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Frequently Asked Questions

The English language

The English language industry

Learning English

Teaching English

Recommended Answers

The English Language

How many people speak English?

  • English has official or special status in at least seventy five countries with a total population of over two billion
  • English is spoken as a first language by around 375 million and as a second language by around 375 million speakers in the world*
  • speakers of English as a second language probably outnumber those who speak it as a first language
  • around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language
  • one out of four of the world's population speak English to some level of competence; demand from the other three-quarters is increasing.


David Crystal-The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
Cambridge University Press, 1995

David Crystal- English as a global language
Cambridge University Press, 1997

David Graddol- The Future of English?
London, British Council, 1997

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What do people use English for?

  • English is the main language of books, newspapers, airports and air-traffic control, international business and academic conferences, science, technology, diplomacy, sport, international competitions, pop music and advertising
  • over two-thirds of the world's scientists read in English
  • three quarters of the world's mail is written in English
  • eighty per cent of the world's electronically stored information is in English
  • of the estimated 200 million users of the Internet, some thirty-six per cent communicate in English.

How many people are learning English?

  • by the year 2000 it was estimated that over one billion people will be learning English
  • at any one time there are 130,000 students learning English and other skills through the medium of English in British Council teaching centres worldwide

How many people come to the UK to learn English?

  • around 700,000 people come to learn English in the UK each year.

What economic benefits does English bring to the UK?

  • British English language products are worth over 800 million pounds a year to the UK
  • the total expenditure of the 700,000 visitors to the UK annually to learn English is over 700 million pounds - possibly over one billion pounds*
  • the English language makes it possible for British companies to develop markets, sell into them and form commercial alliances; it brings direct benefits through the supply of English teaching goods and services.

*Source: The Value of Education and Training Exports to the UK Economy -
Department of Education and Employment, 1998

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What other benefits does English have for the UK?

  • tourists are encouraged to visit the UK
  • businesspeople are encouraged to invest and build partnerships with the UK
  • people are encouraged to watch British films, read books by British authors, and listen to British radio and popular music.

How many people speak/use English in X country?

  • there are no firm statistics for this for the world in general for several reasons:
    • what do you mean by 'speak English'?
    • how much English?
    • to what level - is the taxi driver at the airport who says '20 dollars to hotel' an English speaker?
  • there is no reliable method of gathering the statistics
  • there are statistics for a restricted list of countries in which 'English has held, or continues to hold a special place' and these are available in David Crystal's 'Encyclopedia of the English Language'(p109)
  • nearly one in two European Union citizens claim to be able to converse in English* according to a survey carried out in 1998, and 69 per cent of survey respondents who did not speak English as their first language felt that it was the most important language for them to learn or use.

Source: Eurobarometer 50 *This includes the 16 per cent of EU citizens who speak English as their first language.

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How many people are learning English in X country?

  • for children, the answer is often all children of secondary school age, so contact the Ministry of Education in X country, obtain the statistics and you have an answer
  • for primary schools we have collated availble information in our Worldwide survey Primary ELT, 1999-2000

    If you want to know the contact details for a ministry of education, contact the British Council office in that country.

  • for older people, the problem again comes down to gathering the statistics; people will be a mixture of those who learn English by self access, those who study in state institutions, those who study in a private centre that is affiliated to a national body and those who study in a non affiliated private centre.

Can you help me with my MA research?

  • normally we would expect you to ask your supervisor for advice but if you think we may have specialist information that you cannot obtain elsewhere, we will try and help.

Can you send me some brochures/teaching materials about the UK?

These websites may be able to help:

The English Language Industry

How can the British Council help me market my language school?

  • The British Council actively promotes English in Britain Accredited course providers
  • If you are an EiBA institution, you will be aware that the Council already promotes and supports accredited institutions by various means, including direct placement, links from our website, the Global Education and Training Information Service and the EducationUK website.

Whether you are accredited or not, as a course provider you might benefit from our web-based publication What you need to know about marketing English language courses by Richard Batchelor, which is available on-line to all UK ELT course providers.

(You will need Adobe Acrobat to read this publication, you can use this link to download the software).

How can the British Council help me market my book/CD-ROM/website?

We recommend that if you have materials to promote, you promote them through specialist bookshops, distributors or direct mailings to UK course providers. If you wish to promote your materials to the British Council's worldwide teaching network, you should contact individual teaching centres as no decisions about materials are made centrally. However, if you have a new publication that you wish to have reviewed in the British Council's teaching network publication Network News, contact Ana Ferreira. Don't forget that reviews can be bad as well as good!

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I'm thinking of opening a language school, can you help?

We suggest you start by reading the books listed below (there are of course other excellent books too numerous to be listed here).

  • Management In English Language Teaching-White, R et al.
    ISBN 0521377633 CUP 1991
    Introduction to areas of management such as financial aspects of running a school, marketing and promotion; case studies based on real teaching situations.
  • The ELT Manager's Handbook- Impey, G & Underhill, N
    ISBN 0435240900 Heinemann 1994
    Practical advice on managing a successful language school.

The British Council promotes English in Britain Accredited organisations; if you do not fall in this category, see above.
Also, you should be aiming to gain accreditation as this will increase your promotional opportunities and the backwash effect of preparing for accreditation will have beneficial effects on the effectiveness of your school. Contact Accreditation Unit and ask for an accreditation information pack (UK only).

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Can the British Council help me recruit teachers for my school?

For any queries relating to recruitment, we suggest that you try contacting the following organisations:

Saxoncourt English Worldwide Ltd
124 New Bond St
London W1S 1DX, UK
Telephone +44 (0)20 7491 1911
Fax +44 (0)20 7493 3657
E-mail recruit@saxoncourt.com
Website www.saxoncourt.com/index.htm

Worldwide Education Service
Canada House, 272 Field End Road, Eastcote
Middlesex HA4 9NA, UK
Telephone +44 (0)20 8582 0317
Fax +44 (0)20 8429 4838
E-mail wes@wesworldwide.com
Website www.wesworldwide.com

We also suggest that you advertise in the specialist press, such as The English Language Gazette (elgazette@compuserve.com) and Tuesday's Education Guardian.
The Web is an additional tool in teachers' recruitment: try the Digital Education Network's ELT Job Centre at www.jobs.edunet.com and, for IATEFL members, the IATEFL jobshop at www.jobs.edunet.com/iatefl

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Can you send me a list of agents who send groups of language students to the UK?

Listings of agents may be available from individual British Council offices.Any listings of educational agents that we do have have been incorporated into the GETIS Profiles that form part of the Global Education and Training Information Service; these profiles are available free to subscribers or to non-subscribers for £25.00.

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Learning English

Which is the best language school for me to learn English in/send my children to?

  • we strongly recommend that you choose a course at an organization that is accredited by the English in Britain Accreditation scheme (there are over 370 of these); this will ensure that the course you choose is of the very highest standard
  • we also suggest that you collect a number of prospectuses and study them carefully before you make your decision
  • for a list of accredited organizations, please go to the Accreditation pages of this site
  • to help you search for a course you can also visit the Education UK website
  • your local British Council office will be happy to provide further advice

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What book should I use?
Do you know a good dictionary?
I need some materials to help me teach/learn English...

If you need information about English language learning/teaching materials, your best option is to contact a specialist supplier of ELT materials. Three websites offering a full range of ELT materials are:

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I need a copy of Volume 7 Number 4 of The Journal of...

The best course of action is to contact the publisher of the journal or an academic library. The British Council Information Centres do not hold back copies of journals, however we are associated with three publications. For information about these or information about back copies, contact the publishers:

Teaching English

How can I get an ELT job with the Council?

Please see our current vacancies list.

How do I get qualified?

What qualification should I take?
Where can I take an TEFL qualification?
Where can I find an EFL job?
My son/daughter is thinking of taking a job with X company and I wondered...

Where can I find free teaching materials and teaching ideas?

Visit our new website TeachingEnglish at www.teachingenglish.org.uk which provides articles on different aspects of teaching and practical activities to download and use in class.

What language teaching software/training is available?

Specialist sources of CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) software and resources:

Wida Software
2 Nicholas Gardens
London W5 5HY, UK
Telephone +44 (0)20 8567 6941
Fax +44 (0)20 8840 6534
E-mail info@wida.co.uk
Website www.wida.co.uk

10 Wheatfield Close
Berkshire SL6 3PS, UK
Telephone +44 (0)1628 825 206
Fax +44 (0)1628 820 431 as telephone switches automatically
E-mail info@camsoftpartners.co.uk
Website www.camsoftpartners.co.uk

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Specialist ELT booksellers supplying CALL software/resources Website
Keltic website www.keltic.co.uk
English Book Centre, Oxford www.ebcoxford.co.uk
Bournemouth English Book Centre ww.bebc.co.uk

Professional organisations Website
Special Interest Group
EUROCALL www.eurocall.org
CTI Centre for Modern Languages www.hull.ac.uk/cti/langsite
BECTA www.becta.org.uk
CILT www.cilt.org.uk

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