Callan Method teaching

saintnic, 17 May, 2007

I am currently developing several language schools across London where we are using the Callan Method to teach. I would be interested to hear others experience and opinions of the Callan Method. Our website is

kol, 6 September, 2007

I recently saw it in action at a workshop I attended about different approaches. I must admit I wasn’t a great fan by the end of the workshop. From a teacher’s point of view, it struck me as being very limited in exploiting any kind of teaching skills from the teacher, who seemed to be reduced to a kind of robot figure, reading from a book and having students repeat word for word. From a student’s point of view, well, I’m told that it is proven to be very effective, so who am I to judge on the basis of an hour’s exposure? I too would like to know what others think.

shiv, 17 March, 2009

my school wants to introduce the CAllan mthod but as I teach in South East Asia and can barely hear my students, they are so shy, I just don’t see how it can work. Any ideas?

steveh, 10 April, 2009

The Callan method is in opposition to almost all known research into language acquisition! It offers short term gain in a very limited way but does not prepare students for using the language in any real sense. It is very popular with some students who believe that if they are ‘forced’ to speak, to repeat, to learn ‘parrot fashion’, they are therefore acquiring language. Unfortunately they are not but it makes Callan commercially viable (also because teachers don’t need very much proper training to operate the system) even if pedagogically unsound.
This is not the answer (in my view) to get ‘shy students’ to speak! To do that you must look at culture, motivation and need and you must have loads of patience and even more creativity.

noddy60, 15 April, 2009

Agree totally with steveh. It sounds great to students but it totally lacks any communicative methodology and doesn’t empower the learner to communicate in a meaningful way in a number of different situations. Might as well play CDs – and probably why Callan teachers get paid less. Nuff said!

chievo, 17 April, 2009

Hi – I just happened across this entry and I thought I would throw out one of the many alternatives to the long-standing Callan method. SpeakYourMind – I have worked with this school for a few years now and would really encourage people to take a close look. Developed and refined over the past 20 years, it is more than just a method of teaching. And it seems that people are taking notice as schools around the world are adopting it for use as their general English course. Take a look and see for yourself,

rubyut, 24 April, 2009

Well the Callan Method might actually be a good opportunity for students, but in my point of you it just develops the loss of communication processes, as it just happened to language loss, through out the years. To my mind the basic one on one teaching method, sitting in front of each other and debating, teaching and talking, seems to be the only really reasonably good way of studying.

I cannot understand why everybody is always trying to ‘technologize’ every subject of our daily life. I think in some areas we would be better off without standardization of technology.

KPT, 20 October, 2009

The Callan Method on the face of it serves a purpose……it gets students speaking the lingo and getting used to the sounds…..conversing isa different kettle of fish but if the students can speak the rest is easy….I’ve learned to speak a few languages and if I had the basics beforehand then i would have learned a bit quicker and been more confident earlier…and confidence is more than half the battle with students as im sure most teachers will agree…..traditional and callan together is definately the way to go….

loxley75, 16 June, 2010

Just to clear up a few points, i have been teaching with various methods over the last 10 years, Callan and speak and mind included so know a little about this. Callan basically passes itself off as being this totally original method while it is basically one of many “direct” methods
which grew out of the original Berlitz method after the war when they took the way soldiers were given crash courses in German and made it commercial viable. Mr Callan himself was a Berlitz teacher in italy and if you have ever seen one of those early Berlitz books from the 50’s as i have you will laugh when comparing it to the Callan books (first page, whats this whats this, its a pencil etc!)
Callan is probably the most famous direct method as it requires no license to set up a school and therefore it has spread ridiculously. Now, I will support direct methods as I have first hand knowledge of them working very effectively in the right circumstances, ie with complete beginners in their first three or four months of language learning after which their effectiveness is seriously reduced.
To hold up Callan method as a good example of all direct methods gives a false impression as it is very old fashioned, outdated and not particularly well written. In the last 50 years since Callan was written there have been some much better courses written mixing direct method learning with modern research in language learning. Speak and mind or speak your mind as it is called now is a fine example, no i am not on commission here but i did teach it briefly and was impressed.
Many Callan teachers have not taught any other way and so have no real way to judge this but any who have will usually admit that the first few books are great, basically the language a beginner needs to survive, and then as we go into intermediate and advanced it gradually goes from worse to just plain embarrassing, with teachers who cannot change one word of the text asking students if they like gramophone records or tape cassettes and giving readings about people in up river trading posts meeting the chief of the choco tribe who has an inky black monkey sitting on his shoulder (no i am not making this up!).
So to sum it up, direct methods are great but they have their place, ie for beginers and callan method is a very famous but not particularly good and certainly very outdated example of a direct method.

EnglishLanguageClub, 4 March, 2011

I agree with loxley75. I have some of the material and have tried it out a little bit. I think it can be very effective in terms of equipping students with vocabulary which is very improtant especially at lower levels. However, it does not ask studnts to ever express themselves or their opinion.
It is a little outdated too. I think that the best method to teach is to combine this kind of technique with others depending on how students respond.

duncan, 18 May, 2011

I agree with Loxley too. I worked at a school using the Callan method for over a year and really after a month I felt that I had ‘mastered’ all there was to know – all that was left was to hone three two basic techniques or ‘rules’: speak 240 words a minute (honestly, that’s the official line), prompt and pull answers from students constantly, and correct (or shout a correction) at every single mistake there and then. It all becomes some sort of addictive game. I’m not saying it doesn’t work for some people – I’ve seen worse for sure. Like Loxley I also worked at a school where they had actually switched from Callan to SpeakYourMind – which seemed like a highly evolved cousin. It kept the structure and the high speaking content, but the question-answer format becomes genuine interaction: the students say what they mean using the language they have learnt or are in the process of learning. There is revision but it’s not the mindless repetition that keeps the Callan lesson from collapsing – students actually ‘get’ what is being taught and learn to stand on their own feet. Also, the material is interesting and up-to-date (and often quite funny).
I’m surprised that Callan after all these decades has not developed at all and become the kind of course that SpeakYourMind is. There is a lot of place for that kind of clear, systematic approach in classrooms where too often classes just float along, with ‘let’s have fun’ and ‘well, we’re comunicating’ being the main aims.

duncan, 21 July, 2011

Back to this topic, if anyone is interested they could have a look at this blog – it’s by the writer of SpeakYourMind. It’s not a very busy blog but it’s pretty thought-provoking (and anyone who works with Callan will know that ‘thinking’ is officilly frowned upon). … -results=6

andyrubiano, 7 November, 2011

When I first started working in TEFL I was hired by an institute that taught the Callan method. After about an hour of training I decided not to work there. I really just found the system annoying.

BrianM, 10 February, 2012

I am CELTA qualified and have taught over 350 students from all over the world.

I have taught at Berlitz and EFL, using their own textbooks. I have also taught at other schools, using Headway, natural English etc. I also teach privately, using material from a variety of sources, including a lot of personalised material according to students’ needs.
Recently I was intruduced to the Callan method and have started using it. (More for convenience than anything else!)

The fundamentals of Callan are: (1) the student acquires ‘auto response’ to given situations, and (2) they are rapidly and progressively introduced to basic English vocabulary and grammar.
(Callan is also ‘cheap’!)

Teaching ‘automatic’ responses (i.e. without the student translating to and from their mother tongue) is an admirable objective, but it is something I’ve been doing since I started teaching. So It is neither new nor unique to the Callan method.

I have yet to see that Callan induces full absorption of English language, (i.e. as evidenced by good student usage outside of class.)
So, although I will continue to use Callan for the immediate future, I also stretch the student with supplementary learning, particularly opportunities to ‘learn by doing’ in contexts that are practical for the student. And this includes homework and tasks that put the student into situations where they MUST use what they have been learning!

The student(s) also have to put themselves in situations where they mix with, observe and learn from native English speakers.

sunny6, 28 November, 2012

Hi guys, I’d like to add my own opinion and experience to this.

I taught the Callan Method for more than two years and yes at the beginning I saw the advantages of the system, especially at lower levels because it really gets people ‘using’ the language. However I think that basing the whole system on having to repeat exactly what the teacher prompts really limits its effectiveness. Students aren’t able to build a level of autonomy that is needed when learning and this autonomy is needed even more so when learning a foreign language.
Another huge disadvantage is the material. It really is out of date, I know that there has been an update of late but I’ve been told that it’s not a drastic update. A lot of the teachers I taught with felt pretty uncomfortable having to teach some of the things that are in the books.
I’ve now been teaching the Speak Your Mind method for the past few months and even though I’m pretty new to the system, it really feels right. It’s a lot more natural in the sense that students are able to answer freely with aim of using the target language that is supposed to be practised at that point. A big emphasis is put on question forming, (where Callan really falls short) which is great because question forming in English is something that many students struggle with and it is such an important part of life!
The material is constantly being updated and all the teachers I work with believe in this system and I think this is an integral part of teaching ‘a method’. If your teachers believe in what they are teaching, then this energy gets passed on to the students during the classes.

If I could choose between the Callan Method and Speak Your Mind, then I would choose Speak Your Mind, but then again you can’t compare as they come from completely different time periods and schools of thought.

alextj, 20 March, 2013

I know this thread is getting old, but I wanted to correct something in the previous comments – the Callan method isn’t the direct method but (a commercial name given to) the audiolingual method. It’s not a version of the direct method like the original Berlitz method, but is the next step.

At the time it was marketed as actually being based on some research and was promoted as the very first method with some actual academic ‘proof’ behind it – this was pretty much the same proof as Pavlov and his famous dog, and of course long since surpassed and quite discredited.

There are other branded versions of the audiolingual method, which seems to be still quite popular here in Italy (I’ve never understood quite why, as well as in Poland), such as the Shenker method, whereas I’d never heard before of Speak your Mind.

duncan, 24 March, 2013

You are quite right, Alextj: Callan (and its clone Direct Method English) are audiolingual methods and not true direct methods at all, but it’s such a widespread habit to refer to them as such that it seems pedantic to point this out.
As I mentioned in a past post, the fact that they survive and even flourish is largely due to the paucity of the competition – at least the public know what they’ll get when they sign up with Callan and its ilk – an (unfortunately) perceived advantage of ‘teacher-proof methods’.
Despite first impressions, SpeakYourMind isn’t an audiolingual method but it adopts and adapts some elements, just as it incorporates strategies or principles from other subsequent methods and approaches, so it’s a bit of a hybrid – or a mongrel. I like it because I think it does what it aims to do pretty well.

teflon, 5 April, 2013

I was looking to see what people had to say about Callan and I stumbled across this blog. As alextj said it’s getting a bit old but was wondering if anyone knew about any updated versions of these methods? What I’ve seen of Speak your Mind is very similar to the old Avalon Direct English I’ve seen and I hear that was updated a few years back. Are there any newer versions of Speak your Mind and their ilk which are taking everyone’s valid concerns about Callan into account and yet recognising what aspects of audiolingual teaching can bring?

duncan, 17 April, 2013

Actually, Teflon – apparently the Avalon course was initially inspired by the work of the writer/teacher who was working on materials and classroom methodology before it went on to become Speak Your Mind. I’m talking early-mid 90’s. Avalon grasped the early ideas and made their own programme, while Speak Your Mind has kept on evolving – I’m pretty sure you’ll find Speak Your Mind is still the ground-breaker. There’s audiolingualism in its DNA but there’s much more too. That’s the grapevine for you.

papaya31, 15 June, 2013

Hi, I have been reading a lot about the Callan Method and teaching it for the past 6 months to 3 classes in Vietnam.
Firstly, I must refer anyone interested about the Callan Method
to a lengthy document apparently part written by an ex-student in the 80’s.
It is comprehensive and has used statistical information from the top London language schools.
It has a laugh induced reputation by the CELTA etc qualified teaching community.
Callan is the only school that GUARANTEES that its students will pass the Cambridge Preliminary exam in 80 hours , yes , that’s 80 hours compared to 320 hours by just about every other ESL school anywhere else in the world. It also guarantees that its students will pass the Cambridge First certificate in 160 hours compared to an avg. of 640 hours by other schools !
The guarantee is that, if a student fails the exam the Callan school will give the student free lessons, up to I think 40 hours, until they pass. Tell me of another course that offers a guarantee like that?
Yes, it’s old and some of the nouns are outdated, e.g. wireless,
but as far as the student not being given any freedom to express themselves, I would have to disagree. From Stage 5 it asks the students to give their own opinions on topics. Also, it is very amusing. All my students find a lot to laugh at in it, which I encourage wholeheartedly.
More importantly, I have met ex-Callan school students and not only do they all recommend the course, but they speak pretty excellent English. With good pronunciation.
Obviously, if you are born clever and rich with a good ear and memory in this world of ours, you can learn using far more expensive private language courses. Or, if you have an innate ability for language ( see polyglot) you can just learn them from a book.
I think the laughing arises from the language school’s directors/ owners being seriously worried about the Callan competition ;therefore, it is in their own interests to mock the method.
I do love intellectual snobs (not). It is often criticized for being nothing more than a money making venture by the very people who are in the business of making language acquisition a money making venture, aimed at the middle classes with ready cash to spend on their little ones achieving greatness. An easy target.
I give an example:
In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)
Its language courses run at about 1600 US dollars for 12 weeks of 3 hour a day classes with no guarantee.
Average wage in HCMC is 40US dollars a month, their are some government workers that earn 10US dollars a month! 2013! So, its courses are obviously aimed at the upper end of the middle classes. I have met students who have completed their courses and quite frankly I was disturbed at their level of English.
Bad pronunciation was my main criticism. This is in no way blaming the teachers. most Vietnamese are a bit lazy in doing homework and are often forced to learn English by their parents, and so come at it from the wrong angle. What can a teacher do if his students refuse to do their work? Throw them out of class? It doesn’t work like that. The school wants to make money!
If any of you are really interested in finding out the mystery of the Callan Method I enclose a link to the above mentioned document. … sp=sharing
One last point, behaviorism might have been what inspired it but if you take the time to read Chomsky or Pinker you will find that modern theory of language acquisition has more to do with the Callan Method than most teachers would like to admit.

In conclusion, I feel that the Callan method is a very good way to get people to learn a language quickly and cheaply, and by way of the internationally recognized Cambridge PET and FET, help them into a better income job, and thereby help to relieve themselves and their families of the modern stresses of incredible rates of inflation in most LDP’s in the world today.
I only wish there was a Callan Method for learning Vietnamese, with 6 tones for every word, you need something like that to learn; whether quickly or slowly!


papaya31, 26 June, 2013

NOTE * LDP’s should read LDC’s

RMIT 10 weeks 1772 $ US

Waiter in American pizza chain working part time @20 hours a week earns 80 $ US p.m.

papaya31, 26 June, 2013

Gurantee example:
This document guarantees John Smith success in
the Cambridge Preliminary exam at the end of a
preparation of 150 fifty-minute lessons by the
Callan Method. The figure includes the 25% the
School adds to cover such things as lateness and
absenteeism. The preparation will take 3½ months
(at 2 lessons a day). If after this number of lessons
the exam is not passed, the Callan School will give
the student free lessons until he is successful.

KH, 30 June, 2016

Hi Papaya31,

If you could re-share the statistical document, it will be greatly appreciated. The link has died.

KH, 30 June, 2016

Dear Papaya31,

As a Vietnamese now living overseas, I appreciate your dedication and enthusiasm in teaching and improving English for Vietnamese students there.

I could not agree more that speaking, especially pronunciation, is the weakest skill of the majority of Vietnamese who would have studied English over a decade! Even for Vietnamese who have studied higher education courses overseas, I guarantee about 80% of them could not pronounce English properly and have very heavy Vietnamese accent.

I myself was not a difference. I finished university degree in Vietnam before studying a master degree in an English speaking country. I barely spoke English in Vietnam, though my grammar was very good. I actually obtained IELTS 7.0 to be able to attend the master course, but I could not pronounce English correctly, let alone speaking a fluent English!!!

Realising my limitations, interestingly way before I came to know this Callan method, I practiced my pronunciation myself by REPEATING every single word that came across my eyes and READ OUT LOUD whatever English materials in my reach. I spent about 2 hours per day in about 6 months doing this, and then realised my pronunciation has improved dramatically. Now my brain is free from thinking whether my pronunciation is correct, I can freely absorb more English language to express my ideas more fluently and naturally.

Recently, I am thinking that it’s time to share my knowledge to the students in Vietnam and intending to go back and open an English school there. While researching how to share my English knowledge to the students, I got to know this Callan method. Amazingly, it is not quite far different from my own experience. I’ve decided that I will apply Callan method for my future English school.

Having experienced and improved my English using own method similar to Callan method, I am convinced Callan is the proper method to teach spoken English for Vietnamese students. With your own experience, it encouraged me more to proceed with this plan.

If you’re still active on this forum, I would love to have your contact to ask more about your experience with Callan method, and we may co-operate if you’re interested?



PhoebeLee89, 6 March, 2018

Hi everyone,

I know this thread is quite old but I’m currently searching for (previous and current) students and teachers of The Callan Method.

I am an English as a Foreign Language teacher based in Manchester, UK, and I’m also investigating The Callan Method as part of my TESOL degree at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

If anyone has ever taught Callan, I’d really appreciate it if you could take 5-10 minutes to complete my survey at the following link:

If you are (or you were) a student of Callan, I’d also be very grateful if you could complete the survey at the following links:

In English:

In Spanish:

I’ve got a Polish student version coming soon.

Many thanks in advance! If you have any questions please email me at


awalls86, 8 April, 2018

I wouldn’t say that the Callan method doesn’t improve students’ English at all, but then you know I wouldn’t have said that about grammar translation either. The question is whether it’s an effective method and whether it is more effective than other methods.
I watched a video of someone teaching with this method. To be honest, I watched ten minutes, at which point I was getting a headache from watching. What I saw was a teacher constantly talking, saying everything several times and the students sat repeating or answering questions in a very formulaic way, mostly one at a time with some occasional whole class drilling.
It’s not a method I would like to use. I would need to drink a litre of water every ten minutes to keep up that level of teacher talk.
Maybe there is more to it than I saw, but talking to one or two practitioners I have met hasn’t told me there is any more than I observed.
Is it more effective than other methods – I find it hard to believe. Maybe it is better than some methods when done badly. I just can’t see how students would find it motivating in the long term, although I can see that for beginners it might prove a fast method which might build some useful strategies, listening skills and a solid base of vocabulary and phrases.
I don’t know. The jury is still out on Callan.

Tom Davidson, 11 April, 2018

Callan has an awful reputation when you speak to most English teachers but I think at low levels it could yield some good results. In the end it gets people producing even if they are not quite sure what they are saying.

Learning a language is different for everyone and if this works for some students then I would say give it a go!

papaya31, 16 July, 2018

To KH re Callan
Hi Kh, hope you still read the board. If by luck you do, please contact me re Callan teaching in Vietnam.

goNative English Almeria, 31 January, 2019

I don’t think it is just a matter of whether or not it works. Cutting thieves’ hands off might work to reduce crime, but it is morally indefensible. That is how I feel about the Callan method. It is a boring ordeal for both teacher and students.

Tim Nollan, 19 November, 2019

I heard this Method is very effective.

DMFan1966, 28 February, 2020

I left Britain in 2009 to take a job in Poland (Jastrezbie Zdroj) to take a job at a school that used the Callan Method. At the time I had never heard of it.

The Director of the school gave me and the other teacher all the training and started a week later, when the new school year started.

I soon realised that it was not something I wanted to do. It killed me with boredom and I thought most of it was totally irrelevant. I mean when are we going to need:

Is the pencil on the wall, is the pencil on the wall?
Is Napolean alive or dead, is Is Napolean alive or dead?

What would happen if you fell from the top of a ten-storey building, What would happen if you fell from the top of a ten-storey building?

Goodness me!

I remember one evening, I taught the same lesson three times!

Although the Director paid good money for back then – 25 zl for a 50 minute lesson, which was good for that area, I had a free flat above the school and given the method. I left the school after seven weeks because of continuous “disagreements” with the director (the other teacher did too) and because of the method.

In-all-honesty, I would rather walk away from teaching altogether rather than do Callan or any other type of Direct Method again.

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