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Exploring English with the British Council

Update – Chris Cavey has written a new blog post, highlighting how to get the most out of this course. Read Chris’s three tips now.

Chris Cavey, lead educator on the free online course “Exploring English: Language and Culture,” talks about how the British Council has combined its experience in developing online learning materials with its language teaching expertise, to produce the first British Council MOOC on FutureLearn.

Chris Cavey, lead educator on "Exploring English: Language and Culture"


In twenty years of teaching a wide variety of classes in a wide variety of classrooms, the classes I remember most fondly are those where there was some kind of mix – different nationalities, different backgrounds, different ages. Difference is the catalyst that generates interest and discussion in the classroom and the greater the difference you have in the room, the more potential there is to explore and exploit it.

Difference is what I’m hoping the learners will bring to our forthcoming British Council course – “Exploring English: Language and Culture.” The course will be at an intermediate level, so joiners need to have studied some English to get the most out of the course. Apart from that, there are no conditions, and I’m really hoping that we get as wide a range of participants as possible, to enrich the discussions that will form the basis of the course.

The aim of the course is to help people develop their understanding of culture in the UK and improve their language skills in the process. To do this, we’ll look at videos of contemporary Britain and listen to a variety of speakers of English in unscripted interviews.

There isn’t an explicit language syllabus, but instead I’ll be asking learners to look at features of natural speech and think about how English works, how it’s used and how they might incorporate some of those features into their own English. I think – I hope – that it’s going to be useful for a wide range of learners, from those with a general interest in learning more about our language and culture to those intending to improve their English for work, travel or study.

So, at the end of the course, learners will know more about UK culture and they’ll have improved their English, but I’m hoping that the real benefit will come in the richness of the interaction during the course. I’ve been developing online learning content for the last seven years, but this feels like the biggest classroom I’ve ever operated in!

For each topic on the course – things like music, the countryside or literature – learners will be asked to share their own experience and opinions. As well as asking people to share their thoughts about British culture, we’ll be asking them to compare and contrast with their own country and culture. So a learner might go away from our course with a better understanding of British literature, plus a recommendation for a great Peruvian novelist or some fantastic Senegalese music!

I think it’s an opportunity to build a real global community and, for most people, a really new learning experience. It really is the more, the merrier – the more people we have, the more difference there is for us to work with, to make a rewarding and enjoyable course.

To learn more, join “Exploring English: Language and Culture.”

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