Football and phonetics

Published on 20th October, 2011 in Global Bloggers by Evgeniya Zimina

There is no football in Russia. Well, there are lots of clubs. There are many kids eager to play. There is a lot of money invested in football. But the national team always teeters on the brink of a complete fiasco. However, I always have an impression that the only people who cannot play football are those unfortunate eleven guys representing our country. Everybody else here is an expert. ‘Look what you are doing, you stupid!’ shouts a fan in a sport bar, clutching a mug of beer. ‘If I was there, I’d show ’em how to play!’ I bet he wouldn’t. The maximum he can do is run ten metres. But he thinks he knows better than professional players. Well, he knows the rules, doesn’t he?

Language learning and football (or any other sport) are very similar, especially when you have just started learning. Last week Andrey left the class depressed and devastated. It was the consequence of doing a review exercise from Unit 3 in the Beginner Workbook. He kept saying: ‘But I know the difference between they and their! Why couldn’t I type them properly? I can recognise them on a page; I have no problem when I read the sentences with them!’ He knows the rule, but, as all beginners, finds it difficult to realise that there is a gap between knowing the theory and actually using the language. Luckily, both the coursebook and the eBook provide lots of exercises to do extra practice. Andrey’s depression didn’t last long and resulted in making full (the fullest!) use of eWorkbook activities. Besides, he sorted out a problem with his phone and can use the materials in On the Move. This section is simply superb! Andrey is also eager to start Unit 4, because he likes travelling and shopping, and the material about shopping worldwide looks really attractive.

Ruslan, my second beginner student, is doing reasonably well, taking into account that his job involves business trips. I wish we had classes more regularly, but as there is nothing to be done, he listens to On the Move recordings, too. Pronunciation is a problem, though. We have sailed through the th sound – surprising, really, because most Russian learners at the beginner/elementary level tend to substitute it with /s/, /z/, or even /v/.

But vowels are really tricky. Global’s most interesting concept, its main advantage – World English, Global English – is an obstacle for Ruslan, as far as pronunciation is concerned. And I sometimes wish there were drill exercises in Global. Drills are not exciting. They are boring. They do not encourage imagination. But they are highly useful, especially for such students as Ruslan, because he is trying to model his speech on what he hears (e.g. Global voices), he imitates a lot and ends up with a variety of accents. I am really glad that there are drills and references to the need of drilling in the Teacher’s Book. However, doing all that during the lesson is time-consuming and normally I have always set drills as part of homework. In this case, though, I have to change the traditional pattern of work, and practice sounds with Ruslan in class, because I’m afraid he will have problems with being understood later. I understand Ruslan is not a pilot, so his poor pronunciation will hardly put him at risk, but what’s the point of learning to speak if you are constantly misunderstood?


  • Thanks for another thoughtful entry. Loved the beginning bit about football.

    I’m a big fan of drills, and like to do them a lot with lower level students. The only problem is that, on a book page, they take up a lot of space and often look (as you yourself say) boring. Which is why I think it’s great you are adapting and adding bits to the material. It’s a sign of great teaching.

    Lindsay Clandfield on 20 October, 2011
  • Thank you for the comment, Lindsay! I know it’s impossible to include everything in the coursebook. It is only that both of mt students like Global so much that they are disappointed when they have to switch over to something else!

    Evgeniya on 21 October, 2011