Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Plain English - The Simplest English

Learning Plain English

Teaching and learning English is a ‘Million Dollar Industry’ today. Whatever we learn at the so called elite institutions of English Language Teaching (ELT) becomes stale and archaic. Many times we fail to use appropriate words to suit the occasion. Roundabout way of speaking, use of complex and compound sentences become obstacles in understanding the speech or writing. We can use simple and plain language to avoid such cumbersome sentences.
The Plain Language Commission and the Plain Language Network, the Plain Language Association International (1993) are advocating the use of simple language. Their members include professionals who plan, write, design, and create communications projects to better serve the needs of the public, clients, customers, professionals, students and teachers. They work for all kinds of organizations — government departments, financial services companies, registered social organizations, regulators, ombudsmen, local authorities, pension schemes, hospital trusts, utilities, telecom companies and international law firms.
The Plain Language Commission is independent of Government. It is personally managed by Martin Cutts, author of ‘The Oxford Guide to Plain English’ and ‘Lucid Law’. Editors and course presenters include Sarah Carr, Ruth Thornton, Christina Gleeson and Judy Brown. They have brought out Plain English Lexicon to make the meaning of the words clear and understood well. They are publishing a newsletter “Pikestaff” which can be downloaded free of cost.

What is Plain Language?
‘The writing and setting out of essential information in a way that gives a co-operative, motivated person a good chance of understanding the document at first reading, and in the same sense that the writer meant it to be understood.’
On 26 July 1979 Martin Cutts conceived what seemed like one of the strangest crusades of modern times, the Plain English Campaign. Strange or not, the idea of plain language in written public information has gradually begun to take root in the public mind and in government and commercial life in many parts of the world. In the booklet “ Twenty Five years of battling gobbledygook”(26 July 1979 to 26 July 2004) we have a looks back on Cutts’s 25 years as a campaigner, editor, author and teacher in the plain-language field – first with the Plain English Campaign and now with Plain Language Commission – and considers what still needs to be done.

Style and Grammar

The Plain Language Commission gives importance to the style appropriate for the audience, with a good average sentence length (say 15-20 words), plenty of active-voice verbs, and reasonably short paragraphs. It also checks whether the document is free of pomposity, verbosity and officialese (no aforesaids, notwithstandings, herebys, adumbrates, commencements and inter alias). It gives importance to the text which is simple, grammatically sound and well punctuated.

Why should we use plain language?

The Plain Language Commission recommends the use of simple, sensible and clear sentences to make the people understand. As it is very simple everyone understands and there will not be any confusion in filling up the required documents. Plain language is fair language because it informs and empowers people instead of baffling and oppressing them. People have the right to understand the documents that affect them. Now the industry leaders are using clear writing as an important part of their brand image.

Free Books and Study Materials

A few of the Plain Language books can be downloaded free of charge from
They are:‘Twenty-five years of battling gobbledygook’, ‘Lucid Law’, ‘Clarifying Eurolaw’ all these three books by Martin Cutts, and ‘Clarifying EC Regulations’ by Martin Cutts and Emma Wagner.
‘The Oxford Guide to Plain English’ by Martin Cutts (Pub.: Oxford University Press), ‘Indlish — The Book for Every English-Speaking Indian’ by Jyoti Sanyal and ‘Good Word Guide’ (A&C Black) are available for sale. For more details you can contact the commission at this address: Plain Language Commission, The Castle, 29 Stoneheads, Whaley Bridge, High Peak SK23 7BB, UK

1 5 Tips on Wr i t i n g Plain English

1 Consider carefully your purpose and message before starting to write – clear writing and clear thinking go hand in hand.
2 Wear the readers’ shoes – how would you feel in their position?
3 Plan a structure that will help the reader, perhaps with headings, bullet-point lists, and a pithy summary of key points at the start.
4 In letters and emails, tell the reader clearly, concisely and courteously what has happened, how the situation stands, and what they can expect next.
5 Match your writing to the needs and knowledge of the readers – some of them may be baffled by official jargon and procedures.
6 Write sentences that average 15–20 words.
7 Keep the word order simple. In most sentences, put the doer early and follow it with an active-voice verb.
8 Take pride in using everyday English, sound grammar and accurate punctuation.
9 Where appropriate, use ‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘you’ to make the writing more human.
10 Maintain the flow by starting some of your sentences with connectors like ‘but’, ‘however’, ‘so’ and ‘because’.
11 Use commands when writing instructions.
12 Cut unnecessary words.
13 Check that the facts and judgement are right. Nothing compensates for inaccuracy or illogicality.
14 Pre-test your high-use documents with typical readers.
15 Apply common sense and scepticism to all guidance about writing.
Now, Plain English, sans flowery sentences with full of idioms and phrases, is becoming popular in England and other foreign countries. Why don’t we have taste of it? Let’s try.
Article by - Bedre Manjunath
Address: Bedre Manjunath, Transmission Executive, All India Radio, Chitradurga

Language Laboratory for learning Spoken and Written English

Language Laboratory

for learning

Spoken and Written English

Language Labs have come back! From LKG, UKG classes to PG classes all the schools, colleges, universities, professional training institutes, soft skill training academies should have Language Labs. Multipurpose Language Labs are being established in many residential schools and colleges.
All you have to do is to tune in your Radio, TV, or Tape Recorder to make an ‘Audio Lab’. Audio - Visual Aids like VCD, DVD, MP3 Players, Projectors help you to establish an ‘Audio-Visual Lab’. A Multi-Media Computer with recording facilities makes a ‘Computer Language Lab’. Mobile Phones, I-Pods, Laptops, Palmtops, PDAs serve as Labs.
Spoken and Written English, Language (SOFT) Skills, Parts of Speech, Vocabulary, Tense, Voice, Speech, Dialogues, Composition exercises can be learnt without much efforts at the Language Lab. You can have your own Laptop Multipurpose Multimedia Mobile Language Lab, if you spare a part of your income. Now, visit this Handy Lab and dream of establishing your own Lab.

What is a Language Lab?

A Language Laboratory is a room in a school, college, training institute, university or academy that contains special equipment to help students learn foreign languages by listening to tapes or CDs, watching videos, recording themselves, etc. The language laboratory is an audio or audio-visual installation used as an aid in modern language teaching. It was also called Speech and Writing Lab. All the four language learning skills (LSRW) are given importance and learners are provided with ample opportunities to practice by listening to the audio programmes and watching the video clips.
Technically, a language lab is an instructional technology tool consisting of a source unit that can disseminate audio, audio-visual, and/or written materials to any number of students at individual seats or carrels, with a wide variety of potential feedback mechanisms to the student, teacher, or other students.

History of Language Labs

The origin of the Language Laboratory can be traced as far back as 1877, when Edison invented the tin foil phonograph. In the 1920s, radios were used for foreign language instruction. Movies, tape recorders, televisions, video recorders, digital recorders and computers gradually started playing their role. The practical use of language labs began in the 1950s, when tape recorders with two tracks became popular, new teaching methods in language labs evolved. During the 1970s language labs became unpopular because of the expensive repairs needed to the open reel tape machines resulting from student misuse, neglect, wear and tear etc. and the change in the language acquisition theories from linguistic accuracy to communicative fluency.
In the 1980s language labs revived with the advent of the personal computers. Computer aided instruction (CAI) and Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL) gained importance with multimedia PC based labs. These digital labs allow students to record their voice and teachers to control student positions. They are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, integrating the latest technological innovations to enable students and teachers to improve the quality of language teaching and learning.
The International Association of Language Learning Technology (www.iall.net), the European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning (www.eurocall.org) and the Language Laboratory Association of Japan (http://langue.hyper.chubu.ac.jp/lla) are some of the professional organizations whose members provide leadership in the utilization of instructional technology for teaching and learning of languages.
The first development of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) software programmes can be traced back to the early 1960s,namely the Programme Logic for Automated Teaching Operations (PLATO) project. Developed at the University of Illinois, it was among the first computerized foreign language teaching systems. PLATO was mainly used for grammar and vocabulary drills, and translations. Since then, the impact of information technology (IT) on language teaching/learning has increased rapidly to include the present day’s wide range of software programmes, language learning websites and related audio-visual programme activities.
The Language Laboratory is used for language tutorials. These are attended by the students and persons who voluntarily opt for remedial English classes. Lessons and exercises are recorded on a cassette or computer so that the students are exposed to a variety of listening and speaking drills. This especially benefits students who are deficient in English and also aims at confidence-building for interviews and competitive examinations. The Language Laboratory sessions include word games, quizzes, extemporary speaking, debates, skits etc. These sessions can also be conducted with the help of internet where many websites provide online practice sessions.

Types of Language Labs

Audio System Language Lab

The Audio System Lab consists of a central tape recorder connected to a number of headsets or earphones through which the students can merely listen to the audio programme when the central tape recorder is played. The multi-media home theatre system speakers are used to facilitate listening in a large class. Pre-recorded cassettes can be used for this purpose. Some of the radio programmes meant for school broadcast are also useful. They can be recorded and played, if required.

Audio Active System Language Lab

This Lab consists of a central tape recorder connected to a number of headsets fitted with microphones making provision for students to respond orally. The teacher or instructor can respond to the feedback. It is a two way communication.

Audio Active Comparative System Language Lab

This Lab consists of a central tape recorder connected to a number of headsets, separate tape recorders fitted with microphones making provision for students to record feedback. They can use two track cassettes for this purpose. One for the lesson, called the master track and the other to record the learner’s response called student track.
After listening to the recorded pronunciation of words, programme etc. the listeners may compare their response with the master track. They may repeat the same and get it recorded. After recording they can playback their recorded material and listen. Thus they can make out their mistakes and correct them. The master track cannot be erased; it stays there for learning and comparison.

Audio Active Comparative System with Controls Language Lab

This Lab is almost the same as the Audio Active Comparative System Language Lab but some controls to communicate with the students, monitor or correct them without disturbing others have been added to it. The teacher can take command of the entire system whenever he/she decides. This Lab enables the students to learn at their own pace and the teacher to direct and monitor any one student or to address all students by stopping their tape recorders. This system constitutes the best language laboratory where a student can do these activities:
Play, stop, rewind and fast-forward the tape at will.
Listen to the recorded message individually.
Write or speak at will.
Proceed at his / her own pace and select the learning material at will.

Audio - Visual Multi-Media Language Lab

This Lab the same as the Audio Active Comparative System Language Lab with Controls, but all the modern audio-visual multi-media teaching and learning materials along with the recent technological advancements in the field of Teaching Technology are used to make teaching and learning interesting.
A number of books have been written on using modern Education Technology for teaching of English as Second Language (ESL).
Most of these laboratories became unpopular during 1980s because of the lack of technical assistance, outdated modules of recording, the expensive repairs resulting from student misuse, neglect, wear and tear, expensive tapes and booth maitainance, lack of interest among the teachers, misuse by the students and many other reasons sealed the future of the labs. But with the advent of affordable multimedia PCs in the late 1990s led to a resurgence and transformation of the language laboratory with software and hard drives in place of reels of analogue tape the Multi-Media Computer Langauge Labs emerged. As these are the days of Mobile Phones and Laptops the Portable / Laptop or Palmtop Labs are making a way into the class with a multi-media projector and home theatre audio system. Now-a-days these Multi-media Computer Language Labs are found in big cities and metros from KG classes to PG classes!

Multi-Media Computer Language Lab

This Lab is the perfect answer for language teaching with modern technology or Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). As most of the PCs have built in multi-media functions, it is very easy to record the voice, dialogue, skit and playback the same. This Lab offers computer-assisted instruction, which gives students an opportunity to work with word processing programmes, the internet communication network, and language skill development programmes.
For more details visit the following websites:






Multipurpose Multi-Media Computer Language Lab

This is an extended version of the Computer Language Lab which can be used for various other purposed besides language learning. Social science, other languages, science subjects, art, music, film or any other subject can be taught with the help of available multi-media devices. History becomes a lively subject when films related to history are screened and Astrophysics enchants one and all when the images of the sun, moon, stars and other heavenly bodies, satellites are shown. Mathematics becomes more interesting with live demos.
All the spots of historical importance can be brought into the class with the help of videos and photos. Model reading of poems and stories may be recorded and played back. Encyclopedia and Virtual Globe take you on a world tour. Internet connectivity brings the whole world into the classroom. Online library is the most powerful tool to master any subject. If this system is used at home, you have your Home Language Lab! Try it. Good luck!

Start your own Language Labs

It is very simple and easy to establish your own LAB at your own price at your own will. It is possible to build your lab with just Rs.100/-! This does not include the cost of land and building and mega infrastructure facilities. A separate room or hall will serve the purpose

Audio System Language Lab

(Expenditure: Rs.100 to 10,000/-)

The Audio System Lab is the cheapest of all the labs as it consists of a radio or tape recorder. Multi-media speakers can be used, if necessary, for the large classes. Headphones are only optional. Just switch on the radio and tune in the proper channel. BBC, VOA, ABC, CRI and many other broadcasting organizations broadcast English language programmess all day long. All India Radio Bangalore in collaboration with the Dept. of Education and DSERT is broadcasting ‘Keli Kali’, ‘Chukki Chinna’ and ‘Chinnara Chukki’ where lessons are aired from July to March every year. Just play the suitable programme at the suitable time as per the time-table provided.
Pre-recorded audio cassettes of Rhymes, Dialogues, Discourses, Speeches etc. can be played to know the original British pronunciation and accent.

Audio Active System Language Lab

(Expenditure: Rs.1,000 to 1,00,000/-)

The Lab provides an opportunity to record the voice of students and playback. Model tapes can be played first, then the same dialogue or line may be repeated and the same may be recorded. Reading a passage aloud or dialogue between friends, teacher and students can also be recorded and played back.

Multipurpose Multi-Media Computer Language Lab

(Expenditure: Rs.15,000 to 15,00,000/-)
This Lab is the perfect answer for language teaching with modern technology. Here you can play, listen, record, re-record, practice, watch, observe, comment, criticise or even enact a drama. This lab can accommodate any teaching / learning activity. High speed internet connectivity brings the e-library into the classroom providing an opportunity to learn on your own. Millions and millions of websites are ready for your service. Just log-in and experience the world of e-learning.

Bedre’s Laptop Multipurpose Mobile Language Lab

(Expenditure: Rs.25,000 to 75,000/-)
This is the best suited Personal Mobile Lab. It is the language teacher’s personal asset and dream. There is no need for waiting or asking permission of anyone to use this mobile lab. It is not at all costly. All you can use is a laptop (even palmtop) computer, multi-media speakers and a mike. If the school or college provides the LCD projector it would add to the beauty of the presentation. Some of the English teachers and lecturers are already using their Laptops and LCD Projectors to make their class interesting. The Laptop Multipurpose Mobile Language Lab has been in use at Bedre Foundation - Non-formal Education, Research and Training Institute, Chitradurga. It is being used to record the dialogues, to practice pronunciation of different words, to listen to various pronunciations and skit, to watch programmes and films related to language practice, to browse the internet and to help in making the teaching of all the subjects interesting. It is used as tool to teach Social Science, Mathematics, Science and other subjects also. Mobile phones and palmtop computers can be used in this mobile Lab.
The Laptop computer cannot replace the teacher but it brings a change in the role of the language teacher, from the traditional know-it-all authoritarian to a facilitator or a guide in the language learning process. Noted linguist Clifford says, “Computers will not replace teachers..., teachers who use computers will replace teachers who do not”.
Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL) software programmes are available in abundance and the language teachers have to select those that best suit the needs of the students. Teachers, who are unprepared, both technically and mentally, may leave students with an adverse impression of CALL. Successful integration of software programmes requires that the language teachers have a certain level of competency in the use of computers, an understanding of the dynamics of a CALL classroom and a commitment to the continuous use of CALL in the language classroom.
Most of the English language programmes have a special focus on general proficiency, report writing, business communication, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary enrichment, spoken and soft skills. Software programmes designed for general proficiency are usually available at different levels of difficulty, covering all four language skills (LSRW), grammar and vocabulary.
The classical 3Rs (Reading wRiting and aRithmetic) can be re-defined as Receive (instruction from native speakers and translators through cassettes or CDs), Repeat (lessons and animated drills using the record and playback features), Review (your progress with questionnaire, quizzes and games). Research and Recognition are essential to encourage the learners and teachers. A multimedia computer with suitable audio-visual recording facility throws open the doors of joy learning to one and all.
There are many professional companies which provide tested software and hardware required to establish a Multipurpose Multi-media Language Lab. Some of these companies provide yearly maintenance facilities too. Before establishing a full-fledged language lab it is better to go and visit some of the well established labs like the labs at CLU, RIESI, British Council, Kuvempu University, Bedre Foundation and make changes that suit your purposes and also to your institution. Those who are interested may contact these sites:










Article by - Bedre Manjunath
Bedre Foundation - Non-Formal Education, Research and Training Institute
Address: Duty Officer, All India Radio, Chitradurga - 577 501, Ph. 9448589089