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Lesson 5 – I want to lose weight

September 15, 2011

The first guy to arrive told me that he was hungry because he’d been on a diet. I asked him about it and as the others arrived involved them in the conversation. Naturally, the girls started giving him advice on how to lose weight and were horrified at some of his habits (going to the shop in the middle of the night to buy cakes..!?!). All very funny and some great conversation.

After a while I rounded up the discussion and put 5 bullet points on the board (e.g. snacking between meals, portion size).

I set the group working together to expand the bullet points into an agony-aunt style paragraph advising him exactly what to do.

When they were finished I wrote it up on one side of the board, and a reformulated version on the other half.

Discussion on the differences and various language points ensued, along with some phonology and drilling.

Intermediate group
4 learners



  1. Hi. I’m really glad to have found your blog and thanks for opening your classroom door to the world. You seem to be asking yourself the same question I have been asking myself for a very long time: “yeah, but is it Dogme?”… it’s lessons like this one that answer that question, yes!

    One point I noticed was that you asked pairs to translate the summary and then translate it back into English. I would be fascinated to know the sort of language points arise as a result? I have recently made the change from teaching multilingual classes to monolingual and it’s the type of activity I want to try with my new groups, and I have been fascinated with the potential benefits to students of translation for a while, without a monolingual environment in which to test it.

    Secondly, you ask if having something pre-planned makes it less Dogme? I do not know the Dogme gurus would have to say about that, but personally I would say that it is 100% fine, if the subsequent lesson focuses on emerging language, is conversation driven and focuses on learners’ output. If the stimulus from which language emerges is in fact language then is that forbidden? “It really bugs me when…”

    I like how with each emerging language point there’s discussion about language, pushing your learners to think about the language they encounter in class instead of relying on your for an explanation.

    Thanks again for a great set of posts


    • Thanks Dale, it’s great to have a response to the posts. I think I’m asking the ‘is it really dogme?’ question with my Delta hat on – I know it doesn’t really matter!

      I’m a big fan of translation as a tool, because I think we all do it anyway when learning another language so it’s recognising the inevitable, and exploiting it. In more general terms, the ability to use contrastive analysis is the main benefit of teaching monolingual groups, so you’ll find it a good experience! For me it’s the opposite – I really miss the energy in multilingual classes.

      In answer to your question about L2-L1-L2 translation, it really depends what text you choose to work with. I’d say don’t choose too much at first. A paragraph is enough. The key feature of translation is that learners have to think very deeply about meaning in order to find an effective translation so I think it’s better to think deeply about a short passage rather that slaving through lots of text.

      Consequently, this will work well as a way to highlight certain language forms. So for a higher level group you might do it with a passage containing mixed conditionals for example.

      If you do it without any particular language point, then it still works, and I find it kind of ends up a bit like a dictogloss. When I’ve done it on some naturally emerging speech, their translations are usually fairly accurate, and there are not as many errors as you might think – but then of course the benefit for them is as much in the process, because they’ll be reminding each other of language that was used while they’re trying to reconstruct it.

      There’s usually more to discuss when there’s just a straight L1-L2 translation, because they haven’t seen the original L1. Something good to look at is Lewis’ (Implementing the lexical approach)chapter on the role of L1 in the lexical approach. He talks about translating ‘chunk-for-chunk’ not word-for-word, and ‘equivalence’ rather than ‘translating’ as such.

      Let me know how it goes and what things work! Where are you moving to?



  2. Aha, my DELTA hat. I saw you did it at IH London, who were you tutors?

    That chapter in implementing the lexical approach really made an impression on me. It’s true that we all translate instinctively from one language to another. If it’s going to happen anyway one way or another, isn’t it best to help people do it well with practice of translating chunks rather than single words? I tend to look for ‘equivalence’ over translation in Italian.

    At the moment I’m in Rome and should start working soon. Italians are experts at translation (they do it with everything). I think I’m bound to miss that energy you mentioned in multilingual classes. Although I’m looking forward to teaching only Italians


  3. My tutors were fantastic, wouldn’t want to name them in cyberspace though!

    Good luck in Roma! IH?

  4. Ah yeah… true. I think I know who you’re talking about though. Perfect balance of passion and knowledge. I’m hoping for IH Roma but in the meantime I’ll accept other offers in order to pay the rent.

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