A Bristol workshop and my #eltfootprint

On Friday, I had the rare pleasure of giving a workshop at an ELT event within walking distance of my home in Bristol. There’s been a lot of chat amongst ELT authors, presenters and trainers recently about whether we should be jetting around the world to give talks and workshops at ELT conferences. Are all those carbon emissions really justified? Can’t we use technology more to share ideas without the need to travel? Wouldn’t it be better to encourage more local speakers and trainers? To be honest, I don’t fly for work nearly as much as some of my colleagues. Last year, I only flew to one conference in Malta and this year so far, I’ve had one trip to Spain. Nevertheless, it’s something I’m conscious of and I have decided not to go to a couple of overseas conferences this year, in part, to avoid flying.  So, it was very nice to be able to walk to this one and keep my #eltfootprint down.


The event itself was organized by Living Learning English, a Bristol-based organization who arrange home tuition courses for students who come to stay with teachers across the UK. Their annual teachers’ conference is an opportunity for their teachers to get toegther, to network and to enjoy some CPD. They had a day of talks and workshops including one that I sat in on from Nik Peachey talking about the digital classroom and very bravely getting a roomful of teachers with very varied levels of tech confidence to log on to the Backchannel Chat site to see how it can be used for sharing digital materials with students. After a bit of initial reluctance and a few minutes of chaos while everyone tried to get logged onto the WiFi and then find the website, almost everyone got in and I think, took away lots of ideas for using the digital materials that Nik shared.


In my own session, I was talking (again) about teaching vocabulary beyond intermediate level. It’s a topic I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about lately and the deeper I get into it, the more I realize that we need to differentiate the way we deal with vocabulary (and probably other aspects of language too) at different stages in a learner’s development. I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the one-size-fits-all approach to teaching vocab that I come across again and again, especially in coursebooks which adopt a format that works for pre-int and intermediate but then try to squeeze more advanced levels onto the page in the same way.  But that’s a debate for another day … for the moment, I was just happy to share a few ideas with teachers for things they can do to help their learners push their vocab past the intermediate hump.

Thanks to LLE for inviting me to and all the teachers who came along.

TESOL Spain & Spanish learners

TESOL Span 2019

I’ve been using the Cambridge Learner Corpus for twenty years now to research learner language (read a bit about my research here) and some of my most recent work has involved researching some of the issues and errors that are most common among Spanish-speaking learners of English to feed into exam preparation books for the Spanish market.  I researched and wrote substantial ‘English for Spanish Speakers’ sections for the Complete series of books preparing students for the Cambridge Key, Preliminary and First exams. The first two titles have just recently been published and the third is forthcoming.

PET cover    Key cover   First cover

So, I’m really looking forward to travelling to Oviedo in Northern Spain at the end of next week to talk about the research and writing process at the annual TESOL Spain convention. Sadly, getting from Bristol to Oviedo has proved less simple than I’d expected, so I won’t make it in time to attend a lot of the conference, but I will be there in time for my talk on Sunday morning (9.55-10.55).


Oxford Grammar 360°

Last year, I was involved in working on a new grammar book for the Italian secondary school market and a copy arrived in the post this week.

Ox Grammar 360

As well as grammar reference and practice, it includes a substantial vocabulary practice section at the back, grouped around familar themes and with activities aimed at A1, A2, B1 and B2 students. I helped to compile the initial outline and wordlists for the vocabulary section as well as writing a chunk of the units.

Flicking through the finished book, it’s nice to see the material in its final design. I’m also reminded of some of the bits I was particularly proud of, including language for talking about disability, chronic health conditions and mental health issues. Oh yes, and I snuck in a text about a forensic scientist 😉

Introducing the new Oxford word lists

OUP vocab graphic

My latest guest post on the OUP Global blog introduces the newly-revised Oxford word lists; an updated version of the Oxford 3000, plus the new Oxford 5000 and the Oxford Phrase List. I’ll be talking about the new lists in a webinar on Tues 26 February, explaining how they’ve been revised, what they aim to do and how they can be used in the classroom. There’s a link to register for the webinar, along with the times at the end of the blog.

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