MULLing with Ilá Coimbra


Ilá has been a teacher for over 12 years. After graduating in Languages from Universidade de Sao Paulo, she lived in Ireland, where she obtained her Cambridge English CAE & CPE. She currently teaches adults, especially preparing them for exams such as IELTS and CAE, and she’s also a teacher trainer at SEVEN Idiomas in São Paulo. As part of her professional development, Ilá has obtained the CELTA and ICELT and is taking a TESOL Diploma in 2016. Here she shares her MULLing experiences with us.

How long have you been a member of the MULL group?

I can’t actually say precisely, but I believe I joined the group in its first months, just some months after BRAZ TESOL Conference João Pessoa…. That would be… a year ago, probably.

Where do you usually take photos for the group? What kinds of photos do you take?

I take them in my hometown – Sao Paulo, Brazil, but I’ve taken photos in pretty much every city I’ve visited in the last year. I simply adore menus – the effort (or lack of) that is made to convey what the dish is really draws my attention. I also love the puns and word plays, but I can’t find them very often here in Sao Paulo.

What do you use to take photos (e.g. smartphone or camera)?

Smartphone! It’s easier and faster to upload from it.

Have you learnt anything about language through taking photos for MULL?

Not from my photos, but from other members’ posts absolutely. And the comments are a unique part of the linguistic landscape themselves.

Have you had any interesting experiences along the way?

Maybe not that interesting because I believe that most MULLers have been there, but more than once I got a little late somewhere because I had stopped to get a photo. Also, I’ve already got off the bus/subway some stops before just to shoot something interesting.

Can you tell us about a memorable photo?

The one I took in a hostel in my first hours in London. It said “Put down that map and get…wonderfully lost”.

It was April this year and I remember that I was absolutely ecstatic about being in London for the first time, about going to IATEFL for the first time and I had just bought the map of the city. I used a map to get to the hostel in which my friend was staying, because we were going to meet and get a train to Manchester together. It was a beautiful sunny day, and when I got to the hostel, I ordered a pint and sat just beside that sentence. It was a lyrical moment.

What do you like/dislike about the MULL group?

I really like the clarification that most members (especially Natália Guerreiro!) give when they’re posting or even commenting something in their language. It’s culturally interesting and relevant.

Thanks Ilá!


Marjorie Rosenberg on MULLing

flowered blazer Internet

Marjorie Rosenberg is originally from the United States and has been living in Austria since 1981.  She teaches at the University of Graz, trains teachers and writes materials in the business English field and on methodology. She was the Coordinator of the IATEFL BESIG group for the last five years and recently stepped down to take on the IATEFL Presidency. She blogs about teaching and learning at

Here she took time out of her busy schedule to share her experience of MULLing with us.

How long have you been a member of the MULL group?

It is just about a year now.  I remember seeing it on Facebook and thinking it looked like a great idea.  Then Jill Hadfield added me to the group and I was thrilled to become part of it.

Where do you usually take photos for the group? What kinds of photos do you take?

I had long noticed signs, announcements, menus and other examples of interesting language or quirky expressions as I assume most language teachers tend to do. Joining MULL, however, gave me a purpose for this and I often found myself stopping to get a photo of a sign, either handwritten on a blackboard outside a café or shop, a professional advertisement seen in the public arena or a notice posted in a window. Some of these are from the US, some from Austria where I live and others from places I travel to for work or pleasure.

What do you use to take photos?

I tend to take them with my smartphone as I can then immediately upload them to Facebook.

Have you learned anything about language through taking photos for MULL?

I have become more aware of translation difficulties and how people transform their own language into English. I have also noticed a fair amount of English being used in other languages, in some cases correctly and in some with new meanings or with typical mistakes made by speakers of another language. What I have also noticed quite often are problems in communication of the message that may arise when two languages are mixed together. If the sign had stayed in the original language, the message would have been clear but adding in English words often gives it a completely different meaning or interpretation.

Can you tell us about a memorable photo?

Some of my favorites include one I took in West Hartford, Connecticut outside a chocolate shop.  As a true chocoholic, this sign spoke volumes to me. The second one was a mixture of German and English which was understandable to me as a speaker of German but probably fairly misleading to someone who didn’t know ‘Schmuck’ in German means jewellery and may have completely misunderstood the message of what the shop was selling. The last one was taken outside a seaside restaurant in Maryland and it just struck me as interesting.

Chocolate is the answer by Marjorie Rosenberg    CC BY 2.0
Chocolate is the answer by Marjorie Rosenberg CC BY 2.0


Schmuck for you by Marjorie Rosenberg    CC BY 2.0
Schmuck for you by Marjorie Rosenberg CC BY 2.0





No Pets on Deck by Marjorie Rosenberg    CC BY 2.0
No Pets on Deck by Marjorie Rosenberg CC BY 2.0

What do you like/dislike about the MULL group?

I think it is great. It is fascinating see what colleagues and friends around the world post as well as the accompanying comments. It also opens up the world to the richness of language (not only English). I also like the fact that is a cooperative, grass-roots type of ‘movement’, if I can call it that. In addition, I would say that it is a wonderful awareness-raising activity for anyone interested in language and how it works.  I have commented on other friends’ photos and suggested they post them on MULL as well.


Thanks Marjorie!


MULLing with the Hadfields

Our series of interviews with dedicated MULLers continues this time with the Hadfields: Jill, Charles and their daughter Laura.

Charles Hadfield  teaches at Exeter University, Graduate School of Education, after a decade at Auckland University, and a previous career in many different countries. He has always had a great interest in ‘teaching English in difficult circumstances’, spending many years working in ‘developing countries’ in Asia and Africa. As a poet published in Europe,  USA, NZ, and Britain, with four collections to date, he has always emphasised ‘creativity’ in his teaching and training. He is the author of several ELT books Including Writing Games, Reading Games , Introduction to Teaching English and the Oxford Basics series.

Jill Hadfield has worked as a teacher trainer in Britain, France, China, Tibet, Madagascar and  New Zealand, run short courses and seminars for teachers in many other parts of the world and acted as consultant on aid projects in Africa. She has written thirty books, including the Communication Games series, the Oxford Basics series, Classroom Dynamics, a primary Course Excellent!, An Introduction to Teaching English  and  Motivating Learners,  co authored with Zoltan Dornyei .  She has also written two travel books and a novel and has a passion for creativity both in the teaching profession and outside it.

Laura is an English Kiwi currently studying Linguistics and Creative Prose in Auckland Uni. She has a BA in Spanish and Linguistics, and is a keen runner, reader, writer and cat lover who loves creating and remembering bizarre dreams when she wakes up in the morning!


How long have you been a member of the MULL group?

Jill:    Since it started – about a year ago

Laura:    Almost a year

Charles:    From its early days, I think at least a year.


Where do you usually take photos for the group? What kinds of photos do you take?

Laura:    Usually in the CBD of Auckland, walking to uni in town –  mainly signs and advertisements that I find quirky or funny

Jill:    All three of us take photos in two hemispheres – Britain and New Zealand – and sometimes at points in between like Korea or Thailand. I also take photos in countries where I have been invited for conferences, Australia, Japan, Spain, were the last. Where? Anywhere and everywhere… on the street, in restaurants, on the road, in airports, in traffic jams…

I developed a particular obsession with NZ car numberplates – the kind that are called Vanity Plates in the US. NZ has few restrictions on numberplates – 5-7 characters – numbers or letters which means that people can have plates saying for example I MI55 U  or NO 1 YFE (Number One Wife).  Each numberplate has a story behind it and I spend some time wondering what induced the driver to pay money for this public message.

No 1 wife by Jill Hadfield
Just how many does he have? No. 1 wife by Jill Hadfield CC BY 4.0

Charles:    Wherever I am and whenever I can. I learnt very soon that I should always have a camera in my pocket…I often saw things and said to myself, I’ll go back to get a photo…to find it had disappeared, or I could not return easily. “Make Photo while the Sun Shines” is now my MULL proverb now.


What do you use to take photos (e.g. smartphone or camera)?

Jill:    A  small camera.

Laura:    My camera, I don’t own a phone with a camera J

Charles:    Phone? What’s that? Camera of course. I hardly ever use a telephone, let alone a ‘smart’ phone!!!!

One day Charles, one day… Photo by Elliot Brown CC BY-SA 2.0

Have you learnt anything about language through taking photos for MULL?

Jill:    It has made me more aware of the human  capacity for and enjoyment of language play in a huge variety of situations

Charles:    Heaps. I love the way we can watch various languages interweaving, English of course but not only…interesting recent posts on the borders of German and Cyrillic, the wonderful way Spanish and Portuguese  interact, sometimes with English….I really can’t specify any one example. (But thanks to the Brazilian contributions, my Portuguese has improved unbelievably over the last year or so!)

Laura:    I do find the language of advertising very odd, it’s often directed at a very small demographic in a very public area…


Have you had any interesting experiences along the way?

Laura:    I have made friends around me aware of funny signs around Auckland that they now point out to me

Jill:    Plenty.. From attempting to understand menus in Korea , where we were offered Sir-fried Knee Cartilage of a Cow, to arriving in Wellington airport to find that the airport had been renamed..Middle of Middle Earth.

How long was I asleep??? Middle Earth by Jill Hadfield CC BY 2.0

One or two strange encounters with car owners who were puzzled as to why I was photographing their numberplates and not very forthcoming about the reasons for the plate. I learned never to come between a man and his vanity plate! But mostly I like the way MULLing can make very boring experiences interesting – from sitting in a traffic jam to waiting for a delayed flight in an airport.

Charles:    Grabbing a camera to get a photo before Jill takes it!!  Marvelling at how a local friend (Ruth) manages to spot so many signs and details that I have not noticed…the ‘competitive’ element actually makes me want to MULL  wherever I go….really makes life that bit more interesting!

Finding that the most boring stop-over/wait in an unfamiliar place suddenly becomes fascinating because of all the new signs…on planes, trains, in airports, pubs….always more to see.


Can you tell us about a memorable photo?

Charles:    I particularly like the series of laconic York (UK)  newspaper hoardings sent in by Lewis Lansford! The crazy car reg plates from NZ and California and elsewhere. The great way that several Arabic signs have been sent in…we need more from other languages…

Cycle path to nowhere by Lewis Lansford CC BY 2.0

Laura:    Of other people’s photos, I found the ones in Brazil that were quite explicit when explained very surprising!
Of my photos, the ‘Seoul trading centre’ which was a dairy (corner shop) amusing.

Seoul Trading House by Laura Haddy CC BY 4.0
Seoul Trading House by Laura Haddy CC BY 4.0

Jill:    Plenty of memorable ones on the MULL site! I particularly liked Michelle’s photo essay on the Japanese T shirt, Ruth’s street signs from Teignmouth and always enjoy Lewis’s headline news from Accomb.  Memorable photos I have found: I particularly like signage with word play, for example the Auckland poster Ship happens or the sign outside our local bakers’ BA king BR ead. Or I like the unintentionally funny ones like the sign on the motorway which read SIGN NOT IN USE. And of course, my proudest moment was photographing this:

Ours too Jill. Ours too. MULL 1 by Jill Hadfield CC BY 2.0

What do you like/dislike about the MULL group?

Jill:    I think it’s great to be part of an international community united by love of language, and to be privileged to have a window on the linguistic world in this way

Laura:    I like knowing where the photos are from, sometimes a lack of context is confusing though!

Charles:    What’s not to like?!  It’s the first thing I go to when I wake up / return to my computer, always puts a spring in my step, to know that people all around the world are sharing this delight in language


Anything else you’d like to share?

Jill:    I did a  preliminary classification of numberplates on the MULL FB site . I’d like to investigate this area more , and also ways of using signage  for creative writing with students.

Charles:    I’ve been back in UK for nearly two years now, and have still not managed to get a photo of my most wished for MULL contribution /target…I see it often when I’m driving, but can’t stop…I think I will have to take a day off work soon for dedicated MULL research…, watch this space!

Laura:    Keep going!

Happy Birthday, MULL!

by Andrew Kirkpatrick

Happy time
Happy time by Ratanaporn Bright – CC BY 4.0

Time has flown by since the Facebook Group, Map of the Urban Linguistic Landscape (or MULL as it is known), was started by Damian Williams and Stephen Greene, a year in fact.

Some of you may have been lucky enough to have seen Damian’s talk at IATEFL in Manchester earlier this year, also given at International House recently, where he talked about the Linguistic Landscapes in greater detail.

It seems that the language around us is constantly changing, evolving and often mixed with other languages, be it on shop signs, t-shirts, vehicle livery, notices, menus, the list quite simply goes on. Sometimes the results are clever, sometimes funny and other times a failure.

Fechado closet
Closet by Jess Andrews – CC BY 4.0

Damian and Stephen would take photographs of language wherever they were, often to the frustration of their family.  The group was created to capture the images of Linguistic Landscapes, discuss the use of the language and allow others to use images for learning and teaching. The Flickr page is used to supplement, categorise and map the locations of the pictures, nearly 1,800 at the moment from Europe (22 countries), Asia and Southeast Asia (15 countries), South America (6 countries), Middle East (6 countries), North and Central America (5 countries), Africa (3 countries) and Australasia (2 countries), with more being added frequently. In addition there is also a blog, where there is talk of a forthcoming book by Messrs Greene and Williams, which should be an interesting read.

Now after a full year of the group, there are nearly 2,600 members and the number keeps growing.  From the group, a community has developed, with regular contributions, combined with healthy and sometimes very lively debate regarding the messages and meanings of images posted within the group.  It is probably fair to say that MULL has inspired many members to look at the landscape in an entirely different way and learn from it.  I know it has inspired me! I am certain that it has become an obsession of many members, or Mullers as perhaps we should be called.

Sew much fun
Sew Much Fun by Vicky Saumell – CC BY 4.0

Being part of MULL is indeed fun, educational and not only opens one’s mind to Linguistic Landscapes, but also opens one’s eyes to the wider Urban Landscape while looking for that next image to post.  Whether it serves to provide you with material for your classroom or just pure entertainment, being part of the group brings a feeling of belonging to a diverse, interesting, knowledgeable and humorous community.

I for one sincerely hope that the group continues growing in numbers and thank it for introducing me to the variety of language used right outside our front doors. I look forward to many more interesting and often amusing posts from its committed members (some of whom perhaps should be?).

To finish, I would like to extend a big thanks to members of this fabulous group, especially the founders, Damian Williams, Stephen Greene.  Happy birthday and here’s to many more years to come.  Happy MULLing and be sure to check out the winner of the recent competition, the Annual MULLars, which is to be announced shortly.

To err is urban
To Err is Urban by Ilá Coimbra – CC BY 4.0

MULLers in marriage

A and N marriage pic
Photo by Gabriel Carrara

Natália, an English language teacher from Brazil, recently married Andrew, a Welshman who used to be a loss adjuster before moving to South America. Their relationship has been sprinkled with MULL photos spanning two continents. They have kindly agreed to be our first interviewees, answering questions about their involvement with the group.

A photo from Wales

How long have you been members of the MULL group?

Natália: I think I was one of the first MULLers. About a month later, I added Andrew, who was only a friend at the time. Little did I know that we would soon be mulling together.

Where do you usually take photos for the group?

Natália: Most of the photos we take now are in the city we live in of course, but I used to take advantage of frequent business trips to do some mulling on the side.

Andrew: Not to mention the honeymoon! And random bus trips I take now and then. It’s curious that as a loss adjuster, I used to travel the UK extensively, but I hadn’t yet caught the MULL bug. So most of my pics have actually been taken in Brazil, as I am picking up the language from the signs around me.

Mulling on honeymoon


What kinds of photos do you take?

Natália: All kinds. When I traveled to the UK, puns drew my attention. They were everywhere. Here in Brazil what I like photographing is the use of English and other languages mixed with Portuguese. I find it interesting to consider the status attributed to different languages, including those that do not usually show up, such as indigenous languages.

Andrew: I photograph combinations of languages too, and things that look peculiar, such as mistranslations.

Indigenous languages


 What do you use to take photos (e.g. smartphone or camera)?

Andrew: Mostly our smartphones.

 Have you learnt anything about language through taking photos for MULL?

Andrew: What I learnt was to pay attention to language in a way I didn’t use to. And it’s fascinating.

Have you had any interesting experiences along the way?

Andrew: Well, we did get married.

Natália: And you moved to Brazil. So quite a few interesting experiences, but as far as Mull is concerned…

Andrew: Trying not to look shifty when you take photographs.

Natália: And ignoring the bewildered looks around you… However, what I thought was most peculiar was the conversation we had mid-honeymoon. There we were in idyllic Paraty and we wouldn’t stop taking photos for MULL. So we were discussing whether a new post would break the rule of one post a day when I remembered, “wait, YOU posted, but I didn’t.” Moral of the story: less than a week married, and MULL helped us find out that no, we are not one, but two different individuals.

Can you tell us about a memorable photo?

Andrew: “Passion juice” in a hotel in Belo Horizonte. It had me laughing maniacally before my caffeine injection regime had commenced.

Passion juice
Passion juice

Natália: “Porque toda marca cool tem de ter um slogan em inglês.” (=Because any cool brand needs to have a slogan in English) I took this photo even before MULL came to existence, but it kind of sums up much of the use of English in Brazil. People don’t seem to care whether what they write is correct. It’s the status that the language brings to the table that interests them, I think.

Status of English
Status of English


What do you like about the MULL group?

Andrew: The fast wit and humour of other MULLers.

Natália: And the respect MULLers show to one another when discussing controversial topics.

What do you dislike about the MULL group?

Andrew: There’s nothing to dislike…

Natália: … now, but I have to admit there was a certain someone that used to rub me the wrong way. Anytime a non-native speaker made a typo, there they were, correcting. When a native speaker of English made a mistake, this person would stay put. We even devised an experiment… I had Andrew make a mistake in a comment just after this person had corrected a fellow Brazilian MULLer. Not a peep.

Andrew: Now, now, Natália, where is the respect MULLers are supposed to show one another?

Anything else you’d like to share?

Andrew: I blog about my Brazilian experience on Before you ask, I’m not a trekkie. James is my middle name. It’s just a coincidence.

Natália: Hey, no shame in being a trekkie! And with Andrew, I’ve been learning a lot of colloquial British English, which I post on my online Vocabulary Notebook ( ) . Also, I blog about TESOL on Richmond Share. ( In addition, MULL English language teachers might be interested in joining BRELT, the community of EFL teachers in Brazil ( . And thank you, Damian, for the invite.

Andrew: Thanks. And we’re looking forward to the first MULL get-together: Brazil chapter.

Map of the Urban Linguistic Landscape: Want to Get Involved?

Linguistic Landscapes

It’s been a busy few weeks since we launched this site, with news about our new book and then one of us deciding to go on holiday (thanks for that Damian).  So busy, in fact, that we just haven’t had the time to launch the projects we have lined up for this site.

The basic idea is to involve people as much as possible, and as much as you want, in the area of Linguistic Landscapes.  Many people are happy to look at the photos that are posted on the Facebook Group page and Flickr, others actively comment on images people post and debate the meanings of the language, while other people are assiduous in tracking down and finding some brilliant examples of language in the wild.

A few people, though, have suggested they might like to contribute a bit more to this ongoing project.  If you are one of these people then we would like to hear from you.  We are interested in publishing here your thoughts and experiences of the language you see around you.  Some ideas we have had include:

Behind the photo

Tell us about what was going on behind the camera for an image you captured.  Where were you?  Who were you with?  What happened before or after?  Did you get any strange looks or comments from other passers-by?

The one that got away

Tell us about that great image you saw, but disappeared before you could whip you camera out.  Or maybe there was an advert that you passed every day and kept thinking you’d take a photo of it, but then it came down before you got around to it.  We’ll believe you.

I take photos of random pieces of language because…

Why are you interested in taking pictures of words?  What effect has it had on you?  What about your friends and family?

One from the archives

Take a look at the photos we have on Flickr and find one, or more, that you really like for some reason and tell us why.

Connect the dots

Perhaps there are a few photos that follow a similar theme and you’d like to highlight the language use, or the similarities and differences between them.  They could be your own photos or some you have found from the Flickr site.

Something else

These are just our ideas.  If you can think of something else you would like to write about, please just get in touch.  You can find us in the Facebook group, on Twitter, leave a message below this post, you can email us at stephen@tmenglish or or you can check out our About Us page.


Images used on this page

Very good restaurant Image: MULL by Ben Goldstein – CC BY 4.0

There will be haters: MULL by Damian Williams – CC BY 4.0

Yoghurt emotions: MULL by Ilá Coimbra – CC BY 4.0

Pet fantasy: MULL by Damian Williams – CC BY 4.0

Usual person: MULL by Paula Boyce – CC BY 4.0

I wait for answer: MULL by Hana Ticha – CC BY 4.0

Coming Soon: Linguistic Landscapes – The Book

Linguistic Landscapes - The Book
Linguistic Landscapes – The Book

It seems that the good news just doesn’t stop coming.  Hot on the heels of starting this site to support the growing community on Facebook, we are delighted to announce that we are soon to publish a book full of great exercises for using the linguistic landscape to teach and learn languages.

Our proposal has been accepted by the good people at The Round and so now all we have to do is write it.  We already have lots of ideas and have published a couple of these on The Round’s website in their Labs section for people to comment on.  We think we know what we are doing (famous last words), but we would appreciate any insights or tips you might have by taking a look at giving us some feedback.

Obviously, this means that we are going to busy writing away for the next few months, but we will still have time to set up the projects we have been planning for this site as well as continuing to collate all the images from the Facebook group to our Flickr page.

What is The Round?

The Round is ‘an independent collective of creative individuals in English language teaching’ which seeks to allow ELT professionals with good ideas the space to publish.  The ideas they are looking for are those that are often overlooked by the traditional publishers, perhaps because they fit a niche segment or are innovative or critical.

The Round also seeks to be fair to its creatives by offering reasonable deals and, at the same time, make their products available to educators at as low a price as possible to make them accessible to everyone.

What is Labs?

Labs is a space available for writers to show the projects they are working on and invite feedback from readers or other people who may have valuable experiences.  We have been thinking about this project for a long time now, so it is entirely possible we have driven down a cul-de-sac and are missing some obvious points.  Please feel free to go to the Labs page for our book and let us know where we have gone wrong and how we can remedy the situation.

Hello and Welcome!


A big thank you for visiting our new site that looks at the Urban Linguistic Landscape.  2015 promises to be an exciting year for our project of mapping the urban linguistic landscape and we hope you can follow some of it with us.

We’ll be launching various features and projects here over the coming months, but in the meantime, feel free to follow us on our Facebook group.  This page has been up and running for a while with a great community taking photos of interesting language from all over the world.

If you would like to see some of the best photos from the last few months you can go to out Flickr page.  This page also includes our map of all the photos that have been uploaded so far.

And, of course, we also have a Twitter feed which you can follow at this address @murbll1

What is ‘Linguistic Landscapes’?

Basically, what we are trying to do is get people to share with us examples of interesting language they have found while walking down the street, sitting in a pub or doing their weekly shop.  Obviously, the word ‘interesting’ is highly subjective, so what might be interesting to you might not be to another person, but that is the beauty of our project.  There is no right or wrong about it.  If you like it, we’ll share it.  If you would like to see some of the examples people have already submitted, remember to go to our Flickr page.

Of course, there is more to the study of Linguistic Landscapes.  Damian has written an excellent introduction to the area, and we also have a Further Reading page which we will be adding to as and when we find relevant books, blogs and articles.

We hope you enjoy our site as it develops over time.  We’d love to hear what you think, so please leave us a message on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below.

Stephen Greene & Damian Williams

Images: Mull by Stephen Greene – CC BY 4.0, Mull by Michelle Holcombe – CC By 4.0 and Mull by Cristiane Dias – CC BY 4.0