Although Annie Malcolm of wordwork is a highly qualified and experienced English language teacher, she has also enjoyed a successful career in radio and television broadcasting.
Here are some of her personal career insights:
How did I get into broadcasting?
Something special definitely clicked when I got into the production side of media, working initially as a features reporter for BBC Radio Scotland. I loved the challenge of sourcing strong stories, interviewing interesting characters and putting together an imaginative product that would hook the listeners’ attention.
In many ways, speech radio is still my favourite broadcasting medium – it’s amazing what you can do creatively just with the spoken word.
Radio presenting or producing – which is more satisfying?
Right from the start of my radio career, as a freelance, I was researching and producing my own stories which I found intensely satisfying. Choosing the right questions and making interviewees sound as good as possible through skilful editing – all great experience.
I moved on from local to national radio, producing an award-winning BBC Radio 4 series celebrating British gardens called Growing Spaces which I produced for three years, during which time we acquired over one million loyal listeners.
The highlight of my radio career, however, was producing an independent radio documentary on the emerging sport of women’s football for BBC Radio 5 Live. I was privileged to work with two of the UK’s top sports pundits, Des Lynam and Kevin Keegan during the making of this programme, as well as featuring many devoted and committed female players.
How did television compare?
My production skills were very transferable from radio to television, and I got a buzz out of working with larger production teams in television – researchers, graphic designers, cameramen, audio recorders and editors. Radio is, by contrast, a more lonely profession – often the producer is the team!
Television, strangely enough, eventually led me back into education. Working for an independent TV production company, I produced a number of educational television programmes for Channel 4 in the UK, from a French language drama to a BAFTA-winning examination of British ethnic identity called “In Search of the Tartan Turban”.
In the new millennium, however, the media landscape was changing, and affordable video equipment introduced a new layer of hungry, if inexperienced, young production companies competing for dwindling broadcast budgets.
I could see that working directly in education offered greater career security, and, I sensed, also greater satisfaction – and so it has proved.
The satisfaction of teaching English language
The first step was the hard slog - acquiring training and qualifications in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).
I started with general English language teaching, but soon saw an opportunity to specialise in teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP). In recent years, most UK universities have set up specialist EAP departments, and in some cases overseas campuses, to cater for the language needs of international students.
Although I have participated in courses at several UK universities, the highlight of my EAP career was my three-year residence in the People’s Republic of China, starting in 2009. I taught at the University of Nottingham’s campus in Ningbo, just south of Shanghai, and developed great respect for the application, enthusiasm and courtesy of Chinese students.
Teaching EAP has also greatly enhanced my knowledge and understanding of that most complex of subjects – the English language. English is not an easy language to learn – there are hundreds of little-known linguistic rules and conventions absorbed unconsciously in their childhood by native speakers but which baffle even the smartest students from overseas.
To further enhance my EAP capabilities, I gained my second MA – a Masters in TESOL from Sheffield Hallam University acquired via distance learning.
The future of English language training?
Because of its flexibility, low cost and suitability for home/office study, online teaching is an increasingly popular training medium, and in the last three years I have helped business executives in many European countries to improve their English language skills.
Because of its emphasis on rigour and high standards, EAP has been an excellent springboard for my diversification into business English tuition. Many of my online students work in corporate communications, and I have been able to copyedit documents with them to simultaneously develop their English PR skills and produce high-quality communications materials to the standard of native English speakers.
Although face-to-face teaching has an undoubted immediacy, you can nonetheless build effective student rapport through online teaching. I have long-term students from Munich to Marseilles who it is a positive joy to tutor, using a diversity of imaginative and effective online teaching materials.
I still greatly enjoy face-to-face teaching, but online teaching is, by nature, a highly time-efficient teaching channel, with instant access to all sorts of productive, tailored, resources.
In some ways, I suppose my career has almost gone full circle, and I’m back in “narrowcasting” (rather than broadcasting)!