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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November 21st, 2015 | Author: David

What do we know about language teaching and learning

The dictionary definition of know is “to be aware of the truth or factuality of: to be convinced or certain of.” These are not the same things, so saying that I know that the earth orbits the sun and saying that I know that teaching method A is more effective than teaching method B are different types of statement. More

May 29th, 2015 | Author: David

Who’s the expert?

This entry was originally posted to

At every ELT conference, there are plenary speakers. At major conferences, these are often “big” names who are well known in the field. The reason for their fame is normally either that they have published a lot of books or done a lot of research on language learning, language teaching, or both. They are acknowledged “experts” in the field, which is, of course, why they get invited to be plenary speakers in the first place. More

What’s the best way to learn Japanese? December 2nd, 2014 | Author: David

What’s the best way to learn Japanese?

Photo by John Spiri of Global Stories Press

At the 2014 JALT National Conference, I gave a talk entitled “What’s the best way to learn Japanese?” The slot was quite late on Saturday afternoon, and it was labeled “commercial,” so I was not expecting to get any more than five or six people. More

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

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