seems that a lot of teachers are interested in this topic.

As I said on Saturday, the point is not to give perfect presentations every time, but to be constantly striving to give better ones. I have lost count of the number of presentations I have watched over the years that have been completely ruined by the presenter’s lack of preparation and / or inappropriate use of technology. If you google the phrase “Death by Powerpoint,” you will find that I am not unusual in this respect! More

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