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M A I N F E AT U R E Despite the fact that all of the

readers spoke impeccable English, some

of them stumbled over the words. One

Is reading
couldn’t pronounce a name, one got
mixed up with concatenation and
another found the last sentence of the
extract almost impossible to read
intelligibly, at sight.
Afterwards, we discussed what they
felt like, and it wasn’t good! Amongst

other things, they were nervous, they
didn’t understand what they were
reading or why, and they hated the
experience of not being able to
pronounce things correctly in front of
their peers, or of fighting to make sense
of long, complicated sentences.

And yet all they were doing was
what has been happening in language
classrooms all over the world for ages

I have never really

worried about reading
Jeremy Harmer t a recent teacher-training aloud before, but for
recommends reading,
repeating and rehearsing.
A workshop in Bucharest, I
handed out a text (see the
box below) and asked the
teachers to read it out, one by one,
sentence by sentence. I wanted this first
various reasons it has
suddenly become more
interesting for me
activity to start a discussion of what it
felt like to read aloud.
and ages – though, of course, I had
History, Karen Bailey used to tell
specially chosen a text that would
challenge even the most competent
her students before the whistle at
English speakers. The question that
Siete Vientos changed everything,
arises, therefore, is whether it has always
is the random concatenation of
been that bad for students, even with
states and events, nothing more. less challenging texts. And if it has, does
The job of the historian is to check it have to be?
that each of these happenings, I have never really worried about
each of the realities under reading aloud before, beyond feeling
investigation, is as unambiguous, faintly negative about it, but for various
as verifiable as possible, so that reasons it has suddenly become more
when describing the past, one interesting for me. In the first place, I
could have confidence that one have recently observed it taking place
was telling truths, not weaving when watching lessons – something
fantasies. This was the kind of way which I haven’t seen for some time,
she talked, and she was thought of despite many years of observation.
as very academic, very precise. But
Secondly, its value – or lack of it –
became a point of discussion in a
the stories of Siete Vientos and
writing project where I am one member
what happened there banished that
of a team. And finally, in the last few
style from her repertoire completely
months I have read three articles on this
because it suddenly seemed to her topic, which is all the more remarkable
that history, people’s histories, the since for many years hardly anyone
history of a place breathed in the talked about it at all.
air and sticking to the rocks, is Sally Gibson, for example, explains
more than dusty accretions of the reasons why people have been
sources and references.1 against reading aloud, but argues for its
many virtues. Costas Gabrielatos says

4 • Issue 65 November 2009 • ENGLISH TEACHING professional • •