English UK conference, London

2019 has got off to a busy start already with a couple of writing projects on my desk to juggle over the next few weeks. So, I’m looking forward to my first outing of the year at the English UK academic conference in London on 19 January.

english uk jan 19

I’ll be talking about the challenges students face in moving beyond the basic core vocabulary they typically build up to by around intermediate level. I’ll be looking at the reasons why they seem to hit a bit of a wall and exploring some of the ways that teachers can help students continue to build their vocabulary at higher levels. I’ll be mentioning:

  • the differences between active and passive vocabulary
  • ways of encouraging a passive to active shift
  • the importance of having a clear rationale for vocab activities
  • how to select target vocab from a text
  • the difference between teaching vocabulary items and vocabulary features

A career in language: Goldsmiths, University of London

Next week, I’m really looking forward to talking to students in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London about building a career based on language and linguistics as part of the Goldsmiths Linguistics Seminars series. It’ll be a bit of a departure from my usual sessions, but I’m hoping I’ve got plenty to pass on about teaching English, teacher training, lexicography, materials writing and corpus research from a really varied 25 years of getting paid to play with words! Find out more about the seminar here: https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=11963

MaWSIG/Oxford Brookes

A couple of weeks ago, I had a really interesting couple of days at a joint MaWSIG/Oxford Brookes event. There were lots of fascinating sessions looking at materials writing from various different angles – among others, Fiona Mauchline talked about the development of the teenage brain and its implications for teaching and teaching materials (not just for teens, but up to mid-20s), Johanna Stirling explored the blurry line between practice and testing, and Jon Hird spoke about how authentic we can make texts adapted for the classroom  (and how authentic they need to be). Each session provided lots of opportunities for discussion with colleagues and I certainly came away with lots of food for thought.


I also presented one of the sessions, talking about the four key principles I apply when writing vocab materials and some of the challenges I face in sticking to those principles within a tight writing brief. There’s a summary of my session on my blog here.


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.