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2009 > oktober

The Million-Word Language*

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igor-riznarI have become aware that the majority of Business English textbooks are boring, articles around which units are based are too often out-of-date and are, consequently, stifling students' creativity.

In the glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth (the first, that is, from 1558 to 1603), the number of English speakers in the world is thought to have been between five and seven million. The most recent estimates tell us that there are approximately 400 million mother-tongue speakers, and at least a further billion people who use English as a foreign language (including you, my dear students ;-) ). Statistics of this kind are truly impressive, and could continue for several paragraphs. The point is that it is not the number of mother-tongue speakers which makes a language important, but the extent to which a language is found useful outside its original setting. In my opinion, one of the reasons why English has become a global lingua franca is its "simplicity" (We will discuss other reasons during my lectures.).

In the last two or three decades, Business English - the subject I've been teaching for more than 15 years - has attracted increasing interest and awareness, which is why Business English courses are offered by many language schools and faculties worldwide. What I have learned during these years is that my role should be that of a facilitator, who is spending a lot of time recommending and directing students to resources and helping them to interpret them. In addition, I have also become aware that the majority of Business English textbooks are boring, articles around which units are based are too often out-of-date and are, consequently, stifling students' creativity. This is why students are rarely fired with enthusiasm when they are faced with a new Business English textbook or course. What I believe students really need is a number of guidelines (on effective writing, presentations, summarizing and note-taking), what they need above all else is enjoyment, fun, creativity and a sense of achievement.

Finally, these are my guidelines for students trying to improve their command of the million-word language (do not be afraid, Shakespeare only used 31.500 different words):

  • Come to class well-prepared and regularly If you can't come, find out what we did before you come to the next class by either asking a colleague or the teacher.

  • Always ask if there is something you don't understand. When you do preparations, make notes of the questions that may arise - bring your notes to class and ask!

  • Keep a Personal Resource File (PRF): this should be a record of the vocabulary studied and a record of usage points.

  • Try to create your own English language environment outside the classroom by reading regularly, listening to radio, watching EL TV, seeing EL movies, browsing the Internet, etc.

  • Try to be enthusiastic about everything you do.

  • Listen - because listening is the most important skill.

  • Become a regular citizen of the Internet.

  • See your teacher during his office hours to discuss whatever problems may arise.

I am looking forward to seeing you at the IBS.


Doc. dr. Igor Rižnar


*The Global Language Monitor announced that the English language had crossed the 1,000,000-word threshold on June 10, 2009.