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May 2004 issue

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Market steady as attacks rock Spain

Two hundred and two people were killed in Madrid after terrorist attacks brought the city to a standstill in March this year when explosives were placed on trains during the morning rush hour. More than 1,400 people were also injured. The world was shocked at the catastrophe, which was thought to be the work of a splinter group linked to al-Qa'ida.
Almost immediately, nationwide peace rallies were organised to show a united front against terrorism, and two million people attended the rally in Madrid alone. Colleagues in the Spanish language industry said that language students quickly became involved in the rebuilding process.

At Estudio Internacional Sampere, Juan Manuel Sampere said language students wanted to help in whatever way they could. 'No student, teacher or member of staff was hurt, thank God,' he said. '[Students and teachers] reacted positively, asking 'Where can we give blood? Where can we apply for volunteering? What can we do to help?'.'

Speaking after the surprise win by Spain's socialist party in the ensuing national election, Robin Gravina, from OISE Madrid, added, 'The desire for peace and unity in Spain is now so strong that visitors will feel part of a whole new era. '

Agents reported that immediate travel plans did not seem affected by the events in Spain. Peter Cassalette, Managing Director of the LAL Group, based in Germany, said, 'There was a little decline [in travel to Spain] just after the incident, however, we do not think that this was representative for the situation. There were no rebookings or cancellations.' In the USA, Kay Rafool of Language Link added, 'We have had no cancellations whatsoever of existing reservations. We have had questions regarding transportation through Madrid, but everyone is still travelling.'

UK schools reported that bookings out of Spain seemed largely unaffected, although Andrew Pritchard, Sales Director of EJO, pointed out that 'the Spanish market for summer programmes is traditionally late so one can only speculate'. He said one optimistic sign was 'we have not seen any decrease in our European homestay groups so far', and added that the adult market was also unaffected.

David Anthonisz at SGV in the UK was in Madrid at the time of the attacks. 'When I got back to the UK, there was a short flurry of phone calls from agents asking about cancellation conditions but nothing more,' he said. 'Bookings have remained steady and agents that I have spoken to inform me that enquiries are at a normal level for the time of year.'


UK innovation honoured again at 'Elton' awards

The annual British Council Innovation in English Language Teaching awards, popularly known as the 'Eltons', took place earlier this year in London, UK, and honoured a number of organisations that were judged to have produced innovative and ground-breaking products and services in terms of English language teaching (ELT).

The event has grown in size and prestige in its second year, and many faces from the British ELT industry were in attendance to see the awards go to The Macmillan dictionary and multi-media package, based on real English usage; Natural Grammar, by Scott Thornbury - a book tackling grammar based around words rather than verb forms; and Speechinaction, by Richard Cauldwell - a CD-Rom using up-to-date technology and practical activities to help pronunciation.

Also on the shortlist for an Elton was English [Out There!], a London-based school that uses a concept of teaching English out and about on the streets to make ELT as relevant as possible. Jason West, Managing Director of English [Out There!], said, 'Winning would have been great, but we did really well to get short-listed and get to stand next to the likes of Macmillan, Oxford University Press, The London Institute et al.'

Cherry Gough, Deputy Director of English Language Teaching at the British Council, pointed out that 'millions of people around the world want to learn English because of the personal and professional opportunities speaking English brings'.

She added, 'A lot of these people use UK products and services because of their deservedly high reputation for innovation, practicality and quality. Through the Eltons, the British Council celebrates the UK's success in English language teaching.'


Mandarin to be language of future, says report

While English will remain an important global language in the future, its dominance is far from assured, as languages such as Mandarin, Urdu and Spanish will gain importance globally, according to a report by British language expert, David Graddol.

Writing for the journal, Science, Graddol has painted a picture of a multilingual world in the future, where native English language speakers will take language learning as seriously as other nations in the world.

'English is likely to remain one of the world's most important languages for the foreseeable future, but its future is more problematic - and complex - than most people appreciate,' he said, suggesting that English will be 'first among equals' in the future rather than the only key player in terms of global language.

He suggests that Mandarin, for example, is likely to become the 'must-learn' language of the next decade.

As of 1995, the Chinese language has been the most widely spoken in the world, and Graddol predicts that by 2050, there will also be more speakers of Hindi/ Urdu and Arabic among 15-to-24 year olds than native English speakers of this age. Spanish was almost as significant, he added, explaining that he focused on this age group to give an indication of the future.

English will remain an important second language for many, and fuel generations of multilingual and bilingual speakers, but Graddol warned, 'Monolingual speakers of any variety of English - American or British - will experience increasing difficulty in employment and political life, and are likely to become bewildered by many aspects of society and culture around them.'

Meanwhile, a Canadian government census has revealed that Mandarin is now the third most used language in Canada, after English and French, according to China's People's Daily.


Shane Global Village to separate

Language school chain Shane Global Village (SGV) is to separate and re-group as the two entities that it was before the merger two years ago. Shane English Schools and Global Village cited an inability to come to terms for taking the company beyond a marketing alliance as the reason for the decision.

Although the SGV brand name will stand until the end of the year, from April 1, the marketing for SGV schools will be split. Shane retains the London central, London Bromley, Hastings, Cape Town and Auckland centres, while the Global Village chain includes the Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Victoria, Hawaii, Sydney and Brisbane schools. Both companies will retain informal ties.

Cam Harvey, President of SGV, said, 'A large degree of success was undoubtedly achieved in developing the SGV brand, however the two groups had arrived at a point where further benefits in the relationship could not, unfortunately, be realised.' Harvey is in charge of marketing for Global Village, while David Anthonisz is Global Marketing Director for Shane English Schools.


UC Berkeley closes down

From this month, the University of California Berkeley Extension's English Language Program will no longer operate. The 31-year old programme, which was well known among agents because of its established reputation, has been disbanded.

Extension Dean, James Sherwood, said that one reason for the decision was the fact that the programme had ceased to be unique in a world where 'such programmes are ubiquitous'.

He added, 'Twenty years ago, the US was the destination of choice for most international students' Today, we see more and more students choosing other nations, such as the UK, Australia and Canada.'


Yes Education Centre bought by Ardmore

The Ardmore Group in the UK, which comprises Ardmore Language Schools, See Europe and Passport Language Schools, has purchased another school to add to its group.

The acquisition of the Yes Education Centre in Eastbourne takes the business into the adult teaching domain, and the previous owners of the British Council-accredited school, Bob and Sandra Lewis, will now act as consultants to the Ardmore Group.

David Walker, Chief Executive of the company, said, 'We have worked to create a significant language travel group with good profits, which we plan to grow by acquiring businesses that are in need of investment.'

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