Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog

1 Comment

This season’s must-have? English.

Fashion photo shootIf you want to be a true fashionista you’ll need to have a reasonable command of the English language. Why? Well, for a start many of the world’s leading designers are British or American: Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs, to name but a few. The world’s best designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace, and Jean-Paul Gaultier are all able to discuss their designs in English quite comfortably, despite being non-native speakers.

Fashion is a truly international industry at every level and it’s growing. In fact it’s growing 4% faster than any other industry as we emerge from the global recession. It’s also an industry that provides a vast array of career opportunities, from designing and manufacturing to styling and reporting.

Designers set the fashion trends for upcoming seasons when they show their collections, usually at one of the fashion weeks around the world, such as London, Milan, or New York. This is the top end of the fashion industry. The UK has what is generally regarded as the best fashion school in the world, Central St Martins in London. Famous alumni include designers Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. It also has its own language school, because of the huge volume of overseas students studying there.

Magazines cover the trends set by the designers and publicise them. Most of the industry’s top publications, such as Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire are based in English speaking countries.  It’s also common place to find a British Editor at the helm, such as Joanna Coles at Marie Claire and Anna Wintour at Vogue. A typical fashion shoot at a glossy magazine might involve a British stylist, a French photographer, and a Russian model, all using English as the accepted lingua franca of the industry.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Can I offer you some pigeon?

Female flight attendant smilingFollowing his posts on the oil and gas industry, Lewis Lansford, co-author of English for Cabin Crew, part of the Express Series, returns to consider the importance of clear communication in moments of crisis, focussing in this case on cabin crew.

‘E-wackoo-way! E-wackoo-way!’

The trainer shakes her head. ‘I hope he never has to clear a plane’, she says to a colleague. ‘No one will know what he’s on about!’

To be fair to the trainee flight attendant, chances are that if the plane had just ground to a stop at the end of the runway with the landing gear still up after an emergency descent, the passengers would fully understand what he had in mind – Evacuate! Evacuate! – and would readily comply.

As passengers on the receiving end of in-flight service, we forget that passenger safety – rather than passenger comfort – is a flight attendant’s main job responsibility. Miscommunication during dinner service can be unpleasant, but is unlikely to result in serious injury.

‘The worst mix-up I ever had at meal time was with a British passenger’, says Japan Airlines flight attendant Mika Wade. ‘He asked me for an iced vodka. Well, that’s what I heard. After he spat out the drink violently, I understood that he’d actually asked for iced water.’ Oops.

Wade continues, ‘I also once told a first class passenger that his meal was pigeon. He became very angry and said “People don’t eat pigeons!” I checked, and of course the dinner was pheasant, not pigeon. I tried to apologize for my mistake, but he was angry for the rest of the flight. He was very rude to me about it.’ Oh, dear.

Continue reading


World English at the well head

Oil pump by sunsetFollowing Peter Astley’s introduction to the oil and gas industry, Lewis Lansford, co-author of  Oil and Gas 1, considers the confusion British vs American English can cause in international industry, and whether this is countered by the emergence of ‘World English’.

When I began teaching in Barcelona in the late-80s, I was surprised by the intensity of the rivalry between students at the Institute of North American Studies and those at the British Council over the question of which variety of English was superior. Some teachers, too, expressed firmly held positions on the matter. But in today’s international workplace, Global English may have ended the debate by swallowing both the American and British varieties whole.

“I was the only native British English speaker on the team” says Peter Astley, remembering his stint as a project controls manager in the oil and gas industry in Kuwait. “I reported to a Texan project manager. We had an Anglo-Indian clerk and two Polish women – one setting up the computer system and the other a trainee scheduler. The engineering manager who was being transferred from another project was from Lebanon. Various high-ranking Kuwaitis floated in and out. The client I interfaced with was Indian.

“The Texan, of course, spoke English, but I often had to translate what he had said to the Indian clerk, who was also a native English speaker. The clerk disliked admitting he didn’t understand something, so I often had to decode instructions from the Texan even though I wasn’t present when the request was made. The world's top 10 oil producing countriesThe Texan didn’t allow the Polish girls to speak Polish in the office even though he couldn’t understand the Indian clerk’s English.”

More than 100 countries produce oil. Many of the largest producers in the industry – Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait, and many others – employ a diverse workforce made up of both local and imported expertise. When people from all over the world work together, English is frequently the main language of communication. But this lingua franca, often called World English, is rarely identifiable as either British or American. It generally encompasses both – and a whole lot more.

Continue reading

1 Comment

An introduction to Oil and Gas

Oil rig on the oceanPeter Astley, the series consultant for Oil and Gas 1 and 2, part of the Oxford English for Careers series, gives us an introduction to the oil and gas industry for language learners.

The oil and gas industry has grown from its beginnings in North America and the United Kingdom into an international industry where English is the common language. Although reserves of oil and gas are declining, the world demand for energy is growing. Remaining reserves of hydrocarbons are more difficult to exploit and require challenging engineering and business skills. Countries where oil and gas are found are keen to develop their own industry and the skills and resources of their own people in all the stages of oil and gas development and across the wide range of disciplines and different levels of ability. In this way they can fulfil the aspirations of their own people and improve their long term national economy.

The industry is divided in to two main sections, Upstream and Downstream. The Upstream sector is concerned with extracting reserves and carrying out initial processing to transport the oil and gas to the Downstream sector for further processing, refining, distribution and sales. The Upstream sector is also divided into Offshore and Onshore depending on where the reserves are located.

The industry requires a vast range of skills: scientists and geologists in exploration, engineers and technicians to develop and maintain very expensive capital equipment, production workers, administration personnel and managers, and business specialists managing the complex projects and contracts involved.

In such a specialised industry there are many different disciplines and different levels and so good communication skills are essential. People tend to work in international teams where competency in communicating in English is essential. This is a time when technology is advancing and there is a greater need for qualified people at all levels who in conjunction with their main assignments must plan, design train and enforce high levels of safety and the maximum possible protection of the marine, land and air environment.

With the advance of computer techniques such as technical analysis software, computer aided design and the ability to communicate and work simultaneously in different parts of the world, there are great opportunities for young people to start a satisfying, secure and well paid career in the industry, particularly for those with a good command of the English language.

Are you an ESP teacher? How do you introduce a new topic to your students? Let us know your thoughts and experiences.

Bookmark and Share