12 June 2011

Open University: learning a foreign language - is the OU better than evening classes

Question from a reader

"I hope you don’t mind my contacting you. I have read your interesting blog. I came across the sentence "the OU is trundling off in its own direction and making it hard for students like me to stay with them.".

Can I ask you how/why you feel [...]

16 December 2010

OU Results L140

At last the results have come out for L140. Sadly none of my group of "study buddies" or me, made distinction level (85% or better in each component) but we didn’t disgrace ourselves and we all passed. Here is my long awaited letter from the OU:

Open University L140 Results letter

Strangely I [...]

4 October 2010

After Open University, Adult ed and Kindle 3

There is a space of less than a week between finishing L140 with Open University and starting a level 7 Spanish course with Kent Adult Education. This is going to be interesting: the prospectus suggests that I am going to struggle at this level but 2 years ago I was attending French at [...]

28 September 2010

The end of L140

I haven’t posted for 6 weeks and the reason was Open University, in particular L140. This course has taken over my free time. The final exams (OU call them "end of course assessments") consisted of an essay; not too bad I thought, and a speaking assessment. That was stressful. The speaking assessment, 2 [...]

22 July 2010

Open University - an update

It’s late July and suddenly the end of L140 is in sight. The 4th TMA is due in 4 weeks time then soon after is the end of course assessment – an essay and a telephone interview. And that’s it. I think I’ve reached the end of the line with OU for now. The [...]

3 May 2010

The dreaded TMA

If you have ever studied with the OU (Open University) you will know what I mean. The TMA (tutor marked assignment) is something that is capable of reducing a sensible, mature adult to tears of grief, rage or frustration.

  SECTION 1   STUDENT INFORMATION   SECTION 2   TUTOR INFORMATION Name   Address   OUCU   EMail   Personal Identifier [...]

26 January 2010

Where have all the Spanish Classes Gone

I’m getting started on the L140 Open University course, one of the suggestions is that students arrange some conversation practice with native Spanish speakers. No problem you might think. I put out lots of feelers but so far I haven’t found anyone to practice with, so I started looking for conversation classes.

12 January 2010

L140 Open University Course Materials

The L140 course materials from the Open University arrived today. I haven’t done much with it yet apart from open the box. Inside there are three books, a couple of DVD things, a calendar, a study guide and a letter of encouragement. Don’t know why but I feel like a nervous teenager . . [...]

16 December 2009

Open University - L194 Portales

At last the results are here. I am very happy to have passed with a distinction! So far so good. My next Open University course is due to start in February, this is L140 En Rumbo and I am already concerned that it doesn’t have any tutorials with it. The course team suggest that [...]

1 October 2009

Open University L194 Portales

My Open University course L194 “Portales” has officially finished. I have to wait until February next year before L140 “En Rumbo” [...]


Bill Ferguson
Bill Ferguson

Spanish Teaching Resources

Getting good quality teaching and resources

The information I am going to share is an honest account of what I have tried over the past year and my opinions are just that, opinions. I will share my likes and dislikes, what works for me and what doesn't. This is a personal experience, I am not an expert but if you share my ambition of learning to communicate in a third, foreign language, then maybe we can help each other along the way.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche: "One who speaks a foreign language just a little takes more pleasure in it than one who speaks it well. Enjoyment belongs to those who know things halfway."

I think he is right. Its hard to define halfway but I think the fun starts when you know enough of a language to be able to make yourself understood, given sufficient time to think. At this stage you are not merely tolerated but treated as an honoured guest in a foreign country. People see you bravely struggling to speak and understand, and give you credit for trying. They are nearly always kind and supportive.

Go beyond this to fluency and its like a toddler growing up, you are no longer cute and vulnerable. You are competing for resources, in the adolescence of language acquisition unless you have a definite role you are treated with suspicion. Maybe that is the stage to consider moving on to another new language ...

Getting good quality teaching and resources is vital to success: encouraged by an influential book by Harry Ferber I now view language acquisition as a military campaign, I need to use my resources efficiently to overcome all resistance, I need to capture vocabulary and not let it escape. I need to wear down the opposition by attacking daily and not allowing it time to regroup. I need to learn the predictable tricks that the new language will play on me and be ready for them (this means learning grammar). Like any military campaign good quality intelligence is vital.

Learning a Third Language

My current ambition is to be able to communicate comfortably in English, French and Spanish. I began to study Spanish in 2008. I have been a student of French, on and off, for about 30 years and up to last year ....read more

Strategic Planning

When I started to think about taking on a third language I realised I had two main worries: firstly I didn't want to lose my second language ...read more

Fear of Losing French

As I see it there is a simple choice ....read more