Andy Martin

You may or may not have heard of the name; you may or may not have seen the face, but what is probable is that you would have seen idioms being tweeted by RolloffTongue, or you may have participated in the idioms quizzes dished out by the Facebook group Rolls off the Tongue.

Andy Martin has been in the education sector for a long time, so I was keen to speak to him, to try to squeeze something out of him by which we can all learn, or be inspired.


Andy Martin has been in the field of ELT for over 45 years. Trained by the US Peace Corps in the 1960’s, he’s worked internationally, and in the US, in Primary, Secondary, College and Adult Ed Programs. With an M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University, he was a teacher, supervisor, teacher trainer, and curriculum consultant for the first ½ of his career. The second half was spent in the ESL textbook publishing industry, starting out as an author for Longman and then doing mostly marketing, sales and a little editorial at eight other publishing houses. Andy retired two years ago and has since been running two ESL blogs directed primarily towards English teachers who are not native speakers of English. The first is Rolls off the Tongue, done in collaboration with textbook illustrator, Andrew Lange. This website teaches English idioms through cartoon illustrations. The second blog, What’s So Funny? is a twice daily mini-podcast which murders jokes by deconstructing them for English learners, one joke at a time. It’s also on Facebook.

Both blogs, strangely enough, have a number of native speaking fans.

Adam Martin on Chiew's interview blog iasku

Technical info:

Video editing was done on Virtual Dub 1.9.11 and Windows Live Movie Maker.


About Chiew

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Posted on 18 July 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Another great interview !

    Hi Andy. I’ve stopped by “Rolls Off the Tongue” before and enjoyed the comics. Nice 2 hear a bit of your backstory, which is a great story at that ! Cheers, Brad

  2. Thanks Brad, Nice to hear from you. BTW I just filled out your questionnaire today. Glad you liked the back story even if it’s as long in the tooth as I am!

  3. Hi Chiew,
    I’ve been thinking about the interview and as long as it was, I feel I gave short shrift to The Silent Way, the language teaching methodology being taught at the fateful week-end seminar I attended in the early 1970’s. With your permission, I’d like to add a few things about The Silent Way (TSW): Prior to the workshop I had been trained to teach English and had already been teaching for a while, but only as a way to earn a living. TSW changed all that, besides meeting some very influential people, the method itself completely turned me around and infused me with a love of language teaching which I’ve carried with me to this day. The method itself and it’s creator, Caleb Gattegno were very controversial at the time. Gattegno was a mathematician who along with Cuisenaire, developed colored rods with which to teach mathematics. Gattegno intuited that abstract mathematics is linked to language, especially grammar. The human mind is wired for metaphor and both math and language are ultimately representational systems.. He used the rods to demonstrate grammatical relationships and created a colored phonics chart which students had to decipher in order to pronounce words and later, phrases. He called his approach The Silent Way, because the teacher rarely spoke. This shifted the onus of responsibility for learning squarely on the shoulders of the students. In the initial stages of second language acquisition, rather than overwhelming the students with content, he created a limited universe of rods, pronunciation charts, and another set of charts called “Words in Color”, with the main function words of a language in the color code of the pronunciation charts. With these limited tools he presented situations about which the students needed to communicate while they decoded the language for themselves. It was absolutely brilliant! It completely changed my teaching and my attitude towards teaching and that “passion” to use an overused word, remains to this day. The proof of the pudding was in the tasting and I saw remarkable results, especially with my beginning level students and also as a student of Spanish myself. Long Live The Silent Way!
    Thanks, Chiew.

    • Thanks Andy! I know some of my PLNers are quite fond of using the Cuisenaire rods. Those interested in reading more about this method can ‘Wiki’ it. One Stop English also has an article here.

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