The Americans are destroying the English language – or are they?

epa00566426 US President George W. Bush (R) and First Lady Laura Bush(2nd f. L) greet Prince Charles (2nd f. R) and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as they arrive at the South Portico of the White House Wednesday 02 November 2005. As part of their 8 day US visit the Prince and Duchess will have lunch and dinner at the White House.  EPA/SAMANTHA REINDERS

Former US President George W. Bush (R) and First Lady Laura Bush(2nd f. L) greet Prince Charles (2nd f. R) and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as they arrive at the South Portico of the White House Wednesday 02 November 2005. As part of their 8 day US visit the Prince and Duchess had lunch and dinner at the White House. EPA/SAMANTHA REINDERS

Rob Pensalfini, The University of Queensland

In 1995 Prince Charles caused a ruckus when he lamented the unchecked spread of American English – and the effect of American usage is one that’s perennially lamented. But is it true? Are Americans really ruining the English language?

Whose language is it?

First of all, nobody’s ruining the English language.

And for anyone to call it “our” language is repugnantly colonial. Language spreads and language changes.

English is spoken across the globe by more people (as a first, second or foreign language) than any other, and has the third highest number of native speakers (only Mandarin and Spanish having more).

The United Kingdom has only about 15% of the world’s native speakers of English – the USA has almost 60%.

The language has many different and distinct “standard” or “official” varieties (Standard British, Standard American, Standard Australian) and innumerable non-standard varieties and pidgins.

Some of these non-standard varieties are spoken in England (Cockney, Yorkshire Scouse, Brummy) and differ far more from Standard British English than does Standard American. The phonology (sound pattern, including pronunciation) of some prestige varieties of British English, such as the “Upper RP” spoken by some remnants of English nobility, differs greatly from Standard British, so that much of it needs subtitles in order to be understood by speakers of “ordinary” standard Englishes around the world.

The accusations

Let’s suppose for a moment that there was such a thing as “ruining” a language.

The notion of “ruining” implies changing in unacceptable ways. Languages do change – despite all attempts to the contrary, or to constrain their change.

The further implication of “ruin” is that the change is necessarily negative.

Presumably it threatens the capacity of the language to express something – be that complex thought, heightened emotion, refined argument. Or that it somehow threatens the integrity of the speech community, which as we have seen was never integrated in the first place.

What I want to look at here is who is doing the changing – or the ruining, depending on your perspective.

Here are some of the changes of which American English has been accused.

  • corrupt spelling: center, honor, neighbor
  • discordant sounds – post-vocalic /r/, “flat” /a/
  • double negatives
  • ending sentences with prepositions
  • singular they
  • using nouns as verbs.

Let’s look at these one by one.

I’m going to use examples from Shakespeare to illustrate a lot of these, partly because it’s the best-known source of early Modern English, the language we speak today, but also because for many, Shakespeare represents a sort of pinnacle of English language usage.

Shakespeare is not generally considered as someone who would “ruin” the language. On the contrary he is generally regarded – not entirely accurately – as someone who enhanced the expressive force and prestige of English.

Changes to spelling

It is indeed true that Noah Webster, American lexicographer, introduced several spelling reforms in the 1820s into American spelling.

Among these are what are now considered “American spellings” such as honor, neighbor, center, and jail. Other of Webster’s reforms are accepted in British as well as American English, such as public and mask (in place of publick and masque). Some of Webster’s suggested reforms failed to take hold even in America, such as tung (tongue) and wimmen (women).

The curious thing is that it’s only the “or” and “er” words that seem to raise the ire of anti-Americans. The British gaol has given way to jail without a whimper of protest in the UK (it remains in limited use in Ireland and Australia), and no champion of British spelling would use publick or masque today.

Yet the very “or” and “er” words that draw such ire actually represent an older British spelling.

The spelling “honour” is found 393 times in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays (published in 1623), while the spelling “honor” occurs 530 times.

“Humour” scores 47 while “humor” is used 90 times. The spelling “center” is found nine times, while “centre” occurs only once; “sceptre” occurs four times, but “scepter” 36.

Webster chose the “or” and “er” spellings because they looked less French. Indeed the reason that, when British spelling was standardised in the 19th century, the “our” and “re” spellings were chosen was precisely because their French look lent them a certain dignity. In other words, the spellings were deliberately snobby.

Those ugly sounds

Standard American English pronounces /r/ in the coda of a syllable where Standard British English does not. The difference is illustrated in words like car and farther (twice in the latter word).

There are non-standard British varieties, such as West Country or Scots, which still do pronounce post-vocalic /r/, and there are non-standard American varieties, such as Eastern Massachusetts or African-American Vernacular English, which lack it.

More to the point, though, the post-vocalic /r/ as found in Standard American was a part of Middle English, heard by all classes and in all regions, until the 15th century, when it started to disappear in some dialects.

As far as ruining the language is concerned, there could be case made that the loss of /r/ erodes comprehension, with pairs like father/farther, pawn/porn, caught/court and batted/battered merging. Going to the pawnshop has become potentially risky to one’s reputation.

Like the syllable-final /r/, the flat “a” that Americans use in words like bath also represents an older form of the language.

Double negatives

Where would the Rolling Stones be if they had insisted on singing “I can’t get any satisfaction”?

Of course, they were mimicking a blues style associated with African American linguistic behaviour – and they were also making use of a pattern which is found in all varieties of English up to and including early Modern English. From Shakespeare:

Never none shall mistress be of it (Twelfth Night)

I never was nor never will be (Richard III)

Pedants claim that a double negative logically should imply the affirmative, so that “I can’t get no satisfaction” actually means “I can get satisfaction”. But a double negative has never meant this in the unmarked case, and there are many perfectly logical languages which use the double negative as a matter of course in negation.

(Also, the logic applied here would imply that a double positive can never imply a negative. To which I say, yeah right.)

In any case the double negative is a red herring when it comes to making an argument that “Americans are ruining the language.” Double negatives are not accepted in Standard American English any more than they are in Standard British English. When it comes to non-standard varieties, non-standard varieties in the UK are as rife with double negatives as non-standard American Englishes (watch EastEnders if you don’t believe me).

Sentence-final prepositions

We’re often told that a preposition is something you should never end a sentence with.


In fact, this is as common in British as in American English. Would you really say “From whence did you come?” Seriously? “Where did you come from?” is absolutely standard for all varieties of English. This one is just silly.

Singular they

This is often used when wanting to remain ambiguous about the gender of a singular referent, or when the gender is unknown.

For example, if you had just got off the phone I might ask you “What did they want?” This is appropriate even though it’s taken as given that you were speaking to only one person. I’d have to have a pole inserted very far into my sphincter indeed to ask “What did she or he want?”

Furthermore, singular they has a long and illustrious English history.

You guessed it, Shakespeare used it:

There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me / As if I were their well acquainted friend (Comedy of Errors), or

God send everyone their heart’s desire (Much Ado About Nothing).

We can go back in time to find it in Chaucer’s writing:

And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame, / They wol come up” (Pardoner’s Prologue).

Or we can come forward and find it among the Victorians, as in George Bernard Shaw’s Candida:

It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses.

We can even find it used by more modern English writers such as C.S. Lewis:

She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes” (Voyage of the Dawn Treader).

The final word on this goes to the title of an article in the UK newspaper The Telegraph last year, which was “If someone tells you singular ‘they’ is wrong, please do tell them to get stuffed.“

Verbing nouns

The sort of thing that gets pedants’ collective goat is the use of words like impact and action as verbs, as in:

How does this impact upon your writing?

We’re going to have to action this proposal within the month.

This phenomenon is called conversion or, if you want to get really technical, zero-derivation, and it’s been with the English language since at least the early Middle English period.

About ten years ago I supervised an MA dissertation on the history of this kind of construction. While some rare instances of it were found in Old English, conversion became widespread in the Middle English period (1066-1500) and reached a zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries, since which time it has declined slightly. So the modern-day Americans aren’t verbing nearly as much as Shakespeare (“Grace me no grace; nor uncle me no uncle” (Richard II)).

The real culprits

One of several conclusions is available to us.

One is that the English are ruining the language, for in each and every case the American situation represents an older form, and the Standard British is actually the innovative, the newer form.

The next possible conclusion is that the language started out ruined (most ruinous in the age of Shakespeare), and Americans inherited this ruin from the British, but that somehow Victorian English “saved” the English language from ruin.

If this is true, it is still not true that the Americans “are ruining” or “have ruined” the language. It was still the English who ruined it. And if you believe this one, I think you’ve got far more serious problems than worrying about language.

The final view is of course that language changes, and that claims of ruin or otherwise have nothing to do with language, and everything to do with feelings of cultural superiority and bias.

Many people in England will never forgive the world for allowing the sun to set on the British Empire – and will certainly never forgive the USA for being a more powerful nation than the UK.
This article is an edited version of a piece that first appeared here.

The Conversation

Rob Pensalfini, , The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

When Should I Use Capital Letters in English?

Writing in English can be confusing – particularly if you are writing formal business letters or emails. You want to get it right – the last thing you need is for a customer or boss to think your incapable of producing correctly written correspondence. Here are a few rules on when to use capital letters:


Why can’t us British emulate foreign students?

I feel very honoured to be part of a team that help people learn another language. Authors/Publishers and language schools should feel that also. They are creating new futures, lives and opportunities. IATEFL consisted of networking and selling all sorts of English Language resources. It was amazing to see how big and friendly the ELT community was. Although everyone is competing with each other by selling books, everyone respects each other and looks after one another. It is one big happy family. Authors were talking at seminars throughout the week, about the prospects of using a certain book to gain certain skills within the English language. These authors have put so much effort into helping others, they see and feel what the prospected English speaker needs to learn and how English speaking/listening/reading and writing, can be achieved. Teachers in language schools, have the patience and drive to help all levels of English learners, some whom might not pick up the basic language quickly, but they are in the school for a reason. And these Teachers see that these people have spent time, and money to gain extra knowledge, and a new way of looking at life. The English language gives them an extra stepping stone to achieving their dreams.

These people at IATEFL had aspirations, future goals and it was a delight to see how important books were for the future of these dedicated professionals. Being in digital marketing, I know how important it is to keep up with the digital times. The internet is and always will be important for learners of English. It gives them the opportunities to buy online, to search for schools online and to be part of a community socially. English books online are presumably the future in certain countries. Language schools that can afford to supply iPads or tablets will have an advantage but not every country or school can afford this. Books, material that you can touch, feel and own, are and always will be the future. We can talk about online material until we are blue in the face, but thinking back to when I was at school, material that was in front of you, that you could write on, practice, was the best way to learn. Each and every one of us could not wait for the TV to be rolled into the classroom, ready to watch something educational or perhaps not. Most days, we had enough of listening to teachers. Little did we know, that these teachers were drilling information into our brain without us even knowing.

It became apparent that the English, and the British educational system is way behind in terms of second or third language learning. The attitude of ‘well, we don’t need to learn another language, we have the main language’ is just not acceptable in my eyes. Why shouldn’t we learn another language? Why isn’t it used in primary schools where children soak information up like a sponge?

I have often been told by foreigners that the English people are lazy when it comes to learning another language. It isn’t the children’s fault. They want to learn, they need to learn, but for some reason, the British government don’t think we need to add languages as a primary subject. Well forgive me if I’m wrong, but myself and this is an estimated guess, 90% of the people in this country will not, use trigonometry or pie in their lifetime. I’m not singling out maths because basic maths is a must. This is just an example of how much time is used on subjects that unless you have aspirations to be a scientist, accountant or in mechanical engineering you might not ever use these for as long as you live. This goes for other subjects that we spent a lot of time learning at school, with very little outcome at the end of it. I think it’s great that we learn all parts of certain subjects that we might use to help us for the future, but to only introduce language learning as a secondary subject is why we lag behind. People who speak another language are smarter in my eyes because they have two or three words for our one word.

I have tried and failed miserably to learn another language over the years. It’s hard to want to learn when all you here is English. Your friends, family, people at work, everyone you know, can speak to you without even thinking about it. But what if we had to think about it. What if, while I was writing this blog, I picked a word and turned it into French/Spanish and started waffling on in that language. I think I would impress myself let alone other people that I have drawn in an audience who are French/Spanish speakers. If we had to learn it, we would.

A few things spring to mind when thinking about why and how the foreigners need to learn English. I used to be an agent for language schools, travelling to the Middle East to find prospected students wanting to learn English. On more than one occasion, I visited these students’ homes, some living in very bad conditions, but somehow, the parents had chosen to use their life savings on their children’s education. It was honourable to see the passion in these parents faces, wanting, needing their children to learn the English language. It was inspiring to say the least. It made me think of how important these families see the English language. It’s a must have in their eyes. They are setting their children on a path and there is no better language to learn.

Imagine if our parents had this thought process drummed into them. Saving up money for their kids’ education into language learning. No one is to blame. It’s not a natural thing. We have the most spoken language in the world. Why on earth would we need to learn another? Just imagine if the UK curriculum added a few extra hours of language learning a week, and gave students the chance to study abroad for a week or a couple of weeks instead of a week away at an adventure playground. Of course it comes down to money and taking kids out of the school for a certain period of time. But imagine if it started now and young parents wanted their kids to speak another language. Going abroad and learning a new language and culture, might open the pupil’s eyes. It might make them realise that there are other languages out there and not frown upon pupils in their school that are speaking to parents, friends in their first language.  Learning early would solve all of this. When I was learning French, I remember looking at my schedule of the week and was shocked. Two hours a week! What would you gain when you learn 1 hour every two days. Our teacher, although having a vast knowledge of the French language, weren’t even French and didn’t have the expressions, the tone and accent. We were also 15 years old, easily distracted by what else was going on in the class. We had not been taught the language early enough and we just weren’t interested.

This was over 15 years ago. So has it changed? I asked my 11 year old cousin who lived in France for 5 years and has a very good understanding of the French language. She is now back in the UK and so I asked her how much time was spent learning another language. One hour a week was her response and she said the French teacher was mispronouncing a lot of words. She knew this because she attended French schools. I may also add she has 4 hours a week learning Religious Education. And she watched the animated film The Lorax in her last RE lesson. I mean this is not right. When is it going to change? The UK is one of the brightest and cosmopolitan countries in the world and why can we not see that millions of people come to this country to learn our language. I actually feel embarrassed when someone from around the world asks me if I speak another language. I want my children to have a better understanding and at least be given the opportunity of language learning. It’s important as a human to learn as much as possible and it will do wonders for their future if they learnt from the early ages, say around 5 years old. British people who have married foreign nationals have an advantage. Being around speakers of another language, you pick up words, body language and become automatically interested. My wife is a foreign national and we have a daughter coming up to two years old. My wife speaks to her in French, Arabic and English and she is beginning to understand all three. I have another huge advantage, as I will watch and learn my daughter grow up, learning three languages. It will be in my best interest to learn while she learns. I will feel very odd if my daughter and her mother are communicating and I don’t understand a word.

I will now grab the bull by the horns and learn as much as I can. This is my opportunity. I just hope I have the attention span and need for this, because I have grown up in a country where learning languages isn’t on our agenda.

I hope the UK change the curriculum for every youngster’s sake. BEBC have been selling ESL/ELT books for over 40 years now, and that shows you how long students have been willing to learn English in our country and around the world. Our language schools would be even busier if it wasn’t for visa regulations and cost implications. This country and its state schools are now full up with many nationalities, many of whom can speak 2 languages. Instead of English kids turning their nose up at another language, let’s instil a mind-set that makes them jealous of these lucky people. I hope my rant reaches people who have the same opinion on our curriculum and the need for kids to learn languages early. Let us not underestimate the brain power of a child, they can cope with learning two languages. Trust me.

Nick Edwards

BEBC (Bournemouth English Book Centre)

12 reasons to love and learn English in Bournemouth

The Dorset seaside town of Bournemouth has beaten counterparts in Italy, France and even Portugal to be voted one of Europe’s favourite beaches.

With its seven-mile stretch of golden sand and views of the Purbecks and Isle of Wight, Bournemouth was voted ahead of plenty of Mediterranean hotspots by travellers from around the world.

The TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards ranked two Turkish and two Spanish beaches, along with the Dorset resort as the top five beaches in Europe, with Bournemouth also leading the way as the best in Britain.

Bournemouth beach and pier has been voted the best in the UK and the fourth best in Europe

Olu Deniz, in Turkey, was voted the best in Europe, closely followed by another Turkish offering – Icmeler.

Puerto Alcudia, in Majorca, beat Bournemouth to third place, while Benidorm in Alicante, Spain, came fifth.

Historically, Bournemouth has had a reputation as a favourite spot for retired couples and party political conferences.

It is famous for its bucket-and-spade holidays and beach huts that can be rented by the week for as little as £35.

However, it is currently undergoing a designer makeover with £11million being spent on sprucing up the seafront at Boscombe.

The area has seen the addition of designer beach ‘pods’, created by Wayne Hemingway, water sports academies, and bars and restaurants alongside a refurbished pier.

The winning locations on TripAdvisor’s annual list are determined according to ratings given by millions of global travellers in their reviews on the website.

Bournemouth’s MP, Tobias Ellwood, said: ‘For it to be recognised by TripAdvisor’s travellers as the UK’s best beach destination is a tremendous honour.’

Of the British beaches, Bournemouth was followed by St Brelades in Jersey and Woolacombe in Devon. It is not the only Dorset beach to score well – Weymouth and Swanage also appear in the top ten.

Last year, St Ives in Cornwall made it to sixth place in the European top ten.

It has been bumped out of that list this year, but comes fourth in the league of UK beaches.

Emma Shaw of TripAdvisor said: ‘Bournemouth has long been a popular seaside resort and recent investment in the area has clearly paid off.

‘Not only has it been named the UK’s best beach destination, up from third place last year, it’s ranked ahead of almost every Mediterranean beach destination.’

As an award-winning holiday destination Bournemouth manages to balance its duel roles as a centre for entertainment and partying and a jolly family-friendly seaside resort. It is also Dorset’s biggest town. Inexplicably its wider reputation still suffers a hangover from the distant past when it was a health resort for retirees and bath chair invalids who came to enjoy its mild sea air and fragrant pine-covered chines.

For the millions who have walked along Bournemouth’s golden sands, enjoyed some retail therapy in its fabulous shopping centre, and watched world class entertainment here – nothing could be further from the truth. Bournemouth is a great place to live and a fantastic town to visit.


1. Gorgeous Golden Beaches

Bournemouth would simply not be the world-class tourist resort that it is without its famed seven miles of golden sands. The beautiful beaches that extend around the pine-fringed bay are a natural asset that has paid dividends ever since the area first developed as a holiday destination and health spa back in the 19th century. Needless to say Bournemouth is very proud of its beaches which are discreetly raked and cleaned and kept in tip-top order for the tens of thousands who descend daily throughout the summer or indeed any day when the sun chooses to shine.

There are activities galore on the sands, giving the resort an almost Bay Watch ambience. These include beach volley ball, play areas and even lifeguard displays which also serve a practical function, ensuring the team is ready to respond instantly should anyone get into difficulties.

The town’s landmark beach huts add a colourful dash of seaside nostalgia and range from the traditional – Bournemouth boasts Britain’s very first municipal beach hut built in 1909. For those who prefer their sands a little less manicured and busy – a few miles east of Bournemouth’s main beaches is Hengistbury Head, a Site of Special Scientific Interest which features a pebble beach and a nature reserve which is home to rare wildlife and plants.

2. A Premier League Football Team

There is a real “buzz” in Bournemouth at the moment. Everyone is excited about the promotion of AFC Bournemouth into the Premier League, and what makes it such an interesting story is the way the town has been in full support of their local club through the good, the bad, and now the great.

The question is, apart from the arrival of some world class football teams, what else can the town expect from this success story? Will the income stream from the Premiership just benefit the football club or will local businesses have the opportunity to benefit as well?

The promotion will give a global identity to Bournemouth because of the Premier League’s appeal across the world. There will be an increased awareness which should result in an instant recognition for Bournemouth when we are promoting the town as a tourist destination. In terms of benefits to the local economy, similar clubs have seen in excess of £50 million boost after being promoted.

The Bournemouth Tourism Management Board believes that the promotion allows the town to reinforce the message that we offer a world class experience, being in a world class league. Tourism in Bournemouth should benefit as a result and, due to the way that the ‘visitor spend’ snowballs throughout the whole local economy, businesses can take advantage of the opportunities that will then present themselves.

People coming down for the matches will want to stick around. There’s so much to see and do in Bournemouth, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if match goers were inclined to stay for the whole weekend. Those that don’t decide to use the game for a weekend away are very likely to consider Bournemouth as a future destination for a family visit or short break. The football season starts just as the holiday season ends, so we wouldn’t expect to see too many issues in terms of overpopulation. It will help hoteliers and local businesses keep a constant stream of trade throughout the year.


3. A Taste of Bournemouth

Whether you are after cutting-edge haute cuisine, a romantic dinner for two, good honest comfort food or a simple snack you won’t have to go far to find something that hits the spot in Bournemouth.

Is there anything better than fish and chips beside the sea? Find out by visiting the award-winning Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip restaurant in Undercliffe Drive on the seafront. This is the biggest Harry Ramsden’s in the world and it recently won Taste of Bournemouth Restaurant of the Year at the Bournemouth Tourism awards. Another great seafront place is Urban Reef. This funky bar, cafe, deli and restaurant on Boscombe Promenade, right next to the beach, is a favoured hang-out for surf-dudes and families alike. With its floor to ceiling windows you can still enjoy a beach side view whatever the weather.

Bournemouth also has three restaurants in the 2014 edition of The Good Food Guide – The Print Room on Richmond Hill , West Beach on Pier Approach overlooking the seafront and Koh Thai Tapas on Poole Hill.

The Print Room, housed in the magnificent former Art Deco press hall of The Echo – the local daily newspaper, and West Beach on the town’s western promenade, have both received glowing reviews and perhaps more importantly AA rosettes. While Koh Thai, which also has a highly popular branch in Boscombe, is praised in the Good Food Guide for being “wonderfully relaxed” and serving “well-flavoured, unpretentious food”.

If you just want an ice-cream, coffee or a tasty snack head for the Giggi Gelateria in the town centre’s Burlington Arcade. Here the brilliant Luigi Bray produces astonishing Southern Italian style ice cream just like his Mama used to make back home in Puglia. For Sixties music fans with a craving for a gourmet burger beat a path to the Bournemouth Rock Café in Beacon Road. This recently opened café cleverly combines locally sourced food in its music-themed menu with the town’s star-studded past. Its walls are covered with rock and pop memorabilia associated with nearly 60 years of music history in the town including Bournemouth’s special relationship with The Beatles. The Fab Four performed at the Winter Gardens in 1963, and John Lennon bought a house for his beloved Aunt Mimi at nearby Sandbanks, which he often visited.

4. An Art Lovers’ Delight

Just two minutes walk from Bournemouth Pier the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum at East Cliff Promenade is home to one of Britain’s finest art museums. Built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, this quirky and beautiful cliff-side mansion was once the dream-home of larger than life philanthropist, traveller and art collector Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Annie. Designed to reflect a mix of influences that included Italianate villa, French chateau and Scottish baronial manor, it offered the Russell-Cotes a base that exuded style and influence. It was also somewhere that they could network and entertain their many famous friends including the great actor-manager Sir Henry Irving whose famed Hamlet skull is still displayed in the museum.

A one time Mayor of Bournemouth, Russell-Cotes, who died in 1927, gifted the building and its extraordinary collection of art and curios to the town but the jewel in the Russell-Cotes crown is its world famous collection of Pre-Raphaelite works. A few months ago this attracted an impromptu visit from composer and theatre mogul Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. The multi-millionaire, who is a serious collector of Pre-Raphaelite art himself, arrived completely unannounced to take a look at the paintings – in particular Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Venus Verticorda and Albert Moore’s Midsummer. It’s no wonder that this museum and gallery is a major tourist attraction and a magnet for connoisseurs of both art and architecture.


5. Bournemouth Air Festival

From vintage bi-planes to iconic World War II fighters and bombers through to the very latest in aviation technology, the annual Bournemouth Air Festival has it all. This free air show – one of the finest in the country – has been a major summer holiday attraction since 2008. With a dizzying array of magnificent men (and women) in all manner of flying machines and the occasional wing-walker too, it just gets bigger and bigger.

Last year more than 1.4 million visitors poured into the town during the four day festival packing the cliff-top, promenade and beach for prime viewing positions for displays that ranged from supersonic to super-adventurous. This summer’s festival (28 – 31 August) will feature all the usual favourites including the Spitfire and Lancaster Battle of Britain flypast and hopefully the Vulcan bomber which was pulled from last summer’s show because of a fuel leak. The star attraction is the magnificent Red Arrows. The RAF Aerobatic Team have become particularly close to the town after one of their own – Flt Lt Jon Egging – was killed in a crash following their 2011 display at Bournemouth’s Air Festival. There is now a fitting cliff-top memorial in his memory.


6. From High Street to Hip Boutique

Bournemouth’s thriving town centre proves that the demise of the Great British High Street has been greatly exaggerated when it comes to this seaside resort. For those seeking the big out-of-town shopping experience the vast elevated complex at Castlepoint features every High Street name you could wish for. But Bournemouth’s old town centre still offers major department stores like Beales, Debenhams and House of Fraser as well as the usual high street names.

If you’re looking for something more original, arty or quirky then Pokesdown is the place for you. This Victorian suburb to the east of the town is fast becoming Bournemouth’s creative quarter. Just three miles from the town centre en-route to Christchurch, Pokesdown is easy to find and well worth a visit. Cheaper rents and a vibrant and warm community spirit have attracted artists, craftspeople, musicians, writers and poets to this area which is reflected in the array of vintage shops and creative boutiques that have been springing up all over the place. These include What Alice Found in Christchurch Road, voted Best Vintage Boutique in the South West by Grazia magazine; Clobber another vintage emporium also in Christchurch Road and Love from Hetty and Dave, just a few doors down, which offers a fabulous range of hand crafted leather and fabric bags, shoes, brooches and bespoke hair accessories as worn by the late Amy Winehouse in her fabulous beehive.


7. Surfs Up!

The coastline between Bournemouth and Poole – Europe’s largest natural harbour – is a real haven for watersports enthusiasts. Forget the embarrassing faux pas of the much lauded Boscombe surf reef, now generally considered an expensive mistake. It hasn’t put the surfers off though – they still flock to the town’s beaches to enjoy the chance of riding a wave. It may not be Waikiki or Bondi but Bournemouth still attracts a year-round stream of surfers and paddle-boarders. Many arrive as individuals just to do their own thing but this beautiful stretch of coastline also provides plenty of organised groups offering a superb mix of activities. With clean bathing and blue flag beaches, it’s an environment for experts and novices alike. Where better to learn to surf, body board or paddle board? There are plenty of surf schools too. So check them out.

Favoured spots for the wet-suited hordes include Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers and the beach at Southbourne. Meanwhile just a few miles away the shallow waters of Poole Harbour offer a perfect spot for tuition in wind or kite-surfing and sailing. The stunning coast-scape of this part of Dorset makes it an exhilarating location for motorboating, kayaking, and jet-ski-ing too.


8. World Class Entertainment

The town’s entertainment industry is worth billions and is one of its principal attractions. With town centre venues like the Bournemouth International Centre and the Pavilion Theatre, Boscombe’s O2 Academy and Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts just a few miles away, there are concerts, plays and musicals featuring some of the biggest names on the touring circuit. Recent concerts at these theatres have included performances by Jake Bugg, Jesse J, Tinie Tempah, Leonard Cohen, The Stereophonics, Burt Bacharach and many more with comedy from the likes of Russell Brand, Eddie Izzard and Lee Evans. There are regular summer seasons and Christmas pantomimes, concerts on the seafront and a rolling programme of entertainment to suit all tastes and ages.

For those who enjoy dance Pavilion Dance situated in a beautiful Art Deco building in Westover Road offers a dazzling array of classes from ballroom to hip hop as well as dance performances. In the summer month’s it also hosts free group dance sessions on the seafront.

For lovers of classical music the town is home to the internationally renowned Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), founded in Bournemouth at the end of the 19th century as a municipal band. For decades the orchestra was based at the town’s now demolished Winter Gardens but for the past 35 years it has operated out of Poole’s Lighthouse concert hall. A string of international conductors have helped to raise the BSO’s profile over the decades including Sir Charles Groves, Andrew Litton, Yakov Kreizberg and Marin Alsop, who was the first woman to ever conduct the Last Night of the Proms. The brilliant young Ukranian Kirill Karabits has been the orchestra’s principal conductor since 2008.


9. Award-Winning Gardens

No visitor to Bournemouth could miss the brilliant swathe of green that cuts through the town. The Upper, Central and Lower Gardens extend for two miles following the Bourne Valley and its eponymously named stream from the boundary with Poole to Bournemouth Pier.

Listed Grade II in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens, these gardens provide a range of facilities including tennis, putting, mini-golf, art exhibitions and of course the town’s trademark tethered balloon which, on a clear day, offers a panoramic bird’s eye view of Bournemouth and beyond. Most of the action is in the Lower Gardens, close to the town centre and sea. It features a number of major events ranging from the Kids Free Fun Festival to the enchanting 100 year-old tradition of the ‘Candlelit Illuminations’ which attract thousands of visitors on summer evenings to the candle lit gardens.

The Central and Upper sections are quieter and maintain a natural feel. The Central Gardens includes several commemorative trees, the town’s war memorial and an area dedicated to the memory of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Upper Gardens – originally laid out for the Durrant family in the 1860’s – display a mixture of fascinating trees and plants covering three distinct themes – European, Asian and North American. This unusual collection includes what is believed to be the largest Giant Redwood in Britain today. A little further along Bournemouth’s coast Alum Chine boasts award-winning tropical gardens by the sea which thrive in this areas balmy microclimate.


10. Famous People

For a town that only celebrated its 200th birthday in 2010, Bournemouth boasts a surprisingly long list of famous people who were either born here or strongly associated with the town. The list is impressively diverse and includes Lord of The Rings and Hobbit author JRR Tolkien, who holidayed regularly, with his wife, at Bournemouth’s Miramar Hotel before the couple moved to Alum Chine in 1968; entertainer and singer Max Bygraves who also lived at Alum Chine; the comedian Tony Hancock who grew up at his family’s hotel in Bournemouth, and Blur bass player turned cheese-maker Alex James, who was born and bought up in Boscombe.

Many famous residents have blue plaques marking their one-time homes including Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped while living in Westbourne in the 1880s, and Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Mary is buried in St Peter’s parish churchyard alongside the remains of her mother, the pioneering 18th century feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and the heart of Mary’s husband the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who drowned in a boating accident in Italy.

More recent movers and shakers associated with the town and its surrounding area include Dark Knight star Christian Bale, broadcaster Tony Blackburn, Year of the Cat singer Al Stewart, Duncan James from Blue, Police guitarist Andy Summers and King Crimson founders Robert Fripp and Greg Lake.


11. A Tale of Two Piers

It’s impossible to think of Bournemouth without picturing its iconic award-winning pier. A quintessential seaside attraction, over the years it has featured on a million picture postcards and taken centre stage in countless holiday snapshots. There’s even an annual Pier to Pier swim where intrepid swimmer compete to cover the mile of channel to Bournemouth’s other pier at Boscombe.

There has been a pier of sorts at Bournemouth since 1856. The current pier is essentially Victorian. It was originally opened in 1880 but partially demolished during the Second World War to prevent German invasion. It reopened after the war and in 1979 it underwent £1.7m restoration programme.

The Pier’s famous theatre is currently being converted into an exciting new all-weather adventure attraction, but for the past 50 years it has seen some of Britain’s best known entertainers take to its stage for summer seasons and one night stands. During its hey-day household names like Sid James, Bob Monkhouse, Eric Sykes, Terry Scott, Les Dawson and Roy Hudd performed here to great acclaim.

Though the great entertainers of yesteryear maybe long gone Bournemouth Pier remains the perfect place to meet for a coffee, a drink or a meal in the Key West Cafe with its spectacular sea views. Alternatively simply enjoy sitting in the sun and chatting with friends on the benches that line the pier. It also offers excellent sea fishing and is the embarkation point for a number of cruises around the Poole Bay.


12. The Bournemouth English Book Centre

The Bournemouth English Book Centre (BEBC), formed in 1974, was Britain’s first specialist bookshop supplying books and aids for the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (English as a Foreign Language / English Language Teaching / English as a Second Language / Teaching English as a Foreign Language / Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages). We supply schools, colleges, universities, teachers, teacher trainees and students, both in the UK, Europe and the Rest of World. We have supplied some of the biggest Bournemouth language schools for many years.

Initially opened in Bournemouth to service the needs of the local language school community (the largest outside London), BEBC quickly established a reputation for speed, service and stockholding. We are now the UK’s largest stockist of English Language teaching materials (Books, CDs, DVDs and Interactive Whiteboard Software).

BEBC houses a 6,500 square foot (600 sqm) warehouse in Poole, Dorset incorporating its head office. John Walsh, the Managing Director, is widely respected in the ELT field. He has written on ELT matters for The Bookseller, Britain’s book trade magazine, and is an occasional contributor  to the EL Gazette, the professional newspaper for teachers. He is currently on the judging panel for the annual English Language Book Competition organised by The English Speaking Union. Don’t forget, if you are a Director of Studies, a teacher, a teacher trainer or a student, buy your English Language resources locally and receive the best service around. Visit

Exhibing at IATEFL – End of Day One

BEBC’s Bethany Ansell reports at the end of day one exhibiting at her first ever IATEFL Conference…

It’s been busy for BEBC on the first day of the annual IATEFL Conference 2012 in Glasgow. From an exhibitor’s perspective, I can already conclude that it’s an event well worth attending!

I have met so many interesting people from various different companies and backgrounds, and the atmosphere is brilliant for networking. I have also had conversations with many teachers from all over the world and gained feedback on the types of books they need and want, which will enable us at BEBC to improve our offering internationally.

I was even lucky enough to catch some of Carole Nicholl‘s session – Let’s Turn You On! Switch to Rhythmic Mobile Learning! in which Carole demonstrated how catchy songs and rhythm (EARWORMS) can assist in the retention of large chunks of language. However the highlight of my day was definitely getting a free cupcake and glass of champagne, courtesy of North Star ELT!

Our stand at IATEFL 2012 (No. 28):


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