A First Time Speaker in 50th IATEFL Conference

Mandira Adhikari*

This article provides my individual reflection as a first time speaker of 50th IATEFL Conference where I have reflected plenary sessions, forum sessions, individual sessions and evening events that I attended during the conference.

Plenary Sessions a Glance

The plenary session by David Crystal was more informative on changes in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. He presented the new vocabularies like; manspain, yippies, Rachmanism, slashkini, wasband etc. Similarly, he presented the changes in meaning of the vocabulary due to several factors as; globalization, social mobility and internet.

The plenary session on, ‘the native factor, the haves and have not’s by Silvia Richardson arouse a discussion on the impact of the native speaker bias and its dominances in the field of teaching and learning of English. She requested non-native teachers of English to be confident and not to feel nervous just because of being a ‘non-native’ teacher.

Another session on ‘ Shifting metaphors from computer input to ecological affordances’ by Diane Larsen Freeman highlighted that our learners aren’t computers and the input they take will be processed and come out as it is. Thus, there is an instrument between input and output that overlooks the meaning making nature of language use. As learners’ developmental patterns are different, learners create their own affordances. She also highlighted the implications of affordances for English language teaching and learning by providing the example of her two years old granddaughter’s way of using fork in her own way. Therefore, the idea of affordances is two-way relationships between learner and environment.

The plenary by Scott Thornbury in 1966 and all that: A critical history of ELT was a review of some major developments in the field of ELT. As a warmer, he asked us to guess ‘What happened in his life’ by providing the dates and obviously our guess was related with his personal life, which was different than he intended to present.

According to Thornbury, during the period in ELT in 1900s, native English was more focused because the cover page of the book produced at that time used to have the picture of London which means the author of the book wants to say that the book has got Native English spoken in London. Similarly, the year 1966 was significant as TESOL was founded that year and universities introduced the courses in English language teaching and the revolutionary article entitled ‘How not to interfere with language learning’ was published with the theme that language learning should be different than teaching content. In 1967, IATEFL organized its first conference in London. In 1971, there was a symposium in Switzerland where the concept, like learners shouldn’t make mistakes while learning language or student should be taught language by making as few mistakes as possible, was evolved. The notion of communicative competence came in 1972 and was gradually in its developmental process. However, functional notional syllabus appealed in 1975 and language leaning focused more on outcome as test still remained as the most important word. Thus, Thornbury categorized the moments as; the pragmatic route, the dogmatic rote and the dialectic route.

According to him, the pragmatic route is the route when language used to be taught as a subject based on the syllabus and testing would measure the outcome. Dogmatic route is the route where language is taught according to the needs of the learners which is a communicative way of teaching and learning language. Similarly, dialectic route is the route that focuses on real life situations such as going to a shop and dealing with the customers or drawing a picture and describing it to the teacher. Then he asked us to think what may happen in 2066 (fifty years later). May be the same discourses will be within us and some teachers will be in opposition. Thus, discussion on teaching and learning language will move in a linear process. Therefore, his session made us to review the ELT history and the possibilities of future discussions, and awoke us once again to think out the classroom techniques we are using.

Another plenary session by Jan Blake on ‘Man, woman, life, love: stories from Africa, the Caribbean and beyond was interesting because of the performance of tales and the mixture of life, love and fantasy. The tales she shared are still fresh in my memory because of her way of storytelling which I guess, impressed all the participants.

Forum in IATEFL

As this was my first time of attending IATEFL Conference, Forum was a new concept for me though I was selected as a forum presenter. My presentation entitled ‘Cultivating reading through readers’ club’ was in the forum of reading where I presented in collaboration with Carmen Neagu and Tatiana Kozhevnikova. Carmen’s presentation was based on the research questions of her study intended to find out whether Romanian students improved their level of language through the extensive or intensive approach. Similarly, Tatiana presented on the reading strategy for students’ working with different texts, using both stationary and mobile devices.

Though, this was my first experience of presenting in IATEFL Conference, I felt myself confident enough for presentation and the subject matter too was interesting for the participants as they asked me several questions related with readers’ club and told me that they also want to establish Readers club in their classes as they are also facing the problem of reading in their classes.

I found forum discussion very much effective as we can discuss on focusing particular subject matter such as; listening, speaking, reading, writing separately and participants also can choose the subject area of their interest. I wish we could create Forum presentations in NELTA Conference as well which will indeed build up cooperation among the presenters too.

Besides my forum session, I observed other forum sessions. One of them was ‘forum on large- scale teacher education project’ where Vaishali Pradhan, Tirtha Karki and Uma Sivaraman presented about large scale teacher education project in Nepal and India. Vaishali Pradhan presented on different project implemented by British Council Nepal. For instance: ETTE Project, NITE project and EDGE project. I was familiar with EDGE (English and Digital for Girls’ Education) project as I myself was the EDGE Trainer but wasn’t familiar with ETTE and NITE Project. She highlighted the demand of project by the teachers after the completion of a phase which was named as ETTE + later. Tirtha Karki also presented his experience of being a trainer in NITE project. Uma Sivaraman presented the system of KendriyaVidlaya in India where we can find three different medium of instructions viz., Hindi, English and Urdu. She added that the school provides different in-service trainings for the teachers for their professional development. We also have a KendriyaVidlaya in Nepal.

Forum on technology in the classroom was presented by Radhika Gholkar, Jaya Ram Khanal, Laura Labacher and Sarah Wakefield. Radhika and Jayaram presented the context of Nepal and India which was quite similar as we are gradually sifting towards technology based classroom whereas Sarah and Labacher demonstrated a practical activity to develop communication skills. It was very similar with digital stories but was very interesting and I am thinking to use it in my real life classroom.

Another forum on Using Drama in the classroom, presented by Geeta Goyal, Govinda Puri and Emi Slater highlighted the use of drama in the classroom to develop speaking skills of the learners. The presentation was effective as there were video clips from real life setting and participants were eager to know more about drama in English Access Microscholarship Program, Nepal which was well explained by Govinda Puri.

Individual Sessions

I attended different individual sessions and found out that most of the sessions highlighted an importance of communicative method of language teaching and learning. For instance: Hugh Dellar’s presentation on ‘English Futures: retooling teaching for tomorrow’s learners’.

Besides the approach of learning English in the classroom, I found another interesting presentation by Nick Saville and David Graddol entitled ‘Young learners as researchers: a language landscape project in Mexico’. It was related with the research project conducted into the language area of Mexico City that has been used to motivate young learners to engage in learning English outside the classroom. English teachers who were involved in the project used it as the basis of classroom activities. This research is still going on so the presentation wasn’t the conclusion of the project but was the impact of the project among learners and teachers of the project. The research was based on how language is used in public places and how it helps learners to understand roles and performances of the language in community. I enjoyed this session a lot as it has a different concept of learning English language which is really effective. This project tends to study language in the real life setting. The teachers as well as the learners are the expert in this project as children were giving words to the teacher and were preparing for their class which is indeed a step of being a researcher. After attending the session what triggered in my mind is that I can use this technique in one of my classrooms for Young learners.

Dr. Laxman Gnawali’s presentation on when trainees looked at the bigger picture provided a practiced approach in Kathmandu University where trainees are provided opportunities to design the curriculum, textbook, assessment items and evaluation by themselves. On the other hand, Laxmi Prashad Ojha presented on Leading the change: changing approaches of teacher education in Nepal and provided a glimpse of the past situation which was not appropriate environment for the learners in Trivuwan University including the present situation which is improved with small sized classroom, semester system and effective curriculum. He also presented how teachers are also aware of professional development of the learners as he once provided them the opportunity of watching IATEFL Conference online.

Evening Events

Evening events of IATEFL Conference was exciting such as; British Council Networking reception, a story-sharing evening, extensive reading foundation reception and award ceremony, a musical ceremony of IATEFL’s 5oth Conference and international quiz and found out that we can have story sharing competition in my real classroom and international quiz can be conducted in 22nd NELTA international Conference.

My overall reflection of IATEFL 2016 was awesome as I gained a lot of insight, new approaches and methods for my classroom, networking with the English teachers around the globe and found out a new platform for my professional development in future. I am really thankful to British Council, Nepal and Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association Nepal who provided me the opportunity to attend and present in such a mega event and helped me to add another brick for my professional development.

(*Ms. Adhikari is a graduate in ELT from Kathmandu University. She also completed an intensive teacher training course, TESOL Certificate. Currently, she is an Access instructor in English Access Microscholarship Program and lecturer of English at Lumbini College, Nepal. Her research interest is in learning within diversities. She is also a life-member of NELTA.)


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