English, What Next? Perspectives; Approaches; Attitudes
by Neil McBeath


The title of this paper, fairly obviously, is taken from Graddol's (2006) publication English Next, which was available, free, from the British Council at the 2010 TESOL Arabia Conference. English Next is an interesting book, but it is perhaps interesting in ways that its author did not really intend.

To begin with, it is something of a Doomsday Book. If Graddol's thesis is correct, we have already passed the high water mark of EFL teaching. In fact, we passed it last year, in 2010 (Graddol 2006; 98-99). Our profession will now contract, and we, the EFL teachers who remain, will be forced, like the elves at the end of Lord of the Rings, to make our dignified way to the Grey Havens, and sail off into the West.
Cue Annie Lennox.

I have my doubts about the accuracy of this scenario, however. I have doubts because we have seen this end-of-days prediction before. In 1965, there was a conference in West Berlin that suggested that teachers of modern languages – NOT EFL, because in those days the EFL industry was in its infancy – were equally doomed (Padagogisches Zentrum, 1965). This was at the very start of the audio-lingual phase of language teaching, and several of the more enthusiastic delegates at that conference, particularly Moore (1965) were convinced that the language laboratory would effectively replace all teachers.

More recently, we have seen a prediction from South Korea that robot teachers will replace the human variety by 2018 (de Lotbiniere 2010a) and there have been a large number of almost equally inflated claims for the benefits of Computer Assisted Language Learning. Interestingly, however, in their latest collection of papers on materials development, Tomlinson and Masuhara (2010) were unable to find any contributor to cover the impact of the new technologies. Most tellingly, Nicholas Ostler, Chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, rejects the entire theory, stating bluntly "English is on an up at the moment, an up that is probably unprecedented in world history." (McCrum 2010; 6)

English Next – Language Issues

So let us look more closely at Graddol's evidence, and see precisely the grounds on which he claims that the demand for English teaching will decline.

To begin with, he offers figures for first language speakers, and suggests (P. 62) that "both Spanish, Hindi-Urdu and English will have broadly similar numbers." The pedants among us, of course, will have noted that you cannot use "both" when referring to three entities, but let that pass.

What is interesting here is Graddol's use of the term Hindi-Urdu to bolster his case. In the days of the British Empire in India there was a broadly vernacular language called Hindustani, which enjoyed various spellings, but since 1947 it has generally been accepted that Hindi and Urdu are separate languages, and that they are growing further apart with the passage of time.

Hindi is written in the devangari script, while Urdu is written using Perso-arabic script. Urged on by nationalist feelings on both sides of the Indian/Pakistani border, Hindi has added to its wordstock by replacing foreign borrowings with derivations taken from Sanskrit, while Urdu has followed the same path, using Arabic and/or Farsi. It does nothing to help the debate on language size if these developments are ignored, simply because they do not suit an author's argument.

Another point here, of course, is that while no one would dispute that Spanish is an international language, the same cannot really be said of either Hindi or Urdu. Ironically, while Tamil has a genuine claim to international status, there being Tamil speaking communities in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka, there are only limited clusters of Hindi or Urdu speakers living outside the borders of India and Pakistan, and most of those speakers are likely to be bilingual.

With Spanish, of course, the position is further complicated by the fact that many people living within metropolitan Spain would not, now, identify themselves as Spanish speakers. Basques and Catalans are particularly jealous of the autonomy that they acquired after 1977, and so it may be that Graddol is overestimating the numbers.

There is then his direct point that English is being challenged by both Mandarin and Spanish (P. 63). Back in January 2006, the headteacher of Brighton College made the triumphant announcement that, from now on, his students would receive tuition in Mandarin. This announcement had the desired effect. He got his headlines in the local and national press, and for a few days his school looked as if it had stolen a march on its rivals.

Then reality began to bite. It was true that the students at Brighton College would receive tuition in Mandarin, but what they would actually receive was one 40 minute lesson a week. Allowing for 40 weeks' teaching a year, over a six year stay in secondary school, the pupils would have received 160 hours of instruction. This is what my students at Sultan Qaboos University receive in eight weeks, and it is nothing like adequate preparation for anything other than the most basic survival if one is starting from scratch.

Mercifully, a recent look at the Brighton College website (www.brightoncollege.org.uk) suggests that a more intelligent plan has been adopted since 2006. In their first two years, students now receive THREE lessons a week. This drops to two in the third year, and rises to four lessons a week for the fourth and fifth years, when they take GCSE Mandarin. It is possible to go on to take "A" Level Mandarin, but that appears to be an option. What is even more interesting, however, is that the much vaunted Mandarin classes now seem to have been reduced to what is standard modern language teaching, and are a par with the considerably less newsworthy teaching of Spanish.

And while on the subject of Spanish, Graddol (2006; 63) also reports that "Trinidad and Tobago declared in 2005 that it aspired to become a Spanish-speaking country by 2020, setting a target of having at least 30% of public employees proficient within five years. Ironically, Trinidad and Tobago has been a popular study destination for Venezuelans learning English, but the language trade may now reverse, with a shortage of qualified Spanish teachers on the islands."

There are three points here. Firstly, Graddol seems to be one of the few people who have taken this statement seriously. It was made by the previous Trinidadian government, and while it received very limited coverage in the foreign press, both commentators (Davies 2005; Williams 2005) suggested that this decision was little more than a desperate attempt to attract the capital of the Free Trade Association of the Americas to Port-of-Spain. The Free Trade Association of the Americas, of course, is a project that has been put on hold. Many South American countries regard it as colonialism by the back door – a free trade area that will give huge advantages to multinational companies from the United States, while the United States government, in turn, is allowed to continue subsidizing its own farmers. Remarkably, however, the decision to try to change the official language seems to have aroused no controversy at all in Trinidad – possibly because the people there realize that it will never happen, and that the time frame of fifteen years is absurd.

Trinidad and Tobago are oil rich, and they have such a well established education system that they can accommodate extra Spanish classes and attract South American students who wish to learn English. Not only that, Trinidad and Tobago can claim not merely one, but TWO Nobel Prize Winners for Literature – Sir Vidia Naipaul and Derek Walcott – both of whom write in English. There is no earthly reason why the population should wish to change their language, even if such a policy were feasible.

Secondly, if there is already "a shortage of Spanish teachers on the islands", how does the government propose to train 30% of the public sector workers up to proficiency level within five years? It is clearly not possible to send large numbers of public officials to study in Venezuela.

Thirdly, Graddol's statement begs a lot of questions, and the more closely it is examined, the more questions arise. Who would be selected – immigration officials, tax officers, sanitation workers? What constitutes "proficiency" – the ability to hold a casual conversation, the ability to give directions; native-speaker literacy levels? The five years have, moreover, already elapsed, and the Trinidadian civil service remains resolutely Anglophone. In November 2009, it was announced that of the 24 different Ministries in Trinidad, only 14 had even established Spanish language programmes for their staff, and that it clearly a long way from having "30% of public employees proficient."

The linguistic challenges to English, in short, may be less severe than Graddol suggests.

English Next – Educational Issues

Nor, I would suggest, is he on much firmer ground when he turns his attention to educational concerns.

To begin with, I feel that he places far too much emphasis on the supposed impact of Content and Language Integrated learning (CLIL) (P. 86). Two years ago, I gave a paper at the 15th TESOL Arabia Conference (McBeath 2009) entitled "CLIL; Or Deep-Level ESP?" My contention was that there was nothing really new about CLIL and that ESP Practitioners had been using its basic premise for years – primarily because in advanced level ESP it is often impossible to separate language from content.

One example will suffice here. Writing from the Czech Republic, Chovanec and Budikova (2009; 134-35) point out that students who have graduated with degrees in English from conventional academic programmes "may find themselves – at least temporarily – challenged, for example, when asked to translate a legal document."

That statement strikes me as being incredibly naïve. OF COURSE a Czech graduate in English will find it challenging to translate a legal document. A native speaking graduate in English would find it challenging to understand a legal document. Legal documents are deliberately written so that they exclude the layperson, and translation is a specialized skill.

Anyone who wants to translate legal documents should train as a legal translator, and it precisely in that type of specialist course that ESP practitioners excel. They have the humility to understand that they are working alongside "students" who have a different type of professional expertise and that they are all "professionals who both learn and complement each other" (Irizar and Chiappy 2008; 13).

Unfortunately, a very, very small group of enthusiasts for CLIL, based almost entirely in small countries in Western Europe, have reinforced each other's claims by publishing cross-referential papers. I referred to this in 2009, pointing out that Smit and Dalton Puffer (2007b) cited papers from Dalton-Puffer and Nikula (2007), while both cited papers from two "core collections" - Dalton-Puffer and Smit (2007a); Marsh and Wolff (2007). At TESOL Arabia in 2009, I took issue with a book by Marsh; Mehisto and Frigols (2008) but what I had not realized was that Marsh was at the same TESOL Arabia Conference, presenting both a plenary (Marsh 2009a) and a workshop (Marsh 2009b) and within two weeks he would be at the IATEFL Conference in Cardiff, speaking in The 2009 CLIL Debate (Marsh 2009c). And who was on the panel with him? Graddol and Mehisto. You see what I mean about a very, very small group of enthusiasts?

Graddol also places great emphasis on the growth of English for Young Learners (EYL), pointing out that the age at which children begin to learn English has been steadily deceasing. He is on firmer ground here, for there has been an exponential growth in EYL since the 1970s. In those days, remember, the forerunner of CELTA and DELTA was the Royal Society of Arts Certificate in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language to ADULTS (my emphasis). Children did not get a look in.

Things have moved forward since then, and while critics like Phillipson (1992; 2003; 2006a; 2006b; 2008a; 2008b) may ascribe this to the black hand of linguistic imperialism, even Graddol admits that it is "driven primarily by parental and governmental demand" (P. 112).

Parents around the globe have an inchoate belief in what Mantero and Backer (2011) describe as "the advantages of learning a dominant language", and in many countries, language policy is partly dictated by the demands of the electorate. In 1944, when the British government passed the Butler Education Act, it was still possible to divide children at the age of eleven, stating openly that only a small minority were intelligent enough to merit a special curriculum and enhanced facilities. Very few governments would dare to be so blunt today.

As a result, governments frequently claim to have given universal access to language learning, even when there is evidence that this is not the case. Graddol offers a map from 2002 (P. 88) which suggests that English is taught in 80% of the primary schools in Austria, Norway and Spain, although it is available to no more than 20% of the same cohort in Belgium, and in Germany – which is, of course, far larger than all the other four countries combined.

The Times of India (16/1/2010), moreover, reports that, nationwide, only 23.5% of children in class 1 could "read capital letters", although in the state of Kerala, 85% could do so. Strangely, "in class V the all-India average of students who can read sentences is 25.7 per cent, by class VIII it goes up to 60.2 per cent." The paper draws no conclusion from these figures, but the discrepancy might result from a number of factors. Firstly, the weaker students might drop out. Secondly, poorer students might be forced out of school to earn a living as illegal child workers. Thirdly, the syllabus might be more engaging at the secondary level, and finally, secondary school teachers might be of a higher caliber than those in primary school.

On that last point, I offer as evidence the following e-mail, which was sent to the IATEFL Literature, Media and Cultural Studies Special Interest Group only last month, 4th February 2011:-

"I am an educator working in India and at the moment I am traveling inside the eastern most tip of India, Nagaland. I have been touring this place for the past 5 years where insurgency and extortion is almost a way of life. Though I have been trying to bring in values of tolerance and academic exchanges here, every visit leaves me stunned as to just how much needs to be done. At one of the training sessions many of the teachers actually practiced the opening lines of Hard Times. They wanted one simple factual answer, set tasks like that and expected only ONE correct answer. When I gave handouts which were open-ended and had tasks which generated exchanges they were shocked! They said this is so confusing. You haven't set the tasks properly! I decided to show them a clip from The Dead Poets' Society later on and have a discussion with them on teaching methods. Gradually these teachers began opening up, but I realize that they are going to practice the same methods of drilling in facts when they get back! The teachers blame lack of school management support, the management blames the parents and thus it goes on."

This is a grim picture, but it is no worse than Hu's (2008) account of the differentials that apply between schools in China. This study of four different schools found that while two had permanent English teaching staff and extra-curricula activities, one other school had only two temporary teachers of English, and the last had no teachers at all. Nor did the head teacher have any plans to implement what was official government policy, and this is deeply significant in a country where, as McGregor (2010) explains, the Communist Party still controls every aspect of public life.

Hu describes the fourth school as a "village school", and despite the glitz of Shanghai's skyscrapers, the majority of the Chinese population still lives in villages. Graddol, I feel, places far too much emphasis on the challenge that Chinese poses to the dominance of English, primarily because he measures language importance in terms of numbers of speakers. Graddol, however, is a linguist. He is not an economist or a political thinker.

A counter argument to Graddol could come from Gladwell (2008) and Hartford (2006). Gladwell suggests that dynamic transformations are frequently the result of particular types of circumstances. In the case of China, these circumstances aligned after the death of Mao Zedong. The Party leaders who succeeded him had endured the Great Leap Forward (1958-62) which had literally reduced the rural population to starvation and, in some instances, cannibalism (Dikotter 2010). That trauma was followed by The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-76) which convulsed the cities and halted industrial production.

After the fall of the ultra-Maoist Gang of Four, the urban youth who had been exiled to the country to learn from the peasants returned to the cities, but they came with a different attitude. "Most city youths, young or old, developed a strong contempt for the peasants after they had settled down among them. Mao, of course, had expected the opposite reaction" (Jung Chang 2004; 512). The city youths were the first entrepreneurs; the innovators who began the economic transformation of China into a booming, Communist Party regulated, economy.

Hartford indicates that, at present, the vast majority of the Chinese population is engaged in productive work. There is a small percentage of retired people, and the "one-child" policy has removed the burden of childcare from mothers, allowing them to enter the workforce in their millions. What Hartford does NOT say, however, is that the current demography carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

To begin with, at the time of Mao's death, the Chinese GDP was so low that it was possible to achieve spectacular growth rates. A population exhausted by political posturing was content to allow the Communist Party to retain its grip on society in return for an ever improving standard of living.

Now, however, that docile workforce is on the brink of retirement. As it ages, the numbers in productive work will fall, and there will be an explosive growth – from 140 million to 470million – in the number of retired people. That aging population will have to be sustained by the "little emperors" of the one child policy, and that policy has already resulted in such a gender imbalance that 30 million Chinese men are doomed never to marry. Factor in these destabilizing policies, along with the constant possibility that North Korea will implode, and it might be that it is the Chinese economy, rather than the EFL industry, that has peaked.


Much of Graddol's argument, therefore, is a matter of perception. Working from government policy and official statements, it is extremely easy to conclude that things are happening when they are not. In England, a much trumpeted language initiative turns out to be no more than the addition of one other GCSE to a school curriculum. In China, English for all effectively means English for all only if the resources are available and the administration is prepared to organize them.

And then comes the unexpected. Graddol could never have foreseen this, but in 2009, the government of Rwanda decided to switch from French to English (Vesperini 2010). This was very much a political decision, and it has stretched Rwanda's resources (de Lotbiniere 2010b), but it flies completely in the face of Graddol's thesis. It also opens up the possibility that other states in La Francophonie might follow suit. Cameroon, officially English/French bilingual would be an obvious candidate for change, but others are Benin, bordering Nigeria, and Togo, bordering Ghana.

What is also a matter of perception is the state of the EFL industry. There was an interesting statement in a now locked thread on the Saudi Arabian discussion boards of Dave's ESL Café, on 7th February 2011. Someone calling himself Montanaland stated that "I am certainly not going to grow old and end up with NO money in the bank because I wanted to "tefl" for a decade".

This goes back to points that I discussed at the 2010 TESOL Arabia Conference (McBeath 2010). There seems to be a group of EFL teachers who are determined to wallow in their own collective misery. This is something that I do not understand, and it is something that makes no sense in the setting of an EFL Conference. People who come to conferences are, by definition, the most engaged members of the profession. We read academic papers. We write academic papers. We pay to attend conferences. We discuss educational issues. We do not sit down by the waters of Dubai Creek and weep.

According to Salas and Mercado (2010; 20) "teachers…..bring their entire being to the classroom." Would that were true. Even the most engaged of us runs on autopilot sometimes, and many of our less engaged colleagues do nothing else. EFL teaching remains a profession that is still far too easy to enter, and many of those who enter the profession are a long way from being professional. I shall return to this theme when I talk about attitudes.

One persistent problem with perceptions, moreover, is the perception held by other stakeholders in the educational process. When I was serving in the Royal Air Force of Oman, I was turned down for promotion on the grounds that I was "just a teacher" by a senior Omani officer who was an administrative officer. In other words, he was "just a clerk". The same man once asked me, "What do you do? 'This is a pen. This is a pencil.' That's what you do." It made me wonder who he imagined had taught his Omani NCOs how to conduct official military correspondence in English, but let that pass. The contempt; the suggestion that what we do is easy, was open.

For many years, moreover, there was a false perception that Native English Speaking Teachers (NESTs) were automatically superior to Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs). The growth and spread of EFL has been such that that particular heresy has all but disappeared in reputable educational establishments, but at the bottom end of ELT – in unscrupulous language schools – it remains current. At the top end, however, Arab Gulf universities in particular are still quite happy to offer lower salaries to those who work in language centres as opposed to faculties. Masters degrees and doctorates have less currency for those teaching Preparatory Year Program (PYP) students than they have for those teaching "real" students in faculties. The steady increase in the number of qualified Arab Gulf national EFL teachers may eventually change that perception, but change could be a long process at a time of financial uncertainty.


Approaches to EFL have, of course, most definitely changed in the past 30 years. Peter Viney was an Invited Speaker at the 16th TESOL Arabia Conference. He gave a paper about reading (Viney 2010), but Viney's fame rests on the groundbreaking Streamline Series (Hartley and Viney 1978; 1979). This series came out after grammar-translation had faded; after the audio-lingual approach had failed to live up to expectations, and just before we went entirely notional-functional.

We then had the communicative approach, which foundered on the twin rocks of accuracy and fluency, and for a while there was a move to principled eclecticism. The problem with principled eclecticism was that, all too often, it was unprincipled. Its more desperate advocates used the term to justify a grab-bag of approaches, coming close to what Abbott and Wingard (1983) refer to as TENOR – the Teaching of English for No Obvious Reason.

Recently, moreover, we have seen an increasing fixation with quality control. "Those of us in the arts and humanities are under growing pressure to work 'more scientifically' whatever that may mean" (Bassnett 2009; 17). Bassnett is being disingenuous here. She knows exactly what it means. It means holding what Salas and Mercado (2010; 21) refer to as "data-driven discussion."

In one way this is a good thing. It frees us from unsupported generalizations. On the other hand, it also suggests that if something cannot be measured, then it does not exist. Effectively, the discourse of economic management and political campaigning is being applied to education, and educators are being asked to accept that all teaching must be subject to a detailed taxonomy of objectives, regardless of whether that taxonomy is appropriate. Bassnett's own specialist area, literary translation, is one which does not easily lend itself to the taxonomic approach, but at present, "through an intricate juxtaposition of inspection and evaluation regimes, academics all the time are supposed to be evenly production researchers, administrators and teachers." (Shankland 2010; 228).

Yet again, however, this characterization applies only to the top end of the EFL profession. In some places, stakeholders require only submissive teachers; those who are prepared to do no more than deliver a set package. That was what the Royal Air Force of Oman attempted to establish when it first produced the dreadful Target; The Sultan's Armed Forces General English Course (RAFO No Date). The initiative failed because the materials were so ill conceived and badly written (McBeath 2006a; 2006b; 2007) and six years on, RAFO are still trying to revise their course and salvage something from the wreckage.

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) materials used at the Technical Studies Institute in Dammam were far better conceived (McBeath 2008), but unfortunately, in that institution, the RSAF officers demanded no more than Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP) teaching. The inevitable result of that was that teachers either burnt out trying to develop original lessons, or gave up, and taught "the book."


Such different teacher reactions leads us on to the question of attitude. I have already referred to Montanaland, and his posts on Dave's ESL Café in February 2011. Twice, in his original posts, he wrote THEIR when normal usage would demand THERE. This is precisely the usage that Fitzsimons (2010; 31) emphasizes in writing frames used by 16 year old students, Back in the 1970s, moreover, when I was working as an examiner for the Cambridge Examination Syndicate at GCE "O" Level, confusing the two spellings would have been described as a "gross error" – even in a 16 year old.

Montanaland, however, is completely unabashed "I along with most of my friends haven't taken an english (sic) course since maybe freshman yr (sic) in college? (sic) You will find that most young professionals sometimes make a usage mistake while putting together a post to help the uninformed on some non-work related website like this one."

So that's all right then. Lots of other people are equally incompetent, and so it does not matter. What is truly alarming about this, of course, is that Montanaland is not alone in his ignorant, self-satisfied arrogance. On July 26th, 2010, another young professional calling himself "superfly snuke" (sic) also posted in the Saudi Arabia forum on Dave's ESL Café. Under the heading "Grammarians; get a life", he pontificated that "Teaching EFL does not require a textbook understanding of grammar." To some extent he may be correct, just as dentistry does not require a textbook understanding of the nervous system, but in both instances I would suggest that the knowledge might help.

Also in 2010, and also on Dave's, the poster who calls herself Veiled Sentiments took furious issue with two terms that I have used in the course of this paper – PYP and NEST. In her opinion they are both unnecessary.

This raises the question of why we should pay any attention to her opinion. The woman is retired, and she had a very checkered employment history when she was working in the Arab Gulf. Most importantly, I would suggest that she has undermined what little credibility she ever had, simply by posting over 12000 times in the past eight years.

Now I would be the last person to suggest that some of the psychotic or pathological personalities who post on EFL websites are typical of the profession. Indeed, I sincerely hope that they are not. Yet the evidence which I have just cited raises significant questions.

"When did it become fashionable to be stupid?... The Cult of the Idiot. The Elevation of the Moron." (Harris 2007; 13). When people like Montanaland and superfly snuke (sic) can find work as EFL teachers, then we are in trouble. We are in trouble, because our profession is attracting people who are willfully ignorant of basic skills. It is not that they do not know about grammar and usage. They do not care. In their own unlovely phrase, they CBA – "can't be arsed" (Tobin 2009; 5).And so-called teachers who "can't be arsed" enough to bother mastering the basic elements of their subject matter are most unlikely to show any concern about their students.


So where does this leave us? Firstly, I think, it shows that Gaddol's thesis is, at best, suspect. At worst, it is completely flawed. It is based on the assumption that the geopolitical situation as it applied in 2006 was fixed, and that was always a false assumption. Twenty five years ago, no one foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union. Six months ago, no one could have predicted any political changes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt or Bahrain. Why, then, should we assume that current stability of China will last?

Secondly, Graddol is probably correct when he predicts changes in the type of English that we teach, but this does not necessarily mean more CLIL, and falling birthrates will automatically limit further expansion of EYL.

What is far more likely is that there will be a growing demand for ESP/EAP/EOP/EBP. The acronyms here are interchangeable, but all of them represent a turning away from "general English", "school English" or TENOR. Indian students, in the first instance, do not need "communicative English" for social purposes. "My name is Vijay. I like computer games. I do not like cricket. My favourite film star is….." can be said in any one of India's other languages, and in this area English has to take its chances.

To study medicine in one of India's universities; to become an engineer; to work in the IT industry; to become a non-resident Indian executive in any of the banks that flourish in the Arab Gulf, however, English is essential. English for Specific, Occupational or Business Purposes will provide the specialist lexis and technical terminology e.g. quantitative easing, that are essential for these fields.

Similarly, the vast majority of Chinese learners of English will NEVER need the polite communicative phrases that typify general English courses. It is estimated that some 0.5% of the Indian population speaks English all the time. That is a tiny percentage, but it represents 50 million people. In China, by contrast, NOBODY speaks English as a first language. Neither does anyone aspire to do so. In Babrakzai's ( 2004) phrase, they "Learn English because they want to compete with the Anglo world, rather than join it." For this, again, specialist English will be required.

Specialist English requires specialist teachers. The naïve native-speaking backpackers; the semi qualified products of one-week "training" courses and even those who have only CELTA or DELTA level qualifications may find it harder to find employment. At the same time, the well qualified may start to command better salaries and conditions, because they will have skills that are in demand. EFL will become a true profession; a career choice that is difficult to enter, but which offers tangible rewards.

Finally, people who believe that the term "young professional" is synonymous with "semi-literate oaf" will be in for a rude awakening. One of the things that particularly alarms me about teachers' cyber communities is the extent to which anonymity appears to sanction ethnocentric prejudice. Freed by "avatars", or what one moronic poster recently called "pseudo-names", some teachers reveal a frightening level of insensitivity, cultural unawareness and downright racism. (McBeath 2011)

It is neither clever, nor courteous to abuse one's host society, and expatriate teachers should never forget that they are the ones who made the choice to work abroad. None of us is bonded labour, and it would be extremely heartening to see more teachers attempt to live up to Troudi's (2011) statement, "Teaching is about passion, love of education and learning, inspiration, compassion, consideration of others, dedication to trusting students, belief in the power of knowledge, and an incessant attempt to make a difference in the lives of learners."

This is not easy. Anyone who can consistently achieve all those aims is an exceptionally talented major saint. But that does not mean that we should not attempt to honour these objectives.

Speaking entirely personally, I have never regretted my choice to teach in the Arab Gulf, and I have enjoyed a far more satisfying career here than I would ever have been able to hope for back in Britain.


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Neil McBeath worked for twenty four and a half years as a uniformed officer in the Royal Air Force of Oman. During that time, he taught EFL, ESP and English for Military Purposes (EMP). He declined to renew contract in June 2005, and took at two year contract with BAE Systems, teaching at the School of English Language, Technical Studies Institute, Dhahran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has now returned to Oman, and teaches at Language Centre of the Sultan Qaboos University.

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