Saturday, January 26, 2008

Evel Knievel Isn’t Dead

Evel Knievel Dead at Age 69

On November 30, 2007, the legendary motorcycle stunt performer Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel died at age 69. Many of you may remember his exploits from the 60’s and 70’s as he jumped his motorcycle over rows of cars, Mack trucks, Greyhound buses, London double-decker buses and the fountains at Cesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in 1968, among many other increasingly spectacular daredevil feats. Often his stunts left him with broken bones and assorted injuries.

Indeed, he is reported to have said, “I’ve broken every bone in my body at least once.”

A Newsweek magazine tribute reported though, that he’d suffered 88 broken bones. He had more than a dozen major surgeries and broken bone repairs to his skull, pelvis, ribs, collarbones, hips and shoulders. This never stopped him though. He appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine and was the focus of a full-length, semi-autobiographical feature film “Viva Knievel” starring George Hamilton in 1977. One of his last and arguably most publicized stunts was his failed “jump” over the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in 1974. He was forced to retire in 1980 saying, “he was nothing but scar tissue and surgical steel”. But his stunts didn’t finally kill Evel Knievel. In the end it was complications from Diabetes and Pulmonary Fibrosis that ultimately stole this stunt legend from the world.

But what, you might ask, has any of this got to do with English as a Second or Foreign language?

Simply this: A language is inseparably linked to the cultural aspects of the country or countries where it is spoken.. Using Content-Based Learning (CBL) then, becomes an excellent, highly efficient and interesting way of teaching or learning virtually any foreign language. Evel Knievel and a seemingly endless parade of other celebrities, famous or infamous, historic and notable personalities offer a detailed glimpse into frequently un-taught intricacies of the English language. For example, if you haven’t heard of him, you’re likely either well under 30 or so years old, or do not have English as your first language or grew up in a foreign cultural setting.

Evel Knievel Isn’t Dead

Whenever a famous entertainer, celebrity or historic figure becomes newsworthy, don’t let the opportunity to motivate and involve your learners pass you by. Instead, use it to delve more deeply into the cultural elements and language hat spawned that person. Then watch as your learners begin to grow and develop their English or other foreign language skills almost as if by magic.

When you read that Evel Knievel has died, don’t you believe it. Evel Knievel isn’t "dead". He’s just waiting for you and your learners to make him come alive in their hearts, minds and imaginations yet again.

In our next segment, “Using Famous Personalities and Celebrities in Content-Based Learning”, we’ll go into more depth on using newsworthy celebrities, historic and other famous persons to motivate and engage our English or foreign language learners in and out of the class room.

In the meanwhile, check out this Evel Knievel career over view video at:

For some great tips, tricks and techniques for quickly and easily learning virtually any of the world’s 6912 living languages just click HERE.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. For more information on entering into or advancing in the fascinating field of ELT send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, send an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

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