Conference Qualities

I attended a good number of conferences this spring, online and offline. Like I’ve done previously, I just have to comment on a lot of things I don’t think help the cause of making good teachers.

I won’t dwell on those I’ve mentioned before. Read these prior posts highlighting horrible practices (by the top dogs in our profession).

I’ll just mention one here that I think should be added to the top of the list.

As I was sitting in on a recent conference closing plenary, I was listening to a fine presentation by a teacher trainer from Spain. His English was top knotch though he struggled with really being able to describe well through metaphor, his thoughts on his subject. Also as I looked around, the auditorium was full, full of 99% Spanish speakers. And the thought jumped out at me and hit me on the head like a hammer;

“Why the hell isn’t he (the presenter) speaking to this audience in Spanish? Isn’t this really odd? Something’s amiss.”

I felt like I was in a Monty Python skit or the infamous “Do you speak English?” video short or this Kid’s In The Hall episode.

There is a lot of talk about improving the lot of NNESTs (Non Native English Speaking Teachers – for lack of a better term). I think we could start by holding professional development in their native language. It’s the knowledge and communication that counts. Conferences aren’t opportunities to improve a teacher’s English – they are opportunities to gain professional knowledge.

What I’m saying is that we need ELT conferences or even just certain strands where teachers can communicate without barriers and in their own tongue and thoughts. It would help tremendously. Then we could avoid the farcical situation of a Japanese teacher speaking to an audience full of Japanese teachers in English (about important things …). Let’s begin there.

But like the other head shaking things I see happening in ELT – I don’t hold out hope of it happening soon. Seems that conferences are business and business is with power and power is about language and that’s why we still have this in our face linguistic imperialism happening all over the world week in and week out at our ELT conferences.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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