Mission and Motivation

Hello! I’m Victor, and I created FirstLanguageEnglish.com as a project to help foster deeper understanding of the Cambridge First Language English curriculum because I think that it is an incredible curriculum, but one that many students aren’t served well by because they haven’t had the right resources in place in order to do well on the exams.

This project is a labor of love and is fundamentally dedicated to the students out there whom I’ve served and whom I will have the privilege to serve through this work.

I am passionate about it for many reasons, not least because it offers the chance to teach people about critical thinking, textual analysis, and the ability to create and to appreciate the wonders of language. Moreover, it offers the chance to create something meaningful that will outlast my lifetime and that I hope will serve as a contribution to the next generation.


My mission is to transform IGCSE First Language English training by providing the best resource that the world has ever known.


1. The importance of rhetoric and critical thinking for a functioning civil society.

I think that it is tremendously important for people to learn the skills associated with First Language English, and that they correlate deeply with the skills required to become a functioning and intelligent member of an intelligent and working civil society. This is a goal that does not simply encompass petty things like being good at debates – this is a goal that aims to help develop the generation around me in such a way that they can do well in life and to achieve the targets that they will set.

It is a goal to which I am happy to donate my time, skills, and effort, knowing that it will pay extensive long run dividends in the end.

2. The Skills Gap.

Doing well on First Language English requires extensive skills in rhetoric, ideation, and language. It requires the ability to read critically, to synthesize texts, to create scenes from one’s imagination; it forces the writer and the reader to become able to confront imagined scenes and learn how to express them from their own point of view, demonstrating sophisticated skills of interpretation, writing, and the ability to see effectively as they create their work.

I realized this after speaking to IGCSE examiners who have trained in the subject and have gone for trainings overseas, and even from teachers who have gone on to teach IGCSE First Language English…

The average quality of IGCSE First Language English instruction is not high… And I am not surprised.

3. The Training Gap

Many teachers who teach English First Language do not have a specific certification to do so.

In fact, this is not surprising, because none exists.

There are no specific certifications for First Language, after all (CELTA is the most accepted, but it is not first language – neither is DELTA), and the extent to which there is alignment in terms of delivering English First Language is very limited because the criteria of the curricula and the aims that it aspires to achieve are rather broad, and the skill of evaluation and analysis is not straightforward to deliver; on a second order level, because one cannot give what one does not have, many teachers find themselves woefully underprepared to deliver this curriculum because they were not trained in the correct way.

Moreover, there are few resources that are *directly* tailored towards the English language itself, since the English language, as a means of communication in itself, is something that is primarily used to express and develop ideas that do not have English in and of itself as their final end. In a university, for instance, you could have a linguistics major that focuses on the specifics of language (phonetics, morphology, syntax, articulation, pragmatics), or you could have English literature, focusing on Chaucer and Shakespeare with contemporary literature included as part of a liberal arts or humanistic education – but few schools would create a specific “English” course and instead aver to teaching the specific skills associated with English (such as writing). Even then, the quality across these programs is vastly divergent.

The net result? It is not just that teachers are under-trained – it is that there is no clear path to helping them get better.

4. The importance of critical thinking and strategy.

Critical thinking and strategy are essential to the way that students approach First Language English.

The extent to which a student can succeed in First Language is a direct function of how well they can think and process the world, which in turn is a direct function of being exposed to the correct thinking processes and the correct strategy for each individual instance of unseen text or language that they encounter and therefore attempt to engage with.

Few curricula are able to deliver thinking processes that are of this necessary quality, not always on account of the quality of teachers – sometimes, what is received is of a lower quality because the student cannot absorb or does not individually actuate the lessons that have been learned.

Understanding how to deliver that efficiently to students is something that I am fascinated with – I won’t claim that I will succeed, but I certainly will say that this is my attempt to execute on that plan because it is intrinsically interesting to me.


I think that the First Language English (whether 0500 or 0990 variant ala UK) curriculum is sound in its intent and structure but lacking worldwide in terms of implementation, and I believe with all my soul that it is tremendously worthwhile to conduct this project at this stage in time.

While there are going to be some people in this world who will take up the challenge that is present in this curriculum and will deliver work that is concordant with the best quality standards, many will also lack the capacity to make best use of it (students) or deliver it (teachers).

I want to change this.

I want to change this, even as I acknowledge that each student approaches a curriculum independently and with their own prior experiences at home, schooling, prior learning, and prior reading.

I want to change this, knowing fully well that I may never be ready or even fully ever qualified to do so.

I want to change this, knowing that nobody in the world is perfect, and certainly not myself.

Through this project, I can help to elevate more people and change the proportion of people who are able to use language and to exercise skills in rhetoric with the aim of increasing that proportion dramatically as a consequence of this work, in turn to help facilitate the process of develop a more educated civil society 🙂

If you’re interested to join in on this project or would like to support it, please consider dropping an email here or leaving a comment on this post for me to follow up on 🙂

With my very best,

Victor Tan.