April 10th 2018
First day of the conference. To our great surprise and pleasure, my roommates and I discovered that the plenary session, as well as a great part of the conference was being held in the building where we are living.
The day started with Lourdes Ortega’s plenary session on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) Research. Apart from debunking long held popular beliefs by presenting the results of academic and scientific research. She stated, for example, that it is not true that learning a foreign language earlier inlife is better for language acquisition. She contrasted theory and practice in a wide range of aspects and wondered whether in the ELT area this activity should be called research, enquiery or exploratory Action Research.
After this , as I am especially interested in research lately, I went to see the showcase of The Champions Teachers Programme,which is a project sponsored by the British Council in Chile, and which presented its printed book on that day. The main difficulties for Action research is to choose a topic and to make the right questions. Richard Smith and Paula Rebolledo role played how a mentor should ask questions, so later the audience did the same in pairs. The idea is to spread the possibility for teachers to do Action Research, as a way of improving education.
My next session was Chris Strawson’s ”Seeing the woods for the trees. Rethinking prescriptive Teacher Training”. The presentation focused on short courses, like Celta. He considersthat in these courses trainees have to be made to practice as soon as possible, and they need to be taught PPT methodology at the beginning of their course, to later introduce them to other methods. The focus has to ba laid on universal key concepts, like error correction, context, unifying theme, authentic model and clear instructons. What I thought that was interesting was his distinction between feedback and feedforward.
Scott Thornbury explored what makes a good language learner in his talk “Hyperpoliglots, what can they teach us?” As I myself am a good language learner, I am happy to check that good language learners do what I have intuitively done since I was a child. Good language learners use certain strategies, such as memorizing texts or dialogues, memorizing chunks (I could hear myself repeating whole chunks of my German book introductory paragraph.), they use translation and reversr translation, and they (or we) distribute practice and use mnemonics. There are affective factors that influence the success in learning a language, such as self confidence and ego permeability. In conclusion, good language learners are good sources of information to orient language learners how to do it better.
After this I had the plearsure of listening to Marina Gonzalex, who offered a very clear and enlightening talk on how she runs the language department of the university where she works. Based on sound theoretical background, she made a thorough analysis of the different stages the managing of this department went through, and how she had to change the strategies in order to survive in the organization. Theory, in Marina’s words, is context dependent, and a strategic manager has to be human and technical at the same time.
After visiting the forum on CPD, I rushed to Ambassador room to see Virginia Lopez Grisolia, who talked about the role of Grammar in BELF perspective. Being a Grammar professor at the most prestigious Teacher Training Colleges in Argentina and a businesss English trainer, she is in a privileged position to make a deep analysis of what it is that business English trainees need in times in which English is a lingua franca rather than a second or a foreign language. Language in Business English is a means of intercultural communication, and this is central for the business English trainer to understand. Accuracy has to give room to fluency,intelligibility and flexibility. BELF (Business English as a Lingua Franca) calls for flexible teachers, but although many of them seem to be receptive to this new conception of the language, they do not put it into practce and, therefore, continue teaching the way they were taught to do it.
I had a rest and then, my favourite part of the conference came. The Pecha Kucha is a good chance to relax and have some fun. The topics ranged from the envitonment to powerpoint presentations. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed it a lot.
This was the wonderful end of my first IATEFL2018 day. A day in which I met people, I walked several kilometres in corridors and between the Hilton hotel and the Brighton Centre, a day for learning and for celebrating our profession.