How would Sherlock Holmes learn a language

Using Sherlock Holmes to Teach English as a Foreign Language


Who is Sherlock Holmes?

Who is it that smokes a pipe, uses heroin and has powers of deduction unrivaled by anyone else in the world (among other things)? Why the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes of course.

With the new film of the same name now in theaters worldwide, there is an understandable resurgeance of interest in the exploits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant, albeit eccentric detective and his cohort in crime solving, Dr. Watson. No dazzling special effects. No exotic wizardry. No supernatural powers does Sherlock Holmes have. It’s all a matter of astute observation of even the most minute details and deductive reasoning based on an in depth knowledge of science, chemistry and psychology that give the principal resident of number 221B Baker street his uncanny edge in solving the most perplexing crimes.

English as a Foreign Language Teachers

English as a foreign language teachers worldwide couldn’t be happier about all the renewed hubbub over the renowned detective. Why It’s because now there’s an almost automatic introduction the collected stories written in 1888 and set in a London replete with pea soup fog and coal dust smoke that can bring involuntary tears to your eyes.

A popular role for television and the cinema as well, a number of premiere actors have opted to portray Holmes over the decades. Some have even made a name for themselves in doing so. Starting with the current interpretation of Holmes as portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. there are also such names as the nearly immortal Basil Rathbone known primarily in his career for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Christopher Lee, Michael Caine and even the late Charlton Heston have stepped into the role. British actor Jeremy Brett is also almost exclusively known for his detailed characterizations of the great detective on television.

Sherlock Holmes Has a Nemesis

Of course, every hero must have his nemesis or arch enemy, who is just as quick witted, just as astute and even more dangerous and difficult to catch at his or her dastardly deeds. Sherlock Holmes is certainly no exception, as his alter ego the infamous Dr. Moriarty, will aptly demonstrate. In the current cinematic offering featuring Morton Downey, Jr., Holmes is up against the black arts practicing Count Blackwood and his human sacrificing brethren. The Count, it seems, derives his prowess from a book of demonic spells which alarm even the followers of his cult. Although a departure from the story lines of Doyle’s original stories, nonetheless the storyline details contribute well to the updated version of the mastermind detective.

Sherlock Holmes in the EFL Class Room

So how can English as a foreign language teachers take advantage of the new interest in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes? Well, that’s simple enough. Starting off of course with readings of excerpts, passages and stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, add in any or all of the following activity types

• Dramatizations of key scenes in the stories
• Comprehension questions based on story elements
• Production of detailed reports and essays on Holmes, Doyle et al
• Assemble collections of images, articles and related paraphernalia related to the works
• Construction of a web quest to get learners to dig up more information, facts and images on Sherlock Holmes
• Compile collections of quotations, paraphernalia appearing in the stories or other snippets of interest
• Details on the works of the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Astute English teachers will certainly want to compile their own strategies to capitalize on the learners peaked interest in Sherlock Holmes while the iron is hot. So why not see what both you and your English language learners can come up with perhaps even including a private screening of the film?


Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: [email protected] Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: [email protected] Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.