10 Ways Teaching Has Changed In The Last 10 Years


Teachers are the arbitrators of knowledge and culture.

Knowledge and culture are each dynamic, endlessly crashing and churning. This makes teaching significantly important and difficult work, and can leave teaching—as a craft—wide-eyed and nonplussed in response.

Worse, those outside the bubble of education can understandably struggle to understand the problem. What are they teaching in those schools anyway? How is it any different from when I was in school? Well, as it turns out, much of it is different from even five years ago.

Starting with literacy.

10 Ways Teaching Has Changed Since You Started Teaching

1. Data (about student achievement, for example) is more visible than content.

2. Teachers are leading everywhere.

3. Media is designed to be duplicated & shared

Here’s why this matters: Digital devices have changed everything. They promote personalization, offer direct access to everything, support the mashing of media, are interactive, and mobile. While education isn’t close to figuring out that last part, the first four are giving it plenty to work on in the meantime.

If literacy is understanding how to read and write, then anything read or written/created digitally is first and foremost about reading and writing, but with unique nuance. Socializing ideas, multimodalities, complex methods of tagging and curating, endless acronyms and initialisms, fluid transfer from one form (a tweet) to another (a YouTube video) to another (a YouTube video tweeted) to another (a shorter gif version of that video then pinned on pinterest) to another (ultimately arriving as a meme that is then shared on facebook).

This is a pretty big deal, and requires the deft hand of teachers to make the adjustments.

4. Apps have fallen in favor

Many teachers have either given up on apps, or shifted their use to something more intermittent and isolated than clean-sheet-redesign/apps-are-the-new-textbooks.

5. Mobile is first.


Information, communication, search, purchasing, identity—they’re mobile-first.

Mobile learning is also a thing. Students can get up from their desks and walk around now. In fact, in a progressive learning environment they have a need to do so, and the self-monitoring strategies to make it work on their own. They can Skype with other classrooms, engage in school-to-school collaboration for project-based learning, and participate in experiential learning in authentic local communities.

It is easy to miss what a dramatic change this represents for education.

6. Equity & identity matter to students more than ever

Equity is more and more an issue a decade and a half into the 21st century. In the 1990s, profits, corporate greed, and systematic policies were less visible—niche. The occupy wall street movement changed that, and the Millenials have taken up that mantle as a significant theme for their generation.

Access to technology, socioeconomic issues, language barriers, culturally indifferent standardized assessment, WiFi speeds, and dozens of other issues are no longer niche side-conversations, but rather central issues teachers have to confront in both curriculum, instruction, and community engagement. Content holding and distribution—if it was ever—is no longer enough.

Teachers are both diplomats of often very bad school policies, and ombudsman for students and families.

7. Students & teachers are always connected

Teachers are expected to both learn, plan, publish, share, and collaborate endlessly with other teachers, and then support their students to do the same with their own peers.

The first step here is to help students to identify potential collaborators—often in other countries that speak other languages. I didn’t teach in 1953, but I’m guessing this wasn’t common.

8. Digital games are actually useful for learning.


They’re one of the best ways to review content, for example. (Think Kahoot.)

Imagine how odd this would’ve seemed 25 years ago.

9. Technology has game-changing potential

A sleeping giant in education (well, besides parents) is adaptive software. This is the killer app for education as it struggles to make sense of a new world and new expectations.

Apps are now available that adapt to student performance in a way that teachers can’t. Yes, they can and will replace teachers for many of skill-based tasks that can be automated without losing their efficacy.

And in education that depends on curriculum as we know it, there are many of these.

10. Information is everywhere but wisdom is scarce

Try convincing a student to listen to you explain how Europeans came to America for religious freedom when they can Google that tidbit in 45 seconds, then access an entire YouTube channel dedicated to that very idea while downloading an iTunesU course from an Oxford professor on the very same thing.

In the 21st century, teachers have to respond to this while serving educational institutions that continue to operate blissfully unaware of it all. And since it’s hard to serve two masters, what do you do? Do what you’re told in the classroom, then read this kind of stuff for fun?

This article was written by first appeared at https://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/7-ways-teaching-has-changed/ on December 18, 2017.

15 ways to stay motivated to teach

Teaching English can be a very rewarding and enjoyable job, students continuously surprise you with their progress and every class seems to challenge you more and more.  But sometimes it can seem like your students don’t like you, your school demands more and more and each class feels like a marathon.

Alex Case, the author of TEFLtastic  gives you 15 ways to stay motivated to teach.

1. Set yourself goals
One of the things that can make teachers lose motivation is the whole thing becoming a grind of lesson after lesson with no clear final aim.

2. Bring in something you enjoy
Perhaps because it reminds them of more self-indulgent teachers, serious teachers often need to be told to do something in class that they enjoy like designing a worksheet to be used with their an extract from their favourite book or video. A well designed task and the enthusiasm of the teacher for the material usually make up for any lack of previous knowledge by the students.


3. Teach your students something important
Another great demotivator is the succession of minor language points and readings on amusing but trivial topics that don’t seem to add up to much compared with the subject matter of a biology, ethics or law teacher or lecturer. It can take some effort to tie it in with language presentations and skills development, but the fact that our subject is language means that it is actually easier for us to pick and choose the big, interesting topics than it is for teachers working their way through the philosophy syllabus.

4. Learn something about/ from your students
Another thing that can turn into a blurred sequence is the procession of new students coming in and out of your classroom. One way to stop this feeling is to find out as much about them as individuals as you can, but the thing that is more likely to stick with you over the years is if you manage to learn something new about the world from them, e.g. by asking them to do projects and/ or presentations on their hometowns or hobbies.


5. Read
As the aim is to read for inspiration rather than directly for a promotion or qualification, if you don’t have the time, energy or patience for an Applied Linguistics book, try dipping into a book with more practical ideas; a TEFL magazine, website or blog; a popular science linguistics book; a popular paperback on language like “Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson; or even a self-help book.


6. Write
Even writing a diary on how your teaching is going can make it more interesting and show you ways out of whatever hole you in, and if you can get yourself published that can give you a real buzz and a way of stretching yourself that has a clear progression from game ideas on the web to getting your name on the front page of the most popular TEFL magazines and publishing a book that can keep you going for years, if not forever…

7. Go to workshops
As useful, convenient and (sometimes) cheap as reading and writing are, if you want a sense of perspective and a little push, there is no substitute for hearing other people talk about having the same problems as you. If your temporary drop in motivation means you are likely to lack the energy for a full blown course, a workshop or two might just give you the pep you need.

8. Give workshops
As teachers, most of us learn more from teaching than studying and live off the attention of standing up there at the front and getting approval, so giving workshops can be an even better way of coming up with new ideas than going to someone else’s. An easy start is to give a 30 to 50 minute workshop on practical teaching ideas in your own school.

9. Take a break
Like sports training or anything else, sometimes a bit of a break is what you need to get the best out of yourself. If you can’t afford to take extra time off or think a break on your CV will set your career back, a little time in a management job, teacher training job, ELT publishing job or in a summer school can be almost as refreshing as a complete break from TEFL.


10. Use teaching to learn about the world
TEFL can get to seem like a small, incestuous world where the things you learn after the first couple of years take you further away from people who haven’t got a head full of specialist jargon. You can reverse this effect by using your reading and your classes to widen your horizons, e.g. by reading business and management books if you have Business English courses, expanding Applied Linguistics reading to include more general books on psychology, childhood development or neurology etc.

11. Take a qualification
Not only would I recommend taking a qualification like a Diploma or MA when you are feeling unmotivated, I would suggest leaving those qualifications until you are feeling stuck in a rut and so can really appreciate being told to do things differently. The only difficulty is getting your energy levels up, which the other tips here can help with.

12. Show yourself how far you have come
If you feel like you are treading water, it could be because you can’t see the river banks and so can’t notice how far you have come. You can show yourself this by re-reading a book you read during your teacher training or early in your career, watching a video of or observing beginner teachers, re-reading some of your old coursework or trying a lesson plan or worksheet you haven’t for ages and see how much better it goes now.


13. Peer observations
Although a good DoS or teacher trainer can sometimes give you the little pointer you need to shake your classes out of boredom for you and/ or your students, the whole build up to it, the paperwork and the fact that you might be judged on a lesson on a bad day, week, month or term for you can make you less than receptive to the whole process and the feedback. One way of getting the positives without sapping too much of your remaining energy is to swap observations with another teacher. Watching someone else’s lesson can be particularly motivating- it’s an effort-free way of picking up new ideas, and anything you see which is not so good is a great ego-booster for you.

14. Do the opposite
Humans being what they are, it can sometimes be when everything is going exactly to plan, e.g. you have finally got that all Business English schedule you’ve been asking for, is when you start to get bored. If so, what you need is a bit of cross pollination, in the form of seeing what complete beginners can teach you about teaching Advanced, what monolingual classes can teach you about pairwork in multilingual classes etc.

15. Do something you hate
If touchy-feely Humanistic language teaching (for example) is something that makes your skin creep just to think about it, make yourself try it. You’ve got nothing to lose- if it is as pants as you expect, you can feel better about what you usually do in class, and if it is okay you have another whole area of teaching to explore.

This article first appeared https://www.tefl.net/elt/ideas/teaching/stay-motivated-to-teach/ in March 2008.

The slippery grammar of spoken vs written English


My grammar checker and I are on a break. Due to irreconcilable differences, we are no longer on speaking terms.

It all started when it became dead set on putting commas before every single “which”. Despite all the angry underlining, “this is a habit which seems prevalent” does not need a comma before “which”. Take it from me, I am a linguist.

This is just one of many challenging cases where grammar is slippery and hard to pin down. To make matters worse, it appears that the grammar we use while speaking is slightly different to the grammar we use while writing. Speech and writing seem similar enough – so much so that for centuries, people (linguists included) were blind to the differences.

There’s issues to consider

Let me give you an example. Take sentences like “there is X” and “there are X”. You may have been taught that “there is” occurs with singular entities because “is” is the present singular form of “to be” – as in “there is milk in the fridge” or “there is a storm coming”.

Conversely, “there are” is used with plural entities: “there are twelve months in a year” or “there are lots of idiots on the road”.

What about “there’s X”? Well, “there’s” is the abbreviated version of “there is”. That makes it the verb form of choice when followed by singular entities.

Nice theory. It works for standard, written language, formal academic writing, and legal documents. But in speech, things are very different.

It turns out that spoken English favours “there is” and “there’s” over “there are”, regardless of what follows the verb: “there is five bucks on the counter” or “there’s five cars all fighting for that Number 10 spot”.

A question of planning

This is not because English is going to hell in a hand basket, nor because young people can’t speak “proper” English anymore.

Linguists Jen Hay and Daniel Schreier scrutinised examples of old recordings of New Zealand English to see what happens in cases where you might expect “there” followed by plural, (or “there are” or “there were” for past events) but where you find “there” followed by singular (“there is”, “there’s”, “there was”).

They found that the contracted form “there’s” is a go-to form which seems prevalent with both singular and plural entities. But there’s more. The greater the distance between “be” and the entity following it, the more likely speakers are to ignore the plural rule.

“There is great vast fields of corn” is likely to be produced because the plural entity “fields” comes so far down the expression, that speakers do not plan for it in advance with a plural form “are”.

Even more surprisingly, the use of the singular may not always necessarily have much to do with what follows “there is/are”. It can simply be about the timing of the event described. With past events, the singular form is even more acceptable. “There was dogs in the yard” seems to raise fewer eyebrows than “there is dogs in the yard”.

Nothing new here

The disregard for the plural form is not a new thing (darn, we can’t even blame it on texting). According to an article published last year by Norwegian linguist Dania Bonneess, the change towards the singular form “there is” has been with us in New Zealand English ever since the 19th century. Its history can be traced at least as far back as the second generation of the Ulster family of Irish emigrants.

Editors, language commissions and prescriptivists aside, everyday New Zealand speech has a life of its own, governed not so much by style guides and grammar rules, but by living and breathing individuals.

It should be no surprise that spoken language is different to written language. The most spoken-like form of speech (conversation) is very unlike the most written-like version of language (academic or other formal or technical writing) for good reason.


Speech and writing

In conversation, there is no time for planning. Expressions come out more or less off the cuff (depending on the individual), with no ability to edit, and with immediate need for processing. We hear a chunk of language and at the same time as parsing it, we are already putting together a response to it – in real time.

This speed has consequences for the kind of language we use and hear. When speaking, we rely on recycled expressions, formulae we use over and over again, and less complex structures.

For example, we are happy enough writing and reading a sentence like:

That the human brain can use language is amazing.

But in speech, we prefer:

It is amazing that the human brain can use language.

Both are grammatical, yet one is simpler and quicker for the brain to decode.

And sometimes, in speech we use grammatical crutches to help the brain get the message quicker. A phrase like “the boxes I put the files into” is readily encountered in writing, but in speech we often say and hear “the boxes I put the files into them”.

We call these seemingly unnecessary pronouns (“them” in the previous example) “shadow pronouns”. Even linguistics professors use these latter expressions no matter how much they might deny it.

Speech: a faster ride

There is another interesting difference between speech and writing: speech is not held up on the same rigid prescriptive pedestal as writing, nor is it as heavily regulated in the same way that writing is scrutinised by editors, critics, examiners and teachers.

This allows room in speech for more creativity and more language play, and with it, faster change. Speech is known to evolve faster than writing, even though writing will eventually catch up (at least for some changes).

I would guess that by now, most editors are happy enough to let the old “whom” form rest and “who” take over (“who did you give that book to?”).

This article was written by  and first appeared at https://theconversation.com/the-slippery-grammar-of-spoken-vs-written-english-92912 on March 14, 2018



Being intelligible means that you are understood by the person you are talking to. World Englishes scholars Larry Smith and Cecil Nelson (1985) have suggested that intelligibility is made up of the following three components:

  • intelligibility, the ability of the listener to recognise individual words or utterances
  • comprehensibility, the listener’s ability to understand the meaning of the word or utterance in its given context
  • interpretability, the ability of the listener to understand the speaker’s intentions behind the word or utterance.


Most English language teachers probably assume that intelligibility is the responsibility of their learners. In contrast, the Smith and Nelson (1985) model focuses on the relative nature of intelligibility, suggesting that it is interactional between speaker and hearer, and that being intelligible means being understood by a particular listener at a particular time in a particular situation. What this means is that English users’ familiarity with any speaker’s way of talking is as important as how they are talking. In other words, the intelligibility of the English of Cormack and Bernadette you read and listened to earlier depends on how used you are to hearing their voices. Listen to them for any length of time, and they will become more intelligible (to you). The interactive nature of intelligibility is, regrettably, something so-called ‘international’ English tests ignore. How can speaking tests be valid and reliable when the examiner is (or is not) used to the test-taker’s variety of English?


Most English language teachers probably assume that ‘interference’ from their students’ first language is a major source of any communication problems. But, as Jenkins’ (2002) research on pronunciation suggests, effective international communicators use many features that differ from those of native speakers without causing communication problems. In addition to pronunciation features, there are also many grammatical and lexical features which have been shown not to hinder communication. For example:

  • non-use of the third person present tense –s: she look very sad
  • omission and addition of definite and indefinite articles
  • use of an all-purpose question tag: isn’t it? no?
  • increase in redundancy: we have to study about, black colour, how long time?
  • pluralization of nouns: informations, staffs, advices

(Seidlhofer 2004, p. 220)

(You can confirm the findings of this research yourself by looking again at the Ban Ki Moon interview used in the first unit, Thinking about English.)

Research into intelligibility by World Englishes and ELF scholars has demonstrated that, contrary to the assumptions of many English language teachers, there is no causal relationship between being a native speaker of English and being intelligible in an international context. Instead, they have suggested, it is vitally important for all speakers of English to practise listening to a wide range of varieties of English and to adjust their speech in order to be intelligible to listeners from a wide range of language backgrounds. In the words of Suresh Canagarajah (2007, pp. 923 – 924), successful English language users ‘are able to monitor each other’s language proficiency to determine mutually the appropriate grammar, lexical range and pragmatic conventions that would ensure intelligibility’.


ELF in your part of the world

How do (or might, in the future) your students use English to communicate with speakers of other languages? How important will their ability to use the forms of ‘Standard English’ be in these contexts?


Your answer will depend on your students’ age, location, access to the internet, hobbies, job, where they take their holidays, what other language(s) they speak, etc.

For example, if they have unblocked access to the internet, they may use some English on social networking sites and special interest discussion boards (like the bloggers we saw in the first unit of this course). They may use English at work for international commercial negotiations and transactions. Perhaps they sometimes holiday in a resort popular with international tourists. Or maybe they communicate in English with people from part of their own county where a different language from their own is spoken.

Only in some of these contexts will adherence to the norms of ‘Standard English’ facilitate communication, or be expected for reasons of social convention. And even where ‘Standard English’ might give users some interactional advantage or be expected from them (e.g. in formal writing), most users (NS as well as NNS) will be unable to perform with 100% accuracy.

This article first appeared at https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/changing-englishes/unit-2-using-english/intelligibility/

Rethinking English as a Lingua Franca


We have all heard the facts that non-native English speakers outnumber native speakers. English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) research has looked at non-native interactions and has attempted to identify a core of important pronunciation, grammar, and pragmatic features that are common to these types of interaction. ELF has also ushered in conversation regarding English-ownership, native-speakerism (e.g. accent discrimination), accuracy, and pedagogy. However, Swan* (2017), in a comment piece for ELT Journal, throws many of the assumptions of ELF into question, arguing that ELF is nothing new, that ELF is not necessarily an expression of ownership or personal expression, and that targetlikeness may be a more appropriate focus when concerning pedagogy.

Swan’s first argument is that a non-native speaker’s need for accuracy is determined by the situation. Therefore, in some contexts, highly accurate English is required (e.g. academic contexts) whereas in others, low-accuracy should be perfectly acceptable (e.g. for travel). Sometimes accuracy is a matter of preference. As an aside, Swan acerbically states that some “may aim at and even achieve perfect NS-like competence (including all the NNS proponents of ELF I have ever met)” (p. 512).

Swan also takes into consideration some scholars’ pronouncements that ELF “norms” are an expression of personality and perhaps ownership of English. Some see English, or specifically ELF, as an idiosyncratic arena where anything goes because of this. However, Swan wonders how dropping third person -s or switching relative pronouns equates to personal expression. For most non-native speakers, it is the content, not the language, that gives rise to their personal expression.

Another of Swan’s arguments is that the assertion of “ELF” users, touted as a new reality among global English users distinct from EFL (English as a foreign language), is something of a red herring (p. 513):

very many of the world’s English learners merely seek an effective working knowledge of the language, without wanting or needing a high level of accuracy. This has nothing to do with the recent growth in the lingua franca use
of English or the implied existence of a new class of ‘ELF users’.

He argues that what is termed “ELF” is nothing more than non-native speaker English, and any “norms” in this type of speech cannot be identified. While ELF research does suggest a pronunciation core (see Jenkin’s Lingua France Core), “this is a recommendation for teaching purposes; certainly not a specification of what various NNS Englishes actually have in common, if anything. And any attempt to identify significant common grammatical features in NNS English that would make it possible to talk about ‘ELF’ as a variety rather than an activity has surely been abandoned. One of my main points is that there isn’t such a real common core (though we do need a better pedagogic core); so ‘ELF’ is just NNSE [non-native speaker English” (Swan, personal communication).


Pedagogically, the light ELF does shine on the issue of accuracy speaks to a possible need to distinguish high-accuracy language learning from what Swan calls a “general-purpose programme” (GP). In such a program, the content could not be based on ELF because such a pedagogy is impossible. Teaching students numerous non-standard alternatives for a phrase like “better than” (*better that, *better of) is “bewildering” (p. 512). In order for language to be taught, there must be some standardization to it (some set of “codified forms”). He notes: I would not continue to attend classes in, say, Spanish, if my teacher’s approach was to ‘generate location-specific, classroom-oriented innovative language models’ (Dewey ibid.: 166). I expect a Spanish teacher to teach me Spanish, not make it up.”

A GP programme, therefore, would not be based on various speaker models but on targets and what students need to master to accomplish those targets. Here, ELF research is useful in establishing what is not necessary to be taught rather than an alternative of what should be taught. Knowing what should be taught, on the other hand, is important and is at the moment under-researched in terms of to what extent deviations from native speaker norms matter. Rather than providing this, ELF seems to focus on accommodation strategies and related uses of language.

In the end, Swan does not discount ELF. He made it clear it is useful for establish what need not be taught, claims “‘ELF-aware’ teaching” is important, and praises ELF for bringing a pedagogic shift away from “over-perfectionist and ineffective teaching approaches” (p. 515). Instead, his goal was to raise the issue that an “ELF norm” (something of an oxymoron, as he points out) is nothing new, not an example of self-expression, and has limited pedagogic application.


Dewey, M. 2012. ‘Towards a post-normative approach: learning the pedagogy of ELF’. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 1/1: 141–70.

Swan, M. (2017). EFL, ELF, and the question of accuracy. ELT Journal71(4), 511-515. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/eltj/article-abstract/71/4/511/3991585.

This post was written by Anthony Schmidt and first appeared at http://www.eltresearchbites.com/201802-rethinking-english-as-a-lingua-franca/ on February  5, 2018.

Can a Second Language Help You Learn a Third?

As bilinguals, one of our greatest hopes is that the efforts we have invested in learning a second language (L2) will also pay off when we learn the third one (L3). The more languages we know, the easier it should be to learn them, right? A positive answer to this question can have tremendous implications for language education. And yet researchers limit themselves instead to the non-committal “it depends.” Why is that? And what does our success in L3 learning depend on?


The first undeniable advantage involves strategy. If you learned your L2 as a teenager or an adult, you have managed to figure out what strategies work best for you. The more extraverted among us enjoy talking to target language speakers, while the introverts prefer to pour over textbooks and grammar books. I, for one, am an avid reader and foreign movie watcher, always hoping that new words will find their way into my memory effortlessly, in the process known as incidental learning. Research also shows that learners who are literate in both of their languages, and those who have metalinguistic knowledge, are in a particularly advantageous position because, among other things, metalinguistic awareness allows them to make comparisons and generate creative hypotheses.

Another area of potential advantage involves cross-linguistic similarities: learning a language typologically similar to the language or languages we already know allows us to utilize our prior knowledge through the process known as positive transfer or reliance on already familiar sounds, words, and grammatical categories. Unfortunately, not all of the similarities we perceive are real. Sometimes, our interlingual connections are erroneous, leading to what is known as negative transfer, which includes, for example, our reliance on false cognates, or faux amis. It was such superficial similarity between the Spanish word embarazada (pregnant) and the English embarrassed that led the marketing people at Parker Pen to enter the Mexican market with a bold slogan: “No te embarazará chorreándose en tu bolsillo” (It won’t impregnate you by leaking in your pocket).

And here is where it becomes interesting when a third language is concerned. We know that our first language (L1) affects the process of learning other languages, but we do not always expect that our L2 also wants to play an active role in the learning of L3. Yet this is precisely what happens and it is the influence from L2 Spanish that leads English-speakers learning L3 Italian to produce forms like aiudarono (helped, a blend of L2 Spanish ayudaron and L3 Italian aiutarono) or uccido (killed, a blend of L3 Italian uccisoand an L2 Spanish past participle –ido).

But then again it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that there is an interaction between typologically-related languages. My own Spanish mercilessly interferes with my Italian, while Polish and Russian emerge, uninvited, every time I try to speak Ukrainian. While inconvenient, this is hardly surprising. What is utterly counterintuitive is to see a typologically distant L2 (e.g., French) actively interfere with the L3 (e.g., German), as in the case of American linguist Larry Selinker who asked his German colleague in L3 German: Tu as mein Fax bekommen? (Did you [in french] get my fax [in German]?). The replacement of the L3 German Du hast with the similarly sounding French Tu as caught them both by surprise yet this is exactly what happens time and again—the previously learned foreign language suddenly pops out. Such interference, dubbed a foreign language effect, is so frequent that it may lead us to suspect that our brain has a separate section for all languages learned later in life.

Studies using neuroimaging techniques suggest that this is not the case. Rather, it appears that language processing is not restricted to single sites in the brain but spread across various parts. In addition, the same areas subserve different languages of multilingual speakers. The only difference is that the use of the native or the dominant language is optimized and thus more automatic, and the use of other languages requires more cognitive resources. The shared representation, in turn, means that all languages are connected in the multilingual mind. Like our second language, our native language does not remain an independent observer in the process of L3 learning. Instead, it influences it, through both positive and negative transfer, in ways that are sometimes subtle and at other times pretty visible, as we have just seen. Our L1 may even team up with the L2 in messing with our L3. And our first language is not immune from influences either, as experienced by the English speaker who upon returning from a short, two-week, trip to Germany joyfully informed his friends that He had drinken many beers (although, in this case, we may also be seeing a beer effect).


All in all, we should probably expect that the effects of the previous languages on L3 learning will be diverse. On the one hand, we come to the learning process as more experienced and better equipped learners but, on the other, our languages are not immune to playing tricks on us. The best we can do is to relax and enjoy the learning process, as well as appreciate the insights we invariably gain about our languages and ourselves.


De Angelis, G. (2007). Third or additional language acquisition. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

De Bot, K., & C. Jaensch (2015). What is special about L3 processing? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 18, 2, 130-144.

Selinker, L. & B. Baumgartner-Cohen. (1995). Multiple language acquisition: ‘Damn it, why can’t I keep these two languages apart?’. Language, Culture and Curriculum (special issue on multiple language acquisition), M. Ben-Soussan & I. Berman (eds.). 8.2, 1-7

This article was written by Aneta Pavlenko and first appeared at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-bilingual/201506/can-second-language-help-you-learn-third , on June 2, 2015. 

How will English language exams change in the next five years?

“As specific IELTS and Trinity exams are linked to visa applications it is unlikely a fully online provision will be deemed secure enough in the next five years. However, this doesn’t mean that for other purposes, English Language provision and exams will change significantly.”

With online English language courses gaining in popularity, Pat Moores, director and co-founder of UK Education Guide, looks at whether English tests will increasingly be offered online. Specific exams are linked to visa applications, but does that mean provisions cannot change significantly for other purposes?

The appetite for learning English shows no signs of slowing up. According to latest figures from the British Council there are over 1 billion people currently learning English worldwide.

Pupils take a GCSE mathematics exam at the Harris Academy South Norwood in south east London

There is also deepening interest in online delivery of English language courses. For example in May 2015, FutureLearn launched its free course ‘Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language tests’.

Over 2 million learners have now signed up for the IELTS course across multiple runs.

But what is the broader picture?

“This modularised approach allows learners to better understand what to expect before they decide to embark on an undergraduate qualification”

Currently, while online learning via IELTS and Trinity College is well established, the exam itself has to be sat at an approved test centre. If the IELTS exam forms part of a Tier 4 visa application, the test must be taken at a centre specifically authorised by UK Visas and Immigration for this purpose.

As specific IELTS and Trinity exams are linked to visa applications it is unlikely a fully online provision will be deemed secure enough in the next five years.

But more generally English Language provision and exams will change significantly.

Providers like Babbel already offer certificates for online language courses and have more than one million active subscribers worldwide.

While Babbel is a paid model of learning after a free first lesson, other providers like Duolingo offer a free learning model.

It also offers to ‘certify your English proficiency on demand, anywhere, for only $49’. The test can be taken from a computer in under an hour, and results shared with an unlimited number of institutions.

Additionally it offers colleges, schools and employers the opportunity to ‘get a picture of an applicant’s English ability through a certified proficiency score, video interview, and writing sample, available within 48 hours’.

These developments are particularly relevant as employers start to truly embrace ‘micro-credentials’ and starts to log these in secure sites using blockchain technology. These secure sites allow learners to keep their credentials ‘locked in’ and secure whilst allowing potential employers and institutions to access the qualifications.

Leading academic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic are already pioneering the work in secure logging of micro-credentials and also are offering micro-credentials themselves.

With institutions and providers working on micro-credentials very seriously, it is hard to see how this will not move forward in the coming months and years, especially with major employers supporting the work.

“Over 2 million learners have now signed up for the IELTS course across multiple runs”

“Last year, we introduced collections of credit-bearing courses with The Open University and the University of Leeds, with the option for learners to progress onto an undergraduate degree from these institutions,” said Simon Nelson, CEO at FutureLearn.

“This modularised approach allows learners to better understand what to expect before they decide to embark on an undergraduate qualification. In the case of the model we have created with the University of Leeds, learners that have completed specific courses via FutureLearn will be able to secure credits before they’ve even embarked on the degree with the institution.”

Will the day come when these micro-credentials, including the English language proficiency certificates being offered by Duolingo, Babbel and a version of the FutureLearn IELTS course, will become accepted qualifications for purposes that are not directly linked to visa applications?

It is hard to imagine that they won’t…

This article first appeared at https://blog.thepienews.com/2018/01/how-will-english-language-exams-change-in-the-next-five-years/ on January 26th 2018