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The Language Files

Ottobre 2013
A new service for lovers of the English language
Apostrophe crime! Thousand's
Apostrophe crime! Thousand's
Happy Birthday, ESOL
Happy Birthday, ESOL

Apostrophe crime

If you’ve been to London recently you may have seen this advertisement on buses. It’s for Cargiant, a company that sells second-hand cars. The problem is that it contains a very basic error: Thousand’s instead of Thousands.
Robert Colville, a journalist with The Daily Telegraph, calls the advertisers that made the mistake “illiterate savages.”  


This year marks the centenary of Cambridge English Language Assessment, also known as Cambridge ESOL (English for Students of Other Languages), a university department which evaluates the language levels of foreign students. Last year more than 150,000 Italians took Cambridge English exams (out of a world total of 4.5 million). Also in 2012 Michael Milanovic, Chief Executive of Cambridge English Language Assessment, signed an agreement with Italy’s then Education minister, Francesco Profumo, regarding admission tests for Italian universities. Michael Milanovic explained:
“Our job is to evaluate each student according to the six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) established by the European Union in 2001. We are also able to evaluate Italian teachers’ level of English knowledge, and to give them teaching techniques and materials on an ad hoc basis.”
What are the European objectives that Italy needs to obtain?
With reference to the European Framework of Languages, the best model still remains Sweden, where 80 per cent of students reach B1 level at 16 and B2 at 18.
That’s certainly impressive. How would you describe the Italian situation, in relative terms?
I’m afraid that we don’t have complete figures for Italian schools, but the average is good for those students that we evaluate.
This year your department celebrates its centenary. What role has Italy played in its story so far?
A very important one, going back to 1933, when  we opened an exam centre in the seaside resort of Sanremo (on the recommendation of wealthy Italians). It moved to Rome the following year.
Have you ever thought about prizes or scholarships for Italian students and schools?
“Of course! As a matter of fact, on May 28th five Italian schools (from Asti, Benevento, Catania, Torino and Vicenza) received special awards at Christ’s College in Cambridge.
How can Italians improve their English outside the classroom?
With original language DVDs and TV, magazines and books. This should be encouraged by parents and teachers. Very often you can learn more from simple things.
Interview by Silvio Pontani, editor of Europa Vicina


2013 marks the anniversary of another important institution in the world of English language teaching and learning: International House. In 1953 Briton John Haycroft and his Swedish wife Brita set up their first school in Cordoba in Spain. Today IH has 150 schools in over 50 countries. Haycroft, who sadly died in 1996, was also a lover of Italy and wrote a splendid book, The Italian Labyrinth. It is therefore fitting that International House Milan will be celebrating the 60th anniversary during its IH Milan Annual Conference, which is open to teachers from all over Lombardy. Special guests include Jim Scrivener (author of Teaching English Grammar) and Martin Parrott (author of Grammar for English Language Teachers). For enrolment and other information, visit www.ihmilano.it. As always, the event is free!
October 18, 2013 (9.00am to 6.00pm) Centro Congressi FAST, Piazza Morandi, Milan

Time to dance!

Preparations are under way for the St. Andrew’s Night Dinner Dance that Scot John Murphy has been organising in Milan for over 15 years. This year’s edition will be held on November 30th, St. Andrew’s Day. The event consists of a Scottish dinner followed by Scottish Country Dancing to live music.
Tickets cost €70 and can be ordered from John at j.murphy@buroservice.com


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