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We teach language.


Lexical Lab is Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley. We first met at University of Westminster, London in 1997 and have worked closely as teachers, trainers and materials writers ever since. At Westminster, we designed and managed a number of different language and teacher training programmes including CELTA courses and Academic and Pre-sessional English courses. Since 1999, we have written a large amount of published materials, predominantly for National Geographic Learning (NGL).

We have written one five-level General English coursebook series: Innovations, which was nominated for ESU award and two ELTons, and one six-level series, Outcomes, which is now in its third edition and has received widespread acclaim. We have also written the Upper-intermediate level of Perspectives, part of a new secondary school course (also with NGL) that features talks from TED.

As trainers and methodologists, we have been strongly influenced by lexical views of language and by practice derived from lexical approaches to language. This led us to write a methodology book, Teaching Lexically, part of Delta Publishing’s multi-award-winning teacher development series.  

You can do a face-to-face course exploring and helping you to implement some of these ideas as part of our London Summer School.

On top of all this, we have written several Teachers’ books and regularly write on teaching and language issues on our blog here and for publications such as ETP, IATEFL Voices and New Routes. As speakers and trainers, we have conducted plenary presentations, talks, workshops and short courses in over 40 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Our presentations and training are well-known for their excellent balance of theory and practical outcomes, all delivered in a highly engaging style.

If you would like us to write something for you or provide a conference presentation, please contact

We are also individual people!

Andrew Walkley

I grew up in Birmingham and went to Nottingham University, where I did English Studies. After that, I went to Spain to teach English ‘for a year’ while I decided what I wanted to do with my life. It turned out that what I wanted to do was teach English!

After that, I returned to the UK, where I worked in various language schools and adult colleges and completed a DipTEFLA and then trained to deliver CELTA courses. I subsequently worked at University of Westminster for 17 years, with a four-year break when I went back to Valencia with my family. I now live with my wife in west London. When I am not working, I play football twice a week, I cycle around the city and enjoy London, I grow vegetables on an allotment, I cook, I collapse in front of the TV.

Hugh Dellar

I’m married with two kids and live in north London. I grew up shuttling between the south coast of England and south London and graduated in English Literature from Goldsmith’s College, part of the University of London, in 1991.

Like many native speakers, I then drifted into language teaching, only really becoming serious about it during a four-year stint in Indonesia in the mid-90s.

I returned to London to do my DELTA and then an MA TESOL and soon afterwards moved into coursebook writing. I worked initially with Michael Lewis and Jimmie Hill, the two men behind The Lexical Approach, a book that influenced me enormously.

In my (far too limited) free time, I continue to play in a band called The Beatpack. I write for a music magazine and DJ occasionally. I read voraciously, I enjoy cooking, and am a life-long Arsenal supporter.


There is no single universal truth about the best way to teach or learn. Some parts of the jigsaw are more widely accepted than others and might be described as clear principles or truths. However, there are many other areas that remain unproven and are perhaps unprovable, and so many choices that teachers make can be described as no more than beliefs.  Our own approach to teaching and our ideas about learning are a mixture of both principles and beliefs.

As with most teachers and trainers, our ideas stem from a variety of sources. There’s our own experience as students at school and as language learners; there’s the training we have received; there are the books about ELT and applied linguistics that we have read and thought about; and there’s our experience as teachers, trainers, and materials writers. In addition, there are occasionally influences from outside the world of ELT. If anyone is to be coherent in their approach or if you want to change or develop as teachers, we feel it’s important to articulate what principles and beliefs you hold at the present time. Once articulated, you may find you are not really following them; once discussed, you might decide they are flawed and should be changed.

In this series, then, each post aims to explain one core principle or belief. There will be a short explanation of what this principle or belief is based on. We shall then suggest a limited number of ways this might (not) be reflected in teaching and learning. Finally, we invite you to comment. You may expand on or disagree with what we have written.


Absolutely central to lexical teaching is a view of language. A starting point on the road towards understanding this view is the commonly stated observation that without grammar you can say little, but without vocabulary you can say nothing. Take the following sequence of words. What do you think is being communicated?

want see film ages

film want see ages

ages want see film

ages film want see

Uttered by a language student, these words are far more likely to get closer to communicative success than the unlikely scenario of them producing only the purely grammatical part of the ideal sentence here:

I have been -ing that for . . .

Words are difficult to define

We recently had an email about the text on one part of our website, where this question was asked – “Should it be language is the building blocks or language is the building block?” It’s a good question to lead into this post. It’d be a bit strange to say building block as not much gets constructed with one block, but can you that say lexis are the true building blocks?

Language is norm orientated

This use of the word norms here is inspired by Patrick Hanks’ recent book, Lexical Analysis: Norms and Exploitations. It’s just the latest in a large number of articles, books and theories which have tried to account for the fact that despite an infinite number of possible sentences based on a limited set of innate grammar rules (essentially the Chomskyan account), actual language use tends towards often repeated chunks and phrases that avoid many possible grammatically correct sentences…

Language is patterned

We have already see that one problem with the grammar + words view of language is that words are difficult to define, but the same could equally said of grammar on its own. In the case of Steven Pinker’s book, Words and Rules, grammar is very narrowly defined as basically the rules of morphology (adding –ed or –s, etc.). Interestingly, he concludes that irregular past forms are actually words, whereas ELT would classify these as grammar…

Different collocations or units of meaning = different networks of words

We saw in the second post in this series that coming up with clear-cut definitions of single words is difficult because individual words impact on each other and change their meanings slightly. For example, Patrick Hanks argues that the typical usage of raging fire is different to blazing fire in that it can be seen to be a both different kind of fire (an accidental one as opposed to one that’s deliberate) and a different kind of ‘big’ (big and out of control – as opposed to big and warming)…