Conference Round Up

The ELT community is surely fortunate to have such an experienced core group of experts to help them stay at the cutting edge of their profession, and perhaps doubly fortunate that this elite band so regularly and skillfully re-package and update their well wrought, by now canonical, view of ELT. A few cynical discontents (“losers”, as one leading member of the elite so perceptively calls them) paint a picture of a commercially promoted cabal of head-in-the-sand, unscholary publishers’ agents peddling the same worn out baloney at one conference after another, year after year, in a way so vulgar and predictable that it makes the Eurovision Song Contest look classy and innovative. But away with the views of these pathetic moaners! “Progress Through Continuity” is the message which clearly resonates with teachers, so let’s take a look at the exciting plenaries soon to be served up by our experts as they lead us along carefully calibrated steps towards a better, more nuanced, understanding of coursebook-driven ELT.

Below, details of up coming events in June.

15th June The Future of English Language Teaching 2019 Conference

Plenary: Penny Ur. Title: Applied linguistics research – A teacher’s perspective

Who better than Penny Ur, OBE, author of so many books and newspaper articles about ELT, to tell us about applied linguistics research! Ur has no problem in confessing that she doesn’t know much about the research because she’s too busy with the nitty gritty classroom stuff; as she so acutely observes “researchers are not practioners”, so what do they know, right? On this occasion Ur will skillfully re-package a plenary she first gave in 1992 about the complete irrelevance of SLA research to classroom practice, this time introducing data from a survey she read about in Pier Morgan’s column in The Mail on Sunday about how East London criminals  pick up a smattering of Spanish while “holidaying” in Marbella, without any help at all from smart alec academics.

21st June Foreign Language Educators  Joint Conference in Collaboration with IATEFL TTEd SIG and TESOL Turkey

Plenary: Andy Hockley.  No title given

A regular plenary speaker at ELT conferences in the past 15 years, Hockley’s mission is to help everybody in the ELT who has entrepreneurial aspirations to reach their goal. He does this by cleverly ringing the changes on a series of well used homilies, starting from this gem: “It is alignment between people’s values and those of the organization which give meaning to work”. Just to bring out the true force of this, perhaps already worn out, cliché, Hockley quotes Podolny, Khurana & Hill-Popper (2005): “To the extent that we understand our work within an organization as contributing to a goal or ideal that we value, our work will have meaning”.  Amen to that. Hockley also talks perceptively about how to avoid being in charge of “a rudderless ship”, dealing instead “in a purposeful and coherent manner with management issues”.  One can only wish that today’s UK politicians could heed Hockley’s wise counsel.

Hockley uses Carter McNamara’s organisational life cycles model (Birth, Youth, Midlife Maturity) not just to reflect on his own life, but also to guide aspiring money-makers through managing the transition from a small organisation to a larger one. What’s great about Hockley is that he turns what might look like the dross of a typical pre-university business management course into a coherent set of easily grasped homiles and general pointers which offend nobody. The uncritical adoption of an uncaring ideology of neoliberalism which consolidates the power and wealth of a small minority to the detriment of the rest of society is cleverly understated, as are the realities of the ELT industry where most workers are treated even worse than they are in most other private industries devoted to maximising profits. What we get instead is optimism, hope, and vision.

On this occasion, Hockley will skillfully re-package a plenary he first gave in 1992 about how to go from working as a zero conract teacher with the “English in Two Weeks” school in Brighton to the owner of a multinational chain of “English in Two Weeks” academies with a strong on line presence.

26-28 June International conference on creative teaching, assessment and research in the English language  Malacca, Malasia

Plenary Speaker: Diane Larsen Freeman. In attendance: Alan Maley

It is entirely fitting that neither the title nor the content of this plenary, so eagerly awaited by the legion of Larsen Freeman’s fans, has been made public. It can be no coincidence that the great illusionist Houdini refused to say what would happen at his own shows, or that he too often had problems deciding what to wear on stage. Who knows what this illustrious maestra will say; even her most ardent fan, our very own Scott Thornbury (how long before he himself, facing the daunting challege of 2,997 appearances on stage, attempts the Chinese Water Torture Cell trick!) will not divulge.

What we do know is that Larsen Freeman will skillfully re-package a plenary she first gave in 1992 about the sociolinguisically framed re-appraisal of the significance of patterns found in the remarks made by 3 year children when shown recently buttered toast. This time, it’s rumoured that data from that original study will be compared to data from a 2018 study of a 5 billion word corpus of Larsen Freeman’s presentations. The focus is on the frequency of use of the first person singluar subjective case pronoun. (Spoiler: the kids lose by a country mile.)

An exciting first is that the one and only Alan Maley will be on stage during the presentation. State of the art attention-tracking sensors will measure how often Maley falls into deep sleep during the plenary.

12th June ESOL PRACTITIONER CONFERENCE City University Glasgow

Plenary Speaker: Hugh Dellar Grammar is dead! Long live grammar!

We leave the best till last. And who better than Hugh Dellar, a tireless globetrotter who already this year has clocked up enough air miles to significantly shorten the life of our planet, to talk about grammar! The tantalising title of his talk echoes his own dialetic thoughts on grammar, all done without any more knowledge of the subject than you could put on the back of an envelope, to use one of his top 100 favorite lexical chunks. Starting from the thesis that grammar is all, Dellar moved to the antithesis that grammar is nothing, and then to the daring synthesis that it’s all or nothing, depending on the publisher who’s paying you. In his plenary, due to lack of time, Dellar is unlikely to answer the question of how the prime mover of the lexical approach, the arch critic of grammar-based coursebooks like Headway, came to write a grammar-based coursebook like Roadmap, but what he’s guaranteed to do is make everybody question their grip on English. “What the fuck is he talking about?” is, once again,  the question that will be buzzing round the auditorium as Dellar’s plenary hopelessly unravels. Oh how I wish I could be there!

On this occasion, Dellar will skilfully re-package a plenary he first gave in 1992 about the  wealth of useful lexical chunks that can be incorporated into a fake coursebook text where somebody tries to order a “Full English” breakfast in MacDonalds.  The updates include the grammaring of “Can I get…” and “Come again?”.

Well that’s all for now, folks. Enjoy the show and here’s till the next round up of conferences in the never-ending ELT circus.