Fun English Activities

An interview with Richard Graham from "Genki English"

RichardAre you looking for some fun English Activities?

How would you like to learn English in a fun and exciting new way? How would you feel about it being funny and amusing? Richard Graham, the founder of has been working to bring such solutions to students and educators around the word.

It all started back in 2000 when Richard was teaching English in Japan. He realized the traditional teaching methods were not interesting enough for the students, and the speed of learning needed some serious acceleration.

He found out what the students actually want and need, and developed the activities that would be both fun and motivating. All of this resulted in Genki English. Since "Genki" in Japanese means "fun", "exciting" and "full of life" – no name could have been more fitting.

Richard has provided training sponsored by Ministries of Education, universities, boards of education and schools throughout the world as well as appearing on TV and in numerous press articles. His materials are now used in over 100 countries by countless teachers & students both in the developed and developing worlds.

So I'm really happy to have him answering some questions and sharing his vast experience with us.

1. You've mentioned that school lessons were a pretty boring experience.
What has inspired you to become a teacher after all?

Pretty much because of this!  I wanted to learn things myself and the teachers out there were just so boring and out of touch.  So I thought if I needed help learning then other people would too, so I started my first "school".

2. As a teacher in Japan, what gave you the drive and confidence to believe in yourself and your method, and start "Genki English"?

Seeing the instant results gave me the confidence in the method.  And wanting those results were the initial drive. Plus seeing how important is opening kids' eyes to the world made it a very worthwhile thing to do.

3. You seem to have excellent Japanese. Can you share some tips? What were your successful actions in acquiring it?

I actually wrote a book about this, it's on the website! : )

My tips are basically the same as Genki English:  find out what you want to say, find a fun way to learn it, think "I can" and if you fail, try again. Languages are one of the easiest things to learn
(it's not Genetic Engineering), it just takes time so it's got to be fun and you've got to be learning stuff that's useful.

4. What is your vision regarding the future of teaching English?

In all aspects of education we're looking more at the actual "teaching" and initial learning moving to computer based systems.

Kids learn a whole lot faster with computer games and animated songs.
Then the teacher's role moves more from the initial introduction of the language to more of a coach, giving feedback, picking up errors, praising and deciding what materials are best for the student to tackle.  Native speaking teachers also have good opportunities via Skype and the internet to reach many more students for one on one practice.

5. What is your favorite Genki product?

The Genki English Download Pack!  It's amazing that you don't have to shuffle CDs around anymore, everything's just there!

6. Is there an "age-limit" for Genki English, or is it suitable for students of all ages?

Like great ice cream it seems to work everywhere! I designed it for primary, but teachers have been using it from every age.  My 2 year old niece loves it and I used to try out all the new games on my old grannies class (they were crazy!)   Ages 12 to 15 are always reported
as the most difficult, but judging by the feedback on YouTube, kids that age are also into it, but on their own away from class.

7. After the immense success Genki English has had, you've extended your activity into other important fields. Genki Math is one of them. This is a very interesting project. Could you tell more about it?

I really want to make all subjects Genki.  Math & English are both just languages, so most of the materials very easily translate. A lot of English teachers say "English shouldn't be taught like math", but really math shouldn't be "taught like math".  So most of the Genki English classroom games can be adapted for teaching math and I've written quite a few up at the GenkiMath site.  I'm also working on a few songs for the few things that teachers usually ask kids to memorize.

But the real challenge of math is nailing down exactly how to teach what 1 + 1 actually means - that's tough!

8. Are there any future fields you are planning to make "Genki"? Genki Physics, perhaps?

Although my main studies are now in Education, my first degree was in Science so the math is a stepping stone to that.

In fact I nearly did my PhD in ways of teaching science in an easier way. Luckily NASA, TED (a nonprofit organization devoted to "ideas worth spreading") and others have been making fantastic resources so we'll see how things go.

9. What surprises await us in the future? Any future projects or videos you are working on?

Tons of things!  I've always got loads of projects on the go and it's just a case of which ideas bump into each other to come up with something that goes "wow!" Most of the ideas & requests that come now are from teachers and it's great to help them save time that they can spend helping the kids.  So I guess more of that, funky stuff to save teachers time, just let me know what you want and there's probably a great idea just bubbling away, waiting for an excuse to break out!

10. And finally, if you were not helping teachers world-wide with Genki English, what would you be doing?

Well, after a big beach holiday, either entrepreneurship education for developing countries (so people don't have to migrate to big cities), or maybe something like battery development, not very sexy but anything to get clean air in the cities!  And I'd probably spend my spare time Rea or writing dance music!

Well, that sure was inspirational. Thanks a lot for the interview, Richard!

And I'll leave you with a sample of Richard's fun English activities: a video where he teaches the English pronouns.

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