Professional Activity

After studying Modern Languages at Oxford University, I worked in English Language teaching for around twenty years. I co-founded and directed the Swan School of English in Oxford, and later worked in adult education in Paris. During that period I began writing and publishing English language teaching and reference materials, and this is now my main occupation. I have published with OUP, CUP and Les Editions Hatier; for a list of my main titles, see below. For some years, I was also the Series Editor for Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers.
  My more academic interests include descriptive and theoretical grammar, mother-tongue influence in second language acquisition, and the relationship between applied linguistic theory and language-teaching practice. I have published a number of articles on these topics (see list below), and have given lectures and workshops in many countries. From 2002 to 2008 I was a Visiting Professor at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham.
  Despite all this, I feel bound to confess that, as I drifted into English language teaching and applied linguistics with no professional training in these areas, I have no qualifications whatever for the work that I do. If I applied to myself for a job as a research assistant, I would have to turn myself down.

Books Include:

Pratique de l’Anglais de A à Z  (with Françoise Houdart), Librairie Hatier 1983, 1994, 2003.  

The Cambridge English Course Levels 1–3 (with Catherine Walter),  CUP 1984–1987.  

The New Cambridge English Course Levels 1–4 (with Catherine Walter),  CUP 1990–1993.  

Learner English (ed., with Bernard Smith), CUP 1987, 2001.  

Practical English Usage, OUP 1980, 1995, 2005.  

Basic English Usage, OUP 1984.  

English Usage, a Guide for Italian Students (adapted and translated by M-G Dandini), OUP 1997. 

How English Works (intermediate grammar practice, with Catherine Walter), OUP 1997 (ESU prize).   

The Good Grammar Book (elementary grammar practice, with Catherine Walter) OUP 2001 (highly commended runner-up, ESU prize). Also published in adaptations for Japanese and Italian students.

Grammar (in the ‘Oxford Introductions to Language Study’ series), OUP 2005.

Diagnostic tests for Practical English Usage (with David Baker), OUP 2008.

The Oxford English Grammar Course (Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Levels, with Catherine Walter), OUP 2011. (British Council / Society of Authors award for ELT books 2012.)

Thinking about Language Teaching: Selected Articles 1982–2011, OUP 2012.

some of my articles:

A critical look at the communicative approach 1 (ELTJournal 39/1 pp. 2–12, 1985)   Can be accessed at: http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/39/1/2?ijkey=bddnGOKiVIilX6O&keytype=ref

A critical look at the communicative approach 2 (ELTJournal 39/2 pp 77–87, 1985) Can be accessed at:

Chunks in the classroom: let’s not go overboard (The Teacher Trainer 20/3, 2006) 

English teaching in the nineteen-sixties and seventies (slightly expanded version of paper published In ‘Forty Years of Language Teaching’ in Language Teaching 40, 2006, pp 1–3)   

Legislation by hypothesis: the case of task-based instruction (Applied Linguistics 26/3, Autumn 2005, pp. 376–401). Can be accessed at:

Teaching grammar – does grammar teaching work? in Modern English Teacher 15/2, 2006)

Two out of three ain’t enough: the essential ingredients of a language course (written-up version of talk given at IATEFL Conference 2006, published in IATEFL 2006 Harrogate Conference Selections, pp. 45–54)

Ways of using texts successfully (summary of conference talk)

What is happening in English? (English Teaching Professional 40, Autumn 2005)

Design criteria for pedagogic language rules (in Grammar and the Language Teacher, ed. Bygate, Tonkyn and Williams,  pp 45–55, Prentice Hall 1994)

Language teaching is teaching language (written-up version of Hornby lecture given at IATEFL Conference 1996; published in the 1996 IATEFL Conference Report, pp. 34–38)

Seven bad reasons for teaching grammar – and two good reasons for teaching some (versions published in English Teaching Professional 7, 1998 and in Methodology in Language Teaching, ed. Richards and Renandya, CUP 2002, pp.148–152)

Less serious pieces:

Brief abstracts (BAAL Newsletter 1991)
Cross-examining the text (BAAL News Autumn 2006)
Discourse respiration (BAAL Newsletter 1991)
PIGTESOL 2007 (BAAL News Summer 2007)
Roll play (ARELS Journal 1970s)
Squaring the hypothesis (BAAL News Autum 2007)
The big grey book (Oxford English Bookshop website, 1997)
The BRC revisited (BAAL News Spring 2007)
The use of sensory deprivation in foreign language teaching (With Catherine Walter, ELTJournal 36/3, 1983, pp. 183­–185)  Can be accessed at:


For other articles, see my book 'Thinking about Language Teaching'.