Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Does size matter?

With small multilingual countries steaming ahead can the old superpowers keep up?

The summer is upon us, and the world of ELT is returning to normal. Or is it?

Pre-pandemic the UK had the largest number of accredited language centres in the English-speaking world. However, the number of accredited centres has now fallen by a quarter and still continues to fall.

A good summer could save many and as we show in our supplement, which starts on page 17 of the digital issue, the UK can still boast an unrivalled supply of vacation courses, especially when it comes to residential centres.

However, the main competitor countries, Ireland and Malta may now be the post-Brexit first choice for EU citizens; Ireland is already fully booked for summer 2023, the Maltese are not far behind. Small, it seems, is beautiful.

The other small country to hit the headlines in this issue is Wales. With its three million people and its handful of language schools this part of the UK pops up, unbidden, all over this issue. For the first time a language school in the Welsh capital is named in our summer school rankings. Take a bow Celtic English Academy. The school also appears – along with virtually all the accredited schools in Cardiff – on the list of those chosen to take part in the British Council’s PRELIM scheme.

“Multilingual countries are not only good at learning languages, they are also good at teaching them”

Wales has another thing in common with Ireland and Malta – it has more than one local language. All three teach at least two local languages all through school – with the Maltese teaching at least three. The only other English-speaking country where two languages may be the norm, is Canada, also a major hit with students. Perhaps students and agents have finally realised that multilingual countries are not only good at learning languages, they are also good at teaching them.

One thing that these three multilingual countries can tell you, is that their other languages are much easier to read than English. Welsh, Irish and even Maltese than English all have more transparent orthographies, so some children who can read well in these languages may struggle with dyslexia in English.

As you can see from the story of Alex it is perfectly possible to be bought up bilingually and read proficiently in one language while being severely dyslexic in the other. As was the case with Alex, such children may not even know they have dyslexia in English, until they are professionally diagnosed.

Indeed about ten per cent of students in any EFL class may read well in L1 but struggle with English – they are our hidden dyslexics. And precisely because they don’t know they have that problem – it doesn’t show up in their L1 – they are extremely hard to identify.

How can we help them? One solution, is to do what they do in bilingual Wales and teach everybody to read twice – once in each language.

Back in Japan it is the teachers who currently face problems. British Council teachers in Tokyo are taking strike action against compulsory retirement, following around a decade of negotiations. But as Henry Rodgers explains, the fight for parity for Italy’s native-speaker language lecturers has been going on 44 years and they are still on the march.

It is a wonder anyone wants to train to teach English. But someone who has recently finished an online TEFL course is Zoe Parrish, a classicist who has long taught Latin and Greek online. She gives us her insights on the experience.

The problems with online teaching also feature in our research news, as does the subject of Growth Mindset, an idea which works well in theory but is proving hard to teach in practice.

For those who have always put practice ahead of theory, there is a treat for you here where Andrew Rossiter argues the case for taking linguistics out of grammar teaching.

Happy summer reading.

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