English is alive and well and will continue to grow, says Mark Rendell, Director of International House London, headquarters of a network of affiliated language schools around the world with a hundred and sixty schools in over fifty countries.
The noted linguist, David Crystal, wrote that over 1.5 billion people in the world use English at some time and we know that there are many more non-native speakers than native speakers in the world.
Isn’t there a trend to educate language students in their own countries instead of going abroad to study? English, Rendell says, is an essential underpinning of our international environment in education and in business and globalisation depends on the globalisation of language. He endorses the ‘decentralisation’ of English and the acceptance of ‘international English’ rather than the standard varieties of British, US and Australian English and emphasises that an important part of language training is to expose learners to the use of the language above and beyond its ‘metropolitan’ centres. However, he doesn’t think that will stop learners wanting to travel to improve their knowledge of languages in international centres.
And what about digital learning? Isn’t it simpler and cheaper to learn a new language on a computer? There is a place for it, says Rendell, but he feels that since language is about communication and culture the ‘face-to-face’ of learning in a country where the language is spoken and getting together with local people and people from other countries, using a common language, is very important.
Finally, what about Brexit? Faced with a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit at the end of October, many UK centres fear a shortage of students, partly due to visa difficulties. Rendell disagrees. European students will still want to come to the UK to study, he says, and entry will not be a major problem. In fact, the government’s commitment to two years of work rights in the UK after graduation from UK courses will encourage more to study here. Also, he says, the UK is itself a multinational, welcoming and largely tolerant country with a tremendous cultural history. Brexit, he feels, has lots of unknowns but has also sharpened minds and made us focus on one of the things Britain does really well – international education.
The diversified activities of International House include language teaching for adults, summer camps for young learners, its IELTS English language proficiency exam centres, the standard recognition of English language ability in applying for university or jobs in the UK. And, of course, teacher training. John Haycraft, who founded IH with his wife Brita in the 1950s, revolutionised language teacher training and developed what are now the CELTA and DELTA teacher training qualifications run by Cambridge Exams, the Cambridge University Examinations Board.
It’s all about bringing people together from all over the world in a welcoming atmosphere, says Rendell and helping them to communicate with each other, hence the name, ‘International House’.