The English language is a fascinating mix of regional dialects and unique slang, shaped by centuries of history and cultural influences. Throughout its long history, the UK has had many invasions and visitors. From the Romans in ancient Londinium to the rolling hills of the Saxon heartland, and from the Viking raiders of the north to the Norman conquerors of the south, each wave of historical influence has shaped the dialects of the UK. Each region of the United Kingdom has its own distinct flavor of language and accent. Today, we embark on a slang tour to explore some of the expressions from different regions.
What does it mean to be fluent in English?
What do we mean by English fluency, and how can understanding competencies across the four skills provide a more realistic picture of communicative English ability?
What is fluency?
As someone who worked in dictionaries, the meaning of words has always interested me – and fluency is a particular case in point. Language learners often set themselves the goal of becoming fluent in a language. Job adverts often specify “fluent in English or Spanish” as a requirement. But what does being 'fluent' in a language actually mean? If we look in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, we see that fluent means “able to speak a language very well”. Fluent speech or writing is described as “smooth and confident, with no mistakes”. In general, fluency is most often associated with spoken language – but is that the goal of all language learners? And what does being able to speak fluently show about the other language skills?
Describing English proficiency
Before entering the world of dictionaries, I taught English as a foreign language in France. At that time, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) had not yet been published and learners were described in very general terms – beginner, intermediate, advanced – with no agreed standards on what learners at each level were expected to know. As well as establishing standards, the CEFR also shifted the focus of language assessment from knowledge of grammar and vocabulary to functional competence, i.e. what can a student actually do with the language they’re learning across the four skills:
Interestingly, while calling out specific objectives for each skill, almost two-thirds of the information in the CEFR describes spoken language. This seems to imply that spoken fluency is indeed the most important goal for all language learners.
Mapping out a personalized path to proficiency
As a global publisher, Pearson English recognizes that all learners are different – in their backgrounds, learning environments and learning goals. This is why we have undertaken new research to extend the set of learning objectives contained in the CEFR to account for learners who need detailed information about their level in all four skills, not just in one (typically, that of speaking).
No learner will be equally proficient in all four language skills – in the same way that no native speaker is equally proficient in all skills in their first language. Some of us are better at writing than speaking, and many are illiterate in their first language. A true measure of language proficiency needs to take into account all of the skills. Equally, not every learner of English will need to be 'fluent' in spoken communication.
Many researchers need to read papers in English and attend conferences in English – but will only ever present and write in their first language. Is 'fluency' a good way to describe their goal? And if it isn’t, does that somehow diminish their language achievements? By acknowledging proficiency in individual skills – rather than catch-all terms such as 'fluent' – we gain a clearer understanding of goals and outcomes, and with this knowledge, we are in a better position to tailor learning to the individual.
More blogs from Pearson
Language is not only a tool for communication but also a means to explore and comprehend diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Europe, with its vast array of languages, is a prime example of this linguistic diversity. Each year on September 26th, Europe observes the European Day of Languages, which is a day solely dedicated to celebrating and embracing this linguistic richness.
Europe is a magnificent tapestry of languages, with over 200 spoken throughout the continent. This diversity is a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of each nation and reminds us of the intricate historical, social, and linguistic elements that mold our identities. The European Day of Languages inspires people to cherish and honor this linguistic heritage.
Why September 26th?
September 26th marks an important date for celebrating linguistic diversity and promoting multilingualism. This day commemorates the adoption of the "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages" by the Council of Europe in 1992, a crucial document that recognizes and safeguards the linguistic rights of minority languages spoken within European countries. By celebrating the European Day of Languages on this date, it renews our commitment to supporting the rich diversity of languages and cultures that make our world a more vibrant and fascinating place.
What type of events happen?
The European Day of Languages offers language learners a chance to participate in language exchanges, which is an exciting opportunity. During such exchanges, learners from diverse backgrounds partner up and teach each other their native languages. This not only helps improve language skills but also promotes intercultural understanding.
Various European cities offer language workshops led by enthusiasts and experts, providing an introduction to different languages.
Storytelling is an incredibly effective tool for learning languages. Libraries, schools, and cultural centers hold multilingual storytelling sessions, where stories from different cultures are shared in their original languages. This helps both children and adults to better understand and appreciate the beauty of linguistic diversity.
Cinema provides a wonderful opportunity to explore different languages and cultures. Throughout Europe, foreign films are often shown with subtitles, enabling viewers to fully immerse themselves in new linguistic worlds.
Museums often showcase exhibitions highlighting the linguistic and cultural heritage of various regions, providing insight into the history and traditions of different languages.
Cafés and restaurants might offer special menus featuring diverse cuisines and multilingual staff – a delightfully tasty way to explore languages and cultures.
Games and Competitions
Language-based games and competitions, such as crossword puzzles and spelling bees, are organized in schools and communities to provide a fun and educational way to celebrate language.
If you are a teacher hoping to celebrate this occasion make sure to check here for ideas on what to do.
Check out what events are happening near you here.
Just like the European day of Languages, we at Pearson Languages are fully committed to empowering and celebrating language learners and educators alike. That's why we are now supporting French, Italian, and Spanish language learning with the Global Scale of Languages (GSL). With these new language learning frameworks at your fingertips, you can confidently design curriculums and personalize learning pathways to help fast-track your learners’ progress and help your learners be themselves in French, Italian and Spanish.
Whether you're a teacher, a language learner, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of languages, the European Day of Languages and the GSL provide exciting opportunities to explore, learn, and enjoy the rich tapestry of Europe's linguistic heritage.
Can we play a game? How many times have you been asked this in class? And how often do you say Yes? Young learners love to play games, and if you choose the right ones, they can have a hugely beneficial impact on their learning.
As well as being fun, games can provide learners with necessary language practice, as well as lowering the affective filter (i.e. anxiety, fear, boredom and other negative emotions that can all impact learning). Games also foster a positive, relaxed environment.
So are you ready to play? Here are a few tried and tested games that work especially well in the primary classroom. Each game is designed to consolidate and review the language students have been learning, and take from 5 to 15 minutes. The games are flexible enough for you to adapt them to different levels, age groups and skills.