This blog on Thor’s Lan­guage & Teach­ing Notes guar­an­tees to be par­ti­san. It does not guar­an­tee to be right, except in the view of the writer, and can’t even promise to be con­sis­tent. For all its blus­ter, deep down Thor is mod­est about his claims, but as stub­born as hell. He expects you to dis­agree with lots. Orgies of mutual con­grat­u­la­tion are dull. To set the tone, here are some wild gen­er­al­iza­tions:

Luck­ily nobody needs a teacher to learn a lan­guage. Ask any mother. Not one in ten thou­sand moth­ers has a clue about lan­guage teach­ing, yet by five years old every one of their kids is a mas­ter of some enor­mously com­pli­cated human lan­guage.

The num­ber of lan­guage teach­ers who really have a clue about lan­guage teach­ing is van­ish­ingly small too. Unlike the moth­ers though, the num­ber of teach­ers who are assertive that they are in con­trol of their lan­guage teach­ing job is very large indeed. Lis­ten to them in a pub on Fri­day night. For that mat­ter the num­ber of clue­lessly con­fi­dent teacher train­ers is also large. Over­whelm­ingly, nearly all these folk don’t know what they don’t know. Their toxic mix of arro­gance and igno­rance is a prop­erty the teach­ers have in com­mon with hordes of med­ical doc­tors, tax accoun­tants, auto­mo­tive mechan­ics and the labour­ers on road gangs. It is an inbuilt human trait that serves to pre­serve our self respect, not to men­tion our incomes. It is a tough call to edu­cate peo­ple out of this kind of hubris. It might be impos­si­ble.

Wow! Now that every­one has been prop­erly insulted, it is fair to ask who the heck Thor May is. On most of the avail­able evi­dence, he is just another char­ac­ter shout­ing into the wind. He does have an inkling of just how lit­tle he truly knows about what is going on with the human lan­guage machine. His opin­ions, for what they are worth, have come from thirty-four years of being kicked around the head in class­rooms, as well as wan­der­ing bereft in track­less waste­lands of research for decades. Lan­guage Tan­gle, the doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion he finally pushed through, after walk­ing away from a cou­ple of oth­ers more the­o­ret­i­cal, claimed to be on lan­guage teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Luck­ily hardly any­one reads dis­ser­ta­tions. (By and large they amount to job appli­ca­tions, but this one came a few months before the writer’s 65th birth­day, and so was sure to fail as a magic career token too).

If you find any­thing use­ful on this blog, it will prob­a­bly be because your brain was already pre­pared to agree with idea X and just look­ing for an excuse to claim that some author­ity, even Thor May, had already made it respectable. That’s OK. Be my guest. On the other hand, if you become incan­des­cent with rage over some­thing you stum­ble upon here, that’s OK too. Use your new found energy to prove a coun­ter propo­si­tion.

This blog is a branch off from my main sta­tic web­site, The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic at http://thormay.net, which is a ram­shackle accu­mu­la­tion of mate­rial stretch­ing back fif­teen years. It will take an months (years?) to trans­fer the stuff already on The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site to this and related blogs. Con­tent for the present blog (except­ing gen­uinely new posts) will be mined from a vari­ety of sec­tions in The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic, but prin­ci­pally Teach­ing Method­ol­ogy, For­mal Lin­guis­tics, and Learn­ing Eng­lish – ESL/EFL. In the even less likely event that you want to know in more detail who Thor May is, the fol­low­ing link will tell you more than you want to know: http://thormay.net/docsite/aboutthor.html .

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