ENGLISH UNITES THE WORLD:
DIVERSITY WITIN UNITY
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”
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
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 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.