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Fairy dust is fine for Christmas, just keep it out of the classroom.


As the old year creeps into the new I spy some grounds for celebration, Melanie Butler writes.

On our news pages, accredited Irish language schools are supporting a ban on zero hour contracts. The British Council is questioning the constant quest for English Medium Instruction.
Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, the bats are sporting regional accents.

Even the US bears glad tidings. In Hawaii they are emphasising their academic standards and their strict gun laws to entice international students to their shores. In Oregon, a study finds bilingualism may compensate for the negative effects of poverty on cognitive development. Meanwhile, Massachusetts is moving away from sheltered instruction only for its ELLs and allowing evidence-based alternatives.

Evidence-based? Whatever next? Cambridge English Language Assessment will finally replace the words ‘learning styles’ with ‘learning preferences’ on their website?

No sign yet, though trainers claim to have been alerted to the change of word.

While they are at it, why doesn’t Cambridge English add in a new term: learning differences.

As Anne Margaret Smith points out on our resources section, lots of our learners have brains which are neurologically different from the norm. Up to ten per cent of any class, for example, may show symptoms of dyslexia when they are learning to read English, though have no sign of it at all in their own language.

EFL teachers should be trained to know how to spot such differences and how to adapt their teaching to meet these learners’ needs. In an ideal world, all EFL teachers should be trained to help these learners using evidence -based techniques. Too often they are just drowned in fairy dust and unicorns. Take ‘grounding and spacial (sic) awareness’, a technique one EFL training provider is touting in its

Erasmus-funded SEN course for teaching ‘difficult learners’.

Thankfully there is a distinct lack of fairy dust in the applied linguistics departments and university language centres featured in our masters supplement. At Sussex University language centre, as Andrew Blair tells us in his interview, the fields of study include multilingualism, global Englishes and teacher identity.

Our Point of View piece this month comes from Varinder Unlu who reminds us that despite being well into the 21st century, sexual harassment is still crouching in dark corners of the ELT conference circuit.

‘People warn each other about certain men in the industry who have a reputation for inappropriate behaviour,’ she writes. ‘Nothing is reported and if it is, nothing is done.’ Sounds familiar. But there are signs that the response to such events is changing.

When consultant Hannah Alexander-Wright posted a piece about sexual harassment in the international study industry on her linked-in page, it went viral.

Welcome to 2018.

twitter2Melanie Butler, editor-in-chief