Discussion about "TEFL-ese"

First, let’s look at what I mean by TEFLese.

In his book The Lexical Syllabus, Willis explains the expression in this way:

“‘TEFL-ese’—a language designed to illustrate the workings of a simplified grammatical system and bearing a beguiling but ultimately quite false similarity to real English”.

Quite a few people here have denied that the sentence “There is a pencil on the desk” has that TEFLese taste to it. I find the opposite. I find the sentence somewhat “unreal”. It has an ESL classroom flavour to it, IMO.

The discussion around that sentence is happening on other threads here, so I won’t extend it into this thread unless pushed to do so. What I want to discuss is the presence or non-presence of TEFL-ese in modern ESL/EFL classrooms and materials and in the usage of ESL learners and/or non-native speakers who have experienced ESL/EFL classroom study.

This is not to state that TEFLese does not have its uses in the classroom - that debate is still open -but only to investigate its existence.

So, to all here, have you noticed examples of TEFLese in EFL/ESL classrooms and classroom materials, or do you claim that it does not exist? How do you feel when you hear the term TEFLese, and what does it mean for you?

Thanks in advance.

I’d like to add this quote:

The cloning of published materials has led to the creation of what is effectively an artificial dialect of English (TEFL-ese) characterized by large amounts of phraseology which learners find difficult to integrate into their language naturally. This may well be as it does not always conform to what they encounter in real business life.


Down with TEFLSPEAK-G?

“TEFLSPEAK-G tends to pertain to the more formal norms of written language, rather than the specific grammar of authentic speech outside the classroom. Typical features of ordinary spoken English such as tags of all kinds, pragmatic markers and co-operative speech overlap are either under-represented or completely missing (instead, German tokens like ‘ähm’ or … may occur). One reason for this is that they can hardly be found in EFL textbooks (including the manifold resources accompanying them) which are still quite often the one and only basis of classroom discourse. In consequence, TEFLSPEAK-G discourse appears to be relatively stiff, distant and pedantically controlled by the teacher on the one hand, on the other lacking the relaxed atmosphere as well as the spontaneity and flexibility of authentic oral exchanges.”

juergenkurtz.wordpress.com/2008/ … assroom-1/

I think the vast majority of all ESL materials are rather artificial. That’s because you need to bridge the gap between teaching the alphabet and using authentic materials and resources.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: An exotic performer[YSaerTTEW443543]

It seems that the ones in Germany are more so than others.

And for sure, students who reach intermediate level probably know how to recite the alphabet and are appreciated for their abilty to repeat it just as well as any other competent user. On the other hand, it seems that many students who are schooled in TEFLSPEAK-G sound as if they’ve been schooled in TEFLSPEAK-G.

Hi guys

This subject seems to be a soap box issue.

I concur the vast majority is certainly going this way, but look at the theories and material creation that people like Evan Frendo, Duncan Baker or Jean Stocker have or get involved in.

The message you give to students could make them think all material uses artifice in all cases. This just isn´t true.

Would you consider an interview with an individual artificial in the speech used?
Maybe in design, but not in the natural Q and A process.
If you would be slightly inclined to agree maybe look at Business English Handbook; Advanced by MacMillian
Or ispeak by McGraw Hill.

What do you think of some of the material in Spotlight/Business Spotlight Torsten? btw material created in Germany Molly.

I guess that now you’ve said it, students won’t think it, if they ever would, Stew.

Did you read the linked article, Stew?

Hi Molly

So you believe simply stating a counter argument, therefore ultimately shut down the thinking process.
A quick look at Synthesis would prove fruitful, don´t you think Mols?

Are you saying that students or forum users are so gullible to believe everything I say, I wish. And trust me I am a teacher.

Yes I read the article, and although I have my qualms about the German state school system it refers to, you need to know a little bit more about it.

As there is no National Curriculum, but a federal system means a rather fragmented system. There is some freedom from the state if the teachers make themselves aware of it.
Saxony being a free state is as such.
Blanket statements sell and can not just get, but doop readers.

You could say that TTT overshadows STT sometimes in Germany, but why is this seen as an wholesale negative?
Are you proporting to believe in this very popular pulp theory?
TTT can be important for learning by listening, picking up authentic English (one thing I think you might support), absorbtion and imitation.
Any thoughts on balance of active versus passive learning?

What do you think of some of the material in Spotlight/Business Spotlight then Molly? Care to peruse www.spotlight-online.de.
A little education goes a long way.

Hi Molly

If TEFLese is so widespread, how does that fit in with this point:

So you believe simply stating a counter argument, therefore ultimately shut down the thinking process.

I don’t understand that sentence, Stew.

I’d say you’re the one who is sugesting gullibility is afoot:

Hence my question to Torsten in another thread.

I don’t understand that sentence.

Where is it seen as “an wholesale negative”? Not in the article, is it? I think TTT is important and useful, if controled. It is especially useful to students who may not get the chance to converse with native speakers, for example. But, as I say, if there is an imbalance between TTT and STT - as mentioned in the article - a review of one’s approach is necessary.

If the situation below exists in German ESL/EFL classrooms, shouldn’t it be addressed?

Any thoughts on balance of active versus passive learning?

I think it’s quite difficult to judge what might be passive learning in an ESL classroom, but when there is an imbalance between TTT and STT and the balance is swung too far in the direction of TTT, we students do start thinking “Hey, when do we can a chance to speak” and “We are the ones who need the practice”. And, as most students’ receptive English is higher than their productive English, I’d say the latter needs to be worked on more frequently than the former, in class.

It’s great, mostly, if one wants to learn to use a certain register/genre, but what has it got to do with the discussion on TEFLSPEAK-G?

And what’s your opinion on the podcasts at Spotlight regarding functionality and effectivness as a learnng tool, target variety (native/non-native, etc.) accent of the speakers, etc.?


Not sure what you mean?

Real teachers with real problems:

“I have been teaching English for more than 5 years and love it. I have found your site very useful and thought-provoking. I’d like to ask a question which must be typical problem of any given ESL class; the question is how can we make our students speak purely and spontaneously English; because as far as I know, at least in the institutes I have been teaching, English being taught is not in a way a native person utters words. How can we non-native teachers teach our students to speak in a native context?”

teachingenglish.org.uk/talk/ … al-english

As an effective learning tool, how do the listenings at Spotlight compare with the listenings at the link below, Stew, Anyone?


Compare Little Golden Hood (spotlight-online.de/

Hi Molly

Most of the people involved are those who, the authors and believers of this theory, have this TEFLSPEAK disease. :shock:

I don’t understand that sentence.

Hi Molly

The people the article you quote and you maybe believe in refer to users of TEFLSPEAK.

By the definitions the same people covered by this blanket statement may, under the label/ definition given, work for Spotlight.

Second or related part of the above article:


a convincing theoretical framework which can serve as a solid basis for the design of powerful EFL learning environments and, ultimately, the implementation of effective instructional procedures and techniques, needs to integrate both, the internal (the learner / teacher as a mental being) and the external (the learner / teacher as a social being). Theories which are too re­ductive anthropologically, separating the mental from the social, are didactically less convincing, especially or at least from the teacher’s practical per­spective, and they rather widen than bridge the gap between theory and prac­tice.

juergenkurtz.wordpress.com/2008/ … assroom-2/

Do you, as a teacher or syllabus writer integrate the internal and external?

Part three has just arrived:

TEFLSPEAK-G and the Idea of Encouraging Improvised Speech in the EFL Classroom (3)

juergenkurtz.wordpress.com/2008/ … assroom-3/



This is a pencil. This is a boy. Peter is a boy. Peter is not a pencil.

And this is the point of all my postings on this subject:

“Why does Effle matter? After all, you may think, it is correct English and it will not do any harm; sentences with a similar structure are used to convey meaning in real life, so if learners are learning the patterns of these sentences they are learning something useful. But Effle does harm the learning process, since it severs the link between what we say and what we mean. Language use and language learning needs to be a continuous effort to understand meaning and to convey meaning. As soon as we encourage or force learners to say what they do not mean, we break links that will be all the harder to mend afterwards.

“Yezneeg likes very much the meat of the hen”