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Research Case studies

The Impact of English Language on Learners' Wider Lives

Dr Ivor Timmis

Dr Ivor Timmis has been involved in English language teaching for around 30 years as a teacher, teacher trainer, MA tutor and PhD supervisor. Dr Timmis’s main research interest is in the analysis and teaching of spoken language. He also has a strong interest in materials development and has worked on projects for Singapore, Ethiopia and China.

Dr Naeema Hann is a Senior Lecturer in English Language Teaching with 30 years’ experience in teaching and training language teachers as well as translating and interpreting. Dr Hann has taught English to Afhan Mujahideen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and to immigrant communities in the UK. Her interests are in second language learning and how heritage languages are learnt and maintained.

In 2012, Dr Timmis and Dr Hann began leading on a project to understand the impact of English language on learners’ wider lives, receiving financial backing through the British Council’s English Language Teaching Research Award scheme.

The research team is investigating the impact of English Language on the learning and wider lives of students of English as a second language in Leeds and with research partners at Salford City College in the UK, Qu Fu Normal University, China; Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia and Abu Dhabi Polytechnic, United Arab Emirates.

Speaking about the study, Dr Hann commented: “The impact that learning to speak English has on people’s wider lives needs to be investigated – research in this area is normally tied to work and career but we are opening this up to find out what difference it can make to people’s lives. We live in a globalised world where English is the common language of business, commerce and transnational families. Additionally, the majority of English speakers are non-native.”

The team are using an innovative focus group technique and in-depth interviews to compile results which will be published at the end of 2013. Dr Hann added: “The results will be used by the British Council to inform policy worldwide. We are very curious ourselves to find out what impact learning English has on people’s lives as all members of the team are bilingual and so the impact for us has been huge in both our careers and personal lives.”

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