He is a Language Trainer and Consultant with national companies and organizations, specializing in leading courses on English grammar and clear writing.
Martin also has a good working knowledge of German, having studied at the University of Regensburg and he visits Germany regularly. He is a tutor at Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Center for Key Qualifications (Zentrum für Schlüsselqualifikationen), Germany.
Martin is also a part-time tutor at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London and part-time visiting lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University.
Martin’s wife, Yusandra, complements him in the creative team. Her sculptures have a highly individual and intuitive style.
“One of Britain’s leading lexicographers” – Macmillan publishers
“An excellent tutor” – Feedback from in-house training
“Martin is responsible for cutting sermon preparation time in half, for making speeches more interesting and for making spelling more accurate”- Alpha magazine
The gift of words
I’ve always wanted to write dictionaries ever since I was six years old. When I was six, my family went on holiday to Norway. I reckoned that the only logical way to learn the language was to write out a list of English words in one column and their Norwegian equivalent in the next.
So I was good with words. At the end of primary school, we had to write about what we had been given at Christmas. My parents had given my twin sister and me each a Little Oxford Dictionary and a tangerine, and I noted in my essay, ‘miscellaneous other paraphernalia’ (I cannot recall whether I got the spelling right – I expect I did!). I still had to learn about formal and informal words but nevertheless the teacher wanted me to stand up in front of the school and read out my essay in the hope that something of this skill would rub off onto others.
At school, I was pretty good at most academic subjects, though I didn’t like sports.
For my Advanced level exams, I studied French and German. One teacher (Mr Matthews) gave additional help in German to three of us and he also took a personal interest in us. So there was rapport there – something I have appreciated since as a vital ingredient in the teaching process.
There was good teaching too, eg regular testing of French irregular verb endings, called ‘bumper fun’ tests, on Monday mornings.
There was also freedom on his part – this was seen in two ways, the second of which changed my life. The first was that I got fed up with translating what I thought of as boring texts and translated something I was interested in. (I now encourage participants in my courses to read anything, but if they read material they are interested in they will be more motivated. ) So I translated a piece from the then current BBC Handbook; the translation was OK but not brilliant, but he gave me the freedom to do that.
That second was life-changing. Mr Matthews invited a former pupil to speak about linguistics. The man’s name was Geoff Pullum (his sister later studied linguistics with me at York Uni). He came and spoke — but I remember more what he did (good visual aids) than his precise words. He asked us to put our hand in front of our mouth and say the word pit, and then do the same with the word spit. ‘Did we feel the breath with the word pit that we didn’t feel with the word spit?’ Then Geoff said that in some languages that would be a significant difference, [as I later learnt ‘phonemic’ difference.] This was an incredible Eureka moment, and I thought, ‘Such stuff fascinates me!’ I was quickly led to linguistics — and words, language and languages have occupied me ever since.
So over the years I’ve fulfilled that childhood dream of writing dictionaries. To date I’ve compiled or edited about 180 dictionaries, reference books and helps to get people into the Bible. I now see that God has given me the gift of words.
Knowing God as a friend
I became a Christian in my opening weeks at the University of York when I began to study linguistics. During my teenage years I was seeking to answer the big questions of life, eg what is the meaning of life?’ I even went to a church meeting for young people but I was disappointed when the only question they answered was, ‘What clothes should we wear to church?’ (I have never been particularly fashion-conscious!).
At the beginning of sixth form as we began to study French literature, a wise teacher asked, ‘What is the point of literature?’ We sat in silence for over half an hour uttering more or less inane responses to that question. I got tired of this and blurted out, ‘What are we all doing here?’ which the teacher interpreted as being the answer to his question and commended me on my response! So I was searching.
Then at university, I opened an invitation card to go along to a meeting organised by the Christian Union. I went along, partly to meet other people, and was bowled over by a clear presentation on the good news of Jesus Christ: I could come to know God personally through Jesus Christ. I could know Jesus Christ as a friend.
I went along to a further Christian Union meeting on the Saturday and to a church Guest Service on Sunday evening, entitled ‘God or nothing?’ If there was no God, there was nothing and life was completely pointless. But if there was a God, then life had meaning. I gave my life to Jesus Christ at the end of that service.
Throughout all this time, I had a Christian grandmother who had prayed for me and my brothers and sister every day for 18 years.
Since that time, I have grown spiritually. Being a Christian is central to what I am and what I do.
I met my wife Yusandra at Wolverhampton Polytechnic (now University of Wolverhampton) and we got married. We have a daughter and partner (Hannah and Toni), a son and daughter-in-law (Ben and Hsu) and grandchildren (Lilly and Oliver).
Business books and courses
I have also written or edited books on writing and business, eg the Penguin Writer’s Manual, the Guide to Good Writing and the Guide to Style (both published by Facts on File), Time Management, Presenting, Mindpower (published by Harper Collins) and Teach Yourself Introducing Management in a Week and Teach Yourself Successful Project Management in a Week (Hodder Education).
Since 2001, I have been a Language Trainer and Consultant with national and international companies and organisations, leading courses on communications and business skills, eg on report writing, running effective meetings, time management and project management.