Dumb bells in the Language Gym


The Language Gym follows the classic self-help format: I’ll tell you the answers to all your worries and fears (about language teaching) but you need to park your critical faculties at the front door. The posts are stridently prescriptive, shamelessly self-promotional, and dumbly dogmatic, with titles like these:

  • 10 commonly made mistakes in vocabulary instruction
  • Eight motivational theories and their implications for the classroom
  • 10 commonly made mistakes in vocabulary instruction
  • Six ‘useless’ things foreign language teachers do


The author of this blog is Gianfranco Conti, who never tires of selling himself and his terrible book. A few examples from recent posts:

  • But I do have a teacher-training background, a PhD in Applied Linguistics and an MA in TEFL on top of 25 years language teaching experience.
  • As professor Macaro, former Head of the Oxford University Education Department, wrote in his excellent review of our book ‘The Language Toolkit’ (click here) …
  • I have had to adopt feedback-to-writing strategies that are not aligned with my espoused theory of L2 learning and current research wisdom – despite having a PhD in error correction in second language writing.
  • Since posting my three articles on listening … I have been flooded with e-mail, Twitter and Facebook messages from teachers worldwide
  • My students conjugate verbs every day on the http://www.language-gym conjugator… often scoring 90 -100%

Every post has references to his book, and ends with a plug for it.

Well, “no harm done” you might reasonably say, and maybe none is. Still, in his two most recent posts, Dr. Conti says a few things that I think need commenting on.


1. Principled Teaching

In his latest post Conti argues that ELT must be grounded in a deep understanding (like his) of SLA. He says that teachers need to ask themselves these 3 questions:

  1. How are foreign languages learnt ?
  2. What are the implications of the answer to question (1) for language teaching and learning ?
  3. Is the answer to (2) truly reflected in your own teaching practice?

We’ll skip all the preamble, where Conti explains how his abundant qualifications and experience make him more ready than most teachers to be a “reflective practitioner” and look at his answer to Question 1. He says this:

Cognitive models of language acquisition (especially Skill-based theories and Connectionism) provided the basis for my espoused theory of learning and shaped much of what you read in my blogs and of what I have been doing in the classroom for the last 20 years.

I couldn’t find anything about Connectionism in the gym, but there are certainly quite a few posts where we’re told how learners’ brains work, and how getting things from their working memory into their long term memory is the secret of all teaching and learning. So let’s have a look at the theory which provides the basis for Conti’s principled teaching.


Skill Acquisition Theory

As a general learning theory, skill acquisition theory argues that when you start learning something, you do so through largely explicit processes; then, through subsequent practice and exposure, you move into implicit processes. So you go from declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge and the automatisation this brings. Declarative knowledge involves explicit learning or processes; learners obtain rules explicitly and have some type of conscious awareness of those rules. The automatization of procedural knowledge entails implicit learning or processes; learners proceduralise their explicit knowledge, and through suitable practice and use, the behaviour becomes automatic.

Quite a few objections have been raised to to this theory. First, the lack of an operational definition undermines the various versions of skill acquisition theory that Conti has referred to: there is no agreed operational definition for the constructs “skill”, “practice”, or “automatization”. Partly as a result, but also because of methodological issues (see, for example, Dekeyser, 2007), the theory is under-researched; there is almost no empirical support for it.

Second, skill acquisition theory is in the “strong-interface” camp with regard to the vexed issue of the roles of explicit and implicit learning in SLA. It holds that explicit knowledge is transformed into implicit knowledge through the process of automatization as a result of practice. Many, including perhaps most famously Krashen, dispute this claim, and many more point to the fact that the  theory does not take into account the role played by affective factors in the process of learning.  Practice, after all, does not always make perfect.

Third, the practice emphasized in this theory is effective only for learning similar tasks: it doesn’t transfer to dissimilar tasks. Therefore, many claim that the theory disregards the role that creative thinking and behaviour plays in SLA.

Fourth, to suggest that the acquisition of all L2 features starts with declarative knowledge is to ignore the fact that a great deal of vocabulary and grammar acquisition in an L2 involves incidental learning where no declarative stage is involved.

In my opinion, the most important weakness of skill acquisition theory is that it fails to deal with the sequences of acquisition which have been the subject of hundreds of studies in the last 50 years, all of them supporting the construct of interlanguages.

We may conclude that while there are some interesting aspects of skill acquisition theory, it is both poorly constructed and incomplete. Given the current state of SLA theory, and given the essentially unscientific nature of the craft of language teaching, the strident claims made by Conti are unwarranted. In as far as he gives the impression that he knows how people learn a foreign language, and that he knows how to use this knowledge to build the best methodology for ELT, Conti is as deluded as those who use their web sites to peddle homeopathic pills.


Planting Seeds

The limitations of Conti’s understanding of SLA are evident in his previous post “The seed-planting technique …..”,   where he says:

effective teaching and learning cannot happen without effective curriculum design…… A well-designed language curriculum plans out effectively when, where and how each seed should be sown and the frequency and manner of its recycling with one objective in mind : that by the end of the academic year the course’s core language items are comprehended/produced effectively across all four language skills under real life conditions.

This amounts to what Breen (1987) calls a “Product” syllabus, what White calls a “Type A” syllabus and what Long (2011 and 2015) calls a “Synthetic” syllabus. The key characteristic of Conti’s “effective curriculum” is that it concentrates on WHAT is to be learned. The designer decides on the content, which is divided up into bits of lexis and grammar that are presented and practiced in a pre-determined order (planting “seeds” which precede the scheduled main presentation and subsequent recycling). The syllabus is external to the learner, determined by authority. The teacher is the decision maker, and assessment of success and failure is done in terms of achievement or mastery.

The problem with Conti’s curriculum is that he relies on skill acquisition theory, which makes two false assumptions. First, it assumes that declarative knowledge is a necessary precursor to procedural knowledge, and second, it assumes that learners learn what teachers teach them, an assumption undermined by all the evidence from interlanguage studies. We know that learners, not teachers, have most control over their language development. As Long (2011) says:

Students do not – in fact, cannot – learn (as opposed to learn about) target forms and structures on demand, when and how a teacher or a coursebook decree that they should, but only when they are developmentally ready to do so. Instruction can facilitate development, but needs to be provided with respect for, and in harmony with, the learner’s powerful cognitive contribution to the acquisition process.

Even when presented with, and drilled in, target-language forms and structures, even when errors are routinely corrected, and even when the bits and pieces are “seeded” and recycled in various ways, learners’ acquisition of newly-presented forms and structures is rarely either categorical or complete, and it is thus futile to plan the curriculum of an academic year on the assumption that the course’s “core language items” will be “comprehended/produced effectively” by the end of the year. Acquisition of grammatical structures and sub-systems like negation or relative clause formation is typically gradual, incremental and slow, sometimes taking years to accomplish. Development of the L2 exhibits plateaus, occasional movement away from, not toward, the L2, and  U-shaped or zigzag trajectories rather than smooth, linear contours. No matter what the order or manner in which target-language structures and vocabulary are presented to them by teachers, learners analyze the input and come up with their own interim grammars, the product broadly conforming to developmental sequences observed in naturalistic settings. They master the structures in roughly the same manner and order whether learning in classrooms, on the street, or both. This led Pienemann to formulate his learnability hypothesis and teachability hypothesis: what is processable by students at any time determines what is learnable, and, thereby, what is teachable (Pienemann, 1984, 1989).

Once again, the hyped-up sales pitch turns out to be unwarranted. The carefully-planned, “principled” curriculum Conti showcases is nothing more than an old-fashioned product syllabus, with a few bells and whistles, or rather dumbbells and seeds, thrown in.



Breen, M. (1987) Learner contributions to task design. In C. Candlin and D. Murphy (eds.), Language Learning Tasks. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall. 23-46.

Dekeyser, R. (2007) Skill acquisition theory. In B. VanPatten & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 97-113). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Long, M. (2011) “Language Teaching”. In Doughty, C. and Long, M. Handbook of Language Teaching. NY Routledge.

Long, M. (2015) SLA and TBLT. N.Y., Routledge.

White, R.V. (1988) The ELT Curriculum, Design, Innovation and Management.  Oxford: Basil Blackwell.


23 thoughts on “Dumb bells in the Language Gym

  1. It’s hard to believe there’s no agreed-upon definition of automatization. I guess I’ll have to get ahold of the book with that DeKeyser article in it to see why that is. I myself have taken the concept for granted as something everyone just understood, but of course that’s not a recipe for rigorous thinking.


    • Hi Mark,

      As far as I know, no definition of automatization has been turned into an operational definition put to use in an empirically-based study.


      • The question is, of course, what does it mean to say that an L2 item has been acquired or automized? A few short quotes from Pallotti, (2007) should suffice to indicate that the question is not as easily answered as you seem to think:

        Acquisition criteria have a long history in first and second language acquisition (SLA) studies (e.g. Cazden 1968; Brown 1973; Dulay and Burt 1974; Tarone et al. 1976; Andersen 1978; Meisel et al. 1981; Vainikka and Young-Scholten 1994; Pienemann 1998; Bardovi-Harlig 2000). We need acquisition criteria if we are to be able to make replicable and falsifiable claims about the order in which different linguistic structures appear in an interlanguage (IL). For a statement like ‘A is acquired before B’ to be replicable and falsifiable, one needs to provide an operational definition of the construct ‘acquisition’. Acquisition criteria are in fact operational definitions which allow us to determine, for a given interlanguage sample, whether a structure has been acquired or not (p. 361).
        For all these reasons, acquisition criteria have been extensively employed in first and second language acquisition research. They often tend to be formulated as accuracy percentages—a structure is acquired when it is used correctly in 60 per cent (Vainikka and Young-Sholten 1994), 75 per cent (Ellis 1988), 80 per cent (Andersen 1978), or 90 per cent (Dulay and Burt 1974; Bahns 1983) of cases. This raises several issues. The first is that choice of the criterion level seems rather arbitrary and no author has provided convincing theoretical reasons for maintaining that a certain threshold is a more valid indicator of acquisition than another. Such choices, however, have relevant implications. As Hatch and Faraday (1982: 182ff) have shown, applying two different acquisition criteria—one formulated as 60 per cent accuracy, the other as 80 per cent—leads to different acquisition orders of the same structures with the same data set. Secondly, all these levels are at the high end of an accuracy scale, equating ‘acquisition’ with ‘mastery’. The resulting developmental sequences will thus refer to the order in which linguistic structures are mastered, which may not correspond to the order in which they first entered the interlanguage (Pienemann 1998: 137).

        A further concern is that accuracy with respect to L2 norms is not a valid indicator of interlanguage development. An interlanguage is in fact a linguistic system which should be described in terms of its own internal regularities, rather than by counting errors relative to L2 norms. As Sorace (1996: 386) notes, if one is interested in reconstructing the learner’s grammar, ‘the evaluation of the distance between native and nonnative grammars becomes an irrelevant criterion’. Describing IL development in terms of L2 accuracy thus entails what Bley-Vroman (1983) called the ‘comparative fallacy’.

        In order to overcome these limitations some authors have proposed acquisition criteria based on the emergence of linguistic structures (e.g. Meisel et al. 1981; Bahns 1983; Hammarberg 1996; Pienemann 1998; Bardovi-Harlig 2000). Three reasons are given to justify this. First because the risk of committing the comparative fallacy is reduced (Lakshmanan and Selinker 2001). In fact, by focusing on the very first uses of a new structure—rather than asking ‘how much’ it is supplied or ‘to what extent’ it is correctly used—one can identify more clearly any regular distributional patterns which may not correspond to any of the L2 rules. Secondly, emergence of a structure seems to be a more constant and less arbitrary landmark with respect to accuracy levels set anywhere between 60 and 90 per cent. Finally, emergence focuses on the order in which structures first appear, which represents a qualitative restructuring of the interlanguage. (p.362).

        Pallotti, G. (2007) An Operational Definition of the Emergence Criterion. Applied Linguistics 28/3: 361–382.



      • I have never thought it is a simple question at all. My point was exactly the opposite. There cannot be an objective and valid way of quantifying Automization exactly as there isn’t an objective and valid way of quantifying Acquisition. All in all, I think asking that question is a purely academic exercise, one that is only of peripheral interest to a practising teacher. 🙂


      • As I thought the quote made clear, it’s extremely important for those who are interested in making replicable and falsifiable claims about SLA to come up with operational definitions of the constructs we use. That different scholars in different studies use different criteria is evidence that theory construction in SLA is still relatively weak and incomplete, but it doesn’t support your conclusions. In SLA research we use acquisition criteria to help us with an operational definition of the construct “acquisition”. This doesn’t involve “quantifying Acquisition”, by the way. While there might be no way to quantify “Acquisition”, there are ways of refining our use of theoretical constructs like “acquisition” so that our research can improve our understanding of how people learn a second language.

        To go back to the term “automization” as used in Skill Theory, it’s revealing that you think providing an operational definition of the term is “a purely academic exercise”, of little interest to teachers. First you tell teachers that their pedagogical principles must stem from “a deep understanding” of how languages are learned, and then you say that it’s of no importance that your preferred theory fails to operationalize key constructs like “skill”, “practice”, or “automatization”.


      • Deep ‘understanding’ does not stem from measuring the ummeasurable – as we know that Applied Linguistics is hardly an exact science – far from it! Deep understanding of Instructed Language Learning, at least in my books, means unpacking the core mechanisms underlying classroom learning in order to serve the ultimate goal of any language educator: effective teaching and learning. Agreeing on an operational definition of Automization – one which would find the international community in agreement – is less important to me than working out how to best initiate, scaffold and speed up automization in the classroom. The problem with much academic literature is that concerns itself with constructs and debate about constructs which benefits very little the classroom practitioner, who is ultimately, the main – in fact the sole – direct interface between Applied linguistics Theory/research and L2 learners. To agree on the operationalization of ‘skill’, ‘practice’ or ‘automization’ is sterile. What matters to me is that I have used Skill-Theory principles to my advantage to acquire fluency in seven languages – which makes me a sort of SLA expert, albeit from a non-academic angle – , in the classroom and in the creation of popular instructional materials (over 2,220,000 downloads in three years, a testament to the fact that skill-theory based resources are very popular with ML teachers worldwide). This is not to boast, Geoff, but to underscore the fact that a theory can enhance teaching and learning even without ‘anal’ digressions on sterile constructs. As I reiterated in the posts you refer to, it is about the guiding principles and how one uses them to frame one’s teaching.
        I would agree with your modus operandi and aspirations, had I not been studying Applied Linguistics for long enough to know how futile it is to try and measure Acquisition or Automization in ways which are valid and generalizable across languages. Arbitrariness is REGULARLY the name of the game when it comes to coming up with operational definitions and their relative measurement instruments.
        I started my blog exactly in an attempt to bridge the huge gap between purely theoretical onanism of the sort that I find in blogs like yours and the classroom soldier, less interested in epistemology, paradigms, theoretical contructs and their falsifiability than they are in understanding the practical implications of SLA theories and research for their daily practice.
        On a different note: ELT and ML teaching differ a lot in that ML and EFL teachers have altogether different backgrounds; also most ML teaching occurs in schools following a National Curriculum controlled by governments and sit Nationwide examinations which are different in scope, rationale and procedures to EFL ones. Also, unlike ELT, ML teaching is much less business-orientated. Add to this that French, Spanish and German are highly inflected languages which, from a Skill-Theory perspective entails that their acquisition poses challenges that ELL theorists barely – if ever – touch upon (e.g. agreement ).


      • There are lots of attempts to explain SLA. None of them is complete, and none is generally accepted. But some theories are better than others, and the best way we can test them and improve them is through replication studies and critical evaluaton which uses rational criteria such as coherence, cohesion, clarity, and consistency. We can further assess their empirical content, their fruitfulness, their breadth, and their simplicity. Such critical evaluation depends on identifying and evaluating the constructs on which the theory rests.

        Your comments make it clear that you don’t care much about constructs. You’re not interested in “academic debates” about constructs since they offer little to “the classroom practitioner”. This seems to me to contradict the claim, that you, “Gianfranco Conti, Phd (Applied Linguistics), MA (TEFL), MA (English Lit.), PGCE (Modern Languages and P.E.)” as you insist on referring to yourself, have a deep understanding of SLA. It’s obvious that you have no such thing; apart from anything else, anybody who did wouldn’t dare to tell “practicing teachers” how to teach in the way that you do.


      • Not that this is the last word, but from How Children Learn Language (rec’d in a recent post by Geoff): “[the researcher] decided he would say that an ending or a word had been “acquired” if it appeared in 90 percent or more of the contexts where it was needed in 3 consecutive recording sessions”. Here dealing with a population that obviously can’t take paper tests and is in almost every way different from adult EfL students, but still it’s interesting to me how they chose to measure acquisition in this case – in contextualized output.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Geoffrey,

    I enjoyed your article, especially the title. Your obsession with me flatters me greatly, and now that I have sorted out my personal issues are more than happy and keen to reply to you. 🙂 Sadly you only bring one or two readers to my blog every month (according to my stats), so you must either write a bit more, spice up you prose, wide you readership or try and become more popular.

    One big and gross misreprentation is that I write about ELT. I DON’T. I write for teachers of Modern Languages, So by right I shouldn’t even feature on your blog unless you change the title to CriticML. And as you know, the ELT and the ML worlds are totally different.

    As for Skill theory it looks like you do not know much Johnson (1996) and myself in Conti (2004) and in a few blogs I wrote previously, have integrated a procedural to declarative path for acquisition in our model; in other words: unlie initial models of L2 acquisition (Anderson, 1980), it is now widely accepted seee Anderson (2000) , Christiansen et al. (2016) that unanalysed chunks contribute to acquisition. The literature that you quote is updated.

    Your second point about Skill Theory’s false assumptions that students only learn what teachers teach them is bizarre. Skill theory does not say that at all. Skill theory is about automatization through practice. My Seed-planting technique is about increasing the chance for practice in order to optimize time. NOWHERE IN MY POST DID I SAY THAT IT LEADS TO ACQUISITION ; MY CLAIM IS THAT IT MIGHT ENHANCE THE CHANCES OF AUTOMATIZATION. Two different claims altogether.

    Nobody knows for sure how acquisition occurs, dear Geoffrey,Skill-theorists’ guesses are as good as yours. Pienemann’s teachability hypothesis HAS NEVER BEEN PROVEN. Unless new evidence has been found that I do not know about – spent the last two hours looking for it. Maybe you will prove me wrong.

    Ron White, whose book you quote, was my lecturer and is a good friend. Whether he calls it one way and I call another makes no difference. I have never claimed ownership of the technique.

    As for the rest of your argument about acquisition, I would like you to quote to your readers of me any valide, irrefutable evidence that the model of acquisition you refer to in your last paragraph is actually being evidenced as valid. To my knowledge, there is not a shred of evidence that the model and school of thought you quote (Pienemann, 1984) has been actually proven as valid by research. PLEASE QUOTE ANY RESEARCH THAT VALIDATES WHAT YOU SAY. There are however, cybernetic models which show that some of the Skill Acquisition constructs actually work for the acquisition of some morphemes (Anderson, 2000).

    There is no evidence that Pienemann (984)’ claims which I read several times over during my PhD are valid. His hypotheses are fascinating but not borne out irrefutable by evidence. Also, they are not generalisable across languages and definitely not applicable to the languages I teach (French, German, Italian, Latin and Spanish).

    As for my allegedly boastful attitude. I come from a culture where we believe that if you have got it you should flaunt it. Hate false modesty. Playing small doesn’t serve the world. When one shines they encourage others to do the same (Marianne Wilson)

    Finally, you should read Hugh Dellar’s book. An excellent read! Now I get why he is so popular. Ineteresting blogs, too!

    In conclusion, I invite you to read more about Skill-Theory. You obviously do not know much about it. And you should update your library. Pienemann (1984)… really?

    You will find this and more answers to this and the other post in my next posts.



    • Hi Gianfranco,

      I didn’t know that the ELT and the ML worlds were “totally different”. That your posts have nothing to do with ELT is an enormous relief to those of us interested in talking about ELT intelligently. Maybe you should put a “WARNING” note on your blog, making this important point clear to your readers.


    • Dear Gianfranco,

      I am not going to comment on this exchange (as I have not informed myself) other than a quick reference to the boasting. Being a blog, there is no deceipt in promoting your work. I wish I could do the same. Fair game. But some of your rationale does not go down as easily as a simple confession “hey, I need to make a living one way or another” would.

      What culture believes that “if you have got it you should flaunt it”? And what exactly is “false modesty” in our context? We are all moving in the neutral culture of academia. Be it hard or soft science, as we engage in intellectual debate, we attempt to stay away from personal aggrandizment. If I am not mistaken, as one moves up into higher echelons of intelligentsia, one is called on cultivating a tender balance of taste, self-assurance, and PR (even if it is just a sophisticated attempt at veiling vanity; …this is what set August apart from Nero (to use illustrations that, if I guess correctly, I think are in your cultural “heritage”)).

      Personally I take my cues from the classical/humanist tradition where the socratic dictum of becoming aware of ones ignorance is celebrated as a token of true education. What than could I be proud of? Let’s bring the champagne–I am a fool!? I doubt that over in the physics department nobless is defined in different terms. I think even Einstein with his stardom at Princeton was not giving autographs. At this very critical moment in the West saying that “playing small doesn’t serve the world” has very hard to accept undertones. Like a shrill dissonance titles and degrees are paraded in a discipline that I wish celebrated other virtues.



      • I agree to disagree with you Thom, especially considering that the tone of the post I was replyint to hardly reflected the spirit, tone and gravitas you seem to advocate. Quite the opposite. I wonder why you address your spiel about taste and balance to me and not to Geoff, considering the title, the tone and the intentions of the post. Double standards?
        Morover, the examples of ‘boastfulness’ or personal aggrandizment as you call it, produced by Geoff are, characteristically, taken out of context and, should you have the time to read them in context, you will find that they were serving a total different purpose. For instance, just as an example, the claim that ‘my students often score 90 to 100 %’ on my verb trainer was followed by : ” does it mean that they have acquired those verbs? Not at all. To claim that would equate with saying a child kicking the ball aroun his bedroom is ready to play a premier league match’. Any of my ML teacher readers would know that scoring 90-100 % on my verb trainer is easy and that I am not boasting. By the same token, saying that I was flooded with messages after writing my three posts of listening was sharing a fact and it was written in my post to convey my realization that many ML teachers are anxious and worried about their ability to teach listening. In nuce, I was not boasting; it is another one of Geoff’s misrepresentations, which I can see why some people find annoying and reminiscent of the Sun and Daily Mail, but that I actualy find quite hilarious.
        As for your classical / humanistic stance, dear Thom, I am very passionate about what I study, teach, write and achieve. My passion truly gets me out of bed in the morning and drives what I do and aspire, too. My achievements galvanize me and my shortocomings, of which I am fully aware drive me to learn more and do more.
        I respect the classical humanistic values you uphold do not resonate with me just wished you used them in evaluating Geoff’s attitude to as it stridently clashes with it. Objectivity and fairness are true markers of true education, too, Thom.
        Einstein is not a felicitous exmaple, as he systematically used his fame to bed women in awe of his fame – a widely documented fact – and whether he did not sign autographs, exploited his fame for his sordid week-end love affaires. Hardly an example of academic ‘plomb’.
        Finally no ‘playing small does not serve the world’. I am a teacher, and I see on a daily basis, as documented by much Social Cognitive research, how positively a charismatic adult can impact peers and students alike. And writing on one’s own webpage or article (again you should read the context) profile one’s degrees and titles is hardly parading them: I do not force people to go on my webpage or to read my articles. They choose to.


    • (I am replying to your reply)

      Dear Gianfranco,
      As I said, I did not want to enter the debate between you and Geoff, as I did not get all the facts, and I am not eager to fight somebody else’s fight. I strictly replied to the quoted phrases. I think they are yours, not Geoff’s.

      You make reference to “your culture” which encourages you to “flaunt” your accomplishments and I reacted to that saying that WE should be sharing a similar culture where knowledge should not lead to parading. Otherwise we end up with ethno/cultural arguments for what scholar entitles you.

      I DID apply my spiel about taste and balance to Geoff when I started to show my irritation about some of the more abusive posts. I hope that counts for fairness. I have defended Hoey, and Dellar in several posts, though the term “defend” seems odd to me, and I might even put in a good word for textbooks and Mr. Harmer. Mr. Jordan is not my role model but I appreciate the discussions in his blog.

      Again, as you write, we decide to visit blogs and we can always vote with our feet. I did quickly check yours and I read your bio and I was not terribly shook by the way you represent yourself. The web, after all, is a place where people “sell” themselves. It is expected. My reaction was triggered by flaunting ones erudition, and disliking “false modesty” and playing small not serving the world. I beg to differ. Have a nice day.


      (Your clarification on Einstein would make an interesting conversation piece. It seems to fit exactly what I tried to say. Men’s weakness for women needs no documenting. What is interesting is how at times they make it vice, as in Augustus, and at times virtue, as in Nero. It is not the notion that we have lower cravings that triggers interest in culture and history. But the ways we have come up to deal with them. The idea of false modesty is interesting. Does it contrast with genuine modesty? Should Einstein have blazed away his modest way of womanizing? With that I will definitively stop using space here and get off Geoff´s blog with these questions. We must return to innate qualities of language learning. Cheers.)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Being from a culture where those who flaunt what they’ve got (or think they’ve got) are regularly cut down to size, I have to say that Mr Conti’s responses are among the most immature I have read on this blog. He seems to believe page views and download counts are the true marker of the relevance of his product – a true populist in the worst senses of the word.

    What is clearly required to help us long-suffering language teachers is a definitive list of the most-visited language teaching blogs so we can all avoid wasting our time on the lesser-read efforts. Maybe if we can cross-reference that with the number of letters the blog author puts after his or her name, we’ll be on to a winner.


    • Dear Neill,

      You are spot on. Happy to agree with your acute analysis. People visit blogs and download teaching materials randomly, not because they find them useful. Hence, making reference to numbers is absolutely irrelevant, a marker of a narsissistic personality with populist ambitions.

      Before you do judge based on the ‘immature’ banter you read on this thread, do acquaint yourself with my work, do read the testimonials of teachers who adopted my ideas, methods and materials.

      Be happy.



      • Minutes after writing his daft reply to Neil, Dr. Conti sent another “comment” to this thread, giving a link to his page on Facebook. I’ve “trashed” it; anyone wanting to visit the page can Google it.


  4. The link was given erroneously wa smeant for someone else, Geoff 🙂 I noticed that you massively edited the original blog post – a sign that you realize how immature, negative and unfair your original post was. Good. It means you are evolving in the right direction. 🙂 PS : now that I know a bit more about you and your personal circumstances from people who know you well in Spain where you live, I regret our little feud. I know understand where your cynicism and negativity come from. You have all of my sympathy. Best wishes. Gianfranco


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