Filter by tag

  • People sat in chairs doing various things like working on a laptop; sat in one of those seats is a cartoon robot
    • Business and employability
    • Technology and the future

    English for employability: What will jobs be like in the future

    By Pearson Languages

    What do driverless car engineers, telemedicine physicians and podcast producers have in common? About 10 years ago none of these positions existed. They are representative of a new technology-driven marketplace, which is evolving faster than employers, governments and education institutions can keep up.

    As new jobs appear, others fall by the wayside. Today, it’s estimated that up to 50% of occupations could be automated with currently available technology. Routine jobs like data entry specialists, proofreaders, and even market research analysts are especially at risk of becoming redundant within the next 5 to 10 years. Globally, that means between 400 and 800 million workers could be displaced by automation technology by 2030, according to McKinsey.

    Moreover, 65% of today’s young people will need to work in areas that do not exist in the current market. The question is, what can we do to prepare learners for a future when we have no idea what jobs they’ll be doing? Mike Mayor and Tim Goodier discuss this uncertain future and explain why English for employability is such a hot topic right now.

    A rising level of English and employer expectations

    Mike Mayor, Director of the Global Scale of English at Pearson, explains that while he believes employability has always been a factor in English language education, it has become more important and more of a focus for students looking to enter the workforce.

    “Expectations of employers have risen as proficiency in English language, in general, has risen around the world,” he says. “They’re now looking for more precise skills.”

    Tim Goodier, Head of Academic Development at Eurocentres, agrees. He explains that English language education is primarily about improving communication and soft skills – which is key for the jobs of 2030 and beyond.

    “There’s a convergence of skills training for the workplace and language skills training,” Tim says. “The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) has recognized and, in many ways, given a roadmap for looking into how to develop soft skills and skills for employability by fleshing out its existing scheme – especially to look at things like mediation skills.”

    How the Global Scale of English and CEFR have surfaced employability skills

    The Global Scale of English (GSE) is recognizing this increasing prominence of English for employability. Mike explains that it’s doing this “by taking the common European framework and extending it out into language descriptors which are specific for the workplace.”

    In developing a set of learning objectives for professional learners, Mike and his team have given teachers more can-do statements. “They are able to create curricula and lessons around specific business skills,” he says.

    Tim comments that one of the most interesting things about the GSE is that it links can-do statements to key professions, which he explains “is another extension of what these can-do statements can be used for – and viewing competencies as unlocking opportunity.”

    Showing how these skills and competencies relate to the real world of work can be a strong motivating factor for learners.

    He says that teachers need to visualize what success will look like in communication “and then from there develop activities in the classroom that are authentic.” At the same time, he says that activities should be personalized by “using the learners’ own interests and adapting the course as much as possible to their future goals.”

    Preparing students for the future workplace

    Speaking on the role of publishing in English for employability, Mike says:

    “I would say as course book creators we actually incorporate a lot of these skills into our materials, but… I think we could do to push it a little further.”

    In Mike’s view, educators need to do more than teach the skills, they need to raise awareness of their context. In other words why these skills are important and how they will help them in authentic situations both in and out of the work environment.

    Beyond teaching the language itself, he says publishers should be helping teachers ask:

    • Are the students participating fairly in group discussions?
    • Are the students actively listening?
    • Are they interrupting politely?

    These skills “don’t come naturally, and so just to begin raising awareness would be an added value,” he says.

    Future skills: careers in 2030

    In the same way we didn’t know that driverless cars would become a reality 10 years ago, we cannot say with absolute certainty which professions will arise and which will disappear. However, using tools like the GSE teacher toolkit, we can help our students develop the language and soft skills they need to navigate an ever-shifting job market. The future is an exciting place, let’s help our learners prepare themselves!

    Watch the full interview with Mike and Tim below: 

  • A businessman sat cross legged is meditating on a desk, around him are other business people sat at the same desk busy working
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing

    Understanding and managing technostress

    By Amy Malloy

    What is technostress?

    Technostress affects people in different ways. I resonate with Chiapetta’s (2017) definition:

    “Technostress is a syndrome that occurs when the person, subjected to information overload and continuous contact with most digital devices, develops a state of stress.”

    This explanation isn’t limited to any particular symptoms. However, most of us can relate to being over-exposed to technological devices – especially in the past year. Consequently, I imagine many people have experienced some symptoms of technostress as a result.

    What are the symptoms of technostress?

    While the symptoms of technostress differ, there are a number of common experiences. Perhaps you obsessively check social media, or struggle to focus on everyday tasks. Or maybe you feel demotivated and low in mood. You might find yourself overly focused on getting the latest technology. Or you might be actively avoiding or feeling anxious about using technology.

    Why should we be concerned about technostress?

    People are adaptable, it’s part of our biology, but if change happens too quickly, we experience symptoms of stress. And, in our modern, continuously busy culture, it can be easy to assume something is wrong with us if we feel we can’t cope with technology. It can feel like we’re failing because we’re not focusing or achieving enough. We might also feel stupid for not understanding how a piece of software works.

    In response, we need to find ways to relieve that stress and return to a more restful state.

    Tips to prevent and manage technostress

    1. Switch off – This may be hard to do with the demands of life but sometimes, just turning your devices off and stepping away from technology is the best approach. Do something to pull you away from the information overload, like a walk in nature or reading a fictional book. Something that pulls you away from life’s goings-on.
    2. Limit your exposure – If you can’t switch off completely for whatever reason, then maybe rationing your exposure to devices is key. Time and limit your time on devices, taking regular breaks away. If you struggle to pull yourself away, there are apps and device functions that can restrict access for you.
    3. Only use with a purpose – Before you start using technology, ask yourself: “What am I using this for?”. Study? Research? Or is it just out of boredom? If you haven’t got a set aim or goal, then you are likely to mindlessly scroll and get pulled into the vast information overload of social media and the web. Try to avoid this by having a set aim/goal when using technology.
  • A young child with a hat on climbing on a tree
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    From learners to explorers: How to develop an explorer mindset in language students

    By Jeanne Perrett

    What do you think of when you hear the term ‘explorer mindset’?

    Many people think that it’s about encouraging children to be interested in learning. To support them when they want to discover new thoughts and skills – and to find things out for themselves.

    But we can expand on those thoughts.

    Explorers who set off on expeditions have specific goals. They have to prepare physically, mentally and practically. They know where they want to go, even if they don’t know what they will find there. In the process, they stumble and fall and get back up again. And when they finally reach the place they were headed for, they see more opportunities and realize they would like to go even further.

    Young people who develop this mindset will always want to learn, discover and keep searching for bigger and better things.

    1. Prepare them for the journey

    Before setting off on any journey, it’s crucial to have access to the right tools. In our schools, we (usually) have all the books, technology and stationery we need. At home, on the other hand, students might only have the basics. Books and craft supplies might also be seen as messy and something to be tidied away.

    Therefore, in our classrooms, we should show our students that materials are always readily accessible. Learners should understand that while everything has its place, we still like to read, write, and make things.

    How to encourage reading, writing and creativity:

    • Show students what you are reading; the books you have in your bag or tablet.
    • Show them your notebooks and other written work.
    • Allow time for craft work in the middle of the lesson and leave time to clear up at the end.
    • Allocate a ‘messy space’ in the classroom where craft material can be used anytime. We often do this with kindergarten classes; consider continuing it for older students.

    2. Focus on the language learning destination

    Most of our students will be excited about starting their journey through the English language. Some will be naturally motivated or innately inclined to become fluent speakers, and others will need your encouragement.

    As a teacher, you are the primary role model for your students. Your most powerful tool is showing your own enthusiasm for learning through English. Show the children that you want to improve your own English.

    Thanks to the power of technology, children have become excellent explorers.

    We can now be genuinely surprised about the things they discover on YouTube, Twitch or TikTok – the phrases, ideas or even ‘life hacks’ they share with us in class. We can learn from them too. Real admiration is always more motivating than praise.

    How to encourage show and tell in the classroom:

    • Allow five minutes for the children to show or tell you new things they have discovered online or elsewhere. Make it a routine with a time limit.
    • Help the children find out about the skills their role models have by searching the internet or reading magazines. Seeing what others can do from small beginnings can inspire students to create their own goals.

    3. Acknowledge obstacles

    We tend to think of obstacles as something we have to conquer and get over. But we can’t always do that. Sometimes we have to stop, retrace our steps, rest, redefine our goals and start again.

    As teachers, we know that not achieving what we have set out to do can make us feel incompetent. The same goes for our students. If they can’t do their homework, they may not feel good about themselves and start to invent excuses. We need to set them small, manageable daily goals so that the students can find satisfaction in focused work with a finite outcome.

    If they do not achieve those goals, we can reset them in a different way – for example, a writing task could become a speaking task or vice versa. Seeing that we can approach a piece of work from different angles is a life skill for our children. We don’t have to give up; we have to do it differently.

    How to help individuals reach their full potential

    Give them a homework menu with different tasks done in different ways. This allows them to work to the best of their specific abilities.
    For example:

    Describe your bedroom. You can…

    • write about it 
    • talk about it
    • draw and label it
    • take a photo and label it

    4. Continue to explore

    It sometimes seems that the more we learn, the less we know. As we achieve certain goals, we realize that there are other goals beyond them. Viewed from afar, they might seem, like mountain ranges, impossible to reach. And it’s true. We can’t possibly learn everything. Just as we can accept obstacles as a natural part of life, we can accept limitations.

    Instead of feeling inadequate, we can focus on what we have learnt and gradually extend our knowledge and skills. This can be done at any level, and it is rewarding to look back and see how far we have come as explorers of the English language.

    Tips for extending students’ knowledge and skills

    • Create regular opportunities for the children to demonstrate new knowledge or skills. A bulletin board is a simple way of doing this; children could add a note or a drawing to a topic-based board and read it aloud or briefly explain why they think it is interesting.
    • Start or end a school term with simple revision activities and quizzes to help the students feel good about what they already know, however basic.
    • Point out the students' less obvious soft skills, such as punctuality, listening to others, or being organized. Reading and writing often dominate school lessons. This helps children realize that other aspects of their skill sets and behavior are recognized and valued.

    Encouraging children to develop an explorer mindset helps them feel a sense of satisfaction, that they are responsible for their own education. They are, and will continue to be, the leaders of their own learning expeditions.

  • Children sat at desks in a classroom with their hands up
    • Inclusivity and wellbeing
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    Special Educational Needs: Lesson tips

    By Pearson Languages

    In this blog, James Laidler talks about his insights into how to plan lessons for neurodiverse students. James is a teacher and has been a Special Educational Needs (SEN) Coordinator for the past 18 years. He also discusses how important it is to consider your terminology, using phrases like ‘special learning powers’ or ‘neurodiversity’ to break down negative stereotypes. On top of this, he wants to help teachers and students recognize the strengths SEN students can bring to the classroom.

    James explores special needs education and what teachers can do to ensure their lessons are inclusive for all. A lot of these lesson tips are also great to apply to keep all students engaged, SEN or otherwise.

    Defining Special Educational Needs

    To define what Special Educational Needs (SEN) is, a child has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability that calls for special educational provision. Learners with conditions such as autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia or anxiety disorders come under this framework.

    Inclusive lesson tips for neurodiverse students

    Although teachers want to create inclusive lessons, many feel ill-equipped to support neurodiverse students. To help, James offers some tips for lesson planning which aim to turn learning diversities into strengths:

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    ADHD is a condition that can include symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Students with this disorder may have a short attention span, constantly fidget, or act without thinking.

    Lesson tips for ADHD students:

    • Movement breaks – Students with ADHD may struggle to sit still for extended periods of time. Include short breaks in your lessons that offer them the opportunity to get up and move around at regular intervals.
    • Group work – To keep learners active and engaged, include group work in class. This means they don’t have to focus on the board for too long.
    • Dramatise lessons – A really effective activity is to bring drama into the classroom. For example, students can act out role plays or other fun drama-based activities. It keeps them motivated, holds their attention and can be fun for all of the class.

    Dyslexia

    Dyslexia primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent reading and spelling. It may affect a person’s phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Lesson tips for dyslexic students include:

    • visual aids – Learners with dyslexia tend to have excellent visual memories. Try bringing in pictures to illustrate ideas or add them to lengthy texts to help students when doing reading comprehension exercises.
    • font and spacing – When setting reading tasks, simply changing text font, enlarging font size, and double spacing is hugely beneficial to dyslexic students. Simply adapting the text can make their learning experience much easier.
    • text-to-speech software – Using a text-to-speech specialized software often provides significant support to those who struggle with reading or digesting text on computer screens – try ClaroRead or Kurzweil 3000.

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

    ASD is a developmental condition that involves challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. The severity of symptoms is different in each person. Lesson tips for ASD students:

    • Encourage systematic skills – Often students with ASD may be more systematic than other students. This means they favor routines, regular processes, and predictable activities. Try bringing out these skills by asking students to spot patterns, analyze numbers or evaluate data.
    • Talk about interests – Autistic students may have specific interests they love to research. Engage them by getting them to talk about their hobbies or ask students to create projects on a topic they choose that they can present to the class.
    • Teaching online/blended learning – If you have a learner who is struggling socially at school, it may be an option to include hybrid or blended learning. This takes away the social and emotional challenges of school and people interaction, which can benefit ASD students.

    Anxiety disorders

    Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, but rather involve intense fear or anxiety. This condition is becoming increasingly common in young people since the onset of the pandemic and greatly affects their ability to learn.

    Lesson tips for anxiety disorder students:

    • Changing language and terminology – Our education system is very exam driven, which can cause students to experience much stress. By simply offering reassurance, guidance, and motivation, you can help to reduce their feelings of anxiety.
    • Talk openly – Encourage learners to discuss their feelings if they struggle. They can do this with you, a classmate, or a support worker at the school. If they open up to you, focus on strategies to combat negative feelings and emotions.
    • Mindfulness techniques – Try adding five minutes at the start of the day for guided meditation or breathing exercises. It may help students to begin the day in a calm and relaxed manner.
  • A overhead shot of a chalkboard with a cube on, with people around it with chalk and books
    • Teaching trends and techniques

    The coding mindset: Benefits and activities

    By Pearson Languages

    What is the coding mindset?

    Over the past decade, the ELT industry has placed more emphasis on soft skills. The focus has been on developing personal leadership qualities, creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and communication and collaboration skills. These are all essential skills for the future of work – and especially useful when students need to work better together and solve unexpected issues.

    A coding mindset encourages students to develop these essential soft skills – and practice them as a coder would. Teachers can use activities and tasks in the classroom that are based on this mindset to help students develop strategies to analyze, understand and solve problems.

    This is integral to computational thinking and is how computer programmers think when coding. Yes, the coding mindset is a way of thinking, but it does not directly relate to computer science. Instead, it follows the skills and mentality that coders and programmers use in their work. Following this mindset can help learners to become more resilient and savvy when faced with challenges in their learning or daily lives.

    Four benefits of the coding mindset

    There are several benefits to developing this mindset:

    1. Gain creativity skills

    One significant benefit of this way of thinking is that students learn that not everything they try will work out just as they expect. In fact, it’s normal to fail several times when trying to solve problems.

    In working to find new strategies to work through challenges, students are also developing their creativity skills.

    Creativity was once synonymous with art, such as drawing or painting. However, this now means coming up with new ideas and is a skill that is particularly sought after by employers.

    2. Learn how to cope in difficult times

    We live in a world where we experience constant change – and we need to be able to find ways of managing. A coding mindset teaches learners how to build resilience.

    By openly communicating with others, evaluating ideas and discussing a range of options, students will be able to work through uncertainties and confront challenges.

    Not only will this help students when coming up against stumbling blocks in their learning, but it will also benefit their day-to-day lives.

    3. Create risk takers

    We can all recognize that learning English isn’t easy and that students are bound to make mistakes.

    However, a coding mindset encourages students to take risks when approaching difficulties. It also helps language learners spot their mistakes and experiment with different options to find solutions.

    Ultimately, learners become more willing to take risks which they need to do to reach a higher level of proficiency.

    4. Develop the ability to overcome obstacles

    When approaching a task with a coding mindset, students will learn how to focus on the important information. They will filter out any irrelevant details and find ways around barriers.

    For example, if learners have to write a text about their last holiday in class, they could hit a wall if they don’t know how to use the third conditional to explain something. Rather than giving up, students with a coding mindset would use the grammar they do know to complete the task. For instance, they can continue with the past simple or past continuous, explaining their story in a different way.

    This encourages learners to focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses to overcome obstacles and keep going.

    Practical activities for use in the classroom

    There are several activities that teachers can use in the classroom to develop the coding mindset for their students. These include:

    Recognizing patterns

    If you teach in a classroom with a whiteboard, you can draw a series of colored circles on the board. The colors should follow a pattern that students must work out in small groups and then continue on the board.

    This simple exercise can be adapted for all levels and ages. You may even want to use flashcards with vocabulary, letters or number combinations.

    Giving instructions

    A great way to develop troubleshooting and problem-solving skills is by asking students to direct one another across the classroom. Put the learners into pairs and ask one of them to give directions and the other to follow.

    They can practice imperatives and language for directions, while they break down problems into smaller, more manageable parts.

    Treasure hunts

    Creating treasure hunts works particularly well with young learners. If you have access to an outside space, you can hide classroom objects or flashcards around the space and give students clues as to where to find them.

    You can also do this around the classroom or school if you cannot access the outdoors. This will help them to think systematically and follow instructions.

    Pixilation of pictures

    If you have access to an interactive whiteboard, another way to develop problem-solving skills is by selecting some pictures from the internet and blurring them with a pixilation tool.

    Choose vocabulary you’ve been working on in class, so students are already familiar with the topic. Show the pictures on the whiteboard and ask students to work in groups to guess what the pictures are.

  • A group of young people sat together smiling
    • Linguistics and culture
    • Language teaching

    How long does it take to learn English?

    By Pearson Languages

    “How long will it take me to learn English?” This is a question we often hear, especially with summer intensive courses just around the corner. Students all over the world want to know how much time and effort it will take them to master a new language.

    Teachers know the answer isn’t as simple as it seems. It depends on many things, such as; how different the second language is from their mother tongue, how old they are, whether they can speak other languages, how much time they will have to study outside the classroom, their motivation and ability to practice.

    The truth is, it takes A LOT of work to become proficient in a new language – and students need to be aware that they need to study independently if they want to progress rapidly.

    Explaining student responsibility

    Becoming truly proficient in a language can take many years. In a study carried out by Pearson they found that even for fast learners, it can take as much as 760 hours to enter the B2 CEFR level from <A1.

    Also, most year-round courses are around 100-120 hours per level, (not including homework). So the reality is that it should take approximately 1000 hours to go from A1 to C2.

    However, one of the biggest misconceptions students have is that there is a “fixed route” to language learning and that this is linear – and that time spent studying in class is all that’s required to make the progress they expect. This mistakenly puts the onus on the teacher, rather than the student, which means they may not take responsibility for their own learning.

    While most language learners need great course materials, instruction, correction, and mentorship from their teachers, it’s key that they are motivated to become independent learners. Progress and success comes down to regular practice, feedback and the confidence to make and learn from mistakes. Students must understand this from the outset – so make sure this is a conversation you have with your classes from the very first day.

    Understanding language goals

    It’s also extremely important to understand your students’ language learning goals right away. Some, for example, will want to learn a language for travel purposes and may be happy to reach an elementary or pre-intermediate level of English. Others will want to learn it for work or study purposes and will need to reach a more advanced level. By definition, “learning a new language” will be very different for those two groups of students – and this will affect how you design and deliver your course.

    Therefore, it’s key that you discuss individual learning objectives and then form a plan of how students will meet them. You should also explain that not everyone progresses at the same rate, but that is normal and should not be a cause for frustration.

    In private language schools (PLSs), which offer English for specific purposes (ESP), business English, CLIL, English for Academic Purposes, intensive summer classes, and a range of other courses, it’s even more important to do this well. Correctly managed expectations, well-selected materials, and tailored courses will keep students motivated and help the business thrive.

    Setting and meeting targets

    At an institutional level, schools, PLS’s and even government agencies also need to be aware of the pitfalls of rigid target setting.

    Not only can mishandled targets directly affect learner motivation when they are held back or moved up too quickly, but they also can force educators to “teach to the test”, rather than planning classes and designing courses that meet their students’ needs.

    On the other hand, standardized testing systems help place learners at the right level, set benchmarks and show student progression. Examinations also give students firm objectives to work towards.

    So, at the very least, management and governing authorities should consult with educators before setting broad targets.

    Handling feedback and adapting to individual needs

    Honesty is essential when talking to individual students about their progress (good or bad). It’s hard telling someone that they haven’t achieved the grades they need to move on to the next level, but it’s the right thing to do. Putting a person in a higher level to save their feelings only leads to frustration, demotivation, and self-doubt. Likewise, when a student has done well, praise is good, but you should still be honest about the areas in which they need to improve.

    This is what happens at a successful PLS in Japan who run 1000-hour year-round intensive courses. They get results because they consult their learners in order to understand their goals and focus their courses on developing key communicative skills for professionals. At the same time, they track motivation levels and adjust their courses to ensure the student’s progress is on track to meet their expectations. Of course, this is quite a unique setting, with a very intensive, highly personalized approach, and the school has the advantage of tailor-making courses.

    Using tools to help

    They also used the Global Scale of English (GSE) to help design their curriculum and use the ‘can do’ descriptors to set goals. They then selected Versant assessments (which are mapped to scoring against the GSE) to measure student progress on a monthly basis.

    Educators can emulate their approach. By using tools like these, as well as others, such as the GSE Teacher Toolkit, you can design syllabi, plan classes, place students at the right level and measure individual progress, helping you meet your institution’s targets while supporting your learners to achieve their goals.

    An additional benefit from using the GSE, is that this granular framework breaks down what needs to be learned within a CEFR level. Our courseware, Placement, Progress and high-stakes assessments, like PTE Academic, are already aligned to the GSE. To help accelerate the learner journey, our courseware now features three new levels – A2+, B1+ and B2+. By moving to eight-level courses, it ensures students are able to master the content at a more achievable rate.

  • A couple sat on a sofa one with a laptop the other with a book; they are both laughing
    • Linguistics and culture

    How English conversation works

    By Pearson Languages

    English language teachers everywhere spend time and energy helping students practice their conversation skills. Some may ask whether conversation in English can actually be taught. And – if it can – what the rules might be.

    To explore these questions, we spoke to world-renowned linguist David Crystal. He is an Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Bangor and has written more than 120 books on the subject.

    What makes a good conversation?

    “It’s very important that we put this everyday use of language under the microscope,” he says. He highlights three critical facets of conservation that we should bring into focus:

    • Fluency
    • Intelligibility
    • Appropriateness

    But all in all, he says that people should walk away from a conversation feeling like they’ve had a good chat.

    “For the most part, people want that kind of mutual respect, mutual opportunity, and have some sort of shared topic about which they feel comfortable – and these are the basics I think.”

    The rules of conversation

    There are plenty of ways you can teach learners to engage in a successful conversation – including how to speak informally, use intonation, and provide feedback. So let’s take a look at some of the key areas to focus on:

    1) Appropriateness

    Fluency and intelligibility are commonly covered in English language classes. But appropriateness can be more complicated to teach. When preparing to teach conversational appropriateness, we can look at it through two different lenses: subject matter and style:

    2) Subject matter

    “What subject matter is appropriate to use to get a conversation off the ground? There are cultural differences here,” he says. The weather is often a good icebreaker, since everyone is affected by it. The key is to find a common topic that all participants can understand and engage with.

    3) Style

    Teachers can also teach students about conversational style, focusing on how to make conversations more relaxed in English.

    There are “several areas of vocabulary and grammar – and pronunciation too, intonation for example – as well as body language, in which the informality of a conversation is expressed through quite traditional means,” says David. One example he offers is teaching students how to use contracted verb forms.

    4) Simultaneous feedback

    This is what makes a conversation tick. When we talk with someone, we let them know we’re listening by giving them feedback. We say things like “really” or “huh” and use body language like facial expressions and gestures.

    Of course, these feedback noises and expressions can be taught. But they won’t necessarily be new to students. English learners do the same when speaking their own language, anyway.

    Keep in mind though, that when it comes to speaking online on video conferencing platforms, it’s not easy to give this type of simultaneous feedback. People’s microphones might be on mute or there might be a delay, which makes reacting in conversations awkward. So, says David, this means online conversations become much more like monologues.

    5) Uptalk and accents

    Uptalk is when a person declares something in a sentence, but raises their intonation at the end. For English learners, it might sound like someone is asking a question.

    Here’s an example:

    • “I live in Holyhead” said in a flat tone – this is a statement.
    • “I live in Holyhead” said using uptalk – you are stating you live here, but recognize that someone else might not know where it is.

    Now, should teachers teach uptalk? David says yes. For one, it’s fashionable to speak this way – and it can be confusing for English learners if they don’t understand why it’s being used in a conversation.

    “The other thing is that we are dealing here with a genuine change in the language. One of the biggest problems for all language teachers is to keep up to date with language changes. And language change can be very fast and is at the moment,” he says.

    When it comes to accents, David is a fan. “It’s like being in a garden of flowers. Enjoy all the linguistic flowers,” he says, “That’s the beauty of language, its diversity”.

  • An overhead shot of a three children with notepads, tablets and phones on the table being handled by them
    • Language teaching

    How to encourage your teenage students to become independent learners

    By Pearson Languages

    Learning is a lifelong activity regardless of age, position, or ambition. Many teachers embody this philosophy themselves – and would like nothing more than for their teenage students to develop strategies to become independent learners.

    But teachers often feel frustrated when their students rely on them too much or show a lack of motivation and focus in the classroom.

    Let’s look at how to start a project that holds your students’ attention. We’ll also go into how you can help your students practice and develop a range of English language skills at the same time.

    The benefits of starting a project that interests your students

    Group projects are motivating because they give students a common objective to work towards. The need to work as part of a team teaches teens collaboration skills, such as accountability. When learners decide on roles within their groups it soon becomes apparent just how important it is for them to be responsible and do their part.

    Project work also often encourages students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones as they try and test new skills. This is often true when learners are required to present on a topic or learn how to do something practical (like using PowerPoint or Google Slides for presentation design).
    In addition, projects can test a variety of English language and 21st century skills such as:

    • critical thinking skills (for planning and development of ideas)
    • topic/subject-specific vocabulary
    • reading and listening comprehension (for researching)
    • speaking skills (for group work)
    • creative skills (for project development and production)
    • presenting skills (for the final delivery of the project)

    Furthermore, when projects take place over several classes, students often eventually get into a routine and seek less direction from the teacher. They know what needs to be done and get on with it in their groups. Of course, you will still need to monitor and offer guidance throughout the project.

    The key elements of an independent learning project

    Find a meaningful subject matter

    First, you’ll need to start with a topic that engages your students. To discover this, put students in groups (online in breakout rooms or in the classroom) and have them work together and mind map some local, national or global problems they would like to solve. For example:

    • The local theater has closed down and they want to set up a new drama club.
    • There is a lot of pollution in the capital city and they want to help reduce it.
    • The rainforest is being deforested and they want to create awareness.

    After they have a good-sized list, instruct each group to pick something they would like to learn more about. Alternatively, if your students are unlikely to find interesting problems to solve themselves, provide them with several short-level-appropriate reading materials about topics you think will catch their attention. That way they can learn about local or international issues and choose a project focus.

    Balancing guidance and instruction

    A vital goal of this project-based approach is to encourage students to be independent. That does not mean they should have no boundaries or objectives, however.

    You’ll need to set deadlines, tell them what you expect of them, and explain how they should present their projects at the end. And depending on their levels, your students will also need a certain amount of scaffolding. You can do this using a set of questions. For example:

    1. What is the main problem you want to solve?
    2. Who does it affect?
    3. Why is it important to change?
    4. What steps could you take to solve the issue?
    5. Who could help you do this?
    6. How could we do this as a group?
    7. How can we present the issue to make people care about it?

    These questions can form the basis of the project, which can last from one to several weeks, depending on their age, level and time restraints. Adapt the questions to suit your students and the specific needs of their projects.

    Facilitating teamwork

    Encourage students to work together to plan, research and present their ideas. Set days or classes by which certain project elements must be completed. This helps ensure that the students make progress and encourages them to ask you questions if they are stuck.

    Decide whether you want to give set times during your classes to work on the project, or whether you want to dedicate entire classes to their work. Also, think about how much work should be completed in your student's own time. Their workload, level of English, and access to technology will all impact your decision.

    For example:

    • Class one: Define the problem you want to solve. Consider what you need to find out, decide on individual roles and develop an action plan. Show the teacher your progress.
    • Class two: Research your project questions and share what you find with the group. Is there anything else you need to know? Show the teacher your progress.
    • Class three: Come up with a presentation outline and begin to work on it.
    • Homework: Each work on your individual presentation section.
    • Class four: Show the teacher your progress. Practice your presentations.
    • Class five: Practice and then deliver your presentations.

    You may wish to allow students the freedom to choose how they would like to present it. Give instructions on how long you expect the presentation to be. If working remotely, collaboration tools such as Google Docs, Padlet and Trello are excellent for facilitating teamwork.

    Here are some ways you might ask them to present:

    • a poster and presentation
    • an online presentation (e.g. using PowerPoint)
    • a website (on paper or online)
    • a video presentation
    • a theatrical production
    • a podcast episode.

    Keep in mind that the objective is to help them research, present and deliver a project in English. Check in regularly on progress and provide feedback and help whenever needed.

    While it’s important to monitor and guide them with the English language as they work, it’s also crucial to let students make decisions for themselves.

  • A group of young people sat at a table drinking and eating
    • Linguistics and culture

    How the English language has changed over the decades

    By Pearson Languages

    All languages change over time, and there can be many different reasons for this. The English language is no different – but why has it changed over the decades?

    Some of the main influences on the evolution of languages include:

    • the movement of people across countries and continents, for example, migration and, in previous centuries, colonization. For example, English speakers today would probably be comfortable using the Spanish word 'loco' to describe someone who is 'crazy'.
    • speakers of one language coming into contact with those who speak a different one. No two individuals speak identically: people from different geographical places clearly speak differently and even within the same community there are variations according to a speaker’s age, gender, ethnicity and social and educational background. For example, the word 'courting' has become 'dating'.
    • new vocabulary required for inventions such as transport, domestic appliances and industrial equipment, or for sporting, entertainment, cultural and leisure reasons. For example, the original late 19th century term 'wireless' has become today’s 'radio'.

    Due to these influences, a language always embraces new words, expressions and pronunciations as people come across new words and phrases in their day-to-day lives and integrate them into their own speech.

    What changes has the English language seen?

    As the English language has changed, it’s been easy to pick out words that pass into common usage. Here at Pearson English, we have explored some of these recent changes to the English language. The rise in popularity of internet slang has seen phrases such as 'LOL' (Laugh Out Loud), 'FOMO' (Fear Of Missing Out) and 'fam' (an abbreviated form of family) become firmly embedded in the English language over the past ten years.

    Every decade sees new slang terms like these appearing in the English language. And while some words or abbreviations do come from internet or text conversations, others may appear as entirely new words, a new meaning for an existing word, or a word that becomes more generalized than its former meaning, brought about by any one of the reasons above. Decades ago, 'blimey' was a new expression of surprise, but more recently 'woah' is the word in everyday usage.

    Sentence structure is of course, another change to the English language. Decades ago, it would have been normal to ask 'Have you a moment?' Now, you might say 'D’you have a sec?' Similarly, 'How do you do?' has become 'How’s it going?' Not only have the sentences been abbreviated, but new words have been introduced to everyday questions.

    Connected to this is the replacement of certain words with other, more modern versions. It’s pretty noticeable that words like 'shall' and 'ought' are on the way out, but 'will', 'should' and 'can' are doing just fine.

    Other changes can be more subtle. Many verbs can take a compliment with another verb in either the '-ing' form or the 'to' form, for example, 'they liked painting/to paint', 'we tried leaving/to leave', or 'he didn’t bother calling/to call'. Both of these constructions are still used and have been for a long time, but there has been a steady shift over time from the 'to' to the '-ing' compliment.

    What do the changes mean?

    There are many other changes to the English language – what have you noticed? Have these changes affected your teaching or learning methods? 

    Most contemporary linguistic commentators accept that change in language, like change in society, is inevitable. Some think that is regrettable, but others recognize it as a reinvigoration of a language, bringing alternatives that allow subtle differences of expression.

    Linguist, writer and lecturer David Crystal considers whether 'text speak' is undermining the English language. His response to the naysayers who claim it is damaging the English language is to point out that abbreviations have been around for a long time. While some, such as the ones we discussed above, are new, others, such as the use of 'u' for 'you' and the number 8 as a syllable in 'later', have been around for a century or more. Further to this, research shows that there is a correlation between the ability to use abbreviations and the ability to spell. After all, in order to abbreviate, you have to know which letters to abbreviate.

    As with everything, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, as the needs of English language users continue to change, so will the language.

    Fancy learning more about English? Check out our post 'How do English phrases travel across countries?'.