Monthly Archives: November 2013

Event update: English UK Teachers' Conference 

Celia Wigley, our Publishing Manager, was the friendly face behind the Collins stand at the English UK 2013 Teachers’ conference. Read below her thoughts and impressions of the event.

 Teachers’ Conference 2013

It was great to see so many of you at English UK 2013 Teachers’ Conference in London on Saturday 9 November.

Thank you to those of you who visited the Collins stand. It was great to meet you and to talk to you about our ELT range. Lots of you were interested in our new Academic Skills Series (6 books covering: Research, Writing, Presenting, Group Work, Lectures and Numbers) and I know many of you requested sample copies. I hope when you receive these that you think the series will help your students to do well at university.

The Lectures book authors Fiona Aish and Jo Tomlinson gave an excellent talk at the conference called ‘Developing academic listening skills’, and I for one, learned lots. I particularly liked the activity we did on rhetorical questions where we had to read rhetorical questions and identify what the lecturer’s reason behind the question was. The activity came from the Lectures book and I hope you agree that your students would learn from this kind of activity.
Download Jo and Fiona’s presentation slides

Another Collins author gave a talk too. It was Chris Flint who talked about our English for Life: Skills series, which, like the Lectures book, contains authentic materials. Chris who wrote Listening A2+ Pre-intermediate together with Jamie Flockhart, made an interesting point about how learners enjoy a shared experience listening to authentic materials. I hadn’t really thought of this before but I definitely felt empathy towards the speaker as we listened to the authentic recordings that Chris played us. Chris and Jamie’s book has been shortlisted for the 2013 English Speaking Union’s Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Awards so watch this space.
Download Chris Flint’s presentation slides

All in all it was great to spend a day with teachers sharing ideas and experiences! Thank you!


Event update: Annual BESIG conference in Prague 

The BESIG conference was held in the Czech Republic’s beautiful capital this year, and it was just fabulous to be there. We attended together with our distributor for Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Infoa, and Eva, Maria and Stanislav were delighted to meet so many of you at the Collins stand. Thanks to all of you for coming by! 

We were also very proud to sponsor three popular talks delivered by our Business English authors Ian Badger, Nick Brieger and Barry Tomalin.

In ‘Overcoming Barriers in Business Communication’, Ian Badger looked at how working with authentic listening materials can help students overcome four main barriers to clear business communication: unfamiliar native/non-native accents, jargon and idiomatic language, different cultural practices and new (and old) technologies. Ian is the author of Collins English for Business: Listening and Collins English for Life: Listening B1+ Intermediate. Both titles draw from 100% authentic recordings to help students understand English however it is spoken around the world.  
Download Ian Badger’s BESIG presentation slides

Nick Brieger proposed a new, results-oriented paradigm for teaching Business Writing in ‘Business Writing: old skill, new paradigm’. His paradigm focuses on improving readability, impact and accuracy of documents. Nick is the author of Collins English for Business: Writing, and all the principles he illustrated in talk are reflected in his book.
Watch Nick to introduce his BESIG talk 
Download Nick Brieger’s BESIG presentation slides

Barry Tomalin’s talk focused on ‘What International Negotiators Need to Know’, and examined the particular difficulties non-native speakers of English have when negotiating with native speakers of English. Barry is the author of Collins Key Business Skills, and he identified a clear framework to help international managers recognise the different signs indicating what a negotiator might think or feel. He proposed a clear model to help learners track down the different stages of negotiations, and the language needed to move it forwards.
Download Barry Tomalin’s BESIG presentation slides

Event update: TESOL France by Barry Tomalin 

Having just arrived back from his weekend at the TESOL France annual colloquium, author Barry Tomalin shares his impressions and gives a summary of his talk ‘What international managers need in France’. Barry’s latest book Key Business Skills has been nominated for the English-Speaking Union awards 2013. 


by Barry Tomalin

Dancing in the Place St Medard at the foot of the rue Mouffetard, Sunday morning

There’s a certain douceur in Paris on an early Sunday morning. It’s November and it’s not warm but there’s a soft light in the square and just a few people going about early morning business – church, baguettes from the bakery or coffee in the local café. Nice!

About 350 teachers turned up from all over France and beyond to listen to lectures and attend workshops on English language teaching. My session was on the key fears French managers have – dealing with us native speakers!

Our speed of speech, free use of idioms and, often, failure to take a breath to allow interruption, or so it seems, compels non-native speaker managers into resentful silence. I quoted the ‘non-native speaker’s’ lament:


THINK what you want to say.

TRANSLATE it into English.

OPEN MOUTH to say it.

TOO LATE! The conversation has moved on.


The two key areas of difficulty seem to be keeping control of and participating in meetings (both face-to-face and virtual) and negotiating. I offered a few ideas on these (you can download the slides in DOWNLOADS) but also get a couple of good ideas from the teacher participants. Here they are.



French managers, and not only French managers, need communication tactics in English to interrupt a conversation and express their point of view. I tend to teach phrases like ‘Can I just come in here?’, with ‘just’ suggesting you will be brief and to the point. However, one colleague suggested a much more abrupt way of interrupting. His one word interruptions were ‘Errr…’ and ‘But….’ And ‘Excuse me…’ expressed with some emphasis. This, he explained, would bring the conversation to a halt and allow the manager to intervene.


I believe that having a clear framework for any negotiation vastly improves the communication process. I use Professor Gavin Kennedy’s five stages of negotiation – prepare, debate, propose, bargain and agree – as a framework.

Kennedy observes that native-English speaking negotiators tend to move between stages and often back to a previous negotiation stage. The process doesn’t follow a linear progression. The problem is that the non-native speaker negotiator can’t interpret the linguistic signals and has no idea what stage the other native speaker negotiator is at.

The form below might help.



(State your position.)




(Ask questions about each other’s position.)




(Make a proposal.)




(Exactly that. Bargain.)




(Come to an agreement.)



I ask negotiators to take this into meetings and to write down examples of language they hear, in the appropriate category. Then they bring these into class for discussion.

One teacher introduced a great practice idea. Write each stage on a set of five cards and distribute one set to each member of the group. Set up a negotiation. Make it as realistic to their work environment as possible. The group negotiates and they must use up all their negotiation cards, using appropriate language. The first one to use up all his or her cards has reached agreement first. Nice idea.


I taught things to say and do when various human problems occur on conference calls, such as heavy breathing, silence or tapping computer keys or clicking pens while on a conference call.

In addition to that, it’s important to know what to say when the equipment fails, as one teacher reminded us. Let’s assume the communication counterpart can hear you but there are problems. What do you say?

Possible solutions:

‘Sorry, there’s a glitch.’

Or ‘Sorry, there’s a problem with the equipment, we’ll try and sort it out and start again in a few minutes.’

There are so many possible problems that it is difficult to think of a single phrase which will cover all situations. Do you have any suggestions?

Please do get in touch with your suggestions and send them to We’ll happily forward them to Barry. Thanks!

Event update: KOTESOL, JALT and ELTJ Tokyo 

We were really excited to be attending our first ever ELT events in Asia when our teams in Korea and Japan went to the annual KOTESOL conference in Seoul, the JALT event in Kobe, and the ELTJ event in Tokyo. Here are some impressions.

Chongdae, Michelle, and all our lovely books at the Collins stand at KOTESOL


Karen Jamieson delivering her fascinating talk, ‘Your survival guide to teaching IELTS’ at KOTESOL. Find out all about our IELTS range, and if you’re looking for the free teaching resources, they are available at

Andy Archer from Nellie’s English Books holding a talk on ‘Inspiring Young Learners with Collins First English Words

The Collins stand at ELTJ Tokyo

The Collins stand at ELTJ Tokyo


Mini interview: Els Van Geyte, author of Academic Skills Series: Writing 

Els Van Geyte, author of Collins Academic Skills: Writing, spoke to Collins’ Eva Schmidt about her teaching career and the inspiration for her latest book. 


Eva: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Els: My name is Els (pronounced like ‘else’) and although I am Belgian-born I have now lived longer in the UK than I ever did in Belgium. I live in the middle of the country (Birmingham), which is ironic because despite living on an island and loving the seaside with a passion, I could not live further away from the sea. Luckily I also like what the city has to offer, and I am happily settled here with my husband and teenage daughter.

Eva: How did you first get involved in teaching?

Els: I have always wanted to be a teacher and when I found myself getting increasingly interested in languages in secondary school, it was an obvious choice to study Linguistics and Literature and train to be a language teacher. I did a Joint Honours course in English and Dutch, and went to French evening classes too. After completing my MA and my teacher training course I used my language skills in customer services jobs and started teaching foreign language evening classes in Further Education. It was a stroke of luck that they were looking for English teachers in the college where I was teaching French: not only did it mean I could start working as a teacher in the daytime, it also meant that I started working with international students. I really enjoyed being in a culturally diverse environment and exchanging information about different customs.

Eva: And what do you do now?

Els: After working in Further education I started teaching in Higher Education. Increasingly this meant not just teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) but also, and now exclusively, English for Academic Purposes (EAP). I have had different responsibilities in this area (e.g. materials development, assessment) but my main focus is always on working with students. I now work part-time because I am also studying: I am hoping to complete my PhD about grammar and argumentation in a few years’ time. As you know, I also write coursebooks, so far about Reading and Writing skills.

Eva: When and how did you come up with the idea for your latest book, Writing?

Els: I approached Collins because I felt that the published materials I was using in my teaching were not always looking at the ‘why’ of academic writing, and I wanted to try to bridge that gap. For example, rather than just telling a student not to use the word ‘thing’ in their writing, or that sayings are not appropriate, it is better to explain that clarity is the most important principle of writing. This means that expressions need to be specific and precise. If students know why certain uses of language are wrong, it is easier for them to check their own writing. I also wanted to write a book that helped build the students’ existing skills: after all, they have worked very hard to get the IELTS or TOEFL score they needed and don’t need to be told everything there is to know about essays. Instead, they need to know what is going to be different from IELTS when they are in an English medium university and have to write longer, more researched and more complex pieces of writing.

Eva: Why do international students struggle when writing essays at university?

Els: It’s not just international students who struggle. I have also worked with ‘home’ students and they face similar issues. One problem is that it is not always possible to see many examples of good essays in your field, and students need to find out what standards of writing are expected by doing it, rather than being told what to do. They have to learn through trial and error and by studying the feedback they received. Having said that, there are some extra challenges for international students: culturally, academic writing may be different. An example is that in some countries it is acceptable to use many rhetorical questions, whereas here we try to avoid them. The ‘why’ for this is that formality is an important academic principle, and addressing the reader is seen as too informal. Another challenge is the language: writing an essay is difficult in your first language, so having to write it in another language while maintaining clarity, formality, accuracy and other important principles is not going to be easy for anyone.

Eva: In your opinion, what’s the most difficult part about writing essays?

Els: From what my students tell me, a lot of it becomes easier (e.g. researching, following referencing guidelines) but the best students can still struggle with paraphrasing. This is probably because it is difficult to apply two academic principles at once: authority (i.e. having a clear point of view and stating your own opinion) and integrity (acknowledging the ideas of others). Students ask how it can be better to paraphrase words written by an excellent academic writer when you feel your own language ability is so much worse. Yet it is much better to paraphrase than to quote… In my book I have tried to explain why paraphrasing is better most of the time, and have included a step by step technique to help students do this.

Eva: How did you go about writing this book and what were the challenging bits?

Els: I had a lot of freedom when writing this book, which actually made it harder! When I wrote IELTS books (Get Ready for IELTS: Reading, Reading for IELTS)  before, I needed to make sure all the skills and techniques involved in the exam were covered, so that immediately provided a structure for the chapters. What I decided to do this time was to think about the general characteristics of academic writing, and then to break these down into smaller parts. For example, in chapter two I focus on the importance of thinking about your reader’s expectations, which I then divided up in smaller sections about what the reader expects in terms of general essay structure, paragraph structure and how paragraphs are connected. I also tried to remember what my students had asked for over the years so that I could make sure that this information was included. In the end, the hardest aspect of the writing was not to let my enthusiasm take over and write too much.

Eva: How does your book help international students write better essays?

Els: Well, I tried to include a number of tools to help students: e.g. self-evaluation quizzes, tips, glossaries and plenty of practical exercises in every chapter. I made sure I covered the different steps in the essay writing process, from receiving the title to receiving the feedback. I also emphasized how improving your reading skills can improve your writing skills. Throughout the book I used real examples from my own and my colleagues’ students to illustrate points and design exercises, and I included example essays of 250 and 2,500 words respectively, to show how students can take their writing up to the next level. There is a strong focus on language accuracy issues, because I know that this is something that international students tend to ask for. In short, I tried to cover all the students need to be aware of, but to keep it practical and manageable.

I really hope the book does help international students, as I have nothing but admiration for what they are trying to do. Education is key in life, but it can be a challenge, and to be brave enough to go and do so in a country with a different language is truly amazing. If I can help just a little bit, that would be great.


Academic Skills Series: Writing Get Ready for IELTS: Reading Reading for IELTS