Telling the time

A blog post about a recent topic in my class regarding telling the time. In simple English we might say “It’s eleven fifteen” (11.15am). However, usually we might say “It’s a quarter past eleven”. How does this work?

Key words: Half, quarter, past, to

Key phrases: quarter past, half past, quarter to

Why? “It’s a quarter past the hour” means it’s 15 minutes since this hour began.

Time - Quarter past and half past. Whiteboard photo by Andrew Blyth
Time – Quarter past and half past. Whiteboard photo by Andrew Blyth

For instance:

  • 11.15am is “It’s a quarter past eleven” or “… a quarter past the hour”.
  • 11.30am is “It’s half past eleven”
  • 11.45am is “It’s a quarter to twelve”

Also, we can add and subtract information, and use numbers:

  • “It’s a quarter past”
  • “It’s half past”
  • “It’s a quarter to”
  • “Let’s meet at a quarter past”
  • “I have a booking for half past two”
  • “We’re late. We’ll get there at five minutes to twelve”
  • “We’re late. We’ll get there at five minutes to” (11.55am)
  • “Let’s meet at twenty past three this afternoon” (3.20pm)
  • “The booking is for ten past eight this evening” (8.10pm)

If you have any questions, please ask or leave a comment below.

Typing speed

It’s interesting that many people cannot type in the most efficient way. I learnt to type as a child, and then professionally after university. I wish that I had been properly taught when I was in high school, because I would have been able to get my assignments done a lot quicker. Nowadays, for any job in an office or government department in western countries, you need to show a certificate of typing achievement.  What typing speeds do you need?

  • For typical government jobs: About 25 words per minute (wpm)
  • The average typist does about 41 wpm
  • Men about 44 wpm, women 38 wpm
  • About half of the population cannot exceed 50 wpm
  • Fastest ever was Stella Pajunas in 1946 at 216 wpm on an electronic typewriter.
  • The Dvorak keyboard is about twice faster than the common Qwerty type.
CC Unsplash 2014,
CC Unsplash 2014,


  1. Typing Study, yourself to touch type,
  3. Typing Test English.


World Teachers Day

It’s World Teacher’s Day every year on the 5th October (Wikipedia, World Teacher’s Day.Org). The day in which we don’t necessarily celebrate teachers, but instead, promote education. Fight ignorance and superstition with facts, knowledge, and rational thought. Teach and learn how to sense, analyse, think, and communicate.

We will ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems. ... Incheon Declaration, World Education Forum, 2015 (UNESCO).

World Teachers Day, Nelson Mandela quote.
World Teachers Day, Nelson Mandela quote. Image from,

Voice actors needed

Four voice actors needed to help produce dialogues for classroom materials.
Date: Thursday 15th (9am – 3pm), or Sunday 18th September (11am – 5pm, may be flexible), or Sunday 25th September (11am to 5pm).
Location: Nanzan University.
Role: Voice actors.
Pay: ¥5,000 to ¥8,000 (depending on skills).
Transportation fee: Maximum (about) ¥500 each way.
Others: Additional work may be required in 2017. Voice actors will need to sign an industry standard talent release form (available only in English).

Studio mixing audio board. CC0 by Grupo Glam For 2016,
Studio mixing audio board. CC0 by Grupo Glam For 2016,

Age: 18 to about 29
Gender: 2 Males & 2 females. Preferred: one male and one female native speakers (of any region), and one male Korean and one female Chinese speakers of English with very good or near native-like pronunciation (the female Chinese speaker can be from China, Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, etc).
English skills: Very good to native-like pronunciation.
Other skills: Voice acting skills, especially able to use a range of emotions.
Other info: Preferred: people who are likely to stay in Nagoya for more than a year for additional work. May need to meet for a brief interview and script reading on Friday 9th Sept, or Thursday 15th Sept. Contact me for details of application including what voice sample files are required for application.

Deadline:  Applications accepted until positions are filled. Contact Andrew Blyth via the email address here to apply and for more information.

Workshop: Using Bottom-Up Approaches to Teach Listening

I will be presenting a workshop titled “Using Bottom-Up Approaches to Teach Listening” at the annual Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT) conference in November this year. I encourage you to come along, or ask questions online (via Twitter is best). Official details:

Conference: Japan Association of Langauge Teachers (JALT) 2016 conference,

  • Event: 42nd Annual International Conference on Language Teaching and Learning & Educational Materials Exhibition
  • Where: Aichi Industry & Labor Center – WINC Aichi, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
  • When: 25 – 28 November 2016
  • Theme: Transformation in Language Education

Day: Sunday, November 27th.
Time: 1:05 PM – 1:30 PM  (25 minutes).
Room: 904.

Presentation ID #: 619
Presentation Title: Using Bottom-Up Approaches to Teach Listening
Format: Practice-Oriented Short Workshop
Content Area: Listening (LIS)
Context: College & University Education

Handouts / resources:

(to be added later)


Long abstract:

Often teachers teach listening by playing a CD and providing students with comprehension questions; though this is not teaching listening but testing it (Sheerin, 1987). Also, recent academic discussion has criticised the inadequacy of listening strategies (see Blyth, 2012; and Chang and Millet, 2014). Consequently, new methodologies were developed by the presenter to actually teach listening using bottom-up approaches based on cognitive science theory by Cutler (2012) and Field (2008). This practice oriented workshop introduces these new teaching methodologies which are the outcomes of a large scale mixed methods research project. This project worked with teachers in central Japan to develop and trial methodologies for bottom-up listening approaches that are suitable for their context (considering teaching preferences, class types, and students). Data collection included pre and post listening tests, as well as interviews with teachers and students. A key result is that bottom-up listening approaches, or teaching pronunciation, is an effective means to improve student listening abilities. This workshop will provide only a brief introduction to pertinent listening theory followed by demonstrations of simple activities that teachers can use from Monday morning. The workshop will include demonstrations, audience participation, and a short Q&A. Handouts will include web links to class handouts, audio samples, demonstration videos, and other related materials.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful students

I have taught with top-ranked and low-ranked universities in Japan. I have taught the best and worst of students. I have taught in five different countries in Europe, Australasia, and the Far East. I have taught for all of this century so far, and so I have noticed some differences between successful and unsuccessful students. Here is a list of differences I have seen; a list you could learn from.

People meeting, by Eric Bailey 2014, CC
People meeting, by Eric Bailey 2014, CC

Successful students:

  1. Ask questions. If they don’t know, they can’t learn, or they can’t complete a task.
  2. Have colours. Their pencil case has many different coloured pens and highlighters. They all the main stationary supplies with them.
  3. They have the book, or a copy of the book. Even if they didn’t buy the textbook, or forgot it, they still bring their own photocopy to class.
  4. Are organised. They plan and organise their schedules so they have time to do homework, do assignments, and study. They are almost never late with submitting work. If there is a problem, they ask for help.
  5. Don’t have or don’t overdo part-time work. They focus on their university success. So they rarely come to class sleepy or exhausted.
  6. Work with others and learn together.
  7. Can use technology (computers especially, see essential tech tools for students).
  8. They read.
  9. They learn how to study. Simply reading a book isn’t enough. You need to know your learning style, and then how to use that (see Multiple Intelligences).
  10. They love learning. They want to know more. They ask questions.

Unsuccessful students:

  1. Forget everything. Their books, their pencil case, their handouts, everything.
  2. Never ask questions. They assume everything they need to know is given by the teacher. They don’t take responsibility for their learning.
  3. Have to borrow a pen or pencil.
  4. Are late to class.
  5. Ask to go to the toilet at the start of class (most of us stop this at age 8).
  6. Work part-time jobs until late at night, and so they
  7. Sleep in class.
  8. Their part-time jobs stop them from studying, doing homework, and passing classes.
  9. Work alone.


Which do you want to be, successful or unsuccessful? How habits do you have from the successful list?

Managing Stress

Stress is a normal part of life. Having too much and too little is damaging. We need to have a work-life balance to live normally. This means we need about a third (⅓) of the day work, ⅓ play (family & friends), and ⅓ sleep. If this balance is different, then you will have problems managing stress. This presentation is a brief introduction to stress and how to manage it. This presentation was given at the annual meeting of Aichi Gogaku Volunteers on the 18th June 2016.

Presentation slides & notes: Stress Managing in everyday life.pdf.

CC0 Startup Stock Photos 2014, from
CC0 Startup Stock Photos 2014, from

What is stress? Selye was a famous psychologist who studied stress. He said:

“Nowadays, everyone seems to be talking about stress. You hear it not only in daily conversation, but also through television, radio, the newspapers and the constantly increasing number of conferences, stress centres, and university courses that are devoted to the topic… The businessman thinks of it as frustration or emotional tension, the air traffic controller as a problem in concentration, the biochemist and endocrinologist as a purely chemical event, the athlete as muscular tension. This list could be extended to almost every human experience or activity, and somewhat surprisingly, most people… think of their own occupation as being the most stressful. Similarly, most of us believe that ours is “the age of stress”, forgetting that the caveman’s fear of being attacked by wild animals while he slept, or dying from hunger, cold, or exhaustion, must have been just as stressful as our fear of a world war, the crash of the stock exchange, overpopulation or the unpredictability of the future.”

– Hans Selye (1907 – 1983, cited in Walker, Burnham, & Borland, 1994, p704).

Walker, M., Burnham, D., & Borland, R. (1994) Psychology, 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons.

Teaching doesn’t equal learning: Global experts urge end of Japans rote learning culture

Japan has long been criticised for its poor education system, where there is an emphasis not on learning, but on passing tests. The purpose of education is to give knowledge and skills to people for their future. A British educator here in Nagoya notes that his university students lack general knowledge about the world. They might have passed tests, but still lack intellectual abilities required for academic success (McLellan, Japan Times, 2016). Education does not mean the sole ability to pass tests; it means the ability to think, learn, and adapt to a future we cannot imagine (Robinson, TED, 2006). Consequently, the Global Teacher Prize, the Nobel Prize equivalent in education, has criticised Japan for its rote learning culture (Japan Times, 2016). A quick search on the Japan Times website reveals years of criticism, but with no change in sight (Japan Times, Search).

People coffee team meeting. CC, 2014.
People coffee team meeting. CC, 2014.

I would bet that most Japanese people would wonder why this photo above was included in this post. It would seem irrelevant, but I assure you it is exactly the right photo to include.

Ultimately, students themselves are responsible for their learning, however, they still need guidance on what is appropriate and what is not. Here the responsibility of the teacher is to provide appropriate means for students to learn. In a sense, the job title, “teacher”, is antiquated. Perhaps titles like “learning facilitator” or “mentor”, or anything similar is more appropriate. The term “teacher” implies that one person stands at the front of the room talking, and students do nothing but listen; however, this does mean that students learn. This manner of instruction is called lecturing, and it is one of the worst or most ineffective forms of learning for students. Instead, students should be active, involved, and collaborating, hence the term “learning facilitator”. The concept of facilitating student learning is not new, and I did not invent it. The idea traces its origins to Lev Vygotsky, probably the father of education psychology, who realised that near-peer and collaborative learning is the most effective form of learning.

People meeting, by Eric Bailey 2014, CC
People meeting, by Eric Bailey 2014, CC

What do I do in my classes? I give students reading materials that act as knowledge input. Students are given thinking and communication skills, and then they discuss the articles they read. That is to say, students do the reading, thinking, discussing, and learning. I provide the input and impetus. If students want to learn, they will. If students do not want to, they wont. However, the social environment in my classes makes it impossible for students to avoid participating and learning. It is a system that seems to work well, especially as students learn more about the world, and their communicative abilities improve a lot.

Teaching & researching EFL listening in Japan