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NI's Easier English provides 'ready lessons'

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by New Internationalist

New Internationalist magazine has branched out in different ways to help those in the global south get a fairer voice and now, learners of English, in the UK and worldwide, are being offered access to a different kind of learning platform.

The Easier English Wiki provides the same content that New Internationalist magazine offers, but with easier vocabulary and grammar. This content covers the issues many of the readers of Easier English are living with or experiencing, or issues that are vital to understand in today’s world. Learners can learn English, reading the simplified article and then the original, and break down barriers at the same time.

The wiki page has become a platform, short-listed by the British Council ELTons Awards in June 2015, for its innovation as a learning resource, providing 'ideal materials for developing learners' awareness of global justice, and, at the same time, helping them to develop their reading, vocabulary and sentence structure’. The judges commended it for the ‘refreshing opportunity to read about more controversial topics’. It is rare to find these controversial, often taboo, topics in ELT materials, as publishers cannot afford to offend, so often ban ‘PARSNIPs’ (any reference to Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, -Isms and Pork). Teachers then may be afraid of discussing or conditioned not to discuss these issues in class, as they have no supporting materials. Surely, though, these are the topics learners need to discuss, read about and learn with. English is now such a global language and ELT is such a booming, multi-million pound, publishing industry, that teachers have a responsibility to bring global issues into the classroom and not impose Westernized, euro-centric world views in their materials.

Managed and written by ESOL teachers and trainers, Linda Ruas and John Shepheard, New Internationalist Easier English Wiki offers these global justice materials: an ever-growing resource of simplified articles for learners to read, then compare with the original, Search and Category features to research topics of interest, quizzes to generate interest, and resources for teachers with guidance on several ways to use the articles in class and as self-access learning.

The aim? To get more English-language learners reading about global issues and having the confidence to discuss, protest and boost their desire to learn more. The topics covered in New Internationalist are varied, but the information provided and the format which Easier English presents encourages readers to respond to injustices felt directly or by other, more distant, communities. And this will hopefully encourage further independent reading and action.

Major cultural rifts such as differing religions, as discussed by Linda Ruas, can potentially be lessened when a fairer picture is presented and discussion is encouraged. 'Learners can respond emotionally to these authentic, topical issues, especially if they have been directly affected and sensitive, supportive handling in class can even help learners come to terms with a difficult past.'

The Easier English wiki also provides 'Ready Lessons' which help teachers present the topics and texts to classes and further engage learners with what to read. They offer the latest teaching ideas with variations on dictations, discussions and grammar and vocabulary tasks within highly meaningful contexts.

In summary, Easier English will hopefully encourage learners to practise:

  • Disagreeing: Having an opinion about political, religious or lifestyle issues different to your neighbour comes from confidence.
  • Progressive Reading: Reading the simplified text and then the original article allows an even fuller grasp of the language and the subject matter.
  • Inclusive Thinking: Feeling included and being a part of the wider world comes from working towards a common goal and understanding both the issues and the people involved in a more thorough manner.

Tell English teachers and learners you know to have a look and follow Easier English on Twitter (@EasierNewInt) to get the latest simplified articles.

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