We are often asked where the idea for English File first came from. The truth is we felt that none of the coursebooks that we had used up to that point really provided what we needed as teachers. It seemed that these books were designed to work in a teaching environment that was very different from ours, and while there was a lot of imaginative, well-planned, and well-organised material to choose from, there was little to help us address the main challenges that we faced day-to-day.
How do you keep students motivated when they are fitting their class into the middle, or at the end, of a busy day at work? How do you maintain students’ attention when they have so many other things going on in their lives? And, what was always most important for us, how can you get students to talk to each other in English if they all speak the same first language, live in the same town, and have often shared many of the same experiences?
And so we needed to spend a huge amount of our preparation time adapting and supplementing the books we were using to make them more appropriate for our classes. We felt that we needed a greater variety of material to help change the focus and the pace of the lessons, we needed activities that helped to get the students’ heads out of their books, and we needed topics where students really would have something to say. The ideas that shaped the original English File series came directly from our own teaching experience and from talking to our friends and colleagues in the staff room about what worked and what didn’t work in the classroom.
Over the last twenty years in the course of researching and presenting English File, we have had the opportunity to go beyond the confines of our own staffroom and have met thousands of teachers from around the world (and had contact with thousands more via emails and questionnaires) and it has been truly enlightening to have been able to share experiences and to hear about the wide variety of challenges they face teaching English to their students as well as hearing their inspiring stories of success.
They have always been very honest in their feedback, telling us about English File lessons that they and their students have enjoyed, but also suggesting changes and improvements, anything from a text that never seemed to work with their group of students to an activity type that they find difficult to set up because of the arrangement of their desks or the acoustics of their classroom. They have shared their views on perennially divisive topics such as celebrities, sport, and fashion, pointed out why particular areas of grammar or pronunciation are especially difficult for their students, and given us a wide range of cultural insights from their countries.
This exchange of information has helped us to grow as writers and has been the inspiration for the second and third editions of English File. We are extremely grateful for the time teachers have taken to speak to us.
On Tuesday 27 May 2014, I will be hosting an English File Question and Answer webinar. If you would like to participate in this event, please visit the Registration Page. I will try to answer as many questions as I can in the time available – and I really look forward to hearing from you.