In 1985, Braj Kachru published a book called 'Standards, Codification and Sociolinguistic Realism: The English Language in the Outer Circle'. In it, he placed the world's Englishes into one of three concentric circles: the inner circle, which is composed of those countries where English is the first, or dominant, language; the outer circle, represented by those nations where English, although not the mother tongue, has played an important role for a significant period of time; and the expanding circle where English is used as a lingua franca, and is therefore widely studied as...

I feel for test designers. They have an impossible task. To design a test of language proficiency that is considered valid and reliable by the various stakeholders involved in the testing process. This is particularly true of the test takers themselves. And it was in relation to these people that two stories recently caught my eye. The first related to a native English speaking Irish woman with two university degrees who had her visa application for Australia rejected after she failed a computerized English speaking test. Inexplicably, she managed...

'Trousers' or 'pants'? 'Lift' or 'elevator'? 'Colour' or 'color'? 'Theatre' or 'theater'? Which lexical item do you use? Which form of spelling do you opt for? Do you teach 'American' or 'British' English? Or both? How do you decide what to teach? Does it matter? Well, according to some recent research, it does matter, and if current trends continue, it might matter even more in the future. The study, called The Fall of the Empire: The Americanization of English, analyzed over 15 million digitized books published between 1800 and 2010,...

I want to talk about Spaced Repetition. What it is, how it applies to language learning and what we can do to cater for it in our teaching. First of all, let me tell you how I normally acquire new vocabulary in Portuguese. I come across an unfamiliar word in a conversation or in a text I am reading or listening to. If I am feeling suitably inclined, I might bother to clarify the meaning of the new word, using whatever resources are at my disposal. And then, more often...

When you think of Finland, what comes to mind? Naked saunas? Ice fishing? Smoked fish? Nokia? What might also spring to mind is a highly successful education system. Successful in terms of academic attainment, the number of students leaving school and entering higher education, and levels of satisfaction amongst pupils, parents and teachers. What makes Finland so special? A number of factors have been identified. Amongst which are: • Teaching is a highly respected, well-paid profession • There are no school inspections or teacher evaluations • The school system is highly...

First we had industrialization. Then this was followed by electrification, which in turn preceded the age of digitalization. And now, apparently, we are accelerating at what seems like breakneck speed towards what the International Bar Association calls the 'Industrial Revolution 4.0'. This fourth industrial revolution is being, and will be, marked by dramatic changes in the way people live, socialize and work. The driving forces behind this massive shift are the rapid developments in robotics and 'deep thinking' software. As a result of these developments, a January 2017 report from the...

I went for a meeting last week with a woman who was interested in having English lessons. She said she needed to improve her English as the company she worked for had just signed a lucrative contract with an American firm. In all respects, she was an uninhibited and confident person who held a high flying position within the company. She was used to dealing with people on a daily basis and speaking in public forums was part and parcel of her job. However, she said that when it...

During the final grading meeting of a CELTA course I was assessing recently, one of the tutors asked me about the extent to which a trainee's language should be taken into account when deciding on a final grade. It is an issue which has come up again and again in recent years, especially since the internationalization of teacher training courses like the CELTA. It is an issue which goes to the very heart of how the language has been transformed by globalization, with some commentators now referring to 'globish'. It also raises the question...

Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in London, visiting family and friends. I also took the opportunity to assess a CELTA course over there. In one of the pre-intermediate lessons I was observing there were a good many Japanese and Brazilian learners. These students seemed to be playing their stereotypical roles to a tee. Whereas the Brazilians tended to be outspoken, extrovert, and more fluent at the expense of accuracy,  the Japanese learners were cautious, introverted, and less fluent but more accurate. Watching the classroom scene...

One phenomenon I have noticed over the past two years is the noticeable rise in the number of 'elderly' people wanting to have English lessons (by 'elderly' I am using the US Census bureau's definition of anyone over the age of 65). A combination of factors have probably led to this increase in interest. These factors are related to health, digital technology and the rapidly changing job market. Firstly, and most obviously, people are living longer. People also now have higher expectations of a longer life. Secondly, as life expectancy rises...