MULLing with Ilá Coimbra


Ilá has been a teacher for over 12 years. After graduating in Languages from Universidade de Sao Paulo, she lived in Ireland, where she obtained her Cambridge English CAE & CPE. She currently teaches adults, especially preparing them for exams such as IELTS and CAE, and she’s also a teacher trainer at SEVEN Idiomas in São Paulo. As part of her professional development, Ilá has obtained the CELTA and ICELT and is taking a TESOL Diploma in 2016. Here she shares her MULLing experiences with us.

How long have you been a member of the MULL group?

I can’t actually say precisely, but I believe I joined the group in its first months, just some months after BRAZ TESOL Conference João Pessoa…. That would be… a year ago, probably.

Where do you usually take photos for the group? What kinds of photos do you take?

I take them in my hometown – Sao Paulo, Brazil, but I’ve taken photos in pretty much every city I’ve visited in the last year. I simply adore menus – the effort (or lack of) that is made to convey what the dish is really draws my attention. I also love the puns and word plays, but I can’t find them very often here in Sao Paulo.

What do you use to take photos (e.g. smartphone or camera)?

Smartphone! It’s easier and faster to upload from it.

Have you learnt anything about language through taking photos for MULL?

Not from my photos, but from other members’ posts absolutely. And the comments are a unique part of the linguistic landscape themselves.

Have you had any interesting experiences along the way?

Maybe not that interesting because I believe that most MULLers have been there, but more than once I got a little late somewhere because I had stopped to get a photo. Also, I’ve already got off the bus/subway some stops before just to shoot something interesting.

Can you tell us about a memorable photo?

The one I took in a hostel in my first hours in London. It said “Put down that map and get…wonderfully lost”.

It was April this year and I remember that I was absolutely ecstatic about being in London for the first time, about going to IATEFL for the first time and I had just bought the map of the city. I used a map to get to the hostel in which my friend was staying, because we were going to meet and get a train to Manchester together. It was a beautiful sunny day, and when I got to the hostel, I ordered a pint and sat just beside that sentence. It was a lyrical moment.

What do you like/dislike about the MULL group?

I really like the clarification that most members (especially Natália Guerreiro!) give when they’re posting or even commenting something in their language. It’s culturally interesting and relevant.

Thanks Ilá!



Marjorie Rosenberg on MULLing

flowered blazer Internet

Marjorie Rosenberg is originally from the United States and has been living in Austria since 1981.  She teaches at the University of Graz, trains teachers and writes materials in the business English field and on methodology. She was the Coordinator of the IATEFL BESIG group for the last five years and recently stepped down to take on the IATEFL Presidency. She blogs about teaching and learning at

Here she took time out of her busy schedule to share her experience of MULLing with us.

How long have you been a member of the MULL group?

It is just about a year now.  I remember seeing it on Facebook and thinking it looked like a great idea.  Then Jill Hadfield added me to the group and I was thrilled to become part of it.

Where do you usually take photos for the group? What kinds of photos do you take?

I had long noticed signs, announcements, menus and other examples of interesting language or quirky expressions as I assume most language teachers tend to do. Joining MULL, however, gave me a purpose for this and I often found myself stopping to get a photo of a sign, either handwritten on a blackboard outside a café or shop, a professional advertisement seen in the public arena or a notice posted in a window. Some of these are from the US, some from Austria where I live and others from places I travel to for work or pleasure.

What do you use to take photos?

I tend to take them with my smartphone as I can then immediately upload them to Facebook.

Have you learned anything about language through taking photos for MULL?

I have become more aware of translation difficulties and how people transform their own language into English. I have also noticed a fair amount of English being used in other languages, in some cases correctly and in some with new meanings or with typical mistakes made by speakers of another language. What I have also noticed quite often are problems in communication of the message that may arise when two languages are mixed together. If the sign had stayed in the original language, the message would have been clear but adding in English words often gives it a completely different meaning or interpretation.

Can you tell us about a memorable photo?

Some of my favorites include one I took in West Hartford, Connecticut outside a chocolate shop.  As a true chocoholic, this sign spoke volumes to me. The second one was a mixture of German and English which was understandable to me as a speaker of German but probably fairly misleading to someone who didn’t know ‘Schmuck’ in German means jewellery and may have completely misunderstood the message of what the shop was selling. The last one was taken outside a seaside restaurant in Maryland and it just struck me as interesting.

Chocolate is the answer by Marjorie Rosenberg    CC BY 2.0
Chocolate is the answer by Marjorie Rosenberg CC BY 2.0


Schmuck for you by Marjorie Rosenberg    CC BY 2.0
Schmuck for you by Marjorie Rosenberg CC BY 2.0





No Pets on Deck by Marjorie Rosenberg    CC BY 2.0
No Pets on Deck by Marjorie Rosenberg CC BY 2.0

What do you like/dislike about the MULL group?

I think it is great. It is fascinating see what colleagues and friends around the world post as well as the accompanying comments. It also opens up the world to the richness of language (not only English). I also like the fact that is a cooperative, grass-roots type of ‘movement’, if I can call it that. In addition, I would say that it is a wonderful awareness-raising activity for anyone interested in language and how it works.  I have commented on other friends’ photos and suggested they post them on MULL as well.


Thanks Marjorie!


MULLing with the Hadfields

Our series of interviews with dedicated MULLers continues this time with the Hadfields: Jill, Charles and their daughter Laura.

Charles Hadfield  teaches at Exeter University, Graduate School of Education, after a decade at Auckland University, and a previous career in many different countries. He has always had a great interest in ‘teaching English in difficult circumstances’, spending many years working in ‘developing countries’ in Asia and Africa. As a poet published in Europe,  USA, NZ, and Britain, with four collections to date, he has always emphasised ‘creativity’ in his teaching and training. He is the author of several ELT books Including Writing Games, Reading Games , Introduction to Teaching English and the Oxford Basics series.

Jill Hadfield has worked as a teacher trainer in Britain, France, China, Tibet, Madagascar and  New Zealand, run short courses and seminars for teachers in many other parts of the world and acted as consultant on aid projects in Africa. She has written thirty books, including the Communication Games series, the Oxford Basics series, Classroom Dynamics, a primary Course Excellent!, An Introduction to Teaching English  and  Motivating Learners,  co authored with Zoltan Dornyei .  She has also written two travel books and a novel and has a passion for creativity both in the teaching profession and outside it.

Laura is an English Kiwi currently studying Linguistics and Creative Prose in Auckland Uni. She has a BA in Spanish and Linguistics, and is a keen runner, reader, writer and cat lover who loves creating and remembering bizarre dreams when she wakes up in the morning!


How long have you been a member of the MULL group?

Jill:    Since it started – about a year ago

Laura:    Almost a year

Charles:    From its early days, I think at least a year.


Where do you usually take photos for the group? What kinds of photos do you take?

Laura:    Usually in the CBD of Auckland, walking to uni in town –  mainly signs and advertisements that I find quirky or funny

Jill:    All three of us take photos in two hemispheres – Britain and New Zealand – and sometimes at points in between like Korea or Thailand. I also take photos in countries where I have been invited for conferences, Australia, Japan, Spain, were the last. Where? Anywhere and everywhere… on the street, in restaurants, on the road, in airports, in traffic jams…

I developed a particular obsession with NZ car numberplates – the kind that are called Vanity Plates in the US. NZ has few restrictions on numberplates – 5-7 characters – numbers or letters which means that people can have plates saying for example I MI55 U  or NO 1 YFE (Number One Wife).  Each numberplate has a story behind it and I spend some time wondering what induced the driver to pay money for this public message.

No 1 wife by Jill Hadfield
Just how many does he have? No. 1 wife by Jill Hadfield CC BY 4.0

Charles:    Wherever I am and whenever I can. I learnt very soon that I should always have a camera in my pocket…I often saw things and said to myself, I’ll go back to get a photo…to find it had disappeared, or I could not return easily. “Make Photo while the Sun Shines” is now my MULL proverb now.


What do you use to take photos (e.g. smartphone or camera)?

Jill:    A  small camera.

Laura:    My camera, I don’t own a phone with a camera J

Charles:    Phone? What’s that? Camera of course. I hardly ever use a telephone, let alone a ‘smart’ phone!!!!

One day Charles, one day… Photo by Elliot Brown CC BY-SA 2.0

Have you learnt anything about language through taking photos for MULL?

Jill:    It has made me more aware of the human  capacity for and enjoyment of language play in a huge variety of situations

Charles:    Heaps. I love the way we can watch various languages interweaving, English of course but not only…interesting recent posts on the borders of German and Cyrillic, the wonderful way Spanish and Portuguese  interact, sometimes with English….I really can’t specify any one example. (But thanks to the Brazilian contributions, my Portuguese has improved unbelievably over the last year or so!)

Laura:    I do find the language of advertising very odd, it’s often directed at a very small demographic in a very public area…


Have you had any interesting experiences along the way?

Laura:    I have made friends around me aware of funny signs around Auckland that they now point out to me

Jill:    Plenty.. From attempting to understand menus in Korea , where we were offered Sir-fried Knee Cartilage of a Cow, to arriving in Wellington airport to find that the airport had been renamed..Middle of Middle Earth.

How long was I asleep??? Middle Earth by Jill Hadfield CC BY 2.0

One or two strange encounters with car owners who were puzzled as to why I was photographing their numberplates and not very forthcoming about the reasons for the plate. I learned never to come between a man and his vanity plate! But mostly I like the way MULLing can make very boring experiences interesting – from sitting in a traffic jam to waiting for a delayed flight in an airport.

Charles:    Grabbing a camera to get a photo before Jill takes it!!  Marvelling at how a local friend (Ruth) manages to spot so many signs and details that I have not noticed…the ‘competitive’ element actually makes me want to MULL  wherever I go….really makes life that bit more interesting!

Finding that the most boring stop-over/wait in an unfamiliar place suddenly becomes fascinating because of all the new signs…on planes, trains, in airports, pubs….always more to see.


Can you tell us about a memorable photo?

Charles:    I particularly like the series of laconic York (UK)  newspaper hoardings sent in by Lewis Lansford! The crazy car reg plates from NZ and California and elsewhere. The great way that several Arabic signs have been sent in…we need more from other languages…

Cycle path to nowhere by Lewis Lansford CC BY 2.0

Laura:    Of other people’s photos, I found the ones in Brazil that were quite explicit when explained very surprising!
Of my photos, the ‘Seoul trading centre’ which was a dairy (corner shop) amusing.

Seoul Trading House by Laura Haddy CC BY 4.0
Seoul Trading House by Laura Haddy CC BY 4.0

Jill:    Plenty of memorable ones on the MULL site! I particularly liked Michelle’s photo essay on the Japanese T shirt, Ruth’s street signs from Teignmouth and always enjoy Lewis’s headline news from Accomb.  Memorable photos I have found: I particularly like signage with word play, for example the Auckland poster Ship happens or the sign outside our local bakers’ BA king BR ead. Or I like the unintentionally funny ones like the sign on the motorway which read SIGN NOT IN USE. And of course, my proudest moment was photographing this:

Ours too Jill. Ours too. MULL 1 by Jill Hadfield CC BY 2.0

What do you like/dislike about the MULL group?

Jill:    I think it’s great to be part of an international community united by love of language, and to be privileged to have a window on the linguistic world in this way

Laura:    I like knowing where the photos are from, sometimes a lack of context is confusing though!

Charles:    What’s not to like?!  It’s the first thing I go to when I wake up / return to my computer, always puts a spring in my step, to know that people all around the world are sharing this delight in language


Anything else you’d like to share?

Jill:    I did a  preliminary classification of numberplates on the MULL FB site . I’d like to investigate this area more , and also ways of using signage  for creative writing with students.

Charles:    I’ve been back in UK for nearly two years now, and have still not managed to get a photo of my most wished for MULL contribution /target…I see it often when I’m driving, but can’t stop…I think I will have to take a day off work soon for dedicated MULL research…, watch this space!

Laura:    Keep going!