Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №18/2002



NATE Conference in Saratov

The 8th Conference of RF National Association of Teachers of English ‘English Unites the World: Diversity within Unity’ was held at Saratov State University, Janury 27-30, 2002. The aim of the conference was to continue the discussion of burning issues of English language teaching started at the ‘Global English for Global Understanding’ Conference in Moscow in May 2001. Svetlana Grigorievna Ter-Minasova, as a NATE President, always encourages the Russian EFL community to discuss cutting edge problems, the ones that only appear in the EFL community in the world. This is how the Russian EFL teachers are involved in discussing topical problems and really belong to the world EFL community. Though Svetlana Grigorievna was not present there, her guidance, ideas and uniting role were felt by all participants.

The conference covered the following ELT areas: English Teachers in Tomorrow’s Classrooms; Linguistics Horizons in ELT; Cultural Understanding through Language; ESP: Bridging English Skills and Professional Goals; Teacher Training; Global English for Global Understanding; ELT for Young Learners; Teaching Business English; Information Technologies for ELT.

Computers and the Net do influence today’s teaching process, and it is important that more and more information is exchanged on the matter at ELT conferences. Not only can computers be successfully used in class (for instance, in teaching terminology, as presented by V. Tuzlukova from Rostov SPU), but they also provide the opportunity of distant learning, which is essential and even vital for the disabled, or those who live a long way from central universities, or do not otherwise have a possibility to leave their place (Lorraine Miller-Nara, EL Fellow [Saratov] gave a talk on Distance Education). However, there is another way in which the Net can help teachers and students, and this concerns using it for professional communication. For example, Vitaly Ashkinazi from St Petersburg gave an interesting presentation on web-based ESP Internetworking. Everyone was welcomed to EnglSP@ 8m.com  to join virtual discussions of teachers on the Net.

It was at this Conference when the first e-journal “Hello-online” was presented.

Actually, English teachers of non-linguistic universities seem to face more problems nowadays than any other teachers. Most often there are simply no materials suitable for their teaching matter, such as, for instance, English for Psychology, Engineering, Sociology or Medicine. Law and Business appear to be the only subjects provided with the necessary textbooks, videos and audios. Because of that, ESP teachers have to be extremely creative in achieving their goals, and sometimes manage to produce whole sets of materials, or even complicated and structuralized courses, as e.g. the Intensive Course of English for Political Science presented by the Academic Linguistic Centre of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (I. Korotkina). It is therefore extremely important for non-linguistic university teachers to meet and communicate, and conferences like this give them a wonderful opportunity. No wonder it was in Saratov that we learned about the coming ESP conference in Yekaterinburg.

Over 400 professionals from 60 regions of Russia, USA and UK took part in the conference. Many complex methodological, cultural and socio-linguistic issues of ELT were discussed in a great number of high quality presentations: 6 plenary talks, 107 panel presentations, 30 workshops, 15 poster presentations, 4 round tables formed the conference program.

The key speakers provided the conference participants with a feast of ideas on the role of English in the world today. Among them were English Language Officer Ruth Petzold, Prof. Margie Berns, EL Fellow Coordinator Elizabeth Lewis, ACAO for International Visitors Linda Cowher, Prof. Maria Verbitskaya, Prof. Marina Kaul, Prof. Marina Kulinitch, et al.

The conference was supported by Public Affairs, Moscow in a number of ways. A generous grant helped to provide programming support on-site and provided travel funds for a number of Russian participants. The English Language Office also provided valuable planning support to the conference organizers. English Language Officer Ruth Petzold was a featured plenary speaker, and Academic Specialist Margie Berns, who also made presentations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, also gave a plenary address. All nine members of the EL Fellow Program spoke at the conference; they also gave a group presentation on American dialects. In addition, EL Fellow Coordinator Elizabeth Lewis gave a plenary talk. ACAO for International Visitors Linda Cowher was also a featured speaker at one of the program sessions.

The conference was also actively supported by Saratov Region Government, Saratov State University, other Saratov educational institutions and local businesses. The conference produced a number of unique events. One of them was EAC Alumni Satellite Symposium as a part of the NATE conference. Forty alumni of two programs – the Partners in Education Program (PiE), and the Teachers Excellence Awards (TEA) Program – participated in the conference panel discussions and in separate round-tables discussing ideas for future collaboration. Their participation in the conference was funded by American Councils for International Education. This financial support as well as support of Volga Humanitarian Foundation (23 grants) widened the geography of the conference.

The Conference was followed by several post-conference events: a series of ELT related seminars by Charlotte Peters Rock (UK), ‘Developing and Improving Assessment Practice’ seminar by Elena Belyaeva (St Petersburg), etc.

On the fourth and final day of the conference, alumnae groups gathered at separate round-tables to discuss ideas for future collaboration. The groups represented were the International Visitor Program (IV), the Partners in Education Program (PiE), and the Teachers Excellence Awards (TEA) Program. Those in each group benefited not only from these meetings but also from all of the professional development and networking possibilities the conference offered.

The Conference organizers followed the new pattern of organizing conferences that was first introduced at Global English Conference. Electronic submission of abstracts/articles, peer review process of selection of abstracts, panel discussions that are led by moderators, pre-conference and post-conference events. The Conference organizers introduced a few new ideas: encore workshops, contests for the participants of the Conference.

The Conference hosts, teachers of Saratov’s universities, did their best beginning with welcoming their guests. Their presentations varied from global English (Lyubov Sokirkina, head of the Linguistic Department) to mind mapping and pragmatic aspects of the language. It was also a good chance for young Saratov teachers to participate in such a significant ELT event. The warm welcome at Saratov State University was doubled by the impression of the campus itself: the participants were pleasantly surprised by the new building with a spacious assembly hall and comfortable classrooms, and modern facilities, including a wonderful Language Teaching and Resource Centre. The latter consists of a video laboratory with satellite TV, language computer laboratory with Internet, and teacher’s resource room for individual teachers’ work equipped with multi-media resources as well as new textbooks, newspapers and magazines.

We tend to believe that all our regional universities will soon manage to overcome financial and economic problems and become worthy of housing international conferences as both scientific and cultural centers.