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Language Hungry

Tim Murphey
Helbling Languages, 2006, 166 pages
ISBN: 3-902504-78-1

An addition to Helbling Languages’ small but innovative Resourceful Teacher series, Language Hungry is a book of activities and ideas for teachers based on the philosophy that language learning should, and can, be fun.
What makes this book appealing is that it is not overtly based on a single methodology, approach or new angle on ELT. Instead, it draws on many main and peripheral, traditional and current trends in language teaching. One recognises aspects of NLP, VAK, multiple intelligences, emotional intelligence and brain-based learning, but these are cleverly combined in a very learner-centred collection of tasks, activities and learning strategies. One of the clear messages in the book is that learners should think about their learning, and good use is made of study, thinking and memory skills of the Tony Buzan ‘Use Your Head’ variety. Whilst addressing the learner as an individual, there is an underlying discussion of recent developments in linguistics, pedagogical issues and cognitive psychology which is of interest to trainee teachers, teachers and teacher trainers.

This book is easier to describe than to define. If there is anything that might deter the casual browser, it is the chapter headings, such as ‘A Teddy Bear in your Ear’ and ‘Everyone’s a Juggler’, but closer inspection reveals interesting ideas about using songs for language learning and an examination of learner beliefs, emotions and strategies respectively. The chapter ‘Learned Genkiness’ is about pro-active learning. The book is also not immediately user-friendly. The chapters are not in any particular order, the teacher being left to decide on what to use according to his learners’ immediate needs, while the teacher needs to read carefully to fully understand the rationale behind some of the chapters. Of immediate interest, however, there are excellent sections on storytelling, peer teaching and attitudes to mistakes. Each chapter begins with a few thought-provoking questions, and ends with a ‘Smart Fun’ box of practical tips for learners.

Language Hungry is a book for the autonomous teacher wishing to cater for a wide variety of learner types and to encourage autonomous learning. The book successfully combines routine classroom work with creative activities and techniques, all aimed at raising learners’ awareness of their styles, strengths and weaknesses. A good choice for the teacher who is both willing to experiment and keen to make language learning an enjoyable experience.

197 July/August 2007