Christmas 50: Year 13 English Language

Year 13 Language students: here’s what you need to be doing over the holidays to complete the Language allocation of your ‘Christmas 50’…

1. Make sure you have detailed notes on every term covered in the Grammar Glossary. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, you can tweet us (@englishatlc).

2. When you’ve done that, have a go at The Grammar Megatest if you’ve not do so already. (Make sure you input your email address very carefully, as the test will email you your results. These should be printed and placed in your folders.)

3. Complete this blog task. Make sure you watch both talks and submit a comment on the post with your own thoughts.

4. Listen to the CLA-themed audio files below, and make detailed notes on each. These will help a great deal in preparing you for the mock exam in January.


5. Watch this Intelligence Squared debate and make notes on the arguments presented by both sides. At the end of the debate, decide whether you’d vote for or against the motion, and explain your decision in 100-200 words in a comment on this post.


6. Complete the task on this blog post. Make sure you read/watch/listen to all of the links given, and leave a comment on that post to show the decision you’ve reached.


7. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas break!

If you have any questions/queries, get in touch by email or on Twitter (@englishatlc).

PS. If you haven’t already got this, make sure you grab it from the library before the holiday, or add it to your Christmas list.



  1. Emma Mitchell

    Intelligence Squared Debate:
    After watching this debate, I have realised that I’m much more conflicted in my view than I once believed. Similar to Beard, I think that our language has a need to be refreshed and there is no point obtaining rules that no-one can even agree on in the first place. Most of all, I believe her statement that we own the language, and the language doesn’t own us had the greatest impact on my slight lenience towards her side of the debate as I realised there is no need to feel restricted when it comes to how we communicate. However, the other side of the debate was slightly more convincing. It seems impossible to imagine a language without any sort of basic grammatical rules as how can we communicate without them? Take the example given by an audience member: if in conversation I use the words ‘disinterested’ and ‘uninterested’, my recipient would just become confused and a lack of understanding would surface. Although I believe ‘freezing’ the English language is implausible and slightly extreme, I do feel the need to protect our beautiful and expressive language – so therefore would agree that our language is ‘going to the dogs’.


  2. chloemarie97

    Before watching this debate I would have replied to the comment ‘the English language is doing to the dogs’ with ‘not exactly’ and, after watching it, I think I stand in almost the same place, but with a better understanding of why. I have always believed that the rules of English are important and must be followed, but only to an extent; meaning, only the rules that matter which, to myself, encompass the rules of the apostrophe and of spelling and that semantic distinction is also important. The rules relating to the ending of a sentence with a preposition and such are, as said in the debate, arbitrary. In order to advance, I believe, like Beard, that the language needs to be refreshed therefore, trying aimlessly to hang on to the rules, that no one really follows nor understands anyway, solely for the purpose of keeping the language ‘pure’ is to attempt to kill our language, to stop it from expanding and, therefore, to ‘freeze’ the language. This is an extreme view that has a tendency to look at the language as wanting to be shaped and formed to a strict structure, to look at it in the terms of Latin, which -undeniably- is a dead language. I think they are forgetting the fact that it is unhealthy to compare and aspire to form an alive and thriving language in the form of a language that is dead. Can I deny that I am more than slightly a pendant? No, I can’t. Because I am. But I like to believe that I only stand by the rules that matter and not the arbitrary rules enforced by 18th century aristocrats, and that those very rules that they wish to preserve are a way of slowly killing our thriving language, should they be enforced, purely because they restrict and prevent the language from expanding and refreshing. Therefore, I cannot vote for the belief that ‘the English Language is going to the dogs’.


  3. Tabatha Gregg

    My general opinion on the English Language before watching this debate was against the motion. Reading books from David Crystal, initially I agreed with Kamm and Beard and the idea that our language should be embraced with change and although we should acknowledge rules, we should be able to draw distinctions and debate against them, keeping a refreshing tongue alive. However, in this, I neglected the unrealistic ideology that is presented. A major flaw is of how a certain way of speaking is learnt every day by thousands of pupils and in fact, by using the beautiful and extensive language of English, we are able to achieve well earning careers. In society, I agree that we need a correct way in grammar and vocabulary to follow; once this has been grounded, we should have freedom in how we can use it dependant on context. I believe we need to acknowledge everyday change, but also recognise the importance of this beautiful language and understand that we do have a complete freedom of speech, a licence to an opinion, it is just a case of learning to correctly phrase ourselves and therefore, I do agree our language is “going to the dogs”.


  4. Chloe Turner

    Before watching the debate, I had made the decision that I would be against the motion. I believe that the English Language has not gone to the dogs, there are just now different ways of expressing the language. Having now watched the debate, my opinions, although ultimately have stayed the same, I now have a more split opinion. The English Language is constantly changing. I agree very strongly with the point made for the motion that if you do not use correct English for a job application letter or for a university application, or even just formal letters that they will be not taken seriously and shows the lack of intelligence. So in these situations I agree there should be no other way of expressing language. However, I agreed with the point made by Oliver Kamm that this should be labelled as standard English and in these situations this is how language should be written and spoken. However, these rules do not need to be used in every day to day life, language should be able to kept on its toes and kept fun and exciting because that’s the way life is going with new inventions and new cultures and new ways of doing things, language must follow with these trends.


  5. Ellie Lane

    Prior to watching this debate, I had already decided that I would be against this motion, that the English language is not ‘going to the dogs’ and although watching it has caused me to query my views my decision is still much the same.
    Although I believe it is important to recognise that language is based on established practice and rules. English wasn’t set in stone by 19th century grammarians as those in favour of this motion appear to think; the idea of ‘freezing’ the English language is ludicrous and extreme in my opinion.
    However, I do agree that some basic grammatical rules must remain for us to follow, in particular when writing a job or university application so we are able to avoid showing a lack of intelligence. As Oliver Kamm points out, these basic rules should be labelled as ‘standard English’ and I consider this as far as they need to go in todays society. I also strongly agree with Beard’s point that the language needs to be refreshed in order to keep up with today’s innovative trends and cultures. Yes, language changes but that doesn’t mean it is in decline.


  6. Ben Bucknall

    Prior to watching the debate, my firm belief was that our language is not ‘going to the dogs’. Whilst now I still lean more towards that side of the debate, I am now more open minded to the idea that certain points suggesting the decay of our language could be plausible. As stated by Humphreys and Heffer, it would be very hard to communicate without the basic rules that we call grammar, which I strongly agree with. When ignorant to these rules, it is likely that people will be less likely to find success, as people admire precision and accuracy with language. On the other hand, my firm view is that once the basic framework for grammar has been enforced, some freedom should be allowed so that people can work with the language to set it to their own lifestyle. Furthermore, I believe that there needs to be some fluidity in the way that language works because it needs to accommodate for new trends and big changes in culture, which are constantly moving and changing themselves. This was agreed by Beard’s statement that the language needs constantly ‘refreshing’, but also agrees with Heffer in the sense that people must themselves evaluate situations where the quality of the language they use may change from their own personal norm. Having taken all sides of the argument into account, I still cast my vote over the side that is against this motion that language is not ‘going to the dogs’.


  7. Kyle O'Sullivan

    Before watching the debate I had made the decision that I was against the motion I feel that English language has not in fact gone to the dogs but has developed into a new form. I feel as if language should be able to change and not follow a strict rule set. After watching the debate my thoughts and opinions on the subject have become somewhat more blurred. I agree with the point made that there are some basic rules in grammar that must be stuck too especially when writing formally in areas surrounding employment and education, in order to produce the correct tone towards the recipient, reflecting intelligence on the behalf of the writer. Although I agree with this point I also agree with a point made by Beard in that language needs to be refreshed to keep up with today’s innovative trends. The English language does change and will continue to do so just as the world around us constantly changes. Although the English language is changing it is not having a negative effect as such but is moving with its surroundings.


  8. Simran Shergill

    Before I watched the debate, I had decided that I do not believe that our language has ‘gone to the dogs’. My view has ultimately stayed the same although I can see much clearer why people may believe that it has. Standard English is important to use and maintain in formal occasions because this could lead to work looking unprofessional. I do think to a certain extent that it is important for this language not to change and allow other terms and phrases to become acceptable as I think what we view as Standard English should stay the same; this view is also shared by Humphreys and Heffer. This is why I can see why new language being introduced may be seen as ‘going to the dogs’. On the other hand, I agree with Beard that language does need to be refreshed in order for it to stay at the same speed as everything else that is changing. Therefore just because language may change, I do not believe that means it is deteriorating.


  9. Adele Wheway

    If presented with this question prior to watching this debate, my answer would be no. The English is not going to the dogs. I agree with the point made by Mary Beard that we should ‘relish the change and difference’ in our language as it is these changes which keep the English language ‘fun and interesting.’ Despite being on the opposition, John Humphrys made a similar point that ‘kids are alive to language’ and that it is ‘an art.’ However, the angle at which he presented his argument reinforced the importance of rules such as grammar within the language. I agree that we cannot communicate without grammar and that grammar is not a restriction of our freedom, but instead an important tool. This is supported by the case mentioned of Gordon Brown’s speech who used grammar as a tool to convince people that he was not wasting money but instead ‘investing it.’ I firmly think there is a need for rules within our language. Heffer says that when selecting applicants for university places or jobs, grammatical errors or errors in spelling are a way of short listing candidates and therefore I agree that it is important to have some regulation. We should take pride in using the language properly. Therefore I disagree with Beard, that rules are for ‘breaking’ and ‘transcending’ as they are important. I would vote for the movement as I now have a greater understanding of both sides and see the importance of rules within the language however I agree with some of the points made by the opposition.


  10. Luke Griffiths

    Prior to watching this video of the debate, I believe strongly that the language isn’t ‘going to the dogs’ . I think that it’s important that language changes therefore I agree with Beards view that ‘we should relish the change’ as it keeps it interesting for people and as long as the significant rules are kept then it’s acceptable for language to change and adapt however in certain instances it’s essential to provide the correct form of language; for example an email to a teacher needs to be kept formal and professional to show that it’s serious. Beard also shows mentions that language change needs to change to keep up with other topics and situations that are changing therefore language change is arguably needed in some circumstances.


  11. Michael Wilson

    I have always believed that language, or more specifically, the English language, is a living and developing thing. Similarly to the opinion of Erica Wagner, who makes her views clear at the start, I personally think that language is not set in stone and is always changing, and that this is ok. When listening to the debate, I found myself agreeing with Kamm. He states that language is interesting and that it shouldn’t have to be so strict. He says that the language shouldn’t be limited to a list of “arbitrary edicts and rules”. I agree with this and believe language should be free flowing and be allowed to develop. By listening to this debate I have further set my opinion in stone and have not changed my original decision or belief.


  12. Tom Brown

    My thoughts on language and its change are always generally positive. I find myself looking to take new language and use it, as well as rid myself of words or phrases if I find that I no longer need them. For this reason I was skeptical as to whether I would be accepting of what this video had to say as I myself DID NOT think that the english language was, as stated in the video ‘going to the dogs’. Through watching the video I feel that my opinion hasn’t changed at all. I saw myself nodding ferociously as Kamm and Beard put forward their idea that our language should be embraced with change and, while still paying some sort of notice to certain rules we should allow ourselves to be comfortable in veering from them, keeping a new and refreshing language in circulation.


  13. Katie Chamberlain

    Before watching the debate i had personally decided that i was against the title of the video ‘English language is going to the dogs’. This is due to the fact that i saw the English language as positively expanding in different ways. Oliver Kamm points out that if there was an obviously right body of rules then there would be only one style of language that we are all taught from, however language isn’t like that at all. After watching the video i would still say my view has almost stayed the same. However i do agree there are language rules that should stay the same in order to project the correct tone towards the recipient of a jobs application or the environment of education. Agreeing with Beard i believe you do not have to know the rules of language explicitly and that they can be altered and changed to keep up with societies changes. However You can’t change and alter the rules creatively if you have no knowledge of or respect for the language rules.


  14. Alice Walker

    After watching the intelligence squad debate, the passion is quite clear within the speakers on the topic. I do agree that all of our speech is in more of a non standard way and could possibly be seen as, ‘going to the dogs’ but not to the extreme in which the speakers seem to think. I believe that the possible reason for this is technology and social media. As Oliver Kamm, states when using the example of the apostrophe ‘conventions of the usage of the apostrophe change’. I believe this is one of many examples where the certain rules of language in which some people insist on, have not been kept. He also argues that it is ‘archaic’ to believe there is only one form of language. We can see that he is correct with this statement as each individual, in a way, has their own language with colloquialism, dialect, initialisms you name it. Humphrey on the other hand gave the idea that politicians have a part to play. Language is changing or ‘going to the dogs’ to make things seem more politically correct and fair.
    I do however, agree with Humphrey’s idea that media and newspapers manipulate language to give a different opinion. He used the example of newspapers calling terrorisits ‘gun men’ when it was quite clear what their motive was. I found this particularly fascinating as we can see this occur in everyday life and see how language is manipulated so it can mean different things to individuals. I do not like the power in which language has over media.
    Overall, I agree with one of Heffer’s statements to ‘just respect language’. I do not believe it is ‘going to the dogs’ however language is being shaped to fit society and our uses of language and communicating. Therefore, I argue that linguists should respect the change, as change has happened in the past through the different time periods and it is just happening again.


  15. Fallon Hayes

    If I was asked whether I agreed with the statement ‘the English language is going to the dogs’ my answer would remain the same regardless of the debate. No, it’s not. I think people have far too ridged ideas of what the English language should be and so are sceptical and even bitter about change. As wonderful as our language is, it is far too romanticised. People seem to neglect the reason that language exists and instead chose to glorify and protect it as if it’s a precious piece of art. But one of the most beautiful things about the English language is that it is ever changing. How can it fulfil its purpose if we try to restrict it with excessive arbitrary rules?


  16. Charlotte Powers

    Before I watched the debate, I did not believe that our language has ‘gone to the dogs’. Although I can see why people can inevitably see this is the case, my view still remains the same. I think it is important when considering Standard English that language should not change as it could lead to environments such as work looking unprofessional. I also agree with Mary Beard that we should ‘relish the change and difference.’ Coming from the opposition I can also see why John Humphry’s point about ‘Kids being alive to language’. However, how he showed his argument reinforced the importance of rules such as grammar within the language. I agree that we cannot communicate without grammar and that grammar is not a restriction of our freedom, but instead an important tool. This is why I can see why new language being introduced may be seen as ‘going to the dogs’. On the other hand, I agree with Beard that language does need to be changed in order for it to stay at the same speed as everything else is changing in today’s society. Therefore just because language may be changing, I do not believe that means it is deteriorating.


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