End of Year ELT Quiz

PART A: Who said

1.  I’m very aware that I fly far too much.  

  1. Sylvia Richardson
  2. Sandy Millin
  3. Donald Trump

2.  Things are getting better and better.

  1. Stephen Pinker
  2. David Nunan’s accountants
  3. Buckingham Palace

3. Language is the toolset of intelligent life.

  1. Nim Chimsky
  2. Jim Scrivener
  3. The Pope

4.  It’s essentially racist to imagine a group here and a group there who are essentially different to each other.

  1. J. Thribb (age 17)
  2. Christopher Columbus
  3. Adrian Holliday

5.  We should not expect research to have any necessary or close link with the activity of teaching.

  1. Boris Johnson
  2. Alan Maley
  3. Anthony Joshua

6.  General English Coursebooks are bland, unappealing, unchallenging, unimiginative, unstimulating, mechanical, superficial and dull. None of them is likely to to be effective in facilitating long-term acquisition.

  1. Brian Tomlinson
  2. John Soars
  3. Pearson Help line

PART B. Numbers

1.  How many levels are there in

  • the CEFR scale
  • the ALTE scale
  • the Pearson Global Scale

2.  How many empirical studies of language use were consulted in order to establish these scales?

  1. 50
  2. 100
  3. 1,000
  4. None

3. For each scale, which does this statement belong to: Can write letters or make notes on familiar or predictable matters

  1. A1
  2. A2
  3. B1
  4. B2
  5. C1
  6. C2
  7. I don’t understand the question

4. Which scholar has not criticised these scales

  1. Alderson
  2. Bachman
  3. Fulcher
  4. Long
  5. J. Thribb (age 17)?

5. How many lexical chunks do proficient users of English as an L2 need to know?

  1. 1,000 +
  2. 2,000+
  3. The ones Hugh Dellar picks

C  Grammar

1.  How many tenses are there in English?

  1. 4
  2. 3
  3. 2
  4. 1
  5. 0
  6. Other

2.  What is CxG?

  1. Z squared
  2. Jenkins’ Grammar for Construction Workers
  3. A folorn attempt to build grammar from putative learned pairings of linguistic forms with functions or meanings

3.  Is this a well-formed sentence: There are many different ways to teach English and places where it is taught. (J. Harmer, 2015).

  1. No
  2. If Harmer wrote it, it must be.
  3. The conjunction ‘also’ is missing.

D. Vocabulary

Readers are invited to add to this list of definitions from the BBC Radio 4 show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue:

Chairs – toast by the Queen

Childhood – young gangster

Delight – make things go darker

Extemporary – permanent

Fondue – affectionate sheep

Inhabit – dressed as a monk

Khaki – device for starting car

Laminated – pregnant sheep

Microbe – tiny dressing gown

Minimal – small shopping centre

Mucus – feline swear word

Negligent – Male lingerie

Overrate – nine

Paradox – two medics

Parasites – view from Eiffel Tower

Posterity – inherited botom size

Property – decent cuppa

Ramshackle – male chastity belt

Scandal – footwear to be ashamed of

Xenophobia – fear of Buddhists

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.


Part A

  1. Sandy Millin
  2. Stephen Plunker
  3. Jim the Man
  4. A. Halliday
  5. Alan Maley
  6. Brian Tomlinson

Part B

  1. 7; 7; 10 to 90
  2. None
  3. B2
  4. Thribb
  5. 2,000+

Part C

  1. 2
  2. 3
  3. You decide!


Against Intellectual Sloth, Part 2.

In Part 1, I looked at the first part of Dellar’s post Five things I’ve Learned from running-the “English Questions Answered” group, so as to comment on his claims about NNESTs. In this second part, I’ll look at the post as a whole.

The first thing Dellar learned was Language awareness is not something you’re born with. This invites the questions: What does “language awareness” refer to?; and: What’s the point of saying that it isn’t something you’re born with? Neither question is answered in the text.

The second thing he learned was Difference in meaning is inseparable from different usage. Again, we may ask: What does this mean? Following Widdowson (1979), a distinction is usually made between rules of usage (the rules for making language, i.e. syntax) and rules of use, which consider the communicative meaning of language. I presume Dellar just picked the wrong word, and is, in fact, referring to different uses. If he is, then the point seems to be that when trying to tease out the differences between closely-related words, it’s a good idea to not just look at dictionaries, but to “give examples of what the words are used to do – and to show the other words that often go with them”. I quite agree, and I’m sure you do too.

And I agree with points 3,4 and 5, too. Notions of correctness are more complicated that we may realise; some things are more worth worrying about than others; and tensions between descriptivists and prescriptivists remain high. Dellar’s remarks on all three points are reasonable enough, but his approach to the issues remains vague. In the case of notions of correctness, for example, Dellar says “we need to recognise and accept diversity and the fact that it’s often far easier to say what’s most normal than what’s ‘correct’”. OK, but how are teachers to decide the correctness or “acceptability” of particular sentences, or collocations, or pronunciation patterns? For example, when students ask “How do you pronounce the word ‘grass’?”, what should teachers say? Hugh says [gra:s] and Andrew says [græ: s]. Should teachers teach both? Or teach how they themselves pronounce it? Or use Jenkins’ ELF guide? Or assume that their students want to be taught British English RP / American Standard English? Similarly, Dellar chides “prescriptivist” teachers, but does little to address the frustration he admits they might feel when they’re told to be more “descriptive”. To say that “most of the old rules and generalisations remain”, but that we must consider emerging  “new norms” is not very helpful. What are the old rules and generalisations that teachers can continue to use, and how do teachers decide which new norms to incorporate?

Dellar’s reflections on the 2019 postings among his teachers’ group show his on-going confusion about language, and about language learning. The inability to distinguish between Hoey’s and N. Ellis’ use of the key constructs of priming and noticing is again in evidence, as is the habitual vagueness. In ELT, there’s no doubt that familiarity with formulaic language of all kinds, collocations included, is essential, but the vital question of how best to facilitate learning different kinds of formulaic language remains deeply problematic, as scholars including N. Ellis (2017), Long (2015), and, perhaps above all, Boers (e.g., Boers & Webb, 2018), all agree. Most importantly, they agree that trying to explicitly teach the thousands of “chunks” that learners need for a proficient use of English is quite simply out of the question; yet Dellar continues to extol teachers to do precisely that. He gives only the vaguest answers to questions such as: “What principles guide the choice of the chunks that we should teach? How can enough of these notoriously difficult-to-learn chunks be learned by students? What balance between explicit and implicit teaching and learning is required?” In this latest post, Dellar seems to prefer to muddy the water some more, rather than make the effort needed to address the issues.


Boers, F., & Webb, S. (2018) Teaching and learning collocation in adult second and foreign language learning. Language Teaching, 51, 77-89.

Ellis, N. C. (2017) Chunking. In Hundt, M., Mollin, S, and Pfenninger, S. (Eds.) The Changing English Language: Psycholinguistic Perspectives (pp. 113-147), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Long. M. (2015) Second Language Acquision and Task-Based Language Teaching. Malden, MA. Wiley.

Widdowson, H.G. (1979) Explorations in Applied Linguistics. Oxford, Oxford University Press.


Against Intellectual Sloth

Dellar’s latest post: Five things I’ve learned from running the ‘English questions answered’ group has been lauded without any attempt at a critical examination of its contents. Five points are made, and here, I’ll discuss the first one.

1. Language awareness is not something you’re born with.

Dellar begins:

In this day and age, it should hardly need stating that traditional notions about the relative merits of so-called ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ teachers are ridiculously outdated. It is impossible to tell from the language used by many of the most regular contributors whether English is their mother tongue or not. It’s also, of course, irrelevant.

I agree with the first sentence.

The second sentence carefully refers only to “many of the most regular contributors”, thus ignoring the fact that in other cases it is possible to tell from the language used by contributors whether English is their mother tongue or not. Here’s the sloth, the lazy generalisation that needs comment. And it isn’t mere nit picking. While, of course we should defend non-native English speaker teachers (NNESTs) against wrongful discrimination, we should do so with respect for the evidence. There are tens of thousands of NNESTs whose command of English is demonstrably excellent; and the arguments about the added qualifications which they bring to the job, including bilingualism, knowledge of local contexts, and often superior knowledge of English and of teaching methods compared to that of native speaker teachers are persuasive.

But these teachers are not completely representitive. More than 90% of those currently teaching English as a foreign language are non-native English speakers (British Council, 2015). Most of these NNESTs teach in their own countries, and the evidence suggests that many – probably a majority – of these teachers today don’t have the command of English required to teach the English courses set out in the national curricula, which increasingly focus on communicative language teaching (CLT). To take the example of China, studies by Zhang (2012), Chen and Goh (2011), and Yan (2012) highlight the teachers’ lack of proficiency in oral communication in English as one of the key factors impeding the successful implemenation of a CLT curriculum.

Similar results have been found in studies carried out in other countries. A 1994 study by Reves & Medgyes (cited in Braine, 2005) asked 216 native speaker and non-native speaker English teachers from 10 countries (Brazil, former Czechoslovalua, Hungary, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Sweden, former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe) about their experiences as teachers. The overwhelming majority of the participants were non-native speakers of English, and in their responses, 84% of the non-native speaker subjects said that they had various difficulties using English and that their teaching was adversely affected by these difficulties. Difficulties with vocabulary and fluency were most frequently mentioned, followed by speaking, pronunciation, and listening comprehension.

No good comes from ignoring these facts. To skate so carelessly over the evidence surely harms more than it helps the cause of NNESTs , and it clouds more than it clarifies the complicated arguments involved in moving towards a better, more pluralistic view of the English language and of what should, and, should not, be taught in ELT.


Braine, G. (2005) A History of Research on Non-Native Speaker English Teachers. In: Llurda E. (eds) Non-Native Language Teachers. Educational Linguistics, vol 5. Springer, Boston, MA.

Chen, Z. and Goh, C. (2011)  Teaching oral English in higher education: Challenges to EFL teachers Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3), 333 – 345.

Yan, C. (2012) ‘We can only change in a small way’: A study of secondary English teachers’ implementation of curriculum reform in China. Journal of Educational Change, 13, 431 – 447.

Zhang, D. (2012). Chinese Primary School English Curriculum Reform. In Ruan, J. and  Leung, C. Perspectives on Teaching and Learning English Literacy in China. NY Springer