Different times, different places, different people, different faces, yet they all have one thing in common, they use the English language. Every year English becomes ever more important. It is the world’s lingua
franca. The production of the materials to help these enthusiastic learners is the concern of the major sector of the British and American publishing industries and the industries of many other countries. Authors and course designers are busy trying to perfect the formula for the most effective methods of teaching English. None has had greater success than L.G. Alexander.
Louis Alexander has worked as a teacher of English in many countries, and since 1962, has published more than 100 titles, including the worldwide multimedia course “Follow Me”. His series “New Concept
English’ has helped millions to learn English. A significant factor in the success of Louis Alexander has been his pioneering spirit, his willingness to embrace new technology. A successful writer might feel content to continue producing more books. But Louis works enthusiastically in all the latest technologies, videos, CD ROMs and the Internet, anything that will help learners acquire proficiency in English. What are the key factors that help people learn English as a foreign language?
I think you need to begin with a right linguistic course. You’ve got to have an excellent syllabus, which
has been developed and based on some principles. You need a highly developed methodology, which aims to teach the four primary skills of language acquisition, which are understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. Understanding, that is the first task of being able to understand what you hear, because conversation cannot take place unless you understand answering, asking, and saying. So we can say the conversation consists of understand, answer, ask, say. But that in itself is not enough because we have to put those four skills, if you like, into discourse, what happens when we actually speak. And there we can analyze three different kinds of interaction. The first is “transaction”, where we are doing business in a
foreign language, going into a bank to change money, ordering a meal at in a restaurant. That follows a predictable pattern.
The second one is “interaction” where we’re exchanging information. This is one of the most common
kinds of activities between human beings, where they simply exchange facts about themselves. And the third one is the exchange of ideas or argument which involves expressing opinions, beliefs, agreeing and disagreeing.
He’s a cowboy. He’ll show up any minute and tell us all about the great job he’s doing for us.
Is there a universal or standard English that the learners require?
What they are actually learning is their own version of English. So they are learning to speak Chinese English, French English, German English, Italian English. And they’re having to understand a great many
varieties of English. And native varieties may be less important actually than non-native ones, I mean, the classic example of a Korean businessman talking to an Italian in a Mexican restaurant is near the reality, rather than do I choose British or American English.
It’s important for me because it need it for my job in the financing world, speak English. I think English is very important for our life, in business and for social life, for everything. I think English is important because it’s an international language and I need English for my job.
I think it’s very important to learn English because you can know many people, you can travel without problem. And I decided to learn English this year after some journey, some trips, because I want to speak with new people in my travel, for example.
They’re working in an international company, where English is the official language of our company and when they speak with my colleague in the other nation, I needs to speak English.
These people seem convinced that they need to learn English. How have recent developments in media and communications affected the way that they would learn it?
To my mind the most significant change has been the development of the interaction materials because that means that people who wish to teach themselves have a way of doing it, which is simply not available as recently as the 60s and the 70s and even in the 80s so that you can study themself and interact with materials which are designed for that purpose. Language acquisition can be pleasurable and not just hard work.
This philosophy has now been applied to a major international English language teaching venture. It was in 1993 that Pearson Education invited Louis Alexander to develop a new course syllabus, structure and materials for what was to become “Direct English”. Extensive consultations followed and the course then
took shape over four years of development, piloting and trials before the first center open for business in Milan. A very significant investment was made by both author and publisher to ensure that the results
stwould be a learning system, a supportive environment and a set of very materials fit for use in the 21
century. So what exactly do these materials consist of?
The course book itself which is entirely in English and the companion which is a bilingual commentary on the course book. And the companion of course takes into account the local difficulties of the learner, the language background of the learner, and the video is integral to the course and is the key motivating factor. Added to that, there is a tape component, so the learner can practice particular items in the course. Beyond that there is a CD ROM component which allows for true interactive learning where the learner may use a multimedia computer and interact with the computer. Here the kind of English that is being present to them attempt to repeat the same kind of English, attempt to copy as near as possible, here how well they’ve got on and so on.
“Direct English” centers now operate in many countries of the world. Wherever you are the materials combine with teachers and customer support stuff to produce a complete learning system. When you first arrived at the direct English center, a customer services manager invites you to take a placement test to help decide at which level you should begin. There are 8 levels from beginners to advanced.
The center provides you with the course book and companion for the appropriate level along with the video and audio cassettes. You then study a unit consisting of 3 lessons at home or at work, when and where it’s convenient to you. The center recommends that each unit is completed in approximately 7 to 10 days.
A: “The vitamins come from a natural source.”
B: “No. Some vitamins do. These do not. But the label says they are natural.”
A: “This sounds familiar. Didn’t we have a case like it a couple of years ago?”
B: “The bottle-water company.”
A: “Yeah. They were bottling tap water and calling it mineral water.”
When you have completed a unit, you drop in or telephone to arrange a tutorial. Your personal tutor will review your progress and discuss what you have studied. Some tutorials are one to one, some with a colleague at the same level. At any time you can sign up to join a conversation class with others at your level. There are classes for each level every day.