The ABC of ELT

Are you eating your own dog food?

[Click here for a second bite of dog food]

There is a story, in the 1980’s the head of Kal Kan Pet Foods ate a can of their dog food in a board meeting. Why on earth would someone do this? Well it was to prove the food was good enough even he would eat it.

The origin of the term may have actually come from a TV advert where the president of a alpo dog food company proclaimed that he feed his own dogs their dog food but either way the point still stands.If you believe in your product, you use it.

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Image by Sh4rp_i on flickr

Dog food and ELT

It’s lead me to think about Teaching Languages. It seams many teachers, at least in my school, don’t eat their own dog food (and I’m one of them).

Today, we have our Russian class and I know that one of the teachers will insist upon a translation of words he is unclear on (and won’t ask for an example or definition to clarify meaning) yet he is an ardent advocate of no L1 in the classroom.

I also know a lot of the homework we were set won’t have been done, In fact I’ve just finished mine right before the lesson.

What’s more, many of us focus on learning Grammar McNugget’s and ask for different grammar points to be taught rather than skills. Although, we get the option of choosing interesting and relevant topics we frequently search the English books for something that appeals (usually resulting in just asking the teacher to choose one. note: the current series on films has been great!) and we certainly look at the grammar idea first.

I know that as a new teacher I so often related my own learnings of teaching to my own student experiences. Hearing some bit of information that I could relate to my own experience as a student suddenly made the point come alive (of course, there can be a danger of overpersonalising a point and assuming that all people are the same as you.)

Many teachers seam to explain this away by saying that English and [insert target language here] have different characteristics and as such we should take a different approach for this language than English. Or I even heard a teacher say

The Communicative approaches are for “lazy students” and I am a “language learner”

And as such, he no longer needed to come to classes (he was in fact the weakest student in the class).

I guess there are a few implications from this

  1. We should follow our own advice. (and perhaps understand our students more)
  2. We should change the way we teach
  3. A bit of both?

So how important do you think eating your own dog food is in ELT? In what ways are you not eating your own Dog food?


About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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