English in Action: The English-Speaking Union

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Learning the Story and Future of English

Twenty teachers, life-long learners, and ESU members have returned from an immersion into the story and future of English -- the ESU's new one-week TLab-UK course at historic Worcester College of the University of Oxford.

The course represents an expansion of the ESU's partnership with the University of Oxford. Traditionally, this partnership has provided opportunities of longer summer study terms to secondary school teachers.  With this shorter, one-week format, "The Story and Future of English" provided opportunities for current and retired classroom teachers, ESU members, and English in Action volunteers to come together in a scholarly setting.  They lived as Oxford students, housed in dorm rooms, dining in hall and enjoying warm summer evenings in the garden of the college pub. One TLab scholar remarked, "You can't have a more inspiring setting than Oxford, and staying at Worcester was like staying in a botanical garden."

Participants attended classes taught by acclaimed Oxford instructors in the same buildings where England's legendary scholars and poets have received their education.  Each day began with breakfast in Worcester College's main hall, followed by a lecture.  After a mid-morning coffee break, participants returned for another interesting and inspiring lecture.  Each afternoon, they were treated to private tours of beautiful and historic Oxford sites and institutions, often being provided intimate access to historic documents and artifacts underscoring and illustrating the lessons learned.  Each evening, the happy "class" gathered in Hall for dinner and more discussion of what they'd learned about the ancient invasions and conquests that influenced the language, the skill and expert use of English by milestone writers including Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Austen, and the enormous effort to codifying English by the creators of the Oxford English Dictionary.  Closing the course were wonderful – and often amusing -- analyses and predictions of the effect global technology may have on English.

The course schedule:

Monday, July 17

Old English and Old Norse: A Linguistic Conquest
by Brian McMahon

"Divided by a common language?" British and American English, by David Grylls

Oxford Walking Tour

Tuesday, July 18

What is Old English? by Francis Leneghan

Wrought in the Middle: English Writing in the Later Medieval Period, by Helen Appleton

Guided visit to Keble College

Wednesday, July 19

"Fire-new words:" Shakespeare's Dramatic Language by Lynn Robson

The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
by Peter Gilliver

Guided visit to the Ashmolean Museum

Thursday, July 20

Jane Austen's Language by Sandie Byrne

The Future of English  by Simon Horobin

Guided visit to the Weston and Bodleian Libraries with access to the Special Collections

Friday, July 21

Writing and Reading Words in War-time
by Lynda Mugglestone 

Don't @ me, but: what's new about new words?
by Jonathan Dent

Formal Farewell Dinner

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