Robert Baird

Robert Baird

At the University of Southampton, I have been involved with a range of language and applied linguistics programmes. I am interested in the complex and social nature of communication and education.

Location Southampton, UK


  • Noted - thank you!

  • @WYLENLIPANGLIPANG It is there now - apologies for the delay (my fault!).

  • Great points as always, @RonaldM.Turno

  • @AriyoOlanike I hope you can let us know how that goes!

  • If you have any questions about anything so far, please post it in a comment here and we'll try to answer it in the video.

  • Yes - very much a Scouse accent. Interesting that a French accent is closer to standard English.

  • @RondaTullay I agree mostly. I used to try the technique of arriving early, setting up the computer and sometimes board, but leaving the room so that students would see the focus at the front, and sometimes I'd put a question there. I'd then walk in two minutes late and just start talking ("so, what do you think?"). I found that an equally empowering way to...

  • Good point. There are individuals in cultural groupings. I see culture as more useful as a concept that helps us consider what people are likely to have experienced (ideas of good/bad, polite/impolite, normal/abnormal) and not as a guide to what people will think or do.

  • I share your feelings about statistics very often!

  • @MurodIsmailov Hello. The ambiguity is the point here. I think Macaro sets out a defined object of study (which a researcher has to delimit and build borders around), whereas the phenomenon itself cannot be captured by the definition you mention, in my view. I have chatted to Ernesto about that, and he wasn't angry!

    The definition above is useful for a...


    I always find talks by Hans Rosling (RIP) very inspiring. This is one example, but you can see many of his talks online throughout his career, and he is a great example of somebody who doesn't try to speak in the style of a 'native speaker', but whose enthusiasm and knowledge is infectious... and what he says is...

  • Thank you for the comment, Julio! I appreciate that.

  • Interesting that you write about the importance of bodies of knowledge, and yet simply dismiss the idea of 'native speaker (English or other language)' as a false line of discussion, when it is an established research focus across disciplines (e.g. sociolinguistics, language education, and philosophy of language). Clearly some bodies of knowledge are more...

  • Another good point to link in here. The video is funny, in a way, because reactions to that kind of stereotyping are not common. That's important to remember in class, as the least likely to respond are those who feel less powerful and most marginalised. It wouldn't be funny if we reversed the roles in the video, which says something about the assumptions we...

  • Good point. I think we can analyse the processes and messages in videos like this a lot without observing this simple but very important observation.

  • Perfectly phrased!

  • It's sorted now - wrong permission box was ticked. Sorry!

  • Thank you - the issue is now resolved, but thank you for helping people find it while it was being sorted!

  • @ViniciusG.Maltarollo I'll add providing short videos with key input, and having group tasks around that, helps all students understand the content, and the teacher has a much easier time after that.

  • Thank you - I agree and thank you for making my long text easier to digest!

  • Thank you Francisco. Absolutely. This happens 'glocally' which is becoming a bit cliche now, but does emphasise the local nature of all such ideologies. Bourdieu's ideas of cultural and symbolic capital are very relevant here - and I like your point that this process can be more about symbolic affordances in your own setting (e.g. as 'an English-speaking...

  • @WanderlanSambüc I used to teach in East Asia, where the physiognomy of the ideal English speaker is, sadly, very clear and consistent (and images of the ideal international business person, the ideal international star, etc. are carried on those messages too)!

  • That's great news, Drielle... your next task is to pass that confidence and outlook to your students!

  • Thank you, Julia. Yes - I see 'accent reduction' courses and 'lose your accent' books still, and think that kind of framing should be a thing of the past... The only exception would be where everybody would take the same course (e.g. in drama school).

    Actually, now I think about it, writing instruction evolved much more to be about 'composition' and...

  • Thank you Daniela - I agree, absolutely!

  • Thank you so much Beatrix. I have enjoyed your comments, and I hope others can benefit from them (look back if you are reading this and haven't been paying attention to Beatrix!).

  • That's great to hear, Yulia. Actually, with teacher mobility, this is very frequent that the teacher is from somewhere that has a particular identity marker where they work, and I agree that it needs to be seen as the beginning of an eye-opening conversation (so they can learn from the interaction) rather than being ignored. In a similar way, students (and...

  • Good point - positive stereotypes can be just as harmful to a group dynamic as negative ones (as identities are relational - if some go up, others go down!).

  • I like that - it is a rule that shows expectations of participation, not just controls/limits.

  • I agree - we cannot do it alone. Teachers can't really equip themselves with the skills or time to focus on students, especially not in an additional language, without institutional support. As you say, equipping the teachers is just part of the picture - the institution should be preparing for their inclusion long before the students even arrive.

  • That is interesting - I find 'it depends' best describes interrupting in the UK. Sometimes it effectively shows you are listening and co-creating meaning, but sometimes you are seen as dominating and rude.

  • That's a good point there - sometimes being indirect is more polite but is less likely to be understood. I find that if you teach students regularly, they get used to your requests very quickly, whereas if you teach diverse students, it is safer to be a little more direct.

  • I agree (with another of your comments, so it's becoming a habit).

  • I think you raise some important points here, linked to the teacher's purpose (e.g. if it is the purpose to access cultural meanings and native speaker English terms, then engaging with idioms seems logical - if your aim is to teach content as clearly as possible, it seems your warnings are worth listening to).

  • I like this human approach - it is hard for them to develop unless they realise the reality of their situation, and how to deal with it in a productive and cooperative way.

  • Great suggestions, Alicia.

  • Excellent advice.

  • I don't think any of these textual mistakes would make any difference when reading aloud. And, regarding the 'however' - yes and no. However should not, if we're following strict punctuation conventions, follow a comma (nor would the same grammar forms: 'also', 'moreover', 'furthermore', 'conversely', etc., but it should be followed by a comma in this text....

  • @BeatrixIvannovita Another great comment - you're absolutely right that anything we do is only positive if it suits the context and purpose. I said something similar many times about 'technology enhanced learning technologies' which can often reduce quite advanced content to multiple choice quizzes. I wasn't very comfortable with a quiz for this MOOC, for...

  • I agree - good points.

  • I was worried when I saw how much text was on the first slides, but I then see more visually engaging material that follows.

  • I'm guessing this might be used if students had it in front of them, or if the small text were not the main focus. There is a lot to read on these slides, but, if not intended to be read in the lecture, that isn't always bad.

  • I can't remember if anybody has shared their own slides before! Bravo.

  • Excellent points. I think teachers can become overconfident when they've taught something before, and think they are being flexible when they are actually just getting through the day. This kind of course reminds everybody that flexibility requires preparation and thought for the audience.

  • @BeatrixIvannovita I like your point about being both prepared mentally and physically. We do sometimes have a physical element to our role, and if you are unwell or unfit, it can be hard to get to lectures on time, and to deliver a long lecture. I found it hard teaching online due to posture, for example, as I lean forward into my computer and lose breath too...

  • Two letters can communicate a lot.

  • I agree with all and would say he overuses 'um', but I think it is very difficult and undesirable to never use words like 'um', as they are discourse markers (and can make it easier to understand and identify with the listeners). It's a famous myth in training people to speak that they should avoid such fillers. The other points are great.

  • Indeed. And it's interesting that I had a class who started learning virtually half way through our module last year, and we had no issues transferring online. This year we've started online, and it's very difficult to promote a positive attitude to turning on cameras sometimes (one seminar does it, one does it occasionally when talking, and one never turns on...

  • Robert Baird replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    We are being told to look for these signs now, with so much added stress on students due to the pandemic. Another reason to look at them.

  • @JoanneSaltfleet Time is a good point. Like the switch to online teaching that lots of us are dealing with, the loudest advice seems to be exactly what you say here - take your time.

  • I agree with both points - learn from mistakes and if you, as I did, stop using a language, parts of it disappear from your head very quickly!

  • I will steal this advice!

  • There are no rules to such things, and different people have different preferences, but writing something down makes it harder to adapt (to listeners) or include others in dialogue, and it often leads people to become more boring and to pitch the language at the wrong level, as people can often write with more complexity that they'd (ideally) speak (and...

  • Did you forget a link here, @EkaterinaBelousovaEkaterinaAleksandrovna ?

  • @SvetlanaKossoukhina Ok. I accept these questions as long as you don't ask the horrible question: 'why?'

    1) I would go with 'English grammar' and 'the English alphabet'. Articles are incredibly annoying in English!
    2) No - this is an ellipsis (ok with 'to', but 'to' can be dropped). Here's what the dictionary says: the omission from speech or writing of a...

  • @SvetlanaKossoukhina No problem - it's good to be asked questions. I will try to clarify. Firstly, 'use language' and 'engage with language' are different, as engaging is wider than 'use'. We 'use' language when we communicate, but not when we think about it, analyse it, make choices internally, develop attitudes to it... that list can go on for a long time,...

  • @DavidGwynJones There have been some horrific outcomes of going to EMI when students aren’t ready for it. The pressures are very real for all concerned, and learning through English when you can’t is destined to fail.

  • @EraAkb Hello. The comment here really warns against making assumptions that, for example, understanding less in lectures, issues with interacting with others, and even difficulties getting through weekly readings are necessarily identifiers of insufficient LANGUAGE competence, as other elements may (and do) intersect, such as cultural elements of...

  • I did too, and Duolingo is rather obsessed with dragons from a rather early stage - it might scare people away from Welsh if they try it.

  • @ClaireD By definition, I don't think anybody 'chooses to make mistakes' exactly, but they can choose not to care, which isn't far from that (if you are aware that others see that usage as a 'mistake' but you use it anyway - e.g. I have a friend of mine from Hull who still says 'tooken', knowing others don't think it's a word, and another friend who'd say 'Rob...

  • Brave - not many go there so clearly! Nice to have that in the conversation...

  • I think it'd be difficult to say when 'EMI' came into existence, as I think following such terms blurs actual research and reality (e.g. people might say 'translanguaging research began in 2008', when its roots were planted sixty years earlier in fields with different names).

    EMI refers to when students learn through English (the instruction is in, but not...

  • Hello Alicia! Nice to see you here (Mary and I were talking about you a few days ago, saying how great it is that you've remained in contact in so many ways).

  • This dual stress is an important consideration - it's often framed a dual benefit (but not always experienced that way).

  • Good spot! There is indeed a missing 'in' before 'the class'. Could in your question is a polite way of saying 'there is a missing preposition. Thank you for noticing that.

  • That's quite common now - people sometimes study, read and write intensively in English and then have a bit of a conflict, as their ability to communicate in the area becomes split between their first language and English. I know a few people who studied in Britain and then worked in translation (in their fields), but oddly struggle most with translating...

  • Thank you. These are important points, but, I'm not quite sure what the 'benefits' are that you perceive there. I think competence is an important factor, but we, as educators, also need to recognise that teaching culturally, linguistically and educationally diverse students will always come with challenges and changes to practice. A lot of work is needed to...

  • @DavidGwynJones I'm imagining learning those in German (the language I took in school) - I'm not sure the teacher would have had an easy job).

  • You mentioned a sensitive word around here (Britain is withdrawing from ERASMUS soon, which has been a big part of our work here for many years). FutureLearn doesn't have emojis, but you can imagine the one I'd put at the end of this message!

  • That's a good question. We've had people contribute from a range of positions - e.g. lecturers, English teachers, administrators, & EMI/CLIL school teachers. The original idea was to aim the course at those who taught higher education content in English, but the term 'academics' might sound like it excludes many of the people who've contributed a great deal to...

  • @ClaireD I see your point here, but I think there's a slightly ironic tone here. For me, she's not actually saying native speakers do that in order to be difficult, more that the use is persistent, as I understand it. And I'd also problematise what you're saying about mistakes. I hear British people make 'mistakes' when walking down the road. Americans make...

  • I'm not sure that's quite what is in the nutshell. Formal standard English can be grammatically complex, hard to understand, and there are many forms of 'it'. Formality is socially constructed and relative to context (formality at home is lower than formality in higher education which is less formal than dinner with the Queen of England).

  • Sorry for a late reply - I just noticed this point... but you make a very good point about experience. Even if a teacher is naturally empathetic in character, it is very hard to have empathy if you do not understand the situation of the other person. I agree that learning in another language would benefit teachers in English-medium settings.

  • It's certainly relevant! Here, everybody gets the point, but some of the rhetoric is certainly suggesting that there are 'regular, native Americans' and 'others'. Worrying times.

  • Absolutely. We've always been advocates of needs analysis in EMI - and there's lots of scope for how that can and should be done too. I quite like the idea of opening up traditional needs analysis to critical reflections that allow more room for genuine dialogue, particularly in international education, rather than all measures, goals and objectives being set...

  • @ThinThiriZaw Indeed - English is used in similar ways in many fields, and we cannot separate many of these discussions from other areas. Good point.

  • Thank you @AndinaNurmaFadhila . It's kind of you to say that, and thank you for all your contributions. I think being a good educator is underlying most points related to EMI - consideration for learners, learning objectives and context are key. Thanks again.

  • Thank you @FarinaNaliniSam . That's great to hear and thank you too for your participation and engagement. We meet wonderful people here from whom we learn a lot by reading your insights, as everybody approaches this area with different insights, experiences and contexts, so new light is shed on the topic each time the course runs!

  • Thank you for sharing! These ideas become more real when we hear of situations like this.

  • That's really interesting. English clearly opens doors for some (but, as my previous comment asks, it isn't always clear if they are getting new jobs in English-medium programmes, or taking jobs from people who can't speak English... the answer to that depends on the context, of course)!

  • That is the idea, but it doesn't always work out as planned, unfortunately.

  • EMI does provide opportunities for some, but it can also take them away from others. I suppose a key question is whether EMI, and internationalisation more generally, provides growth to the university sector and creates more opportunities for students and staff, or whether it shifts practices into English from other languages. Thank you for sharing your...

  • The point here is that they aren't (necessarily) English teachers - they are teaching through English. What qualifies somebody to teach through English is an interesting question that many institutions are considering, but the answer is not clear.

  • Yes... I have friends from North America, Australia and South Africa, and those can/can't issues come up regularly. Everybody thinks what they said is clear, even if nobody else understood. Avoiding the "n't" is certainly the best policy there.

  • That happens to us all eventually. I have been asked where I'm from in a shop near where I grew up before - I thought they meant where in the county, but they meant where in the world (as I was speaking so slowly and clearly that they assumed I was from another country trying to be understood!).

  • Some excellent observations here - thank you for sharing that. There are good practices here that can be achieved in different ways, but which are part of good practice in presenting ideas to students (eliciting, clarifying, presenting/introducing, rhetorical questions, signposting, directing, etc.).

  • It's a good point - connecting with people who listen to you, and drawing on things that connect you, such as personal experience, can be important aspects of teaching and building relationships. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Interesting - thank you for sharing a direct insight into your teaching experiences!

  • @RexcesJamesLopez - thank you for your comment. I hope you do have success in integrating what you've gained into your teaching, but
    I also hope you learn more than we've covered so you can return and advise others in these areas.

  • Great to hear @TS'IRELETSOTLABA - I hope you stay energised. There's a lesson for all of us there: sometimes you need to talk about what you do with others and remind yourself of why you went into teaching and how you can do better. Speaking with others is the antidote to becoming stale or negative!

  • You've put that song in my head now!

  • That is very true - people tend to teach in the way they learnt, and little will convince them to change that!

  • Thank you - great clarification and expansion!

  • I think that can be true, but we also learn without being corrected (e.g. by reading, listening, writing and speaking). This is where teacher judgement is very important - to know when a correction will be useful and harmless.

  • 'I am not making a cake'. I would have quoted you in the Week 1 video, but I've filmed it already. I agree - language, here, if functional and the only evaluation that matters is your students'.

  • 'The main thing is can we communicate with our students?' - indeed!

  • Welcome Saritha! Great to have you here.

  • Good ideas. I also love interactive handouts - I try to use these as a way of scaffolding content. This is where information is given in an easily accessible way via a handout (online or physical), but there are spaces for specific notes and tasks, which students complete together in the session. Ideally, I try to put key information or quotations there, and...