BBC Learning English
Call me old fashioned, a traditionalist, whatever you want, but ever since the Anglo-Saxon conquest of the British Isles between 400-600 AD, just after the Romans left, and the celtic speakers learned the language of their new ‘guests’ the Brits have been in the business of teaching English and have sure done a great job of it! … English is the most spoken second language in the world … 600 million plus second language speakers! The BBC Learning English online web tool proves this once again. To give an example of its use in Bangladesh, more than 1m English lessons have been downloaded to mobile phones as part of the BBC’s Janala sercvice, the corporation announced today at the World Mobile Conference in Barcelona. Nothing here is fancy. Just clean learning situations that are clearly supported with images. The site is divided into different categories: General & Business English, Grammar, Vocabulary & Pronunciation, Talking Sport, Quizzes, The Flatmates, Community, for teachers, Specials, about us and Downloads. Each of these categories is clearly indicated on the left side of the site. You will notice certain expressions that are common in British English as opposed to that found in Canada … for example ‘flatmate’. That’s OK because I didn’t suffer too much when learning certain French expressions from France while learning my French in Quebec. We live in a great big global community and we should get used to these different usages. The savvy teacher must be careful however not to allow less advanced students to get mixed up in these details. Allow exposure to these language items but don’t let the students feel like they are learning several different languages. In terms of everyday language the site has some great features such as the lesson it gives called Express English where every week, people in London are asked questions on a specific topic At the Englishblog we see that the BBC Learning English series which follows the fortunes Anna, a sales executive. Following the exploits of a ficticious character may seem odd, but isn’t that what every movie and TV drama are about. The BBC is able to construct situations that are geared at certain language learning objectives. Another very useful feature are the podcasts that makes following the characters even more convienient. The site is slightly on the dull side and would definitely not be suited to young learners or those with certain attention challenges because there are no real attention grabbing special effects, but for certain students who enjoy reading about current events the BBC site is right on track. The BBC is afterall primarily a current events media outlet. For instance, the section Words in the News could be very interesting to certain students who like learning obscure facts such as the dilemma scientists have had in determining whether or not a certain sound coming from the ocean depths was a whale or a duck … I won’t give the secret away here … check it out yourselves on the site. I find the site quite interesting, but its not ‘everyone’s cup of tea’. A final and very important note is that the BBC is well-known, and respected around the world. It is therefore not surprising that many people use the site to learn English and as the site tesl.ej mentions how relationships between the intermediate level users of all nationalities have emerged and developed through the use of each feature at the site. This pretty well sums up what learning a language is all about, communicating and in the process making new and enduring social relationships, and the BBC Learning English tool is certainly facilitating this for many people.