The Multilingual Mozambican: Remembering my U.S. English Language Fellowship

The English Language Programs of the U.S. Department of State is celebrating their 50th anniversary of the Fellow Program. As a former English Fellow to Mozambique, I want to share my teaching English experience as part of the celebration. I wrote about my fellowship in a newsletter while working elsewhere. Sections of the article are provided below. Please note that this information is outdated. It’s a snapshot of the early 1990s in Maputo, Mozambique from the perspective of a foreign worker.

The Multilingual Mozambican (Rogers, 1995)

I miss Africa. It was as great a pleasure as a hardship to teach in Mozambique. From September 1992 to December of 1993, I was employed by the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, the capital city. After interviewing at TESOL Vancouver, the (USIS) United States Information Services provided me with an English Teaching Fellowship (ETF) contract for one year. Having always wanted to visit Africa, the stability of a US government contract made my adventure-in-the-wait a job reality with roundtrip airfare, medical insurance, and a generous stipend. In addition, UEM provided me with housing.

…My (US) salary as a visiting teacher was better than that of the host nationals. Monthly, I received $600 and the equivalent of $200 in their currency (Metical), which suffered from superinflation: one dollar equaled 5K meticais. My first check was for a million meticais.

Mozambican money in $10,000 bills

When I first arrived in Maputo, the country was still at war. There were numerous war orphans and amputees on the streets. During my stay, I witnessed the uneasy steps towards peace that eventually led to a peace accord and democratic elections. I saw the UN tanks replace their army’s. I experienced the rebel leader leaving the bush and taking up residence in the city (my neighborhood). I talked to teachers who after being restricted from traveling outside the city for 15 years, finally got to go visit their hometowns. It was an amazing time in Mozambican history, one that I’m glad I can share. The UN Mission (UNOMOZ) was a success and the troops pulled out. The country was a tropical paradise in ruins that needed to be rebuilt. The major obstacle to rebuilding the infrastructure and a normal lifestyle was the litter of hundreds of landmines. Mozambique had the largest landmine problem in the world.

…Portuguese, as well as many African Bantu languages,  are spoken in Mozambique. Spanish is understood by the Portuguese speakers and vice versa. It’s very close. I think it’s important to mentions this because, like most Americans, I was completely unaware of this fact. However, in my humble opinion, Portuguese is a more structurally complicated language.

Being fluent in Spanish helped me meet the language requirement to get the job. Also, my volunteer work with the Peace Corps (PC) in Honduras (1985-87) and an internship in Guatemala (1991) showed my ability to adapt to harsh conditions. Due to severe droughts and a sixteen-year-old civil conflict, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world.

Teaching conditions at the university were definitely third world: no window panes to keep the dust out, sometimes no running water to wash hands or flush toilets, and frequent power outages. Most importantly, transit was limited for the students. Public transit was nonexistent in Maputo. Given these hardships, one must wonder why anyone would want to work there. Well, I knew from my PC experience that no matter how much I put into a job like this, I would gain more from it; and I strongly believe I have.

As a light-skinned, American female raised in a democratic society, I underwent a complete minority immersion. Placed in the Engineering faculty to teach English for Specific Purposes (ESP) to beginners, I encountered a majority of black males as well as a host of visiting professors from Communist countries. Mozambique was a Socialist/Communist country undergoing political change. In the past, they received assistance from Russia and Cuba, as well as other former East bloc countries. Some of my students had received military training in these countries and thus spoke Russian, German, and Spanish. Additionally, many Mozambican professionals had studied abroad…Not many Mozambicans spoke English, but a good number of them were multilingual. One charming example of this was the night I went out with some German backpackers to a simple open-air bar and had half the locals buying drinks for us and speaking German.

Another factor adding to the multilingualism in Mozambique is that many educational materials had been donated to the university in languages other than Portuguese… So learning how to read in English (the language of the largest selection of books) is necessary for third and fourth-year students at UEM. Hence, ESP programs focused on reading proficiency.

To add to the multilingualism, many visiting professors didn’t speak Portuguese and thus lecture in their native language. For example, my students were used to receiving math classes in Spanish because of the numerous Cuban professors employed at the Engineering faculty. Visiting professors make up about 50% of the staff due to the  ‘brain drain’ caused by the civil conflict and previous war of independence. In such a case, the majority of management and PhDs are very young and abroad obtaining their credentials.

As for the communication in my classroom, students received instructions only in English at first, but they were informed of my Spanish fluency and consequent comprehension of Portuguese. We exchanged English for Portuguese during free periods. The only formal instruction for non-native (adult) speakers at that time was the Brazilian Cultural Center downtown. I attended classes for one month, but the accent was so different that I decided it wasn’t a good idea. Mozambican Portugues is truer to Portugal given the colloquial insertions and accent. This is because Mozambique was Portugal colony until 1975.

Eventually, I learned to communicate in Portuguese. My students were at ease after my acquisition. It led me to question the ‘English only’ rule: If I’m to be the facilitator, how can I help them if I can’t speak their language? That year (1993) an article appeared in the TESOL Journal questioning the validity and general acceptance of such rule with no empirical basis. In my opinion, this rule creates a high affective filter. I was made aware of this by reading hundreds of my students’ journals each week.

To further expand on my minority immersion, I was the only American teaching English in the city, probably the entire country. British English dominated Africa. This is due to…their colonization…and their continued outpouring of funds for English programs throughout the continent. For example, the British Council had a wonderful library and resource center in … Maputo.

I taught these students English for Specific Purposes (ESP), which included vocabulary on the subject of civil engineering.

…Teaching Mozambicans was a great pleasure. They were very receptive and gracious. I miss my students and the Mozambican teachers. Together they showed me how to relax and have a good time despite the harsh conditions. Thanks to them, I too have become multilingual. Initially, Mozambique was at the end of the world for me, as it appears to many based on their global location, but now it seems somehow closer with the education I carry of the land and its people.

Mozambican student's note on back of class photo

#ELPalumni #Mozambique #TESOL #fellowimpact


Rogers, S. (1995). The multilingual Mozambican. The Teacher, 1(2). Recife: Brasil: Association Brasil America.

ECTESOL Conference in Pensacola Feb. 3rd

Tag words from my blog

The Emerald Coast TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference is this Saturday from 10-3 at University of West Florida International Center. The registration is $25 and includes lunch. The conference will feature professionals from northern Florida panhandle and the Alabama Gulf Coast. As a new Board member, this will be my first time attending. Here’s the schedule:

9:30 – 10:00 Registration
10:00 – 10:10 Welcome – Council Vaughn, Director, International English Program
Overview of Conference – Dr. Arlene Costello, VP/ECTESOL Conference Chair
10:15 – 10:50 Keynote Speaker: Chane Eplin, Bureau Chief, Student Achievement through Language Acquisition, Florida Department of Education
Topic Address: Quality Education for English Learners K-12 and Beyond
10:55 – 11:30 Concurrent Sessions
Room 1: ELs as Independent and Autonomous Learners (Kiss/Costello)
Room 2: Google Suite to Enhance English Language Instruction (Rogers)
11:35 – 12:00 Lunch and 12:00 – 12:15 Cultural Performances DOOR PRIZES
12:20 – 1:00 Featured Keynote Speaker: Dr. Susan Ferguson Martin, Faculty, ESOL and Educational Leadership, University of South Alabama
Topic Address: Academic Language in Teaching and Learning Across the Curriculum: A Functional Approach
1:05 – 1:35 Panel – Speakers
Grace McCaffery, Founder, Costa Latina
Shannon Nickinson, Project Manager, Early Learning Studer Institute
1:40 – 2:15 Concurrent Sessions
Room 1: Sowing Seeds (Sessions & Cuyuch)
Room 2: ESOL, EFL, and Reciprocal Service Learning (Fregeau, Leier, Ojiambo, Cornejo, and Chikatia)
2:20 – 2:50 Concurrent Sessions
Room 1: The SUCCESS from Teachers, Students, and Parents Working Together (Baker)
Room 2: Saudi ELLs’ Digital Gameplay Habits and Effects on LA (Rogers)
2:50 – 3:00 Brief Business Meeting: Report by President; Paper Report by Treasurer
Closing: Amany Habib, ECTESOL President DOOR PRIZES
3:00 – 3:20 ECTESOL Board Meeting

I’ll be presenting a case study on gameplay habits and an information session on Google Suite for enhancing English language instruction. I hope to see you there!

The Gingerbread Man Doesn’t Escape Common Core

Gingerbread Man with bow tie near stack of other cookies says,
Students illustrate the text.

Continue reading “The Gingerbread Man Doesn’t Escape Common Core”

Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction for English Language Lessons

Embed from Getty Images

Note: Gagné’s instructional events have been widely adopted for instructional design purposes in multiple disciplines.  For example, K-12 school systems utilize his instructional events as a framework for lesson planning and evaluation. See my blog post on Gagné to learn more.

Teacher Preparation: Review lesson and consider content that requires scaffolding (support) such as bringing in realia or images of uncommon words, prepping for reviewing grammar or pronunciation rules, or considering practice activities and resources. These 9 events are iterative meaning you can jump around. For example, you might need to gain attention or provide feedback at different moments in a lesson. Also, ongoing assessment should occur for formative assessment checks in addition to summative assessment (test of everything they learned) at the conclusion.

  1. Gain Attention: (Simple strategies) Show images or items you plan to discuss in lesson. Practice pronouncing them. Ask if they are familiar with them. (Complex strategy) Role-play activity with ESL teachers to demonstrate situation.
  2. State Objective: Write the objectives on the board and check them off as you cover them. This helps the learner know what has been covered. Simplify the language of the objectives, so students will understand them. Use drawings for beginning levels. See list of verbs for language objectives below.*
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning: Have you ever_____? Share experience. Tell me about ____.  Use brainstorming to illustrate information on white board. This will tap into their prior knowledge and ready their brain to receive related information for enhanced storage and retrieval.
  4. Present content: Direct instruction of lesson. Provide examples and nonexamples.
  5. Provide learner guidance: Accommodate learners as needed. Answer questions (consider ‘wait time’ across cultures may from a few seconds to minutes before a response). Guidance can be as simple as a head nod for accuracy or other total physical responses such as going up on your toes when a syllable is emphasized in a word.
  6. Elicit performance: Participants do the task individually, pairs, or whole group. Use gaming activities to make learning interactive (e.g., Hangman, Spelling Race, Mime for Guessing Game).
  7. Provide Feedback: Answer questions and assist participants one-on-one. Provide clarification verbally and in writing. Check workbook. Provide answer key and let them check their own answers in pairs.
  8. Assessment: Ask some basic recall and application questions. Ask higher order questions for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Assessment can be as simple as raising hands for polling questions. Alternative assessments include performance or production of artifact (drawing, essay, pamphlet).
  9. Enhance retention and transfer: 1) In one word, how can you use what you learned today in your life/work? 2) Use language strategies to practice what you learned today. Which strategies will you use? Recommend appropriate strategies listed in my blog post. 3) Review newly learned material at start of next class for retention.

I prepared this instructional sequence for novice ESL teachers to prepare their lessons. I’ll definitely be adding to it. I’d love feedback/input from my ESL/EFL peers!

*Language objective verbs (Excerpted from Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2012) focus on the language functions.

Listening – tell, role play, identify, review, label, describe, define, name, match listen, recognize, pint, show, follow

Speaking – name, discuss, rephrase, summarize, explain, tell, use

Reading – preview, read aloud, find compose, construct, create, design, elaborate, specific information, identify, skim, test, infer, predict, hypothesize, invent, design explore Evaluation – choose, decide, recommend, select,

Writing – list, summarize, ask and justify, defend, support answer questions, create sentences, state and justify opinions, write, contrast, classify, record

Vocabulary Development – define isolated words, define words in context, find words and construct meaning


Echevarria, J., Vogt. M., & Short, D. J. (2012) Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners: The SIOP® Model. Pearson Education, Inc.

Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

My Popular Freebie Products on TeachersPayTeachers

Missippi Riverboat docked in New Orleans Harbour
This product is available in my store on TeachersPayTeachers

Last week, I shared my best sellers on TPT. This week, I thought I’d share how many downloads I have on my most popular freebies on TPT. Access to these is free as a digital download if you sign up for TeachersPayTeachers. Please leave a comment on the product page if you download one after reading this blog post.

  1. Spanish Language Writing Center Sign: Centro de Escribir (Downloaded 846 times)
  2. Writing Station: Learning Center Label (Downloaded 635 times)
  3. K-5 Strategy Usage Self-evaluation Worksheet (Downloaded 513 times)
  4. Directional Prefixes Chart for ESL (Downloaded 325 times)

TPT is an open market place for teachers to sell their self-produced (teacher-authored) material.  To learn more about TPT, see my blog page. Before you sign-up for the TPT free account, read that blog to learn how to give me credit when you enroll. Thanks!

Sandra Annette Rogers,

Teacherrogers Store

My Dissertation Abstract on MMORPGs to Improve ESL Skills

A Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game with Language Learning Strategic Activities to Improve English Grammar, Listening, Reading, and Vocabulary

Brightly colored winged-ferry is learning about a quest from a farmer in his field.
Example of roleplay in EverQuestII

This mixed-methods-collective-case-study focused on the use of an online videogame combined with second language acquisition (SLA) strategic gameplay to improve English language learners’ (ELLs) grammar, listening, reading, and vocabulary. Its purpose was to determine whether a noneducational, massively, multiplayer, online, role-playing game (MMORPG) had educational merit as an extracurricular activity for ELLs when combined with the following gaming activities to promote SLA: voice and text-based chats, forming alliances, and creating a virtual social identity.

The design included 15 participants who received 25 hours of weekly English language instruction in reading, writing, grammar, and oral skills for an eight-week term at school. For the treatment group, EverQuest® II (2016) was prescribed with the SLA optimizing strategic gameplay for four hours a week for a month after school. The control group did not receive the treatment.

The Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment (CaMLA) pretest-posttest composite mean gain scores were used to assess the participants’ grammar, listening, reading, and vocabulary performance. At end of term, the control group outperformed the treatment group on the CaMLA by 1.7 mean gain score units.

To determine vocabulary acquisition from gameplay, I developed a vocabulary pretest-posttest based on frequently occurring words from the treatment group participants’ game chat logs. The treatment group learned, on average, 15 new words representing a 30% increase on the gameplay vocabulary test.

No correlations were found between prior gaming experience and attitude toward gaming for SLA or between prior gaming experience and ESL skill performance on the CaMLA. Due to the small sample size and nonrandom assignment, this study lacked the rigor and statistical power to make valid and reliable quantitative claims of the findings. Therefore, a collective case study and mixed methods were used to corroborate and augment findings. Four impact profiles of extreme cases are provided. Emergent themes on gaming and language learning gleaned from participants were as follows: most participants had a positive attitude toward videogame play for SLA, most treatment group participants disliked the prescribed SLA strategic gameplay features and activities, and most participants preferred not to play videogames after school due to other priorities.

This dissertation is available on ProQuest.

Rogers, S. A. (2017). A MMORPG with language learning strategic activities to improve English grammar, listening, reading, and vocabulary (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 10265484)

How People Learn a Second Language

(Excerpted from my dissertation.)

Learning a second language is an arduous task. Most scholars would agree that it requires a lot of practice (Krashen, 1982; Nation, 2014), language activities that are embedded in realistic tasks (i.e., communicative approach) (Hymes, 1972; McFarlane, Sparrowhawk, & Heald, 2002), plasticity of the brain (Pinker & Bloom, 1990; Ward, 2010), and high levels of motivation (Crystal, 2010; Gardner, 1985). Here are the five stages of second language (L2) learning: preproduction, early production, speech emergence, intermediate fluency, and advanced fluency (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). Progress through these stages depends on level of formal education, family background, time spent in an English-speaking country, and many other variables.

For young children, oral language and literacy development should include support in their native language, sufficient time and support, developmentally and culturally appropriate material, a balanced and meaningful literacy program, and reliable, ongoing, and valid assessments (TESOL, 2010a). For adults, more specialized vocabulary and education on the sociocultural dimensions for the workplace or academic setting are required (TESOL, 2010b). Otherwise, adult L2 instruction is like that of young children, as noted in the vision and action agenda of the National Literacy Summit (2000). For example, they propose that adult learners also have access to native language or bilingual texts and instruction that is based on meaningful contexts.

There’s some disagreement as to the developmental stages of SLA, but most agree that the initial stage includes a silent period in which you understand some of the L2 but may not be able to produce it (Granger, 2004). Scholars disagree as to whether there is a critical period (cut-off time) for learning a second language with native-like fluency (Crystal, 2010). For instance, cognitive neuroscientists prefer the term sensitive period to refer to the limited window of time to learn due to evidence supporting the possibility of extended learning (Ward, 2010).

I agree with Pinker and Bloom’s (1990) idea that the critical period varies with maturation and plasticity of the brain due to natural selection. Hurford (1991), in his evolutionary model, referred to language learning past the critical age as the natural selection pressures activating the trait.  These pressures affect adults who come from around the world with the hope of learning English in order to attend an American university. One way to affect the plasticity of the brain is to play video games. Current research on the brain and its behavior indicate that playing highly arousing, reward-based video games activates brain plasticity (Kilgard & Merzenich, 1998).

Numerous factors affect learning ESL. For one, learning English takes a long time. For beginners, basic interpersonal communication skills can take two years to learn, while cognitive academic language proficiency can take five to seven years (Cummins, 2008). Influential factors include, but are not limited to, native language (L1) writing system, age exposed to English, cognitive ability, and exposure to other languages (National Literacy Summit, 2000). Another important factor is gender (i.e., female, male, other), which is influenced by the gender of the teacher, strategy use (Kiram, Sulaiman, Swanto, & Din, 2014), and conventional norms (Oxford & Nyikos, 1989). There’s no conclusive evidence that one gender is better at learning a L2. Oxford and Nyikos (1989) posit that it has more to do with strategy preferences and conventional norms.


Crystal, D. (Ed.). (2010). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Cummins, J. (2008). BICS and CALP: Empirical and theoretical status of distinction. In B. Street & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Education, Volume 2: Literacy (2nd ed., pp. 71-83). New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media LLC.

Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation.  London, England: Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.

Granger, C. A. (2004). Silence in second language learning: A psychoanalytical reading. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters, Ltd.

Hurford, J. R. (1991). The evolution of critical period for language acquisition. Cognition, 40, 159–201. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(91)90024-X

Hymes, D. (1972). Models on the interaction of language and social life. In J. J. Gumperz & D. Hymes (Eds.) Directions in sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication (pp. 35-71). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Kilgard, M. P., & Merzenich, M. M. (1998). Cortical map reorganization enabled by nucleus basalis activity. Science, 279, 1714-1718.

Kiram, J. J., Sulaiman, J., Swanto, S., & Din, W. A. (2014). The relationship between English language learning strategies and gender among pre-university students: An overview of UMS. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 1602 (pp. 502-507). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: AIP Publishing LLC. doi:10.1063/1.4882532

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practices in second language acquisition.  Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.

Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. London, England: Prentice Hall Europe.

McFarlane, A., Sparrowhawk, A., & Heald, Y. (2002). Report on the educational use of games. Cambridge, England: TEEM.

Nation, P. (2014). What do you need to know to learn a foreign language? School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies.  Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Retrieved from

National Literacy Summit. (2000). Adult ESL language and literacy instruction: A vision and action agenda for the 21st century. Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Oxford, R., & Nyikos, M. (1989). Variables affecting choice of language learning strategies by university students. The Modern Language Journal, 73(3), 291-300. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.1989.tb06367.x

Pinker, S., & Bloom, P. (1990). Natural language and natural selection. Behavior and Brain Sciences, 13, 707–784. doi:10.1017/s0140525x00081061

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (2010a). Position paper on language and literacy development for young English language learners. Washington, DC: TESOL International Association. Retrieved from

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (2010b). Position statement on adult English as a second or additional language program. Washington, DC: TESOL International Association. Retrieved from

Ward, J. (2010). The student’s guide to cognitive neuroscience. New York, NY: Psychological Press.