Number of people interested in learning English as well as number of participants of English courses increases. Anyway, this fact means much work for tutors because they have to think up new activities for their pupils or students. English lesson must be interesting, dynamic, communicative… Web pages of an American tutor Mark Cox can become significant aid for all tutors. We have asked Mr. Cox a few questions focused on his project, sense of his work as well as Japan where he is working at the moment.
Mark, www.mes-english.com has become a significant aid for all language tutors. How and when did the idea to create this page start? Who cooperates on multilingual version – some material can be downloaded in English only, some in German, Spanish and further languages as well.
I originally made my own materials for young learner classes at my own private language school. I made flashcards, game cards and bingo cards. To make learning more exciting, I started creating some games for my students, www.marks-english-school.com/games.html . I put those games on my school’s homepage and then opened them up to the public. I was surprised by the interest and wanted to share more.
I made Big Town, a conversational game for beginner levels of English, and Eigomon, a comparative/superlative card game. I had great success with them and those were the initial motivation for creating MES-English.com. I wanted to share those games with other teachers.
MES-English started out with 4 games and 12 flashcard sets. The site launched in March of 2005. It has grown quite a bit since then. J
The multi-lingual resources were a collective effort of several site visitors. I wanted to make the site more useful to teachers of languages other than English. I put a request for translators on the site and I got quite a few people contact me to help translate some of the handouts. They sent me the translations and I created the multi-lingual resources.
Some tutors consider their ideas and lesson plans to be their know-how. Why do you provide your ideas free of charge? What can be found on your web pages?
I made all of these resources for my classes. It is/was part of my job. I also enjoy making websites and resources. They are both a hobby. So, since none of the material or site creation was profit driven, I think the best way the site can help the maximum number of people is to make it free.
The flashcards are generally the biggest draw to www.mes-english.com . I have close to 2000 different flashcards. There are matching game cards, bingo cards, and handouts. Over the past year, I have been adding matching worksheets and most recently worksheet generators where teachers can easily and quickly make worksheets using images from MES-English. Those are on a different site I own and run, www.toolsforeducators.com
On MES-English, there are also quite a few conversational games (23 games), phonics materials, clipart, projects, forums to discuss ESL and teaching, coloring pages, song sheets, certificates, holiday resources, ESL job postings and more.
Many references can be found in links section on your pages. Which of them are your further projects?
Quite a few! (laughs) I have 10 sites that I host under the umbrella of MES www.mightyeducationsystems.com
www.mes-english.com – free flashcards, bingo cards, worksheets, projects, games and other printables
www.123certificates.com – free printable award certificates and incentives sheets
www.stickersandcharts.com – free printable stickers and sticker charts
www.hospitalenglish.com – free medical English resources for teachers and students
www.eslteachertalk.com – podcasts for ESL Teachers; ideas, interviews, games and more
www.sundayschoolprintables.com – free Christian printables for Sunday School teachers or missionaries
www.toolsforeducators.com – free worksheet generators and game generators for language teachers
www.funfonix.com – phonics worksheets and simple clipart to make your own resources
www.123printcards.com – free printable greeting cards
www.mes-games.com – free on-line games; grammar games, phonics programs and vocabulary games
Let´s speak about different topic. Foreign language teaching is closely linked to cross-culture differences and different habits or nation´s mentality whose language a person studies. You are living in Japan now. Where can you see the difference between Japanese and American people? What have you found the most difficult to learn in Japan? Can you tell us about some funny situation or misunderstanding which happened to you when you arrived to Japan? Can you speak Japanese?
Yes, I can speak Japanese. I studied very hard for the first 2 years I was here and I’ve been living in Japan for 8 years now. I still need to study more but I’ve been to busy with other projects these days. J
Japanese is a high context language, meaning the actual meaning isn’t in the spoken words. English is a low context language where the actually meaning is exactly what I said. So, most of the time I’m always trying to figure out what that person actually meant. It’s quite hard and I have to be careful of being too direct. Although Japanese people are quite kind and forgive me because I’m a foreigner, when I state my desires directly, it can be seen as quite rude or selfish.
A funny story? I don’t really have too many, but my first day teaching at a junior high school, I need to call my wife. I tried to ask the teacher seated next to me in Japanese if I could use the phone. There was a phone right in front of us, but the teacher said ‘Sure.’ She got up and there was a bit of a commotion with her talking to a few other teachers. A different teacher came over to me and started to take me to another place. I followed assuming we weren’t allowed to use the school’s main line. I was escorted to a very distant room. When we got there the teacher motioned for me to sit in one of the chairs and handed me an ashtray. I was very confused.
I again tried to ask to use the phone that was in this room, although there was none, and as it turns out the original teacher thought I had asked if I could smoke. It’s not that funny but at the time it was.
In the Czech Republic, there still occurs a small problem. When we want to study a foreign language in professional and technical context – there is still not enough of material for some professions. We are happy to introduce www.hospitalenglish.com, because it can become a big help while teaching doctors and nurses in our country. Can you specify this project? Has this project been designed by you?
Yes, HospitalEnglish.com was my own idea and I made all of the resources on it. I’m a licensed pharmacist in the U.S.A. I work part-time at a nursing college and I make many of my own resources for those classes. I put those on the site for other ESP (English for Special Purposes) medical teachers.
Each of my websites is slightly different in design and direction. Since web design is a hobby, I get tired of just doing the same thing. A new site offers the chance to go in a new direction and use different applications. I wanted to make a site directed at both teachers and students. There are quite a few things on the site for students including Flash programs to click and hear the vocabulary pronounced and audio downloads to listen to the readings. There are interactive java exercises for some of the lessons as well. It is quite different from MES-English and the professional nature of the site is quite fun to work on. Plus, that’s what istudied in school so it’s a way to actually use what I learned.
I really hope to do more with the site in the future and I hope it helps as many people as possible.
What would you like to tell people who would like to learn or who are just learning foreign language? What is according to you important to master communication in foreign language?
Big question! If I had to boil it down, I’d say you have to practice, practice, practice! You can practice a foreign language anywhere, anytime. You don’t need a book, a desk, a pencil or anything. Just look to your left and try to explain what you see in English. When you’re watching TV, take one phrase and try to say the same thing in English. When you’re listening to the radio, try to translate the chorus in English. When you’re not busy at work, try describing the first person you see. When you’re driving in your car, recreate a recent conversation you had. You can practice anytime, anywhere! To quote Nike, ”Just do it!”
Though, I think the key is you have to actually say the words out loud, say the sentence out loud, and practice the conversation out loud. If you just think about it, it’s not practice.
Also, it takes time. Think of learning a foreign language much like learning to play the piano. It’s going to take a long time and require a lot of practice to play the piano really well. The same goes for learning a language. BUT! You can do it!
Thank you for interview.
Thanks for the opportunity and thanks for listening.