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Lionel Billows - extracts


1) From (1961) The Techniques of Language Teaching. London: Longman.

'The teacher may never make up his [sic] mind that he has found a formula for success in teaching; he must always be on the boundary of his experience, forcing his way on to the next stage of enlightenment which he sees always ahead but never quite reaches'. (p. x)

'The material of the language lesson is not language, but life itself; the language is the instrument we use to deal with the material, slices of experience'. (p. 17)

'Our awareness of each pupil as an individual entity, our concern for him as a person, can only be developed through personal speech. Any attempt at greater uniformity or economy which withholds responsibility fom the teacher or denies him his position as an individual with a duty to have direct, personal, unique and unrehearsed relations with individuals through spoken language produces results that are less than human, that stultify instead of enlightening, that close the mind instead of opening it'. (p. 31)

'[T]he teacher must really be himself and give himself, talking to real people about real things and then training his pupils to talk to one another about real things'. (p. 56)

'We should never allow [the textbook], or any picture or sentence in it, to stand between our pupils and the concrete world which they ought to look at and experience directly and without prejudice. No paper tree or paper person should take the place of the real trees and real people around them; the language must not be allowed to stay imprisoned between the pages of a book'. (p. 71)

'The teacher must come over to the pupil's side of the problem and face it with him together as an ally, not as an enemy or a policeman out to catch him'. (p. 101)

'[T]he curriculum can be co-ordinated by the careful integration of all the subjects in it; language -- even a foreign language -- is a co-ordinating factor, because all the subjects are taught through language and the foreign language can carry every branch of study beyond the limits of the home language. If the teachers of the various subjects feel themselves competent, they should guide their classes in further reading in the second language in the library and in home reading; they can give research assignments or projects that include references in the foreign language to groups when they are preparing topics for presentation to the class'. (p. 127)

'Instead of fearing the classroom window as a possible source of distraction, the language teacher may welcome the opportunities it gives for natural and effective use of language related to easily perceived samples of living. The teacher may sometimes spend ten or twenty minutes at the window, talking about what can be seen, and afterwards make a rough representation of the principal features on the blackboard for further discussion'. (p. 152)

'If the teacher lets the need for expression arise from the natural interests of the pupil in the world around him, in supplying reading material for others, and from his daily work in other subjects [...] he will never be short of subjects for discussion in speech or for composition writing. Moreover, he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he has directed the thinking of the pupil into every corner of his life, and given him a skill that will help him to perceive the world and its life, and reveal himself to the world'. (p. 209)


2) From (unpublished) 'A crash education programme: The Madras Snowball':

'I was often astonished how the exigencies of the moment or the circumstances forced on me a choice that proved to be more fruitful than what I in my routine sterility might have decided'.

'I try to make acceptance and encouragement the basis of my work'.

'As long as I was there I insisted on calling it the MELT CAMPAIGN, Madras English Language Teaching Campaign, because I hoped it would help to melt communal, religious and racist barriers of prejudice, snowballs seemed out of place there'.

'[S]uccess would be dependent on the process being an organic, co-operative growth and not just a filling up of empty receptacles’.