John Leggott’s English Department hosted a talk from the famous linguist, writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster Professor David Crystal. The talk was split into two lectures, with time at the very end to ask questions. The first lecture was on the topic of Conversation and the second lecture was about Language and Technology. John Leggott College teamed up with Franklin College, Grimsby and Wilberforce College, Hull to offer the lecture collaboratively under the ACT collaboration,

David Crystal was born on the 6th of July in 1941 in northern Wales and is most commonly known as a British linguist.  He introduced himself by talking about his previous jobs and linked it to how difficult it is to observe conversations and use them as data. For example, he worked in a survey at a University where he had to find ways to record real life conversations to try to get data to use. This could be part of the reason that David Crystal decided to get into linguistics, which has led him to accomplish all of the success he has in his career so far. I think this knowledge is important to consider as it tells us how David got into this specific career choice, he’s learnt all of the things that he has along the way. As well as this, he is willing to share this knowledge with the new generation of English Language speakers in a very inspirational manner.


David focused on the topic of conversation for the first half of the talk and he started with questions such as ‘When do you ever see conversation written down?’ and ‘What makes a successful conversation?’ This allowed the audience to think about the talk and what he was going to progress onto. Something very interesting that David  compared was the conversations used in plays in comparison to real life. This was because plays have scripts and show how conversations are ‘supposed to go’. Well as real life conversation is very real and not perfect.


Throughout the entirety of the talk, David was asking questions and trying to involve us as listeners. As this talk was virtual, David expressed that it is a skill to talk in front of people virtually and it’s something that he has had to learn over the past two years, during the pandemic. He then linked this back to the topic of conversation and says that he found this skill very difficult to use as real life conversations involve interruption, which is something that plays and scripts don’t have, which is why they differ so much. As well as this, he discussed the topic of laughter and how it not only is used when finding something funny, but is also used to show support and empathy towards someone else. This was significantly interesting as it’s not something that is used in practised situations such as plays or court and if so is seen as very unprofessional.


Moving onto the second lecture and topic that David discussed to us was Language and Technology. He introduced the talk by explaining when all of the different social media platforms came about. To me, this was a good thing to learn about as David has seen all of these platforms come about and see how they have changed over the years, which is something that I and many other students in the talk haven’t been able to see. Something very engaging to learn about was David’s approach to the hashtag; this was because most people would just think that it came about and people started using it on topics they found interesting. Well as David explained this as creating trends and being able to string specific  words and topics together. It is also a way to find multiple posts or pieces of information on a specific topic all with the click of a button. This may seem very easy to do now, but when the hashtag was created in 2010 it was almost groundbreaking. He linked this to whether the internet has changed the English language and he concluded it by saying that it hasn’t changed the language but it has changed the vocabulary and spelling within the language.


I thoroughly enjoyed listening to David Crystal discuss these topics with us and giving us an insight into his career. It was extremely helpful and made me further understand the topics that we are currently covering and will be covering in the future in my English Language lessons.


Maisie Lister, Journalism Internship student 

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