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Any language which is widely used beyond the population of native speakers is known as a "lingua franca". Such languages are widely used, for example, in business and commerce, science, diplomacy and culture. During ancient times and right up until the late Middle Ages, two of the main lingua franca in Europe were Latin (mainly in Western Europe) and Greek (mainly in Eastern Europe). With the rise up of the Hapsburgs, Spanish became the language of international diplomacy, until it in turn was displaced in this field by French. Many other languages have at times sometimes specified as lingua franca for international communication, and some of these include German, Russian, Portuguese, Polish, classical Chinese, and Arabic. Nowadays, because of the former British Empire, the events of World War II, and the huge cultural, economic and political influence of the United States of America, English has become the dominant lingua franca of international commerce, science, technology and aviation. Additionally, English has become the leading language on the Internet, in part due to the fact that the Internet was first developed in the United States, in part due to the fact that English was already dominant among the scientists and technologists who were the first heavy users of the Internet, and in part due to massive impact of technology businesses founded in English-speaking countries (especially the United States).
Given the importance of English, more and more people are wanting to learn the language. This in turn further entrenches the importance of understanding and speaking English, which encourages yet more people to learn English, and so on.
Many non-native speakers are, of course, able to pick up some English from hearing and seeing the language in daily use. It's also certainly true that an intense number of people have learnt some English as a result of watching Hollywood movies, watching British or American TV programs, or listening to Western popular music. However, non-native speakers who wish to use English as part of their professional life, generally find that more formal education in English – studying "English as a Second Language" (sometimes also known as "English as a Foreign Language" – abbreviated to "ESL" or "EFL") – to be useful.
Teachers of ESL courses will generally aim to bring into their students a good knowledge of both spoken and written English. This will be done through various classroom activities including speaking, reading and writing the language, as well as classroom games.
One particular game that is increasingly popular in ESL courses is bingo. Bingo is ideal for teaching situations because it is very easy for students to learn and play, because it does not require expensive materials, and because it can be adapted to teaching numerous different topics. The game is played in class: –
1. Before class, the teacher prepares a set of bingo cards (one per student), containing the items to be taught or revised. Depending on the theme for the lesson, this may include numbers, dates, times, or English words (sight words – words that can not be sounded out, but are are common in the English language, and must be recognized to achieve reading fluency – are particularly popular). Please note: although a small amount of preparation is needed, it is not something that teachers need not worry much about – they can download ready-to-use free bingo printables from the Internet, or they can purchase low cost bingo card printing software which will allow them to print unlimited quantities of bingo cards on any theme or topic.
2. At the start of the class, each student is given a bingo card. The teacher acts as the bingo caller, and the students play, either marking off the items from their cards, or covering squares with a coin or counter if you wish to re-use the cards in a subsequent lesson.
Of course, since the purpose of the game is to practice English, it's very important that all game should be conducted in English! Enterprising teachers can also adapt the game play if they wish – for example, they could require the winning student to read out, in English, the items that they have ticked off.