IATEFL 2016 – Q and A follow-up to David Crystal’s plenary

Thank you British Council/IATEFL Online for enabling me to catch up with the follow up Q and A session for David Crystal’s fantastic opening plenary. Seeing David talk is always a treat.

I am not going to write up the whole session – I recommend that you instead spend half an hour watching it here. You might want to watch the recording of his plenary here first, though, to contextualise the Q and A!

Instead, I am just going to pick out a few things and comment on them:

  • Language play is taking place in all languages not just English – students are aware of that, whatever their age. They know that people play with language. The teacher’s job is to somehow grade their encounters with variety in both spoken and written environments. This enhances the standard learning experience: standard is standard because it is not non-standard and vice versa. The two things are always playfully interacting with each other. A teacher doesn’t teach standard English alone, or non-standard English as a separate subject, but somehow the interplay between the two so that one learns when one is learning a standard feature of the language that there are also non-standard variants.

I love this idea of teaching the interplay between the two! I think it’s important too – teaching standard English alone wouldn’t prepare students for the reality of English as it is used in the world today. 

  • The most popular component of the A-Level English Language course is language change. Both dimensions: language development (in the sense of a child learning to speak) and the deterioration at the other end of the spectrum, but also the change in trends of usage through the centuries and through living memory. The students love it because it gives them a sense of ownership of the language. They can discover for themselves the changes that are taking place. Last week’s cool words are not this week’s cool words. E.g. text messaging, of the “C U L8R” variety. Used to be popular, in 2003/4/5, messages were full of abbreviations. It was fashionable. (David always gets the teacher to get the students to collect text message data in advance of his visits). Last year, there wasn’t a single abbreviation to be seen. Not even an “lol” to be seen. They are not cool anymore. Why? Because adults started doing it! “I stopped doing it when my dad started” David predicts the same thing will happen to emojis. He gives them five years. Language change is happening now, as well as being something that has happened.

I feel old… Also, for anyone who, I was, is unsure about the difference between emoticons and emojis, here is a Guardian article that explains it! I wonder what will come after emojis? Am I old if I still use emoticons rather than emojis unless they auto-convert? For example, in WhatsApp you can select from a menu of emojis but if you put : – ) (without the spaces) then it stays that way rather than auto-converting into the relevant emoji. The only reason I really use emojis is because they have appeared as conversions of my emoticons. I don’t tend to bother selecting them from emoji menus. I must definitely be old!

Anyway, I love the idea of students collecting and analysing their message data!

  • Language doesn’t have an independent existence from society. It is explained by what is going on elsewhere. E.g. in the UK, breaking down of social class system, increase in cultural diversity, things to do with gender, race and stereotyping. We have become a more egalitarian society. You would expect language to reflect those trends. So, once upon a time certain accents were considered subservient because RP developed at the end of the 18th century into upper class English. Then came the middle class, the nouveau riche, build the railways, made textile machines, built roads etc. One day, the Duke invites the industrialist to dinner and suddenly the industrialist realises he does not know how to behave. So books on etiquette and elocution appear, with the elocution movement. Elocutionists became millionaires in those days. The people writing the manuals on pronunciation use words like “horrible” and “vile” to describe other accents. RP developed as a contrast with the regional accents of the time. As soon as the class distinction starts to break down, so attitudes change, the accent changes and people would modify their RP accent to sound ‘less posh’. However, not all regional accents have gone up-market equally. Some accents are considered positively but some inner city accents have got a long way to go before they achieve a complete range of positive responses. But give it time.

Isn’t the history of language/society fascinating?! And accent/attitudes to accent as well. I love non-‘BANA’ country English accents. And regional accents. With regards to my own accent, whenever people delve into the “where are you from?” question with me, they always go something like “aha! I thought you didn’t sound English” (as in England English)! When my sister and I were young and we (as in the family rather than us two personally!) got our first telephone with an inbuilt answering machine (very exciting! It was able to send and receive faxes too!!!), my sister had a great time recording variations of the message that people would get if they rang and we didn’t pick up. Amongst others, she took off to perfection a posh English accent, saying we were back home in the UK and had gone to London Zoo! Which was all the funnier because neither of us thought of the UK as home, of course. For me, Botswana English accents as well as some other African country English accents sound warm and homely, because they remind me of my childhood I suppose. 

  • You can never predict the future when it comes to language. Who, 1000 years ago, would have predicted that no one would know Latin? What will we be speaking in 1000 years? Could be Martian, if they have landed. One of the penalties of success – i.e. if a language becomes a global language – is that the language becomes owned by everybody. Then you get two forces – the need for intelligibility and the need for identity. In many parts of the world, you have standard English taught in schools and a non-standard English spoken on the streets. Language is messy, though, and things start to overlap. Things start to creep from one to the other and vice versa. The important thing is: when you encounter this problem, don’t think of it as a language learning problem, it’s just an issue inherent in a global language. You go backwards and forwards between standard and non-standard English.

I wonder if Martians would use emojis too… Anyway, I love the image of the back-and-forth-ing between standard English and peoples’ own varieties of English the world over, as intelligibility breaks down and is restored and stabilised then breaks down again. But rather than “breaks down” which has negative connotations, I want a more neutral word for it. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in trying to build meaning with different people from different places, as long as everyone is aware that it may occasionally go astray! 

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, I highly recommend that you watch the full recording of both the plenary and this little Q and A session!

IATEFL 2016 Opening Plenary

After a brilliant PCE day with MaW SIG, it is time for the opening plenary of the 50th anniversary of the IATEFL annual conference in Birmingham. Marjorie Rosenberg welcomes us to this ‘momentous event’ and tells us that Birmingham has more and longer canals than Venice! Who knew… (answer: Sandy knew!) She also told us about the many things going on and reminded us to take home an IATEFL teddy bear keyring, visit the IATEFL tree in the exhibition hall and take photos at the aforementioned tree or at the IATEFL frame, for a souvenir. After a long list of thank you’s and being wished a wonderful conference, it was time for the one and only…

(Professor) David Crystal!

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His talk will cover the changes in the English language since the year 1966 (when IATEFL was established and when the world’s first successful human heart transplant was done, Sweden changed to driving on the right, the first Boeing 747 made its maiden flight, the first issue of the Rolling Stone magazine was published and the most fashionable item of clothing in a woman’s wardrobe was a miniskirt!). He will compare the changes that have taken place in the last 50 years with those that will take place in the next 50.

Who would have thought it? 1966 – 2066.

One of the questions David is most often asked is why he finds language so interesting, why did he become a linguist? A simple answer – two words – language change. Whatever a language was like yesterday, it’s different today and will be different tomorrow. With a global reach of over 2 billion speakers, English is even more so. The language we spend a lifetime learning to teach will not stand still. The only languages that never change are dead ones. If the ‘enemy’ is language change, it will pay us to get to know it better.


The loss of old words and senses, the arrival of new ones. How much lexical change takes place in English? Oxford’s choice of word of the year this year was emoji, Collins was binge-watch, for watching a box set of a series in one day. Dictionary.com went for identity, reflecting the increased attention being paid to gender and sexuality in the last year. The Australian dictionary went for mansplain – the act of a woman trying to explain something to a woman which she already knows!  What about the words that will be left out in order to make room for the new ones? When Collins got rid of fubsy (fat in a nice kind of way) there was a national save ‘fubsy’ campaign, supported by Stephen Fry no less!

Vocabulary change is always difficult to quantify as we never know what words/phrases will be permanent features and what will be transient. To give a sense of how words go out of use, let’s look at words that were coming into use when IATEFL was born. These have not been heard or used recently!

  • D-Day
  • Beautiful people
  • Flower children
  • peaceniks
  • yippies (politically active hippies)
  • dolly bird (probably wearing winkle pickers!)
  • hully gully (a dance)
  • frug (another dance)

You might be wearing a Mao (hat) and discussing Ostpolitik, Reganism, Powellism, UDI. You might read of the Black Panthers or Rachmanism. Or more mundanely you could see the latest report of the confrontation between the mods and the rockers and pick up your trimphone to tell your friends all about it!

The speed of change suggestions caution when using the internet as a source of up-to-date vocabulary. It is idiosyncratic to the point of eccentricity. Anyone can make up a word and have it included in the Urban Dictionary. The usage might be “liked” by a large number of people, but if you are going to use a source with teenagers, check it regularly or you will find yourself using last year’s word. When IATEFL was born, people were calling each other Daddy-O, calling things groovy and bidding each other farewell with ‘see you later alligator’…

For this year, in terms of neologisms, if you are wearing your kicks you are wearing your trainers. A slashkini is a one piece swimsuit with lots of cut-outs. A manel is an exclusively male panel. A wasband is a former husband. If something is very stylish, you would call it wavy, whereas if something is unattractive, unpleasant and unfashionable it is basic. Calm means good/cool, while digital amnesia is the inability to remember basic things because of over-reliance on devices. Dude food is food that is said to be favoured by men, often including meat. A Skype family relies on Skype to keep contact as a member lives overseas. The grey gapper is a person of retirement age who takes a year out to go travelling. To pocket dial is to call someone by accident when your phone is in your pocket.

Two points should be noted: over half those expressions contain more than one word so when we talk about new words entering usage we are talking about compound words and often they require understanding of the underlying words e.g. wasband. Since the arrival of the internet, it is now possible for anyone who has electronic means to encounter English in its world wide varieties. A decade ago it would have been difficult to do that without going to a place.

The millions of people who actively use the internet encounter an unprecedent range of varieties of English. Different varieties of English become neighbours on the screen, as do different levels. So accommodation becomes common.

Grammatical Change

By its nature far less noticeable at any one point in time. Only by stepping back and looking at large quantities of data over a length of time like a decade can changes become apparent. On the 5th November 1819 John Keats sends an apologetic letter – “Had I known of your illness I should not of written in such fiery phrase in my first Letter” but elsewhere in the letter, he uses “You should not have delayed”. It’s difficult to discover early usage preferences as works have been edited. Other examples can be found in Keats and Austen. I was much disappointed. I have been several ties thinking. He seemed watching her intently. You look very nicely indeed.

The frequency of some modal verbs is declining e.g. shall and must and may. In one big study using the diachronic corpus of spoken English, must reduces by 50%, shall by 40% and may by 37% in all categories studied. They have been replaced by semi-modals like have to.

  • You must be more careful
  • You have to be more careful

The former is more authoritarian.

  • The calculation must be right. (Certain)
  • The calculation has to be right (Less sure)

In each case what we see is a lessening/softening of the strength and certainty.

In the 1960s “I’m loving it” would have been “I love it”. The dynamic use of stative views is grown.

  • I’m wanting a new fridge
  • I’m intending to apply a new job
  • I’m need a new coat
  • It’s concerning me a lot
  • It’s mattering to me greatly
  • I’m knowing the answer

Know seems to have largely resisted the change so far but not worldwide, in India it is common. It seems likely that all stative verbs will develop dynamic uses over the next 50 years.

  • The book that I bought
  • The book which I bought
  • The book I bought

The last one has remained stable (typical in informal spoken English) but the use of which is dramatically decreasing. The change is the direct result of the antagonism towards the use of which in the 20th century grammar (Fowler etc.) David likes which but his copyeditor changes all his which’s to that. The association of which with more formal styles of expression has also contributed to its demise.

Any new word or grammatical construction is going to be encountered sporadically. But all words new and old have to be pronounced. So any change in pronunciation will be frequently perceived. We are sensitive to changes in accent. So how have pronunciation and accent changed?


Attitudes towards pronunciation and accent have changed. Some accents have changed their phonetic character significantly. Susan Ray Scots presenter in Dundee was withdrawn when BBC had their RP drive, but today there is institutional recognition to a change in attitudes to regional pronunciation, so within the BBC all are recognised and celebrated/used. Regional radio gained an audience and National radio lost it. The new audiences liked their presenters to speak as they did. But National figures remained strong in series like the Archers and Coronation street where local accents were valued. Non-indigenous accents also began to be heard. RP continues to have a strong presence in broadcasting but its phonetic character has changed. In the 30s it was very plummy, in the 60s and 70s even it sounds dated now. Changes continue to affect RP. Even the queen’s accent has changed, today she uses more open mouthed vowels and centralised vowels.

Estuary English attracted media attention in the 90s. The Estuary is the Thames, the people with accent live on either side of it, chiefly to the North. They use question words at the end like “right?” and “innit?” Phonetically it is a set of accents intermediate between RP and Cockney. Features of Estuary have radiated out through the country. They haven’t replaced the local accents of the areas they have reached but just modified the phonetic character, pulling the vowels and consonants  in different directions. The Estuary heard in Hampshire is very different to that heard in Leicester. In Birmingham there used to be Brum. Now there is Jamaican Brum, Indian Brum, Italian Brum etc. In London this is most noticeable, with over 300 languages spoken there. It’s not that one accent replaces another but more that features combine to create a third. So in the case of RP, we now have modified RP. We have modified everything these days. Accents are a mixture of accents. There are hundreds of variant forms and inconsistencies in speech. In the latest edition of Gimson, the term RP is dropped completely. General English is used instead.

Sociolinguistic research since the 1980s has noticed two noticeable trends: increase in positive attitude to regional accents and an increase in negative views towards RP. This turnaround has happened within 20 years. Regional accents are considered warm and friendly, RP is considered cold and distant. Call centres and TV commercials provide convenient indications of change. During the 90s there was a marked increase in use of local accents. So its probably in Pronunciation that we will see the most significant change as we look forward to the next 50 years. 3/4 of the worlds languages are syllable timed. Stress timing will become less of a priority in the next 50 years, David believes. The future seems to be syllable timed. And it’s a future in which the pace of change is increasing.

Today, a new usage can be around the world in seconds in written and spoken form. The internet is the largest corpus of language there has ever been and presents more variants than have ever been seen before. Not only vocabulary has been affected but spelling too. The internet suggests that a top-down simplification of spelling is not the only way. Spelling might simplify as a result of use and being seen online. On the internet, there are no copy-editors or proofreaders and people can spell however they want. If people spell too idiosyncratically then they won’t be understood but rhubarb – rubarb for example won’t be a problem. The internet may be the force that changes the perception of what is correct.

B.B.C became BBC, Mr. to Mr, 1960’s to 1960s. But most of the orthographic nature of English has remained the same. But online radically different practices are common e.g. in chatrooms, the dropping of all capitalisation, like using i instead of I as the personal pronoun. Once upon a time in Old English there was no punctuation and now the internet is reconnecting us with those old manuscripts!

It is not only the Internet but also broadcasting media and literature that have had an influence over the language. Writers from all over the world write in English and experiment with non-standard styles of expression. Contemporary right has a multi-dialectal nature. The notion of indigenous is no longer clear cut. The lines are becoming blurred within the language and how it is used today. Literature is just the tip of the iceberg of ethic expression.

It’s crucially important to avoid confrontation in all of this. It’s all too easy for pedants to condemn non-standard English on the internet or in new literary sources and call it language deterioration. Conversely it is all to easy for people to revel in the freedom of the internet and disregard the canon that is there heritage. We need to devise an appropriate philosophy that brings about a mutually enlightening relationship between these poles. It’s no easy task given the speed and multidimensional complexity of contemporary language change. The most difficult teaching jobs in the world are language-related jobs. The need to translate and interpret, hugely difficult, the need to teach, hugely difficult.  If David were in charge of the world, all teacher’s salaries would be quadrupled!


IATEFL 2015 Signature event: A question of language – David Crystal

Yay, I finally get to see David Crystal speak! 

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David is the patron of IATEFL and has written a number of books and articles on the English language. Today, he is going to answer questions – collected via social media in advance of today’s session and any we have later on.

1. Can you tell the Father Christmas story?

Yeah, well you see, I was in Columbia in Bogota. There is a big mountain there and at the top a shrine, and we had gone up there to see around. There is a railway that takes you up and down again. At the top we were queuing to come down, it was a snake queue. As they waited in the queue, a Columbian family with a little boy saw them and said to his parents – it’s Father Christmas! David agreed – what else do you say to a 3 year old queue. The little boy spread the word in the queue and other children started waving and asking questions, about what they could have for Christmas. 🙂

These days in schools he is called Gandalf or Dumbeldore in schools.

2. Apart from carrying around a notebook to write down long words in Wales, do you have any hot tips for linguistic ornithologists?

Yes, you need a NOTEBOOK and PEN/PENCIL. You are always on the look-out for interesting things and there is always one around the corner saying “Hey David, notice me!” and it goes in the book. When David started writing his big book, he had a drawerful of such notebooks. The longest place name in Wales has 57 letters. Welsh doesn’t have the longest place names in the world. In New Zealand, David and his wife passed a signpost which says “Longest place name in the world, 40km” – he could not ignore this. …30km…20…10…5…1.5km and there it is. An 87 letter place name. No postcards, no hot dog stands, just the place name. Talk about understatement. Beautiful, beautiful thing. It means ‘the mountaintop where Tamatea the giant with the big knees, eater of mountains, traveller of land and sea, played the flute to his beloved.’

3. What’s the verb of the noun orientation, is it orient or orientate?

Well, both of course. Both well-represented in the corpus. But orient about 3 times as frequent as orientate. It’s especially the norm across the ponds (USA, Oz etc). Orientating ideas i.e. figurative uses, don’t attract as much criticism as the literal. When in doubt, look at a corpus. Should be one of the background resources of any classroom.

4. Will anyone be using the word ‘whom’ in 50 years?

This is the man to whom I was speaking. This is the man who I was speaking to. It’s a usage that’s been controversial almost since it came into the language as it was associated with formal usage. It became controversial when in the 18th century it got into prescriptive grammars. ->Don’t end sentences with prepositions… It went in as a rule. You should always say whom and never who in such circumstances. The opposition to that rule was there from the beginning. People noticed it was a silly rule because English had always ended sentences with prepositions, even Shakespeare does. 18th Century grammars responded, “well there you are you see, even Shakespeare gets it wrong. So to avoid these mistakes, use my grammar and follow my rules” ! It has built up into a psychologically charged usage. If you read books by pundits on correct English, you will find whom mentioned. It has become a flag, a symbol, an imagined notion of correct usage. And that is going to keep it alive. Both are valuable – we need formal and informal language. The fact that there is the contrast there plus the psychologically charged value mean it should be around in 50 years.

5. It seems that English speakers have dropped the present perfect in some uses e.g. just in US English. Does this trend apply to other uses and how grammatically acceptable is it?

There has been a shift in the last few decades. The important point is, English speakers have dropped the present perfect in some cases. E.g. I already went instead of I’ve already gone. I just ate instead I’ve just eaten. The common factor is the adverb. Just, already, yet. These are the contexts in which US English differs from UK English. When there are no adverbs there, US manage quite well with the present perfect. The adverbs carry the time reference and this motivates the shift. They are very important. I go to town is just the present tense, I go to town three days a week. Three days a week gives the habitual. Shifts in use might elbow their way into an acceptability matrix due to how much it happens.

6. Do you predict any change in English grammar in the near future due to the impact of social media?

No. Absolutely not. Well, it’s too soon to say, but certainly not in the near future. When the internet arrived, the prophets of doom made these kind of predictions which didn’t turn out to be true. Remember there was no internet before 1991. Google 1999. Text messaging 2000. Chatrooms, 1990s. Facebook 2004. Youtube 2005. Twitter 2006. It’s all very recent. But it takes time to influence grammar. Vocabulary and pronunciation can change quite quickly but grammar, no. It takes time. Remember when the internet came along, everyone thought it was the coolest thing ever. Free information. It’s a lovely world. In the 1990s, they wanted to show people how cool they were, by inventing a new plural ending. For these guys, add a ‘z’. So if you download films, they are legal. If you download filmz, then they are pirated. Tunes, legal. Tunez, pirated. So ‘s’ and ‘z’ became a new plural ending for a while, but then copyright came along, and usage died out largely. That’s the only example David knows and it didn’t last very long. So not going to happen in the near future.

7. In many languages in my part of the world, we say there are six tastes but in English only 5. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, hot. Is there a word to refer to the taste of a raw banana?

Of course! Bananaish or Banana- like. That’s the beauty of English. -like and -ish endings mean you can talk about anything you like in a fuzzy sort of way. English has more words for taste than you might think. How do you find out? Well, this is what David did. He went to the OED to the historical part of the thesaurus. It traces the history of vocabulary in English in terms of clusters of words that relate to a particular theme. So what words were there available for Shakespeare to talk about weather or vehicles? You can find out. David looked for taste. You can find dozens. Savoury, nutty, spicy, picant, unctuous, rancid, zesty, sugary… the vocabulary of English isn’t as denuded as taste terms as you might think.

What do you call your beloved now? Darling, sweetie, honey. In the middle ages, you would use names of fish. E.g. Prawn. Oh my prawn, I love you so much. Shakespearean, “ladybird” – in Romeo and Juliet.

8. Does Cockney slang count as a dialect? And do you have it in your repertoire?

It’s a dialect, yes. Rhyming slang is a lexical feature of that dialect. Accent is pronunciation, dialect is local vocabulary and grammar, with vocabulary as the dominant. No, it’s not in David’s repertoire, though he has studied it. Rhyming slang still exists e.g. “plates of meat” – feet. A rhyming phrase that relates to a particular word in the language. It was originally a kind of criminal slang. Still developing: I forgot my Barack Obamas – my pyjamas.

9. An article in the Washington Post entitles on English majors wanted focuses on the decline in English majors in the US. Computer majors have soared. Why should people invest time and money on an in-depth study of English?

David doesn’t see an opposition between the two. Whatever the language you are studying, computer guys need to know it to face the problems that come up. E.g. refining the nature of searches means an in-depth understanding of language will help you. Also, you won’t get your advertisements right. E.g. There was a story about a street stabbing in Chicago. The ads down the sides were trying to sell knives. Buy your knives here. Cheap knives on EBay etc. Everyone was embarrassed. They asked David to solve it. It’s obvious what’s gone wrong: the stupid software (not English sophisticated) had found the word knife, looked in the advertising for the word knife, found it and there it was. For us, knife as a weapon is different from knife as cutlery. Different collocations too. So the analysis needs to include the collocates. Murder and police, you usually don’t get in a cutlery context. A little bit extra awareness of language can help solve a problem. Now multiply that by all the pages on the internet… 4/5ths of the words in English are polysemic and therefore could give rise to the knife situation. Anybody in the internet and advertisement world needs this kind of awareness to avoid trouble.

10. With the increasing presence of English in an environment/region where it is not L1, futurologists have predicted the extinction of other languages, what do you think? 

There are two main reasons for using language. One is for being intelligible, promotes the use of a standard language, the other main use is to express identity, so we have different languages, accents, dialects. Any international language that becomes seriously global always comes with a risk to minority languages, as it is the language of power and communication, it is dominant. But, do you want to lose your identity? No, not at all. And the best way to maintain that identity is maintaining local language, dialect and accent. If I want to show you I am from Wales, I could wear a big badge, or a big hat or I could play a harp. But there problems with these – you can’t see them in the dark or around a corner. How do you express your identity in the dark or around a corner? Speech. Speech reaches everywhere, which other forms of identity don’t have. So there is a strong force pushing for survival of languages. But it’s a problem alright, in the course of this century, unless something happens, 1/2 the languages in the world will die out. Not necessarily because of English – whatever the dominant language is, e.g. Spanish and Portuguese in South America.

People are already beginning to talk about an English family of languages. In 50 or 100 years time, yes, there will be mutually unintelligible varieties of English. There already are. E.g. Singlish. Somebody coming in from outside doesn’t understand what’s going on. Over 100 years shifts could become grammatical as well as vocabulary/pronunciation. This is language for identity. Standard English won’t die out, language for communication. We will just become diglossic. Learn standard English for international purposes, and a local dialect for other purposes.

11. With the rise of EFL, what are your thoughts on dropping native speaker and referring simply to variants of English?

David only uses it in a biological context not a linguistic context. There has always been variety – accents, dialects. This has increased enormously, because of the enormous immigration into Britain, has produced lots of diversity, and globally. Recognising this has an impact on everything we do. The fact that there is now so much “non-native” variation is simply a natural development similar to the diversity amongst people in the biological native context. People are all just speakers or writers on youtube, for example. There is a blurring of distinctions. Think of the couple who speak English as their mutual language, EFL, have a child, and speak to that child in English, then that child is a native speaker of EFL. At the end of the day, teaching knowledge is the important thing, in a teaching context. Pillow talk and nursery rhymes are the most difficult things for “non-native speakers”, according to a Swedish friend of David’s. No corpus of it – an IATEFL potential project? Watch out for microphones appearing between you in bed… 😉

12. To what extent do you think the use of English in pop music is just a fad? Or valid evidence of the spread of English?

Pop music drives the language around the world of young people at least and perhaps slightly older people too. David thinks there might be a Pop Music SIG one day…it’s already there in the Media SIG or Literature SIG.

13 <I took a finger break! This typing malarkey is not as effortless as you might think! Especially on Day 5...>

14. Now that more than the majority of English communication is between L2-L2, how will we teach?

One must become more aware of different varieties of English, when teaching listening. It is much easier these days thanks to the audio side of the internet. Do you know the website called IDEA? The International Dialects of English Archive. It is based in Kansas. The aim is to collect good quality examples of all dialects of English. There are over 1000 already. Or you can visit David’s site http://www.yousaypotato.net and you can listen to all the recordings of people saying potato that exist already. You can record yourself too, so can your students. What we need is the expectation that variety and divergence is the norm.

15. What about the plural ‘they’? (audience question)

Our pronoun system doesn’t allow an alternative. So we are stuck with using a plural to refer to a singular. Not the first time that singular and plural have come together e.g. plural you and singular you. English pronouns rely on context to distinguish between singular and plural. But the 18th century guys took against it, so we have a problem: People will criticise its use in circumstances where you should be adhering to traditional notions of correctness. To avoid criticism in EAP, avoid using it. If you don’t mind criticism, then fine. David avoids it in radio programmes so that people should focus on the message not the grammatical point. Socio-linguistically is where the problem is.

16. <finger break mixed with getting lost due to tired fingers>

17. Would you mind doing the rap song?

The context for this was that somebody asked me what trends are affecting pronunciation around the world. The change from stress-timed to syllable-timed.

<little video clip of David rapping will be uploaded when I get a net connection that permits!>

And that, sadly, brought us to the end of a fascinating hour and 20 minutes! Glad to finally have seen David Crystal talking, as awesome as expected! A great end to the conference for me.