How to learn English? How to teach English? And how to do it all with humor? The one and
only, Teacher Joe, shares important tips and resources!
Now, in case you are not familiar with him – who is Teacher Joe?
Joseph DeVeto is a Super Teacher: he has taught countless students in
different countries, he's got a successful YouTube Channel, and
several websites, all devoted to learning and teaching English.
He combines his teaching with a great sense of humor (at least in my
opinion) and so making the process light and fun.
I am very happy to have him answering some questions and sharing his
insightful perspective on the subject.
1. Going back in time, what was your motivation for becoming a
up, I always thought I might be a teacher. I used to watch my own
teachers and think about how I would try different approaches if it
were me in front of the class. However, I didn't have anything I really
wanted to teach! It was when I started learning French seriously that I
realized the value of learning another language - not only can we learn
the language, we can learn all of the culture that goes with it. From
my French studies, I learned more about history, geography, art,
architecture, music, and literature at the same time. Teaching a
language, it seemed to me, was a way to really make a difference in
students' lives. Later, as I prepared to become a teacher, I was
fascinated by the process of successfully learning a language,
especially as an adult. I noticed that many people who study a language
in high school or university never become proficient in that language.
We tend to learn many new words in a language along with some grammar
rules, but we don't always learn how to put it all together as we do
with our first language. I think it's this fascination in the process -
how do some people succeed where others do not - that has been my
motivation over the years.
2. What was your biggest success as a teacher?
would certainly be my experience teaching in Japanese public schools,
which I did for six years. My students were incredibly shy, unwilling
to say a word. Often they were not even willing to listen to English.
When I said "Hello" to them, they responded in Japanese, "I hate
English". I slowly learned how to make English fun for them, how to get
them to pay attention to some of the things I said. Then I built on
those bits and pieces of English until finally they started responding,
usually only with "yes" or "no" at first.
By adding lots of
simple listening practice, question and answer games, pair exercises,
plus extras like songs and videos, I got students participating
actively and enthusiastically, all in English! Most of the teaching
ideas on my website (www.teacherjoe.us/Teachers.html)
were developed and perfected at that time.
3. Your site has huge amounts of materials on learning/teaching/using
English. Where should one start?
I actually have three websites right now! The first one was www.teacherjoe.us
which was basically a kind of "brain dump". I started with some simple
I had written for my students in China, along with some corrected
compositions. I later added other sections in a very haphazard way, so
there is no real organization to the site. My latest website (www.LearningToLearnEnglish.com)
is an attempt to organize the whole process of learning, in a step by
step fashion. I think the Practice English page may end up
being the most important page from that site. It basically ties
together the best pages from www.teacherjoe.us into a logical
study plan. Or so I hope! It's still a work in progress.
For my current students in China, I've also made a site with just
Humor is such an important tool in teaching, especially in teaching a
language, so I think this site should be the most popular of my three
4. You are sharing
some very useful videos that teach pronunciation. In your opinion, how
important is correct pronunciation to learners of English?
think clear pronunciation is very important for two reasons. Let me
give the second reason first, because it's fairly obvious. Clear
pronunciation allows a learner to be understood, leading to successful
communication. Sometimes we can guess what a person is saying even if
there are small errors in pronunciation, however the more small errors
we have, the greater the possibility of being misunderstood.
second reason is, I think, more important! When learners of a language
can pronounce clearly, they gain confidence in speaking. I believe one
of the reasons my Japanese students used to say "I hate English" was
because they could not pronounce it well. They knew their pronunciation
sounded "wrong" and they did not like embarrassing themselves by saying
things incorrectly. As they learned to pronounce correctly, and as they
were able to compare their pronunciation to mine, they knew they were
learning to speak "real" English, and that gave them the confidence to
5. I am quite
interested to hear your advice on this one. After deciding "Yes! I want
to learn English!" what is the first step that person should take?
think the very first thing students should do, and maybe the second,
third, fourth and fifth thing, is to listen to English. Get used to the
sounds and rhythm of English, until it starts to feel "natural". Think
about how we learn our first languages - we listen to the language all
around us long before we can say even one word! And we end up fluent!
We can do the same for any language, especially with today's
technology. As we listen more, we can then start to study vocabulary
and grammar in context (often while listening to news, songs, TV or
movies!), and then use what we learn to communicate. And communication,
after all, is the goal of learning a language, isn't it?
6. What should a student emphasize more in his studies: vocabulary or
would not emphasize either! Learning vocabulary or grammar out of
context is simply not an effective way to learn a language. Successful
students focus more on learning "whole language" by getting "input".
This is done by listening and reading. In other words, they learn
vocabulary and grammar in context.
If learners study grammar
by learning common patterns that they can use often, it can help quite
a bit, even though too many grammar details can be confusing and lead
to frequent mistakes. On the other hand, if learners study many, many
words, they end up forgetting most of them, and misusing most of the
words they do remember. I believe most students who give up learning a
language are those students who focus too much on vocabulary.
7. In your opinion, what is the biggest mind shift a learner of English
should make to be "fully ready" for the experience?
I think learners should really want to learn English. Too often,
students study because teachers tell them they "should" study. That
rarely leads to success. In the work world, some people have to learn
English to do their jobs. In such cases, even though they may not want
to learn English itself, they want to succeed, and that can provide
enough motivation to keep going.
Second, I think learners have
to think about how to communicate in English. To communicate
successfully, we have to learn "whole" English. We also have to learn
how to think in English. The skill of thinking in English only comes
with correct practice, for example, learning words in context rather
than in isolation.
8. What surprises await us in the future? Any future projects or videos
you are working on?
now my career is going through a bit of a transition, so I don't have
much time for new projects. In the future I would like to make more
audio and video files because, as I mentioned earlier, listening to a
language is so important. I've made a few audio files and videos of
jokes from www.LaughAndLearnEnglish.com which
are not actually posted on the site. Your readers can be among the few
who can listen by going to http://www.laughandlearnenglish.com/jokeaudio.html
I don't know when I will be able to add more, but if I get some
encouragement from visitors, I might make them sooner rather than later!
I had more time, I would like to make videos that show how to
communicate more successfully in English. I envision making videos with
people interacting, setting good examples rather than just
"instructing". These videos could be with two teachers or with students
interacting with each other. I don't see any videos like that, so they
could be tremendously valuable for students.
9. And finally, if you were not teaching English as Teacher Joe, what
would you be doing?
would love to be a blues guitarist like my favorite musician, B.B.
King. Of course, to do that I would have to actually learn to play the
guitar! Or I would like to be a professional athlete. Too bad I'm only
average at sports. Or I could live at the beach, collecting shellfish
and selling them at the market, or something like that.
realistically, I could... well, I don't know what I could do! I've
focused so much on teaching that I can't do anything else well enough
to earn money. Fortunately, I don't have to make that choice. With so
many people around the world learning English, there will always be
jobs for teachers. Maybe I could even teach English at the beach to
athletes who also know how to play the guitar! Hey, it doesn't hurt to
was enlightening. Thanks a lot for sharing, Joe!
We'll be waiting to listen to your first album...
So if you would like to know how to learn English, or how to teach
English, you are welcome to visit his sites.
And I'll leave you with a
sample of Joe's work: a video where he teaches
all English vowel sounds.