Help Please! How would you improve my TED talk?

It’s just about a month away from my first ever TED talk!

And there is soooo much that I *could* talk about that I’m having a really, really hard time decided what to fit in the 10 minutes.

So I’d really love your help if you would be so kind.

Could I ask:

What about the Genki English story was the most impressive / has left the biggest impression on you?


What would you most want me to talk about in the TED talk?

If you could write up your answers in the blog comments it would really help reduce my stress levels – with all my colleagues who have done amazing TED talks so far they are very big shoes to fill!!

Thank you,


P.S. Β Just as an extra incentive, the winner of last month’s blog competition was …. Liz! Β If you put a comment on today’s post you might win a Genki English download of your choice too. Β Vol. 13? Β Advanced Genki English? Β Genki Relax? Β Or maybe even the learning Japanese pack?

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. When I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. Now I help teachers just like you teach amazing lessons and double your incomes!

29 Responses to “Help Please! How would you improve my TED talk?”

  1. alev

    Hi Richard,
    I am very excited to hear that you’ll be at TED talk!Wouww…
    I live in Istanbul and I have learned and got inspired a lot from you. What made me most impressed about your videos is that the ENERGETIC way you teach! Your method of teaching makes the lessons enjoyable and children prefer to be involved in the lesson instead of sleeping πŸ™‚
    You can talk about the power of the enjoyable methods while teaching.The enthusiasm and interactive ways as you do!
    All the teachers should follow you for an energetic generation!!
    Best wishes

  2. Margit


    What kind audience do you expect?
    Teachers? Mostly Japanese/Taiwanese people? Agewise, any ideas???

  3. Patrick

    Since you’ll be mostly talking to people who’ve never heard of Genki English I would think it would be interesting to hear how this all started, how you approached a static, entrenched teaching situation and decided to throw away convention and develop your own system based on how you would want to learn and your own personality. Who would have thought how that “little” idea would germinate into what it is today?! And no matter how big it gets, I always feel like you’re always available and always the same Hokkaido ALT from way back when. (I hope I got the prefecture right!) Go get ’em!

  4. Tony Bryant (Bryant English)

    Hi Richard,

    Something I try and get across to new teachers is finding new ways to engage students…the search!!

    What can we do to engage new students? How can we engage hard to reach students? Not taking it personally when things don’t work. The importance of self confidence and bringing people with you/leadership.

    Why we need to respect our students…

    These are important things for new and experienced teachers to consider….

  5. Julia

    Hi Richard!

    Unbelievable, but we’re thinking of the same things!
    I’m also trying to find the right words for an article about GenkiEnglish. And the main thing I would love to highlight is that GenkiEnglish is the way to success not only in learning English, but also in everyday life.

    You say GenkiEnglish uses the same techniques as they use in high powered business workshops and training camps. But not only businessmen have to be taught to be confident, to set goals, to achieve better results, to work in a team, to help others. Its just what our kids miss today, because most of them grow up in a one-child family. Even two children in a family is not enough to build a team, to find a friend who can play, support and help at the same time. Their grandmas and grandpas as kids spent hours playing outdoor games with numerous friends. The games they played were very exciting and helped kids learn to be successful. Today I can see only few kids playing outside on their own, but they don’t play games like those.

    And do you know what: those old games and GenkiEnglish games are very much alike!
    All my kids kids love GE games!
    First, they let kids have fun at the lessons.
    Second, they let them show their capabilities.
    Third, they teach them success strategies.
    Forth, they help a group of kids become a team. The need to follow rules develops kids’ respect to other team members.
    Fifth,(at last!)they help them learn English πŸ™‚

    On the other hand, games are very useful for every teacher who wants to manage their classes, to achieve goals and more, and more, and more. And for everyone who wants to be successful!

  6. Gumby

    Personally, I love the CAN part of GE. There is so much of what students CAN’T do that schools and teachers are aware of. Some even go to say that schools are not part of the answer.

    GE uses a positive attitude to help students BELIEVE they can.

    It uses methods educators around the world believe help the students like movement, visuals, songs, technology and SHOWS how it works.

    It takes students that others say have possibility and gives them the opportunity to make it into reality.

    I’ve seen struggling students shine because of GE.
    Students who can’t explain why a structure is the way it is, but it doesn’t matter because they can use it to ask a question that directly concerns their interests.
    I’ve seen these students wondering what was so hard in the first place. It is magic when you see a child’s eyes light up, and even more magical when they are doing things that even the brightest students had difficulty with because they were trying to analyze the grammar.

    GE is more than just big dreams or big ideas that become successful with big people. It shows how you can take a well-thought out program, give it to a educator hoping to reach their students and make everyone successful.

    OK probably went on far too long.

    You are just a natural motivator. Whatever you decide to talk about is sure to be a hit!

    Will the talk be available for us to view?

  7. Magda

    The simplest things are most effective after all…
    To me, Genki is brilliant in that it uses the simple technique of substitution. My students get plenty of speaking practice, and they don’t merely drill the words. With the songs, they really master sentence structures, and later they recall whole sentences much more easily. In this respect, Genki songs are truly unique. Before discovering Genki, I didn’t really know how to use songs in my lessons. The majority of those I knew or found on the web were too difficult – either for me, because they didn’t seem to incorporate enough vocab to justify using the song – or too complicated for my students. Plus, I was amazed how Genki songs and games work with absolutely all age levels. Who would have thought that what works with kindergarten kids would be suitable for junior high students?

    What would I like Richard to talk about in the TED talk?
    Well, as I see it now, Genki gives you a solid foundation for learning English, but little more… How do I expand Genki materials to help my students speak freely, and not only answer my questions but expand them beyond a simple one sentence answer?

  8. Richard

    Hi Magda,

    Thank you for the nice words! As for your last question, do work through the curriculum and then the projects, it will get the kids speaking more English than you could imagine!

  9. Richard

    Thank you everyone for the great messages, I think I’m going to need more time! πŸ™‚

  10. Barbara Edwards

    Dear Richard,
    As a fan for many years now, I remember you starting, working long hours, building up your web sight, and getting new no glasses eyes which proved difficult. Don’t forget to mention the work you put in at the beginning with girlfriends thinking you were on holiday! I am so pleased about TED and your amazing success. I can not wait to share this talk with all my teaching friends Richard. You are going to make us all proud!
    Lots of Positive Energy heading your way. Barbara

  11. Elena

    Hi Richard!
    You ask what or whose Genki english story is the most impressive? Everyone’s!!!
    This is mine:
    Genki english made me believe I CAN. And I was able to! Imagine a girl from the countryside living in the city. A lost dreamer. I got married and started working at school. I was not sure if I wanted to be a teacher or not. Some mornings before going to work I felt stressed, uncertain, even guilty. I realized that I divide life into 2 parts: work and after work. I enjoyed the second part and the first part was good but… To much stress! One thing helped me a lot. Internet)))I searched and I found your course and started to use it.
    I managed to get some interesting results:
    1. I love my job!
    2. I started my own small school
    3. I earn money
    4. I don’t need to make children study, they always ask for more themselves
    5. I have more time for my own children
    6. Teaching your course, seeing children happy faces while learning, seeing parents’ satisfaction about the results and the mood of their child I feel needed, respectful and rewarded!

    I have changed the answer to 2 most common questions:
    -What is your hobby? All I do is my hobby and of a great importance
    -What do you do in our free time? I live and enjoy life coz all my time is free.

    I have always tried to do the right things in my life. The main results of the Genki english course here in my small school apart from children’s results in English and their and my self development are:
    – one ex-teacher (we used to study together)came back to teaching inspired by Genki english
    – one student decided to definitely become a teacher of English after graduating. ( usually here most of the students whose major is esl teaching don’t go teaching)

    Not bad for the beginning!

  12. Elvira

    Dear Richard!

    All the previous speakers are absolutely right!I’m just so glad to hear all those words. And from my side – you made me believe in myself Richard, that I also CAN DO IT like all those colleges of mine. As a result – I started my own school and it gradually grows.For example, yesterday morning I was thinking about toddlers classes-and guess what? A young woman with a 2 year old son, who I talked to about the effectiveness of learning languages in the early age last year, phoned me two hours later asking to teach GE to the four(!)2-3 year old kids in their neighbourhood (including her son). Without any hesitations I took up this offer, although it’ll consume much energy. Isn’t that amazing!
    GE method breakes the traditional views on how to teach languages-without the solemn concentration on textbooks and a real diving into a language by means of a natural game. IT helps in building strong relationships between a teacher and a student either, THAT is not less essentual than merely giving knowledges.
    As for your TED talk beginning – how about a fairy tale like the Story of the Brave Princess for instance-it starts the fire in most listeners’ heads and catches their attention… Just a small idea.

  13. Niamh Moriarty

    Wow Richard,
    Great to hear that you’ll be giving a Ted talk. About time too!
    If I’m to be perfectly honest the think that impresses me most about Genki English is how the kids are encouraged to join in a be as loud as they like! So many class situations demand that kids be quiet and listen more or less passively to their teachers. Genki English encourages just the opposite. The kids are encouraged to jump up and get involved, either singing the songs or playing the associated games etc. The louder the better!
    I am constantly amazed by how even very shy children quickly lose their inhibitions and join in the fun. The fun factor is never forgotten and the children don’t realise how much they are learning – so many important basic concepts of the English language are hidden in these simple songs.

  14. Russ

    I’d definitely open it with the TPR like on your YouTube video, get everyone buzzed and sums up what I like about genki english (the attitude)

    Was gonna suggest you do the ten minutes like a lesson but might be a bit difficult to pull off.

  15. Stephen

    I’m pretty sure you probably know better than me. but how about saying how you started off trying to make English learning in Japan more effective, but discovered along the way that your teaching style adopts universal techniques that can be and has been applied in many countries around the world….

  16. Joe

    Hi Richard,

    I am AMAZED to hear this will be only your FIRST TEDx talk. I think it is high time you got yourself a slot on the next main TED conference to have an Education theme! Seriously, you should be chewing the fat with Sir Ken these days… πŸ™‚

    In 10 minutes…wow, that will be tough! A few options I would think about.

    1/ Just tell your story – as briefly as possible – of going to Japan as an ALT all those years ago, seeing a language learning system that was costly but ineffective, dull for both students and teachers; using your background in music to devise a new method that was fun, effective and cost-effective; testing it with success in Japan but realizing the obstacles to successful implementation within a rigid Japanese education system weary of change; taking your very cost-effective learning method to developing countries and watching it grow and grow. To finish, roll-call of all your impressive GE successes so far and expansion plans, plus a video montage of children in many countries learning GE. Always end with laughing children, right..?

    2/ Just take your most successful case of GE implementation in a developing country and focus more on telling the story of that country, its educational challenges and how GE was able to improve English levels among students quickly and cost-effectively. In this version, you would need a little bit of background about how you developed the GE method as an ALT in Japan but the focus would be much less on Japan.

    3/ “How do we learn a language?” A summary of some of your findings in the course of crafting, shaping and testing the GE method (and other academics who are researching the GE method now). Talk emphasizes evidence of science and educational theory in showing what works and what doesn’t work when we try to learn (or teach) a language. Alongside that show how the GE method is based upon those principles. Finish with success story statistics and, of course, video clip of laughing children..!

    Okay, that’s my tuppence worth. Good luck!

  17. Russ

    You could do a minute or two teaching them a new language, do half in a traditional style and then half in your own, demonstrating the difference.

  18. Margit

    agree on all, but can’t get how to fit any of them into ten minutes.
    I think, the shorter the time, the more important it is to really connect with the audience.
    So, I also agree on the last ideas up there, of doing something where the listeners are involved.
    Not forgetting to mention that my absolutely favorite TED talk, that I still watch again and again is the one with Bobby McFerrin
    “The Power of the Pentatonic Scale”

    Ever since I’ve watched it, I am trying to remind myself of this deep connection to the audience (in my case: to my students).
    I would love to see something like that;

  19. Julie

    WOW! Richard! What a wonderful opportunity to make a(nother) huge difference in the world! We are all very very proud and happy for you.

    I think you will know exactly what to say. 10 minutes won’t be enough time I suspect!

    Personally, I was searching for Genki English Method for many years. I came to the same conclusions as you in that ‘useful’ language needed to be made into new melodies and wonderfully simple songs – making “language study” a really joyous and happy occasion through music, which means many happy repetitions of the questions and answers.
    This is exactly what you did! You used your musical skills and vision to put it all together! The games and constant email support and other ideas are icing on the cake.
    THEN you found an excellent way to make it accessable to those who really need it. Pure genius!

    Not only did you invent this amazing method, but you have the foresight and generosity to share most of it online with the world so even the poorest teachers and students might benefit.

    I feel the goodness in your heart when I hear you speak. I know you have really touched and changed so many lives for the better.
    As for me – I love my teaching so much now. As for my students – they are happily using their language all over the school and at home – not just in the classroom.

    They will LOVE you at TEDx. I can’t wait to see it and share it with everyone I know.

  20. Hannah


    I think you know best what to say and don’t require our help. But I still wanted to drop a word. I am no customer of yours … because I am German and a student of chemistry in France (no connection to teaching English there). But I have subscribed to your blog, because I love reading about Genki English every other day. It’s genki, motivating and I love thinking of all those smiling faces of the kids out there and of all the dedicated teachers.

    Whatever you will talk about will surely be a winner. Actually, I am really interested now …

  21. morterol

    Bonjour Richard,

    yes you do take care of the teachers and you’ve got a natural pedagogy that is backgrounded with research works and networks. We benefit from your energy and your curiosity in language speaking and meeting other people and the planet.From the 4 to 12 years old you’re moving on to adults and toddlers, and you are in the way of creating a special and adapted path for these age groups (More milk please ! I mean more phrases like this for the 3-4 years old please!).Keep working on the 12 to 18 years old group please, tricky age.
    I am a remedial teacher and can say GE is wonderful for dysphasic and dyslexic children. It opens them a world into which they are happy, with good references, energy, try again, love, fun, the spirit of sharing and the method allows them to go their own pace. And the bonus is that suddenly they find themselves speaking english and not dead affraid of a school subject.

    Thank you,


  22. Emilie

    Hi Richard,

    Congratulations on being invited to the TED talk. I’m excited for you!

    It’d be cool to hear you talk about how you started the Genki English series i.e. how did you come up with ideas for the songs, flashcards, etc.

    I am impressed by the effectiveness of the Genki English lessons powered by colourful pictures and catchy tunes. While I have not had a chance to use your lessons in my classes, I have watched your Genki Japanese videos and found that the songs do get stuck in my head and that helped me learn the vocabulary and phrases. Thank you for developing them.

    Still, what impresses me even more is your energy, not only in developing the lessons but in the way you deliver them. You and your lessons are just so fun and ‘genki’ that it’s hard not to get interested.

    I really appreciate the effort you put into this website, particularly in responding to readers’ questions and comments. No matter how obvious the answer seems be to a question, you give your comment and encouragement. I remember you telling me that you read every single comment and reply to each email individually, even if it means your response comes late. Personally, I’ve had two (and all) of my questions answered by you. Thanks to your tips and encouragement, I finally managed to come and work in Japan so I want to write to express my appreciation.

    Thank you Richard and best of luck at your TED Talk. Just be Genki. In my mind, you are the very personification of the concept of ‘genki’ πŸ˜‰

  23. Debbie Naim

    Dear Richard,
    I can’t imagine fitting what you do and have done for the students and the teachers in to 10 minutes. However, I believe that the most important part of your talk would be about how you have changed the way teachers teach and children learn.
    Because the teachers are excited with the program they teach so much better. The kids can’t get enough and now that it is on the android – they can work with the games and relisten to what ever they want with out being dependent on the teacher.
    I also give them one new song (vocabulary) a week and then allow another 10-15 minutes working in pairs or alone on the tablets and then after they have played today’s lesson they are free to redo any previous song, vocabulary or most enjoyed – game.
    I only wish that it were an app, because the program doesn;t always work on the tablets.
    There is also the issue of helping someone support himself and at least for me – It has certainly helped increase business.
    Thanks again, Debbie

  24. Debbie Naim

    Good luck on TED. What an honor…

  25. Sandra Arthur

    Hi Richard, do you have the link for your final presentation at TED – I can’t find it online… Would love to watch your performance (;-)

    Best wishes, Sandra

  26. Richard

    It’s not online yet, we’re still waiting! 8)

  27. Patrizia Bini

    Hi, Richard, as for question no. 1, what impressed me the most was the actual idea in itself, not so much the fact of using music, but the fact of exploiting the fact that some tunes are so catchy, they just keep popping back into your head all day, and also the fact that, once you hit on the potential of this phenomenon, you did not allow yourself to be put off by the fact that most of the songs around have texts that are not suitable for beginner learners, but instead you just wrote the songs yourself!!! The potential really is so great, because when a song with appropriate language set at the right level for the learner continually represents itself in the learner’s head, it means that they are practically doing homework in automatic pilot!!! They get to do homework without any thinking, without putting in hours of slogging over hot books, and without losing any sleep or getting stressed out!!!!

    The other thing I thought could be considered is the fact that it is possibly this ‘song’ method, together with the fact that new language is also presented synchronously with specific and meaningful gestures, that makes all the difference and which is the true reason as to why young learners have such a reputation for learning foreign languages so quickly and easily. It may have nothing to do with the structure of their little brains.

    It may be something worth researching, and such research may open the door to applying the same methods with adults, and then see if it’s really true that children learn more quickly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, or if adults, using the same methods achieve far better results. Food for thought!

    Cheers, Β§Trizia.

  28. Teacher Leo

    Richard, I surely suggest you to talk about your philosophy. It means the smalls things you’ve done to achieve huge results. If you have ten minutes, you could choose things like the sound system, you can talk about the HEAR YOUR STUDENTS philosophy, you can talk about MOTIVATION AGAINST BOREDOM, you HAVE TO talk about THE PHYSICAL RESPONSE you’ve put in your SONGs (all songs like head, shouders, knees etc), finally, the games part: I PUT IN GAME I’d LIKE TO PLAY!! through them, you can explain why you created everything, the revolution you are going to throw into education, the way things must be done, etc, etc. They are the key for education whether it’s English or not.

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