A report from an IATEFL Conference Aberdeen, 18th-22nd April 2007

Thanks to the British Council Slovakia and our professional organisation SAUA/SATE, I was one of the three people in Slovakia who could attend an outstanding event in the ELT calendar, an annual IATEFL conference in Aberdeen.

The programme was full and you could hardly make a decision where to go and which talk or workshop to attend. There were three plenary sessions: the first about the role of mother tongue in ELT and the importance of learning vocabulary and of the skills in ELT   (handout available at www.hw.ac.uk/langwww/mogul ), another one about teachers‘ development, and last but not least, a very interesting plenary on motivation entitled „You can take a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink,“ which was the best and most useful for most of the teachers as it addressed absolutely everyone teaching bored teenagers!

If I could highlight the sessions which I consider best I would definitely choose those on podcasting. Going to Britain I had no idea what  podcasting was. It seems to be a buzz word nowadys, however, it might be a very useful teaching aid for those who prefer authentic English and have no chance to have a native speaker in class. Simply, you can download people speaking and burn your own CDs to practise natural speech. If teachers want to teach communicative English and prefer teaching functions to „boring“ academic grammar, this is a must. There are several websites where to download material and I think you do not need special computer skills to do so.

Another useful talk and workshop was on  school management  and how teachers at schools should communicate and work towards the common goal by Ad Hockley. Handout is available on request at adhockley@gmail.com.

During the conference there was an exhibition of the newest publications by various publishing houses, OUP,CUP, MacMillan, Pearson Education Ltd. just to mention a few. Some of the talks were purely to advertise their new products. It was quite useful to get to know them though. It  keeps teachers informed about what is available on the market and we got some new ideas how to use dictionaries or readers in the classroom. New coursebooks reflect  the latest research, mainly in psychology, and it was also useful to learn why and how students at different age levels learn in different ways. Certainly helpful!

The conference was not only a deep insight into the world of ELT but also an opportunity to meet people from all over the world ( both the coursebooks authors and the ordinary  school teachers) and talk to them, exchange your experience in ELT. We had a nice reunion with an ex- British Council Slovakia teacher trainer Phil Dexter , currently working in Saudi Arabia, who along with another ex- teacher trainer from Matej Bell University in Banska Bystrica, Michael Houtten, are sending their regards. (See attached photo.)

At last, had it not been the British Council Slovakia I would not have been able to attend the conference. I would like to express my gratitude to them for giving me grant to cover  both the conference fee and the travel cost. Finally, my advice for those who cannot attend the conference next year is, watch it online! Welcome to the IATEFL 2008!

Marianna Borsova