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TEACH DON'T PREACH
Editor / City & Guilds
- November 16 2011
ELT teaching and assessment today: interview with Verona-based language expert Robert Hill
The article appeared in SpeakUP Magazine's November Issue.
Tell us something about yourself, please.
I taught for over 20 years at universities in Cagliari, Verona and Milan. I've been consultant and trainer on projects run by regional authorities and the MPI. I write and edit teaching material, which means I speak at TESOL and IATEFL conferences worldwide. I also give courses in various parts of the world for organisations like the British Council.
What has been the impact of the communicative approach represented by City & Guilds English exams?
The communicative approach - a revolution in the 1970s - is now the current orthodoxy, thanks to the Common European Framework of Reference. It shows how communication involves more than linguistic competence (being 'correct'); you also need sociolinguistic competence (how to behave 'socially') and pragmatic competence (how to build up spoken and written messages). The tasks in all the City & Guilds exams both exemplify and encourage communication.
As a teacher and teacher trainer with wide experience in Italy and abroad, can you define the characteristics of an ideal language teacher?
Personal skills are obviously important; they seem innate, but we can develop them. These combine with knowledge of the subject and an eclectic methodology. By the way, becoming an interlocutor for the City & Guilds Spoken English exams is valuable; you refine how to facilitate learners' production, both with your use of English and with your personal skills.
What are the challenges facing English teachers nowadays and how can City & Guilds exams help them in surmounting these challenges?
There is 'technology', but I think it's just a matter of mastering the machinery! I think knowledge of the CEFR is essential to become a member of the worldwide professional language teaching community; everyone refers to it, not just Europeans. The City & Guilds exams are accurate benchmarks of the CEFR levels, so they lead to familiarisation with it.
If you were to send one message to the next generation of teachers, what would it be?
Worldwide, more students are learning English, they are learning it younger, and they are getting to high levels earlier. A good command of English will be essential in our 'global' world. So, encourage students to chart their progress and set themselves targets. They can 'measure' their progress with external, internationally recognised forms of assessment.