Posted 15/3/16
A few months ago, I collaborated with James and Luke Vyner from Creative Listening. We produced a short video in which I go into the streets of London to investigate an English word which may or may not exist!

The video explores attitudes to variation in English, especially concerning different ways in which native and non-native speakers use the language. Although the video focuses on a single word (touristic) the idea is that it raises general issues.

Of course, there are many differences in the ways that native speakers use language and I have made two videos to demonstrate this.

Before uploading a PDF lesson plan, I would like some feedback. How would you make use of these videos in your own classroom? What questions would you ask students and what tasks would you set? You can leave a comment below.

Note that all videos contain subtitles.

Posted 15/3/16

56 Responses to Owning English?

  1. Ana says:

    I think the videos are great!. I do a lot of things with them. I show the very first minute or so and then ask my students to predict what is going to happen or what you are going to say or to do; I make them listen to the wole video and afterwards they have to tell me in their own words what they have understood, I make them write what they have seen (activity which reveals a lot about my students manipulation of grammar), I ask my students to imagine how they would make a short video with the same objective. I ask my students even to describe your clothes so as to revise that vocabulary. I love your videos because I have a lot of speaking and written activities to create with them. Thank you very much!!!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thanks Ana. I was hoping for some ideas for using the specific issues – who owns English, for example (as opposed to clothes, etc.).

  2. Ewa Kurman-Grzybko says:

    But there are MORE (not FEWER or LESS ;) days in February this year :) 29 rather than 28 :)
    Thanks Jamie!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Ewa – well spotted. I got confused! We were going to film it again but it would be been impossible to keep it natural so we just left it as is. But it occurred to me that you could use the sentence for a spot the mistake activity – will people focus on grammar or content?

      “There are less days in a leap year than in a normal year.”

      Maybe it wasn’t a mistake after all!

  3. English Forever says:

    Awesome!!! I can think of, like, five or six different points to create lessons to work with my students in each video. For instance, the way James pronounces “find” is really interesting.

    And it makes me wonder: Should I keep my crusade with my students to improving their pronunciation? Because, guys, I guess I can call you guys, IT DOES NOT MATTER. I guess I have heard the verb ‘find’ or it past form pronounced in three or four different ways.

    But, anyways, congrats on the videos. Very nice. I’ll share this page with my students.
    Thank you, James and Luke. Thank you, Jamie.

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thanks English Forever
      I wouldn’t give up your crusade. If there is more way to pronounce a word, then students will need you as a guide! Also, I’m sure you will agree that there are many areas of pronunciation that do matter (?)

  4. Amel says:

    I’m a non-native speaker and I found the videos really interesting because people make lot of mistakes. As teachers in schools, we sometimes get confused about what is the right spelling and pronunciation of certain words. This is helpful. Isuggest that you do more videos :)

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thanks Amel
      Yes – I think that these videos demonstrate that things are often more complex than a simple right or wrong. One person’s natural way of saying something will be another person’s idea of a mistake.
      There are a few more videos to make like these. Watch this space or subscribe to my YouTube channel if you like:

  5. Catherine Daems says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I think the argument about “touristic” existing or not existing is not quite the right way to put it. It does exist, inasmuch as people use it, whether they are native speakers or not. However, Luke ends up mentioning it not being standard English, and that is obviously the case, too. It exists, but is not standard. The next question is : do you want to speak and teach standard or non standard English? (and my personal answer is : I’d rather use standard English, but not being a native speaker, I sometimes use non standard stuff, … and it doesn’t REALLY matter, as long as people understand me.

    Other than that, I would use the lesson as an eye-opener to those linguistic (not linguisty!) matters. I’d ask my students to think of similar questions in French, and I’d have one or two of my own if they can’t come up with one…

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      I agree with you Catherine. The idea is supposed to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. Despite that, you do get people arguing that nonstandard structures “don’t exist”.
      A part of this is about understanding concepts such as:
      * Change and variation in language
      * Dialects and prestigious forms
      * Speech communities and attitudes
      As teachers, it can help if we make little changes to the way that we describe language. Your suggestion for ‘non-standard’ rather than “incorrect” is a good start I reckon.

  6. Karen Geiger says:

    Interesting video! I think I would show it to my Italian high school students and ask them to think of other English words used in Italian, such as ‘footing’ which they think means ‘jogging’. Or another one is ‘classwork’ , meaning ‘test’ , actually , the list is endless’! But then English-speaking people are just as guilty of using other languages ‘incorrectly’ , think of ‘a panini’ or 2 ‘lattes’. I think students would find it interesting to compare the way we borrow words from other languages. Going to use your video soon , thanks!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Karen – it’s a great idea. I didn’t know about ‘classwork’ in Italian. In Spanish we have ‘footing’ (as you do), ‘feeling’ (chemistry between people), hacer playback (miming to a song), to name a few.

      I actually have a video to make about that very point. It’s just a case of finding the time! It’s about a recent misunderstanding that I witnessed during a flight that resulted from an English word that Spanish has borrowed. Thank you for the reminder :)

  7. Mel F says:

    Great video and interesting point – ‘touristy’ v ‘touristic’. Personally, I use ‘touristy’ and correct my students when they use ‘touristic’, my argument being the same as your friend’s – there’s no such word. And it just sounds wrong. But, I have got to wondering about this. Where does the word ‘tourist-y’ come from? We Brits love our ‘y’s on the ends of words – aunty, welly, rainy, jammy, runny etc. and maybe it stems from that. On the other hand, ‘touristic’ sounds more grammatically correct, like ‘historic’, but I’m not sure it is. Perhaps someone out there likes to analyze these things. I will still teach my students ‘touristy’….

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you for you comment Mel F
      “There’s no such word” Are you sure? It certainly exists in the streets of Camden. And as a few people have pointed out, it is starting to find its way into some dictionaries (possibly in response to its widespread use by non-native users – I am not sure).

  8. Karen says:

    I’ve been teaching EFL/ESOL for 18 years and I have yet to find a native speaker who says ‘touristic’ and ‘moreover’! All FCE students seem to love the latter and yes, it’s a worthwhile word but does anyone born in the UK actually use it?!
    These videos are great to show the English language in its purest form ie used by anyone and everyone wherever they were born!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      “Anyone and everyone wherever they were born.” Yes, it’s strange. We embrace diversity in ethnicity, sexuality, religion, culture, etc. But when it comes to diversity in language, even the most open-minded of us can become intolerant. Weird!

  9. natalia izmaylova says:

    The perfect way to show how language is changing through the time.The great way to ” feel and taste’ LANGUAGE

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Hello Natalia. Yes, always changing. And at any one time, always different depending on who you are, where you are from, class, region, social group, etc.

  10. Milada says:

    I like the ideas mentioned here! And I know students obssessed with accuracy, which hinders their fluency. They’ll rehearse the correct form in their head (paralysis by analysis) for ages before (if at all) they respond in conversation.
    The videos with your parents could make a great lesson to encourage such learners to take more risks. Perfect as a course starter.
    My idea (from a NNEST perspective):

    1. Sts get a set of sentences with your ‘word pairs’ from the videos (movies/cinema, less/fewer, etc.) – one word per sentence, all sentences mixed up. They decide/guess which sentences were used by a learner of English, which – by a native speaker. They are likely to jump to conclusions. I`d let them :)

    2 Sts watch the videos to check their guesses. Surprise, surprise, especially, when they learn that the son in the video is a teacher of English.

    3. Discussion/debate, eg. What do you get from lessons with a NNEST, compared to lessons with a native speaker teacher? Does error correction do more harm than good? What kind of tests help you to learn a foreign language? Which is more important, speak ‘100% correct’ English or fluent English?

    4. Homework/Follow-up:
    (i) Sts find similar ‘word pairs’ in their L1 (first interview with family/friends in L1; then presentation in the following class in L2)
    or (ii) Sts find examples of ‘non-standard’ English in their favourite films, TV series, YouTube videos, songs and present their findings in class.

    It`ll be interesting to see if teenagers and adult students have the same attitude and/or which group is more liberal.

    Great materials, properly non-standard :) Thanks!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Milada
      These are great ideas. I’ll be writing up a PDF lesson plan in a few weeks. I’ll definitely borrow from your ideas. I’ll post it at the top of the page as normal and send out a mailing when it’s done. Thanks a lot!

  11. Eliza says:

    Hey Jamie!

    This could be a starting point for a discussion related to language change (drawing attention on words added in the dictionary in recent years, e.g. google as a verb, or words which changed, e.g. ice cream vs iced tea), and a way to boost students’ confidence and to make a point about the importance of being intelligible. I love the idea of finding examples in students’ L1 and finding out that any language involves and as learners they have to be open-minded and always willing to explore the language they are learning. To motivate them explore it, a classroom list of examples like touristic and touristy can be created and edited by students throughout the year. And perhaps a follow up could be a video they make with everything on their list!
    It could also be used to look at World Englishes (British Vs American, Indian Engish and so on) and different ways words/phrases/sayings are used around the world.

    Looking forward to seeing the ideas you’ll come up with. Thanks in advance! :-)

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Eliza
      Some nice ideas that I’ll be borrowing from (see my reply to Milada’s comment above).
      I read through these comments, it occurs to me that many of us refer to language change. But equally important is language variation. The latter deals with dialects, non-standard varieties and diversity. I think that it is good to talk about ‘language change and variation’ as it is a reminder that many nonstandard forms will never be accepted as mainstream. I’ll be putting that in the lesson plan. A lot to work with here!

  12. David Shea says:

    Dear Jamie
    The interviews in Camden town to try out touristy and touristic are brilliant. What a great idea. Your friend is a native English speaker, but of course, as you rightly point out, modern English belongs to everyone. Thanks for these wonderful programs which I intend to use in my EFL class at the EOI in Santa Brigida, Spain (where you are always welcome).Gratefully yours — David

  13. Hi Jamie

    Really enjoyed the videos, very helpful. I plan to use them with my Spanish students, one of whom tends to want to be absolutely sure of everything concerning his English learning.
    I’d use them at the beginning of the lesson to help him to see the variations in lexis, grammar and pronunciation amongst native English speakers in the hope that it would help him to become more relaxed about his own English usage, which I think would help his confidence. I’m interested in discussions about English as a lingua franca and the idea of ‘International English’.
    Thanks Jamie :)

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Isabel. Interesting to read you comment. Yes – I think that in some cases, these issues could help students. In other situations, however, they may add to the confusion! I’ll be interested to hear how you get on. Good luck

  14. Fiona Price says:

    How interesting to pick up on something that clearly exists in the ELT classroom! Touristic is a great example of a frequently used word in this context and a word that I had never heard of and used to frequently correct until I explored its usage – – and discovered it appearing in online learner dictionaries.
    It’s also interesting to note the difference in register and connotation between the adjective touristy and touristic – maybe it’s a form we needed to rediscover and bring back into frequent use!
    In terms of exploiting your video beyond the usual prediction, gist and detail tasks, maybe learners could go on a web quest to explore and come up with their own conclusions:

  15. Fiona Price says:

    P.S. I forgot to add, don’t know if you saw this in the Guardian Review on Saturday re all right / alright:

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Fiona. Yes – I think that whatever we do, the activity will have to give students the opportunity to share their views.

      And thank you very much for the article. I love ‘alright’ vs. ‘all right’ entry!

  16. Elena says:

    Great videos, thanks a lot!
    With the first video I would ask my students 1. to think in what sense touristy and touristic might be different 2. watch the video, check their prediction, draw a conclusion 3. follow-up: find relevant opinions in the teachers’ discussion, because it is also of great interest 4. check these words in online dictionaries + corpus CloWbE… and then draw a conclusion again. After watching the video and reading the discussion they will see a possibility of ns v. nns. collision (with your ‘not convinced’ verdict), but what will they see next? E.g. in Cambridge dictionary online ‘touristy’ looks negative, while ‘touristic’ – also marked as ‘British’! – seems just neutral… In the Corpus we have 322 touristy v. 144 touristic… and so on.
    I also imagine a kind of live Corpus for learners… with a button ‘Ask an IATEFL member’.
    Thank you again, I am going to use your videos!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Elena. Some excellent great ideas here from a corpora enthusiast. I like your very simple intro as well. meaning is complex – much more than a simple dictionary definition. Information about the people that use a word or term is a big contributing factor to understanding it.

  17. Liz H. Rowland says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I have enjoyed your videos very much. The first video is catchy with lots of energy. I liked the topic you propose. We all know languages develop around the use speakers make of them. What is a mistake and what is a new term turning up alive. I find interesting the idea of looking at differences between the English spoken by native speakers and the one spoken by non-native speakers. They could think of similar examples in their own language when used by people from another country and make them think what does it feel like. Do they fell this should be corrected or if it is understandable and that is all that matters? There could be a debate in the class, accuracy vs fluency, and include other aspects like pronunciation of words and grammar.
    I would also use the video with low level students for reviewing with them nationalities. What nationalities appear in the video? In what order?
    I like all the images that are showed in the video with typical items to be found in a street in Britain. Give them a jumbled list of them and have a competition to see who gets them in order first.
    I loved the videos of you and your parents showing differences in language between generations. The video could be stopped before the answer is given and students have to offer their idea on what is going to be the alternative in each case (eg, alright vs all right). Ask them if they have seen both ways of saying the same thing (eg. picture vs cinema).
    I hope this may help you Jamie. Loads of luck with your project.
    Cheers, Liz

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Liz
      Yes – lots of good ideas here. I like your suggestion about getting students to compare the situation with similar ones in their first language(s). Where do you teach? One thing – when raising issues like these with my Spanish-speaking students, they can be quick to mention the existence of language academies. Be prepared for arguments along the lines of:

      “Spanish / French / Italian / German, etc. has a language academy – a group of academics that decide what is right and what is wrong. English has no academy. Therefor the situation with English is different.”

      It’s a horrible argument!

      • Liz says:

        Hi Jamie, haha yes it’s true English is much more elastic as a language compared to Latin languages. All languages are challenged now and then with other languages, we might say “pollution”. Sorry I forgot to mention I work in Spain (Madrid) for private institutions and I am half English half Spanish so I have a share of both languages :)
        It’s nice to have these discussions.
        Regards to everybody

  18. Sarka Cisarova says:

    Hello Jamie, I find your video very useful for teaching my B2 learners and copy my reflection and brief lesson plan to develop their 1)listing skills, 2) phonology) and 3) define their goals:

    OWNING ENGLISH B2 class (60 min.)

    1) Pre-viewing: What’s the adjective from “tourist”?

    All my students answered “ touristic”
    2) 1st viewing for gist and metacognition/self-regulation1) to check if they were right; 2) two identify the main challenges for understanding spoken English

    Most students got the message and learnt the adjective “touristy”

    Students identified the following challenges:
    a) different accents (Jamie is harder to follow compared to Luke)
    b) speed (native speakers speak faster and are harder to follow)
    c) connected speech and weak forms (some sounds are unclear, words merge together)
    d) some lexis (admit, birth certificate, be convinced)
    e) socio-cultural awareness (Camden town)

    3) Listening for noticing sentence stress, developing a listening strategy to listen for key words:

    STAGE 1: Listening (without the video) to the first 30 seconds and writing down the key words they hear as if they were writing a telegram – noticing the words that carry the main stress (nouns, verbs, adjectives).

    Outcome: London – friend – Luke – sitting – park – very close – Camden Town – having argument – friendly discussion – touristic – touristy – some people – touristic – touristy – problem – doesn’t exist – mistake

    STAGE 2: Watching the video with subtitles and contrasting the key stressed words to answer the question “Which words are unstressed?” (and make it hard to understand spoken English because we don’t hear them!!!)

    Outcome: articles, prepositions, quantifiers, auxiliaries, fillers, turn-takers
    4) 2nd watching: Apply the strategy of listening for key words while watching and answer the following questions:
    1) How many people said “touristy” and how many “touristic”?
    2) What is the conclusion? What does the video imply for learning English? Do you prefer Luke’s or Jamie’s stand?

    Students got the 1st question right but I had to replay the last 30 seconds to address some lexis/phonology they struggled with. Then a heated debate started on the second question☺ So I put the following questions on the board to give the discussion a clear direction:

    5) Speaking: Discussion on my students’ goals when learning English:
    a) Do you want to speak like a native speaker? Is that a realistic goal?
    b) Does the word “touristic” impede communication?
    c) Does the video reduce your frustration of being a non-native speaker?

    6) Wrap-up: Class vote – – If there was an ELF course offered at our language school, would you sign for it? (3 out of 11 students raised their hand)

    7) The following class I asked the same question: What’s the adjective from “tourist”? All students who attended the previous class said “touristy” – the video was successful in the acquisition of “touristy”

    Thank you for giving me inspiration, Jamie! I’m about to finish my Dip with Oxford Tefl and loved your story-telling workshop:)

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Hello Sarka
      Nice to see you here. I’m glad you enjoyed the webinar session. Congratulations on (almost) completing the Dip course.
      There are some great ideas here. Thank you for sharing.
      I have heard a few other people say that Luke is easier to understand than me. I wonder if that is because they are more used to the sound of his English?
      Jamie :)

  19. siham says:

    siham says :
    i love the videos and i am going to do the same with my students to see their reflection .i will tell you jamie.
    sorry because i di not reply in time because i have a problem with my computer.

  20. Petra says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I really enjoyed the videos with Luke, your Mum and and your Dad and it was nice to kind of see you again (in action :-;). I love this kind of stuff and just showed the clips to my students to give them an impression of the differences between natives and non-natives or older and younger generations respectively. This clearly shows that language is a living thing that is changing and developing constantly and leaves room for creativity – as long as certain rules are respected to keep communication going and flowing.
    Cheers, Petra

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Petra
      Really glad to hear that you enjoyed it.
      Yes – change *and* variation. Even if we could stop time English would see differences in the way that English is used depending on who and where. In other words, it is about English at any given moment as well as English over the years.
      Thanks for the comment!

  21. Vista says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I’ve used and developed many of your ideas in my classes but I haven’t thanked you. So, here goes… thank you so much for being so briliant and generous.
    I’m very interested with this issue, as I have discussed this so many times with people I work with. My point of view, I think the world owns English. I’m sure different areas in the UK speak their own version of English and have their own standard to follow.
    I also feel that if students start to be more comfortable in using English as themselves instead of trying to sound like native speakers, they will be more confident to use the language.
    Have you heard this:“a language is a dialect with an army and navy” ?

  22. Grace says:

    This is a very interesting video.

  23. Paul Berry says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I think the most important thing we can learn/grasp when looking and listening to these videos, is that even as native speakers, we are sometimes apt to make the odd mistake, or be in a quandary as to if a word or expression is correct, or not.

    I myself am British, but have been living for twenty years in France. As a result, my English has been somewhat contaminated by the French language, so that when I first watched the video, ‘Owning English’ the word ‘touristic’ actually sounded more correct than touristy. I guess what I’m trying to say is that your videos highlight the fact that it’s not the end of the world if we make the odd mistake, the most important thing is to get students to feel more confident and take risks when speaking another language.

    And just to reiterate Vista’s earlier post, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your amazing work. You are a true artist, i.e. creative, open-minded, generous.

    Keep up the excellent work.

    Kind regards,


    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thanks Paul – I really appreciate that your nice words
      If you’ve ever transcribed samples of spoken English, you’ll see that errors and mistakes (if that is what we want to call them) are much more commonplace that we might think. Natural spoken language can be full of false starts, incomplete utterances, maverick grammar, etc. On paper, it can look very messy. From mouth to ear, however, we barely notice it.
      Your English has been somewhat contaminated by the French language? I wonder what your French friends would have to say about that!
      Jamie :)

  24. margot says:

    Hey Jamie! I think that’s a great material to introduce ‘spoken language’ lesson. I would ask students about their previous experience with spoken English, if they have ever met also differences between English vs American. For listetning I would use a few questions to check their understanding, like: what differences can you point out. As a non native speaker living in England I would mainly talk about every day life abroad as a challenge for your language understanding, slang etc. thing which I had to deal with.

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Hello Margot
      I must get around to sorting out the lesson plan for this video one of these days (it’s on my list!)
      Thanks for your idea. Will incorporate it in the lesson plan when I upload it!
      Jamie :)

  25. Alain says:

    Looking forward to the PDF! Here’s what I’d do:
    1. Collect some examples of non-native speaker errors from speech (could be from previous lessons w/students)
    2. Collect some examples of native speaker “errors” from speech (listen carefully to any interview or podcast of unscripted English and it’ll leap out at you. I’ve posted a long example below*)
    3. Get students to correct/paraphrase the “bad” language
    4. Students guess which utterances are native speaker language.
    5. Show some examples of non-standard English vernaculars (eg. Scouse, African American vernacular English, etc.) to show that “native speaker” is a rather arbitrary standard for correctness (care should be taken not to portray these non-standard vernaculars as inferior).
    6. For homework, make the student prepare a presentation on examples of non-standardness in their language and give it to the class the next day.
    7. After a good amount of discussion, students prepare a roleplay conversation, where a finicky language pedant at a party asks his friend where nobody wants to talk to him, and the friend explains to the pedant why his habit of overcorrecting everyone is not only annoying, it’s wrong ;)

    *Here’s an excerpt of an interview with American talk show host, Conan O’Brien. My students guessed it was a lower-intermediate learner struggling to use advanced vocabulary!

    “I really don’t believe in ‘I was promised the Tonight Show and so I get to…ah, it’s my right to…I, there was a bunch of circumstances, ah, behind the scenes that…made that not work out in that situation and I wasn’t happy about it, mmm, you know, it was a major disappointment, but no-one’s…there’s a, we live in a culture of entitlement a lot of times, where people ‘How dare you, this is my right’.”

    ( , excerpt starts at 28:58)

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Hello Alain
      Sorry for the late reply.
      Thanks a lot for the suggestions. I am a big fan of using transcripts like this as well. It’s incredible how messy spoken language can appear when written down. But also incredible how easy it is not to notice that when listening!
      Thanks for the comment and the ideas
      PS On the subject of non-standard versus standard, did you ever see this activity:

  26. erika dani costa says:

    Great as usual! Can I get the lesson or is it just the video?

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thank you Erika
      Unfortunately, the PDF lesson plan doesn’t exist yet. But it’s on my list of things to do, as soon as I have finished with my new book. Actually, the list is quite a long one!
      So please bear with me!
      Thanks for the nice comment
      Jamie :)

  27. brano says:

    great audiovisual material for either schools or private classes. easz to follow, up to date and real people…loved it!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thanks Brano
      I must get around to uploading the lesson plan for this one!
      Glad you like it
      Jamie :)

  28. monta Vilumsone says:

    Awesome videos, haven’t used them yet, but I think they are great to broaden students’ point of view and prove how different the language can be just in one family!

    Thanks for making these :)

  29. Jamie Keddie says:

    Glad you like it Monta
    I hope that your students do too
    Thanks for the comment
    Jamie :)