“I would like to extend warm welcome to Harrogate, to everybody who is here with over 2.500 delegates here, and thousands of people around the world watching. I am sure it is going to be a great conference.”
These are the words by Zeynep Urkun during her welcome speech and introduction of David Graddol who later gave his plenary talk on the extraordinary growth in the learning of English around the world in relation with economic development.
Urkun’s introduction was really enjoyable and creative since she listed some significant world events having happened and highlights at the same time with Graddol’s birth. This really warmed the atmosphere. It also made me think how quickly everything was changing, and also a person might have a long journey from birth to the present where the beginning seems really distinct from the end point. Below you can find the whole session and my comments afterwards.
Before writing about Graddol’s talk, which is among a few most impressive ones I was looking forward to at IATEFL 2014, Harrogate, I would like to mention his well-known book English Next, which is luckily available for free on British Council’s website and which was published in 2006. The book, as also mentioned by Urkun in her introductory speech, is about the growing importance of English from a fresh perspective, and Graddol in his book reminded us that native speakers of English would be outnumbered by speakers of English as a second or foreign language. For similar studies, you can also refer to research by David Crystal and Braj Kachru. Thanks to these studies, we already know that the considerable number of non-native speakers have a very huge effect on the very nature of English creating different varieties of this world language and leading to concepts like World Englishes.
Within the constraints of this post, I also would like to shortly mention Graddol’s plenary. Instead of talking about the already stated role and status of English, Graddol, in his talk, mainly focused on the idea that English brings economic benefits. He also questioned whether the economic rationale is just disguising a new kind of linguistic imperialism, or whether it genuinely brings benefits to those investing in English. One of the most effective aspects of his presentation were the animated graphics illustrating the waves or ripples of baby booms and how it progresses from early ages till these babies become old, and so being dependents. These booms are really important to balance economy, GDP, education, workforce and so on. For a careful and effective planning of language teaching or learning processes, we also need to consider these waves as part of our academic policy. Currently, there is a very serious investment in learning English and people’s attitudes toward this trend is also very vital. At this point, it is also good to mention whether all these people learning English will have a Return on their investment (RoI) meaning whether they will profit more than their have invested. Without going into much detail, there is one more thing I would like mention regarding people’s attitudes toward the role of English.
According to a pie chart shown by Graddol, only 1% of participants of Pearson’s Business English Index survey think that the role of English is not important in job promotion, which leaves the rest of
people equal to 99% who think English is required (72%), important (22%), and helpful (4%) in job promotion. As a result of this, the business of learning, teaching and assessing is really a huge industry and it is not difficult to project how it is going to be even more immense in the future.
Finally, there are some fruits for thought and conclusions drawn by Graddol, which might be really provoking your thought. You can find them below and, prior to finalizing my post, I strongly recommend you to watch the whole session if you are interested in thi
s topic and if you are one of the stakeholders in this industry by also thinking about all these following points.
Before finishing up, I would like you all to use this opportunity for following everything online and catching up with all others who are physically participating the event. You can do so by visiting Harrogate Online, or exploring twitter with hashtags such as mainly #IATEFL, #iatefl2014, or #iatefl14. In fact, I recommend you to tweet with the 1st hashtag since it is the one used all the time by @iateflonline and @iatefl.