Well, I have to admit I have been a bit naughty recently and not updated this blog, and with so little time left! Anyway, as promised I do have some more guest posts. This is a really nice one from Darren Elliott, a teacher based in Japan and owner of the Lives of Teachers blog. Darren has had the chance to get a great many people in ELT in front of his video recorder and asking them questions (his latest great interview was with none other than Michael Swan). But not everyone! Here are six more people he’d like to meet. Darren, over to you…
This is not a guest list for a dinner party, and I have stretched the definition of ELT people to its outer boundries. But I think each of these people would have something to contribute to our knowledge of the profession. I’ve already been lucky enough to talk to some wonderful ELTers, in person or via skype, for my website / podcast at www.livesofteachers.com. Some of these might be a little trickier to get hold of, but you never know….
1. Rod Ellis
I don’t know what they are doing down there in New Zealand, but for such a small country it seems to produce a disproportionate number of gifted applied linguists. Like notable compatriots Paul Nation and Scott Thornbury, Professor Ellis has the ability and drive to communicate research to teachers at the chalkface. Just to throw the cat amongst the pigeons, I would like to ask him if all this SLA research has anything at all to do with what goes on in the classroom, and if he could tell me once and for all what I am supoosed to do in the classroom…..
2. Nozomu Sahashi
Mr. Sahashi was the founder and owner of NOVA, at one time the largest English conversation school (Eikaiwa) in Japan. Between the company’s formation in 1990, and bankruptcy and partial buyout in 2007, it employed thousands of teachers from North America, Australasia and Europe, many with limited experience or qualifications. Nova also had dealings with the unions over its drug-testing, health insurance, and non-fraternization policies. To be fair, many teachers in Japan got their starts with NOVA, and I have met many with fond memories of their time with the company. And although the firm finally faltered due to shaky student contract practices, hundreds of thousands of satisfied students passed through NOVA’s classrooms over the years. Sahashi-san is currently appealing against a three and a half year prison term handed down for embezzlement.
I would like to ask him how NOVA got so big, and how he sees the future for this model of national chain school. GEOS, another major chain, collapsed this year, and enrolments are down across the industry. Is this due to the return of Japanese insularity (last year there were only five Japanese at Harvard, compared to thirty-nine South Koreans)? Are students getting more savvy, more discerning, or using technology instead? Or is it just another symptom of the economic times we live in?
In the last couple of years, I think I have attended about five conference presentations in which Vygotsky and / or his Zone of Proximal Development haven’t been mentioned. That’s not to say his ideas are not valid, but it’s curious that he was the third most cited author in abstracts submitted for the 2008 Japan Association of Language Teachers National Conference*. Why such interest in a Russian psychologist, seventy years after his passing? Actually, a little more cross-pollination from other disciplines would be healthy for ELT in general. I’d like to ask him how he feels about his current popularity in English Language Teaching, along with other authors who have been imported from other disciplines and extensively referenced by ELTers, (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, for example).
4. Jean-Paul Nerriere
English is no longer something handed down by colonials to the locals, and as ever increasing numbers of non-native speakers use the language to ‘get things done’ as a lingua franca, the way it is taught has to change. M. Nerriere is not a linguist, nor a teacher, but a businessman, and he sees the world in those terms. It may not stand up to scrutiny, but his dialect ‘Globish’, based on an English lexicon of just 1500 words, is an intriguing concept. He represents all the language learners and users who have no interest in drama, dogme or dictation (the kind of stuff we teachers love) but just want to be understood as soon as possible. I would ask him what he thought I could do to help him and his peers achieve those aims.
5. Penny Ur
When I first started teaching, I thought her book ‘Grammar Practice Activities’ was the most incredible work of genius ever printed and bound. My teaching style and circumstances have changed somewhat over the years, but I still have this book, and I still look at it. I have a lot of questions for her, but most of all I’d like to say ‘Thank You!’
6. Ragsana Mammadova
I very much doubt I will ever visit Azerbaijan, and I am not too proud to say I know next to nothing about the country beyond it’s capital city and it’s approximate location on a world map. Ragsana Mammadova is the Executive Director of AzETA, IATEFL’s associate organisation in Azerbaijan, and I don’t have any particular questions for her – I’d just like to hear what she has to say about English teaching in her country. A look through the associates list in the back of the ‘Voices’ newsletter sparks my curiousity now in much the same way a world atlas did when I was a boy, and I am amazed at quite how huge and diverse our professional community is.
I could have thought of sixty or more…. so over to you, who have I missed?
* Stapleton, P. (2008) PAC7 at JALT2008: Untangling the submission process. The Language Teacher, p28 – 30, 32/09