78 – The total number of gifts in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas
This chapter concludes, Right words sound wrong. It always makes me think of Dogme ELT when I read them. Dogme has become a reasonably well known phenomenon in the world of EFL. Based around a view that language teaching needs to be simplified. Needs to get back to basics. Needs to embrace a poor pedagogy. At times, it seems deliberately obscurantist. It seems elitist to some. It seems pompous and arrogant to others. But people struggle to define it. You only have to trawl through this blog to where I publicly vented my frustration with the delightfully named Olaf Elche. He had gotten his knickers into a twist because he thought I was trying to avoid giving a definition of dogme that was unambiguous. What is dogme, I had been asked. Dogme is a label I had suggested. What’s in the bottle? I was questioned. Smoke? I ventured. Read in the right voices, it could have been a dialogue from The Matrix. But perhaps I should have been utterly pompous and suggested that the Dogme that can be told is not the Eternal Dogme.
But back to the right words sounding wrong. Dogme ELT suggested that all that is needed to teach a language is to speak a language and to (self-)monitor what is being said. Where comprehension falters, the teacher(-students) can step in and help. It’s that simple. Oh, but it cant be. The right words sound wrong. Lao reverts back to using water to explain. He tells of how the softest elements of all, wind and water, can destroy the hardest most rigid element of stone and yet remain unchanged themselves. Everybody knows it, proclaims our wizened old sage. But the truth is that everybody knows the need to photocopy a hectare of the Amazon rainforest for each lesson; everybody knows that if it has to be taught, it needs to come in at least three different formats, at least one of which must be digital; everybody knows that the teacher cannot go into the classroom naked and unplugged. I hope that by this point in the blog, most of you (both of you) will see the absurdity contained within this knowledge. Naked might be too far, but unplugged is the bare minimum.