Teaching lexically, materials writing and the CELTA – interview with Hugh Dellar

In this episode we talk to Hugh Dellar, an experienced teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer. We start off by discussing the lexical approach, what it is, how it differs from other ELT approaches and how teachers can utilise it. We then go on to talk about Hugh’s books ‘Outcomes’ and ‘Teaching lexically’, co-written with Andrew Walkley, and his latest project: London Language Lab – a language school right in the heart of London. We finish off by discussing Hugh’s recent post about the CELTA course and why it might promote native speakers.

As always, we’re looking forward to your comments. Do you see yourself as a lexical teacher? Why (not)? Do you think CELTA promotes native speakers? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

hughHugh Dellar is a teacher and teacher trainer with over twenty years’ experience in the field. He is also the co-founder of Lexical Lab and co-author of two five-level General English series, Innovations and Outcomes (now in its second edition), both published by National Geographic Learning. His first methodology book, Teaching Lexically, is due out via Delta Publishing in July this year 2016 and he also co-runs a quality language school in central London – London Language Lab.

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3 thoughts on “Teaching lexically, materials writing and the CELTA – interview with Hugh Dellar

  1. Good interview. A few points to discuss.

    Firstly, I’ll never understand why ESL publishers don’t make every book they publish available as an ebook, given that by definition, most of their customers are all around the world. The reality is that if it’s not published electronically nowadays, I’m just not going to read it.

    As for the CELTA course, it’s a interesting question and not quite as black and white as the interview suggests. It enables people to get a job in a very specific market. That is privately run, supplementary language centres. How lucrative that is and how unfair it is to local teachers depends largely on the country in question. In Western Europe, it isn’t. Let’s take Spain as an example. gooverseas.com puts a typical starting salary in Spain at $1750. It calculates this at 25 contact hours at $17.50 an hour. That works out at $21,000 a year, assuming a full schedule for the entire year. The average Spanish teacher earns just over $41,000 a year according to the Education Efficiency Index. This presumably includes paid holidays, pensions, health insurance, a guarantee of hours, etc. And of course the pattern is identical throughout developed countries, with ESL teachers typically needing a masters degree to even begin to compete with a starting salary for a state school teacher. It seems to me that the relative levels of training are rewarded according to the investment needed to get them.

    But let’s face it, the CELTA is there to meet the economic reality of language centres, which is that people want to learn from a native teacher, but don’t want to pay the sort of money that a full mastered-up teacher would cost. And teachers want to go abroad to teach for a few years without committing to that as a career plan. Rather than the CELTA becoming more rigorous, I would say that the opposite is likely, and you’ll see more schools employing native speakers with even fewer qualifications. I’ve already seen this at an old school of mine, where CELTA used to be a must and is now just preferred. Meanwhile the schools that are interested in standards will tap into the local talent more to keep costs down. We’ve seen wages stagnate or decline in a lot of countries.

    As for people with qualifications from other countries, I think a lot of that comes down to a lack of knowledge. The CELTA is well known as the industry standard entry-level qualification. We all know what it means. It also guarantees, in theory, a minimum standard of English ability, which employers might consider important. I’ve met experienced teachers with English-teaching degrees in Vietnam who were no more than elementary level. That might be fine for their purposes, but it demonstrates that experience and a Vietnamese teaching degree isn’t adequate evidence that they have the sort of skills that language centres are typically looking for. In an international context, it can be difficult for someone hiring to know that a particular local qualification infers, so they’ll go the safe route and choose the guy with the CELTA. It might not be right, but that’s the reality of the situation.

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  2. Hi Joe –
    Thanks for making it through the interview. Glad you enjoyed it.

    With regard to books, you’d have to ask publishers that, to be honest, but I’m guessing it has to do with plate costs, etc. and the fact that print still sells well. Were you thinking of methodology books or coursebooks or both when you made this comment?

    In terms of the CELTA, I think I’ve said pretty much everything I have to say about it over here: http://www.lexicallab.com/2016/04/celta-the-native-speaker-bias-and-possible-paths-forward/

    I take your point about the relative wages achievable in certain EU contexts, but feel that simply deferring to the demands of the market is a poor response. The market can be seen as wanting all kinds of things: cheap seafood that’s collected by illegal Chinese migrants who risk – and sometimes lose – their lives collecting cockles, mussels, etc . . . clothes at such ridiculously cheap prices that no-one is surprised when the endlessly outsourced chains reveal child labour in certain factories . . . Class A drugs cut my local mobs, etc. Admittedly extreme examples to make the rhetorical point that simply because there’s a demand for something, it doesn’t make it right and we don;’t simply have to bow to the forces unleashed. We accept the idea of ethical consumerism in some areas; why not extend that into our profession?

    If you think it might not be right, but is reality, as you state, why not focus more on the not right of that sentence than the reality part?

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