Angelina: Szia!
Brad: Szia! Brad vagyok.
A: Angelina vagyok. Kérsz bor?
B: Nem, koszonom.
A: Kérsz viz?
B: Nem koszonom
A: Kérsz sör?
B: Igen koszonom!

Got it? This was my first lesson of the CELTA course. If I ever go to Hungary, it may serve me well. Before they start into any of the course content, they have a 45 minute foreign language class – in this case, Hungarian.

They try to choose a language that no one in the class is likely to know, and they hold a full length class demonstrating the preferred CELTA teaching methods using that language. We were not allowed to use a word of English during that class – only Hungarian. The crazy thing is, it totally worked (Update: 2 months later, I was able to remember all the words without looking back at my notes.)

A: Hello!
B: Hello! I’m Brad
A: I’m Angelina. Want some beer?
B: No thank you.
A: Want some water?
B: No thank you.
A: Want some beer?
B: Yes thank you.

It was a fun way to start the class, and was a good way to get in the mindset of being a language student instead of a teacher. But I really liked the way the instructor very effectively led the whole class without needing a single word of English as a crutch. We also were not allowed to use any paper – everything was verbal.

He came in the classroom and immediately said Szia! Wish a big, exaggerated wave. Then he made a “come on” motion with his hands, asking us students to repeat it back. He then introduced the stars for the day – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – or rather magazine pictures of them cut out and put on cartoon bodies. He also put up pictures of beer, wine and water.

Brad Pitt - DarDesign,    

(Sources: Brad – DarDesign; Angelina – Jantheempress : – Wine, beer and water)

After putting up each picture, he repeated the Hungarian several times, then motioned for the whole class to repeat the word. Then he motioned for a small group of people to repeat the word, and finally called individuals to repeat. He introduced yes, no and thank you by running through the dialogue with exaggerated facial expressions.

Then he gave us each a picture of a drink, and had us stand up and mingle with others in the class – introducing ourselves, offering drinks, and accepting or refusing.

Only at the very end of the class did he write out the words and dialogue on the board, including the correct Hungarian spelling and the phonetic symbols for the tricky parts.

Lessons learned

  • It really is possible to teach a lot without using the mother language as a crutch. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I liked this style of instruction.
  • Use gestures to give instructions and command the class when possible – it’s clearer for beginners and doesn’t distract from the content of the lesson.
  • Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate. Whenever he had us do an activity, he demonstrated how to do it with one of the students first.
  • Don’t give students written material before giving instructions or going over content verbally. If you do, students will pay attention to the paper, not what you are saying.
  • Mix up the types of interaction. Most of the class was filled with student talking time, and the groupings were frequently switched up.
  • Even if students don’t know the phonetic alphabet (I sure didn’t!) it can be a useful way to illustrate syllable patterns and show where tricky pronunciation problems occur.
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