Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


Brave New World English

Robin Walker is a freelance language teacher, teacher educator and materials writer. In this post, he considers the vital role that English now plays in World business and communication, and discusses the increasing importance of English as a Lingua Franca. Robin hosted a Webinar “Pronunciation for International Intelligibility”. Watch the recording of this webinar here.

Last month I took on two clients, both seeking coaching in pronunciation. Pablo works in the finance department of a US multinational that has a key European plant here in northern Spain. His boss is Irish, but most of the people he uses English with are non-native speakers. Pablo handles accounts for the whole of Europe, and even within the confines of his office, he’s in daily contact with speakers from over 17 different countries.

Ana works at the Spanish branch of a German company that makes air bridges, the metal and glass tubes that feed us on and off planes in airports around the world. She uses her English for telephone calls, Skyping and video-conferencing, and with Chinese, Brazilian, Arabian and European clients. English dominates her daily life despite working in Spain, and her office is a Tower of Babel in the making.

Image courtesy of fimoculous on flickr

Wow! It’s happened. (They said it would.)

Wow! It’s happening right now. (It’s everywhere I go.)

And wow! It’s going to go on happening far into the future.

English has gone global, and is being used much more today as a lingua franca (between non-native speakers), than as a native language (between native speakers), or as a foreign language (between native speakers and non-native speakers).

Continue reading

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