The Academy of English prides itself on its excellent communicators. Our communication skills are not just put to use in the classroom, but have been engaged in different settings: after-dinner speeches, radio and TV broadcasts, career motivation talks, public and academic lectures. Our language service reaches far beyond Oldenburg, but crisscrosses the country with the goal of entertaining, enlightening and educating our audiences in the English language.
Here are some examples of a broad range of topics on which we have delivered presentation.
Auf Wiedersehen, Deutsch: The Decline of German as a Foreign Language in the English school system
Today, white working class boys from non-selective state schools are least likely to take a foreign language as an exam subject at an English secondary school. In fact, in 2013, just 28.1% of students in Sandwell took the secondary school leaving qualification in one foreign language. It ranked in the bottom three on the table of modern foreign language take-up in England and Wales: 149 out 151.
With regular national headlines of German “declining rapidly” (BBC, June 2015) and university courses in German in “freefall” (The Telegraph, 2013), the questions of why this decline has happened and how it was precipitated will be at the heart of this talk. And how does this “dramatic decline” (Telegraph, 2015) in German take-up in England and Wales square with the more favourable and positive reception of all things German in recent times (Dittert, 2013)?
In a very British talk with a rich blend of humour, fact and highly engaging delivery, the speaker will draw on his own personal experience as a pupil and teaching assistant in the German department at his secondary school. Not only will the talk address the challenges of a school boy learning German; but it will also chart the course of the development of German as a Foreign Language, the attempts of reversing the declining demand as well as looking at what will happen to German on the English school curriculum in the future: is it really Auf Wiedersehen, Deutsch?
The First World War: A Family Affair
One-hundred years ago, in June 1915, the First World War was entering its tenth month. Initial enthusiasm of a quick victory on both sides quickly waned and the conflict was now being fought on multiple fronts with massive casualties and loss of life on all sides, irrespective of whether it was the Western Front, the Eastern Front, in the Caucasus region or even on the home front with aerial bombing campaigns.
In the same month, a century ago, an article appeared in the English regional newspaper Midland Chronicle entitled “West Bromwich Man with Eight Sons and Grandsons at the Front”. It tells of a story of a Crimean War Veteran whose principle male members of the family were serving, in one capacity or another, on different fronts around the world. The newspaper article and its accompanying text about an unknown family in a lesser-known part of Britain go to show the global extent of the First World War, but also how the conflict had an “impact on every community and every family in our country” (David Cameron).
The newspaper article in question has a particular relevance because the West Bromwich man in question, Mr. Francis Smith, was none other than the great-great-great grandfather of the speaker. In this lecture, the speaker will look back at the conflict through his own family’s experience, sharing some of the memorabilia and stories that have been passed down to him. The conflict will be presented through the lens of the speaker’s family history in a reflective personal genealogy account and aims to support the argument that the First World War “changed everything” in Britain, not least because “it was the first war that involved the whole population of this country” (Paxman).
Where East Meets West: In the English classroom in China
From Al Weiwei to the treatment of child orphans, China’s rise is being followed in the Western media by a critical appraisal. At best, China is perceived as a major competitor; at worst, it is regarded as an enigmatic threat, one devoid of democracy and free speech. And yet, in classrooms right across the country, particularly in English lessons, professionals employ a range of methods that do much to support ideas of democracy and freedom of speech – from classroom ballots to political style debates and presentations.
This talk shall explore the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) by native speakers in China. By 2020, China is expected to become the largest EFL market in the world with 500 million learners and an increasing number of foreign teachers (Wài Jí Jiào Shī) from the English-speaking hemisphere. This growth presents itself as a challenge but also an opportunity to widen understanding and awareness of the English-speaking world and its system of values.
A British insight on visiting North Korea
Labelled by former U.S. president George W. Bush in 2002 as a member of the notorious “axis of evil”, North Korea is generally regarded by most nations as an outcast in the international community, a “pariah state”. So it is no wonder, therefore, that the number of western tourists to North Korea remain at an absolute minimum. Human rights abuses, the heavily militarized border with its southern neighbour and war rhetoric do much to turn tourists off this remnant of the Cold War in the Korean peninsula.
Fascinated by the division between North and South, a border dividing homogenous people, the speaker took the plunge and visited the country exactly a decade ago. Seeing similarities with the East-West divide between capitalist west and communist east in Germany during the Cold War, the speaker left the relative comfort zone of capitalistic China for the Juche Regime in North Korea in February 2005. The lecture retells the story of a visit to North Korea from the perspective of a British citizen who studied German history, specifically the east-west divide.
The lecture illustrates the story of a journey that was full of shocks and surprises: from the bugged hotel rooms to the bizarre behaviour of waitresses; from the cult status of the Great Leader, Kim Il-Sung, to the propaganda of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il. Alongside this story, the speaker will approach the question of normal everyday life, as he perceived it on his trip, and how this has transformed over the past ten years. By the end of the lecture, the audience will get a greater feel for North Korea despite its total unpredictability and secrecy to outsiders.