Month: Apr 2013

Best languages to learn

A recent news item, The Telegraph’s “Graduate jobs: Best languages to study”, ranks German, French and Spanish as the most useful languages to learn in order to improve you chances of professional success. Interesting reading, but perhaps even more interesting are the questions which are raised by any discussions of this list:


1) The information on which the list is based comes from a survey conducted in the UK, which means that proficiency in English (being a native English speaker?) as well as one of these ‘foreign’ langauges is what they are actually talking about. Given that, for example, Germans now consitute the fourth largest foreign-born group in the UK, it seems logical to ask whether their job chances are higher than British monoglots (presuming, of course, that they have acquired English to a native-like level). And if so, how do various groups of people feel about this? I, for one, would love to think that the English skills I’m teaching my students mean they have a higher chance of professional success on the international market. On the other hand, though, that might mean that my own friends and family within the UK could lose out on the job front to the bilingual Germans I’m ‘sending over’ to Britain. Opinions on a postcard please! (By “postcard”, I mean, leave your comment below, thank you!)

2) The justification for German being ranked as the ‘best language to study’ includes the comment that Germany, as “Europe’s largest economy – with a GDP of more than €2.4 trillion – continues to defy the eurozone downturn.” Now this is a point unrelated to language teaching/learning, but my first thought is – “really?” For those of us living in Germany, it doesn’t particularly feel like the economy is here continuing to “defy the eurozone turndown”. Cue irrate political discussion. Opinions on a postcard please!

3) It’s all well and good being told which languages might be helpful to learn, but in my experience it’s rather difficult to convince many Brits to learn any foreign language at all! I wonder whether this little article will be able to change this wide-spread lack of enthusiasm? Opinions on a postcard please!

4) One of the comments on the article also offers plenty of discussion material, stating firstly that “Learning any European language is a waste of time since nearly all European businessmen speak English” (is the only benefit of learning a foreign language being able to communicate with European businessmen?!), and then that “nearly all European businessmen speak English, some even better than English people themselves” (My reactions: “ouch!” and “really?”). Ooh err, very contraversial! Opinions on a postcard, please!

Despite the potential for debate here, it seems the article is presenting good news for any L1 English EFL teachers living and working abroad who acquire communicative compentence in a foreign langauge! Not only would we (apparently) have a better chance of getting a job back in the UK, should we (ever want to) return, but as the comment about Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt shows, having lived and worked (as a teacher) bestows upon us other transferable skills that can lead into very diverse professions. Though whether many EFL teachers want to get into politics is probably debatable!

The news item: “Graduate jobs: Best languages to study”, The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group Limited, n.d.,, accessed 27.04.2013


Resources for Writing Academic Essays

Here are some more useful resources – this time based on writing academic essays. There are lots of discussion threads about this topic in various online forums, which can be confusing for students and teachers, so I thought I’d share the list of resources I recommend:

MLA Citation style, the basics:

APA Citation Style, the Basics:

Chicago Citation Style, a quick guide,

A plagiarism tutorial:

The University of Edinburgh, Academic Essay Writing: Some Guidelines:

Using English for Academic Purposes: A Guide for Students in Higher Education – Academic Writing:


Altenberg, E.P., English Grammar: Understanding the Basics (Cambridge U.P., 2010)

Bailey, S., Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students (London: Routledge, 2006)

Cottrell, S., Critical Thinking Skills (Palgrave, 2005)

Cottrell, S., Skills for Success (Palgrave, 2010)

Creme, P., & Lea, M.R., Writing at University: A Guide for Students (OUP, 2008)

Gillet, A., Hammond, A. & Martala, M., Inside Track: Successful Academic Writing (Pearson/Longman, 2009)

Oshima, A. & Hogue, A., Writing Academic English (Pearson/Longman, 2006)

McWhorter, K., Study & Critical Thinking Skills in College (New York: HarperCollins, 1996)

Savage, A., et al, Effective Academic Writing (OUP, 2006)

Snow, A., Zwier,L.J., & Zimmerman,C.B. (eds), Q: Skills for Success – Reading and Writing (OUP, 2011)

Resources for Giving Oral Presentations

Here are some resources I’ve found helpful for teaching EFL students how to give good presentations – focussing on structure and langauge etc. Maybe you’ll find them helpful too!

Brunel University’s centre for excellence guide to delivering presentations.

Gillet, Andy. Using English for Academic Purposes: A Guide for Students in Higher Education: Speaking in Academic Contexts.

BBC Key Skills, Effective Presentations:

The Open University, Giving Presentations:

University of Surrey, Communications: Oral Presentations:

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (specifically to check pronunciation of words):

BBC World Service / Learning English, Better Speaking:

English Media Lab, English Intonation Exercise:

The New Okanagan College, English Pronunciation/Listening:


Bell, D., Passport to Academic Presentations (Garnet 2008)

Cottrell, S., Critical Thinking Skills (Palgrave, 2005)

Cottrell, S., Skills for Success (Palgrave, 2010)

Cottrell, S., The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave, 2008)

Grussendorf, M., English for Presentations (OUP, 2007)

James,K., Jordan,R.R., Matthews,A. & O’Brien,J.P., Listening Comprehension and Note-Taking Course (London: Collins/Nelson, 1991).

McWhorter, K., Study & Critical Thinking Skills in College (New York: HarperCollins, 1996)