Drawing of two people in wheelchairs fencing
Drawing of two people in wheelchairs fencing ©

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'The English language is one of our greatest assets, building trust for the UK, bringing billions of pounds into our economy and creating life-changing opportunities for people across the globe. With the world coming to London for the 2012 Games, this is the perfect opportunity to use English to build some great new relationships, which will last well beyond the Closing Ceremonies.' - Mark Robson, Director of English, British Council.

The British Council’s English for the Games project, which was granted the ‘Inspire’ mark by LOCOG, aimed to satisfy the huge interest in the Games amongst teachers and learners of English worldwide and to enable visitors to the UK during the Games to communicate more easily.

The focal point of English for the Games was the range of on-line materials on Teaching English and Learn English. These materials included information and worksheets on all Olympic and Paralympic sports, as well as information on the history and values of the Games. They were promoted across the British Council network and used in teaching centres around the world. Other projects, which have been summarised below, were developed by drawing on these core materials. The British Council used a range of distribution channels for English for the Games in addition to the Learn English and Teaching English websites. We produced printed versions of some of the materials, we used social media and we also produced material for inclusion in the print media. We have calculated that we reached at least 11million learners of English worldwide as a result of the various initiatives around English for the Games. We reached a minimum of five million learners of English through materials downloaded from the websites by teachers, 2.5 million through teacher training workshops worldwide, two million through the print media, over 0.5 million directly through the online materials and a further 1m through a range of central and regional initiatives including competitions, hard copy distributions and social media posts.

Our other projects:

Visitor Handbook

The British Council developed for LOCOG two English language handbooks, one on the Olympic Games and one on the Paralympic Games. The content of the handbooks was approved by a range of bodies through LOCOG including the International Olympic Committee. These handbooks were given to all Olympic and Paralympic athletes in their official welcome packs and were distributed to contacts in the UK and overseas. Online versions of the handbooks were made available through Learn English. The handbooks include specialist sports vocabulary and dialogues. For native speakers of English there are some basic phrases in different languages to use when communicating with visitors from other countries.

Languages for the Games

Languages for the Games was a global competition for schoolchildren run by the British Council between February and May 2012. The aim of the Languages for the Games competition was to challenge schoolchildren to show creativity in a second language while raising awareness of the Paralympic Games. The competition task varied according to age group: 8-11 year olds had to develop a presentation about their 'Paralympic hero or heroine'. The older category of 12-16 years had to describe their 'perfect Paralympic Poster'. In each age group there were individual and class prizes. The objective was to create a multimedia, online presentation which demonstrated creativity and originality, using English as a foreign language. Overall there were more than 350 entries from 46 countries. The two overall winners were Abdurrahman Adam (age 14) from Jakarta, Indonesia and Selina Xing (age 12) from Changchun, China. Both were congratulated by legendary British Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson in the Olympic Park. In an exciting and packed itinerary, they also attended a prize-giving ceremony at the British Council’s headquarters, a Paralympic wheelchair basketball match at North Greenwich Arena, a visit to the Science Museum and the home of Sherlock Holmes.

Olympic and Paralympic graded readers

The British Council produced a set of four graded readers, one at each reader level from Elementary to Upper Intermediate. These readers provided graded reading material around Olympic and Paralympic themes, history and events. They were used extensively throughout the network, particularly during the Games. We produced and distributed 6,000 copies and at least 40,000 were reprinted locally and there were over 60,000 downloads from the Learn English Facebook page. The first post for the Olympic Readers on Facebook was the most popular single post ever made on the Learn English Facebook page. The graded readers reached more than 60,000 people, and were shared on more than 300 other Facebook pages.