English without Frontiers
is a curriculum (method, syllabus and materials) to teach English as a
Foreign Language to adult learners with intellectual disabilities or
learning difficulties. The curriculum was developed by an international
consortium as part of the Barrier-Free Language Learning project.
On this website you
will find information about the target group, the methods and the materials.
Also: information on how you can order the curriculum.
consists of a Teacher's Guide and materials. In part I of the Teacher's Guide, you will find information about the theory, methods and materials of
the curriculum (you can download Part I of the Teacher's Guide as a .pdf
In part II, you will find the actual curriculum:
descriptions of activities for 10 units and the worksheets for these units.
On the accompanying DVD and CD-ROM you will find Part I and Part II of the
Teacher's Guide, as well as additional materials:
for 10 units, in .pdf and PowerPoint format;
9 units, in .pdf and PowerPoint format;
bilingual dictionary in .pdf and Word-format;
Video clips of
English speakers, for 10 units
computer activities for 9 units.
Many activities require the learners to use
their prior knowledge of the world, to help them understand English words
and phrases. The world referred to in the stories and activities resembles
as much as possible the (often limited) world that our target group has
personal experience with.
Intellectual disabilities, learning difficulties
Although the curriculum was developed specifically for adult learners with
intellectual disabilities, the materials can probably be used effectively
with learners of a wide range of (dis-)abilities.
The main characteristic of our
target group is that they learn more slowly and with more difficulty than
the average adult learner. Most of them do not learn ‘by exposure’ only. In
comparison to mainstream curricula, the English without Frontiers
curriculum uses very explicit instruction, very small steps, and frequent
A second characteristic of our target group is that they don’t easily
generalise what they’ve learned in one situation to a new situation.
Therefore, we made the materials resemble real life, as much as possible. In
particular: the personal lives of our target group.
In all activities, we use concrete, everyday language.
All activities are demonstrated by the teacher. Most activities use
multimedia stimuli: video, props, pictures, role play. Most activities
include tips on how they can be adapted to meet the needs of non-speaking or
We have included useful language for participants who want to learn (some)
English for a job, to communicate with people in other countries during
holidays or exchange programmes, or who just want to learn some English, for
fun. We have added fun activities to keep all learners motivated.
Beginners and ‘false’ beginners
The curriculum was developed to be appropriate for true
beginners, but also for learners who already know some English because they
have had some formal instruction, or because they have picked up some
English informally, from television, songs, movies, etc. (so called ‘false’
To make the
course interesting for a considerable age range, we made sure that none of
the materials could be considered childish, too young or too old, for any
specific age-group. We included adult topics such as moving to a new house,
working, going to a party, drinking beer. In the videos we used speakers of
different ages; the main characters: Mike, Jill and Peter are in the middle
range of our target group; in the pilot courses, adult learners varying
between 16 and 56 years of age, found it easy to identify with them.
During the pilot courses, the units were tested with a wide range
of learners. The success of the course always depended on the teacher(s).
With a target group as diverse and as varied as ours, a good, flexible and
motivated teacher is indispensable and much more important than materials
and worksheets. Even with a curriculum specifically developed for the target
group, a good teachers is needed to bridge the gap between the materials and
activities, and the needs and preferences of the learners.