BiographyI started off by getting involved in design and illustration. However, it soon became clear that I was not going to make it as an illustrator so I focussed on the creative ideas instead. This led me into advertising and art direction. You do not have to be a Picasso but you do have to think laterally. So I gained a portfolio of adverts but the real creativity I found was in the writing of advertisements so I began to put together a portfolio of speculative adverts and teamed up with an art director. I went on to an in international agency D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles in Brussels to create pan-European advertising campaigns for Pioneer hi-fi. This experience really honed my writing skills and forced me to think about sound in a way in which it could be communicated in different languages and across different cultures.
I’ve worked in different institutions all over the world: advertising agencies in London, Dubai and Brussels; language schools in Brussels and London; universities in Nancy, Lyon, and Kingston. This experience has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of different educational systems and different working environments. I have gained immensely from working with people from different language and cultural backgrounds because it has helped me to understand how people learn, how to work with others and how to be open to new ideas.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
I researched lexical frequency (rare and frequent words) lexical diversity (the recycling of words) and language aptitude (memory and language analysis). Through this research I have presented at conferences all over the world and developed collaboration with other researchers in other institutions. Through collaboration I have managed to conduct studies which compare participants of different first language backgrounds in relation to their understanding of second language semantics and syntax. Collaboration with other institutions has also led to research on situated learning and language teacher autonomy.
Through studying for the Diploma in Teaching English to Adults, my teaching was observed and discussed with teacher trainers. This led me to reflect on my practice and made me more critical in my thinking as I became more aware of the complexities involved in teaching and language learning. I became interested in teacher training so I decided to study for an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). This MA and my own experience of teaching English language gave me insights into the processes of second language acquisition and differences in language aptitude. Through learning French as second language and a desire to broaden my horizons I managed to secure a university job in France.
At the distance learning branch at the University of Nancy I designed distance language learning materials. After teaching in Nancy I moved back to the UK and to work at Kingston University.
It was while I was teaching that I realised how important vocabulary was for international students. That insight led me to start a PhD in vocabulary and second language aptitude.