Commonality in ALL known languages

Researchers at Chennai’s Institute of Mathematical Science have uncovered a feature that is universal in all languages. The concept if ‘Directional Asymmetry’ is a result of a broad study of all known languages and informs us that words in amy language have more variety in their front position than they do in the last position. According to The Wire, the implications are that the researchers will be able to identify the direction of script in otherwise unknown languages.

Need for Greater ESOL Support Highlighted

After a decade of cuts, changing attitudes during the migrant crisis and the proven links between Brexit and xenophobia, positive support for ESOL provision is becoming a talking point in the news once again.

BBC Wales ran this story today highlighting the need for clearer and more organised ESOL provision in refugee dispersal areas. Dr. Mike Chick from the University of South Wales discusses the need for more targeted provision, which is suitable for ESOL learners at all levels, but highlights the funding constraints that providers endure.

This follows the ESOL mapping report from the Wales Strategic Migration partnership, which was released earlier in the year and examines the gaps in provision that exist in Wales.

Its great to see such positive steps being taken for such an important aspect of language learning and teaching which can only benefit all stakeholders.

TEFL Hub Hubbub

Cardiff Met Alumni, Lucy White, graduated from university with a BA in Creative Writing and English, which featured a TESOL module. From there she took a CELTA course in Madrid, and then went on to her dream job in an alternative career as a travel writer for TEFL hub. Here is her story.

EastEnders for ESOL

Today the BBC ran an article about how learners of ESOL are using its popular soap shoutfest EastEnders as a tool for learning English. Through watching the soap on a nightly basis, Farid Saleh learnt English while he was on a waiting list for a heavily subscribed ESOL course.

While the story in isolation is positive, many years ago, I warned a learner away from using exactly this strategy because I felt that to improve her prospects for employability, she would need a more formal style of English. However, with ESOL waiting lists stretching on for months and dwindling funding for classes, learners are sensible to seek exposure to the language by any means necessary.

Historically, some local ESOL providers have been prone to competing for registered learners and ultimately funding, actively undermining new providers of ESOL classes in order to maintain their dominance over the field in their region. However, the work of NATECLA proposes to change this by connecting ESOL providers via local Hubs.

It is good news for everyone involved in ESOL and finally the hegimonious providers will be able to see learners as communities, not commodities.

The challenge of learning Englishes for refugee professionals

This week the BBC ran this article on a subject that is very close to my heart: the language training of refugee healthcare professionals.

The article covers the variety of English that refugee doctors have to learn. This includes not only formal academic English for the IELTS exam and medical English for their profession, but also dialectical English in locales where they will be working.

This presents an enormous challenge for refugee doctors and learning to cope with the flexibility of language in three discrete registers can take up valuable time that arguably could be better spent keeping up with developments in their specialist area.

There is no magic wand here, but if we consider the adjustment to different styles of English that is required, an adjustment which is necessary because other L1 English speaking patients are not asked to make, then we must again recognise the Sysephean task that refugee doctors are confronted with.

Training refugee costs 1/10 of the cost of training doctors in the U.K. yet we confront them with barriers such as an English test on unconnected global topics with ever increasing requirements for doctors and other healthcare professionals, followed by two Professional Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) tests. Perhaps a combined test of language and professional knowledge with combined training would support refugee doctors, the NHS and patients more efficiently and effectively.