• Teachers of vocational courses from bricklaying to tourism at colleges in Salzburg and Carinthia have just left NILE after an intensive four-day course aimed at developing their language skills and looking at how vocational education works in the UK. Read more...

  • Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming 14 Austrian trainee teachers from the Kirchliche Padagogische Hochschule in Graz on a tailor-made course which combined language development work at NILE with placements in local primary schools across Norwich. In their 10 days with us, the group began with sessions at NILE focusing on language and culture in the UK, and preparation for their school placements. The six days in schools allowed the trainee teachers to follow life in a UK primary school, working alongside the teachers, and leading some sessions themselves. The course participants were enthusiastic about the welcome they received in schools:


  • Doesn't cost the earth#21 - It doesn't cost the earth

    This Norwich drive-through carwash has a slogan which plays on the phrase "to cost the earth". The phrase's idiomatic meaning is 'to be very expensive', but it allows for a play on the word "cost", which can also mean 'have a negative effect on' or 'use up', as in "This project has already cost us lots of time and money", and "the earth" relating to the world, and particularly the environmental wellbeing of the planet. Consequently, the carwash company is simultaneously saying "Our service is inexpensive and environmentally-friendly" - two neat selling points  in a four-word phrase.

    Location: Drayton Road, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

  • Eighty-five students, their accompanying teachers, and their NILE trainers gathered for a cream tea in the cloisters of Norwich Cathedral to round off their two-week course at NILE this month. The students, from Duca degli Abruzzi school in Treviso, Italy had come with funding from the European Community Commission and the Veneto Region, and focused on the areas of Business English, English for Science and English for Human Sciences. Their course combined language development, trips to local industries and educational institutions, project-based field work, and social and cultural excursions including visits to London and Cambridge. In the words of the students:   


  • Never so good?

    The slogan outside this shop selling musical instruments is playing with a phrase from a 1957 speech by Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. Referring to Britain's postwar economic recovery, what Macmillan actually said was "most of our people have never had it so good". Inevitably, tabloid newspaper headline writers and opposition politicians put this into the second person, and it became "You've never had it so good"!

    Location: St Benedict's Street, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

  • Perhapsh itsh the accshent...

    Think of Shaun Connery as you say the above ;)

    No context pic for this one: it was a pub toilet in Glasgow. I thought I'd leave it to your imagination. Certainly not the worst toilet in Scotland, made famous in Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh. His books have a huge numer of examples of different accents spelled phonetically. 

    Pronunciation varies so much between varieties of English. Phonetic spelling, rather than using the phonemic alphabet, is one way to get the accent across in writing.

    What does your accent look like when it is written as said? 

    Spotted at The Sparkle HorseGlasgow


  • Full communicative potential?

    This kiosk in a Norwich city centre park is a treasure trove of language and meaning.

    The short wall exhorts us to think of everyone as able and capable of doing everything. Everyone is individual and different individuals are attracted to each other. 

    Whatever complexifies our lives, the world is your oyster.

    The long wall develops the idea of autonomy by visually criticising 'social engineering services' bashing people into holes that they do not fit. 

    On the right, just out of shot, the wall reads 'Life is a minefield' with the soldier potentially threatening a partially sighted person.

    "We're here whether you notice us or not", shouts the wall from the bottom left. 

    The dialogue in the middle reads 'Do this, do that! We know best.", "No! I know what I need + want."

    This empassioned visual scream for self-determination and recognition is emphasised by 'The Scream' in the middle of the picture.

    Notice that individuals have contributed to the walls through grafitti, signing their names, adding their own illustrations. One person has even added a text by Noam Chomsky as a fly poster. It is almost as if the closer you look at the wall the deeper it draws you in.

    Introducing the concept of autonomy to learners can be difficult. Getting them to draw a picture of what they think autonomy means to them might be a way to access their preconceptions. Having them list what they think they need and want from your classes is another. After they list them you need to go through a negotiation process with then to proritise main needs of the group and ways of them helping themselves to achieve their wants.


    Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich

    Another text from Chomsky about corporate media can be seen at an entrance to St Stephen's underpass, not far from Chapelfield Gardens. What's interesting here is the changed context, inviting us to read and think about quite dense political ideas by 'publishing' them in the street. (added by Alan Pulverness)

  • Bag

    "BOOKS ARE MY BAG" is a nationwide campaign to celebrate bookshops. This collaboration between publishers, bookshops and authors is the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. 56% of all book buying decisions are made by consumers in a bookshop and high street bookshops (both chains and independents) still account for almost 40% of books bought by consumers. Yet, many high street bookshops are under threat. The bags [specially designed by leading British artist Tracey Emin] are exclusively available from chain and independent bookshops nationwide, offering booklovers a platform to express their support for their local stores." The slogan (= "Books are the thing I really like") is based on a slang expression - "It's (not) my bag" dating back to the 1960s. The online Urban Dictionary suggests that the origin of the expression could have been a reduced version of "It's not my cup of tea" via "It's not my teabag", but this seems highly unlikely.

    Location: St Benedict's Street, Norwich, Norfolk, UK (with acknowledgments to http://www.booksaremybag.com/ and thanks to the book-lover who allowed me to photograph her and her bag!)

  • berrytastic

    Derived from poptastic (a blend of pop and fantastic, originally according to the Oxford English Dictionary ‘denoting a very good piece of pop music’, but now applied to any positive experience) this secondary adaptation describing a fruit drink  has added  -tastic to berry as though it was a suffix.

    Location: Outside a juice bar on Lower Goat Lane, Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

  • Grow

    The use of grow as a transitive verb with objects other than plants and beards goes back to the 16th century. It had long fallen into disuse, but was revived in the early 1990s, when during his US presidential campaign Bill Clinton promised to “grow the economy”. Now commonly used in commercial jargon with objects such as ‘business’, ‘organisation’ etc, it is nicely chosen for this advertising space, one of a number where local businesses sponsor floral displays around the city. The sceond photograph shows how widespread this use of the verb has become. 

    Outside Norwich Railway Station & Guildhall Hill, Norwich, Norfolk, UK