The Survey of English Usage
Quarterly Newsletter
June 2011

This newsletter is part of a series of quarterly newsletters from the Survey of English Usage, intended to keep the academic community and other interested parties informed about research in the Survey. The newsletter will be sent out in March, June, September and December. The March issue is the Survey’s Annual report.

New Proof of Concept Funding

I'm very pleased to announce that the Survey was awarded further Proof-of-Concept Funding from UCL Business for a project entitled Mobile Device Apps: A New Channel for UCL Knowledge Transfer Activities.

The development of applications, colloquially called 'Apps', for handheld mobile devices such as the iPhone/iPad has become an extremely popular way of promoting interactive tools, games, books, and music to a highly visible, relatively young and affluent international marketplace.

Apple has very much been the first mover in this area, with some key statistics in relation to their proprietary 'App Store' including:

  • Three billion Apps were downloaded through the Apple App Store by iPhone and iPod touch users worldwide in the eighteen month period to January 2010.
  • Monthly download statistics indicate that App store users typically downloaded an average of 4.8 Apps per month, of which around one quarter were paid-for Apps (source:
  • An App store user typically spends around $4.37 per month on Apps.

In December 2009, 280 million Apps were downloaded generating $250 million of revenues.

However the emergence of competing mobile device platforms and their own branded 'App stores', such as the Android Market, Nokia's Ovi Store, Blackberry's App World and Windows Marketplace, suggest that Apple is likely to face challenges to its market leadership in the App space during the forthcoming months.

UCL has embraced the App channel through the development of three free applications on the Apple App store ('UCL Go', 'UCL iContact and UCL iMap), together with lectures and podcasts available via Apple iTunesU site, but has yet to venture in the area of paid-for Apps.

The Survey has designed and developed the iGrammar of English (iGE) as an App initially for Apple hand-held devices. The proposed App, which will be launched this summer, will provide a complete interactive course in English grammar with extensive exercise material and a glossary to enable English language students at a range of levels to study and develop English language skills more effectively. Important differentiators of the SEU offering are:

  • The course materials are written, revised and updated by UCL academics who have significant experience of developing English Language Training materials.
  • The exercise materials are taken from the SEU's spoken and written English language corpora resulting in realistic learning examples. Importantly, with a subset of the corpora being embedded within the App, the user would be provided with a wide range of test examples compared to the fixed test cases contained within text books.

It is hoped that this project will act as a potential pathway for the commercialisation of the Survey's AHRC-funded Knowledge Transfer project Creating a Web-Based Platform for English Language Teaching and Learning aimed at the UK National Curriculum in secondary education (see english-usage/projects/grammar-teaching) and could have extensibility to the following applications:

  • Opportunity in overseas markets to translate the App into languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean;
  • The opportunity to develop spin-off Apps for English, e.g. to study irregular verbs, sentence patterns, etc.
  • The opportunity to develop Apps for other languages taught at UCL (Apps to practise irregular verbs in French, gender in German nouns, etc.);

Some screenshots of the app are shown on the right. Move your mouse over the smaller shots to view them in closeup.

Bas Aarts

June 2011

This page last modified 1 February, 2018 by Survey Web Administrator.