In the lead up to the IATEFL 2014 Harrogate conference, Adam Simpson has started a ‘chain reaction‘ blog challenge:
“I choose two or three of this year’s registered bloggers and introduce them on my blog. These bloggers then in turn choose other registered bloggers and interview them… and so it goes on until you all have a good idea of who will be blogging about this years event.”
I decided to interview Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson. I first saw Laura present at the IH Prague conference a few years ago, although we didn’t meet until later. Katy and I worked together at IH Newcastle. We all spent a lot of time together at IATEFL Liverpool, and it’s great to see how their shared interest in ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) has developed into the blog they’ve described below. For this interview, I used the same set of questions that Lizzie gave me.
Please introduce yourselves
We’re Katy and Laura, and we are particularly interested in the use of English around the world as a lingua franca (ELF). Katy is a full-time teacher at the British Council in Dubai, and Laura is a full-time teacher and teacher trainer at St George International in London. We both became increasingly interested in ELF as we studied for our master’s degrees and conducted research in this field.
Could you give us brief details about your session at IATEFL 2014?
Our session (30 minutes) is based on the fact that many speakers of English in the world today are using it as a means of communication when they do not share a first language. In other words, English is their ‘lingua franca’. They may rarely or never communicate with ‘native’ speakers of English, and are unlikely to need or want to sound like a ‘native’ speaker. Our session will outline some practical implications for this and explain a few basic classroom activities that teachers can use to help their students be more intelligible in an international (ELF) context.
Why are you interested in the area you’ll be presenting on?
When we were researching ELF for our MA courses—and simultaneously teaching full timetables to learners in multilingual classrooms—we began to realise that these students were using English together as their lingua franca, and many of them would use English in this way outside the classroom, too; but it was very difficult for us to help them do this better when no bespoke materials existed for developing this use of English.
Though they have produced many excellent guides on different pronunciation varieties and plenty of resource books full of useful practice activities, ELT publishers are still quite conservative; and very little material exists for teachers working in an ELF context. Most material is based on ‘native-speaker’ norms, but ‘native’ speakers are hugely outnumbered in the world today and many of our students were/are unlikely to use English with native speakers. If they don’t want/need to sound like a ‘native’ speaker, but need to be intelligible to other ELF users, how can we help them do this when knowledge of ELF is still quite minimal among practising teachers and no suitable material exists?
What should your audience expect to learn?
Our audience can expect to take away some simple activities for developing and practising listening and pronunciation in an ELF context. They will learn why this is relevant for so many English language students in the world today, and how it does not necessarily require teachers to dramatically alter their usual classroom practice, but simply reconsider their notions of ‘correctness’ and ‘intelligibility’.
Do you blog? Could you tell us about your blog(s)?
We blog at elfpron.wordpress.com. We aim to make the theory and practice of ELF more understandable and accessible to teachers who are working in ELF contexts, and/or whose students use English as a lingua franca. There are a lot of misconceptions about ELF, which are only perpetuated if people can’t access information about it or have an informed discussion about its principles and implications.
What other aspects of the conference are you looking forward to?
We are looking forward to the great number of other presentations taking place this year regarding the use of English as a lingua franca, the nature of ‘native-speakerism’ in ELT and the practice of teaching pronunciation. And Open Mic Night, of course!
Why did you sign up as IATEFL registered bloggers?
We always have such a great time at the IATEFL Conference and take away plenty of ideas to experiment with in our classrooms. This is the first IATEFL Conference taking place since we launched our ‘ELF Pron’ blog in November 2013, and there are many sessions in the programme that are relevant to this field. We hope to incorporate what we learn from those sessions into the wider discussion on our blog!
After the conference Katy and Laura posted a link to their slides and further resources on their blog.