I recently had a fascinating and inspiring few days at the Inter-Varietal Corpus Studies (IVACS) conference in beautiful Valletta, Malta, mingling with corpus linguists of various stripes and stretching my grey matter, trying to relate all kinds of corpus research findings to my own contexts.


I’ve written up a summary of my own talk here and put together some reflections on the other sessions here.


Upcoming talks: June 2018

After several weeks at my desk with my head down writing, I’m looking forward to two events coming up in June. Next week, I’ll be speaking at my first corpus linguistics conference at the IVACS conference in Valletta, Malta. I’ll be talking about some of the work I do using the Cambridge Learner Corpus and in particular, my work investigating Spanish learner errors. As I was preparing my talk, I started reflecting on my work with the learner corpus over the years and I’ve put together a blog post summarizing some of the reasons I find it such fascinating work.


Then on 23 June, I’ll be speaking at a joint event organized by MaWSIG and Oxford Brookes University entitled Materials Writing Challenges and Opportunities in Oxford. I’m going to be talking about some of the challenges involved in sticking to your principles when writing vocabulary materials within a tight brief. I’ll set out four key principles and share some of the ways I’ve found to stay true to them even given the restrictions I often find myself working within.


I’m looking forward to both events and to mingling and catching up with lots of different people.

Celebrating COBUILD at 30

As part of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the first COBUILD dictionary, a real landmark in the field of lexicography and the project that first encouraged me to become a lexicographer, I’ve written a post for the Collins ELT blog about how the meanings of words have changed in the past three decades. Back in 1987, words like wireless, click and hybrid hadn’t yet acquired the senses we all use now without a second thought.

COBUILD wireless 87

Entry for ‘wireless’ from the first edition (1987)

COBUILD wireless 18

Entry for ‘wireless’ from the latest, ninth edition

Click here to read my post.

Talking about vocabulary: IATEFL 2018 & a webinar

IATEFL 2018: Spring seems to be finally on its way – if rather intermittently in terms of the UK weather – and I’m starting to look forward to the annual IATEFL conference, which is by the seaside in Brighton this year. As ever, it’ll be a great chance to catch up with all my ELT friends and colleagues, to see what the current ELT buzz is about and to arrange a few meetings with publishing contacts to chat about possible new work. I’m also going to be doing a session – independent of any publishers this year – on the Wednesday afternoon (11 Apr) as part of the MaWSIG showcase of sessions related to materials development. My session is entitled Vocabulary lists: snog, marry, avoid? I’ll be talking about the kind of standardized wordlists that have become increasingly popular amongst ELT publishers to inform the vocabulary strand of their materials. I’ve put together a short video below to introduce my session:

OUP webinar: Hot on the heels of IATEFL, I’ll be giving a webinar the following week, 19 April, for OUP entitled: Academic Vocabulary: what do students need to know about a word? I’ll be looking at why it’s especially important for students who are studying English for academic purposes (EAP) to work on understanding key vocabulary in depth rather than just adding words to their stock of lexis on a rather superficial level. I’ll be talking about some of the features of academic vocabulary that a student needs to get to grips with in order to use words accurately and appropriately in their own academic writing. You can find out more and register for the webinar here.

2018 ELT Freelancers’ Awayday

I’m really looking forward to my first event of the year, meeting up with lots of other ELT freelancers in Oxford at the ELT Freelancers’ Awayday for a day of catching up and sharing ideas. It’s a great opportunity to see old friends and to meet new people too.

This year, I’m going to be presenting, with a 10-minute talk introducing some simple ways that ELT editors can use corpus tools to answer tricky language questions that might not be answered in their usual go-to reference sources:Awayday18


Teacher training in Moscow

In November, I was invited to run a day-long teacher training workshop for English teachers in Moscow. I’d last visited Russia on a school trip in 1986, so it was a fantastic opportunity to go back and explore a fascinating – and much-changed – city.

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The workshop focused on Teaching Advanced Writing Skills and I spent the day with 27 teachers exploring:
– Why? Thinking about the aims and rationales behind writing lessons
– What? Looking at the types of skills we can teach
– How? Evaluating a range of activity types that can be used to teach writing skills
– What next? Considering the important editing, feedback and review stages

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, working with a group of really engaged and motivated teachers who’d given up there day off, and the feedback was really positive. I hope I can arrange more similar workshops in 2018.

You can read more about the trip on my blog.

How to Write EAP: A New Print Version

It was very exciting last week to see my ebook How to Write EAP Materials in a new print version as part of a collection of similar titles all focused around how to write materials for teaching English in specific contexts (ESP, Business English, Corporate training materials and ESOL).

How to Write ESP series
This new version contains the full text of the original ebook, but was also a chance for me to add a few updates, especially drawing on my experiences over the past couple of years working on the Oxford Academic Vocabulary Practice books and including insights from recent research into academic vocabulary.

Both the new collection and the original ebook are available via Amazon:
How to Write Excellent ELT Materials: The ESP Series (print)
How to Write EAP Materials (ebook)