Wednesday, April 10, 2013

IATEFL Liverpool - Three People to Follow

During my first 36 hours in Liverpool there have been three people truly worth following and using their expertise for use in the Business English classroom.  In no particular order...

Sacha Euler

Based in Trier, Germany, Mr. Euler is the scholarship winner from the new Pronunciation SIG for this year’s conference.  His presentation on the implementation of connected speech phonology was simply outstanding.  While those unfamiliar with phonology and its terminology might have been a bit lost by the jargon and pace of the presentation, his research and thoughts are fantastic.  He bridges the gap between research and application in materials and lessons.

As virtual meetings become the international communication method of choice, pronunciation and listening comprehension play a vital role in effective communication.  His research and application in materials is groundbreaking, yet simple to adopt.  His methods, while presented as a tool to understand native speakers, could also help our learners with difficult accents and self-regulation when speaking with other non-native speakers.  I can only hope that Mr. Euler will present again, or at least spread his knowledge on the Internet.  I wish I could provide links... in the meantime we can use authentic listening resources (and semi-authentic like Collins English for Business:  Listening) combined with connected speech resources to help develop this training.

Leo Selivan

Mr. Selivan is a General English Teacher in Israel with the British Council.  At first glance, this may not appear to be the profile of someone with much to say on Business English.  But his work on the Lexical Approach is so useful it would be irresponsible to neglect his ideas when encountering vocabulary during our lessons.  Since I focused on how I am dealing with lexis in my lessons I have seen significant improvement in noticing, recognition, retention, and production.

I highly recommend following him on Twitter, reading his blog and archive, as well as this post from Carolyn Kerr based on his similar talk at the TESOL France conference last year.  Although I think all teaching approaches should be handled in moderation and with a pinch of skepticism, I am looking forward to reading the treatises on the Lexical Approach (book 1/book 2) by Michael Lewis.

Jeremy Day

For me, Mr. Day was simply a name I commonly saw on the bottom of ESP books.  I thought he was merely a subject matter expert in two or three niche markets.  It was not until recently that I discovered his blog (notice related posts at bottom) which appeared to be abandoned since 2011.  But when I started reading the blog (I tend to read blogs in their entirety, like books) I saw how really flexible and trailblazing he is in Business English.  Here in Liverpool I just had the chance to see him present in person.  His presentation on ESP course design is excellent.

His talk on two approaches to course design was spot on and echoed (and predates) much of what we as BE trainers are doing... teach to the communicative event, do not treat linguistic competency as a linear process.  Mr. Day expressly stated that both teaching approaches are valid, but it is clear for me that in in-company situations the targeted training is often the way to go.

Since 2010, he has been working with English 360.  But this is recent news to me and caused me to go back and take a look at their product.  I still think it is the best blending learning site for BE trainers on the market.  The concept of plug-and-play resources to design your own blended learning course is great.  I also like the activity variety and interface.  Finding appropriate resources is a bit clunky and takes a considerable amount of search and clicks, but it is definitely worth a look.  They continue to host a wide range of CUP materials and I see that the user-generated and non-publisher materials are growing.  This is great news.

In total, these three men (coincidentally all male) have made my first two days at the conference completely worthwhile.  They may consider their ideas only a drop in an ELT ocean (this conference has that effect), but they can have a real impact on our BE training.

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