A note from the editor
As I welcome you to another issue of our magazine, I am experiencing autumn for the first time in eighteen months, having moved back to the UK from New Zealand at the end of their summer ready for another spring and summer here. One of the highlights of my summer here was a wedding in France where I was amazed by the seamless bilingualism of some of the guests moving from the French language to the English language and back. Many spoke both languages fluently because of a parent or because of being brought up or educated in either France or the UK, whereas others had worked for many years in one of the languages and had simply (but not that simply, I’m sure) acquired a high level of proficiency. Deciding which was their mother tongue would have been hard for many of the guests, and those without any genetic link to the language seemed to communicate just as effortlessly. It made me think how insulting the whole concept of the term ‘native English speaker’ is and why we need to avoid it as much as we can.
Back in the UK I was involved in a conversation about primary school teachers here who have to teach all subjects in the curriculum – including, if required, a foreign language. Many of them may never have studied the language to any real level of fluency and will definitely not have the best pronunciation in the world, but, peu importe as the French say, they get on and do the job. Provided they can guide their learners through the basic vocabulary, grammar or expressions to be taught, they are doing their job, and, hopefully, they get as much support as the school can offer. There is no question here about how ‘native’ their speaking is! They are L2 users of the language they are teaching and everyone is fine with that.
In this issue we also consider a very important development in the academic world: the teaching of content delivered by experts using English as a their medium of instruction to students not necessarily studying in an English-speaking country. Of course, this has been going on for years in the world of work where a Norwegian anaesthetist might be working with a Spanish surgeon assisted by a theatre full of other staff all working in English. Or the Dutch pilot flying over Germany talking in English to the air traffic controllers. So, if the future for many courses is delivery in English, then more and more lecturers are going to be able to lecture and run seminars in English. How can English language teachers help them? The answers are in the article.
I suppose the point I am trying to make is that there are many ways to learn English and it doesn’t really matter where your teacher was born, but rather how competent they are in using and teaching the language. I have seen too many of my compatriots from a non-teaching background deal with non-English speaking people to realise that teaching skills and empathy are just as important as fluent use of the language. Let’s be honest, the number of native English speaker teachers in the world must be a very tiny percentage, whereas the need for teachers is vast and continuing to grow. Our readership, and more importantly our writers, reflect this diversity, and I am very proud of that. In this issue we have writers from the Czech Republic, Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Canada among others. All of them have thought about, observed and then written about their classrooms in order to share ideas with colleagues throughout the world, in other words you! The research of our readers is different to that carried out by applied linguists, but the aims are the same – to understand as much as we can about how people learn in order to make our teaching better. So, research is the theme of this issue, again we have found articles from a wide range of sources, and I really think you will enjoy reading them and, possibly, find a new technique or idea to add to your approach. Let me also remind you that videos of some of the contributors can be found on the website – a nice way to find out a bit more about them and how they came to write for us. Who knows? The next one could be you! Enjoy the magazine.