English Language Lovers: Teaching, learning, and conversing before and during the pandemic (2022)
by Rolade Berthier, PhD (Self-published)
Reviewed by Melanie Gobert
English Language Lovers: Teaching, learning, and conversing before and during the pandemic by Rolade Berthier, PhD, is an interesting book. It is full of anecdotes from real-life classrooms in the Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium border area. Dr Berthier is a migrant originally from the Philippines whose family had emigrated to Australia. Her own language-learning journey in French informs her teaching and her students’ learning.
The book contains 14 chapters and a list of useful references and resources for English language teachers, learners, and other users of the English language at the end. The book is full of ideas and experiences that “help teachers, trainers, and adult learners make their English language adventure worthwhile and enjoyable,” and definitely lives up to its claim.
After a brief introduction, chapters include “Beloved Learners,” “Awesome Teachers,” and “Learning and Teaching – Two sides of the same coin.” The author reminds us that it takes two sides to learn a language, the teacher’s preparation and presentation in the classroom, and the motivation and effort of students in the classroom. The book also contains inspirational quotes from famous figures to highlight learning and teaching challenges and to inspire students and teachers, such as, “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre,” from Gail Goldwin (1937), American novelist and short-story writer.
The book contains copious anecdotes of life inside the classroom, how learners learn and how they reflect on their own learning, what motivates them and what makes them want to learn. There are also a lot of examples of how to use classroom activities such as role play and pair work to encourage learning. There is also concrete information about the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) levels and how to differentiate between them as well as how to cope in a mixed levels class, which is a reality of today’s classrooms.
One of the best parts of the book is Chapter 7, where Dr Berthier encourages and reiterates the importance and necessity of using stories and jokes for learning, for it is now well-known and accepted that a student cannot learn if they do not enjoy the process. Teachers are admonished to use real-life English, idioms, expressions, slang, and professional context specific vocabulary that will garner learners’ interests. This chapter is followed by, “A Collection of Language Mishaps,” where false friends (non-cognates from French and other languages) are highlighted, and this chapter is followed by one on commonly confused words such as “affect” and “effect” and “bring” and “take.”
Perhaps the strongest part of the book is the insistence on humanizing language learning and looking at each individual student as a person with their own needs and challenges. Along with a myriad of activities to achieve active entertaining learning, the human-interest stories and the author’s reflections on her students’ learning paths make for an enjoyable and useful read. If there is any fault to be found with the text, it is one of organization as at times, information seems to be misplaced or left off for further discussion later.
Melanie Gobert is an English language teacher. She recently moved from the United Arab Emirates to Belgium. She has published widely on vocabulary acquisition, extensive reading, teaching writing, and technology in education. Recent contributions include “The development of a large scale online cross-listed course to teach life and study skills” (2022, Springer) and “Helping Arabic learners negotiate the linguistic challenges posed by English as a medium of instruction” (Routledge, forthcoming). She currently serves on the Nominating Committee of TESOL International Association