learners thinking


June 13, 2015 by Willy Cardoso

collected thought bubbles from a French as a foreign language course:


The language teacher teaches language.

Who teaches learning it?


My teacher has studied second language acquisition, he can teach me (?)

I haven’t studied second language acquisition, I can learn it (?)

Aren’t I the one acquiring it? How does it happen?

No one has told me.

I think I just need to do these exercises from the book and voilà


She can communicate alright in French, she even knows some slangs. I guess it’s easier for her cos her boyfriend is French. But why does it take her ages to guess a word from context or even to find it in a dictionary?


I refuse to be fed Grammar McNuggets for homework.

Instead, I enjoy free-range extensive reading.

My classmates don’t understand why; they think I’m lazy.


The first grammar point I started to study autonomously was

not that which was the grammar of the week

not that which was “at my level”

but that which I realised was so frequent I shouldn’t wait to learn it later

that which, a long time ago, I asked a teacher to teach me

but she said I wasn’t ready


(I think) I know when I’m ready

(I think) I know when I’m not

I know when I don’t know if I’m ready or not

It’s not a heart surgery, it’s just a foreign language – let me try it.



This teacher is so pretty — I’d better do the homework


Tedious students, make tedious teachers, make tedious students

The cycle of boredom

Where all intrinsic purpose is lost

And extrinsic purpose fills the void of intention, agency and specificity

Coursebooks, worksheets, match the definitions you don’t need to the words you already know – role play the unimportant – once again but now use the past tense – embrace the generic slowness of grouping random people with random purposes to study random grammar. FILL IN THE BLANKS with the appropriate form of the verb, but whose blanks are these?


Learn how to learn

Learn how “you” learn – and how you don’t

So you can learn

In spite of all


dystopian methodology

dull classmates

extreme heat



Dude, this grammar point is so similar to the same thing in your first language, how can you not get it?


I still don’t know furniture vocabulary

clothes? colours? food?


But I can still identify a sofa when I see one – it turns out they look very similar to other sofas I’ve seen in other languages.

I still wear clothes, even though I can’t name them. I can still match the colours too.

And, luckily, I’ve never starved because I didn’t know if a certain type of bread takes a feminine or masculine article.


I learned

discourse markers to express opposition, concession, cause-consequence

now that is great – I really need to know this.


I’m loving this subjunctive thing, it’s so difficult!!


3 thoughts on “learners thinking

  1. Ye who teach, read this. Ye who seek to learn from they who teach, read this!

  2. Really nice post, Willy – a great reminder that we, teachers, never teach a ‘group’ or a ‘class’ but individuals with a whole universe of personality traits, feelings, ideas and desires. There’s much more to teaching than applying (or abiding by) the method. Also a gentle nudge for teachers to put themselves in the students’ shoes, keep their sense of plausibility active and fearlessly question the existing (un)pedagogies.

    “I refuse to be fed Grammar McNuggets for homework. Instead, I enjoy free-range extensive reading. My classmates don’t understand why; they think I’m lazy.”

    As in life, so in the classroom: there’s a tendency within most(?) societies to force everyone into a particular regiment. Similarly, in many educational contexts, if you don’t conform to the expected behaviour, you’re oftentimes labeled a rebel, a freak, a trouble-maker or simply outright lazy.

    “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer…” nuggets?!


  3. Diarmuid says:

    Quite beautiful!

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