CELTA Diaries-Day 1

  I attended the first lesson for the CELTA course at International House London yesterday. I had been curious about how much I, already an instructor at Anadolu University School of Foreign languages, could benefit by the program, yet all my suspicion dispersed in an hour.

Chia Suan Chong, the tutor, came into the classroom, and to my surprise, began to speak Chinese. I must say I thought for a while that I might be in the wrong room. I looked around to make sure that I was not the only one confused, and I felt a relief when I saw everybody else with a bewildered expression on their faces. The tutor was really speaking Chinese. She was even trying to communicate with us adamantly.

Before I could overcome the shock, Chia was trying to get me to speak one specific sentence in Chinese. I understood what she was asking me to do with the help of her body language. She was saying one particular thing over and over and signaling me to do the same. It took me about two extra minutes to comprehend the message, but I finally did.

All those in the room also grew aware of the message, and everybody began to respond in Chinese! In the moments that followed, Ms. Chong presented 8 more items of lexis in Chinese without ever using English. At he same time, she was giving us pronunciation drills, and she never moved on to the next item unless she was satisfied with our performance.

When the lexis-related phase was over, the challenge for us was to learn and practice a dialogue in a café in Chinese. To my astonishment, every one of us was able to do that as was required by the tutor. We had to work in pairs, play games, and go through drilling to succeed really intensively, but the outcome was surprisingly good. By the end of the lesson, I even sounded Chinese to myself!

The point in this anecdote is not that my fellow CELTA trainees and I can now order drinks in a café in China; it is way beyond that. The fact that Chia never ever spoke even a word of English while teaching us Chinese is what really matters. It shows that language teachers first need to be certain of what they want their students to achieve and how they could do it the best way.

The way is clearly not the easy one because it requires a lot of preparation and perseverance. Learners can always ask for clarification in their language, and they may even insist on that; however, good teachers should never give up, and they should maintain the belief that they can teach anyone anything.

I understand once more that there would really be no need to assist learners in their mother tongues as long as the right techniques were applied. The true value of learning a foreign language lies in the ability to communicate in any given context, so learners should never be deprived of their chance to use it in the classroom. Doing it the other way around might provide to learners a temporary relief, but that is the easy way for teachers, and there is no doubt in my mind that they and their students will suffer from it in the long term.

Finally, I would like to say that the main challenge for any teacher is to learn how to facilitate students’ learning. It is not impossible because I now see that even Chinese can be taught to zero beginners in an all-interactive and communicative way using only the target language. All that is necessary for any language teacher to keep in mind is that teachers are the hosts of a dinner party, and that they need to act accordingly to allow learners to feel most welcome.


23 responses to “CELTA Diaries-Day 1

  1. I had a similar experience with Thai;) good luck;) you will really be satisfied at the end of the course;)100%;))

  2. Pingback: The CELTA Trainer’s Diary – Part 1 and Using L1 in the Classroom « chiasuanchong·

  3. Great post, Guven!

    Two years ago I decided to follow the CELTA course at CELT in Athens. One of the most memorable sessions was the one which Marisa carried out in Turkish. Lots of amusement but also a real revelation into the thought process of a Learner.

    I shall be following your diary with enthusiasm as I’m sure more memories will come flooding back of days spent with a great team and some excellent tutors.

    Hope to become part of your PLN!

    • Julie, I am pleased to hear that you find something of appeal in my posts. I would love to have you as part of my PLN. It is an honor for me. Many thanks for your attention!

  4. I will be doing the CELTA course at IH London in September, so I`m extremely happy to have found your blog!! I`ll follow your posts closely! Good luck, Guven!!

  5. Pingback: The CELTA Trainer’s Diary Part 2 – My trainee’s maxims of teaching « chiasuanchong·

  6. Hello Guven,
    what a great idea to reflect on your learning while you’re actually doing the course! I did my CELTA in Izmir last year and now your posts bring back unforgettable memories of the course and its outcomes, I wish I had a journal and noted down my learning back then when it was happening. Instead I’m going to read your blog and see how your CELTA experience develops. ))

    • Thank you very much for your kind remarks Anastasia 🙂 It makes me really happy if I can be of any help to anyone interested in self-development. I’m sure you will be a great source of feedback for me when you feel I need it.


  7. Hullo Guven!
    A very insightful post! You know, I will be commencing my CELTA course in September. I am very excited, but even a bit apprehensive, lately, as I have heard that those trainees, who have no teaching experience find it most difficult. I love challenges, however, this is certainly not very uplifting to know from all corners (so far). What do you or your readers say about this? Please, I do need some positive feedback! lol

    • Hello Seemeen,
      There is nothing to worry about because tutors here do their best to guide everyone involved through the stages the best they can. Also, your enthusiasm will help you when combined with hard work and optimism 🙂 So, it will be all right 🙂
      Best wishes,

  8. Hi Seemeen, I did the CELTA in July at ELC Manchester and absolutely loved it!
    Our peer group had 18 students and I would say 5 or 6 had no experience; I m not going to lie by saying that they struggled the first few days, however I noticed that they were also the ones who improved the most! In the end, we all passed with good grades.
    I would simply advise you to revise your grammar and accept your teachers’ constructive criticism.
    Good luck!

  9. I am going to take CELTA in September from London.Although I’m brushing up my grammar, but I really get worried at times as the concept is so vast.I’m just flicking through pages.Sometimes it just seems difficult to remember every single rule on finger tips.Is this just happening to me or something very natural?
    Please help!

    • Hello Zukaya,

      You just need to take it easy because you remember everything while you are doing them 🙂 It all comes to you, and you feel confident 🙂 I think you should be spending time doing what you enjoy as you will not have enough time for your hobbies during the CELTA course. It is pretty intensive.

      Best wishes,


  10. Hi I will be starting my CELTA in Johannesburg in two weeks, i have never taught english before. What can I expect on my first day?

    • Hello, even if you have not taught English before, you don’t need to worry for the first day or other days. Every day is designed to help you grow self-aware and confident. Also, you’ll be provided a lot of materials for reading and reflecting on. You will see even by the end of the first week that you have made the right choice by choosing to be a language teacher 🙂

      Best wishes,


  11. Pingback: My CELTA – The Beginning | barryjameson·

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