The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Headway accent - in memory of John Soars

As I said in my last post, I started out in ELT with no formal training and I learnt most of the basics about language and how to teach it from the textbooks I relied on so heavily in those early years. Like many teachers of my generation, a lot of my teaching revolved around the Headway series, whose co-author, John Soars, sadly died at the end of last week. (See In memory of John Soars on the OUP webiste).

Everyone will have their own memories of using Headway, but for me, one of the books' most lasting impacts was what I refer to as my "Headway accent". My parents are from South London and I grew up in Kent, and although I don't think I had a very strong accent growing up, once I started teaching abroad, I became increasingly conscious of the way I spoke. I often tell the story of how as a young teacher in Greece, I was horrified when a class of six-year-olds all parroted "nah-fing" back to me instead of "nothing"! Over the coming years, my accent gradually neutralised, largely modelled on the very clear, but unplaceable (although vaguely southern, middle-class English) accents that appeared in the Headway listening activities. To this day, people struggle to put their finger on exactly where I'm from, but students still frequently comment on how lovely and clear my accent is!

I didn't know John Soars personally and, to be honest, by the time I stopped using Headway, I was heartily sick of it - I didn't even need my own copy of the students book in front of me in class (let alone a teacher's book) because I knew whole units off by heart! There's no doubting though that it was a landmark series of books which had a huge influence on both EFL teaching and ELT publishing.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. We will pass them on to John's family.

Best wishes,

Oxford University Press ELT

2:06 pm  

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